by Evan Jerkunica
If you are considering going back to college, you have reached an important milestone. Whether through fate or circumstances, you now have the desire to continue your education where you left off. Following the simple steps below can help you to make an informed decision about your future.
1. Determine Your Priorities
Previously, you may have thought your family life was too hectic for nighttime or online classes. You may have gained all of the education you needed for your job and had no reason to continue. Now that your situation has changed, you must understand your goals.
* Will a degree help you get a promotion at work?
* Are you interested in changing careers and need specialized skills to pass the interviews?
* How would your life be different if you had a bachelorÃs degree, masterÃs degree, or even a doctoral or professional degree?
2. Evaluate Your Interests
Today’s higher education system welcomes adult learners and their specialized knowledge. Once you have decided to make earning a degree a priority, you must direct your attention to a specific program of study.
* Are you interested in a vocational program, such as massage therapy, or an academic degree, such as accounting or health care administration?
* Will the new degree fuel your passions, or are you more interested in the income potential?
Fastest Growing Occupations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), several occupations will experience rapid growth over the next few years. Positions like physician assistants, software developers, environmental engineers, physical therapists, and almost any medical/dental job are expected to have more openings than applicants, so career potential is high.
Highest Paying Jobs
If you are more concerned about the money you will make after graduation, you may be interested in one of the BLS’s highest paying jobs. Surgeons, physicians, dentists, engineers, computer information systems managers, pharmacists, lawyers, and judges are paid large salaries, but competition can be intense.
3. Find a Way to Pay
One of the biggest questions adults have about returning to school is how they will pay for it. A strategic combination of grants and scholarships may leave you with few student loans.
A grant is free money that does not have to be repaid. You may be eligible for grants from the state and federal governments, your college or university, and/or community organizations. Common grants include:
* Pell Grants for undergraduate students who have not yet earned bachelor’s degrees
* FSEO Grants for undergraduate students with significant financial need
* Institutional grants for graduate or undergraduate students in a particular major, college, or university
Scholarships and Fellowships
Like grants, scholarships and fellowships do not have to be repaid, but they may carry certain obligations. For example, you may need to maintain a 3.0 GPA or publish research during the year. Working adults can find scholarships based on an infinite number of characteristics, including:
* Sexual orientation
* Disability/medical condition
Almost everyone attending college in the United States must take out a student loan at some point. Luckily, federal loan options come with low interest rates and flexible repayment terms. Many loans can also be fully or partially forgiven through service in certain occupations.
4. Make a Decision
The decision to go back to college is a very personal choice and only you determine what will be the best decision for you. College really is not what it used to be and it’s ROI is not that good anymore because there are many unemployed college graduates who did not gain much by going to college and the economy is in a state of flux. With increasing costs and student loan debt abound, going back to college could turn out to be the best or worst decision you will ever make.