Six Tips to Keep You Moving Forward with a College Education
By Beth Dumbaud
In the 2011 “Pathways to Prosperity” study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the United States earned the dubious honor of having the highest college drop-out rates in the study – with just 56% of college students complete 4-year degrees within 6 years.
You can help change this statistic.
One of the best ways to approach going back to college, even if you abandoned your first attempt at higher education, is to break down the college process into a series of parts. Taken by itself, each part is specific and doable. Here they are, in the form of 6 tips you can follow to keep moving forward.
Tip 1: Assess your career aspirations. Knowing where you want to be allows you to make a specific plan. The more specific your plan, the easier it is to break it down into specific steps. For example, are you interested in switching careers into areas such as health care or business? Or perhaps you just need to fill in a few credits here or there to complete your degree in your current field.
Tip 2: Determine what kind of post-secondary education is necessary to get hired in that field -- and to make you stand out from the pack. For some careers, taking college courses leading to a professional certificate may be sufficient; for others, an associates degree may be required; for others still, a bachelors degree may be mandatory.
Tip 3: Determine your educational gaps. You need to assess where you stand academically. If you know you have some holes in you educational background, fill them before spending money on tuition for classes you aren’t prepared for. You can take college preparatory courses in subjects like introductory algebra to developmental writing or even Student Success, a course designed to establish baseline proficiency before you take college courses for credit so you can be successful when it is time to do so.
Tip 4: Determine your current college credit situation. In your past post-secondary educational experience, you may have amassed enough college credits to be partway towards earning your college degree. There’s no reason to retake courses you’ve already taken, revisit material you’ve already mastered and pay tuition for classes you’ve already taken and paid for. Perhaps you are only a few credits shy of completing your degree. Know where you stand -- and know what courses and credits you need to complete your degree.
Fortunately, you can take individual college courses for credit online -- and have those credits transferred where appropriate in order to complete your degree. It is, however, up to the individual college whether or not they will accept credits for transfer. Know the credit transfer process where you have been previously and where you’d like to go in order to maximize your tuition dollars. The StraighterLine College Transfer Center is an excellent place to start.
Tip 5: Get credit for life experience. You can earn college credit by passing College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams and taking Prior Learning Assessments (PLA). The more college credits you can obtain for work learned on the job or through job training, the quicker you will be able to earn your degree. And the less time it takes for you to obtain your degree means more money in your pocket to spend on financial obligations other than tuition.
Tip 6: When you are ready, transfer your credits to a college where you ultimately plan on finishing your degree. StraighterLine partner colleges, such as Excelsior College, University of Phoenix, Albany State University, Western Governors University, American Intercontinental University, or University of the Incarnate Word, all have written transfer agreements with StraighterLine, allowing you to seamlessly transfer any online courses successfully completed. Also, take a hard look at your past transcripts for any previous college courses you have taken. Many universities and colleges accept transfer credits for ACE-certified courses, helping you get just that much closer to finishing your degree.
Whatever has brought you to your decision to finish your degree, it doesn’t really matter. In the long run -- working towards your degree is a smart choice.
Beth Dumbauld is a writer who is passionate about helping others save money and time. She received her MBA from the University of Colorado and currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio.