October 29, 2013
Transitioning from a teenager to an adult is never easy. Compound the pressures and demands of time, family and jobs, financial resources and an inadequate preparation for the amount of academic work. Perhaps then it doesn’t seem so unbelievable that nearly half of the students who began college at a traditional four-year institution at 18-years-old didn’t graduate. Sound familiar?
Missteps happen. Life intervenes. However, now you are older, wiser, and more experienced in the world. You fully understand the importance of an education, and feel you are ready and motivated to finish the degree you started all those years ago. But, like with any new endeavor, you are anxious. This time, you want to succeed and earn your degree. Today, adult learners like you have more resources and tools available to help you reach your goal that go way beyond online courses and taking classes at night or on weekends. As you begin the road to your degree, consider these five tips to help ensure that you find success:
Pursue a passion. Select an area of study that interests you. What you learn should be your choice, as it is a reflection of you. If you are passionate about what you are learning, your curiosity and fascination will likely give you more drive you to succeed. Learning is not about getting the highest grade or score on an exam. As you progress in your career, no one will ever ask you for a report card. But they will assess your motivation and ambition. The best way to develop these qualities is to love what you do.
Set goals and accomplish them. Envision your goal, finishing your degree, and keep working towards it. Even if it takes one step at a time. “Each day, each class, you’re closer to your goal,” posted Linda Wells on Facebook. “Once you get there, no one can take it away. Do it!” Every step, no matter how small, will eventually take you to where you need to be. “Just begin. Take the first step. Time is your friend, not your enemy,” posted Michael Burns on LinkedIn. “Right now you just need to focus on the beginning, not the end. At a later point in time, when you look up, you will see that you have completed more classes than you have remaining. At that point you will be inspired…. You will know that you will finish.”
Recognize your time commitments to school, work and family. Assess your obligations and realize how you will be able to fit school in. You might do well at a college that understands your commitment to family and career, and offers flexibility offers flexibility for motivated adult learners through programs that do not require traditional classroom attendance. “It first takes determination and desire,” posted Robert Scott Gardner on LinkedIn. “Make a schedule and stick to it!” Also, consider schools that accept a wide variety of transfer credits and those that let you take a break from course work for personal or professional reasons without any academic or financial penalties.
Understand the resources available to you. At this point in your life, you should have realized the type of learner you are. Think about your needs as a busy adult. Do you prefer interaction with other classmates or would you rather work independently? Does the program work around your schedule? What course formats and learning options are available, in addition to a traditional classroom setting? As an adult learner, there are many more course options to choose from that not only fit into your lifestyle, but also your learning style.
Also, remember that you have different needs today than you had when you were a fresh-faced teen who just graduated from high school. You may have earned college credits at another institution or acquired college-level knowledge that can be applied as college transfer credit toward a degree. Will the school you are considering accept previously earned credits from other institutions? How many credits will you have to repeat?
There are a variety of ways to earn college credit that do not require sitting in a classroom or even taking a formal course. If you already possess specialized expertise, you may be able to earn additional credit for demonstrating you possess that college-level knowledge. You may also be able to earn credit for any licenses and certificates, or training programs you completed through your profession. Before you select a school, ask the admissions office what prior learning assessment programs they offer.
Talk to your family. Sit down and discuss with your family why you are pursuing this goal, and why it is important to you. Make sure they realize the commitment you are making and the potential role they can play in helping you. Their encouragement can prove essential as you complete your degree. “Surround yourself with a good support system, “ posted Mark De Luca on Facebook. “So you have others helping you get through the times when you think you [want to] give up!” Discuss with your family what you are learning. Including your family in this facet of your life will help strengthen the support system you have.
And remember, that when you finally do earn that degree, you will have received a lot more than a piece of paper that hangs on a wall. “Keep in mind that when you take risks, go outside your comfort zone,” Aura Rose posted on Facebook. “Wonderful things start to happen – horizons expand [and] the world opens for you.” For Wayne Sos, “Going back to school not only improved my critical thinking and earned me a degree,” he posted on LinkedIn. “It also set an example for my children that focus, commitment, and goals are needed to improve your life.”
There is always time and opportunity to try again. After all, it took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries to come up with a light bulb that worked. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up,” said Edison. “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” And he will always be right.
