According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 44 percent of today’s college students are nontraditional, many of which are returning to college after time in the workforce. However, if you have been out of school for a while, there is a lot to accomplish before the first day of classes. Here are some of the most important tasks to consider before you head back to class.
Earn Alternative Credits
Before you schedule your first set of courses, bring in as many valid credits as you can, whether they be from past college experiences or alternative sources. For example, many universities will allow you to apply for credits for certain general courses by taking an examination. If you pass the examination, you will receive credit for the course automatically. In some cases, you may also be able to receive credit for military experience or based on an assessment of a portfolio of your work.
Search for Financing
Regardless of whether you are enrolling part-time or full-time, college can be very expensive. Fortunately, there are several financing options available for students returning to higher education. Before you enroll, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application takes only 20 minutes to complete, and your responses may qualify you to receive grants, scholarships or student loans. You may also qualify for scholarships or grants from your university, so be sure to check the university website for application deadlines. Finally, contact local nonprofit organizations and inquire about any scholarships they may offer.
Talk to an Advisor
Most universities will assign you a student advisor as soon as you enroll. At your earliest convenience, set up an appointment to speak with your advisor, either on the phone or in person. To get the most out of the meeting, prepare a list of questions in advance. Key issues to discuss with your advisor include degree programs, transfer credits, scheduling flexibility and financing. At the end of the meeting, ask the advisor if there is anything else you need to do before classes begin.
Arrange Your Schedule
Scheduling your first set of courses can be overwhelming. To ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible, enroll in courses as soon as possible. Make sure that you don’t take on more than you can handle, especially during your first term. Be careful to arrange your classes around your work schedule. If you have children, arrange for childcare during times when you must be at school.
After you register for courses, compile a list of required books and supplies. In many cases, you will have the option between used and new books. However, the used books, which are much less expensive, tend to sell out quickly, so buy your books as soon as you can afford them. Purchase everything else you need at least one week before the start of classes.
Returning to college can change your life for the better, but the process can be overwhelming. However, by preparing in advance, you can greatly reduce your anxiety on the first day of class.
About the Author
Tara Jackson is an education and career prep enthusiast. When she’s not writing about or researching colleges and careers for EduTrek.com, she enjoys reading classic literature, hiking in the mountains, and traveling. @tjatedutrek