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Going Back to College

The notion making a career change, and of going back to college for new career training and education might be a bit intimidating, especially if many years have passed since you were last a student.  You may be worried that you will be out of practice.  Competing against students that are far younger than you, may also sound a bit unfair.  While both of these assumptions may be true, the fact of the matter is that a large percentage of today’s student body is older, and making a career change.  Many people are going back to school in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s.

Why worry about going back to college?  You’ve gone to school before and you can do it again.  In fact, you are likely to have a good deal of company as more and more older students are heading back for second degrees, new career training and education, additional training or graduate degrees all the time.  While there may have been a time when an older student in a classroom was a bit unusual, it is now clear that time is long gone.  Today’s college student body covers a much larger age group than just a generation ago.  So don’t be afraid to get in there and learn some new skills to jump start a career change.

 

Now Might Be A Better Time to Attend College Than You Think

Don’t forget this important fact: study after study shows that the more training and education you have under your belt, the more money you make over the course of your lifetime.  Another sad, but very relevant fact, is that college tuition costs are simply skyrocketing.  College tuition is going up at a rate that far exceeds inflation.   In the future, this situation might change.  But for now, if you are considering going back to college for career training and education, or attending for the first time, it might be a good time to move on that impulse.  Considering that college tuition rates are going upwards fast, it is possible that college may not be as feasible of an option several years down the road.  While it is likely that out of control tuition costs will be addressed soon, you simply can’t count on it.  Now might be a good time to embrace more education, especially if your are making a career change

Finding Your Back to College Path

When thinking about going back to college, the first thing to do is to clearly define your educational goals and your career change goals.  Decide what type of career you are interested in or what kind of courses you will need in order to change your career.  Opening up new career options is much of the battle.  There is obviously a substantial difference between switching to a new career and simply taking some classes to help update your resume. For example, if you are currently an IT professional and wish to become a nurse or a lawyer, that decision and goal will shape and define many of your future steps concerning career education and training.

Consider What Training & Education You Need

Different colleges and universities have different admission requirements and demands.  If you are thinking of going back to college in order to attend graduate school or to earn a professional degree, then you most certainly must think about the kinds of aptitude tests that are required to admission.  If you are thinking about getting your MBA, then you will need to take the GMAT exam.  If you are considering law school then you will be taking the LSAT.  You get the idea.  But here is a vital point.  These aptitude tests must be taken well in advance of applying to your given program.  This means you must afford enough time to prepare for the test, take the aptitude test and wait for your results before you can even apply.



If you are attending college for the first time, you will need to have a current SAT or ACT test score in order to apply at many colleges.  However don’t let this dissuade you.  After all, taking aptitude tests is about to become part of your new academic life!

Resources

The GMAT
www.mba.com/mba/thegmat

The LSAT
www.lsac.org/

The GRE
www.ets.org/gre

GradSchools.com
www.gradschools.com/ArticleIndex/Graduate-School-Testing/48.html

College Board
www.collegeboard.com 

Training for Tests

Princeton Review
www.princetonreview.com

Kaplan Test Prep
www.kaptest.com

ETS
www.ets.org

Going Back for Career Retraining

When you are considering going back to college for career retraining and education, it is a good idea to know that you are going to pick a new career path that will have a strong chance of leading to a sustainable job and long term, a great career change.  Whatever career you are considering, it makes sense to investigate the current and long-term prospects of the job, and its sector.  It is all about strategy in that ideally you want to make a career change that is in high demand.  When your career training and education is complete, hopefully you have picked a career in which you can find a job with relative ease. 



Getting advice on which sectors will be hiring, and what specific careers will be in demand can be tricky.  One way to take some of the guesswork out of the process is clearly to do your research on the career cahnge you are considering.  Another good path is to talk with a career counselor.  Visit your local community college and ask for their advice.  For college graduates, it might make sense to visit your old college and ask for a little advice.  Don’t assume that they won’t help you out.  After all, you were a customer once and you might be a customer again.  They know you are in the market for more career training and education, so take advantage of that fact!

