Going Back To School

Sometimes it’s an exciting decision, sometimes it’s a daunting one. Most of the time, however, it is both at the same time. No matter which category you fall into, going back to school is always an experience capable of yielding profound benefits and providing some truly fantastic moments to cherish for the rest of your life - no matter how old you are.

People go back to school for a number of reasons, at different points of life. Thankfully, navigating this unique life decision can get a lot easier if you at least know what to expect.

To that end, we have provided below an in-depth guide concerning everything you should know about going back to school and how to get the best out of the experience.

What It Really Means to Go Back to School

Anytime an individual who has been away from the educational system for a while chooses to re-enroll in a formal education program, they are said to be going back to school. And even though most people choose to do this as a way of furthering their careers and earning greater economic leverage, this is not the only reason for it.

What’s more, going back to school is not an activity with an expiry date. It is not reserved for a specific age group or level of education. Anyone of any age, of any background, at any stage of life may choose to return to school.

It is also worth mentioning that going back to school doesn’t have to imply the presence of a degree program or a college/university. Enrolling in a vocational training program, or taking courses for personal enrichment all count as going back to school.

Reasons for Going Back to School

To understand how to get the most out of going back to school, it is important to understand why people choose to go back to school in the first place, and how all of these reasons overlap.

1. Career Advancement

The first and one of the most popular reasons why people go back to school is to advance their careers. This is understandable as this is the primary reason why people go to school in the first place.

Now having left for a while, it makes sense to go back when you get to a certain point in your career where you need to acquire new skills or earn a higher degree or certification.

Sometimes, going back to school to further a career is mandated by an employer (for promotion purposes or even to keep a job). Other times, however, it is a purely personal decision based on recognizing the potential in doing so.

2. Personal Growth

Another reason most people choose to go back to school is to enjoy personal growth. Returning to school can offer a veritable chance for immense self-improvement. Not only do you get the opportunity to learn new things and develop new skills, you also get to challenge yourself intellectually.

Deciding to go back to school for personal growth isn’t limited to a particular age group either. People as old as 50 or above may choose to go back to school to challenge themselves and grow as individuals.

3. Personal Empowerment & Fulfillment

The experience of going back to school can be personally fulfilling. A lot of people who have had to put their dreams on hold for one reason or another often find it incredibly refreshing to finally make that decision to go back to school.

Once they’re back there, the feeling of being back on track again, no matter how much time has passed, can be incredibly empowering and can do a world of good for their mental health.

4. Change of Career

For some individuals, going back to school may provide the opportunity to switch careers. This is almost always down to a yearning to enter into a field with much better job prospects, much better career outlook, or a much better salary.

Another related but less common direction is to go back to enroll in a new program that aligns with their genuine interests. This often happens to individuals who had chosen in the past to pursue a field for purely financial related reasons, and then finally haven gotten the financial leverage they sought, eventually deciding to go back to study a program that they’re really passionate about.

By gaining new skills and knowledge, they are able to successfully transition to a new career of choice.

5. Networking Opportunities

Another important but perhaps a little bit less popular reason to go back to school is to take advantage of the networking opportunities. Returning to school can offer networking opportunities with peers and professionals in your field of study.

Networking, of course, can help individuals establish important connections that pay off in the future. One can also, through networking, learn about job openings, and gain valuable insights into any chosen field.

These connections can also lead to new job opportunities or collaborations down the line.

Benefits of Going Back to School

Graduation photo of older gentleman

Regardless of the reason behind the decision, going back to school offers no shortage of short-term and long-term benefits. Oftentimes, the benefit is a direct function of the reason behind it, but sometimes benefits intersect even though that wasn’t what the individual had in mind.

For instance the following are some examples of how the benefits of going back to school can intersect regardless of the driving force behind the decision,

  • Going back to school for career advancement and better salary can in fact yield these things while also providing personal fulfillment and networking opportunities.

  • Going back to school for personal fulfillment can, at the same time, equip individuals with the knowledge and skills they’d need to advance in a chosen career and increase their earning potential.

  • At the same time, going back to school for networking reasons can provide opportunities to expand professional networks, while opening up opportunities for promotions or even a career change, leading to higher salaries and more job security.

  • Lastly, going back to school for a better chance of job security can indeed yield this result while also enhancing personal and professional growth by developing new skills and knowledge.

