Facing Your Fears of Returning to School as an Adult

A growing number of career colleges and vocational training schools now offer bachelor’s and graduate degree programs oriented toward working adults. People frequently enroll in career colleges to acquire new skills or enhance their knowledge.

Career colleges still offer vocational training programs, such as automotive repair, electronics engineering and masonry, but increasing numbers of working professionals are enrolling in career colleges to learn the skills necessary to earn a college degree or take their current career to the next level.

The increasing availability of career colleges offering online programs is making it easier and more convenient for working professionals to finish college or earn another degree. Re-enrolling in college is a great way to make a career transition, learn new skills, study subjects of personal interest, and enhance marketability in a competitive job market.

Unfortunately, many wouldbe adult students who desire to position themselves for a career change or return to college do not do so because of fear.

The First Step is Admitting It

The following concerns and fears are shared by many working professionals reluctant to return to school:

Working professionals and adults are concerned about the cost of returning to college, the time commitment involved, and the challenges of attending classes with younger students. Many are also concerned that their employers will be unimpressed with their new degrees or certifications. This is especially true of online degrees and diplomas.

However, most working adults re-enrolling in career college, regardless of whether they attend or complete classes online, end up fitting in well and are more than up to the challenge of returning to college as an adult. They usually enroll with fear and concern, only to later realize that their fear and concern were unfounded.

Because of the benefits of returning to college, many working professionals that have re-enrolled in college are glad that did not let their fears prevent them from pursuing more education.

I’m Afraid I Won’t Fit In

Many middle-aged adults returning to college are concerned about standing out and not fitting in with younger students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, college students 25 years or older comprise 40 percent of all students enrolled in college. Likewise, in 2001, close to 3 million people 35 years or older were enrolled in college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Middle-aged adults with concerns about fitting in at college should consider the following factors:

For those with concerns about attending classes with younger adults, many classes can now be completed remotely entirely online. Also, a growing number of middle-aged adults are now returning to college to pursue or finish their degree, and many adults find they actually enjoy interacting and learning with younger students who are enthusiastic about education.

I’m Afraid It Will Be Too Expensive

It can be expensive returning to college. The expense alone is enough to cause many working adults to reconsider their decision to return to school and earn a degree. However, when education is viewed as an investment, the costs of attending college do not seem as large of a sacrifice. It’s best to have a long term rather than short term perspective. Salary increases associated with obtaining more education often offset the cost of returning to school.

Many colleges, including those offering online courses, are relatively inexpensive to attend. Before deciding against returning to school based on the cost, consider how earning your degree or getting advanced training will help you achieve your long-term career and educational goals.

I’m Afraid It Will Take Up Too Much Time

It’s not unreasonable for working professionals to feel overwhelmed with their current responsibilities. As a result, returning to school can be that much more intimidating. Working full-time, raising a family, and fulfilling other responsibilities are enough to occupy already full schedules.

However, it’s possible to make time to return to school–and many adults do it quite successfully. It may require sacrificing time spent enjoying leisurely activities, but it is possible to make the time. If you set a goal and have an unwavering commitment to reach it, you can develop the ability to make sacrifices that will allow you to accomplish your educational objectives.

Working professionals desiring to return to school but who are concerned about the time commitment should consider enrolling in an online program. Many online programs have the flexibility to complete classes, projects and exams whenever students have time, whether it be early in the morning or late in the evening. Students are not required to attend classes and course requirements can be completed at home or from an office.

I’m Afraid It Will Take Forever To Complete My Degree

It usually requires four years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, two years to obtain a master’s degree, and nearly eight years to complete a doctorate program as a full-time student. That may not seem an impossible task for a young adult with the time, but it can be even more intimidating for someone with a full-time job and family responsibilities.

However, most colleges offer accelerated learning programs. As a result, these programs require less time than would be required if one pursued their degree the traditional way. Semesters are shorter, usually 5 weeks, and educational quality is not sacrificed to speed through course material. Many students obtain an accredited degree in under a year.

Some colleges even offer “work experience” credit for students with relevant work experience. Work experience credit allows students to apply their work experience toward the completion of their degree by testing out of a subject they’re already familiar with.

I’m Afraid That Employers Won’t Take My Degree Seriously

People often decide against going back to school because they cannot attend an ivy league college or other well respected institution. These people frequently assume that their employers will be unimpressed if they earn a degree from a lesser known college or institution.

However, most companies consider degrees obtained from career colleges and online universities as acceptable and of the same quality as degrees obtained through traditional programs.

In the past, employers may have not considered online degrees from career colleges to be of the same caliber as those obtained through traditional colleges, but the quality of online programs continues to improve and offers the same type of training and education provided through a traditional campus-based college program. Likewise, students completing online programs will develop, or further develop, technology skills highly sought after by many companies, and they may impress their employers by taking the initiative to broaden their knowledge and acquire new skills by completing their degree online.

I’m Afraid I Won’t Learn Anything New Or Valuable

Working professionals often become concerned that returning to school will not significantly benefit them. In other words, they feel that they will not learn anything new, they haven’t learned working or that they will develop skills that will improve their marketability in the job market.

However, most people who’ve returned to college as an adult and completed their degree on-campus or online will tell you the exact opposite. College classes at accredited schools are taught by qualified professors with expertise and experience in the subject they teach, and classes at most career colleges are staffed by working professionals with in depth backgrounds and experience in the subject they teach.

Whether students decide to attend a campus-based program or complete their degree online, they will still learn new things they never considered and benefit from the opportunity of interacting with other students and experienced professionals.

Likewise, programs offered at many career colleges emphasize group learning and team work. In these programs, students work closely with instructors and their fellow classmates. Group work and interaction enables students to learn from other professionals with varying work experiences. New knowledge acquired from group interaction can immediately be applied in the workplace.

Why Make The Move?

Since many career colleges and online schools cater exclusively to working professionals, there are few, if any, reasons why an adult should hesitate returning to school if they feel it makes sense. They can greatly benefit from the decision to further their education. The following are just a few of the many benefits of returning to school as an adult:

  • Promotion or career advancement opportunities: Returning to school is one way to improve your chances to get promoted, or it is one strategy for beginning a career transition.
  • Finish a starting degree: Many college students find opportunities in the workforce before completing college. However, it is never too late to return and finish a degree.
  • Demonstrate to your children and future generations the importance of education: If you set an example for your children, they are more than likely to attend college and enjoy the benefits of earning a degree.
  • Gain the necessary knowledge and prepare for managing your own business: It is very challenging to successfully run a small business, so developing skills and acquiring business knowledge will be very beneficial.

It may seem intimidating and daunting to re-enroll in college, but this should not be a reason for missing out on the benefits of acquiring more education. Adults or working professionals who simply put together a good, workable plan can smoothly make the transition back to school and make the experience a great success.

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