Lots of people don’t get the chance to go to college immediately after high school. Whether it’s because they couldn’t afford it, didn’t have the grades, or simply didn’t want to, there are many reasons why people choose to enter the workforce instead. At the same time, there are also many reasons why those people later consider taking a degree as a mature student – when they have more money or more motivation. If this is an option that you have been considering, there are lots of advantages to being gained by taking the plunge and enrolling on a college degree as an adult. Here’s why it could be the best decision you make this year!
What type of degree programs can I take?
One of the first steps to take is to think about which type of degree program will be the most suitable one for you. In the US, there are four main degrees to choose between. In order of qualification level, they are:
- Associate degree (e.g. AA, AS)
- Bachelor’s degree (e.g. BA, BS)
- Master’s degree (e.g. MA, MS, MBA)
- Doctorate degree (e.g. PhD)
These days it’s possible to study all four types of degree at any age, and you also have the choice between part-time and full-time programs. Not only that, but there’s also the opportunity to take them either as a traditional course on campus or via virtual learning with a college such as CCCK Online.
The right type of degree for you will depend mostly on your previous qualifications and your reasons for wanting to do the program. For instance, if you want to do a Master’s course you will normally need to already have a bachelor’s degree, and if you want to do a doctorate you will normally need to already have a Master’s. However, there are exceptions to this, so be sure to check the specifics of the programs and colleges you are interested in.
Similarly, have a think about what your personal career aspirations are, and use that to help you choose the most appropriate course. For example, what are the requirements for the type of job you’re interested in? What sort of degrees do people have who are currently in the career you want? All of these sorts of questions will help you to pick the most suitable degree program for your individual circumstances.
How do I choose what subject to study?
Picking a subject to do a degree in is a personal decision, and there are many different factors you should take into account. However, one of the most important of these is your own interests. A degree program is a big undertaking in terms of time and effort, so you need to choose a subject that you are genuinely passionate about. This will make it far easier to motivate yourself to study.
The second consideration is what career you are hoping to have after you graduate. If work is the reason you’re choosing to take a degree, then you need to make sure you pick an appropriate subject to qualify and prepare you for your dream job. After all, there’s not much point in enrolling on a theology degree if you’re intending to become a mechanical engineer!
One final point to note is that simply choosing a subject area is not enough: each college will have a slightly different curriculum even if the degree has the same overall name. For example, a history degree could cover anything from the Roman Empire to the American Civil War. That’s why it’s crucial to check the module lists of different courses before choosing the one that most closely fits your interests and aspirations.
What are the benefits of having a college degree?
There are so many advantages of having a college degree that it’s hard to know where to start! From financial security to job stability, here are just a few of them:
- Improved career prospects. Not only does having a degree under your belt broaden the number of jobs that are available to you, but it also qualifies you for positions with higher salaries and better benefits. College graduates consistently earn more money than those who only have a high school diploma, making the investment well worth it. This is true whether you wish to move up in your current career or retrain in a whole new field. It’s no wonder that people with degrees also tend to experience higher levels of job satisfaction!
- A more impressive CV. Having a degree shows potential employers that you take your personal and professional development seriously and are committed to your career. This is particularly the case for those who choose to go back to formal education as an adult, because it shows that the decision is yours alone rather than one that’s influenced by your parents.
- Increased knowledge. One of the main benefits of going to college is that you get to learn more about a field you’re truly interested in. This is valuable regardless of whether or not it’s related to your career. Doing a degree gives you the chance to learn new skills and ideas, as well as broaden your horizons both academically and personally.
- Better transferable skills. In addition to the subject knowledge you’ll gain during a degree, you will work on a number of more general transferable skills that will be helpful in all sorts of different personal and professional circumstances. These include problem solving, critical thinking, time management, organization, presentation, communication, teamwork and leadership.
- Opportunities to network. Whatever type of degree you choose, during your studies you’ll have the chance to meet and work with many different like-minded people. That includes not only your fellow students, but also your professors and other members of academic staff. This is a great way to make lifelong friends, and potentially find a future business partner or collaborator. In addition, many colleges hold regular career and networking events that enable you to develop an even wider network of professional contacts.
Can I go to college when I already have a job and a family?
Of course! These days it’s becoming more and more common for people to study for a degree alongside their day job or caregiving responsibilities. That’s one of the reasons why so many colleges now offer part-time and distance learning options for their programs. With Master’s and doctoral level degrees you are almost guaranteed not to be the only older student on the course, but even Bachelor’s programs tend to have a more varied age range and diverse student population now.
Naturally there are some added considerations when it comes to studying for a degree as an adult, but the following tips should help you to succeed:
- Join a college society for mature students or students who are parents, so you can meet people in the same situation as you and help each other out.
- Choose a part time or online course to allow you greater flexibility to fit your studies around your existing commitments.
- Make the most of college support services – there are often special ones for mature students.
- Figure out a study schedule that fits neatly around your work hours or family time and be rigid about sticking to it.
- Set aside a dedicated study space at home, and make sure your family know that you’re not to be disturbed when you’re working there.
- See if your current employer has any schemes available where they contribute to tuition fees for courses relevant to your job.
- Get started on your reading and written assignments well in advance of the deadlines, so you have some buffer room in case of emergencies.
- Read blogs written by mature students to get a feel for what the experience is like and pick up even more useful tips.
What are the next steps?
If you are now convinced that college is the right option for you, the first step is to begin researching courses. Think about the type of degree and specific subject you wish to study, and then take a look at what’s available. Once you have narrowed it down to two or three programs you truly like the look of and are eligible for, you can start to put together your applications.
Applying to college normally requires filling in a form and submitting various pieces of documentation. These could include evidence of your previous qualifications, contact details of a couple of academic or professional references, and a personal statement about why you want to enroll on the course. This last part is important, so take your time writing it. Focus on showing them that you’ve fully researched the program, have the skills required to succeed on it, and that it’s related to your future aspirations. Don’t forget to proofread it carefully before submitting or get a friend to check over it.
Once you’ve been accepted, try to get started on your reading lists as soon as possible. You might also need to buy some stationery for your classes and sort out accommodation if you’re attending classes on campus. There may even be an online group for incoming students you can join in order to meet the people you’ll be studying alongside. All of this will help to prepare you for the first semester and boost your motivation. Good luck!