Going back to college as an adult learner needs some extra preparation since you have different needs compared to your younger peers. Do you know what to look for when choosing a college as an adult learner? read my complete guide here (plus get my FREE downloadable back-to-school guide)
Preparing your application before continuing your study to higher education levels such as a college and graduate school/ Master’s Degree as an adult student could be overwhelming.
There are so many things you need to do before you could finally start your days studying as a student mom or dad, a mature and non-traditional student.
When you have so much on your plate, such as responsibilities to take care of your family and your job, you might miss out on a few things.
But one thing that you must never forget to do, is to do your homework by doing some research before making any decision about which school you wish to enroll in.
In this post, we are going to talk about the most important things to consider when choosing a college, what to look at, and asking the right questions to get the information you need.
Knowing the answer to these questions could help you make the best decision regarding your important decision of going back to school as an adult student, a non-traditional student mom, and a dad.
D As an adult, especially when you are a mom and dad, going back to college to get your college diploma, Master’s Degree/ graduate school presents a different set of challenges, as well as different kinds of preparation, compared to the recent college graduates.
Although it’s never too late to continue your education to a higher level or complete your college education, you need to prepare yourself more.
One of the most crucial things to decide upon is which college/university to attend. Now that you have a different situation than years ago, back when you were younger, most likely, the things that you would consider when choosing your future college will shift.
As an adult, going back to school means they’d be sacrifices to make, whether is your family, your job, your finance, and most certainly, yourself.
You need to make sure all the sacrifices and the investments, be it your time, energy, or money, will be worth it. You definitely can’t afford to make mistakes by choosing the wrong place for you to continue your study.
So, what are the things you need to make sure of and clarify with the colleges during your research phase? What kind of information do you need to gather before making any decision?
Here are some of them :
1. How is the Application Process?
Find out what is the application process to know what kind of things you need to prepare. Are there any test requirements? What are they? the sooner you know this information the more time you will have to prepare.
For example, if you plan to apply to an MBA program, you’ll have to pass the GMAT test. If you want to continue your study abroad and English is not your native language, you will have to take IELTS or TOEFL test.
To pass these tests and score well, you’ll need to study for months, and you’ll also need to be financially prepared, as taking courses to study for these exams and the fee to take the exam itself is not cheap.
If you failed the first time you try, you’ll need to take another one until you get a good enough score. The sooner you prepare all the requirements the better.
If you want more information on your university application timelines such as the deadline for the application, the deadline for scholarship preparation, as well as a study timeline for your GMAT/ GRE and IELTS/TOEFL test, you could check my mini-guide here.
2. When is The Application Deadline?
Although in general, most colleges have deadlines around the same time for their September and February/ March intake, you need to know for sure the exact application deadline date for each college you plan to apply to.
Therefore, you won’t be missing any chance to apply to the best university for you, simply because you missed the application deadline. (I cover this topic in the mini-guide I mentioned above, check them out).
3. What is The Cost?
This is one of the most crucial things you need to know before deciding which school you want to apply to. It’s obvious that you need to know if you can afford to pay the tuition fee or not.
Once you know how much it cost, you could calculate your finance and determine whether you can afford the tuition, or need to find other colleges which will be as good but with cheaper tuition.
You could also decide if you need some sort of financial aid such as grants, bursaries, student loans, or scholarships, and prepare accordingly.
Calculating how much you need to spend to finish your study can be quite intimidating, knowing the end numbers could be high. There’s also the probability that you will miss some little things, which in the end, these “unexpected” amounts could pile up into a big amount.
That’s why I made a done-for-you budget tracker worksheet about the type of expenses you could expect to pay when going back to school. It covers the expenses you might need to spend from your preparation phase until you finish your study.
It’s even adaptable if you want to study abroad, by listing all the things you need to prepare for your study abroad. Once you know what kind of expenses you need to make, you can make an estimation of how much you should budget for your study, from start to finish.
When you start your application process, you could also record and track your expenses by putting the amount of money you spend on certain things in their designated places e.g university admission fee: $ xxx, document legalization: $ xxx, and so on.
I made them based on my experience of continuing my study abroad in Italy and brought my family (husband and daughter) with me. By keeping track of your expenses, you’ll know precisely how much financial investment you’ll need in continuing your education and most importantly, could budget accordingly.
4. Is the Program Accredited?
Going back to school as an adult, especially as a non-traditional student mom and dad is a big investment. You want to make sure all those investments pay off one day, sooner than later.
Therefore, having a degree from an accredited institution is a must. If you are studying at an accredited institution and, for one reason or another, you decide to move to another state or simply change colleges, the credits you took in your previous college will be accepted in the new one.
If both institutions are accredited. You will still have to fill out the application and do the whole process of acceptance again, but the time you have spent studying in your other college will be worth it since the classes you have taken will be recognized and there will not be a reason to start again from scratch.
Another important thing about accreditation is that accredited schools can participate in federal and financial aid programs and employer tuition assistance.
Also, the degree that you get from an accredited institution will be regarded more by future employers. An accredited institution means they already pass certain standards, thus, the quality of their graduates will also meet those standards.
5. What is the Competitive Edge of the Programs
You definitely have your own reasons why you want to go back to school in the first place, but whatever it is, in the end, you want to upgrade yourself and set yourself apart from the competition.
