5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Going Back To School
Written By: Robyn Shulman
Going back to school has been quite a hot topic over the past few years.
With the rapid changes in technology, the convenience of online courses, and high levels of unemployment, one may easily assume (or be talked into believing) that right now is the best and only time to start a new degree, change careers, receive training or simply take a few classes.
However, I would suggest that before one decides to jump back into school, he/she take a long pause to answer the questions below.
It is vitally important to think about the reasons for going back to school. Many people have gone back to school for the wrong reasons, left in massive amounts of debt, and still remain unemployed. Going back to school is a wonderful experience both academically and socially, however, the journey and the end result should be evaluated from a personal, financial and professional lens.
The motivation for this article stems from my own personal profession an academic/career advisor. Unfortunately, I have had heard this statement one too many times:
I went back to school to become a teacher. This was my second career, and I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. Now, I look around and I have a master’s degree, my competitors hold bachelor degrees with less experience, and I cannot get a job. What happened?
I will leave this part for you to decide.
Therefore, before going back to school, one should ask these questions of him/herself:
1. Why am I going back to school? It is so vitally important to evaluate the reasons why you are going back to school. Are you going back to improve your career or change careers? Will more education lead to more opportunities? Going back to school is a serious time and financial commitment. Be sure to do it for the right reasons.
2. If I am changing careers, what field should I choose to move into? If you are even thinking about changing fields, I plead with you to do your research. Review the current job openings in your area, talk to people in the field, and ask about the current trends in hiring. Be honest with yourself about the profession and where you are currently in your own life. You can even make an appointment with a career counselor to discuss the current trends (but make sure the career counselor is unrelated to the school you may be choosing). Going into a field solely because it is of interest, or even a calling, may not lead to a road or path of financial stability.
3. Can I afford it? Higher education is very expensive. Make sure a second round is worth the financial risk. Take the time to find scholarships, grants, and other various forms of financial opportunity. Right now, America is looking at $1 trillion in student debt. Be sure you can take the financial responsibility on.
4. Does going back to school coincide with the needs of my family right now? Think about the life style changes you will be required to make when you attend school again. All family members are affected when one person has a major change in their lifestyle. Thing about how you will balance a job, time away from family, babysitters, etc. Plan accordingly so you can enjoy your college experience.
5. How do I know which school to attend? Take time to do your research. Don’t sign up for a program simply because it is enticing, all online or simply convenient. Be sure to choose an accredited institution that offers quality programs. Talk to others who have possibly attended the school of interest. Do not jump in because an enrollment representative pushed you. If you feel pressured or harassed from a school, note that as a red flag. If a school tells you that employment in the field is guaranteed, or you will lose out if you don’t attend now, and/or if they promise you a job after you finish the program, run as fast as you can.