Back To School

Back To School

I was fortunate to live in a different time when I received a college education. Today, things are much different for young people. And, if you stop and think about it, many college students aren’t even young, fresh faced kids. Many students are returning to college later in life. I think that’s wonderful. It is never too late to get an education, follow your dreams or even completely change course and go back for a second or third degree in a new field of study. But, the rules of the game may be a bit different for the working adult who goes back to school.

First, you have to discover what is a marketable degree if you are actually furthering your education to advance a career. So much changes so quickly. Technology seems to make new advances on a daily basis. And these are perhaps the best areas to look into when returning to college.

One field of study that did not exist when I was a twenty-something student of old was “coding”. Even if your interest is not in information technology, having a working knowledge of coding can help you stand out in a competitive job market.

A person can even learn coding without setting foot on a traditional campus. There are many online “academies” that offer training specifically for coding making this much more affordable than a traditional “tuition” based university class.

So, what does coding get you? Well, if you are an entrepreneur you can become your own boss building websites for other businesses. This is something that can be done from home on your off hours while still earning a reliable, steady paycheck. Or, if you don’t want to work from home for yourself, your new skills can be demonstrated on the job. It could very well open up new opportunities and pay advantages.

Bloggers, digital marketers, website designers, gaming and software developers are all industries where coding skills are in demand. Many entrepreneurs find coding an invaluable skill as they are able to market and manage their own online presence, saving their business the expense of having to contract it out. If you are already working in the IT field, having this skill can make you management material.

But maybe coding is not for you and you are looking forward to returning to a traditional college experience. As an adult with adult responsibilities, the road to success in returning to school is finding the perfect fit. Adding to your schedule the need to study, show up for class, etc. means introducing some stressors into your life that were previously absent. By finding the perfect school and perfect class, you can minimize the additional stress factors and optimize your chances for success.

Ask yourself how far do you want to take this? Are you going all the way for a degree or shooting for a certification or just taking a class or two? Nail down the specifics of your desired goal. Then create a timeline from the present until completion. Compare it to your personal life calendar. Look at all of your scheduled obligations (including family commitments such as holidays, vacations, etc.). Then break it down in a day by day expectation. When are you going to study? When are you going to write a paper? When are you going to be at work? When will you be buying groceries? Be realistic. You may find you have more time on your hands to take on more or you may realize it is going to be a slow journey, one class at a time.

Next, do a financial plan. Will you be paying for this yourself, out of your own pocket or will you be trying to secure grants, scholarships or loans? What is the timeline for applying for any of these? What can be your expectations for outside financial contributions? Planning is key.

If you are not alone in this, discuss expected changes with all loved ones who will be affected by your decision. You will need their support. And don’t worry if there are many uncertainties nagging within you. When you are questioning the rationale of your decision, think upon this. I have never, ever heard anyone ever say they regretted getting an education. Ever.