You’ve thought about it over the years, always brushing it to the back of your mind. Perhaps it stings a little every time someone asks, “So, where did you go to college?” Maybe you find yourself envious of your spouse when he or she draws upon knowledge of a subject or personage from Sociology or Victorian Literature. You’ve weighed the pros and cons, made excuses, and you keep asking yourself the question: What if I went back to school?
You’re not alone. Millions of men and women outside the traditional age of 17-24 are heading, in increasing numbers, back to college, either for the first time or to complete a degree started years ago. If you’re not sure whether it’s time to add yourself to those formidable ranks, consider these four signs:
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1. You Want to Finish What You Started
It’s more common than you might think to start a degree and not be able to finish it in one fell swoop. Sometimes painful circumstances arrive, such as a job loss, medical emergency, death in the family, or divorce, which may necessitate a move, or sacrificing the costs and time demands of schoolwork to make ends meet. Other circumstances may be joyful, such as having kids or getting a new job. Regardless, whether you put in one semester or three years, now may be the perfect time to finish your degree!
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You may think: “No way, I’ve been out for too long!”
But: Don’t sell yourself short! According to Micah Green, Director of Admissions Consulting at Liberty University Online, the average age of Liberty’s typical online student is 35-40 years old. He explains,
“The important thing to remember is that you are not alone; many other fellow classmates are returning to school after ten, twenty, or even thirty years (or more) away from a classroom.”
2. You Need to Climb the Ladder
In one family I know, neither parent had a college degree when bankruptcy and ensuing hard times struck their family-owned business. Determined to open more doors for themselves and provide a better life for their kids, both parents took out loans and enrolled in online degree programs. It was a rough few years as they balanced schoolwork, business, and parenting, but ultimately, they knew they needed more education and more advanced degrees to have the kind of careers that would challenge them and give their family a comfortable life.
You may also want to become a more qualified candidate, or your current job may require more education to receive a promotion or advancement. Either way, your accrued life experience combined with an excellent education stands to make you a strong candidate in the work force!
You may think: “I just can’t afford it.”
But: It’s important to think long-term. Green admits, “A degree represents one of the largest investments students will ever make; it is important to weigh academic credentials against cost.” Will this degree make you a more marketable candidate? Do job openings in your field require more education than you currently have? There are many affordable options (such as Liberty University) where even non-traditional students can receive low tuition rates, loans, financing options, and even employer-sponsored aid! Most of us live through times of little and times of plenty, but a degree from an accredited institution is yours to keep forever.
3. You Want a Change of Scenery
Your grandfather may have worked in the same barbershop or law firm his entire life, but today’s world is getting “smaller” and more interconnected.. With a fluctuating job market, most of us will change jobs or even careers at some point, if we haven’t already.
Are you hungry to learn about a new market? Have you always dreamed about working in a different part of the world or performing duties you know you aren’t quite qualified for just yet? Then returning to school may be an exciting way to follow those dreams.
You may think: “I’m way too busy with my current job. I could never make time for school.”
But: With online programs, it might be more possible than you think!
Now, don’t get me wrong, school will keep you busy and make you work hard. You may need to give up Netflix and put aside the latest Gillian Flynn in lieu of assigned reading. Hobbies and leisure pursuits will need to make way for essay writing and studying for tests. Every major life change requires re-working your schedule, and school is no different.
Online classes, such as those offered at Liberty University, “are very flexible,” explains Green, with no set login times and adjustable course loads to fit each student’s needs. “Will you be busier while pursuing a degree? You bet! Will you be too busy? Most students are able to find a balance between school and other obligations, and there are certainly resources available to assist with that!”
4. You Want to Become a Better Person
Many folks return to school for quieter, more private reasons. Perhaps you have always wanted to be more active in ministry, such as teaching Sunday School, pastoring, or mentoring, but don’t feel well-enough equipped. Maybe cooking or landscaping has always been your passion, and you want to learn all the tricks of the trade from real professionals. Schools love and appreciate when such students apply for their programs, and a university can be a place of true enrichment in your later years, spiritually, intellectually, and relationally.
You may be thinking: “I’m just not sure I can keep up with the assignments and succeed in my classes!”
But: Remember, you’re not alone.
Green reminds potential students of trusted resources like Tutor.com, which provides help for students striving to succeed in their classes. Some schools (including Liberty) offer instructional webinars to new students, which provide information and training for the online classroom platform, financial aid, online research, and more! Professors and advisors generally welcome questions and concerns. It’s also important to engage with your fellow students to keep each other accountable. “In the midst of a full load of classes, it can be easy to neglect fellowship with other believers, but that is the time when we need encouraging fellowship the most,“ Green advises.
And as Green reminds us, returning to school is most definitely a “family effort”! Set up a new schedule when classes start, so that your family can make sure you’re getting assignments done. Your spouse, kids and/or parents won’t mind washing a few extra dishes or mowing the lawn while you buckle down at the computer for a few hours each day.
Finally: Keep the end in mind!
Always come back to the “Why,” Green insists. Your reasons for finishing your degree may be strongly imprinted on your heart and your mind right now, but today’s excitement and motivation may give way to tomorrow’s doubts and weariness. As you face financial aid applications, difficult assignments, and the daily pressures of life, remember, “pursuing a degree is a marathon, not a sprint,” one that helps you become the best version of yourself.
Written by Debbie Holloway, who writes, creates, searches and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Sponsored by Liberty University, training champions for Christ since 1971; and Liberty University Online, the largest Christian university in the world with over 200 online programs.
Publication date: October 6, 2015