Whether you’re wanting to finish the degree you started, begin a master’s program, or earn a second bachelor’s degree, there’s a few important things to consider before going back to school.
- Why do you want to go back to school?
Before I decided that going back to school for my second bachelor’s degree was in the best interest of my family and myself, I created a list of reasons why I should go back to school. This is a good first step to do if you’re deciding something major like going back to school as it enables you to visually gather your thoughts in one place.
Creating a counter argument list is also helpful in comparing the pros and cons of going back to school versus not going back. To create a counter argument list, you would write down reasons why going back to school would not be a good idea, and then you would compare your results with each other to see which side makes the most sense for you.
The list I put together had many good points, I remember, but the number one reason for wanting to go back to school was the following:
- I am not happy in my career, and I don’t see it getting better without change.
I read this line over and over again until it got stuck in my head. What if, I reasoned with myself, I could change how I feel about my career instead of changing my career? It made sense to try to make it work since I had already put so much effort into my career at that point. In thinking about it this way, I sometimes compare my feelings towards my career with a bad relationship. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying to make it work in hopes that it would get better.
With all the effort given in making my career work, in the end I realized that it just wasn’t for me. So, I continued with the idea of going back to school by building on the list I created previously.
From my list, I put together goals in order to work towards a different outcome than the career I was moving on from. My goals in going back to school was to put my family in a better place financially, and so I could get into a career that I was happy with. With my goals in front of me, I felt comfortable moving forward with going back to school.
2. How are you going to pay for school?
This is a big consideration considering the price of a single college class can reach thousands of dollars. Factor in your current bills and other obligations, and it can get expensive fast. Before I started my second bachelor’s degree program, I took out a student loan for just enough to allow me to get started with school. During the school year, I applied for scholarships that I qualified for, and I also worked full time. I set aside money earned from my work to pay the cost of tuition for the upcoming semester. These things together are the reason why I was able to make it through school without having to worry about finances.
When you’re considering how you’re going to pay for school, you need to be aware of the cost of attendance at the school you’re interested in attending, and how you’re going to get the money to allow you to continue taking classes until you graduate.
Tip: Many schools offer a reduced cost per credit hour after a certain number of hours in a semester.
I highly recommend seeing if the school you’re interested in attending does this. The school I was attending reduced the cost of each credit hour above 12 credits from a couple hundred dollars to under $50. This significantly lowered my overall tuition cost.
Also, if you’re still eligible, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) online. Enrollment starts each year in October, and it can be a great way to receive aid if you qualify.
3. How are you going to fit school in with the rest of your life?
I’ll admit, this one was probably the toughest consideration for me to address. The reason why it was so tough to deal with was because I needed to work full time for the money and benefits. It is definitely not easy fitting a full time course load alongside a full time job throughout the week.
If you are in the same position as I was with needing to keep working during the school year, careful planning and flexibility is essential. It is important to find out if you can take the classes you need to reach your goals while maintaining your current job. To figure this out, you can talk to the advisers at the specific school you’re interested in attending to see if there would be any conflicts between your work schedule and the times classes are offered.
I knew I couldn’t continue teaching while I went to school because many of the courses that I needed to take were only offered during the day when I was teaching. It wouldn’t have worked for me. Luckily, I found a job that was flexible in allowing me to return to school full time.
On the flip side, there may not be much time available for other things in your life. I know I struggled with not being able to hang out with my friends or do fun activities as often as I would have liked because I had school, work, and family commitments that came first. If you’d like to read about how I balanced multiple commitments and how you can as well, check out the link here:
4. Do you have credits earned from a previous school & do they transfer?
When I went back to school for my second degree, I spent a couple weeks worrying about my credits transferring from the schools I previously attended. I had to argue my case with different department heads for not having to take any general education courses, since I already took them to earn my prior degree.
The new school I was attending did not offer some of the courses that I took, so I had to fill out transfer equivalency forms saying that a description for a class I took previously matched with the description for a class that was offered at my current school.
If I didn’t go through this process and instead accepted what the school said would be the credits they would accept towards my second degree, I would have been in school for at least an extra semester. The extra cost of tuition and lost wages for not being able to work in my new field would have been a major setback.
Tip: Sit with an adviser at the school you’re considering attending to see what credits you have will transfer and save you time in completing your degree.
If some credits don’t immediately transfer, do some research in the courses offered at the school to see if a class matches with any courses you’ve taken previously, and make a case to present to the department head that oversees the class.
There are many things to consider before going back to school. A few important considerations are:
- Why do you want to go back to school?
- How are you going to pay for school?
- How are you going to fit school in with the rest of your life?
- Do you have credits earned from a previous school & do they transfer?
There are many other things to be aware of before returning to school, but having answers to the considerations listed here will have you on your way to creating the future you’ve always dreamed of.
If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!