Did you know that 37 percent of undergraduates are 25 or older; 40 percent work full time; nearly half are the first in their families to attend college; and one in four is raising a child or caring for a dependent?
If you have been thinking about starting or returning to college, those statistics from the Lumina Foundation should be incredibly encouraging. They mean that, despite any fears you have about getting back in the classroom, you won’t be alone as an adult student. Not only is higher education more accessible to all types of people in 2021, but more and more non-traditional students are taking advantage of it.
Still, if you are considering continuing your education after a long break, you probably have some questions and concerns. Let’s walk through seven steps to help alleviate any lingering nervousness you may have about finishing your degree.
Identify your Degree Options
If you have waited to complete your degree, then you have probably benefited from life experience that will help you identify what career you actually want to pursue, or at least what fields interest you. It is imperative that you research what types of jobs are available in those fields, how in-demand they are, and what degrees are required to land those jobs. After you have narrowed down some possibilities, then you are ready for the next step toward returning to college.
Choose the Right School and Program
You’re going to want to make sure that the school you attend has the program you need for a career change and appreciates what you bring to the table as an adult learner. To narrow down your search, explore as many of the following qualifiers as you can: the school’s mission and vision; accreditation status; accelerated degree options; transfer information; and flexible schedule. The best way to get more information about our school and our online programs is to contact an enrollment advisor. Ask some honest questions to help you make the right decision and to find the program that meets your needs. It can also help to speak directly to a faculty member and to visit the school personally.
Prepare to Enroll
As you prepare to enroll, your enrollment advisor will walk you through every step of the way. Our advisors not only make sure Ottawa University is a good fit for you, but they also encourage you to surround yourself with a good support system. He or she will let you know which transcripts are needed from the other schools you have attended; relevant military documents and training; work experience; certifications or industry training. Your enrollment advisor can also help keep you up to speed on current job market trends to help you decide which major/degree program you would like to pursue. Ottawa University’s enrollment advisors go above and beyond and even help simplify the financial aid process by connecting you to your own personal finance advisor.
Perform a Cost Assessment
If it has been a number of years since you took a college class, then you may suffer from a bit of sticker shock at the cost of tuition. Don’t let that deter you from achieving your educational goals, however. Ottawa University assigns you a personal financial advisor who will help you explore ways to finance your degree beyond federal assistance and loans. For example, does your employer offer tuition reimbursement or assistance? Will the military pay for your education? Do you have prior college credits that will transfer, reducing the number of credits you need to complete your degree? Did you attend a community college that has an articulation agreement like Ottawa University’s Transfer Advantage Program, which allows for maximum credit transfer and reduces the cost per credit hour? As a working adult, can you allot part of your salary to your educational goals each year?
Calculate the Time Commitment
Since you were last in school, your life has likely gotten more complicated. Between working, raising a family, being involved in your community, or caring for dependents, the time you have available to devote to school is at a premium. Speaking with an academic advisor to chart a course for degree completion is a good step in identifying how long it will take you to finish. Determining the amount of time you can carve out each week to do online schoolwork will also help you decide if you want to earn your degree at an accelerated pace or if you need to spread the courses over a longer period. Be realistic about this component. If you’re not, it can derail you. If, on the other hand, you are able to achieve a good work life balance, it will breed success and help you double-down on your commitment to earning that diploma. To make it easier, Ottawa University’s 8-week terms are offered year-round and allow you to keep your momentum going by doubling up on courses when you can and taking a term off if you need to.
Get Tech Ready
Hopefully you have stayed abreast of technology since leaving school. If you have, then continuing your education after a long break may come a little easier. If you haven’t, you may need to spend some time honing your computer skills. It is also important to become familiar with the technology requirements of taking online classes. Make sure you have all of the equipment and software needed and that you are up to speed on their use before enrolling. In particular, ensure you have access to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, as most courses require their use. There are plenty of free online tutorials to help master these must-haves, if needed. Most schools use an online learning platform, such as Ottawa University’s Blackboard system, that you should become familiar with, as well. A big plus is that OU allows you to sample an online class to practice using our platform ahead of time.
Engage Support and Resources
Before you start feeling like you’re in over your head, determine that you won’t try to do this degree thing all on your own. Sure, you can put your head down and plow through. Your load will be much lighter, however, if you enlist the support of your friends, family, and even co-workers/managers. Let them know what you’re doing and how they can help. You may be surprised how willing they are to watch your kids for a couple of hours, bring over a meal during finals, or let you leave early when a major assignment is due. The bottom line is – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Now that these tips have put your mind at ease about enrolling in your online bachelor’s or master’s program to complete your education, it’s time for action. Contact an enrollment advisor for more information about the best, fastest, and most affordable online university in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Phoenix today!