If the idea of going back to school makes you nervous, you are not alone!
Are you thinking of starting a new career, but feeling afraid to make a change? Are you worried about affording your education? Are you concerned that you aren’t up to the challenge of completing the coursework?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you are not the only one! Deciding to enroll in an adult education program is bound to bring up fears, questions, and insecurities. One way to begin to overcome these fears is by reaching out to the many resources that are available to help.
Most community colleges and private career training institutions have special departments devoted toward making your educational experience affordable and successful. The Admissions department is there to answer your questions about the school, and the Financial Aid department wants to help you find ways to make your education affordable for you. Take advantage of these resources, and empower yourself through gaining as much information as you need to make this important decision.
Here are three recommended steps when you are considering going back to school:
1. Schedule a Question-and Answer session
The Admissions Departments at most schools are staffed by representatives who are there to answer your questions. Call or schedule an in-person meeting with an admissions advisor, who will explain exactly what is entailed in enrolling in the school. They want to help you understand your choices so that you can do what is right for you. Go to the meeting with a list of questions prepared:
- How long is the program?
- What are the class hours each week?
- Do you offer an evening program for people who may work or have other commitments during the day?
- How much homework is required?
- Do you have academic supports, like tutoring and mentoring?
- How many students are in each classroom?
- Is there an internship/externship program at your school? How does it work?
- What is the experience level of your instructors/faculty?
- What is the job placement rate for your graduates?
- What exactly will I get when I graduate (diploma, certificate, degree, etc.)?
- How much is the tuition? What are the extra costs for books and materials?
2. Take a Tour
Learning about the school requirements is one thing, but to really turn your vision into a reality, you may want to take a tour. Many people find that visiting a school in person is the way to go. When you take a tour, be sure to find out about the atmosphere of the school, student life, and other factors that are important to you. Some questions might be:
- What is the average age of the students?
- Are there student activities? Is there a Student Council?
- Is there a break room where students can socialize?
- Do students ever carpool? Is there a ride-share board?
- Can I talk to some current students to get their opinion of the school?
3. Apply for Financial Aid
Once you have decided to apply to a certain school, you will want to meet with a financial aid advisor to learn as much as you can about applying for financial aid. Most students start with submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to determine what sorts of grants or loans for which they might be eligible. The Financial Aid advisor cannot do this application for you, but he or she can answer questions about it, and lead you in the right direction.
Once you hear back from the Federal Student Aid program, you will have a better idea of what an education will cost you. Depending on your level of need, it is possible that some or most of your tuition will be covered. If it is not, go back to the Financial Aid Advisors to see what sorts of other options you might pursue. Exploring your options carefully can help alleviate some of your fears and concerns about being able to afford an education.
By doing this level of research on each school program you are considering, you will be arming yourself with a lot of important information that will help you make a decision. This kind of planning can help eliminate some of the fears involved in your decision-making process. The more you know, the less “fear of the unknown” there is. Visiting schools, asking questions, and talking to current students can help take the mystery out of the process, and build your courage and enthusiasm to take a step in the direction of your new career!