It can also provide opportunities for personal reflection and self-discovery, leading to greater self-awareness and confidence.

Considerations Before Going Back to School

Adequate preparation puts individuals in better positions to enjoy all of the benefits that come with going back to school. Adequate preparation involves asking some difficult questions and coming up with satisfactory answers before you proceed.

Below are some of the most important questions to consider before you embark on the journey of going back to school.

What are My Personal Goals and Objectives?

One of the most important things to know before you go back to school is your underlying objective. There will be lots of challenges along the road. And at times, you may even question your own decision to go back.

Among the things that will get you through is a strong understanding and belief in your personal goals and objectives. So before you go back ask yourself, what do you hope to achieve by going back to school? Are you looking to advance in your current career or change to a new one? Do you have a specific area of study or degree program in mind?

Evaluating your personal goals and objectives will help you determine if the decision is the right one for you. And if it is, the belief and clarity will keep you going.

Do My Personal and Professional Commitments Allow It?

Going back to school requires a lot of commitment of time and resources. It is therefore absolutely crucial that you assess your personal and professional commitments before making the decision to enroll in a degree program.

What are your work schedule and family responsibilities like? Do you have other obligations that may impact your ability to attend classes or complete coursework?

Another thing to consider is your financial commitments. Do you have mortgage or rent payments? Can you afford the cost of tuition and other associated expenses?

Asking the questions gets you a step closer to answering them.

What are My Options Regarding Financial Resources and Support?

Speaking of financial commitment, everyone knows by now that going back to school can be expensive. It doesn’t matter if you just left or if you’ve been gone a long time, you will still have to set aside a significant amount of money.

For this reason, it is important to identify the financial resources and support available to you. This often includes scholarships, grants, and loans, as well as employer tuition assistance programs.

It will also serve you well to research the cost of tuition and other expenses associated with attending school, such as textbooks and transportation, to determine the overall cost of your education.

What are My Education and Career Options?

Lastly, it almost goes without saying but before going back to school, it is absolutely important to research education and career options. The purpose of this is to help you determine which degree program or area of study is best suited to your goals and objectives.

You can start by researching the job market and employment prospects in your desired field. This way, you’re guaranteeing in essence that there are job opportunities available when you complete your education.

Of course, those who already have a clear objective in mind as to their preferred industry may find it a lot easier to make a decision in this regard. But there is nothing wrong with having to figure it out as you go along.

Preparing for School - Finding Solutions

Female student with backpack

Now it is okay if you don’t already have answers to all of the above questions yet. In fact, the point of asking the questions is not to have answers ready, but to be able to start the process of figuring out solutions.

Feel free to consider the points below as a pathway to answering some of these questions including the best ways to prepare, obtain financial aid, balance work, family, and education and of course adjust to your new environment.

Identifying Appropriate Programs and Courses

So when you’re in the process of vetting programs and courses, one thing you want to do is identify programs and courses that align the best with personal and professional goals. Of course,you also want to set some standards.

Factors such as reputation and accreditation can help in this regard. Accreditation is not only important for verifying reputation, it is also often needed for certification and easier employment purposes.

You also want to examine the program rules and availability. Do they allow part-time studies? Can you learn from home? These and more questions should help make your decision making process a lot more direct and straightforward.

Evaluating Program Requirements and Admissions

Before applying, another thing you want to do is evaluate the program requirements and admissions criteria. This is different from program rules, as the goal here is to ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements.

You must also set aside some time to research the program curriculum, prerequisites, and time frame to complete the program. Admissions requirements may vary from school to school, so it is important to check application deadlines, the required documents, and the admission process.

Planning and Scheduling Classes

One of the challenges of going back to school is finding balance between this new monumental journey you’re embarking upon and your regular day-to-day activities.

Planning and scheduling classes effectively can be a really priceless way to achieve this goal and strike the perfect balance.

It can also help you ensure a timely graduation. Your study plan should naturally consider your course load, availability of courses, and other personal and professional obligations.

Obtaining Financial Aid and Support

Another universal challenge of going back to school, of course, is finances. Education can be very expensive. Thankfully, financial support is often available to cover tuition and other expenses.

Students returning to school would do well to at least research various scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs that can either alleviate part of the tuition fees or even cover all of it.

Understanding financial aid options and eligibility requirements is important because you don’t want to add the stress of financial hardship to the stress of your academic journey.

