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Returning to College with Confidence: Maximizing Your Success

Deciding to return to college is a pivotal move that can reshape your professional landscape and personal fulfillment. If you’re contemplating this transition, you’re likely seeking answers to critical questions: How will returning to college benefit me? What obstacles should I anticipate? And how can I do this successfully? This article serves as a comprehensive guide, aimed to provide you with strategies, insights, and actionable steps to navigate the complex process of returning to college seamlessly, without overwhelming you with unnecessary details.

Key Takeaways

  • Continuing education enhances career advancement, earning potential, and personal growth, with the added value of being an inspirational role model for others.
  • Crafting an academic blueprint by choosing a fitting major, converting life experiences into college credit, and setting realistic graduation milestones is essential for a successful college return.
  • Financial aid, scholarships, and the selection of an ideal college are vital steps in the educational journey, which require thorough research, planning, and an understanding of various financial and academic resources.

Unveiling Your Motivation for Continuing Education

returning to college

Imagine the sense of accomplishment that comes with obtaining a college degree. The prospect of career advancement, heightened earning potential, and personal growth are compelling motivators for many to return to college. Whether your goal is to change jobs, earn more, or simply quench your thirst for knowledge, higher education can be a stepping stone to your aspirations.

Moreover, continuing education can significantly enhance your marketability to employers. By refining your communication and critical thinking skills and deepening your understanding of your field, such as business administration, you set yourself up for professional success. So, as you consider going back to college, remember that your decision is backed by both personal and financial objectives and can prove to be a game-changer in your life journey.

However, the motivation doesn’t stop at career progression or personal growth. Returning to college can also be a powerful way to model the importance of education to your children, family, or community. It can also be a step towards fulfilling a lifelong dream or exploring a newfound passion later in life. No matter your reasons, acknowledging your motivation is a key first step in your journey back to college.

Crafting Your Academic Blueprint

As you prepare to return to college, a critical step is crafting your academic blueprint – a comprehensive plan that aligns your education with your career goals. This involves selecting the right degree and major, translating your prior learning, including your high school diploma, into college credit, and setting milestones for graduation.

Let’s delve into each of these crucial steps.

Choosing a Major That Fits Your Career Path

Choosing a major is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. It should align with your career goals, interests, and strengths. But how do you make this choice? The answer lies in aligning your passions and strengths with future job opportunities, earning potential, and career prospects.

Resources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop can guide you through this process. They offer comprehensive data on job responsibilities, outlooks, educational requirements, and in-demand skills. Additionally, exploring interests through minors or pursuing double majors can enrich your educational path without substantially delaying graduation. Remember, the goal is to choose a major that not only interests you but also prepares you for a fruitful career.

Translating Prior Learning into College Credit

As an adult learner, your life experience and prior learning can translate into college credit, accelerating your education. Options like CLEP tests and military experience transcripts can validate your knowledge and skills for academic credit. These options provide a unique opportunity for non-traditional learners to get a head start on their college education.

Moreover, online credits and testing out of known subjects can further accelerate your bachelor’s degree education, offering much-needed flexibility. Some institutions, like Franklin University, even allow the transfer of up to 94 credit hours into a bachelor’s program. Therefore, don’t underestimate the power of your prior learning – it could be a key to fast-tracking your college education through online programs.

Setting Milestones for Graduation

Setting a timeline for degree completion is another crucial step in crafting your academic blueprint. This process involves making important decisions, such as:

  • Whether to enroll full-time or part-time
  • Whether to take summer classes or not
  • Whether to take a gap year or semester
  • Whether to pursue internships or study abroad opportunities

Such choices significantly impact your graduation timeline.

However, bear in mind that changes, such as switching majors, can alter your graduation path. Thus, maintaining regular communication with an academic advisor is crucial to ensure on-time degree completion.

Remember, the journey to graduation is a marathon, not a sprint. Setting realistic milestones and sticking to them will keep you on track and motivated throughout your educational journey.

Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships

College education is an investment, and like all investments, it requires financial planning. Luckily, there are numerous financial aid options available to students, including:

  • Federal aid like the Pell Grant and work-study
  • State aid
  • Institutional aid
  • Merit-based aid

A key step in unlocking these funding opportunities is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Despite any preconceived notions about qualification, completing the FAFSA can reveal unexpected aid opportunities. Additionally, scholarships and grants can cover a significant portion of college costs, making them worth exploring.

Federal student loans, with their fixed interest rates and stable repayment plans, also offer a viable financing option. Remember, comparing financial aid offers can influence your decision on which college to attend and can help you understand the true out-of-pocket costs.

Selecting the Ideal College for You

Finding the college that fits your needs is like finding the perfect pair of shoes – it requires patience, research, and a bit of trial and error. Factors to consider when choosing a college include:

  • Geographical location
  • Available majors
  • School size
  • Overall cost
  • Available financial aid packages

Take the time to explore these factors and find the college that is the best fit for you.

