This is the second article in our ‘Continuing Education’ series, which looks at the challenges, skills, and opportunities for job seekers looking to finish or upgrade their degrees. You can check out part one here.
If you’ve stumbled upon this page, we’ll hazard a guess you’re debating about returning to school as an adult. Believe us, you’re not the only one to have questioned whether it’s really worth the time, effort, and sacrifices you’ll need to make to get there. And you’re in good company if you have a number of reasons why you haven’t yet made the plunge.
But if you’re serious about continuing your education and developing yourself professionally, it’s time to see those so-called reasons for what they really are- excuses. The good news is that with the right approach, you can overcome each and every one of these excuses.
When you’re finally done with teetering on the edge of achieving your dreams, employ the following solutions to 6 of the most common excuses about returning to school as an adult.
Excuse: School will burn a hole in my wallet
Solution: Think of it as an investment that pays back tenfold
Money concerns are a formidable barrier if you’re thinking about returning to school. When your budget is already tight, it can be difficult to justify spending even more on school fees. Even if your budget is flexible, it’s easier to spend your hard-earned money on a relaxing getaway or buying that new shiny gadget, than on furthering your education.
However, your education is one of the few investments you can make that will improve your future. When you think of it this way, the cost is much easier to reconcile. If the cost burden required feels overwhelming, start focusing on the long-term benefits of furthering your education.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “you have to spend money to make money”, and education is the prime example. A report by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that on average, over an adult’s working life:
- High school graduates will earn $1.2 million
- Bachelor’s degree holders will earn $2.1 million
- Master’s degree holders will earn $2.5 million
- Doctoral degrees holders will earn $3.4 million
There is a clear correlation between obtaining further education and earning a higher income. Better qualifications open the door to more professional opportunities, and in turn, more earning capacity. The bottom line is that going back to school pays off.
Excuse: I can’t produce money I don’t have out of thin air
Solution: Shop around for an affordable course and make use of financial aid
“Alright,” I hear you now say. “That all sounds peachy, but how do you suppose I’ll even afford to fund my studies in the first place?”
There are in fact numerous ways you can make it work financially. Search around and you’ll find many colleges which offer relatively affordable degrees. All Education Schools takes the hassle out of the process with their school-finder resource. It will help you source a range of appropriate programs (both on-campus and online) based on your location, level of education, and of course, your area of interest.
No matter where you decide to go, or what degree you do, you shouldn’t be shy about applying for financial aid or scholarships to help you pay for your studies. Most college websites have a section detailing information about aid and scholarships, so shop around.
You should also check out Federal Student Aid, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation, and it offers students the chance to apply for various grants, scholarships and loans, irrespective of their age.
Be sure to set aside adequate time so that you can make your application as strong as it can be. Scholarships and grants in particular garner heavy competition from other equally eager students, so make your effort count. Also, make sure to keep an eye on submission deadlines and read the guidelines carefully to maximize your chances of being granted financial aid.
Excuse: I already have no time as it is
Solution: Make a plan and get organized
“I’ve got no time” is a time-old excuse that is one of the toughest to crack. After all, there’s no way to make more time if you don’t have it, right?
Wrong. If you want to go back to school, and you’re time poor, there are ways to make it work. Here’s where prioritizing comes into play. As reasonably as you can, make adjustments where you can, even if you don’t want to. If you’re lucky, it may be as simple as swapping Game of Thrones/pilates class/brunch for a date with the books. But it will probably require a bit more legwork than that.
When you find yourself slipping back to questioning if it’s worth all the effort, keep your eye on your goal and remind yourself what going back will mean for you, your family, and your future. Rarely do the things we really want come to us easily. Be prepared to work hard and you’ll be duly rewarded. People rarely regret achieving further education, so if you want it, find a way to make it work.
You could also consider applying for an online degree which offers both affordability and flexibility. Many online colleges allow you to set the pace you’d like to complete the degree. If you’d like to graduate as soon as possible, accelerated options are available. Conversely, if you’re juggling other responsibilities, part-time or flexible hours are an option.
Another major advantage to completing an online degree is that there are no face-to-face contact hours. No one will know if you’re tapping away on your computer in your pajamas at home, or on your daily commute to work. Explore your options to find one that suits your particular financial and life situation.
Excuse: I’m not sure if my employer will value my degree
Solution: Prove them wrong
You’re worried that despite all your efforts to earn a degree, your employer won’t take it seriously because it comes from a non-Ivy League or lesser-known college. It’s understandable that you’d want your current or future employer to be impressed with your sparkling new degree, and for it to lead to new opportunities for promotion and greater earnings.
Who says it won’t? An increase in interest and enrollment numbers has led career colleges and online universities to continually improve the quality of their courses. Many degrees have improved to the extent that they’re now of a comparable quality to those of traditional colleges. As such, the stigma from attending a career college or online degree has dramatically decreased, and continues to do so.
This positive change in the way online degrees are viewed is backed by recent research. A survey of members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that 79% of those surveyed had hired a candidate with an online degree in the previous 12 months.
The majority of employers will be impressed by your determination to learn and will appreciate the fresh contributions and perspectives you can make to the company.
Moreover, obtaining a degree relevant to your field will allow you to meet the increasing demand by employers for employees to be proactively upskilling themselves. Being competitive in the job market is vital not only in the search for a promotion or new job, but also to maintain your current role.
Any reasonable employer will recognize a degree for what it is- a representation of the hours of study you underwent to boost your knowledge, learn new skills, and bolster yourself professionally. It’s time to stop underestimating how valuable your degree will be seen in the eyes of employers.
Excuse: I don’t want to be seen as the token older student
Solution: Stop caring what others think and start seeing your age and experience as an asset
You’re anxious that if you head back to school, your peers will stereotype you once they see you’re not fresh out of high school like them; that you’ll stick out like a Billy Madison-style caricature just because you’re older than the average student.
Well, take a look at these stats. Enrollment numbers of older students are sizable and are projected to continue growing, so your fears are unfounded.
As the following graph from the National Center of Educational Statistics shows, enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions of students who are 25 to 34 years old increased 51% between 1997 and 2011, with an additional 20% increase is projected between 2011 and 2022.
- This graph shows a clear increase in the number of non-traditional students enrolling in college. Source: National Center of Educational Statistics
Enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions of students who are 35 years old and over increased 26% between 1997 and 2011, and it’s projected that this will increase by a further 23% between 2011 and 2022.
There’s no shame in going back to school. Don’t let immature people dissuade you from fulfilling your dream of completing your education. If you do so, the only person whose happiness and growth will suffer is your own.
Instead, take a more productive approach and harness your age and experience to further your studies. People who return to school later in life bring with them years of invaluable professional and personal experience and knowledge. Don’t see your experiences as a negative, use them to improve your coursework and interactions with your peers.
Many colleges even account for your professional experience with credits that may allow for your workload to be reduced, or even for you to fast-track your degree. Inquire with your chosen institution how you can use your experience to your advantage.
So what are you waiting for?
If you’re reading this article, you’re feeling motivated. Take action now, and nip those excuses in the bud. Use this opportunity to search for a school that will work with your busy schedule, and give you the flexibility and affordability you need to earn that degree.
Good luck future grad, you’ve got this!