Are you a hard working adult who never found the time to finish your degree? Maybe you had every intention to go to school but work, family, money, or a job got in the way. Putting your degree on hold is a common practice in America, in fact about 2/3 of adults in America never finish their degree.
If you are at a place in your life where you know you need a degree to move up and succeed, there are a few factors that can help you decide which college to attend to finish your degree.
1. Degree programs
Many colleges offer great things: desired location, fancy dorm rooms, tuition discounts, etc. However, if they have limited degree programs, you may just be trading your future for a comfy 4 years of prime real estate. First decide what you are passionate about. Do you enjoy writing? Do you want to serve struggling families looking for housing? Perhaps you want to help businesses establish a better relationship with their employees? Whatever your passion, verify that the school you choose offers a degree that will aid you in your mission. Do not waste your money on a school that will not help you advance in your future endeavors.
2. Credit for prior learning
Many colleges will accept credits that transfer from other colleges. Verify the college you are interested in is regionally accredited or nationally accredited. Nationally sounds better because it usually means a larger area, but typically regionally accredited schools will accepts more credits from state sponsored institutions. Ask your potential college if they accept credit for prior work experience. If you have worked in the business world for 10 years but have no formal education, some schools will give you credit because you may have experience in marketing, accounting, or other topics that you would normally take classes in. If you are a veteran or serving in the military, many schools will count your trade school experience for your military job as credits toward a degree.
3. Financial Aid
All schools cost money, but some may have staff in the financial aid office that can help you save money on tuition. Seek out grants and scholarships for adult students and then compare the financial aid package that each college offers. The college with the cheapest tuition is not always the best. Some private colleges seem costly as first, but due to their generous financial aid awards, students may actually end up paying less in the long run than a traditionally cheaper school.
4. College Reputation
Research your college extensively before you enroll in classes. Many schools sound good or have flashy brochures and websites to entice you, but end up falling short in quality. Look up statistics like graduation rates, alumni employment trends, crime rates, etc. A school with a fun party scene may seem great at first, but if you can’t get a job after then you have wasted your time and money. Also find out the college’s mission, goals, and values. Do those values align with our own values? Take a tour of the campus and speak to other students. Are those students happy with the school or do they only provide negative feedback. Current students often present red flags in casual conversations.
5. Faculty Experience
Once you decide on a degree program, you should research the faculty members who will be teaching you. Are they graduate students fresh out of school? Do they have some experience under their belt both academically and in the field they teach? Choose a school with professors who are subject matter experts. Many professors continue to work in a specific industry so they can stay up to date with current trends. Browse their professional biographies on the school website or look them up on LinkedIn.
6. Completion Time
Verify with a school admissions counselor how long it will take to complete your degree. An undergraduate degree may take a longer time than a graduate degree due to credit requirements. Does the school offer only fall and spring classes? Or can you also take classes during the summer months? Some schools offer accelerated programs so you can finish your degree in a significantly shorter time. Depending on your home/work/life situation a faster or slower schedule may influence your choice of colleges.
7. Class Format
Most adults who decide to finish their degree don’t always have the option to sit in class for 8 hours a day for 5 days a week like a traditional student who just graduated high school. Bills require us to work so we can put a roof over our heads. Check to see if your school has a class format suited for working adults. Some schools offer classes 1 evening a week in a 4-hour time slot. Other schools allow you to complete a degree completely online or in a blended format on campus. This is helpful if you have to travel for work or move to a different state in the future.
Always trust in God when you are making a decision that will affect you for years to come. Pray, talk to family, and ask honest questions so you can be sure you are going down the path that God has in store for you. Let Him lead you and rely on Him to show you the way.