3 Things to Consider Before You Apply to College


Going back to college as an adult is an entirely different endeavor than heading to college straight out of high school. As an adult, you’ve got a job, possibly a career, likely have a place of your own, may even have a mortgage, and you could have a family of your own to consider. While you might still have the same academic interests you did as a teenager, the logistics of pursuing your dream degree or career are probably going to be different than they were when you were fresh out of high school.

The good news is that you’re probably a lot better at navigating difficult choices now than you were as a teen, so you find the process less stressful than you did when you were younger. Not to mention that with each year that passes the options for online degrees, and continuing degree programs for adults who want to go back to school are constantly multiplying.

Still, there are definitely some things you want to keep in mind when it’s time to choose the right college or university for you. Requirements for different degrees and programs can vary greatly, as can the differences between online programs and traditional on-campus education. So, here’s our list of three things you should consider before you take the plunge and begin applying to your chosen school.

1 – How much free time do you have?

This is one of the most important discussions you need to have with yourself before you make a move to continue your education. Just how much time do you have to pursue a degree? And almost as important—which hours of the day do you have available?

If you need to continue with your present job and it’s a nine-to-five environment, then the only time you would have available for classes would be at night or on the weekends. That may narrow the scope of programs available to you. You’d really need a degree with all required coursework classes offered at night or on weekends—or an online program.

Similarly, if you need to continue with your present career and also have family obligations that take a lot out of you in your non-work hours, that’s something to consider before you consider a program. You may need to look for a part-time program, and it may be that an online degree program with flexible hours would be the best fit for you.

2 – What’s the payoff for the program you’re considering?

Another important aspect to consider when you’re looking at different degree programs is what the outcome of your degree will be. What does the career trajectory for someone with that degree look like? Will you need to spend a few months in an unpaid internship in order to break into the field your degree is preparing you for? Is that something you can do with your life obligations? Will the salary be enough to meet your current life and family obligations?

It’s vital that you sketch out a post-degree plan of action and truly consider whether the career your degree will prepare you for is one you can pursue.

3 – What is your final debt load going to be?

While most people have to take out student loans to pay for a degree, it’s no secret that some universities and colleges cost a lot more than others. It’s not a bad idea to sit down with the calculator app on your phone and try to determine just how much you’re going to pay for the degree you’re considering applying for. What would your monthly loan payments be once you’re finished? And most importantly, is there a less expensive way to get your degree, like earning an AA online at a cheaper school?

Regardless of the outcome of your calculations, be sure you take the time to really think through your post-degree financial condition.