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5 Steps to Going Back to College

By Daniel Gerger, President, Adult Education Advocates

If you are an adult thinking of returning to college in September, now is a great time to start. The average age of a college student is close to 30, and there are more than 7.5 million adults in college right now.

Here are five tips on starting the process to go back to school:

Discover all of your financing options.
Every school has a different policy when it comes to financial aid and accepting credits.  By doing some research up front, you can save thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, and even book purchases. For example, if a college charges $550 per credit and you need 70 credits to complete your degree, it will cost you $38,500.  However, if you find a college that has a 20 percent discount for adult students and will grant you 30 prior learning credits, you would need 40 credits at $440 per credit for a total of $17,600.  This is a savings of almost $21,000 in tuition. It pays to find someone who can help you in this area.

Gather your transcripts from previous schools.
Order at least two copies of official transcripts from all your past schools, and have them sent to your home address. Keep one for your records (you can open this one). Keep the other one sealed for your admissions appointment or application.  To order transcripts from a college, go to the registrar’s office on campus and fill out a transcript request form, go online, or call the registrar to inquire about requesting an official transcript.  The office will either fax or e-mail you a transcript request form or request that you fax them a self-designed request. The main item the registrar needs to process your request is your signature. There may be a fee for the request, but it usually is no more than $10.  Allow about two weeks to receive a request by mail. If you’re in a hurry, ask if the transcript can be sent overnight.  If that’s not possible, you may also be able to obtain an unofficial transcript that can be used in an initial transfer credit evaluation.

Research appropriate programs.
The best part of going back to school as an adult is the number of choices. This can also be a bit overwhelming.  You need to examine the reasons why you want to earn a degree, and find out what schools have the programs that best fit your needs. Also, it is important to learn if the schools have special pricing programs and unique services to help nontraditional students, and what type of transfer credit policies they have.

Update your resume and craft your personal statement.
As an adult student, you have a work history and a story to tell. Whether you are a graduate or an undergraduate student, being able to write an excellent essay, resume, and personal statement is an acquired skill.  Take the time to make sure it is done right, because it could get you accepted into the school of your choice and earn you a scholarship. Make sure someone proofreads your resume, essay and application  before submitting them.

Find out what type of support systems each college has.
Every school has a department for academic advising, career services, financial aid, and admissions.  However, some schools might only offer these services between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.  If you work until 6 p.m., this could be a problem.  Some colleges make certain that faculty and staff are available on evenings and weekends.  Make sure you ask if there is help available for the adult student.

So, when should you start the process?  How about today?  If you need any help as you start researching going back to school, give us a call at 973-557-4791 or visit our structured Roadmap to Success process that lays out the key steps to getting adult students accepted to college.

Daniel Gerger is the President of Adult Education Advocates, an organization that helps adults make the transition back to college. Dan lives in Maplewood, N.J., with his wife and three children.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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