Adjusting to the New Environment

Abstract School Building

Adjusting to the new environment when going back can be quite daunting. Yet it can be one of the most important factors to determine success. Thankfully, there are a handful of tips that can be followed to make the adjustment process a lot easier. Below are some of the most crucial of these.

Time Management and Study Skills

One of the things you’re going to have to get used to when you get back to school is the new routine. This is going to require a significant time commitment on your part. For that reason, cultivating effective time management skills will be crucial.

How do you do this? Well, you do it by having a clear sense of what’s important, setting your priorities, and developing a schedule that allows you to meet academic and personal responsibilities.

Another crucial part of time management when going back to school is avoiding procrastination. All your meticulous planning can be easily undone with one or more delayed tasks.

Skills such as note-taking, critical thinking, and test-taking strategies will also come in handy.

Developing Support Networks

Anyone who returns to school will no doubt have to undergo some intense activities that will test their resolve. All of this gets overwhelming, but having a strong support system can make a significant difference.

Support networks may include your family, friends, classmates, professors, academic advisors, and counselors. These individuals will be the ones to provide emotional support and advice whenever you feel like you can’t go on by yourself.

They also often provide direction to resources that can help you succeed.

Managing Stress and Self-Care

So all of the above tips are geared towards helping you reduce the amount of stress that you will inevitably be exposed to. But try as you may to avoid them or reduce it, at some point stress will inevitably set in. At this point, stress management skills come in handy.

A great way to do this is to maintain tiptop physical and mental health. The following stress management techniques can make a huge difference. They include meditation, mindfulness, and time management as highlighted earlier.

Practicing self-care and setting boundaries can also help you manage stress as a student who has just returned to school after a significant hiatus.

Accessing Student Services and Resources

Most institutions offer a wide range of services and resources to support student success. These include academic advising, tutoring, career counseling, and mental health services. It is essential to take advantage of these resources to maximize academic success and well-being.

Of course, the first step to taking advantage of them is to be aware that they exist in the first place. Which is why one of the first things you should do after going back to school is research what student services and resources are available to you, and how to maximize them to their fullest potential.

Utilizing Technology and Learning Tools

One of the major challenges of going back to school is to get reacquainted with certain technology, or even get introduced to a set of new gadgets that you weren’t even familiar with in the first place.

The truth is, most colleges and universities today will incorporate a wide range of technology and learning tools to enhance the learning experience. Among these are online resources, virtual classrooms, and collaboration tools.

And if you’re to get the best out of your experience going back to school, you’ll have to become familiar with these tools and use them effectively to maximize their learning experience.

Dealing with Age and Generation Gaps

Obviously, for older adults who go back to school, it is safe to say that you will not be finding a greater percentage of the class to be your age. But this is fine. It can be challenging at first, but having to become familiar with a different age group can actually be quite refreshing and exhilarating.

The first step, though, is to keep an open mind about it and be welcoming of the challenge. Do this, and you may just find yourself acclimatizing in no time.

Recap of the Importance of Going Back to School

Adult female student at graduation

Going back to school as an adult is alway a significant decision that requires careful consideration, planning, and commitment. Anyone who chooses to do so will have to face numerous challenges such as balancing work, personal life, and academic responsibilities.

But even though the challenges are quite numerous, the benefits of going back to school are even more so. This singular decision can lead to personal growth, career advancement, financial stability, and a sense of fulfillment like no other.

It is also imperative to recognize that going back to school is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The experience may differ based on individual circumstances, such as age, personal and professional commitments, and financial resources.

However, with the right mindset, preparation, and support, anyone can succeed in their academic pursuits and achieve their personal and professional goals.

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

Throughout this article, we have explored several reasons why people go back to school, including personal and professional growth, financial stability, and career advancement. We have also examined some questions that must be considered before going back to school, such as evaluating personal goals, identifying financial resources and support, and researching education and career options.

As you contemplate going back to school, it is also advisable to take the time to evaluate what comes next. What industry do you have an eye on? Do you want to continue even further? Having a clear set of personal goals and commitments usually make this part easier.

Lastly, don’t hesitate to seek support and guidance from family, friends, and academic advisors. With the right preparation and mindset, you too can achieve academic success and realize your full potential.

Ryan Collins
Written by

Ryan Collins

Empowering minds with engaging insights and innovative learning strategies.