Every year, millions of Americans go to college. And they aren’t all 18-year-old high school graduates.
In fact, more than 8 million students 25 and older were enrolled in U.S. colleges in 2013, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse.
Adults do carry some baggage, however, and it’s not the kind younger students are bringing to the dorm. Students of all ages often have to perform a balancing act—juggling jobs, family, and finances. Some of those life factors might even have caused them to leave college before.
But in many ways, there’s never been a better time to be an adult student, whether you are hoping to earn a certificate, your first college degree or thinking of heading back to add a graduate degree to your resume. Colleges and universities are welcoming students of all ages with evening classes, online degrees and, sometimes, credit for your real-world experience.
Three signs you may be ready to hit the books:
1. You’ve Done Your Research. Make a list of your criteria. What’s most important to you? Cost? Convenience? A quality program to prepare you for a specific career? Once you’ve made your list of what you want, start searching schools that fit your needs. You can search online at LearnMoreIndiana.org/college to find low-cost options that will fit your life. And, don’t forget to ask the admissions office what else you might qualify for: tuition reimbursement from your employer, for example, credit transfers, or accelerated degree programs. Do enough research to know exactly how long it will take, what it will cost, and what you need to get your degree and advance your life and career.
2. You’ve Got a Goal.
Maybe you’ve hit a dead end in your career and need more education to advance. You know you need a college degree or certificate to earn more money. Or, perhaps you’ve got something to prove to yourself, or want to finish a degree you started years ago. It’s important to have the end in mind so that you don’t waste time or money on a degree that doesn’t make sense for your situation. Make sure you’ve eliminated as many roadblocks as possible to give yourself every opportunity for success.
3. You’ve Got a Game Plan for the Rest of Your Life. How will you manage work, school, and family? Talk to your employer about your plans, and ask family and friends if you can count on them when things get rough. Kids get sick, cars break down, and demands at work can fluctuate. Know what you can do—and who you can turn to—before life gets in the way of your education.