Adults Going Back to School
The thought of heading to college as an adult – either after you’ve been away for a few years or if you never got around to going in the first place – is nerve-racking, to say the least. However, making this decision doesn’t have to be something that keeps you up at night.
Does it take some planning and hard work to juggle the rigors of maintaining your coursework while also keeping up with a full-time job and a few kids at home? Of course – no one can deny this fact.
Fortunately, if you’re well-versed on what it takes to go back to school the right way, then you can ensure that you keep all of these responsibilities in line, all while enjoying a quality education experience from the comfort of your own home.
To learn more about how to turn this dream into a reality, here’s a look at everything you need to know about going back to school by enrolling in an accredited, high-quality online degree program that can rival anything you’d find on-campus.
Is Going Back to College Worth It?
The first question that crosses the mind of virtually anyone considering this decision covers whether or not going back to college is really worth it. Unfortunately, there’s no hard “yes” or “no” answer to this question that applies to everyone who embarks upon this path.
Figuring out the worth of the adult education process requires asking yourself a few key questions and breaking down what you expect from a degree after you wrap up your coursework. If your focus revolves around earning potential, then you’ll be happy to know that – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – college graduates earn about $1 million more during their working careers when compared to individuals who stop their education after receiving a high school diploma.
For those who aren’t just worried about the salary side of the equation, but would rather look at this as an opportunity to enrich themselves, going back to school gives you the perfect opportunity to fulfill this desire. The best part is that you don’t have to put the rest of your life on hold as you seek to achieve these personal goals.
How Can I Finish My Degree with a Family and a Full-Time Job?
As far as the logistics of continued education as an adult are concerned, the rise of reputable online programs ensures that you have a plethora of options from which to choose. Gone are the days of assuming that online learning is a path designed only for those who weren’t quite up to the task of completing an on-campus degree program.
Currently, the most popular degrees being offered online include:
- Business Administration
- Information Technology (IT)
- Education & Teaching
- Criminal Justice
- Liberal Arts
- Art & Design
Going a step farther, learning from home means that you no longer have to balance strict personal, professional, and educational schedules all at the same time. Not dealing with the headaches of a daily commute and rigid class times ensures that you complete your coursework on your own time – all without sacrificing other responsibilities and duties.
How Does Online Learning Work?
In terms of the actual online learning process, the name of the game is speed and flexibility. Classes are usually offered via short eight week-long semesters as a way to expedite your time in the virtual classroom, though some institutions still abide by the more traditional 16 week-long variation (or give you the option to choose between a standard semester or accelerated one).
Submitting tests, papers, and other coursework is typically accomplished via an online learning platform, so you can complete your required assignments at any time, as long as you finish before the due date established by your professor. Speaking of your professors, interaction comes in a variety of different forms:
- Online discussion boards
- Live chat
- Personal meeting (depends on your proximity to the physical campus location)
You’ll also find that any lectures, supplemental downloads, and course-specific digital tools can be accessed within your online learning portal or a specified student server.
Can I get Credit for My Work Experience?
One of the easiest ways to save time – and money – as an adult who plans to go back to school is by putting your personal, professional, and prior academic experience to good use. Depending on your target institution, you may be able to apply up to 30 credit hours toward your degree.
The first method of converting this experience into college credits comes via an academic portfolio. Essentially, you’ll need to compile all the relevant documentation from your personal, professional, and even military experience that proves you have the acumen to skip over certain portions of your coursework. From here, you’ll submit this document for review to the presiding professor or administrator at your university.
Outside of the portfolio approach, there’s also a chance that your professional accolades and credentials – think certified professional account (CPA) and certified computer programmer (CCP) licenses, as well as military training – can also cut down on your degree workload. If you’re willing to sit down for a test, challenge exams are also a great way to prove your expertise in a specific area of your coursework.
How Can I Afford to Pay My College Tuition?
When it comes to hammering out the financial details of your return to school, this piece of the puzzle doesn’t have to be one that causes consternation and concern. Most accredited online universities offer financial aid or payment plans, and Federal Pell Grants and student loans are always available to those who meet the requirements of these assistance programs.
Here are at My College Guide, we constantly research new scholarship opportunities to help adult students find creative ways to fund their college education.
Another place to look for financial assistance is your current employer. The offering of tuition reimbursement is a rising trend within the private sector, so it’s important check and see if this aid is available to employees within your organization.
Will My Previously Earned Credits Transfer?
As Jon Fortenbury of USA Today’s College Choice explains, transferring previously earned college credits depends entirely upon the receiving institution. Usually, a school will place limits on the maximum age allowed of credits being transferred, as well as how many of these assets you bring with you.
Bringing all of what you’ve learned here together should making the overarching message fairly clear: If you’re willing to take a smart and savvy approach to the process of returning to college – from considering your online options to seeking out financial aid and the transfer of your previously earn credits – then there’s not much that can stop you from earning your desired degree through online study.
Frequently Asked Questions
I took a semester off from college about six months ago. I have been working, and I want to return to college…but with a totally different major: pre-law to physical therapy. Will this affect my chances of getting into a good college? Also, do I have to include recommendation letters? I don’t know any professors or high school teachers that would give me recommendations.
It sounds like you not only took a semester off, but you are also changing colleges. The process you’ll go through is simply to apply. You’ll need your transcript from your previous school, and those courses which apply to your new major will get transferred. As for recommendations, they may be required, and if so, you’ll have to deal with that. It always helps to send copies of your old work to previous professors or teachers you’ve had, it can help jog their memories. Good luck.
I am a 22-year-old that has done poorly in 2 years at a state university and a year and a half of community college (a year of which I got bad grades)…but have since worked hard, overcome depression, and revised my work ethic considerably. I did very well in high school and had stellar SAT scores, but cannot be accepted into college now because of past failures. I have great career aspirations and do not want to be stuck in a dead-end job. How can I be accepted with my poor record? Are there any colleges that do not require all transcripts to be exposed?
You have options. First off, there are any number of very good four year schools that are “non-competitive” — that is, they will take you without great concern about your past grades. Get a copy of Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges to find out which ones they are. An option is an online college which will have more lenient standards to get you started.
Another option would be to begin again in a two-year college transfer program at a community college. If you do well in these and complete the work, you are a near certainty for admissions to a four year state program (unless you’ve killed someone along the way!).
Yet another possibility is to try the evening college of a better four-year school. You enter as a non-degree candidate, are limited in the number of courses you may take (although many are during the day, not just at night), and are not guaranteed admissions. However, with very good grades, you can typically get in.
Finally, I would suggest you look at two-year programs. Some of these programs parallel careers of four-year grads, but often make as much money. I feel your pain. So many people have been down your path. Don’t give up.
Can I first become a teacher, get my teaching credentials, and then continue my education to later on become a lawyer?
Lots of people return to school after starting one career, and teaching would probably be good background for law school. Law school is typically a three-year program. There may be some colleges that have five-year undergraduate degree programs that count toward law school completion, but I’m not aware of any.
So, in general, you’d get your undergraduate degree (four years), then attend law school for three years. Then, of course, you’d have to pass the national and state bar exams.
I am an adult going back to school. The school I am applying for has asked for all my previous transcripts, whether credits were earned or not. I supplied one from a college where I earned some credits, but at one point I went to a community college enrolled and basically just stopped attending without dropping classes. Is there a way that the college I am applying to now could determine that, and could it hurt me?
They might be able to determine it, and yes, they could expel you for it (lying on your application usually does that). If you are many years away from that event, you might simply tell them about it and try to avoid giving a bunch of specifics. You may also inquire as to whether the school has an academic forgiveness policy. But colleges are pretty open when it comes to adults wanting a second chance. I really wouldn’t worry too much about it.
My husband has been working in the computer industry for the last 10 years. He does not have any college education and is getting bored with his computer field. What will he need to do to get into a college or university, since he has never taken the ACT or SAT but is a high school graduate?
Your husband is one of the many adults returning to school. The average age of college students graduating continues to rise. He could choose an online college to get into a new field more quickly. I would assume that he plans on attending school nearby, and probably not full-time. Often, adults take college courses at a nearby school, racking up credit hours without becoming a degree candidate. There are usually few requirements beyond a desire to learn and a positive checkbook balance. Later, when they decide to get a degree, the college is in a position to assess their ability without the SAT or ACT. Be advised that without good grades, getting admitted as a degree candidate may be impossible—taking classes is one thing, getting a degree is another.
I would encourage your husband to contact the school which he is interested in attending and ask how one goes about taking classes without becoming a degree candidate. Just make sure the courses he takes do lead to a degree and that it is possible to be admitted later on.
I have a M.A. degree in English Literature, which has qualified me, it seems, to be a legal secretary. I’d like to go back to school and get a graduate degree in engineering (aerospace or computer, probably). At a minimum, I know I need lots more college math courses. How do I get back on the college track?
I think for older students, some other considerations apply. Are you willing to relocate to attend school? Have you considered an online college as an option? Are you going full time or do you need to work (as in support a family)? We recently answered a questions from a woman whose husband wanted to return to college. Check that answer out. I think picking up the additional courses you need for a completely different major could be accomplished in the same way.
