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Help for adults in the workforce thinking about going back to college

Elisa Robyn, PhD Assistant Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences Regis University
Help for adults in the workforce thinking about going back to college

The decision to return to school should not be taken lightly. Adults usually want to return to college to improve the chances of earning a promotion, or of obtaining work or changing careers. This might entail completing an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree. With so many choices, how does an adult decided what to do or where to go?


Do

Do clarify personal goals

Clear goals are essential before deciding to return to college. A graduate degree can improve the chances of getting a job or a obtaining a promotion, or can provide a pathway for a career change. However, those goals must be clear before starting a new program. There are so many degrees and so many options, but they can lead you in different directions. For example, an MBA is a fine degree for someone wanting to earn a promotion, but is not necessarily a good degree for a career change.

Do ask lots of questions

This is part of clarifying personal goals. Call people who have a job you would like to someday have and ask for an informational interview. Contact the HR department where you work and ask what degrees help promotions. Interview graduates of institutions you are considering. Interview the enrollment counselors about accreditation, job placement, costs, and amount of time to complete degree. Review the school online for student comments and complaints. Take the time to research every question before signing up for any courses.

Do research different schools

There are many institutions offering degrees, and many of them have invested a great deal in marketing. However, a good marketing slogan does not make an institution the correct choice. Understand the difference between a for-profit and a non-profit institution. Make sure that the institution is regionally accredited and has disclosed all costs. Check out public institutions, which usually have lower tuition, but often have higher fees. Take the time to make sure that the school is a good match.

Do consider your schedule and needs

In today’s world students can take classes in 5 week, 8 week, 10 week or 15 week semesters. Courses are offered once a week at night, in weekend intensives, and online. There are many options that will fit with personal and family needs and schedules.

Do face personal fears

The reason most people, in the end, do not return to school is fear. Fear of the unknown, of not fitting in, of being different. Families and friends often advise against college for fear of the student acquiring debt or outgrowing the family culture. There is a wonderful saying by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”


Don't

Do not be swayed by marketing

A wonderful logo is catching but does not guarantee that the institution is the right one for a personal goal. An MBA is a wonderful degree, but might not be the degree that a results in a promotion for your line of work.

Do not attend a school you cannot afford

There are so many choices in today’s world. There is no reason to attend a school that is too expensive. However, education is worth the investment, and viewing tuition as an investment changes the equation. Take some time and talk with a financial advisor and see how much tuition is affordable and the best ways to pay it.

Do not attend a school without accreditation

This is very important. Make sure that any institution has regional accreditation. Do not accept simply local or state accreditation. Regional accreditation guarantees that credits will transfer to another institutions and the degree will be recognized be all employers.

Do not fall back on flashy degrees

MBA’s and MFA’s are popular, but they are not magical. An MBA does not guarantee a job or a promotion. An MFA does not make a person a great artist. The best degree is the one that helps achieve your personal goals.

Do not give in to your fears

OK, I already said this, but it is important. Only 40% of individuals in the US have completed an AA, 30% have completed a Bachelors, 8% have a Masters and 3% have a doctorate. Some of this is based on the fear of starting. However, some is also due to the tendency to underestimate the work and effort required. College degrees take a large investment of time, energy, and yes, money. The degrees are worth it in the end, but the journey must be started in a thoughtful way.


Summary
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Returning to school can be a daunting experience. The first challenge is finding the right school and working towards the right degree. The best path is to clarify personal goals, make sure that the degree matches your needs, that the institution is accredited and not over-priced, and to commit to the journey.


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Elisa Robyn, PhDAssistant Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Elisa Robyn has a diverse academic and professional background. She has a Masters degree in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and spent six years working for a major oil company as an exploration/well-site geologist. ...

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