Going back to college is not an easy decision, but it’s made even more challenging when you don’t consider everything this change in lifestyle will entail. Hopefully, you can tackle those issues sooner rather than later and eliminate unnecessary stress from your experience. You will need to make choices regarding school and degree program, full or part-time attendance, financial options and lifestyle changes, adjustment in family life and time management.
What Degree and What School
The question of why you want to go back to college is the most important one. Usually the answer has to do with perceived outcome in terms of employment opportunities. But whatever your reason, you will need to make choices regarding what degree you wish to obtain and what college you wish to attend. Do you have colleges and universities in your immediate vicinity to commute to? Do they have the degree program you are seeking? If not, then your search for the right school widens and the choices will entail relocation. This is not a small issue. If you have a family it means everyone goes. If not, it still means you’re possibly moving somewhere that is new, which involves personal adjustments and, of course, money.
Part Time or Full Time
Do you have a job you’d like to keep while you are in school? If so, it means you will be attending classes part-time, more than likely in the evening. Does your degree program offer evening classes? This is an increasing problem as instructors decide they don’t care to teach at night. Going part-time may also mean your experience will take possibly twice as long as going full time. One perk is that your job may pay some of your tuition, if your degree is related to your work.
Full-time attendance means your financial picture must be meticulously worked out so you can actually live while you’re in school. This will mean multiple resources, more than likely including loans. If you have a partner, that person will need to understand the financial impact on your lives.
Financial Impact on Lifestyle
The financial dilemmas of attending college have only gotten more complex. How will you pare down your lifestyle to accommodate what will no doubt be a diminished financial situation? Ask yourself where you can cut back, decrease expenses and eliminate unnecessary frills. Life in college has hidden costs that many people don’t consider, whether it’s books, transportation or parking fees.
Support of Family
Is your family backing you up on this decision? You need their support and it will be up to you to gently campaign to get it. Changes in family life can be jolting for everyone. Don’t minimize the need for their understanding and encouragement. You will have to make accommodations and so will they. They will have to understand your need for time to work on assignments, and you will have to understand that they still require your presence in their lives.
Understanding Time Management
One of the biggest changes in going back to school is the amount of time it consumes. You will be reading and writing and preparing and doing homework most of the time. If you are only taking one class, the impact won’t be as great, but getting accustomed to the requirements of any course and fitting the work into your life takes careful time management. You may be encountering issues in re-learning how to study, how to write an academic paper, or how to read dense, difficult text effectively.
If you enter college with full knowledge of all it requires, your experience will be much less stressful and much more rewarding. There will always be situations you hadn’t thought of, but at least you will be aware that going to school means a big life change.