A large percentage of today’s higher learning landscape is made of adult learners who have gone back to college in order to earn or finish a degree.
Maybe you started school in the past but weren’t able to finish. Or, maybe you’re thinking about going back to college because it will improve your career prospects. You want that promotion at work, or perhaps you’re seeking to expand your career options beyond your current skill set.
For every adult who heads back to college, another decides against it. Let’s examine some of the most common obstacles that may be keeping you from pursuing a degree, and provide some information that will help push those roadblocks aside. We’ve asked Jessica Thomas, an Enrollment Communications Campaign Analyst at Franklin University, to weigh in with her expertise. She has eight years of experience in helping adult students identify and work through the challenges preventing them from earning their degree.
1. It’s expensive. How can I pay for it?
Very few people can cover the full cost of an education by themselves, so knowing all of your options can be beneficial. For starters, if you already have a job, do some research and find out if your employer is willing to help cover some of the costs. Thomas encourages prospective students to reach out to their human resources department and inquire about tuition reimbursement opportunities.
“Sometimes people are amazed at how many doors can be opened for them through their employer,” Thomas said.
Tax breaks may also be offered, like the Lifetime Learning Credit. Check with a tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service to see if you qualify.
Don’t forget about scholarships and grants, either. By way of example, in 2010-11 Franklin University gave away nearly 20 million dollars in grants and scholarships. There may be opportunities for you to get a slice of that pie, so talk to an academic advisor about what is available to you.
And finally, be sure to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what type of financial aid, grants or loans you may be eligible to receive. Remember – filing a FAFSA does not mean you’re agreeing to take out loans, but rather requesting information about eligibility.
2. I just don’t have enough time for school.
Tackling classes on top of everything else in your life is challenging. But it’s a challenge that provides a great reward. Look for a school that is flexible and has options for you, like a support staff that understands the specific scheduling needs of busy adults.
“Don’t rule out full time class work, just rethink it,” Thomas said. “There are programs that allow you to stagger your schedule, allowing you to focus on one or two shortened courses at a time while still completing a full-time load each term. These programs can help you stay on track to reach your goals, while not overwhelming the rest of your life.”
And don’t forget about college credit and professional certifications earned in the past. Thomas notes that many adult learners are surprised to find out that those credits and experiences are accepted by some schools and can help them move toward a degree faster.
There is also the option to take classes online. It’s an effective way to learn and finish a degree program on your time.
3. I can’t attend class full time.
There are alternative options, like attending classes part time, or taking accelerated classes and programs that are structured specifically for those with limited time on their hands. The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed with school, so look for institutions offering flexible schedules, along with staff and advisors who are familiar with the needs of adult students.
Look for programs that won’t overload you with classes each quarter, semester or trimester.
“Programs that allow you to take one or two classes a term can be of great help to the busy adult, along with online course offerings,” Thomas said.
4. I have family responsibilities.
Your family is your number one priority. There’s no doubt about that. What you need is a set schedule that gives you the best opportunity to succeed at home and in the classroom. These days, schools are keen on getting to know you and understanding your lifestyle so that a schedule can be constructed that meets your specific needs.
“Many of our advisors at Franklin were adult learners themselves and understand what it takes to structure a schedule that will work,” Thomas said.
Balancing your family and school responsibilities is challenging, but others have done it – and so can you. Focus on staying organized and getting into a routine so you can succeed professionally and academically and still keep your life in order.
5. I have a full-time job. How am I supposed to attend classes?
You need to find a program that is flexible when it comes to your individual needs and work schedule. When researching schools, make sure you share your concerns with an advisor.
“We want to know if certain times of the year are busier than others for them, or if they will be traveling for work. Maybe we will encourage them to take classes online during that time. Being familiar with their work schedule allows us to structure a class schedule to fit their needs.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for a class syllabus ahead of time, either. Thomas said the syllabus can be beneficial when it comes to planning and managing coursework.
Finally, remember that most institutions offer classes in the evenings, on the weekend, or online so the work day isn’t compromised.
More Resources @ Franklin University
- Academic Advising
- Career and Technical Credits
- Financial Aid
- Transferring Credit
- Portfolio Credit Program
- Franklin FAQ
If you’re interested in finishing your college degree, get in touch with one of our advisors to see if our non-profit university might be a good fit for you. We’ll give you a friendly call, with no hard sells! At the very least, you can determine how long it’ll take you to finish your degree based on the number of credits you can transfer to us here at Franklin.
Most of our current students are here finishing a degree they started earlier in their lives, so you’ll be in excellent company.