5 Easy Questions: Should I Go Back to School?
The decision to pursue a higher education is one that will likely change your life, which of course means it involves evaluating many different factors. Will your investment of time and funds provide a considerable return? What is your motivation to do so and what are your goals? Here are five simple questions to help you answer that daunting question: “Should I go back to school?”
Am I happy in my current position?
One of the primary reasons many people decide to back to school is to advance their professional careers. I believe one of the most important things you can do in life is to take a moment to evaluate where you are and determine your level of happiness. If the answer falls somewhere in the low end of the spectrum, ask yourself why and take actions to improve your situation. Does school fit into the picture for you?
Start by identifying the positives and perform exercises that can help translate your thoughts into some sort of visual. Consider all the past, present and future scenarios. Writers can use a journal or digital document to identify all of the accomplishments they have surpassed over the years and elaborate on why they were important. Others may use a timeline to illustrate their personal and professional paths or create pro and con lists of their current situation weighing them against one another. Whatever your preferred method, remember a critical component of the process is figuring out what your goals are for the future and determining if school will help you achieve your dreams.
This is the million dollar question! With all of the commitments you already delicately juggle in your life, how can you fit school work into the mix? You may want to think about taking online classes, or looking into a school with evening classes. Brandman University is a private, nonprofit institution that offers programs fully online or in a blended format that combines face-to-face evening classes with online components. Most working professionals revel in the fact that these options allow them to mold school work around their busy schedules. Also take the time to talk with your family members and support system to determine where others can help out when needed. Oftentimes it is our loved ones that help us the most which is why you always hear graduates thanking their spouses and friends during their education.
The convenient options for your study habits are good for the short term, but you also need to consider the long term. Given the goals you outlined, how many months or years will you give yourself to complete your program? Some schools offer accelerated timelines like Brandman’s eight-week sessions while others go to for a more traditional semester system like its sister school Chapman University. Some programs are longer than others as well, and although credit count shouldn’t be a deal breaker, it could impact your timeline for completion. For example a master’s degree in organizational leadership may be completed in just 12 classes while an MBA may require much more.
Will it pay to go back to school?
The phrase “return on investment” is not just for business majors. It is oftentimes one of the most critical factors that go into answering that big question of “should I go back to school.” Tuition rates vary based on the level of degree and institution, just like any major purchase in life, consider the costs against the rewards. Revisiting the motivation mentioned in the first question, education generally helps move your career forward and as a byproduct also helps up your pay grade. Although you cannot predict the exact number by which your salary will jump, there are resources out there that help you project salary based on educational backgrounds in various industries. Do your homework to determine the overall value.
If you are like most people in America, you will probably consider funding options when determining how to pay for college. Talk to the experts, reach out to a financial aid representative at your potential university and get the information you need to determine pay for college. Since your education directly translates to your productivity at work, start with checking to see if your company offers tuition reimbursement plans. If it does not, you could take the chance to sell your leadership on the concept for a mutually beneficial future, or even take actions to promote the benefit option to HR and have it implemented for the greater good. There are also scholarships and even tax benefits that can help you along the way. The numbers are important, be sure to make a budget and factor in associated costs that may arise throughout your experience.
Can I get promoted without a degree?
If you are going back to school entirely for career purposes rather than intrinsic reward, you may want to first consider whether or not it’s even necessary for success. For example a bachelor’s degree in psychology does not make you a therapist, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement. In this field, professionals who work directly with patients may explore degrees in counseling, clinical psychology and marriage and family therapy, while researchers or professors usually have a PhD or PsyD. Again, do your homework and find out if a higher level education is required to advance in your industry.
Another recommendation would be to step up and have a direct conversation with your supervisor at work. Ask your leader where he or she sees your position going within the next year or two and get feedback on whether education can contribute to getting you where you want to be. The conversation alone can be beneficial for your career as well in the basic sense of showing your organization that you are a committed and loyal employee.
Is this the right university for me?
Once you have answered the question “Should I go back to school” with an official “Yes!” then the next decision would be to ask yourself, “Where?” Choosing the right university that fits your needs is paramount. If you are attending classes on ground, then visit the campus and get a feel for the culture and environment. Follow the school on social media and start conversations in the community asking current students about their experience to get relevant and honest feedback. We’ve put together a list of 10 basic questions that you can ask when interviewing your potential schools:
- Is your school regionally accredited?
- What is your graduation rate? How do you calculate it?
- What are your student loan default rates?
- Is your faculty research based or working practitioners?
- What student services and resources do you provide?
- What is your policy on transferring credits? Will my specific credits transfer?
- Do you track student satisfaction? What are your scores?
- What is the total cost of your program?
- Is your school private or public? Nonprofit or for-profit?
- Can I complete my program in the evenings or online?
Of course these are just a few to get you started. Start adding to it based on your specific needs and interests then compare apples to apples and select the university that ranks the best.
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