Do Your Research
Once you have decided that earning a bachelor’s degree is the right next move for you, then it’s time to start seriously considering different programs.
It’s important to first determine what offerings are most important to you. Do you need a flexible program that offers online or evening courses because of your job? Would you prefer to do a program that is 100 percent online because you travel often for work? Would you rather meet for classes in-person to better stay accountable? Does the school offer academic and career support to help you grow professionally? How long will the program take and how many hours a week should you expect to devote to studying? Being able to answer questions like these will help you quickly evaluate whether a school would be a good fit for you or not.
Further, it’s critical to consider only quality programs. This doesn’t mean you have to only consider the top-ranked schools, but there are certain programs out there that offer a bachelor’s degree worth very little.
“There are some degree-granting schools that have been in the news for bad reasons lately,” Cater shared. “Some of the for-profits have been accused and found guilty in a court of law for doing a bait and switch, in which they have oversold the quality and benefits of their degrees and have caused many to end up with huge debt and a degree that is worth very little.”
Cater emphasized that if you are going to make a significant investment in a school that it’s important to make sure you’re attending a quality program. It doesn’t make sense to spend the money, time, and effort to go back to school only to come out on the other end with a degree worth little in the eyes of employers. It isn’t true that a bachelor’s degree from anywhere is equal — some are worth more than others. That’s why when researching schools make sure you consider the reputation of the program. Does the school have third-party endorsements or rankings on their website? What about testimonials from current students or alumni? You can always ask an admissions counselor for evidence that earning a bachelor’s degree at that particular institution would be worth it. Of course, like any investment in life, it’s not 100 percent guaranteed that by having a degree you’ll land that dream job or acquire that promotion. But you can certainly increase your chances by making sure you’re attending a quality program.
If you are going to make a significant investment in a school that it’s important to make sure you’re attending a quality program. It doesn’t make sense to spend the money, time, and effort to go back to school only to come out on the other end with a degree worth little in the eyes of employers.
The key is to do a thorough job of selecting the school that is the best fit for you. If you don’t find what you’re looking for on the website or in a marketing brochure, don’t hesitate to call or email the school to learn more about tuition costs, available financial aid, the length of the program, and so on. When possible, try to attend info events in person that schools are hosting. These events will often give you the chance to meet professors, current students, and admissions counselors. This will often give you a better idea of what attending that school might entail. Speaking with someone from the school can also alleviate any fears you might have about going back. Cater acknowledged that going back to school after you have been away for many years can seem daunting.
“Being afraid to return to the classroom later in life is understandable, yet to me that doesn’t seem like a compelling reason to stay out of higher education. Life can be uncertain, and doing important and good things can be scary and tough even though they are necessary,” explained Cater. He then brought up the fact that you won’t be alone if you do decide to go back. “It’s becoming more and more common for people to go back to school later in life, so rather than think you’re going to be the only one there who has been away from school for a while, realize there will be plenty of people in your classes in the same situation.”
Questions to Consider:
- What are your must-have features for an adult degree program (100 percent online, evening courses, accelerated program format, etc.)?
- Have you made sure that all of the schools you’re considering offer quality programs? Can you ask an admissions counselor to provide you with evidence of the program’s quality if you haven’t already come across some?
- Are there local info events that you can attend to learn more about a program? Can you reach out to a current student or alum to ask them questions about their experience?
- Are you considering not going back to school because you fear you might not be successful or because you’ve been out of school for many years? While understandable, are there things you can do to alleviate this fear? How might you focus on the exciting aspects of going back to school rather than the fear-inducing ones?