Earning a college degree is something that many citizens strive for, not just teenagers who just stepped out of a high school classroom. Adults of all ages are taking the initiative to further their career and advance their education by enrolling in a two- or four-year college where they can finish the coursework needed for the degree of their choice. Attending college as a mature adult poses different financial burdens than it does for younger college students. From paying for tuition, to balancing a career, education and home life, there are many factors an adult returning to college will need to consider. Here is a look at how mature adults can make going back to college work for them.
Creating a Harmonious Work/School Balance
One of the biggest struggles that adults who return to college face is learning how to juggle their classes, work schedules and their home lives harmoniously. Unless you are one of the incredibly lucky people who are independently wealthy, most adults will need to continue working while they are going back to school. Juggling a full schedule between classes, work and family can be quite stressful, although most citizens would not be able to afford to go back to school without the salary they earn from their employer. While working full time, it is best to choose a part-time schedule at college. It is important not to overwhelm yourself. Leave time for social interaction, family bonding and personal time so that you can manage the stress of your busy schedule.
A U.S. college students may be eligible for financial aid if his or her income requirement falls under a specific guideline set by FAFSA. After you apply for college, complete your FAFSA form and apply for financial aid. There is no harm in doing so. If your income exceeds the financial requirements, you will be told that you are ineligible for funding. However, many grants are available. Many countries offer financial aid for students to complete their college education. If you are awarded college funds, your out-of-pocket costs can be significantly reduced.
If you are not eligible for financial aid, you may want to research grants that you are eligible for. Grant programs pay a specific amount towards your tuition costs and often require you to maintain a specific GPA in order for the program to continue paying out. There are many grants available for adults returning to college, such as Pell grants, which can dramatically reduce the amount you are required to pay from your own bank account each semester.
The advantage that many adults have over younger college students is that if they work for an employer that offers tuition reimbursement, they may not have to pay anything out of pocket for their college education. Colleges that offer tuition reimbursement allow you to pay upfront for your tuition. If you maintain a specific grade level, you will be reimbursed up to a certain limit. Other employers have a tuition disbursement plan that pays tuition funds directly to the college. Tuition reimbursement and disbursement plans can be incredibly helpful to working college students.
Financial Edge Over Younger Students
Going back to college as an adult can be a highly rewarding experience for many people. One advantage that adult students have over younger college students is financial stability. The cost of textbooks, tuition, supplies, etc ... are less likely to be a heavy burden on an adult's budget than it would on that of a 20-something college student. The fine art of budgeting is likely to be mastered as an adult, and you will be better poised to handle financial responsibility than your younger counterparts would.
The Bottom Line
Going back to college as an adult can be an extremely rewarding and challenging venture. Although there may be many struggles that you will have to deal with, such as juggling your classes along with your career and family life, the struggle of obtaining your degree is worth the cost. Find ways to ease your financial situation, learn how to best manage your time, and don't forget to enjoy the journey along the way.