A Guide on How to Go Back to College: Part One

Personal Inventory & Career Assessment

By Beth Dumbauld

How to Go Back to College

This is the first in a multi-part series about how to go back to college. Some of the topics to be covered include: personal inventory and career assessment, fast growing careers and academic inventory, program assessment, financial aid, the ins-and-outs of transferring credits, and a semester in the life of a nontraditional college student.

You want to go to college, but you didn’t go directly to college out of high school. Now you are on your own. No longer part of a school system, you don’t have the resources just down the hallway, such as a guidance counselor, to walk you through the system. Yet, you are ready to take the first step, and begin the college journey. But it’s a challenge; perhaps you don’t even know what the first steps are. That’s okay if you feel overwhelmed. Going back to college is a big decision. The choices you make when it comes to higher education will have a big impact on your money, your time, and your future.

That’s not to say you have to go it alone. As you learn more about what you want and need for your future, you will be able to better decide what you need out of a college. As you narrow down your personal and career interests and aptitudes, you will be better able to zero in on the educational requirements and schools to fit you best. Colleges will have processes in place to help guide you through their system. You may want to go back to school now, but give yourself the time you need to make the best educational decisions for yourself; consider the journey to college a stepwise process. Pay attention to each step, and you’ll find yourself far along the path to a college degree.

College: A Cost Benefit Analysis

Turn on your computer, grab a piece a paper, even a napkin. If you are trying to figure out if the benefit of getting a college degree outweighs the cost in terms of time and money, it will be an easy exercise.

Benefits of College

Adults Going Back to College

The financial benefits in going back to school are considerable. The median salary earned by college graduates in their first job is $30,000, and during the recession year of 2009-2010, it was $27,000.1 Furthermore, a bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn about 66% more during a 40-year working life than the typical high school graduate earns over the same period.2 Also, according to a report by the College Board, the typical four-year college graduate who enrolled at age 18 when compared to a high school graduate, has earned enough by age 33 to compensate for being out of the labor force for four years, and for borrowing the full amount required to pay tuition and fees without any grant assistance.3 It’s important to be realistic moving forward and know you are worth the effort to make choices that make sense personally and financially.

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1 Godofsky, Zukin & Van Horn, Work Trends, Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy, May 2011, p.3
http://www.heldrich.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/content/Work_Trends_May_2011.pdf

2 College Board, Education Pays 2010, Earnings
http://trends.collegeboard.org/education_pays/report_findings/earnings

3 College Board, Education Pays 2010, Earning Premium Relative to Price of Education
http://trends.collegeboard.org/education_pays/report_findings/indicator/Earnings_Premium_Relative_to_Price_of_Education

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