How To Return To School


Also see: How To Figure Out Your Major

These days many people are returning to school as they face the notion that their current skill-set isn’t marketable enough. This usually happens after getting laid-off, or after realizing that jobs are so hard to find that a competitive edge must be created.

There may have been some kind of stigma about going back to college through the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I think back then college was more of a younger-people thing, and anybody trying to get a BA past age 29 may have been considered a schmuck.

Fortunately, this didn’t last. With the advent of community colleges, and a more open-minded culture, whatever perpetuated this stigma disappeared.

But, going back to college can still be something very challenging. You’ll find plenty of evening classes to allow you to work in the daytime, and take classes at night, and many people do it this way. However, the hard part is the long, exhausting days, no longer having spare time, and less time with your family.

Many community colleges offer associates degrees which are transferable to a 4-year university without a problem (mine also offered anonymity!) but the most important thing is the price difference— by sticking to community college you can get by on financial aid and student loans, and walk out with much less monumental debt.

However, if you are pursuing a Masters, it would behoove you to invest the large amount of dollars into it. While University of Phoenix, with their online courses and cheap tuition, seems like a tempting bet, this college is constantly under scrutiny for handing out less-than legitimate degrees, and so a Masters from U of P is not very good-looking on your resume. Enrolling into a state university is my recommended choice. It’s hard to be not accepted in many state colleges unless your graduate test scores are way below what they want, or you weren’t thorough with the application process.

Certainly, however, it’s worth a stab to try for an ivy-league Masters degree. The odds are that an extremely nice degree combined with severe debt will actually get you out of debt faster than a mediocre degree with mediocre debt.

And while all this work is important, I do not recommend that you buy into the great myth of college. This is the notion that a degree = jobs and recognition. Not anymore. Many people have degrees. At best, a degree is icing on the cake. It’s a competitive edge that demonstrates your hard work, but not a ticket to riches. The exception are degrees which are necessitation to enter a specific field of work (medicine, sciences, for instance) but degrees which are more nebulous (ie: marketing, even business, and many others) still require further proof on your resume of your own fortuitous nature. The degree itself isn’t quite enough.

Remember that a student fresh from college with a couple of small jobs and an internship is at a huge disadvantage in the job market versus someone with years of experience on a resume yet no degree to account for. So before you make the investment to return to school, ask yourself if you cannot still accomplish the things you want to accomplish based on your existing experience. While going back to school, in many instances, is very important—it may not be the only solution. And, it may not even be necessary. You must go through a period of soul-searching to figure out if you are on the path you really need to be on.

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