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3 Things To Keep in Mind When Going Back To School
You probably know a friend or two who dropped out of college. Yeah, I was one of those people. I flunked out of college twice. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t try. Now, I’m 28 and going back to get my bachelor’s degree. Why do I think I’ll succeed this time? Well, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself since I first went to school. I didn’t really care about furthering my education or about making more money when I was 20. This time around, I truly see the value of knowledge and I want to see myself succeed. My advice for those thinking about going back to school is to pick a degree you’re passionate about (that can make you a little bit of money), determine your learning style, pick the right professors, and put in the time.

3 Things To Keep in Mind When Going Back To School

1. Consider Student Loan Debts

What are your reasons for returning to college? Is it to further your education to satisfy your own curiosity? For most of us, part of this decision has to do with making more money. However, you’ll need to be aware that most undergraduate students graduate with about 30,000 dollars in debt. Most graduate students are looking at double that amount. Many students end up with even more debt than the average if they choose an out of state college or private school.
If your main goal is to graduate with a degree (or a second degree), make more money, and immediately make a big dent in your student loans, you might want to do some research on your desired field before you start taking classes. Although it has been proven that individuals with a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree undoubtedly make more money once they enter the workforce, certain fields tend to yield higher returns than others.
For example, those who decide to get their Masters of Business Administration will leave college with about 89,000 dollars in debt. Of course, this sounds like quite a lot of student loans. Yet, the average MBA earner is looking at a yearly salary of about 127,000 dollars. With those kinds of earnings, you might not be sweating debt as much as you thought.
On the other hand, many medical degree earners are exiting college with about 191,000 dollars in debt. Their yearly salary comes in at about 135,000 dollars. So, even though they have a high paying job, their debt still exceeds that by about 60,000 dollars. As such, they might be chipping away at their debt for quite some time.
I know this can all be very intimidating, but don’t stress too much about money. Spend time deciding what kind of work you’d really like to put in the time with. In my opinion, it’s all about doing what you love and making a little bit of money while you do it.
[RELATED: 5 Steps to Prepare Financially For Grad School]

2. Find Professors & Methods That Work For You, Not Against You

One thing I remember from my first two tries at school was that I felt like a fish out of water. I was so overwhelmed with the options and I just didn’t know my style as a student yet. I wasn’t confident enough to say, “I learn best this way” and I definitely didn’t want to talk to other students and my professors out of fear of looking silly.
Now I know, that I learn best auditorily. If I record my lectures and play them back, I will be able to learn the material better. This means that all those hours and hours of “chicken scratch” notes I took before didn’t really mean anything. I knew when I read them back that it didn’t make sense and it wasn’t beneficial to my learning and retaining the material. This time around, I will take notes, but only on super important key points and I’ll be doing a lot more listening.
Find out what methods work for you. Test yourself before you ever enter a classroom. You might be surprised to know that you are a visual, kinesthetic, auditory, or reading/writing learner. You could even be a combination of a few things. If you try and adopt other styles that don’t necessarily work for you, you might as well be throwing your study time out the window.
Next, do some research on your teachers. Understand what kind of style they use for teaching. There are several professor rating sites out there that will give you plenty of insight about how engaged your teacher may or may not be. Understanding a basic interaction between student and teacher is so incredibly important. A good teacher and student relationship should consist of the teacher giving a lesson, students learning the material (possibly interacting with other students and the professor), taking a test and getting good grades. However, a great teacher should know when their students are struggling as a whole. They will take the time to slow down and ensure that the class is absorbing the material and will take constructive feedback on their lessons to improve them for future sessions.
Someone who rules their class with an iron fist, has almost no interaction, and barely any instruction might not be the best fit for you. Some students do learn best by reading the material themselves, but most would say they need some form of interaction and lecture.
It’s okay to drop a class simply because that teacher doesn’t have very high ratings or recommendations. You’re securing your chances of not only passing but passing with a high grade if you choose a professor that works with you and your learning style.

3. You Have to Want to Put in the Time

If you’re like me, going back to school at 28, you’re probably a pretty busy person. I work a full-time job and would like to maintain a social life while I’m in school. This means that I really need to think about how important schooling is to me. At this point in my life, it’s incredibly important. So, I have to be willing to make some social sacrifices while I go back to school.
The median number of hours students put into one class is usually about three hours per one credit. Most classes are three to five credits. That means if you have one three-credit class, you’re probably going to need about nine hours of study time per week for that one class. If you want to take more credits that that, you’ll need to understand that your study hours are going to stack up quickly. Two classes would be eighteen hours per week and so on. If you’re taking condensed classes during the summer or online classes, you could be looking at even more hours.
Of course, this isn’t an exact science. Some people may need more or less study time, but the point is, you have to find a schedule that works for you. Block out time during your week that is designated study time and stick to it. If you start to be too lenient on your study hours, you might see your grades start to slip. It’s going to be hard work, but if you want that degree, you’re going to have to make the time and make sure that you don’t overload yourself with study hours that you can’t fulfill.
Beware of burnout. Don’t take more than you know you can handle. If you need to take one class at a time for now, you can always take more classes later if you feel that you have more time. There are usually summer, weekend, and maybe even winter classes available for those who don’t want to overload themselves, but still want to keep steady credits coming in.
When you wholeheartedly have the drive to receive an education, you simply cannot fail. As long as you are 100% dedicated to your cause when you show up on that first day of class, you’ll get all the grades you want and you’ll earn your degree. In many cases, just like my own, sometimes it just doesn’t become clear until you have some time to yourself. It took me 10 years out of high school to really want that degree and to prove to myself that I can do it. As cliche as it is, it’s never too late and there’s no better time to start your education than right now.

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