Education for Life: Returning to college
- Article by: Nancy Giguere
- Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
- May 2, 2011 - 10:04 AM
Maybe you started college, but then, like so many students, you dropped out after a semester or a year. Or perhaps you decided to skip college and go to work right after high school graduation. Now you’d like to go back to school and earn a four-year degree. But you’re apprehensive or at least a bit unsure about the next steps.
Joan Robertson, director of Weekend Programs at St. Catherine University, sympathized. “People often don’t have enough life experience to identify their interests at 18 or 19,” she says. “The fact that they’re now investigating returning to college indicates that they’re not the same person academically.”
Karolyn Redoute agreed. “When they come in to talk to me, they’re strongly motivated,” said Redoute, a senior academic advisor in the College of Continuing Education at the University of Minnesota. “They’ve undergone a developmental shift and are in a different place.
One of Redoute’s advisees summed it up this way: “Now I actually want to learn.”
Returning to school is a big commitment for adults who have families, jobs and other obligations. Here are some things to think about as you consider making the leap.
• When selecting a college, assess the flexibility of the school and the program. Are classes offered at convenient times? Does the school offer online courses? Are hybrid courses — which offer a mix of in-class and online experiences — also available? Can students “step out” or take a leave of absence for a semester or a year without being penalized?
• Meet with the school’s academic advisors. Are they prepared to work with adults? Ask about admission requirements, programs, prerequisites and other requirements. If you’ve earned college credits, find out if they’ll transfer.
• If you’ve never attended college, and worry about going into debt, consider beginning your studies at a community college. Take required core courses such as literature, math and history before transferring to a four-year institution.
• Ask about outcomes. For example, you might ask, “What percentage of students finish this program?” or “What percentage of graduates pass the CPA exam on the first try?”
• Learn about financial aid options. You may be eligible for federal education tax benefits, a tax deduction or employer benefits. Your school may offer scholarships or grants for adult students.
• If you’re considering a “non-traditional” college or university, find out if the institution is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Grace and time
Once you’re back in school, take it easy at first. Start with an introductory course you can succeed at. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your teacher or your advisor. Seek assistance from the academic development or tutoring center.
“Give yourself a little grace and time,” Redoute said. “Other adults have completed their degrees, and you will too.”
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