Have a backup plan when applying to colleges
Sure, getting into prestigious universities like Harvard or Stanford will look great on a resume when it comes to finding work, but not everyone is accepted to schools like these. Rather than look at this as a reason to put off going back to school, think of it as a lesson in practicality. Whenever you choose to get back into the education system, it pays to have a backup plan.
Examine your situation
Although there's nothing stopping you from applying to the best schools in the country, it's worth being realistic. Colleges like Harvard are extremely selective, and only the very best candidates are admitted. Before you get your hopes up, take a long look at your personal situation. Is your GPA good enough? If it needs a little work, chances are you could be setting yourself up for disappointment if you're pinning all your hopes on getting into a school like this - which is why it's important to have a backup plan.
The right school for you
Before you send out those applications, ask yourself why you're applying to college in the first place. Is it to change fields entirely or improve your chances of promotion at a job you already have? If you're looking for a leg-up at the office, you probably don't need to go to Harvard or Yale. Alternatively, if you're trying to break into a competitive field, such as finance, having a degree from a good school on your resume can give you the edge you need to succeed.
Another question worth asking yourself is how much you can afford to pay in tuition. Sure, an education at an Ivy League school can really pay off, but it'll also saddle you with a lot of student debt, unless you're fortunate enough to qualify for grants or scholarships. Even then, most students don't get a completely free ride. When you're applying to colleges, bear in mind that whatever you borrow will have to be repaid.
Playing it safe
Most college admissions advisers will tell you that, in addition to one or two "dream schools," you should pick several safety colleges. Some prospective students view these institutions as somehow inferior to their first picks, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Safety schools are colleges where your chances of acceptance are much higher, the degree you want is offered and the tuition is reasonable. Remember - choosing the right school is about finding the right program at the right price, not attending a school just because of its reputation.