Resources:

Community College Review
www.communitycollegereview.com

Community College Directory
www.community-college.org

Information on Careers of all Kind
www.careersearch.com

CNN Money Best Jobs in America
money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bestjobs/2009

US News and World Report America’s Best Careers 2010
www.usnews.com/money/careers

Wall Street Journal Best and Worst Jobs
online.wsj.com/article/SB123119236117055127.html

Get Credit For What You Already Know!

Yes indeed, it is possible to get college credit for what you already know! This may sound too good to be true, however, it is not unheard of for students to receive credit for skills that they have learned while working at previous positions.  Skills that you have learned in the military or on the job might have more credit earning potential than you might think.  This can translate into earned credits and maybe even less time spent on your new training and education and earning that new college degree. Which might just lead to your dream job, and a great career change.

In a similar fashion, it might also be possible to receive credit for classes you took if you previously attended college but quit before earning your degree.  You might very easily be able to pick up some credits for work you did years ago. This does happen, and it happens all the time.  Do not assume that you have to start over from the ground up.

Dealing With Money Issues During A Career Change

Let’s face it; one of the largest obstacles for most of us in going back to college is money.  As stated earlier, college is becoming a more and more expensive proposition every year.  However, there are ways of dealing with this unpleasant fact.  One way is to carefully evaluate your community college for quality career training and education.  Community colleges are still great values overall.   If you plan ahead, you can even know whether or not your credits will transfer to other institutions.  This is a very easy way to save some serious money.  Further, attending a community college can be the perfect solution for anyone seeking more job training, looking to broaden his or her existing skill set, or coming to the decision to make a career change.  The key is to investigate carefully what your community college offers in the way of course work.  See if there are any coursework or perhaps even associate’s degrees that might work with your career change goals.

Looking into what kinds of financial aid might be available for you is an obvious step when thinking about going back to college for training and education or attending college for the first time.  However, what might not be so obvious is that one must not assume that the money is impossible to get.  Despite economic downturns, large amounts of money are still available for those looking to continue their education.  The Federal Government has a great deal of money floating around expressly for the purpose of sending people to college.  There are grants, scholarships and government run loan programs.  Do not assume under any circumstances that you are not eligible.  When seeking financial aid it can quite literally pay to turn over every available rock!  A good place to begin is by visiting www.ed.gov/DirectLoan to learn more about government student loan programs.  You might be surprised to learn just how much student loan help might be available to you. It might be the factor that convinces you to return to school for training and education in your current career field, or to make a career change.



A word of caution on student loans: in recent years, banks and other lenders have made their way into the student loan business.  Often their loan programs are decent.  Sometimes they offer rates that although higher than those offered with government loans, are still manageable.  However, this is an area of lending that can be very dangerous.  Borrowers can be confronted with shady business practices and loan interest rates that could make anyone faint or get sick to their stomach.  Don’t let your strong desire to go back to college for training and education (or lack of research) put you in a position where you are stuck with an outrageous student loan.  Do your loan research and read that fine print very, very carefully.

Resources for student loans:

Federal Direct Loans
www.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/DirectLoan/index.html

Sallie May
www.salliemae.com

eStudentLoan
www.estudentloan.com

Netnet
www.nelnet.com

Application for Federal Student Loans
www.fafsa.ed.gov

Stafford Loans
www.staffordloan.com

Obama Education Grants-Yes We Can... Go Back To School!

President Obama has backed grants designed to help single mothers go back to college for career training and education or to make a career change.  Since these are grants, they do not have to be repaid.  Yes, free money for college!  But its not just single mothers that are eligible for new Federal grants.  Under the new plan, it’s possible for people who are unemployed to get extra help from programs like the Pell Grants and make a career change.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was instituted in February 2009. This Act provided stimulus funding to schools. There is also a stimulus bill called the American Opportunity Credit. This is a tax credit that reimburses students who are going through post-secondary education. The tax credit will reimburse up to $2,500 for expenses like tuition, course materials, etc.

Traditionally, Pell Grants were usually made available to students who were from low-income families.  Once again, there is nothing better than a grant.  This is free money for college and it makes great sense to talk to your prospective college or university about getting some of that Pell Grant cash in your pocket.  Don’t forget there are billions of dollars available just in grants alone. Do some research and make a career change you will be happy with.

Federal Pell Grant
www.ed.gov/programs/fpg/index.html

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/index.html

American Opportunity Credit
www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211309,00.html

 

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