Since your question seemed to allude to the money side of things, I would thoroughly investigate which jobs pay how much before plowing into a degree program. On the other hand, maybe you just need someone to help you break into another field without the formal ed. With a masters in English Lit., you could do many things—heck, you could get a real estate license in about four months and probably make $60K a year with your eyes shut.
I dropped out of college one semester shy of my B.A. I’d like to finish up, but due to location and time constraints I am unable to attend a regular university. I’ve searched the Internet, albeit in my own inept manner, and have been unable to find a decent school offering external undergraduate degrees. I’m sure such a creature must exist.
The problem with your approach is that you’re essentially asking a school to accept 100+ credit hours toward graduation. What you should do is contact the college you attended and find out what specific courses you need for graduation. Then see if 1) you can take those courses by correspondence from the college you attended, thus completing your degree, or 2) you can find courses at a nearby college that will satisfy your degree requirements. The key is to coordinate this with the school you attended since they are the ones issuing the degree. It’ll work.
I am a freshman at the University at Albany. I am very interested in transferring to Cornell University for the next fall semester. What do you think I need to have (academically) to make this dream possible?
Well, first let me say that I am not an expert on Cornell’s admissions criteria. Second, I’m going to assume that you applied to Cornell out of high school and for whatever reason, didn’t get in. Every university has a unique transfer policy, many schools welcome transfer students with open arms and go out of their way to make it easy for them to do so.
Your first step in making your dream come true is to find out what Cornell’s policy is. Call the school’s undergraduate admissions office, tell them you’re interested in transferring, and ask for all the appropriate information. As a prospective transfer student, you will need to structure your current academic work so that it will transfer as credit for graduation to Cornell. This means you need to review Cornell’s requirements for graduation and begin to work toward that goal even though you are not a student there. This will likely require some contact with Cornell to ensure that the courses you are taking in Albany do transfer in the way you expect. Keep in mind, though, that you may eventually want or need to finish at Albany, so it’s best to try and take courses that “work” at both schools as a way of covering yourself.
And then there’s “The Back Door.” This does not work at every school and has an element of risk, but I’m going to lay this out for you as truly an alternative for dreamers.
Many universities have an evening college or continuing education school where you can take courses offered by the regular university, often at the same time of day. The difference is that 1) you are not a degree candidate, and 2) you aren’t going to get certain benefits of other students (like the option of living on campus which can enhance the college experience). The strategy here is to rack up a number of hours (maybe 30-50) toward your intended major, then apply to the school for admissions as a degree candidate. If you’ve done well in these prior courses, the school typically admits you as a degree candidate.
Again, there is always the possibility that you won’t get in, but if you discuss this possibility with Cornell openly, you may feel good enough about your chances to give it a try. I know a number of students who have gained admissions to colleges and earned degrees by this back-door admissions approach. But by all means, apply to the school first as a transfer student. Good luck with your dream.
I am planning on going back to college. I have to get some basic courses out of the way and was wondering if any of these classes are offered online. If so, could you tell me how you feel about them?
There are many online learn-at-home opportunities which would lead to college credit. You can find them by checking out Bing or Google and doing a bit of surfing.
Many colleges and universities also offer by-mail, study-at-home courses for college credit. Simply call the school’s main number and ask for the office of continuing education. If they have one, you’re off and running. The trick, of course, is to make sure the credit you earn transfers to the college in which you ultimately plan on earning a degree.
For a more complete discussion of this, check out the previously answered questions on this subject.
Can I afford college when having a baby and no job, with my spouse being the only one working and paying bills?
There are certainly ways to make it happen. You should try filling out the FAFSA for this upcoming year to see how much financial aid (usually in the forms of grants and loans) you might be able to receive from the government. Also, please, please search for scholarships.
You also need to consider what kinds of programs you might want to pursue. Degree programs at vocational and technical schools can take only two years to complete, rather than four, which could be more affordable for you. (Community colleges are also usually more inexpensive to attend.)
Otherwise, if you’d really love to attend a four-year college or university, then discuss with your spouse whether you can limit your budget to the necessities and save the rest to pay off your schooling. Can your spouse help with a large amount of childcare for your baby as well? People can frequently live on less than they think and spend their time with more focus if they have a specific goal to work toward (paying off debt or attending school are common examples). It’s really a matter of perspective, coupled with hard work.
If you and your spouse commit to working hard, still putting a priority on raising your child together, and continue to search for financial aid and other resources, I do believe that you could afford a college education.
Dear Guru, I am 46 years old and want to return to finish my undergrad degree. I attended a private college, have 31 units left to finish there and can easily be accepted back there. However, it is way too expensive even with the financial aid. I need to work to support my family and cannot take 8 units in 8 weeks as they require. What do you recommend?
Congratulations on making this important decision to return to school! Have you tried talking directly to the admissions officers about your situation? Often schools can work with you to make special arrangements for you to obtain your degree. This school might be the same.
If you really want to go back to this same school that you used to attend, let them know that clearly and share your dilemma with them honestly. If you need to work to support your family, explain this to the school and ask what options you have with them. You might even be able to apply for additional scholarships that favor people in your situation (working students, students with dependents, nontraditional students, etc).
Also check to see if your current job offers any tuition reduction options for continuing education. If your work is in any way related to the degree you want to get, you may be able to apply tuition credit — and people who do such continuing education through their work are most often able to work at a slower pace, like you desire.
If the school doesn’t allow for a slower pace of work on your end, then I suggest you check into other schools that may offer nontraditional ways to get your degree. You may be able to transfer a large chunk of your credits. But of course, I highly suggest you try to work with the school you speak of before this, as it sounds like more of your credits will naturally count for you there. It depends on what is going to be most cost-effective for you. Weighing the cost of possibly losing some credits against the potentially higher cost of attending your original institution will probably help you in the decision-making process. My best to you as you move forward.
I am a 35-year-old mom. My husband makes too much at his job for me to get a grant. We are living paycheck to paycheck. How can I get off and running with college if I can’t afford it? Is there something else I should be looking into? I was wanting some classes that are maybe offered twice a week…maybe 2 hours a day, hopefully in the evenings. I don’t know where to look for them. Is there an easier way?
As far as financial options go, you should definitely apply for scholarships for nontraditional students. FastWeb is a great place to start. Even if you can’t get a government grant, there’s no reason you couldn’t qualify for school or external scholarships and help supplement your college career that way. Look for scholarships for mothers, scholarships for women, scholarships for married people, scholarships for adults going back to college.
Also, is there a way you could get a part-time job? Or will that hinder your relationship with your children? You can decide what’s best for your family and act accordingly.
Lastly, there are certainly different options for your schedule. The easiest way to start your research is on the Internet. Lots of community colleges, technical/vocational schools, and 4-year schools offer options for night study or students with nontraditional schedules. And there are options for programs of study you might not have even realized. Check out the programs offered at schools around your area. Then contact the schools you’re interested in or schools in your community and discuss your options with admissions offices. I hope this gets you off to a good start.
Hi, I am 35-year-old woman and would like to obtain a college degree. I have attended both a 4-year and several 2-year institutions, but I haven’t been the best student. I have worked since I was 18 and have always done well moving up in various positions. However, I don’t want to get stuck in some dead-end job doing something that I don’t enjoy. I am really interested in going back to school for art/architecture. I fear that I have damaged my chances severely. Is there any chance that I don’t have to use those records? Do I have any hope, or should I just forget about being able to achieve a 4-year degree at all? Thank you.
It depends on how long ago you attended the previous institution(s). Some colleges neutralize credits and allow a clean slate if several years have passed. If you attended school more recently, I suggest you look into “academic forgiveness” or “academic renewal” policies with the schools you are interested in. Talk to the admissions officers at each school you are applying to, they will be able to give you better help on how to proceed with these credits in your background.
But above all, do not tell them that you’ve never attended college before. I’ve received many questions about revealing one’s academic past, and I will say again for your benefit, do not lie about your past records! Be honest, as you were with me, and I think that will display good character and work to your advantage.
And lastly, yes, of course you have hope. Work hard and keep your head up. It sounds like you know what you’d truly like to do. It’s not too late at all. Go ahead and work toward it!
I received a BA in Communications in 1988. I have never really used my degree and am interested in returning to college for a totally different degree. Do I need to apply as an undergraduate or apply directly into a master’s program and take all the undergraduate courses? Thanks.
Without the pertinent information about what you’re intending to go back to school to study, I’ll give you some general advice: It’s basically whichever option you would prefer. If you are wanting to seek out a master’s degree in law, say, then an English or humanities (or pretty much any) degree would be fine to lay the foundation for that master’s.
However, if your bachelor’s degree doesn’t really apply at all to your intended master’s program, then you won’t be able to apply those older courses to your new master’s program. In that case, you could certainly apply for a new bachelor’s program of study as a nontraditional undergraduate student. Does the field you’re intending to pursue require a master’s degree, or will a bachelor’s degree be sufficient to obtain a job in that field? Talk to people you know who might be in that field. Collecting advice from others based on their own experience will be very helpful for you.
