A Guide on How to Go Back to College: Part One (Page 2)

The Cost of College

College costs vary considerably between institutions and type of program. Types of post secondary institutions include: private and public, online and on-campus, and two-year and four-year. Types of degrees include: associate (two-year) or bachelors (four-year), as well as non-degree professional certificates. The type of degree you are working towards should ultimately match your personal and career goals. Some professions may be accelerated by obtaining a professional certificate, others may require a two-year degree, and others still require a four-year diploma.

As you review your college goals, here are some average college tuition costs to keep in mind:

1) Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $8,244 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $12,526.

2) Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.

3) Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,963 per year in tuition and fees.4

In addition to enrolling in a degree program from the get-go, there are also low cost online programs at places such as Western Governors University, Albany State, and University of Phoenix which can help you get a leg up. Alternatively, at places like Straighterline.com, you can take college courses, earning college credits, and then transfer these credits at accredited colleges, which will then accept your transfer credits into a degree program.

Other hidden college costs to take into consideration: transportation, books, and miscellaneous fees from parking to food.

Step 1: Personal Inventory

A personal inventory involves taking a long hard look at yourself. Before you go back to school, it’s important to know the basic path you’d like to follow. Having a clear goal of where you want to be when you graduate will help you make the appropriate decisions along the way. A personal inventory will help better inform you what path you should take, including what types of schools, major, and degree that fits you.5

Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

What skills do I have?

When answering this question, make a list of past work experiences you may have or currently have. Make a list of tasks performed on each job. Ask yourself what were you good at in that position? What did you like? What did you dislike?

For example, you may have worked at a restaurant and discovered you are a whiz at remembering people’s orders. Perhaps you found out you loved talking with the customers, but maybe didn’t like working in the evenings or handling food. This may shine a light on the fact you enjoy working customer service, but may want to use that skill to help the public in more of an office setting. Perhaps a degree in a technical field where attention to detail is critical would make more sense than pursuing a nursing degree where you may have to do late night shifts.

Another way to look at skills is to make a list of your achievements in past academic environments as well as the community. What were you good at? What did you like or dislike about those activities? Just because you are good at something, doesn’t necessarily mean you like doing it. It’s important to invest your time in pursuing a degree that will propel you to something you enjoy and have a natural affinity for.

Finally, make a list of things you enjoy doing or are good at doing unrelated to a job. These could include hobbies and what you do in your down time. Examples might include remembering directions, grooming animals, or even building with your hands. What are the aspects of these activities that you enjoy? What aspects don’t you enjoy? Are you beginning to see a pattern? Pay attention to related likes and dislikes; these will give you good insight into activities you’d like to perform on a job and at school.


4 College Board, What it Costs to Go to College, 2011
http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/add-it-up/4494.html

5 ASVAB Career Exploration Program
http://www.asvabprogram.com/downloads/ASVAB_Edu_and_Career_Plans.pdf