Online Education: 5 Things To Consider Before Applying

Have you ever considered going back to school to get a college degree? Or if you already have a degree, going back for a more specified degree? How do you know if getting a degree is even possible, and will it help you get a better paying job in an industry more suitable to your liking? Going back to college as an adult is a very big decision to make. Unlike 18-year-olds who are still looking forward to being able to drink legally, adults that have been in the workforce for a number of years have taken on additional obligations like work, rent/mortgages, family, and other such obligations that can make going back to school all the more stressful. That’s all without mentioning the burden of finding financial assistance and filling out college applications.

When going back for a new degree, most adults will likely consider some kind of online education program that allows them the freedom of learning from home and accommodates their existing work schedule and family obligations. Furthermore, such universities and colleges usually have a staffing department dedicated to assisting prospective students in deciding if higher education is the right choice for them and how to go about the process. So when and if you decide to begin looking into higher education, here are five things to consider before making your decision.

1. What are your life goals?

The first things you should consider before deciding to go for a higher degree are your life goals. What goals have you set for your career, and by extension, your education? What goals have you already accomplished? And will a new degree help you to accomplish your other goals? These are important questions that you should consider carefully. A higher degree may definitely help you in certain industries, but if you are already working in a higher position, are established in your field, or have credentials from a previous degree or certification program, a new degree might not be your best option. For example, a small business owner that is considering going back to school for a new degree should carefully consider his future goals for the business and then do some research to determine if a new degree will help him to accomplish those goals. While you may stand to learn a lot with a new degree, the amount of time and money you will have to put into it may not be worth sacrificing your time and effort at your current job or already established business.

2. Research online universities and colleges.

Today there are many options to choose from when considering an online degree. Most public or state universities are now offering accredited online degree programs. Some of those top rated schools include University of Florida, George Washington University, University of Minnesota, and Appalachian State University. There are, however, established colleges and universities that specifically focus on online education for the purposes of accommodating older students with jobs and families. These programs can be accessed by anyone, regardless of your location, as long as you have a laptop and internet access. Some such universities include Kaplan University, Walden University, Regent University, and Capella University here in the Twin Cities. So before you decide to go back for a degree, be sure to carefully research all of your options, both locally and nationally.

3. Discuss your options with an enrollment or college counselor.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not higher education is the right choice for you is by speaking to a college enrollment counselor. Enrollment counselors can help you determine why you are considering going back to school, what type of degree would be the best fit for you, and how you can pursue your degree without drastically affecting your schedule or lifestyle. They can also help determine your current credentials and whether or not you have existing transferable high school or college credits and if your job experience will count towards new course credit or less course work. Online university enrollment counselors can also help you get a better idea of how online education works and if it is something that would be a good fit for you.

4. Look into financial aid.

One of the most common excuses people give for not going back to school is the cost of tuition. While it is true that an overwhelming number of recent college graduates are now faced with the task of paying back $50,000 or more in student loans (not including interest rates), college graduates, on average, still tend to make more money than those without a college degree. There are also many programs out there that offer financial assistance for furthering your education. Financial aid advisors can help you fill out a FAFSA form that can potentially help you receive a federal education grant or a subsidized (or unsubsidized) student loan. Most universities also offer scholarship programs, financial aid, and structured payment plans to make paying for your education a little less stressful.

5. Discuss your decision with your family and employer.

Before making your final decision, you should sit down and discuss how the potential change will affect your family life. It is important that you have the support of your family while you pursue a new degree; discussing how your schedule will be changing in the upcoming months and setting up some specific times for study each day can help you all effectively manage your new undertaking with your home and work obligations. That being said, you will also want to talk to your employer about your new engagement. Most employers are usually willing to accommodate you for undertaking educational endeavors, especially if it will help you in your current position, so be sure to be upfront about your educational schedule and balancing work and family time over the next several months.