There are so many options, I don't know where to start.
Maybe your friends lost interest, motivation, or financial support because of decisions or personal challenges. That doesn't mean these were good decisions. We hate to sound preachy, but "because other people are doing it" is a terrible way to live. Chances are that many of them will return to school one day. Lots of folks take the scenic route. Maybe you are, too. That's cool.
If you do some research and talk with different colleges, you can make a way for yourself that fits your interests, learning style, and even how you work. The choice is yours.
Think of it this way: The job that you will get right now without a degree will likely be the type of job that you will get for the rest of your life. Yes, there are a few people who work their way up the career ladder without a higher education. Not many, though. And, it will take you way longer. Not only that, you are totally stacking the deck against your chances of having options to make more money and have a better life down the road. Know what's boring? Having to go to the same dead-end job every day just to make ends meet.
OK. Let's get this straight. There's a difference between "hard" and "too hard." There will probably be moments when you think it's "too hard." That's how you know you're on the right track. Think about it this way: Your education will create the foundation for your future career. Don’t you want that foundation to be strong and something you put a lot of effort into? You're going to have classmates and friends to help you get through those times. And, most schools have a mentorship or tutoring program for when you have an especially hard time with something. Use 'em!
Maybe. But think of this: Lots of people start school not knowing what they want to do. Others think they know, but end up changing halfway through, without adding cost or time to their experience. You're probably going to need some general education classes anyway. In that time, your interests could show you a path toward something that inspires you.
In 2007, 95-year-old Nola Ochs graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history. She is the oldest person to ever graduate from college. Listen to this: More than 3 million higher education students are over the age of 35, and nearly 10 million are over the age of 22.* Old, shmold.
*According to the National Center for Education Statistics
Guess what? Most everyone you’ll meet is feeling the same thing. One of the biggest fears of going to school or going back to school is the anxiety of not fitting in with the other students. But this isn't high school. You're an adult now. Join groups and become involved. Very few people will see you as different and you’ll probably find yourself helping others feel like they fit in, too.
There are degree programs for every schedule. You can go to class at night, on weekends or even one day a week. If you go for a degree online, you can be in class anytime. Set up a specific time for studying. Work out a system for keeping a calendar and organizing course materials, and let your family and friends help you. With a support network, you'll get there. Remember, making some short-term time sacrifices now could give you more time with your family and friends in the long run. You'll inspire others (friends, family, children, etc.) to pursue their dreams, too.
You won't. Here's all you have to do: Go to class. Pay attention. Do your best. Complete your assignments on time. Ask questions. And, no matter how difficult it may get, don’t quit. If you fail something or flunk a test, take it again. We all fail at times, but the ones who stick it out win in the end. There's no greater feeling than passing a test you failed last time.
Here's a made-up word for you to learn: FAFSA. It stands for "Free Application for Federal Student Aid." They're here: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. Fill it out. It can be confusing, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from an admissions office. A FAFSA will help you increase the amount of aid you can receive from federal, state and institutional sources. It looks scary at first, but don't be intimidated. Filling out a FAFSA may be the key to becoming a student.
Every school has financial aid counselors whose jobs are to make it easier for you. They’ll help you fill out the forms you need and they’ll help you gather the right documents. You don’t have to do it alone. There are some great websites (like EduLender) that’ll help you navigate financial aid. Once you begin, it immediately begins to get easier.
Scholarships are not just for "straight A" students and athletes. In a given academic year, over $130 billion in financial aid was awarded to students of all types. Nearly 80 percent of students nationwide receive some kind of financial aid. You are very likely to get help if you seek it out.
Not necessarily! Some of the schools with a high “sticker price” have tons of money for scholarships from their own financial resources. As a result, they have more to give to students in the form of scholarships. After taking financial aid into consideration, a seemingly more expensive school may be more affordable than one with a lower list price. Investigate your options and compare.
OK, no lie: An education isn’t cheap. BUT, the good news is that there are hundreds of different ways, including student loans, scholarships, grants, state/local/federal aid and endowments, that will help you pay for it. Schools are full of people who don't have enough money, and they will go on to have great and successful gigs. It’s true that you probably won’t find one financial aid option that covers all of it, and you may have to work. You're going to have to work anyway. Don't worry about it. Also, tell people "I am going to school come hell or high water." Tell everyone. Help will come from friends, family and employers when you least expect it. It sounds corny, but doors open once you start to act. They just do.
OK. Lots of things are going to happen in your life you're not planning for. You can make up for lost time. Once you begin looking for schools and careers that fit your interests and strengths, it will start coming together. Take it one step at a time. Do the first thing. Then do the thing after that. It may take you a few months longer to get everything lined up, but it will happen. Those admissions folks are there to get you in, not keep you out.
Almost half of all full-time and part-time students in the country are adults older than 25. You're not a minority; you're right in the mainstream. Adults go back to school all the time. Those stories you see on TV about a 90-something lady getting a degree? They don't make those up.
That's so not true. You can go to school part time. Most colleges offer programs you can attend in the evening or on weekends. Some schools even give classes where you work, or in neighborhood churches and community centers. You're reading this on the Internet, right? Presto. Almost every school has online courses. A number of states have external degree programs that let you work for a degree without any classroom attendance! Ask your counselor about these possibilities.
More and more schools have childcare for both married and single parents. Being able to drop your kids off to participate in a childcare program can be a win-win -- you attend class while your kids learn and play at the same time. If your college doesn’t offer a childcare program, ask a family member or relative to keep your kids while you’re in class. Also, find a local Boys & Girls Club where your kids can go. Don't just assume you have no options. Talk to people. You'll be surprised how much support you'll get when you make your decision and show you're serious.
There are many awesome jobs that you can get with a certificate, a technical or two-year degree. Others may take longer. But we can't say it any better than Philip: "Going back at 31 and wondering how to balance full-time work, a family and studying for school was overwhelming. I thought, 'To get a four-year degree at this pace, I will be 40 or older before it’s over!' Someone told me this and it still sticks with me: 'You’ll turn 40 with or without a degree anyway!'"
You’re not alone. No whining! If you are in high school, start by talking to your guidance counselor. If you are out of high school, talk to someone you know who’s gone to college. Talk to anyone who will listen. Head over to the Take Action section of this site and explore your options. There’s a lot of good advice available, but you have to spend some time on it. Make it fun, like shopping for a new life.
Good for you. That's today. If you are in your late teens or early 20s and doing something fun like say, bartending, you may have plenty of cash. Big whoop. Read this: Over a lifetime, college graduates earn 75 percent more than non-college graduates. A college degree is going to be essential to your long-term financial picture—you won't be tending bar when you’re 50. Trust us. In 2008, the average annual income for those with a college degree was $45,000, but people with a high school degree made only $25K.* You do the math. *According to the National Center for Education Statistics
All schools have counselors who can help you navigate the admissions and enrollment process. It's what they do. Find the general contact info for a school (their website is a good place to start) and ask to speak with an admissions counselor. They're in the business of helping, and they want you to find a way.
That's cool. No one does at the beginning. You're at the right place. There’s a clear way forward. You can do it. This site will give you the info you need to know what to do, when to do it and where to go next. Don’t give up.
After high school, you may have 40 or 50 years of employment ahead. Many jobs will change. Some won't even be around. Others will be in demand. Higher education will give you more options. Many careers which require only a high school diploma today may not exist in a few years. Here's another reason: Your family will be proud of you.
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