Duke Ellington sang, “Things ain’t what they used to be,” and he’s right. In this increasingly competitive job market, what could be accomplished with a bachelor’s degree 20 years ago now requires a masters or higher.
With professions becoming more specialized, employers now expect—and sometimes require—employees to be lifelong learners. To meet the demand for programs designed with the adult student in mind, colleges and universities are making going back to school easier than ever. If you’re moving into the working world, moving up in your field, or moving on to a new profession entirely, the classroom is the best place to start.
The first step to jumping back in the learning game is to do some investigating. Make a list of your academic requirements for a program and then begin hunting. Starting local is always easiest but may not offer everything you need. If you’re willing to relocate, college searches offered through Web sites like CollegeView.com will give you a quick profile of all schools of interest.
After you have a research base, add financial and living requirements to your list. Financial aid and private scholarships are available to adult students as well as military aid, union scholarships, and employee tuition reimbursement packages. Make sure to file your FAFSA early (you can download a copy at www.fafsa.ed.gov).
Scholarship searches available at CollegeView.com and FastWeb.com will help you find private funding you’re eligible for, and never underestimate the power of a live financial aid officer. If you have young children or plan on keeping a full-time job, check out what night, weekend, and distance learning options are available.
Before you send in any applications, call prospective schools and ask to interview other adult students on their experiences. Talking to someone in a similar circumstance will give you the real low-down on what continuing education is actually like.