Are you an adult or non-traditional learner looking to go back to school to earn your college degree? This blog post offers seven things you should consider as part of your decision about which school to attend.
College Programs for Adults: a Big Decision
As an adult or non-traditional learner who wants to go back to school, your considerations when picking a higher learning institution will be significantly different from what the public might see as the ''typical'' college student - a teenager straight out of high school. For example, your considerations will include family responsibilities and possibly a full-time job. To that end, here are the seven questions you should ask yourself to determine if a college program is the right fit for you.
1. How Flexible Is the Program?
One of the most important considerations for non-traditional learners is flexibility. It's crucial that your adult degree program be able to fit into your life without damaging your ability to keep up with your non-school responsibilities. For that reason, you might prefer to do an online program, or one that offers many online classes, instead of one that requires attending class 20 hours a week an hour's drive away from home. When evaluating colleges, be sure to look into the extent of their demand on your life.
2. What Is the School's Reputation?
Unfortunately, there are more than a few companies that try to take advantage of adult learners by offering questionable educational programs for a lot of money. So make sure that you do your research and confirm that the program you ultimately decide on will provide you with a quality education that's worth your time and money. As part of your college research, consult online reviews and seek out any alumni when assessing the reputation of the schools you're considering.
3. What Is the Credit Transfer Policy?
By the time adult learners go back to school, they've most likely earned some college credits from previous academic endeavors. Ideally, you'd like to find a program that'll accept as many of those credits as possible, which will help you save money and time when pursuing your degree. Do your research and talk to a college advisor to see whether your specific college options will accept your specific credits from the specific institutions from which you earned them. Before you start your studies, you should know just how many credits you're bringing with you.
4. What Resources Will You Have Access To?
For non-traditional learners, earning a degree can take a village, and you'll appreciate all the help you can get in the process. Find out what resources your prospective college offers in general, and to adult learners in particular. For example, they might offer childcare, an accelerated degree pathway, or family housing. Contact the schools you're considering and ask them what they have to offer you as a non-traditional student.
5. What Is the Cost?
Naturally, an important factor in your ability to attend a particular school will be its cost, including tuition, fees, textbooks, and transportation. Be sure to do the necessary calculations so you'll know how much each program you're considering will cost per year. Order this information in a list organized according to the most expensive to least-expensive colleges that you can consult when making your decision. This will be especially important if your ability to work is going to be affected by your college studies.
6. Who Attends the School?
If you're going to be attending a school in person, you'll want to think about who your classmates will be. Does this school have a large population of adult learners? Or, will you be the oldest among a pack of teenagers? Fitting in might not be a concern of yours at all, but if it is, it's good to know what you can expect from your new school community.
7. How Long Will It Take?
Finally, you'll want to know how long it will take you to earn your degree at any given institution, as this will ultimately impact how long you'll have to set aside some of your other responsibilities. It'll also be a factor in the ultimate cost of your college education. Knowing which of your previous credits will transfer into each school (Tip #3) will help you determine this answer. You might be willing to stay in college for four full years, or you might want to finish your degree program as quickly as possible.
What's important is that your final choice of college fulfills both your academic and professional needs. Good luck!
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