If you’re thinking about going back to college, you might be wondering whether now is the right time. Here’s a secret: It’s never the perfect time. The truth is that people who are returning to college to complete their degrees or embark upon a brand new chapter in their lives face some unique challenges.
But here’s another secret: It doesn’t have to be a struggle. With the right tools, support and a plan for managing your time, your second time at college can be successful and rewarding. Here’s a look at common concerns returning students have and some tips for addressing those challenges.
Thinking about college but don't know where to begin? Download our free Step-By-Step Guide to Going Back to College to find out how to get the process started.
Q1: How will I fit classes into my schedule?
Chances are, you have a lot of obligations to juggle. You might have a job you’d like to continue working at while you attend college or maybe a spouse who likes to see you at the dinner table once in awhile. It’s easy to use these conflicting priorities as a reason to maintain the status quo, but don’t let it hold you back from getting the education you need to get the career and life you want.
The key is to find a healthy balance. At Nebraska Methodist College, for instance, we work with students to help them find the right mix. We know that our students might not be able to commit to a full-time schedule. It’s more important to find a workable balance than it is to try to cram in as many classes as possible. That’s why we don’t require students to be full-time. You might opt to start in at a slower pace and ramp up classes when you can. It makes more sense to do a few classes at a time well than to finish a lot of classes poorly.
If you’re still evaluating career options, take the length of various programs into consideration. There are a variety of satisfying, challenging careers in the medical field that don’t require four years of school. (See The Short List: Healthcare Jobs You Can Start in 2 Years or Less for a breakdown.) The key is to choose a path that works with your life and then plan out the steps that will help you stay on that path.
Q2: How will I pay for it?
This question isn’t unique to returning students, but there could be more to it for you. Maybe you’ve already accumulated some student debt or you have family members to support. Thankfully, there are several financial aid options to help you cover the cost of tuition. From low-interest loans to scholarships and grants, there are numerous ways to finance your education and invest in your dreams.
Your education really is an investment. If you’re thinking about going back to college, it’s probably because you’re unhappy with your current situation. Maybe you’re hoping to earn more money or find a job in healthcare where you can make a real difference. The cost of college is a factor for most people, but don’t let it be a roadblock. With forethought and due diligence to financial aid, you should be able to find a way to fund your future.
Q3: After all this, will I be successful?
With the added challenges of being a returning student, it’s natural to wonder whether and how you’ll be successful. The key to victory in the battle of the books is using the tools available to you (plus hard work, of course). When you’re exploring colleges, look into the types of support services they offer and then take advantage of as many as you need to when you attend. Nebraska Methodist College offers a number of resources, including:
- Academic coaching
- Free online and peer tutoring
- Supplemental Instruction (peer-led supplemental study sessions)
At NMC, you won’t be alone as a returning student. You’ll see a lot of people in your classes who are in the same boat, and they’re probably more than happy to help you out either by letting you take a peek at their notes or coordinating a study group. Heck, you might find someone who’s willing to be a babysitter while you take a class.
Don’t ignore the value of peer support. Your classmates probably face the same sorts of challenges you do, so take the time to ask them how they cope and reach out for help if you need it. After all, this is a journey worth taking. You want to do everything you can to make sure you complete it successfully.
If you're ready to take the journey, we have something that can help. Download our Step-by-Step Guide to Going Back to College to find out precisely what you'll need to do to make your dream a reality.