Now, in your case, communications could apply to many different master’s programs, so that is one advantage you have if you really do want to get a master’s instead of a second bachelor’s degree. You will just have to check with each school you are applying to in order to find out the specifics of what might transfer from your older degree. A little research will do wonders for you as you’re reentering the academic world. And there is much more out there these days, especially online, to aid you in your pursuit. Congratulations on your decision, and I wish you the best.
I would like to go back to school to earn a different degree. I have a bachelors degree (1988). I do not want to transfer any credits, I just want to start over with a blank slate. (My grades were atrocious, and I’d just like to forget the whole thing.) Can I start a new program at a different college and not have it require transcripts? I imagine all of my credits have expired anyway.
I wouldn’t worry too much about reporting your old grades or sending in old transcripts even if they are required. You may simply need to state on your application that you have a degree from 1988. Regardless, your grades are old enough that it probably won’t hurt you. Your initial best course of action, though, is to simply explain your situation to academic officers at the school you are hoping to attend to find out what its academic policies are.
You may also be able to apply to the old school you attended under an academic renewal or academic forgiveness policy. This allows students who attended several years ago to reapply to the same school and be granted a “clean slate” from their past grades.
One more option is to take a few courses, or even a few credits, at the school you’d like to attend. Then officially apply to a degree program after you’ve earned some good (and new) grades.
Regardless of your decision, don’t let your old transcripts hinder you from making a fresh start. Schools are typically very willing to help students reenter academic life. Good luck, and congratulations on your return to college.
I am 50 years old and attended a university from 1980-1983 and did not finish. I want to go back and get a degree. Do the previous college credits still count? And does my business experience count towards credit if I am going for a business degree?
The probable answer is no, they don’t count, since it was so long ago – but there is no harm calling up your old school and asking! If you want to go back and attend the same school, or a school in the same system, maybe there is a chance that you can glean some credits back, even if elective credits. No harm in doing a little investigating of your own and suggesting some creative ideas. Congratulations on your decision to continue your education, and I wish you all the best.
I have a BA Degree that I obtained in 2006 in Accounting. I have not been able to use the degree in the 5 years since I got it and have pretty much forgotten everything. I wanted to pursue a career as either a bookkeeper or accountant and thought I should go back and review. How do I go about this? I don’t want to obtain another degree. Just review. Can I take the undergraduate classes again without obtaining a degree?
Thanks for your question. You can probably take some classes again at the college close to you if you just want a review of the basics. Most colleges allow people to audit courses without earning official credit.
Another good option is to take accounting courses through Kaplan or another program-prep company that helps people prepare for exams and certification. If you still want to become a CPA, etc, that might be a good thing for you to consider. Of course, keep in mind that both these options require a little bit of money. Good luck.
Let me preface these questions with a little bit of back ground information. I am a 39 year old, married Father. I spent some years in the military and was honorably discharged. I obtained a job out of the military with the idea of pursuing a career in office work. I found it uninspiring. I then found work in the racing industry and was able to achieve substantial success until the economy faltered and I found myself without work. I was able to obtain a certificate in Para medicine. I am now a practicing Paramedic and find myself interested in continuing my education and possibly pursuing a degree in medicine as well as a Physician’s Assistant. I did not acquire the best of grades during High School, nor did I score well on the SAT. I was able to achieve a solid A average while acquiring my certificate in Para medicine, which was a 13-month program. What do you think is the best route to go about pursuing an undergraduate degree? Are older adults looked on with favoritism when searching for acceptance into a University? What schools would you advise on applying to within North Carolina? Are there scholarships available for the older student, as I make a humble salary? I would appreciate any and all advice you could provide in this matter.
Congratulations on your goals to continue your education. There are so many options for military and civilian adults who decide to pursue a college degree later in life. If you’re interested in working while attending courses, you could find a community college in your area that offers night and weekend classes, or you could take a look at online programs that offer bachelors degrees. Online programs provide the flexibility to allow you to carry on with your career and family life while still working toward a degree. However, if you’re looking for scholarships and actually want to leave your career to pursue full time education, it would be wise to look at area universities that offer four-year programs in the medical fields that interest you. I couldn’t say that older or younger students are looked upon with favoritism. Age is not really a factor that dictates your performance or potential, but your work experience, goals, and demonstrated ambitions toward certain careers certainly will help you gain admission. Scholarships offered through the school won’t likely be available based on factors like age, race, or sex. They will more likely be based on need and merit. Make sure you file the FAFSA by the deadline for the you want to start to find out about federal aid and loans. You can find those deadlines at www.Fafsa.gov. Then, start researching and getting to know more about the universities and colleges that surround you. By conducting this research on the web, you’ll be more equipped to approach admissions counselors and program directors to discuss why you’d like to attend. In addition, since you have certifications and paramedic experience, it will be valuable to approach admissions counselors and program directors to see if your work experience can count for prerequisite credits toward a degree. Once you’ve done your research, make phone calls, and set up a few meetings to chat with counselors and directors at area schools. This is the kind of work that puts you in line for a scholarship, as you’ll demonstrate that you will add something to the academic environment at the school. Good luck with your research!
I am 47 years old, a mother of 4, and currently have been unemployed for a year. I’ve had 3 jobs my entire life. Which, now that I look back on it, was a waste of time, when I should have been in school all those years. Anyway, I’m interested in returning to school to get a real profession or some sort of degree. I don’t know what to take. I don’t know what direction to go. I want a better job. Can you point me in the right direction? Math is not my strong suit. Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
I don’t know exactly what you’re interested in pursuing, but if you are interested in just working your way to a bit better career, pay-wise, I suggest you look into a vocational/technical college in your community. Many of these schools have great training for medical coding, dental hygiene, culinary arts, business, advertising, finance and others. There are actually a lot of options (some math-related, some not-so-much). If, at the end of a two-year degree, you would rather press on and obtain a four-year degree, go ahead and do that too.
Otherwise, if you already know you want to pursue something specific at the four-year level, why not go ahead and apply to a four-year college or university?
You might also want to look at options for online degrees — that might even be preferable to you, and we have a lot of resources for that on our website as well. I hope that at least gives you a start!
You’ve answered similar questions, but as they don’t directly apply to my situation, I thought I’d ask: I’m a 31-year old mother of 2. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s from two great universities, and my grades were good at both. I have a terrific job and make a great salary. However, the work that I do is not what I ever truly saw myself doing. I’d like to go back to school for architecture, but most master’s programs require prior experience/education in architecture, which I do not have. So, I’m considering going back for a second bachelor’s. My question is whether I will be able to find a university to accept me into an incoming freshman class. As I already have a bachelor’s, I don’t think I actually qualify as a “freshman.” But…does that make me a transfer? Where do I fit in?
Great question. Since you’re not an 18-year-old freshman, and you’re not really transferring into a program from another college, I would go ahead and apply as a nontraditional or returning student. There are several good schools that offer programs for adults returning to school who prefer a rigorous and perhaps even selective academic program … as it sounds like you might. You may need to apply through a continuing studies or general studies avenue, but it really just depends on the institution. Your best bet is to make a list of the colleges you’d love to attend and then systematically go through and either peruse their websites or call their admissions offices to find out what each school’s admittance policy for nontraditional students is.
One further note: You’ll probably want to look at schools that have accredited programs in architecture. That will make finding an architect job easier later on.
I am a 46-year-old female who is thinking of going back to school to become a kindergarten teacher. I took some college courses back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but I never finished. Therefore, I didn’t earn a degree of any kind. Does someone my age have to take the SAT/ACT tests in order to get into a college?
It normally depends on the program and/or school you’re applying to. Some adults returning to college choose to simply begin taking college courses at an area school or a school they’re interested in – then applying for the degree program later on after they’ve proven they can handle the courses. (Of course, you have to make sure applying into the degree program later on is even an option!) Others choose to apply as nontraditional students, for which they do often need to take the SAT or ACT. But I would check with the admissions offices of the schools you’re interested in for a final answer on that.
I am 43 years and looking to get a masters degree. I have an undergraduate degree in business, but it’s 20 years old. I have not been actively writing, so I am looking to take some type of writing class to help me with my transition back to the academic community. I’ll be taking online classes when I start the masters program, so I know I’ll be writing a lot. What type of class would you recommend?
At a university, freshman composition classes are designed to teach students how to write proper academic papers and essays using appropriate styles and references. You might check your local community college to see if they offer an introductory composition course. These classes usually challenge students to write essays about current events and non-fiction readings which exercises their ability to form arguments and write persuasively. If you’re going to take online classes and won’t have a teacher to sit down with to help you with writing, it’s a great idea to complete a refresher course first. Good luck!
I’m 28 years old and had to leave high school because of economic reasons. Now that I’m more stable and just got my GED, I’m preparing myself for the SAT exam. Will I still be able to be accepted by a college? I’m a bit nervous because I know my transcript are not great. I want to go to FIU to get my undergraduate degree, and then I want to go to a veterinary school. Thank you in advance for any advice you can give me to improve my chances of admission.
