Continuing Education: 5 Things to Know
The decision to continue your education is a difficult one. Higher education costs are soaring while class sizes keep growing, making it hard to determine whether attending a college or university is worth it. There are many benefits of continuing education and here are five things to keep in mind when making this decision.
1. The Cost of Higher Education
By now, it should be no secret that many Americans are dealing with student loan debt. This is arguably the most important factor when deciding whether or not to continue your education. It is vital to understand how much your education will cost and to make sure to consider the incidentals that may not be readily apparent. These may include books and other classroom supplies, transportation, and room and board. These costs can sneak up on you and may derail your entire educational journey.
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When thinking about higher education costs, you should determine whether a student loan is the appropriate route in paying for your courses. If you are interested in student loans, remember that they can be either private or federal. There are several types of student loans available, with the most common being either subsidized or unsubsidized. Whatever you choose, just know that you will have to pay the loan back with interest, and depending upon how long you are in school, this can easily become overwhelming.
One way to keep student loan debt to a minimum is by focusing on upgrading your current skills and earning new credentials with single-serving Continuing Education courses. These courses are often offered through your local community college or adult education center, and can give your career (and your earnings potential) a boost while ensuring you only need to spend a few hundred dollars at a time.
2. Your Goals for Your Education
Are you hoping to get an Associate’s degree? A Bachelor’s? Master’s? Doctorate? Or are you taking some classes for a certification for your job, or perhaps simply out of interest?
Make sure that your intent is apparent from the beginning so that you don’t waste time taking classes that may not count towards your goal. If you are not sure what your goals are, it may be better to put off continuing your education until you have a better perspective on what you want. If all of your peers are heading back to college, it is easy to give in to the pressure and go along with them, but it will be a better decision to hold off if you are not ready. Your wallet and calendar will thank you!
3. Your Goals for Your Career
What do you want to do in life? If you want to be a doctor, you will spend much more time in formal education than if you want to be a plumber. Society needs both, so it is crucial that you know what you need to do to obtain the proper knowledge.
If you only need to brush up on a skill, like graphic design, then you don’t need to enroll in a program where you have to take electives in addition to your graphic design courses. You’ll want to look for a night school course or continuing education program that will let you take the classes you need to obtain the desired skills without having to sit through other classes that don’t pertain to your career. This way, you’ll be able to continue in the workforce and successfully compete with others without spending time and money on unnecessary classes.
4. The Courses You Need
If you plan on taking an entire program with the aim of earning a diploma, then before enrolling in a school, you have to send your academic transcript. Colleges require a certain GPA to even be considered for admission, so it is necessary to have the requested records before you can do anything else. Your academic advisor also needs to know what courses you have already taken and which you still need to take. There is no point in paying for a foreign language class at the college level if you have already satisfied that requirement in high school or with life experience. Academic requirements will vary from school to school, so it is your responsibility to ensure that you understand what is expected.
5. The Types of Schools Available
There are many types of schools available to fit almost any educational needs. School reputation is a big factor to consider since you are potentially investing a lot of time and money in the school and you want to choose the school that best fits your needs.
A two-year college is a good way to continue your educational journey without going into the debt that is associated with many four-year institutions. Two-year colleges offer Associate degrees as well as many certificate programs that you can use to further your career. Four-year colleges and universities are more expensive given the added cost of room and board. For many, it is essential to attend a four-year program in order to obtain the appropriate degree needed for their chosen career.
School availability doesn’t just stop at two-year colleges versus four-year colleges. Students today also often have the opportunity to take classes online rather than physically going to campus. This opens the door for many students who may not live close to a college or for someone who isn’t able to fit traditional classes into his or her schedule. But pay attention to whether the college is accredited, which simply means that the college has been objectively evaluated and meets an educational standard, ensuring that your education is strong. Both online and traditional schools have accreditation standards, and you definitely want to look at accredited schools.
Going one step further, it is also important to understand the difference between a for-profit college and a non-profit college. For-profit colleges are more expensive than public, non-profit colleges for the simple reason that for-profit colleges must make a profit for their shareholders. The educational standards between the two types of institutions also vary given the importance of the shareholders in the for-profit system. If you have questions about which college is right for you, be sure to have a clear goal of what you want in life so that you don’t waste time or money on the wrong path.