going back to school

Should You Consider Going Back to School?

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Do you ever think about going back to school, but hesitate because you think it’ll take too much of your time, drain your wallet or involve too much of a commute?

Indeed, going back to school—at any age—does take time, and has the potential to lower your checking account figures while increasing your vehicle’s mileage. But according to Nancy Collamer, M.S. (a career coach who wrote “Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement), “plenty of Americans in their 50s and 60s are considering going back to school to improve their career prospects.”

Collamer thinks going back to school can be highly beneficial, especially if it’s something you’re considering in mid-life. She explains that while the degree you previously obtained is still meaningful, it loses out to relevant experience over time. Therefore, she maintains that returning to school could help open previously closed employment doors, allowing you to climb the career ladder faster or even start a new career altogether. Let’s look a bit more closely at the factors that influence whether this might be the right move for you.

Regardless of age, there are many reasons to return to school

Regardless of your age, going back to school can be incredibly enticing. For example, you may do so out of necessity because you feel stuck in a rut at work and simply want to learn more about your chosen career path. Alternatively, perhaps you recently lost a job and need to up your game. Or, maybe you simply want to learn more out of curiosity and a desire to remain a well-rounded person.

Interestingly, going back to school may not involve the dramatic series of events you imagine, in terms of time constraints or financial difficulties. Sure, if you plan to become a doctor or head to a big-name university, well, that’s a different story. However, there are plenty of learning opportunities that make it easier on your wallet and your watch, one of which includes heading to a local community college.

Consider a community college

While community colleges sometimes get a bad rap, the reality is that they’re often using the same textbooks and teaching the same principles as colleges considered more prestigious, and at a fraction of the cost. I speak from experience; before transferring to a local 4-year university, I got my start at a wonderful community college where I not only felt I was a person instead of a number sitting in a huge room but learned from well-educated, engaging professors. Consider checking out one near you by visiting a campus administration office or making a phone call to request a course brochure.

Look into financial assistance

If finances are tight regardless of what kind of educational institution you have your sights on, don’t be afraid to look into assistance. Plenty of people do this, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of and certainly beats paying off loans for decades. In fact, if you do it right, you may not have to pay off any money at all!

Ask about payment plans and scholarships (yes, you can get a scholarship as an older adult). Today, you can use a wide range of reasons to justify getting financial assistance, ranging from your current income and living situation to your age and life history. Lay it all on the line to a counselor who can guide you; everything from having the veteran status to having a disability, being previously (or currently) employed in a certain industry and being newly widowed may mean less financial hardship.

Explore online courses (some are even free!)

Of course, thanks to the Internet, you can even take online classes, providing the opportunity to learn on your time (which is often more convenient than driving to a school and sitting in a room for a set amount of hours). Additionally, if you don’t have easy access to a vehicle or need to be at home because of children or other dependents, online learning may be for you.

This option also runs the gamut. From large universities that ultimately provide you with a degree to online courses that offer certificates verifying your involvement and a passing grade, you have plenty of choices. In the latter camp, there’s something called Coursera.org—it’s completely free and led by world-class schools. From John’s Hopkins University to the University of California, Irvine, you can sign up for a course and then learn from the comfort of your own home.

In the end, you’ll receive a certificate of completion from the institution; while it’s not a degree, it certainly carries some weight, and you certainly walk away carrying more knowledge in your head. Classes on Coursera.org range from Medial Neuroscience and Influencing People to Business Analytics and Grammar. You can’t go wrong.

Today, you have almost endless options when it comes to returning to school. You can take a class while you’re in your pajamas, or you can head to school at a university that offers evening or weekend classes. You can go all out and earn multiple degrees, or you can obtain a certificate from an outstanding college. Whether you’re retired or not making the desired strides at work, thinking about heading back to school may be right for you. Just be sure to explore all the opportunities, and you’ll be sure to find an option that best fits your needs.

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