Start College With These “A’s” Up Your Sleeve

Robyn Tellefsen | January 29, 2013

getting an AIf going back to school is on your to-do list this year, you’re not alone. Research by Franklin Covey indicates that education has been a growing resolution among adult Americans over the past decade, and is one of the top resolutions for 2013. If you want to make your back-to-school resolution a reality this year, start by taking some A+ advice compiled by experts at Brandman University, a private, nonprofit university providing on-campus programs throughout California and Washington, and online degree programs across the United States.

ASSESS your situation.
First and foremost, you need to assess your situation to determine which education program matches your personal and professional goals. If you’re one of the 34 million Americans over age 25 who have some college credits but have never completed a degree (according to the U.S. Department of Education), a bachelor’s degree completion program might be in order. If you already have a bachelor’s degree and you want to go higher, consider a master’s degree or a certificate that can help you get ahead at work.

ANALYZE your options.
Once you know what type of education program you’d like to pursue, you need to find a school that offers what you seek. If you’re working full time, consider an online degree program or night classes at a community college. Identify a few schools that meet your criteria, and make sure you meet the admissions requirements for your program of interest.

ASK questions.
It’s time to learn as much about your top schools as possible. Visit their websites and request brochures to get basic info, but don’t stop there. Schedule a campus tour, or call an admission counselor to get all your questions answered. Find out about accreditation, financial aid, loan default rates, graduation rates, and student support services. If the school is less than forthright or not easily accessible, the situation will probably not improve after you enroll.

APPLY.
Once you’ve done your research and narrowed down your list of schools, it’s time to apply. This is much simpler in the age of online applications (remember those old paper applications where you had to handwrite your answers or even type them into the boxes?!). If you have previous college credits, make sure you get official copies of your transcripts and test scores to submit with your application.

AFFIRM affordability.
Don’t let misconceptions about the cost of attendance keep you from pursuing your education dreams. Despite what you may have heard, financial aid (even grant and scholarship cash!) is available for adult students. Plus, many employers offer tuition assistance, but you have to be proactive and find out the terms before you enroll. And take advantage of financial aid counseling from each school you’re considering so you can get information that’s tailored to your specific situation. Each school should let you know exactly how much you are expected to pay and how long it will take to finish the program.

AVOID going it alone.
Like any major life decision, going back to school requires a commitment and a support system to see it through. Enlist family and friends to keep you accountable and help you out with your other responsibilities. Take people up on their offers to babysit your kids, or make the experience meaningful for your family by doing your homework at the kitchen table with your kids and sharing what you’re learning.

With a little preparation, you can make 2013 the year you bring your “A” game to college and achieve your education goals.

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