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There are a million reasons why people don't finish college. But, none of that matters when it comes to deciding to go back to college and graduate with a diploma or certificate in hand – a physical token of your hard-earned accomplishment. Thinking of going back to school can be an overwhelming undertaking in itself, but taking the time to plan out your next step in the process can ease any concern you may be feeling.
Review different schools to see what they offer; do they offer a degree program that aligns with your goals, can you take night classes or classes online to fit around your work and family obligations? Be sure to compare prices of the institutions you're most interested in. If you're a single parent, reach out to financial aid offices to check out if the school offers single parent scholarships, and meet with admissions counselors to discuss tuition plans. You can also use the US Department of Education's Net Price Calculator to compare the costs of one school to another for the same program. Ask about entrance requirements and what you need to be eligible for acceptance. Talk to colleagues who have gone back to school to get a better idea about what to expect, and which programs have been most effective in boosting their careers.
Having a conversation with your children and/or spouse is important to your success in going back to school. Help your family understand and share in your excitement about the opportunities going back to college will open. It is important to instill in your family the commitment you are making to go back to school and that a little help from them will go a long way in helping you reach your goals. This includes having your kids and/or partner help more with chores around the house, getting ready for school in the morning and staying on top of schoolwork.
In addition to your regular monthly expenses, be sure to include the cost of tuition, books and other school-related incidentals. To make ends meet while going back to college, you may have to make a few sacrifices, like cutting back on your coffee runs and tightening your budget on things like going out to dinner with friends and family.
Time management around school can be tricky enough without the added stressors of work and family life. Alleviate time constraints by creating a time budget that will help organize when you can study given your other commitments and can help create a perfect balance of work, family and education.
You may have been out the classroom for some time, so be sure to flex your brain muscles to refresh how you learn best. This can be using a computer or notebook to take notes, studying using memorization and flash cards, or creating your own study guides. Find out what works best for you and stick with it throughout your program.
Going back to school can stretch your time commitments, so having options in place can prevent headaches when your to-do list becomes too long or you need to have a last-minutestudy session for a test. Think through things that could throw a wrench in your routine, and implement a plan of action before it does. For starters, it may be helpful to plan ahead and create a few freezer meals for when there's no time to make a home-cooked dinner, pick a study buddy who can help keep you accountable or be sure to back up your assignments on a flash or hard drive in case your computer crashes and you lose your notes.
By choosing classes that require different demands, you can balance your coursework between harder classes with something easier and more enjoyable. This will reduce your workload throughout your program, and your stress levels.
Your advisors and instructors are in place to help and ensure you're getting the most out of your education. Reach out when you're feeling stuck or frustrated, or need reassurance that you've made the right decision to go back to school. Lean on your classmates, friends, family and coworkers for encouragement and support when you need it.
Going back to school can seem daunting, but creating an action plan for success can help alleviate any apprehension that may arise as you create a plan to go back to college. Setting a goal and making steps to accomplish that goal will get you there in no time.