Congratulations on your goal to head to college. It’s great that you already have a long-term goal and want to work toward becoming a veterinarian. This will be an asset to you in the application process, because you can write a strong essay about your career goals and the journey you’ve taken to get back on track economically. Don’t lose faith. You will need to work hard to make sure your test scores are high, and you’ll also want to find recommendation letters from teachers or professionals you’ve worked with who can attest to your positive qualities and drive. Your goal is real, and it’s certainly not unattainable. Just strengthen your application as much as possible, knowing that you can’t do much to change the grades on your transcript. Find a friend or family member to help you review and revise your admissions essay. Speaking clearly in the essay about why you want to attend FIU in particular will be a great help to your chances. Good luck!
I am 22 years old and have never been to college after I graduated about 3 years ago. I want to go back to school but I don’t know where to even begin. What do I need to do?
Thanks so much for getting in touch, and good for you for considering going back to school. It can be a big step, but is a great idea since many careers require a college degree, as you have likely learned.
There are several things you should do to make the most of it. First, consider what you want to study. Think about what you like to do, and what you are good at. There are many assessment tests you can take online or through a counselor. That can help point you to a degree that would be a good fit. Then, make sure it’s a profession that has ample job opportunities in the location where you want to live. You’ll want to have a good chance of putting your degree right to work.
Then, consider where you want to go. Do you need to stay locally? Are you going to take some of your GE requirements at a community college and then switch? Do you have money to pay for it, or will you be living at home, borrowing or seeking a scholarship? Those are all things to think about as you consider the next step.
Finally, when you apply, you can contact your high school for your transcripts. Your former college counselor may be amenable to spending some time with an alumnus as well for some guidance.
And, remember that many schools appreciate the wisdom that can come from having a gap year (or years). Chances are good you’ve gained some skills and learned some wonderful life lessons. Make sure you articulate those in your essay and your interview if you go on one. It’s important to let them know why you would be an ideal candidate, even if you are a couple of years older than a typical college student.
I wish you much luck in your search!
My husband attended LBSU and dropped out the last semester of school before graduating for a great job opportunity in Napa. Now when he’s seeking jobs, most employers require a degree, usually a Bachelor’s – even though he has over 12 years of experience in his field, he has been disqualified for jobs because of no BA. Given this information, would he be able to put on his resume that he earned an Associate’s Degree? What’s the best way to handle this with a potential employer?
Unfortunately, no. If he did not receive a degree from the institution, then falsifying the resume and claiming to hold the degree is a serious falsification that could lead to bigger problems. If your husband is hired and it is later developed that he holds no degree, he could lose the job. It’s crucial to be honest on a job application. Plenty of students received credits but never applied for their degree or completed the coursework. These students do not hold degrees and cannot claim to. Your husband should be forthcoming about his education and explain that he never finished his degree. If the company is interested in considering the coursework he completed, they will follow through. Always air on the side of honesty. Good luck!
I am 30 years old and I have never attended college. I never took the SAT or ACT. I have a high school diploma. I really want to obtain a career in creative writing but I don’t know how or where to start. I am a stay-at-home mom with two young girls, one is in school and the other stays home with me. My husband works nights and we live paycheck to paycheck. Online classes would be ideal for me because I need to be at home with the kids. Any help to get me pointed in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.
The good news is that a career in creative writing doesn’t necessarily require a degree, but if you’re set on learning the ropes, you can enroll in writing and journalism classes at a community college or university in your area. Community colleges often provide courses at a less expensive rate than most four-year universities. Plus, local schools may offer online courses or night courses for adults. Your first step is solid research. Head to the websites of schools in your area and search their English department websites to find out information about creative writing classes. Some schools even offer workshops and programs for non-matriculated students. If you simply want to sharpen your skills and meet other writers, that might be a good option for you. Once you’ve done some online research, place a few phone calls to enrollment offices and inquire about signing up for classes. Good luck!
I am 43 years old and I want to go back to school. My company provides with the tuition, but I am scared to begin. I graduated back in 1987. Where do I start?
Congratulations on your decision to head back to school. Start by researching programs in your area of interest. If you’re interested in a new degree for a career change, find out what area universities or online programs allow flexible programs for working adults. There are many out there, and some even allow you to complete coursework on your own schedule. Once you’ve isolated programs of interest, find out their admissions requirements through the websites. Finally, make sure you have the courses approved by your employer for tuition reimbursement and understand all the necessary policies. Most companies will only reimburse you if you complete the courses fully and earn a minimum grade per course. Good luck with your search!
I am 29 years old and left college (a large public university) over 7 years ago during my junior year because of an illness which was hurting my grades. After recovering, I immediately started to work in a different state. In the last seven years I have moved very quickly into a successful career – launching a well known organization and even running for office. But I am ready to finish my degree now. Because of my experiences and my line of work, I am applying to a better school than I originally attended. My question is about the personal essay. While I’ve researched what makes a personal essay good for high school students, I feel it’s a bit different for those who have left school and are re-applying. Can you give me guidance? The school I’m applying to accepts a large number of non-traditional students, even though it is an Ivy. They also stressed that I discuss what I’ve been doing since leaving college. Is there a formula for a good college essay for adults?
Great question. There is truly no formula for a college essay, neither for traditional students nor returning adult students. The most important thing to do is speak honestly and positively about your experiences and goals. Focus on what you’ve learned over the past few years, and how you plan to combine that experience with a college degree toward a future goal. If the school wants to know about your activities over the past few years, highlight accomplishments and learning opportunities. Perhaps a mixture of achievements and challenges you overcame would give a well-rounded view of who you are today and why you want to study at this particular school. It sounds like you’ve already got a few key items to discuss which you listed above. Write honestly, in a well-organized way, and certainly have a friend or family member read your essay for feedback. Good luck!
A good friend of mine dropped out of college in Wisconsin as he was failing classes and due to making poor choices. Now, a few years later, he would like to transfer to a local university here. However when he applied they denied him entry due to poor grade average. How can he improve his grade average if he can’t transfer or get into the school’s here? What are the best options to improve grade average while out of college?
Unfortunately, the only way to improve the GPA is to enroll in college courses and earn high grades. But your friend is in luck, as this can be done at a community college. It may take a few semesters of coursework at a community college before your friend has a GPA high enough for entry to a four-year university. Most community colleges have less stringent admissions requirements, therefore allowing admission to students who need to improve their grades or take another chance at college success. Research the area to find out which community colleges are available and encourage your friend to inquire about their programs. Most importantly, don’t give up! Good luck to you and your friend.
I went to school from 1974 to 1978 but did not finish school. I would love to try to get degree. Are there advisers out there that can help me?
Congratulations on your goal. To earn a degree now, you will need to apply to colleges and universities in your area. While you’ll have to submit transcripts and report your previous college education, the credits will not likely count any longer because your coursework occurred more than ten years ago. This is a positive thing, though, since you’ll want to learn up to date material that will further your career and educational life. My best suggestion is to research area community colleges and universities, and call the admissions office to set up a meeting with an adviser. Explain your goals, and find out what programs are available. Each school is different, so your best advice always comes from the school you plan to attend. Good luck!
I am a 43 year old single mother of three. I work a full time job in the healthcare industry. I started back to college to pursue my RN degree in 2005. At that time I was still married. I have finished my prerequisites, but still need to finish nursing school. I cannot afford to quit work unless I can find financial aid or scholarships. To date I have paid all of my tuition out of pocket. Aside from FAFSA, where can I look to get assistance? Is there governmental aid available for single moms?
You have accomplished a lot, and it’s great that you still have goals ahead of finishing school! Check out this link for scholarships available for single moms, but don’t stop there. There are scholarships you may be able to find that don’t have to do with parenthood but instead come in the form of essay contests and subject-specific grants. The money is out there, you just have to do the research and put in the time. Good luck to you!
I’m 39 now, and I finished high school in Vietnam in 1993. I’d like to go to college. What steps should I take?
First, you’ll want to research colleges and universities in your area that offer programs in your disciplines of interest. As an adult going back to college, it’s helpful to decide whether you want to study for general interest or build skills and knowledge toward a future career path. Once you’ve made that decision and isolated the programs that offer what you seek, check out their websites for admissions requirements. Adults should contact the admissions office and speak to an adviser about the extent to which job experience can substitute for curriculum requirements. You may be able to skip core classes that are unnecessary for you due to your work experience. An admissions adviser at your school of choice will guide you toward what you need to do to complete the application. Since every school is different, contacting the school is crucial. Finally, you should file a FAFSA as soon as possible this year if you plan to apply for financial aid. You can find the necessary applications at Fafsa.gov. Congratulations on your decision to return to school, and good luck!
I am a 32 year old husband and father. I have a degree from a good university. I have not been able to get a good paying career. I got accepted into a masters program and Graduate assistant position at a great university across the country. That means I will have to leave my family for while until I can move them. Is it a good idea to quite my two low paying jobs and leave my family to get my foot in the door of the field I want to work in? Or, am I just following hopeful dreams?
