This post is brought to you and contributed by Abby Locker.
Making the decision to further your education is a huge one. A college degree, when obtained, opens the doors for graduates to pursue their career goals. Though not required for every field, going to college can help to expand your knowledge in an area you wish to work. Going to college brings with it a lot of personal and financial responsibilities. To ensure that the next few years of your educational journey are successful, it is ideal that you lull these factors around in your mind before enrolling.
Your studies will consume a huge chunk of your time. Unless you’re a new high school graduate, you’ll need to review your current responsibilities and lifestyle to determine where, if at all, college fits in. If you already have a full-time job, for instance, will you be able to handle your professional duties while also going to school on your time off?
How much time do you get off?
Is this enough time to fully engage in your education?
If you’re a single parent, do you have someone to watch the children while you attend classes?
Will class schedules interfere with your duties as a parent?
What is it you want to study when you go to college? This is not only imperative to determining how further education will fit into your current lifestyle, but also necessary for narrowing down your options for school. If you’re interested in fashion graduate programs, for example, you’d look for a fashion or creative arts college that focus on these studies. As graduate programs can be rigorous, you could review sample schedules or program descriptions to determine what the course load would be like.
Method of Study
Getting a college education has become easier than in previous times. Before, anyone interested in going to college would be required to physically attend school. Now, there are more options. Students can go part-time, attend night school, or consider online degree programs. As each method has it’s pros and cons, it is imperative that you make this decision, again, based on your personal lifestyle. If you work a full-time job, you’d likely prefer a part-time schedule at nights. If you’re a mom, you may prefer to earn your degree online.
Here’s a big factor for a lot of college students – the cost of tuition. Are you able to pay this on your own? If not, what options does the school provide for paying? Some offer internships, grants, scholarships, payment plans, and an option to apply for financial aid. If this isn’t enough to cover the costs, then you’ll need to consider borrowing the money such as by applying for a student loan.
Choosing a School
Have you weighed all the above factors? Is going to college something that you’re interested in doing? Now comes the more taxing part of the process: Choosing a school. There are literally thousands of schools across the country. Knowing which is best for you comes down to more than affordability, here are some quick tips to keep in mind:
- Programs offered
- Proximity to home
- Size (class sizes)
- Studying methods (online, night school, full- and part-time)
- Student resources (career services, tutoring, etc)
- Financial assistance
- Clubs and organizations
Try to narrow your search down based on the above criteria. Then, schedule a campus visit to learn more. Here you can talk with administrators and get more in-depth answers to some questions you may have about the school.
Choosing to go to college does present some personal and financial challenges. Be that as it may, if you’re able to graduate successfully, the reward is great. To ensure you are making the most informed decision about going to college and that you select the right school, keep the above factors in mind.
If you can find a school that fits your schedule, is affordable, has programs you’re interested in, and allows you to continue living your day to day life without any interruptions, it’s worth enrolling in.