In 2009 I graduated from an adult education program. It had taken me six years of night classes to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I had never been so excited to get a piece of paper in all my life. Looking back, I now see some important things that I should have taken into consideration before heading down that road to higher education. I would like to share my journey and the give some tips for those interested in making a commitment to higher learning.
So let me rewind a bit. In the year 2003 I was working for an established company that had recently went through some changes in power. I had been with them for five years, had climbed to a comfortable place in the corporate ladder, and was making a decent living. Due to the new boss there were some layoffs taking place. Having a small child to support I decided not to wait around and see what was going to happen. I needed to know if I would be continuing with the company or if I needed to look elsewhere. So the week before my vacation, I made an appointment with the new head of the company. I asked her directly if my position was safe. She assured me that it was.
Unfortunately, she was wrong. The week that I returned from vacation I was let go. Needless to say I was devastated. I began job searching immediately. What I found was that, in order to make around the same salary that I had gotten accustomed to, I needed a degree. Many of the places that I applied didn’t even seem to care what the degree was for. They simply required that I had one.
So I ended up taking a low paying job in May of that year and I began the long road toward my BA in August of the same year.I found that I loved being in school. The classes were great, the instructors were top notch, the support staff was incredibly helpful, and most of my classmates were in similar situations to my own. I also found out that I could no longer support myself and my daughter, so I took on a second job as well.
Fast forward to six years later. I graduate with honors and think my life is going to be easier, wrong again. In order to attend school I had to take out subsidized and unsubsidized government student loans. So now I have a whole lot of money to pay back.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not regret going back to school. I loved the experience and it has helped me to get employment making quite a bit more than I did when I started. But I do still have to work two jobs to pay the loans. So I would like to pass on some tips to those of you thinking of going back to college as an adult.
First, Take your time when deciding what you want a degree in. If there is anything I regret about going back to school this would be it. I thought any degree would get me what I wanted, which isn’t true. Degrees can be very specialized . So take the time to decide what you want your career to be and base your decision about what degree you want on that.
Second, shop around for a school that fits your lifestyle. There are many more choices than when I went back. Nowadays you can take most of your classes online if you want to. This can really help fit into busy schedules. I would recommend that you take at least a few of your classes in a classroom though. Otherwise you really miss out on the experience of college.
Third, look at cost. There is a huge range in price per credit hour. Once you have selected what degree you’re seeking you should be able to easily calculate your overall cost. If at all possible, pay for as much as you can as you go along. That will mean smaller payments when you’re done. Also talk to your school counselor about scholarships. There is lots of money out there to be had, you just have to know where to look.
And lastly, even if you decide a degree is not the right move, you can always take some classes. Many colleges offer non-degree seeking programs for those who just want one or two classes. These can be specialized to your area of interest or the specific job you are seeking.
Let’s face it, not everyone has years to commit to higher education, or are able to take on the burden of large loans. But if you are reading articles about adult education perhaps you need some enrichment in your life. So whatever your goals are, enrichment or a better job, take some time to weigh your options. Look around for what’s available. Budget for your future. And decide what fits your lifestyle best.