Moreover, assessing the campus environment and culture is crucial. Participation in campus tours or summer programs can provide insight into whether a college aligns with your educational and personal goals. Community colleges also offer an accessible and economical starting point towards higher education, with the potential to complete an associate degree and then transfer to a four-year university for a bachelor’s degree.

In essence, your ideal college is one that not only provides the right academic environment but also aligns with your personal and financial situation. It’s not about finding the best college, but rather the right college for you.

Building Your Support Network

Returning to college is a journey best not taken alone. Building a strong support network of:

  • academic advisors, who can help navigate academic challenges
  • mentors, who offer personalized guidance based on their experiences and expertise, contributing significantly to your professional growth
  • fellow students, who can provide support and encouragement throughout your educational experience

A college material education can significantly enhance your educational experience.

Furthermore, developing strong peer relationships through participation in peer-facilitated groups, community events, and group projects can promote inclusivity and mental well-being. Your support network can also include academic counselors who can help adjust your schedule to ensure on-time graduation, especially when there are changes in your academic plan, such as changing majors.

Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Reach out, connect, and build your support network.

Time Management Mastery for Adult Learners

Time management is not just about being organized; it’s about controlling your life’s pace. For adult learners, especially those pursuing online degrees, mastering time management is critical to balance education, work, and life. Using organization techniques, embracing flexibility, and employing time management technologies can help manage academic and personal obligations effectively.

Setting clear boundaries and effectively communicating with family, professors, and academic advisors can help avoid overcommitment and ensure that your academic needs are met without frustration. Platforms like Coursera and Skillshare offer time management courses that can be handy. Remember, time management is not a skill you’re born with; it’s a skill you can learn and master.

Refreshing Essential Academic Skills

As you prepare to dive back into the academic world, brushing up on essential academic skills is crucial. This includes:

  • Honing your academic writing
  • Improving your reading comprehension
  • Enhancing your computer literacy skills
  • Refining your study habits

Regular writing practice, reading from reputable sources, and using credible scholarly sources can enhance your academic writing and reading comprehension skills. Online courses in computer literacy and IT can be accessed from platforms like Alison and GCFGlobal. Moreover, resources like Udemy, LinkedIn, and StudyRight provide tools to improve study skills, time management, organization, and teamwork.

Remember, refreshing your academic skills is not about starting from scratch, but rather about building upon the foundation you already have.

Engaging with Campus Resources and Support Services

returning to college

Navigating the college landscape can be challenging. However, engaging with campus resources and support services, such as the admissions office, can make this journey smoother. Academic advisors, for instance, offer holistic support to students, assisting them in navigating university policies and procedures for successful academic progression.

Advisors can also recommend students for campus programs and opportunities that can enhance their educational experience and help them feel part of a supportive community. Additionally, resources are available to improve reading comprehension skills, such as:

  • Dartmouth’s reading techniques
  • Meemli’s free reading comprehension refresh course
  • The Princeton Review’s college-level reading comprehension homework help.

Remember, the journey back to college is not just about attending classes; it’s about actively engaging with the campus community and resources for college students who attended college before, embracing the full experience of college life.

Preparing for the Application Process

Preparing for the college application process can be likened to training for a marathon. It requires:

  • Early preparation
  • Tracking deadlines
  • Fulfilling application requirements
  • Maintaining a positive image for college admissions

Applying to a range of colleges, including ‘reach,’ ‘target,’ and ‘safety’ schools, can increase your chances of admission. Tools like spreadsheets or planners can help track application deadlines and requirements, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. Also, cleaning up social media profiles can ensure you maintain a positive image for college admissions.

Remember, preparation is the key to a smooth application process.


Returning to college as an adult learner can seem daunting, but with the right motivation, a well-crafted academic blueprint, a thorough understanding of financial aid options, a carefully chosen college, a robust support network, mastery of time management, refreshed academic skills, active engagement with campus resources, and adequate preparation for the application process, it can be a rewarding and enriching journey. Remember, the path to success is to take one step at a time. So, take that first step, and embark on the journey back to college with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth going back to college?

Yes, going back to college can provide you with credibility, skills, and career advancement opportunities. These can help you achieve your career goals and qualify for new options.

How can I choose the right major for me?

Consider your interests, strengths, and career goals when choosing a major. Utilize resources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook to gauge future job prospects and in-demand skills related to your chosen field.

How can I get college credit for my prior learning?

You can get college credit for prior learning through options like CLEP tests, military experience transcripts, and online credits, which can validate your knowledge and skills for academic credit and accelerate your education.

What factors should I consider when choosing a college?

When choosing a college, consider factors such as geographical location, academic majors, school size, overall cost, financial aid, and the campus environment. These factors will help you make an informed decision.

What are some essential academic skills I should refresh before returning to college?

Before returning to college, it’s crucial to refresh essential academic skills such as academic writing, reading comprehension, computer literacy, and study skills through regular practice and using online resources.