That’s a really important question, and it’s one you’ve got to really ask yourself. First, is this the only route to the career you want? And second, is moving to another location necessary for you to attend school? Without more details, I can’t answer those questions, but you can. Typically, if you’ve done exhaustive research about jobs and income expectations, you can put yourself on the right track with proper preparation, proper networking during the program, and utilization of the program’s career services. But whether or not this path turns out to be lucrative or not will depend on the work you put in and the decisions you make along the way. My best suggestion is to do tons of up-front research about salaries and jobs before you commit, and don’t just look at the school’s website. Bls.gov has national data on job markets and trends, and the data is fairly up to date. This is a big decision, so you’re smart to make sure it’s the right one. Good luck!
Can work experience can be converted to credit hours in colleges and universities? Can you provide a list of schools that do this?
The answer is yes, some schools will let you transfer work experience to credits, but it’s a case-by-case basis and depends on the program you enter. For example, some schools will require you to take an exam to demonstrate that you can bypass certain courses. At other programs, you’ll sit down with a director and discuss your resume, and he or she will decide if you can receive credits for your experience. There is no list of schools that accept work experience for credits, though. Instead, it’s up to you to decide what programs you’d like to pursue and then research the web for schools in your area or desired location that provide those programs. This kind of arrangement will also require contacting admissions offices and setting up meetings with program directors. Good luck with your research!
I have three years of college behind me, but it has been sixteen years since I attended college. Will I lose all my credits from my past and have to start all over again because it has been so long?
Typically if credits are more than ten years old, it will be hard to find a college that will still apply those credits toward a degree. Curriculum changes greatly over the course of a decade, and odds are you would need to take these courses again in order for them to actually provide you adequate education toward a contemporary career. However, many schools will apply your work experience toward college prerequisites and credits. The only way to find out is to get in touch with an admissions counselor at a school of interest and discuss your goals and experience. Each school treats credits differently, so you’ll have to put in some leg work and contact each school that interests you. Good luck with your research!
I have an associates degree in applied sciences and a diploma of nursing. I would like to go back to school for teaching maybe a middle school science teacher or special education. What would be the best route to take? I have approximately 130 college credits.
Your first step will be to research the requirements for teaching certifications in your state. If you want to teach in the public school system, you’ll need to find out what coursework and certification classes are required. That will help you decide whether you need to head back to college to complete a bachelors degree. In some states, you also must complete teaching assistantships in which you shadow and assists another teacher for a period of time. You can find out about teaching certifications by contacting a local community college or by doing a basic web search. From there, contact the admissions offices at local colleges and community colleges to see what programs are available. This information should be readily available on their websites. It sounds like you’ve got a good platform from which to spring toward this goal. Good luck!
I am an adult going back to school. I have a high school degree from a foreign country. What is the first step I should take to go to college?
Congratulations on your goal to go back to school! The first step should be research. Find out which area schools and community colleges offer programs you’d like to study based on your career interests. Once you’ve found them, contact their admissions offices and inquire about applying with a foreign diploma. Individual schools will be able to tell you the process for your application and what, if any, tests you’ll need to complete. One thing to remember is that colleges and universities are not all part of one big body — each institution has its own rules and policies. Therefore, don’t assume that what one school tells you will apply at another. That’s why research is so important! You can find the contact information for admissions through each school’s website. Good luck to you!
I have a Bachelors degree in Architectural Technology with a minor in Construction Management. While architecture has always been a favorite hobby, it will never be my passion. I am an artist at heart, and combined with my love of children, I have a yearning to become an Art Teacher. Money is a huge issue for me because I already have nearly 80 thousand dollars in student loans to repay. How do I find out how to get the correct credentials and degree?
First, congratulations on recognizing your true passion. This is a great step toward a valuable education and a rewarding career. The credentials and degree necessary to teach art will depend greatly on the state where you plan to work as well as the level at which you’ll teach. For instance, an art teacher in a community college or university typically needs an advanced degree such as an M.F.A. or a Ph.D. However, if you desire to teach at the high school level or lower, you’ll likely need state certification.
In most states, a teaching license requires a bachelors degree and certain education courses, as well as an assessment that leads to certification. The best strategy would be to research your state and find out what is required to become certified. If there are core courses you need that were not a part of your bachelors degree, you can likely pick up these credits at a community college for a cost-effective alternative. You can find financial aid opportunities that suit your needs, and there may be scholarships available if more loans are not ideal. The good news is that because you’ve already earned your B.A., you probably won’t have to earn an entirely new degree. However, it might be a good idea to explore the types of classes an education major is expected to have. For more information, check out our article on the education major and research your state requirements. Good luck!
I am 60 years old, and I would like to finish my master’s degree in business, an MBA. My question is, am I too old? I have 13 more classes that will cost approximately $2500 per class including books. I have 40 year’s experience in business and would use the MBA to teach online college level classes after I retire from the corporate world. Would this be worth the money? I look forward to your opinion on this issue.
The answer is certain: You are never too old to return to school! Congratulations on your goal to enhance your education. It sounds like you have a well-planned strategy for bridging into an academic career. Online courses are very popular, and schools are always on the lookout for industry professionals to lead classes in your field. Go for it, and don’t let age hold you back. If you plan to extend your career significantly by teaching online, it sounds like the cost of completing the MBA would be worthwhile. Good luck!
I received all but 4 credits to complete my B.S. in sociology at Radford University in 2001. The course was for Geology 201. I need to complete these 4 credits in order to get my B.S. Can you recommend an online school to complete this degree and what course should I take? Will it have to be a Geology 201 course again? Thank you.
It’s a great idea to finish the degree, especially with just four credits left! However, you will have to check with an adviser at Radford to find out exactly what online or classroom courses will count toward that final credit. Each college and university has its own policies about transfer credits. For a science course, you may need a lab credit as well as a lecture credit. Your best bet would be to contact the school and get the information directly. If you had an adviser at Radford in 2001, try to contact that same adviser for assistance. The school will still have record of your transcripts and will be able to advise you. Good luck!
I am a mother of six children. I have a B.A. on English. I have never worked and am trying to go back for my masters in Special Education. My problem is that all the colleges that I want to apply for ask for three reference letters. I have previous reference letters from professors from fifteen years ago that I have kept. The colleges are saying the reference letters are to be directly from the individual. These previous professors will not remember me. I cannot be accepted without the letters. What should I do?
This is a great question. Firstly, I would consider reference letters from 15 years ago too outdated to use in a current application. The traditional alternative is to obtain recommendations from supervisors and coworkers, but since you have not worked I understand that this is not an option. The first thing I would recommend is that you contact the program directly and speak to a director or adviser. Ask what kind of recommendation letters the program would prefer from a non-traditional student without work experience. That way, you’ll feel confident about the letters that are sent on your behalf knowing the school’s guidance on the matter. Secondly, think of individuals who are not family members but can attest to your work ethic, your goals, and your character. Perhaps you have performed volunteer work, acted as a coach or mentor, or participated in your children’s extracurricular activities? Or, what about fellow adults who work in professional capacities and know your professional side, rather than simply knowing you as a parent? Reference shouldn’t be family members, but they should be individuals who know your strengths, your goals, and reasons why you’ll excel at the program to which you’re applying. Good luck!
I am 35 years old, married, and a father of two. I received a B.S. in human resource management in 2003. While going to night school for this degree, I had my own construction company. When I graduated, I decided that I was doing so well financially that I should keep going with it and have my degree as a safety. As you might know, the construction industry has collapsed and my eight year old degree isn’t really doing me any good because I have no experience in the professional world. I did run a construction company with several employees for many years but I’m not sure if that counts. I am now interested in working with my father in his tax and accounting business. Should I go back to school for another bachelor’s degree because I have no experience with accounting, or should I apply for an MBA or and accounting certificate?
Because of your business experience, it sounds like repeating an entire bachelors degree is unnecessary. My advice is to find out which accounting classes are available in your area or online. Because you already have a bachelor’s degree and business experience, an accounting certificate may very well suffice if you plan to work in a family business. (To become competitive in the finance field at larger companies, an MBA or Master’s in Accounting might be advisable.) For your particular goals, it sounds like practical and applied education is what you seek. A community college in your area probably has the accounting classes you need. Another option is to take online courses through Kaplan or a test preparation program. This way, you can refresh the skills you’ll need for accounting and work directly toward passing the CPA exam. Good luck!
I am 44 and a single mother of one. I have not worked since 2010. I really want to reinvent myself. When I worked before, I always held a customer service job. I’m looking to do something with a little creativity, decent pay and room to grow. I have an associates degree in liberal arts. I want to obtain a bachelors degree and possibly a masters. Should I pursue marketing, public relations, or business? I’m lost as to what degree is appropriate for my goals.
Firstly, it’s awesome and commendable that you not only want to go back to school, but that you want to reinvent your life. Any career you want is in reach, as long as you put the work in and channel your energy in the correct direction. For your scenario, it sounds like you should head to BLS.gov and research specific career paths to find out what type of degree they require. Some don’t necessarily require a certain kind of degree, but you can get a sense of the most common fields of studies that match careers and job titles. When you’re ready and have a degree in mind, check out universities in your area that offer those programs. Additionally, most college websites list explanations of career paths that are connected with each degree program, so reading through a few program pages will help you get a better idea of your job opportunities with each degree. The research will take some time, but it will help you immensely in heading in the right direction. Good luck to you!
