Going back to school as an adult?

What do you do? It is often one of the first questions asked when meeting somebody new. In the United States, careers seem to define us. The reality is many people dread answering this question. What if you’ve hit a wall in your professional life or feel like your career has plateaued? One way to achieve new professional goals is by completing your bachelor’s degree or earning a master’s degree.

Are you ready to advance in your career? Or, are you ready to focus on something completely new? If going back to school as an adult intrigues you, ask yourself these four questions.

Do I have the time/energy to go back to school as an adult?

Developing a healthy work-life balance is often difficult. Juggling family responsibilities, a social life or hobbies/volunteer work on top of going back to school can be a challenge.

When exploring your educational options, research different programs and their time commitments. Some programs are full time and require adult students to quit their jobs or work part time. However, many programs are designed specifically for working adults.

In general, a three credit hour class requires 3-6 additional hours each week outside of class for reading assignments and class projects. Do you have time during your lunch breaks to work on assignments? Can you devote one morning each weekend to reading? Do you have family/friends who can walk your dog or help with childcare when life gets hectic? Will your loved ones understand if you need to miss an occasional get-together?

Making a plan, developing a support system and finding a routine will make going back to school much easier to manage. It’s all about prioritizing what is most important to you!

Can I afford to go back to school?

Money can be a big hurdle to achieving many goals in life including going back to school as an adult. However, there are often ways to mitigate some of the costs. First, check with your employer to see if your company offers tuition assistance. Some companies also have discount agreements with specific colleges and universities.

If you’re completing your bachelor’s degree, make sure you submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may qualify for aid you never anticipated. Explore private and federal loans so you don’t have to pay for all of the costs upfront.

Meet with the university’s financial aid staff once you find a program you’re interested in pursuing. They can help you navigate the financial aid process and inform you of additional aid the college may provide.

Will I be able to continue working while going back to school?

It depends on the type of program you pursue and the college or university you are interested in attending. Working 40-plus hours a week and trying to take a full course load of classes in a traditional college setting is not possible for most working adults.

However, many degree-completion, MBA or other master’s degree programs are designed to meet the needs of working adults. Some programs are offered exclusively online and a student progresses in the program independently. Other programs are offered one-night-a-week either in person or through videoconferencing apps such as Zoom. Some colleges and universities offer classes specifically for teachers during the summer months.

Explore a variety of programs, reach out to admissions counselors to learn about your options, and talk to somebody who has gone back to school.

Will advancing my education make me overqualified?

Explore the careers you are interested in pursuing. Do you want to pursue a management position in your field? Many degree completion or master’s programs including an MBA will certainly cover managing employees, leading teams and financial management. Are you looking to go into a completely different career? Find out what qualifications are typically needed. While on the job hunt, we suspect being overqualified may be a better problem to have than being underqualified.

At Bluffton…

Bluffton University offers a variety of programs designed specifically for working adults. Degree-completion programs are available in business management, accounting, and RN to BSN. MBA, MAOM (Master of Arts in Organizational Management), and MAEd (Master of Arts in Education) graduate degrees are obtainable.

Admissions counselors and financial aid staff are available to answer all of your questions/concerns and faculty seek to create a community where you feel supported and challenged. One of the best features of Bluffton’s adult and graduate degree programs is that class discussions and assignments often directly relate to the problems/situations you are actively dealing with in the working world. From day one, you can apply the knowledge and skills you are gaining in class to advance your career.

Written by Shelby Koenig, enrollment counselor, and Tricia Bell, content manager. Shelby is a 2019 Bluffton University alumnus who is pursuing her MBA at Bluffton.