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5 questions to ask before going back to school

What to consider before going back to school

With 38 percent of current college students older than 25, the phrase “back to school” doesn’t just apply to kids anymore. If you’ve been out of the academic game for a while, returning to school is a huge decision that requires careful planning.

“Anyone considering going back to college needs to do their homework first,” says Bill Berry, dean of the University of Phoenix School of Business. “It’s a big commitment, but one that could change your life for the better.”

Here are five questions Berry recommends asking yourself before heading back to school:

1. What’s the big picture?

What’s the big picture?

Identifying your goal will help you determine whether going back to school is the right decision. You may want to change careers, get a promotion in your current field or simply gain the satisfaction that comes from earning a college degree.

“You need to be clear about why you are doing it,” Berry emphasizes.

2. Can college fit into my lifestyle?

Can college fit into my lifestyle?

According to the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, whether you take classes online or in a classroom, you’ll need at least eight hours a week on school work to complete assignments.

You’ll have to determine how to structure your week to maximize time. One suggestion: Consider getting up two hours earlier in the morning to study so you can still go to work, care for your family and meet your other obligations.

3. What’s my support system?

What’s my support system?

Talk with family members to make sure they’re on board with your school plans. Having personal, as well as professional, support is critical to success.

You’ll need time to do homework. If you have kids, “ask family or friends if they are willing to look after your children while you’re studying,” Berry suggests. “If you work, you will want to discuss your situation with your supervisor to ensure they are aware of your new commitment.”

4. Where will I do my homework?

Where will I do my homework?

Securing a dedicated space for doing assignments is key, even if it’s a small or shared location. Also essential: If you’re taking online classes, you’ll need access to a computer and the Internet. This will allow you to participate in online group discussions, submit assignments and use electronic learning resources.

5. Can I take a test spin?

Can I take a test spin?

Starting out can be overwhelming if you haven’t been to school in a while or have never taken college courses, Berry says. University of Phoenix offers an orientation workshop that incoming students who have fewer than 24 credits must complete. During the three-week, no-cost, no-credit workshop, you’ll learn about the challenges of earning a degree. If you decide then that college isn’t for you, you’re not out any money.

“We want our students to succeed,” Berry says. “Offering this workshop allows people a chance to figure out if a program is a good fit and gain a deeper understanding of what is expected.”

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