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Is Going Back To College Worth It? How To Decide

WVU Online | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Are you thinking about going back to college? There’s a lot to consider. You can gain new skills, advance your career, or even switch to a new career entirely.

However, you also want to consider the time commitment, cost, and potential impact on your family, job, and other commitments.

The decision to return to college may leave you feeling both excited and stressed.

Despite the challenges, millions of adult learners return to school and find success in achieving their goals — whether that’s a higher-earning position or a different career path.

The best decision for you will depend on your unique goals and circumstances. In this article, you can take a look at some tips and resources to help you make the choice that’s best for you.

Why More People Are Choosing To Go Back to College

In the fall of 2022, about 2.9 million students over the age of 25 were enrolled in undergraduate degree programs in the U.S.

These adult learners accounted for 23% of the 12.8 million students pursuing undergraduate degrees during this period.

Multiple factors, including those unique to the student, have caused this trend, but has reported that the rise in technology and online courses with a curriculum more heavily focused on closing the skills gap has contributed to this shift.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online and hybrid learning are more common than ever.

The flexibility of studying from anywhere with an internet connection has opened doors for many adult students to pursue education. This way, they can still tend to their family responsibilities and jobs while in school.

In 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that, on average, more than 2 in 3 adult learners were employed either full or part-time while pursuing their degrees (69%), and nearly half of those who enrolled in spring 2020 reported having dependent children (48%).

As technology advances, colleges are also evolving to prepare students for the digital workplace. This way, students can develop the skills to become competitive candidates in an evolving workforce.

5 Benefits of Going Back to College

1. Increase your earning potential.

One significant benefit of returning to college is the potential for higher earnings. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, higher educational achievements were associated with higher median earnings.

It was reported that, in 2021, those with a bachelor’s degree earned a median of 55% more than those who completed high school. This is also reported for higher degrees, with a 21% earning increase for those with a master’s degree or higher compared to a bachelor’s degree.

2. Qualify for career advancement opportunities.

Higher education can open doors for career advancement. Spruce InfoTech discusses college degrees and their ability to increase employability while leading to promotions and career advancement.

Employers often prefer individuals with a certain level of education for high-level positions. They may also see a degree as evidence of creative skills, leadership potential, and a dedication to learning.

3. Enhance your skills.

Higher education offers the chance to learn new skills relevant to your desired career path. This especially helps in quickly evolving fields like technology and healthcare.

For example, you may want to gain expertise in fast-growing areas of tech like data analysis or cybersecurity, which are highly sought-after skills in the tech industry.

In healthcare, skills like advanced patient care techniques or other specialties can set you apart and make you a valuable asset to employers.

By building your skillset, you can become a more competitive candidate as you search for your next job. Once you land it, you can also be better prepared to solve any challenges that come your way.

4. Get more networking opportunities.

As you learn from current industry professionals alongside future industry professionals, college is a great place for networking.

Connecting with your professors and classmates will be valuable in building your career. You can also reach out to successful alumni using your school connection to add to your network.

5. Achieve personal fulfillment.

Going back to school can be an enriching experience, offering a sense of accomplishment as you work toward your goals or pursue a passion. Taking the leap and enhancing your skills can help boost your confidence and add to your personal and professional life.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Enrolling

What are my career goals?

Consider the goals you want to achieve by going back to school. Do you want to achieve a promotion, switch careers, or increase your earning potential? Are you looking into the right programs to help you achieve those goals?

Research and choose a program that aligns well with your career objectives and offers the necessary skills and credentials to meet your aspirations. Setting personal goals along the way can also help you stay motivated and give space to celebrate your achievements.

Do the financial trade-offs make sense?

Understand that returning to college comes with a price tag. Tuition, fees, and a potential need to reduce your working hours may impact your lifestyle and regular income.

However, a study from the American Educational Research Journal found that having a college degree provides a substantial financial benefit over a lifetime, with a strong annual return on investment at about 9–10 percent.

Consider how much longer you want to be in the workforce to determine if this financial benefit is still achievable.

You have to make the best decision for you. To help, you can explore financial aid, scholarship opportunities, and tuition reimbursement programs that may be provided by your employer.

How will it impact my current responsibilities?

Take an honest look at your responsibilities with work, family, etc. Can you juggle your coursework with these commitments?

You may need to keep working while you get your degree. Maybe you're raising a family or caring for a parent. Perhaps you have obligations to volunteer organizations or community groups.

You want to manage your time properly and choose a program that offers the flexibility needed to do so. This may be a hybrid or online program from a school that offers support for adult learners.

What type of program is best for me?

If you’re interested in getting a degree, decide whether in-person, hybrid, or online learning best fits you, your lifestyle, and your learning style.

Your program may not offer all three formats, so you’ll want to check with your university resources.

Consider factors like your schedule availability and the level of interaction you need with professors and peers. You’ll also want to consider the technology requirements and support systems offered in each program type to help you succeed.

Do you need a college degree to achieve your goals?

To enhance your skills, a degree is not your only option.

Online certificates allow you to study a specific area in your field of interest under college and university faculty or industry experts. Most take a year or two to complete, with multiple courses required.

If you want to build your skill set but would rather pursue a more cost-effective path, you can also consider micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are smaller than a certificate or minor, take less time to complete, and focus on enhancing or updating a specific skill.

Both certificates and micro-credentials are great non-degree options to earn certain professional skills you need to advance your career.

Is this the right time?

If you’re wondering if this is the right time, you want to ask yourself if you’re ready for change. Do you feel excited or anxious about taking the leap?

If you’re leaning toward excited, maybe it’s the right time. Going back to school will change your lifestyle for a chunk of time, so having encouragement from your family and friends can also help you stay motivated, ease your stress, and have a support system to lean on.

You also want to take a look at your skills. How do you handle the stress of balancing responsibilities and taking on new challenges? Make sure to adopt effective stress management techniques. Do have confidence in yourself and your academic abilities? Even if you haven’t been to school in a while, you can reach your professional and academic goals if you’re willing to put in your time and work hard to achieve them.

Explore Your Options at WVU Online

If you’re considering going back to school to advance in your current career or pursue a new one, WVU Online may be your perfect fit. We offer a variety of flexible degree programs and dedicated support services that can help you along the way.

If you have questions about program requirements, financial aid options, or academic support services, our experienced Admissions Coaches are here to help you confidently navigate your educational journey.

Explore our degree and certificate programs or contact an Admissions Coach today to take the first step toward achieving your goals.

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Call us, write us, or fill out the request information form. Whichever communication style you prefer, there will be someone from WVU Online on the other end waiting to help.

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