Thus, you need to enroll in a program that could provide you with exactly that. Why should you choose that program in that specific college and not others? What kind of advantage they could give you that could provide you with leverage in your career after graduation?
Think about this carefully and try to look for the answer in every university you have your eyes on. Think about where you want to be in the future and what you want to gain from this back-to-school experience before making any decision, and which college could provide you with that, and bring you steps closer to your goals.
6. Is this a Full-time Program or Part-time?
It will determine whether or not you can work while studying. if you need to work, you’d better find a part-time program so that you still have time for both.
Or perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom with young children, or just recently have a baby. Then a part-time program will also be more suitable for you.
What are their policies when it comes to working while studying? is there any restriction or you are free to do whatever you wish as long as you don’t skip classes often?
Lastly, make sure you know the consequences. Do you need a longer time to graduate because it’s not a full-time program? what about the cost? Will, it going to cost more in the end?
Get these questions answered before you make any decision.
7. What is The Size of The Program? What is The Student-Teacher Ratio?
It goes without saying that studying with several other students in a small classroom could be better than studying with several dozen other students in a big student hall.
When looking for a college to attend, find out how many students will be accepted in the program and how many subjects you’ll have to share with other students from different programs (usually, for the basic 101 subjects like “Introduction to XXX”, you’ll have to take them with students from other majors)
If the students for your study program itself are already huge, then perhaps you would want to consider if that’s ok for you, or if you want to look for other colleges who offer smaller sizes of students in the same program.
8. What Type of Support do They Have to Help Students Find Jobs After Graduation?
Do they have a career center on campus? If they do, what kind of services do they offer? Are those services free? Is it accessible for anyone and anytime or only for the student in their final year?
Is internship included in the program itself? Who could apply for it? Is the opportunity available for everyone or only for a selected few? What are the requirements to apply? Should you finish certain credits first or you could apply as soon as you start studying?
Internships could open doors to more permanent employment. If the university could offer you that, it will be a great opportunity for you. Make sure you get all the information needed to make the best decision for you.
9. What is The Employment Rate of Recent Graduates?
The better the reputation of the university and the program, the higher the employment rate of its graduates will be. Find out the recent graduate employment rate from the colleges that you have eyes on.
Sometimes, the employment rate of a certain program in a certain university is high because they have a good and solid alumni network
These alumni will happily come to the university’s job fair or career events to share their knowledge and expertise in finding jobs after graduation, sharing tips on preparing job applications and interviews, as well as sharing information about job openings in their office, and so on.
They will also tend to be more open to current students who reach out to them (article finding job) asking for information or just requesting to connect.
Therefore, when trying to decide which university you would like to apply to, don’t forget to check if they have a solid alumni network, since it will be beneficial for your future career.
Use this printable workbook to record your Back to School Research. Don’t make all that Campus Visits, Virtual Tours, Webinars, and Q&A with the school’s admission personnel go to waste !! Write down the information you have collected in this workbook.
Study them later carefully to help you weigh in the pros and cons of each university and decide the best place for you to continue your study.
10. What are The Backgrounds/Average Ages of Current and Past Students?
Although you know that most likely you are going to be one of the oldest students in your classroom (and you’ve prepared yourself mentally for it), it is still important to know what are the backgrounds/average ages of current students and past students in the colleges you are interested in applying to.
Because if they had a good amount of adult students and non-traditional students moms and dads like yourself, most likely know already what is expected from these types of students.
They might have a more flexible schedule or relatively lenient rules and regulations, which better accommodate the needs of their older students.
More importantly, most likely the other adult student /student moms and dads who continue their studies there had more or less the same things to consider as you do.
Since they choose that particular school, it might be because the college ticked most of their boxes (again, which are considerably similar to your own).
Over to You…
Going back to school as an adult and a non-traditional student such as a student mom and dad is one of the biggest decisions you could have in your life.
Therefore, you need to think about it carefully before deciding which school you would like to attend. Find out the answer to this crucial information first, such as what is the application process. When is the application deadline? How much is the tuition?
You’ll also need to know if the program is accredited and the competitive edge of the program itself if the program is part-time or full-time, and the student size as well as the student-teacher ratio.
Then you need to know what type of support they have to help students find jobs after graduation and the employment rates of their graduates, and lastly, the backgrounds/average age of current and past students to see if you are going to fit in there.
These questions should be able to give you enough information to consider before deciding which university you want to choose to continue your study.
If you need help, I created a done for your university research workbook. It is an 80 pages list of the things you need to consider when choosing a university.
Record and document all your university research, such as their facilities, their tuition fees, the application process, the documents required for the application, and so on.
All you need to do is put on a checklist mark (…) on the designated place (e.g, multimedia library? Check), study your finding and make a comparison, then decide which college to attend, the one which has everything you need to help you get the long and amazing career in the future.
What do you think? Do you have any special information you need to know before making any decision on which university is the best for you? Share them down below, I’d like to connect with you
Pin this for later and share them on social media for the future adult student and non-traditional student mom and dad in your social circle to see…thanks so much and till next time!!!
- How to Choose a University If You Can’t Join Campus Tours
- The People You’ll Meet When Studying Abroad, and How They Can Help You Grow
- College Hacks for Adult Learners to Survive the Back-to-School Journey
- Thinking About Going Back to School as An Adult? Answer These Questions First!!!
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