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Your Guide to Adult Education and Returning to College

Feb 29, 2016 | Harrison College

Your Guide to Adult Education and Returning to College

As an adult who has been in the workforce and out of school for some time, you have probably had the opportunity to discover your strengths in your professional life. Because of this valuable time for exploration in your work life, the career you used to dream about may not always match up with your present situation. But that does not mean you have to give up on your dream.

What can you do to transform your career?

One solution could be rediscovering adult education possibilities. There may be some aspects of returning to college as an adult that might deter you initially, such as being slightly older than more traditional students, but the benefits of a college degree can far outweigh these concerns. In fact, non-traditional college students—including those who enroll later in life (i.e., not immediately after high school)—are on the rise. The National Center for Education Statistics projected that 9.6 million college students will be 25 years or older in 2020, up from 8.1 million in 2009.

Whether you joined the workforce right out of high school, attended college for a short time or graduated college with a degree or diploma, it is never too late to consider expanding your educational background. If you are hoping to learn more about what a college education can offer, check out our guide to adult education below.

Know the why

The first thing you should consider is why.

Why do you think you should go back to college? Why do you need or want a college education? Why are you choosing to enroll at this point in your life?

Your answers will lead you to understand your motives. Returning to college can be a big investment—of your time and money—so you will want to be sure you are setting yourself up for the right kind of success.

Research programs and corresponding careers

Once you know why returning to college is right for you, you should take into account the college programs and future careers available. Perhaps you already know you want to become a medical assistant or work in accounting, but you may need to take time to truly consider your interests and the options in each field.

Do you love animals?

Have you always dreamed of arguing a case in court, just like in so many courtroom drama movies?

Do you build your own computers or want to learn how computer networks run smoothly?

On top of following your interests, you should also explore the projections of openings in the current and future job market by visiting the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a useful tool that shows you highest paying, fastest growing and most posted jobs. You can also search for careers using O*Net.

And, while researching online is important, many people often neglect one beneficial resource: other people. That is right! If you are thinking about exploring a new field, your best bet might be reaching out to people who work in that field already. Talk to coworkers, friends, family members and former teachers to tap into your network—there is a good chance you can offer to buy someone lunch or coffee to get the inside scoop on a particular career. Even a quick, 15-minute phone call could give you some vital information.

Even though searching for the right programs and careers can seem daunting, it could be the turning point for your professional life.

Understand different college experiences

At this point, you know your reasons for obtaining a college education and you have researched programs and careers, but you must also consider the various college experiences available to you. Going back to college is not just about selecting the right program. Returning students often juggle many responsibilities and need to consider the school that will offer the flexibility and support that they need. Colleges have adapted and evolved to fit many people’s needs.

You should ask yourself:

Do I want to experience college in a traditional classroom, or will online courses work for me?

Do I have time to be a part-time or full-time student?

Do I want to obtain a certificate, an associate degree (traditionally two years of school) or a bachelor’s degree (normally closer to four years of school)?

Many of these answers are dependent on other considerations and commitments. Deciding on the type of support and programs you need will help you narrow schools that are best suited for the type of student you will be.

Consider time, work and family commitments

While some people think going back to college is a personal decision, you might have other commitments and people in your life affected by this big step.

If you have children, for example, finding proper child care is something you should consider. Some schools offer online programs and child care options to make going back to school a possibility for parents.

Additionally, you should take into account travel time, especially if you live in a rural or remote area. This may influence your decision to take online classes, rather than attend on-campus classes.

Finally, you might have a current job to think about. While this may worry you, many employers are flexible with school schedules. We encourage you to be honest with your employer when you go back to school; that way, you can balance your work life with your study habits.

Although those commitments are important, one aspect of college might linger in your mind: financial aid.

Explore financial aid options

Let us squash one myth right now: you are never too old for financial aid! In fact, many federal financial aid options do not have an age limit. Even though money can seem like a barrier to your success in education, there are many financial aid options for adults to help you reach your goals.

To assist you in your research for financial aid, we have also compiled a list of useful links below. You should note that most scholarships, including FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), have clear guidelines and deadlines that you must follow.

Meet admission requirements

Many colleges have admissions requirements. One of the biggest ones is that you must first graduate from high school or obtain your GED. If you have already done that, however, you will still need to read the college admission requirements carefully. For an example of a admissions requirements, you can view Harrison’s application process.


You made it! This is the final step in returning to college. While your work is nearly complete, you still have to get accepted to college. Once that happens, you can start pursuing your goals where you left off.

It is important to remember that some application processes can take a few hours or even days, as they may require you to submit essays or take placement exams.

Stick with it

Here is the most important part: stick with it! Once you get accepted to a college, you have the power to transform your academic, professional and personal life, so do not give up. While going back to college can be a drastic change in your lifestyle, it can pay off in the end.

If you ever have any questions about getting your educational career back on track, you can reach out to a Harrison representative at 888.500.1026 or request information using our form.  

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