Check out this higher education checklist before you go back to school
Going back to school is a big decision, and there's a lot to think about before you commit to a specific school or degree program. If you've been out of the loop for a few years either raising a family or forging a career, the college application process might seem a little daunting. However, with some careful planning and some forward thinking, you can navigate the process like a pro and find the right school, and program, for you.
• Make sure you've got your high school diploma: Without this, it's going to be tough to get into any university or community college. If you didn't receive your diploma for some reason, you can earn your GED through evening classes to make sure you start out your academic journey on the right foot.
• Make a plan: What do you want to do with your career? Are you trying to transition into an entirely new line of work or improve your chances of promotion in the job you already have? Once you've identified your professional goals, you can start searching for a college that aligns with your plans. For example, if you're trying to switch from an office job to a position involving more practical skills, like welding, enrolling in a four-year school won't do you a lot of good. Similarly, if you want to learn about concepts like finance and accounting, technical or vocational schools won't be a good fit.
• Pick a school that's right for you: Some people mistakenly believe that unless you earn your degree at Harvard or Stanford, you'll be lost in the pile of applications when it comes to looking for work. This couldn't be further from the truth. While you don't need to attend the most expensive college in order to succeed, you should choose a school that offers the program you want at a price you can afford. Getting into unnecessary debt can be a big mistake, especially if you can find the same type of program at a more affordable institution.
• Talk to prospective employers: One of the best ways to find out what your future employers are looking for in prospective hires is to ask them. Make a shortlist of companies you'd like to work for, and then look at their websites to see if they post information about what's expected of prospective employees. If these facts aren't on a company's website, don't be afraid to give them a call or send a polite email. You never know - getting in touch with potential employers could reveal the need for a certificate, credential or license you didn't know you needed.
• Talk to your boss: This one won't apply to everyone, but if you're trying to improve your prospects at the job you've already got, discussing your plans with your manager could really pay off. Many employers are willing to invest in the professional development of their staff by offering tuition assistance. This means that, if your degree can benefit not only you but the company you work for, there's a chance that your firm might pay some or even all of your tuition. Of course, if you're hoping to leave your current job to do something else, it's probably worth keeping this under your hat.
Going back to school is one of the best ways you can invest in your future. Before you make any decisions, ensure that you've got all the facts you need to make an informed choice. A little planning now can save you a lot of headaches later.