2 Introduction The decision to go back to school as an adult can be a complex one. Prospective adult students face many complicating factors that traditional students usually don t think about. With families, community obligations, jobs, and household duties, free-time is limited for adults interested in returning to college. However, adult learners are the largest growing demographic in colleges today and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Additionally, with online programs, night and weekend classes, and tuition reimbursement programs through the workplace; going back to school has never been easier. Of course, higher education isn t for everyone. Without specific goals and a plan to reach them, adult students may struggle. Let s explore some of the common concerns that go along with returning to school as an adult learner. Will A Degree Help Me? It s no secret that people with college degrees often earn more than people without. Although, this isn t always the case, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for employees holding a bachelor s degree is $51,206, compared to $27,915 median income for those with only a high school diploma. Simply put: people with degrees make almost twice as much as people without. Unemployment is also on the rise and has become an increasing worry to the United States economy. Putting unemployment in a college perspective: Individuals with no college degree are twice as likely to be unemployed as those who have one. Not only do college degrees help you earn more, but they ll help you keep steady work as well. Will I Fit In With Younger Students? The traditional student is often thought of as an year old who is attending a four-year college. A classroom full of students like this can be intimidating for adult learners. Adults sometimes think they won t fit in, or can t keep up with their younger counterparts. But aside from the fact that adults are often more motivated to succeed than younger students, the traditional/non-traditional segregation simply isn t as prevalent as it once was. Nontraditional students, like part-time and adult learners, are populating classrooms across the country from elite four-year institutions to community colleges, and certificate programs. Adult education has become so popular that traditional students are no longer the vast majority.
3 With many colleges offering online courses, fitting in is easier than ever. Will College Fit My Schedule? With all the options available to you, the answer to that is probably, Yes. Most colleges offer at least some of their courses online which allows you to study and complete assignments on your schedule. Ask about hybrid degree programs where courses are taught both on campus and online. You may also find that a college offers courses at off-campus locations closer to your home or work. This can lessen the drive time. Have things changed since I last attended college? Yes. Higher learning options have changed greatly in the last 10 years. These days, community colleges, online degrees, and technical schools make up a large proportion of total higher education and an even larger chunk of higher education for adult students. With this transition come many changes in how schools operate and how learning takes place. Technology Unsurprisingly, the biggest change in education has been through new technology. Not only do teachers use laptops and projectors to facilitate learning in the classroom, but students are expected to use a lot of the same technology to complete projects and assignments. But don t let this dissuade you from going back to school. Teachers and administrators understand that adult learners may have a technology lag, and most schools are willing to help you become proficient in the technologies needed in the classroom. Once learned, these new skills will not only help you excel in school, but in the workplace as well. Online learning is also an important part of the technology evolution in today s colleges. According to a 2009 study by the Sloan Consortium, the number of online students has increased by 287% (from 1.6 million to 4.6 million) from 2002 to These numbers are even more drastic in the last few years. Community colleges and elite schools alike are now offering online alternatives, and these programs can be especially attractive to adult students who have jobs and families. Financial Aid
4 With increases in tuition and student expenses, it s no wonder that financial aid programs have changed greatly in the last twenty years. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 66% of all undergraduates received some kind of financial aid in Along with rising tuition, this number illustrates the prevalence of financial aid services in today s world and how financial aid can help adults returning to college achieve their educational goals. To qualify for financial aid, you ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Learn more about the FAFSA and policies on financial aid and scholarships by scheduling an appointment with a financial aid counselor at your school, or browsing the financial aid section on their website. Admissions With more applications comes more competition. But there are plenty of schools out there that are willing help adult learners get their higher educations. Many community and technical colleges specifically focus on adult education, and have a lowstress admissions process. Just remember to apply early and take your time on your application. This will ensure that your admissions process can be as quick and painless as possible and put you on the path toward achieving your education goals. How Do I Get Started? Before you begin researching schools and picking out classes, it s important to understand the commitment that s required to go back to school and to make a clear set of goals to accomplish. It may also help to turn to family members and friends for support, as returning to school can be a stressful transition. It s always good to have a few people in your corner, supporting you. The next step is to focus on ways to finance your education. Over 50% of companies with more than 100 employees offer some type of tuition assistance, which can greatly decrease the financial burden of going back to school. Explore financial aid programs, fill out your FAFSA, and do a detailed search for scholarships for which you might be eligible. Then make a financial plan, and stick to it as you move towards your degree. Whether it s a continuing education that s required by your current employer, or a full-degree program, it s important to select a school that will help you achieve the goals you set in the beginning. Stick to these goals, and remember that the path to higher education will sometimes be challenging. But as with most challenges, overcoming them will be greatly rewarding.
5 Now What? If your interest has been piqued by this guide, it may be time to talk to someone. By talk, we really mean communicate. You can call (phone) or an admissions counselor to discuss your options. is great because you can answer at your leisure. And don t worry, most colleges have staff that are trained to work with adult learners. You ll find them patient and ready to work with you at your pace. (While they would love to have you enroll immediately, they d rather have you enroll later than not at all!) Ready to Talk? Here are the name of Campbellsville University staff members who can talk to you about going back to school. Campbellsville Campus Lindsay Hines, Kenny Lawson, Louisville Education Center Chris Conver, Somerset - Noe Education Center Gina Sears, Center for Distance Education (Online degree programs) Joshua Fuqua,
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