My children are grown and I would like to go back to school. When they were young I went to college and received an associates degree. Each time I have tried to register for school they all tell me that my transcripts are too old to be accepted and that I would have to retake my core all over again. My college transcript is from 1984. Does my degree mean nothing now?
Unfortunately most schools do not accept transcripts from more than ten years ago. But, if you look on the bright side, this somewhat universal policy is in place for good reason. Much has changed in almost every industry in the last thirty years, and you’ll be better off starting over on your college education so that what you learn is relevant to the current workforce. Even core classes are completely different in their approach to topics like writing and mathematics, not to mention the incorporation of computers. Try to view this as a positive thing. You’ll be starting fresh, but you’ll be learning crucial fundamentals that perhaps did not apply thirty years ago. Good luck!
I am 43 years old and a mother of three. I have a BS degree in business management, but I would like to go back to school to get a math teacher certification. One thing that really worries me is my age. Do you think I can find a teaching job? I also thought about getting an IT or an MIS degree if it would help me to get a job faster, but I’m not sure that this will make a difference.
Don’t let age stop you from earning your degree and pursuing your career goals. If teaching is truly what you want to do, and you’re willing to put in the work to earn the necessary credentials, nothing can stop you. You’ll still have to go through the same licensing, assistant teaching programs, and other prerequisites that young students go through, so make sure you’re prepared for the time commitment. Additionally, research teaching requirements for your state to make sure you follow the correct steps toward the career. Teachers are in demand, and earning a certification will open up windows of opportunity if you remain flexible. I’m not sure how an IT or MIS degree will help you get a job more quickly as a math teacher. In fields like education, sometimes external degrees don’t matter as much as credentialing in the field you plan to pursue. I would advise you to stick to a direct path toward becoming a certified math teacher in your state, and pursue other academic interests later, if time permits. Good luck!
I am 44, and a mother of two. I have one year left to earn my bachelor’s degree. What is the quickest way to complete it? I live in Grand Blanc, MI. I’m not sure where to start.
It’s probably best to check with specific schools to see how what credits you need to finish a bachelors degree. If you’re going back to school after a long hiatus, you may not be able to simply finish one more year to close the degree. You’ll have to meet with an adviser who can assess your transcripts and guide you toward the credits you need. My best advice is make a short list of schools in your area you can attend, and begin making contacts with the admissions offices to set up a meeting with a counselor. Gather real information about what you’ll need to finish a degree before you enroll in classes. That helps to ensure that you don’t take unnecessary classes or enter the process disillusioned about the time and cost. Good luck, and congratulations on your decision to finish!
I am 27 years old, and I have a high school diploma from 2005. I am planning on going back to college, b I need to take some basic courses, especially in the English. What should I do?
A great place to start would be community college if you feel you’re not quite ready for the rigor of college-level university classes. Community colleges offer beginner classes in college writing, English, and other subjects and you may find yourself easing more comfortably into your studies if you start at this level. Check out the websites of your local community colleges for application materials, deadlines, and requirements. Good luck!
Can you take classes from a community college or technical college if you have taken classes at an university?
Every school has different policies, so you should always check the website of a particular school to find out what that school allows. However, as a general rule, community colleges are open to any student’s enrollment as long as that student meets the enrollment requirements. Many adults who already have degrees return to community colleges and universities to take courses. If you’re interested in taking community college classes, research on the web to see how to apply to your local school. Good luck!
If my GPA is low and I want to go back to school, can I improve it by taking the SAT or by retaking the ACT?
Unfortunately, retaking standardized tests won’t boost your GPA since test scores don’t factor into grade point average. However, if you feel your GPA is a bit low, having higher test scores might increase your chance of being admitted to a school, so it’s not a bad idea to raise your scores. Understand, though, that if you have been out of school for a while, an ACT or SAT score won’t hold as much weight in the admissions process as your grades, coursework, and activities since you’ve been out in the workforce. Standardized tests are typically used to measure incoming freshman who apply from a variety of high schools. If you’re an adult heading back to college, you should likely focus more on grades, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters in your application. Good luck!
I am 40 and want to return to college. However, at the two previous universities I attended, I had atrocious grades from lack of focus. I basically just quit without finishing. My goal is to receive my associates degree from the local community college, and then earn a BSEE or BSME. What can I do about my previous two stints in college that didn’t turn out so well? I can’t be the only person in this situation and I certainly can’t be punished for the rest of my life for this, can I?
First off, I would advise you to revise the perception that you are being punished. Colleges and universities don’t punish people, they provide education to those ready to put in the work and learn. You’re right that it is common that many students had mistakes and poor grades in the past but have a renewed commitment to education. Your task will be demonstrating that you’re ready to study, now, and that you take your education seriously. If you’re seeking an associates degree, you are in luck because community colleges often have much less restrictive admissions policies. While you will likely need to submit past transcripts, you can also use your application letter to explain your current goals and focus on learning. Try to focus on lessons learned and future goals rather than excuses or reasons for the past poor performance. An admissions committee will want to know that you take full responsibility for yourself and your education, even when that includes past mistakes and poor records. Good luck! You are certainly not alone in this path, and you’ll have success if you truly have a goal of completing your degree and starting a new career.
I am just now starting college, and I am a bit nervous. It has been eight years since I graduated high school. Is it normal to be nervous, and will there be other students in my same situation?
It’s totally normal to be nervous about starting a new transition in life. Don’t let your fear get in the way of your goals, though. You’ll find at a college or university that there will be students of all ages and skill levels, and there really is no “normal.” While some students will have started right out of high school, others will have chosen to attend college after years of military service, work experience, or other life endeavors. Prepare to get the most out of the experience and to work hard, and you will succeed. Good luck!
I am 46, have never attended college, and I’m realizing that I need a degree to do the work I am passionate about: gerontology and counseling for families who are living with Alzheimer’s. I have worked all my life, mostly in executive support roles, and have gained many business skills in this professional role. These are my questions: Does my work or volunteer experience count toward credits? Is there an accelerated way to get through the basic classes? Online classes are important, as I work long hours. How can I find out if these are available to me? Money is also a concern, so I want to make sure I’m not taking unnecessary classes. Like most people, I want it now, so any options to expedite would be greatly appreciated!
Congratulations on your choice to follow your passion! These are great questions, and my biggest answer is to direct them toward an admissions counselor at a school in your area that has the kind of program you’re looking for. The reason is this: while I could guess at answers to some of these questions, each program handles credits, online courses, financial aid, and prerequisites. One school’s answer may be different from another school’s, so you should take this list of wonderfully specific questions and meet with an admissions counselor soon. The counselor will probably take a look at your work experience and let you know what core classes, if any, you can surpass. Also, the counselor will be able to tell you how much of the degree’s coursework can be completed online. You’re off to a great start by listing the things you need to know. Now, head to your local universities’ or community colleges’ websites and set up a meeting with an admissions counselor at each. One word of advisory, though: Since most of your career experience has been outside the field you want to study, expect to commit to completing all the coursework necessary for a degree. You may be able to skip over lower level classes that are unnecessary because of your executive experience, but know that this career change will require an educational commitment of several years. Most jobs that include counseling and therapy roles require extensive coursework and practice. Once you’re equipped with your specific options, you’ll have the power to make the best choice for your situation. Good luck!
I’m 24 and have a bachelors degree in sociology with two minors in business and psychology. I currently am working as a quality assurance coordinator and have come to understand that the career path I desire is accounting. I took accounting courses in my business minor and graduated with a 3.8 GPA in business and a 3.4 overall. I want to go back to school for accounting, but I don’t know if I need another bachelor’s degree or if I can get an associate’s degree and take the CPA exams from there. I need help!
This is a good question, and for all questions concerning the transfer of credits, the answer always depends on each particular school’s policies. Going directly to the department where you want to study with these questions is the best route to a solid answer. Some schools will accept past credits toward a new degree, and others will require you to take those core classes. It all depends on the system you enter. Your career experience might count toward certain credits as well, but this all depends on the school and its policies. Your best bet is to check directly with the department. See if you can set up an appointment with an adviser in accounting at the school, and bring along your old transcripts. Be sure to clarify that your goal is to take the CPA exam so the adviser can give you the best guidance. Good luck!
I am 44 now, and I did not complete my senior year. I would like to earn a college degree. How can I go about achieving this?
Congratulations on your goal. My first piece of advice is to go to your local community college (or their website) and look for the requirements for admission. If you did not compete your senior year of high school, you may have to take a test to earn a GED before you can enroll in a college program. If you mean that you didn’t complete your senior year of college, it is unlikely that your college credits will still be considered if they were earned more than ten years ago. For some schools, work experience will count toward your admissions file. Your first step is to contact a local community college — it is unlikely that you can attend a university with no high school diploma, but you may be able to transfer after taking courses at a community college. Each school will have a different policy, but most do require a high school diploma or GED to enter. Most schools will take into account college credit earned recently, but not more than ten years in the past. Good luck with your research!
I am 44 yrs old, and I want to attend college but don’t know were to begin. Can you help?
