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I’m an Adult Wanting to Finish College: Where Do I Start?

Nathan Wilgeroth

I’m an adult wanting to finish college. Where do I start?

Congratulations on taking this huge step! Going back to college isn’t an easy decision, but it is definitely worth it. As an adult with a lot of life experience under your belt, you’re likely juggling more responsibilities than the fresh-from-high-school 18-year-old. You might be wondering how to make all the pieces fit together. Although there is much to be considered, Abound wants to ease the process by breaking down each step along the way.

1. Identify Your Needs. 

Are you working full time? Or at home all day with small children? Going back to school to finish your degree as an adult is not as simple as just deciding where you’d like to live and study for the next four years. You will need to come up with a list of the nonnegotiable qualities you’re looking for in a program. Do you need classes to be strictly online or will you have the option of commuting to campus? Are you looking for a part-time commitment or a full-time degree program? Many colleges cater to adult learners with things like rolling admissions dates and Competency-Based Education Programs. Once you decide on what type of school and program you need, you can create a list of schools that meet your needs. 

2. Apply.

It goes without saying that you need a little bit of research and strategy to narrow down your list of prospective colleges. As you’re coming up with a short list of schools you’re interested in, make sure you have an idea of which credits will transfer. Never hesitate to schedule an appointment with an advisor to help you figure it out! If you are looking to transfer credits over, you’ll want to send your transcripts to prospective schools as quickly as possible; that way, you’ll be able to find out whether to continue applying to schools that will accept the hard work you’ve already put in. 

Take time to know what a school requires for your admission. If it’s been a year or more since you were last enrolled, you’ll likely need to reapply—even if you’re hoping to attend the same school. No matter what, don’t be discouraged! Applying to college has never been more convenient. With tools specifically designed to help you hand-pick programs that sound attractive to you, the Abound website has got you covered.

3. Think About Finances.

Education can get expensive. Depending on whether you receive tuition assistance, choose a public or private institution, and whether you pay in- or out-of-state tuition, costs can vary drastically. Grants, scholarships, and loans are all available to adult learners, so look around at your options for financial aid, especially if you know that finishing your degree could put a major strain on your finances. We’ve started looking for you; Abound has compiled several resources for unconventional places to look for tuition assistance.

Free Money: Go Back to School on Your Employer’s Dime

We also suggest that you inquire about available resources from your employer. Many companies offer supplemental income to assist in education-related costs. Your value as a team member only increases as your education advances, which is why employers are beginning to invest in higher education for their employees. A World at Work survey from 2017 reports that 92 percent of employers offer some sort of tuition reimbursement. Whatever your needs are, it’s important to figure out a plan for addressing finances as early as possible. Financial need doesn’t have to stand in the way of earning your degree. From your employer to your college to the web—make sure you’ve exhausted every resource possible when looking for funds. 

4. Sharpen Your Skills.

You might not be starting from scratch, but it’s always beneficial to refamiliarize yourself with what you have learned from your area of interest. Has it been a while since you last opened a textbook? It might be helpful to study your material before class starts. 

Tons of online resources—many of which are free!—can help you brush up on a foreign language, rules of grammar, math skills, etc. Khan Academy, for example, is loaded with helpful information across a wide variety of subjects.

One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of education is now delivered online. Technology is always changing, so there’s no shame in not being up to speed. If you think you will utilize technology more than you’re comfortable with, it might be wise to do some research and practice with the programs you’ll regularly access. 

5. Set Up a Support System.

As with any transition, it’s important to surround yourself with people who encourage you. Keep a close circle to hold you accountable when the demands of your degree get overwhelming or discouraging. This support system can consist of professors, academic advisors, people who help you with childcare, other friends who have gone back to school, etc. Having people to lean on may make the difference between giving up and earning your degree!

A finished college degree just might be the best thing for your career. As an adult, you have both life and work experience that, when translated to the classroom setting, could truly set you apart. And if you’re looking to change careers or excel further, it is crucial to know that more and more jobs are demanding at least a four-year degree. 

There’s a lot to consider when you return to school, but Abound is here to help with any of your questions or concerns along the way. Abound: Finish College narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.

More Helpful Guides:

Will My Previously Earned Credits and Coursework Transfer

As an Adult, am I Eligible for FAFSA?

I Have Years of Experience, but No Degree. Is That Enough to Get Hired? – Answers from HR Professionals

Sacrifice and Determination: Inspiring Stories of Women Earning Their Degree

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