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Considering Going Back to School? Ask Yourself These Questions:

This is a guest post contributed by blogger Lisa Nichols. You can reach her at reese.am.jones@gmail.com.

The thought of going back to college as an adult, whether it’s to complete an unfinished degree or pursue a new one altogether, can be very daunting. It’s a huge commitment and one that may make some feel unready. To help with your decision, here are five questions you should be asking yourself:

What’s holding me back?

Determine your motivations for going back to school. Whether it’s a personal promise to yourself or because you want to switch careers, knowing your reason will not only help you face your worries but it will also keep you motivated to get your college degree.

Also, know that there are also other people in the same boat as you. You may be scared that you’d be the oldest person in your class, or that you’d stand out amongst your fellow students, but the National Center for Education Statistics reported that almost 40% of those attending college this school year are students 25 years and over. Experts also estimate that this percentage will continue to increase over the next decade. So, if you do decide to go back to college, you’ll be joining at least 7 million other adults.

Replacing your worries and fears with all the benefits and advantages of getting your degree can help with your commitment to starting and finishing school.

How do I fit in college classes to my existing schedule?

It can be tough to fit college classes into your already busy schedule, especially if you’re working full-time or raising kids. Programs that offer night classes are a great option for those who only have the nights off to study. However, the schedules of modern-day adults often make it near impossible to pursue an on-campus degree program. Thankfully, technology has provided more options for adult learners, allowing them to earn their college degrees from the comfort of their own homes. Some online school applications can be a breeze, too. Learners can enjoy flexible start dates to help them ease into the process of going back to school. Student support systems have also been developed in recent years, which provide students of online institutions the social support they need to excel in the virtual classroom. All of this makes fitting education into your schedule easier and smoother. Most community colleges also offer part-time education programs, helping working students find a way to pursue further education without compromising their current commitments.

How do I pay for school?

Being an adult does not mean that you won’t be qualified for financial aid. There are a handful of available grants and scholarships available for adults returning to college. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step to unlocking any federal financial aid. And even if you don’t qualify for grants, your FAFSA is your access to federal student loans. You can also search online for possible grants and scholarships.

If you’re a working professional, your current employer can be a possible source for financial assistance. Ask and check if your company can offer some kind of tuition reimbursement.

How do I prepare myself for college?

Once you’ve sorted out the logistics of how you can go back to school, it’s a matter of preparing yourself physically and mentally for college. Before attending classes, whether offline or online, you may want to brush up on your academic skills by going online and reading up on topics related to the course/program you’ve decided to pursue. Navigating your way through college as an adult will become easier if you align your personal, social and work life with the changes that college could bring. A great way to do this is by enlisting the support of your family and friends. Inform them of your plans of going back to college and ask them to help out with your current obligations to make it easier for you to ease your way back into studying.

How do I balance everything when I start studying again?

As an adult learner, you would need to find balance in all your roles, from school to family to work. The key to doing this is effective time management by prioritizing your responsibilities and planning ahead. Blog contributor Piper McIntosh discussed how it’s also important to take time for yourself, since it’s easy to lose yourself with all the added responsibilities of going back to college. Getting your degree should not be a reason to not have any quality time for yourself and your loved ones.