It’s great that you’re considering returning to school. First, think about why you want to return to school and what you’d like to study. Once you’ve isolated some possibilities for future careers, you can search your local colleges and universities for programs that fit your goals. Then, you can look at the requirements for admission and take the appropriate steps to apply. Many community colleges also have programs for adults. It’s best to figure out what you want to study, first, so that you’ll know what kinds of programs to research. Additionally, some community colleges have counselors who can help you decide what kind of degree you’d like to pursue. I’d suggest contacting your local college and setting up a meeting or attending an information session. This could get you thinking more specifically about your goals. Good luck!
I am thirty five years old and interested in attending college for the first time. I have worked in my current job for thirteen years, and I graduated high school eighteen years ago. I have read that it is a good idea to attend community college first if one has been out of school for this long. What is a good option for me? Should I take a few classes at a university first to see if it is right for me? I don’t want to create unnecessary obstacles for myself, and time and money are a huge concern.
Congratulations on your decision to continue your education. It is a big step and a big investment, so you are wise to take time to choose the best route. It is true that many returning students begin at a community college and then bridge to a university for their remaining credits. This is a great decision if finances are an issue. Community college courses tend to be cheaper than university courses, and many are offered on weekends and during evening hours to accommodate working students. Furthermore, you will find far more students in your age range at a community college than in daytime classes at a university. If your classmates and cohort are important to you, you might consider this factor. My best advice would be to combine both strategies. Start with a community college so that finances and time are more flexible to your schedule and budget. Also, research and decide what field you would like to study and what degree you want to pursue. If you know what career you’d like to channel your education toward, you can make informed decisions about which schools to attend and which courses to take. Some careers require only an associates degree, while some require a bachelor’s or even a masters. Good luck!
I am 60 years old and just closed a successful business as president and owner. I have a BA in psychology and graduated in 1975. Is this degree still valid for pursuing an advanced degree, or can it be applied to a new degree in a health related field?
Great question! This will depend on the particular school or program to which you want to apply. Many schools will factor in your professional experience when considering your eligibility for graduate study. Others might require you to retake core prerequisites, especially if the field has changed drastically since you earned your degree. But the best information an be found by contacting the particular school and meeting with an admissions adviser or a department head in the field you choose. Congratulations on your decision to return to school, and good luck!
I’m 31 years old and married with two kids. I’m thinking about going to college. I have no credits. I’m thinking about pharmacy, engineering, or becoming a lawyer. I’m really not sure were to start. I’m currently employed full time.
Congratulations on your plan to consider further education. My first suggestion is this: Do some career research and isolate a new career path before you enter college. Law, pharmacy, and engineering are three vastly different fields. Your course of study would be entirely different for each one. You can surf the web and look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for information about these fields. I also suggest networking with professionals and friends in your community to find out more about these careers from professionals you may know. Both law and pharmacy will require a graduate degree, which means more than four years of school. Some engineering positions only require an associates degree, while others will require a bachelors. Once you’ve isolated your new career goal, research nearby schools for programs in that field. If you decide to become a lawyer or pharmacist, know that you’ll have to complete a college degree first, then law school or pharmacy school. The admissions offices at your nearby schools can help you determine which program is right for you, and you can request more information by visiting their websites. Good luck to you on this journey!
I am 38, with no college experience. I slacked off in high school and had poor grades. I have a great paying job but have hit a brick wall in advancing my career. I have been looking into a business university that has an adult degree program. What are my chances of getting accepted?
It’s great that you’re considering promoting yourself by furthering your education! Unfortunately, there is no way for me to measure your chance of being accepted, even if you do supply information about the specific program and your work experience. The application will likely ask you for an essay, recommendation letters, and a demonstration of past academic performance. You can find a program at a nearby school and check out the requirements for admission. Sometimes the website will show the profile of the average student and give minimums for test scores and GPA’s. If you can’t find that information on the website, try calling the admissions office and speaking with a counselor. You may need to take a particular test before you apply, but this will all depend on the specific program. Good luck!
I am over 50 years old and have never attended college, but I want to attend college now to get my associates degree. What type of careers would be available to me?
The sky is the limit! Check out this HR article which outlines 25 high-paying jobs you can land with an associate’s degree. What’s more, the job fields are varied, and many employers are looking for technical skills and diversity when they hire for jobs in healthcare, engineering, and technological fields. Check out your local community colleges to see what programs they offer. Two years is a drop in the bucket when it means an education that equips you to start a whole new career. Good luck to you!
I have bachelor’s degree in accounting, and I’m now 23. I just realized that I want a career in science like biomedical engineering or software engineering. Do I go for a second bachelor’s degree or try to apply straight to graduate school? I’m probably won’t qualify for graduate school in a new field because of the requirements. I don’t want to complete another undergraduate degree, though, because I’m afraid it will be too late to compete for jobs once I finish. What do you think I should do?
These are important considerations. You should get in contact with the science or engineering programs in your area that have programs you’d like to pursue and set up a meeting with an admissions counselor or program director. There, you can discuss your past credits and determine whether or not you’d be able to meet the prerequisites without earning another bachelor’s degree. Some programs will allow you to make up prerequisites while you pursue graduate study, but this depends on the program. Your best results will come from meeting directly with advisers and directors of the programs you find through research, and asking about your eligibility for graduate study. Keep in mind, though, that no matter how long it takes, professionals enter the workforce at all ages. Don’t consider yourself at a disadvantage simply because of age. Odds are, when you return to school you’ll do so with a new sense of maturity and a strong work ethic. Good luck!
I am 54 just finished my B.S. and would like to at least get a masters degree. I would love to go on and get a doctorate, but I am afraid I am too old to pursue either one. I have a degree in wildlife biology and want to continue in that direction specializing as a mammalogist or ornithologist. Those two areas are my passion. What do you think…am I really just too old?
Of course not! No one is ever too old to go back to college. Some go back for general interest and others go back because a career goal is attached to the degree. If you do plan to pursue a particular career that calls for a doctorate, consider how much time it will take you to earn the doctorate. Only you can decide if you want to spend the next five to six years in school. That depends on your life situation, your goals, and your desires. But no, you’re never too old to follow a goal! You might speak to some professionals in the field to find out which degree you really need to establish the career you desire. Good luck!
I am 47 yrs old and have worked as a teacher aide for 15 years. Then, I was a stay at home mom. I believe I am a couple classes shy of receiving an associates degree. Is it possible to achieve a degree now by taking a couple of classes or will I have to start over?
Congratulations on your plan to go back to school. The answer will depend on the school you choose, as programs have different policies about accepting past credits, transfer credits, and work experience in lieu of coursework. My best advice is to meet with an adviser at your local college or university and bring along your transcripts. He or she will be able to inform you of your options. If you took the courses more than ten years ago, you may have to retake them if your field is one that has changed or evolved. (For example, teaching pedagogy has changed drastically over the past fifteen years, so if you’re studying education, you may have to redo most of the coursework.) See what you can find out directly from the source, and good luck to you!
I am a 27 years old woman originally from King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. I left school in 2005 without finishing my tenth grade year because of financial problems at home. I would love to continue with my studies and get my degree. Is there anything I can do?
Your first step will be to earn a GED. You can find information online about where to earn a GED in your home town by visiting YourGED.org and entering your zip code to find a center. Next, contact the center to register and find out what it takes to earn your GED. With one in hand, you can then enter a community college and begin taking courses. Or, if you’re a working adult, you might consider online learning. Most schools will require that you hold either a high school diploma or a GED prior to entering, but many individuals head back to school later in life. Don’t let anything hold you back from your goals. Good luck!
I’m a veteran of the armed forces and am considering going back to school with the help of the GI Bill. I joined the military at the age of 18, so it has been almost 6 years since I’ve experienced the “school life”. Since I have the help of the GI Bill, I don’t have to worry about any financial obligations and there’s even a possibility that some of my military schooling could count towards credits. My question for you is this: Do you think it would be hard for me to return to school after such a long break from the college lifestyle? The only thing that’s holding me back is the idea of failure.
Congratulations on your goal of going back to school. If fear of failing is the only thing holding you back, then all you’ve got to do is gear up. College will be a challenge, no doubt, but you’ve likely already faced many challenges with your career in the military. You’ve just got to be ready for hard work, focus, and the strength to trust and learn from your professors. College lifestyle is certainly different from military life, but odds are you can find a club or organization for veterans on your campus that will help you build relationships and good habits. Go for it, and don’t let fear hold you back.
Hello Guru, I just had quick question. Currently I’m 24 years old working full time for a private women’s health center. I went to a University for two years before I wasn’t able to pay for it anymore. Right now I’m about $11,000 in debt with Federal student loans (defaulted) and I owe the University $2000.00. (Not able to get transcripts until university is paid.) I would love to go back to school and purse my degree in Health Admin. Right now I’m just kind of lost on the appropriate steps to get back into college and start being able to pay for my loans. Any help or advice would be nice! I’ve overcome a lot since I’ve dropped out of school, and this is my next hurdle!
