Each year, when the calendar rolls over to a new year, people across the world make resolutions. Some simple tips to turn any dream into reality include choosing a realistic goal, breaking it into achievable steps and celebrating milestones. But when it comes to adult students completing a degree or earning a master’s degree, here are 10 specific steps to achieve your career goals and not just dream.
1. Determine your goals
So you’ve been pondering a fresh start, thinking about advancing your career or mulling over your life choices. For many adult students, months or even years can pass between when the thought of continuing their education enters their mind to actually starting a program. That’s okay! Only you know when you’re ready to take on this commitment. During this stage reevaluate your long-term goals and determine if advancing your education will help you reach your goals.
2. Research degrees to achieve your career goals
Now that you’ve envisioned your future and have determined that higher education is the route you need to take to reach your goals, do your research.
Talk to people in the field/industry you’re interested in. Determine the steps they’ve taken to get there. Then contact Career Services professionals at your undergraduate institution. Many college and universities provide lifetime help (even if you didn’t complete your degree).
3. Find schools with your program of interest that fit your needs
Not every school offers every program. Search for schools in your area or look for nationally ranked or recognized programs. Make sure the college or university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (in the United States). Be wary of campuses that do not have this accreditation. Take into the account the size of the school. For more personalized attention, maybe enrolling in a smaller program makes better sense for you. Are you a person with strong faith? Research faith-based institutions. Think about what type of classes will best suit your personality and needs. Do you want in-person evening or evening classes? If you know a graduate of the program, get their feedback.
4. Check in with HR
Your human resources office may be able to provide program recommendations. Some colleges and universities have formal partnerships with businesses and non-profits. These partnerships may provide training specific to your company or tuition incentives such as employer reimbursement plans. However, there may be parameters or qualifications you must meet. If you’re a veteran, your HR office or the college where you are applying may be able to help you access your benefits.
NOTE: If you are continuing your education in order to leave your current company, you will need to weigh the potential risks and benefits.
5. Talk to enrollment counselors
Once you’ve narrowed your choices it is time to learn about a program from the source. Schedule a meeting with an enrollment counselor at your top colleges and universities. They will be able to share details such as graduation rates, costs and time commitments. You may also be able to meet with a faculty member or the financial aid department.
Your admissions counselor will share the next steps to take for your specific program. Remember, you can apply to more than one college or university. Different schools ask for different applications materials such as a transcript, interview or resume.
7. Determine your start date
Some programs offer rolling admissions that provide several start dates throughout the year. Other programs rely on the traditional semester or quarter structure. Do you want to get started right away? Or, would waiting a few months help you get ready to take on your new challenge?
8. Develop a support network
Adding college courses, research and homework to your regular career and family commitments can be difficult. Prepare to re-prioritize your time. If you have kids, plan for your childcare needs. If you travel for work, determine how your class schedule will be impacted. Sacrifices may be necessary in order to achieve career goals, but determining a plan of action I advance will help you succeed.
9. Go to class
Complete your assignments. Learn, grow and relish the skills, confidence and knowledge you have gained.
10. Take on new challenges/advance in your career
There’s no need to wait until you have completed your degree to flourish! Start applying for new jobs, ask for more responsibility at work, or take on a leadership role.
Congratulations on turning your dream into reality!
Working adults can complete their degree in accounting, business management and RN to BSN; or earn an MBA, MAOM (Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Organizational Management) or MAEd (Master of Arts in Education). Bluffton’s graduate programs were recently recognized by “Ohio Business” magazine’s Best in Ohio Business Awards for Best Graduate School Program.
Written by Holly Metzger, senior enrollment counselor, current Bluffton MBA student and mom of three.