It sounds like you have admirable goals and it also sounds like you’re working hard. Defaulting on loans is unfortunate, because this will make it difficult to secure future funding. You might fill out the FAFSA form to see if you are eligible for any more federal funding, but many lenders will only grant funding to students in good financial standing. That said, if you can pay off the balance that you currently owe to the university, you may be able to register for new classes by getting your old transcripts. Unfortunately, the university does have the right to hold your transcripts until you pay for your past education, and you likely signed an agreement to that effect upon enrollment. Your future goals are not out of reach, but you will likely have to pay off old debts before you start on your new educational path. If you can seek support from family and friends to help keep you focused on working hard to pay off those debts, you may find yourself able to step forward toward new career goals sooner than you think. Good luck!
I am 30 years old and recently switched from teaching to a paralegal job. I have a BA in English because I always thought I wanted to teach. I have no interest in doing anything with English. I’m in debt from the English degree, and I’m soon to be married and kids will follow. Is it worth going to back to get another bachelor’s in something I’m interested in and taking on more debt?
Rather than starting over to earn a different bachelor’s degree, perhaps think of ways that you can bridge an English degree toward your desired career outcome. For example, would a paralegal certificate, a J.D., or a master’s degree in a subject you desire to work toward be a better investment of your time? While you may not want to teach English, there are many careers in which an English degree is useful, namely journalism, law, marketing, and management. Perhaps research online programs and university programs in your area, and determine what you’d really like to do full time before crossing into your next educational endeavor. There are many exciting and lucrative jobs out there that demand savvy writing skills, articulation, and critical thinking. Odds are, your English degree has provided you with more skills than you may realize. Good luck!
I’m a 59 year old women with a grade school education level. I want to get an education, but I don’t know where to start. Help!
Good for you for wanting to go back! You can likely find some continuing education courses at a local community college. Sometimes they are even offered for free at a local library. First step is to look on the website of your nearest community college for a continuing education page which will list programs. Also, you might research GED testing sites in your town to see where you can sign up to take the GED, which is recognized as equivalent to the high school diploma in many states. The testing center will have information about studying and preparing for this test. Start there, and see what you find. You can always continue to educate yourself, as education is a lifelong process.
I received a PhD in English Literature in 2009. The entire market for this degree has crashed. I am thinking of returning to school for retraining in another field, but I am frightened about taking another financial gamble on education for different field. I am thinking online education and technology could be a good Master’s degree for me, as I am currently a part-time online writing tutor. However, I am afraid this will keep me in a similar situation of working a bunch of contract jobs that require lots of credentials for low pay. Are there any fields that you see as less of a gamble? I have already put so much time and money into my education that I can’t afford to have my next career not pan out.
I’m sorry to hear that you feel frustrated with your career goals. It’s a tough market, and the humanities produce many graduates with a limited amount of positions for which to compete. Sometimes, this can mean a slow start. But, do not give up. If you’re truly committed to returning to school, think of it as a bridge to add new skills to those you’ve already developed. For example, would an MBA help bridge your writing and analytical skills with business-oriented talents? Or, is there a particular career path you have in mind that demands a certain degree, such as software engineering or counseling psychology? It’s up to you to determine what kind of job you want to target. Once you’ve decided, you can aim toward the appropriate next step, whether that’s networking at conferences or pursuing a new degree. Good luck with your research! And, taking on new educational goals always requires some risk. It’s up to you to determine whether you are willing to put in the work and sacrifices to make sure that, without giving up, you pursue the career you want and diligently apply and network to make it happen. Good luck! You can achieve it if you put in the effort and the research!
I didn’t finish high school. Can I go to college and finish a degree?
You can, but you’ll need a diploma or GED first, in order to be admitted to a community college. You can check your local city website or community college homepage for information on how to get the GED, and once you take the test and have the diploma, you’ll be eligible to apply for registration at a community college. Congratulations on your goal to return to school. It will be hard work, but if you have clear ideas about how you want to use your college education to serve your future, you can accomplish whatever goals you set. Good luck!
I did one semester of community college and dropped out in the second semester in 2006 due to personal reasons. If I apply to another community college, do I have to give them a transcript, or can I skip my previous experience as if it never happened and apply as a newbie just using my high school transcript and ACT scores?
If a school asks for all prior college transcripts in an application, you must supply them. Not doing so could be interpreted as academic dishonesty and could immediately rule you out from admission, so it’s always crucial to be completely candid when you apply. That said, prior mistakes and failures don’t rule you out from a second chance. You’ve got an admissions essay to write, and that’s a great place to describe how you’ve changed since 2006 and why you are now ready for academic success. Be candid, be confident, and apply with all of your transcripts. Good luck!
I am 22. I am a senior, but in the last two years I have grown apathetic, because I hate the major I am in. I will graduate with a low GPA. I have a few F’s on my transcript, in classes I haven’t repeated, so I know grad school is out of the question. What would happen if I tried for a second degree at a different institution? I am now sure of what I want to do and that is human resources.
Good for you for figuring out what it is you want to do. Some students take longer than others to do so, of course. It is still possible to get into another college, though it will depend on each individual college. You may want to take some time off and go to a community college to try to raise your grades and demonstrate that you are committed to school. If the classes are GEs that you will need for your second go-round, showing that you have committed to retaking them can go a long way. If they were classes in your major that you won’t need, then of course the credit won’t transfer or mar your future transcript.
Before you apply, you might want to make an appointment with the admissions department to talk with them one-on-one about your special circumstances. That can help avoid having them make a snap judgment without your explanation. Good luck with your future endeavors.
I graduated in 2012 from a two-year college. I’m applying to transfer to a four-year institution. On the application, they want to know why I was out of school for more than six months. I’m afraid simply saying “I moved” will get me nowhere. What are college applications looking for in this answer? What would be considered an acceptable reason for such a long absence between degrees?
Congratulations on your decision to advance your schooling and I am glad you asked — you are right, “I moved,” wouldn’t be the best answer since this question really gives you a chance to showcase your strengths.Many, many students take a break for any number of reasons — a gap year (or years!) to ensure they are moving forward in the direction that will suit them best, an opportunity to gain valuable work experience that helps them choose a major, and even family or financial needs.Since you didn’t indicate why YOU took time off, I can’t help you with a complete answer, but I can offer some advice that would apply to anyone in your situation. What colleges are looking for is the fact that you, as a potential student, take schooling seriously and would be an active and valuable member of their campus. So, the goal with any question is to answer in that light.In that context, this is a great place to play up any work skills you learned, any “life lessons” that will help you be a more motivated college student, or any other takeaway you got from your hiatus. If you had to delay for financial or family reasons, you can mention them as well. College admissions offices know that we all can have extenuating circumstances. Good luck with your continued college career!
I attended a four-year college, majoring in biology/pre-med. Unfortunately, I fell ill and was 13 hours shy of graduating back in 2010. Now I am interested in returning to school to gain a degree in nursing. However, due to my previous collegiate career, I am not approved for financial aid, and I am not financially capable of paying out of pocket. Are there any ways to get financial aid without having to take out more loans and put myself further into debt?
Going back to school after a hiatus can be intimidating, so congratulations on taking the next step! You’re smart to not take on new loans as you move forward with your education. Although expensive, nursing school is a great investment that will set you up for an exciting and rewarding career.
First of all, are you sure that you’re not eligible for need-based financial aid? The fact that you didn’t finish college doesn’t necessarily disqualify you. For example, the Federal government provides a Pell Grant, which doesn’t have to be paid back. I suggest you file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify. Go to fafsa.ed.gov for more details. In addition to the Pell Grant, you may qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program.
For hard-working students, there are many scholarships, grants, career ladder and loan-forgiveness programs available. Many scholarships don’t have age restrictions, and just like there are scholarships for first-time college students, there are scholarships for returning students. Check with the financial aid office of the school(s) you want to attend for scholarship opportunities. You might also check out sites such as Scholarships.com and Fastweb.com as well as civic and community organizations. There are also many state-funded grants for nursing students.
If you are currently employed, check to see if your job offers any tuition-reduction options for continuing education. However, aid is typically limited to employees who are seeking a degree in a field of study similar to the one they’re working in or who make a commitment to stay with the company for a period of time after graduation.
Another option is a loan-repayment program. These programs help students pay off a nursing school loan in exchange for work. Not only do you get help paying for your nursing school education, but also you get valuable experience working in a nursing setting.
Finally, you might be able to complete your degree online on a full- or part-time basis. That would allow you the flexibility to get your degree from home without interfering with your job or other obligations.
Fortunately, you don’t have that many credits to go to complete your degree.
I dropped out of school in ninth grade. I am now 37. I want to get an education. Is there anywhere where I can obtain my high school diploma and a college degree simultaneously?
Congratulations on your goal to return to school! Community colleges are working harder to provide more options for people who didn’t graduate from high school, including offering programs where students attend regular college classes and earn their high school equivalency along with a college degree. For example, some community colleges offer a high school equivalency program where students earn a high school diploma while starting a college degree program. I would reach out to community colleges in your area and ask if they offer a program to get your GED and college degree at the same time.
If you can’t find a school that offers a dual program, you’ll have to earn your GED before you can be admitted to a community college. But don’t let that hold you back! Your local GED testing center will have information about studying and preparing for the test. It will be hard work, but you can do it! Good luck!