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September 10, 2013
What do you want to do for the rest of your life?
Whether you are 21 or 50, this question will probably be one of the most difficult you will ever determine. Discovering your elusive “sense of purpose” is no easy task, nor is there a step-by-step guide or obvious answer in a book. Even the standard answer – do what you love – is not easy to define. And, sure, career quizzes are fun, but realizing what will help lead you to happiness and success requires a little more introspection. Once you understand some things about occupations, industries and the economy, you’ll be able to increase the amount of freedom and control over your life and career.
Consider some of these ideas as you explore what degree is right for you:
Begin with an honest self-assessment. Reflect on how you choose to spend your free time, the activities you enjoy doing or the topics you find interesting. Look at the qualities and skills that you have already discovered you are good at. Think about the things others compliment you on. After assessing your strengths, investigate possible industries or fields that rely on these interests or abilities. Then compare possible career paths with the talents you already possess.
Ask others. Talk to friends, family members, your school’s alumni and even current students about their profession or experience in a degree program. Learning about their experiences can be both valuable and eye opening; you may find that a career path is or is not for you after altering your perspective.
Do your research. Look at career paths for the majors or degree programs you are interested in. Several websites and career sources, like SimplyHired or My Next Move, offer useful job search tools including salary guides, job trends and filters that help you search for jobs that match your unique education, experience level and skill set. These sites also offer unbiased, insider information, news and advice about companies, industries and specific jobs that can help you make a critical career decision.
Investigate the path to take. Whichever you choose first, the program or the career, it all begins with a degree. Ensure that the degree you are seeking fits who you are as a person, and teaches you the essential skills and aptitude you need to reach your dream job. What you ultimately decide should leave you excited, but if not, you can always change or go back to school. At Thomas Edison State College, you can change your program at any time, depending on how your goals change; our advisors can work with you to evaluate your credits with whatever programs you want. Or, if you want to pick up where you left off, you can re-start a program you began 20 years ago, regardless if it is included in our offerings. In the end, you and your degree should be a perfect fit.
Choosing a career path and degree program may seem daunting as you evaluate potential jobs, development paths and resources, but you have already made the biggest decision you could possibly make. You have chosen to go to college. Ultimately, your degree is what you make of it. And you already have a pretty good head start.
For more information, visit our career references and links resource.
August 20, 2013
We all have different reasons for wanting to return to college. Perhaps it is a personal fulfillment, a message of resilience and determination, or a means to reach that illustrious promotion. Regardless of the purpose, the end goal is the same: you want to earn your degree. You want to finish what you started or take your achievement to the next level.
When it comes to going back to school, you’ve already leaped over the first hurdle. Motivation. That driving force will take you far. Yet, like any significant milestone in your life, you may have a few questions and concerns about returning to college. You have a busy life balancing personal and professional commitments, and we understand this need better than any other institution of higher learning in the world. So if you are thinking of returning to college, ask yourself these questions to assess and prepare for the commitment that will take you to the next level.
What should I expect? With flexible options, you can work towards your degree at your own pace. Depending on your work and personal commitments, you can slow the pace down or accelerate the amount of courses you take in your degree program. The length of time also varies and there are a few factors that can impact how many courses you need to take to complete your degree. One is how many credits you are able to transfer to your new school. Depending on the institution you select, you may also be able to earn credit for professional or military training, professional licenses and certifications that have been assessed for college credit, credit-by-exam programs (such as the College-Level Exam Program (CLEP)) or through portfolio assessment.
Many schools offer programs where there are no time limits on completing a degree and no classroom attendance is required, so pursuing a degree fits in with your life. Of course, taking courses online does not mean the degree program will be easy; the same expectations apply to online courses as they do in a traditional classroom setting. Remember that life does not stop because you are attending college. You must still meet the expectations of work, life and school, and understand any sacrifices you may need to take to meet your goals.
How much time and commitment must I devote? The length of time it takes you to complete your degree depends on the number of credits you bring to your degree program. These issues are determined during the evaluation that takes place after a prospective student applies to college. However many credits you choose to take in a year, recognize that your goals must be realistic. With certain professional and personal commitments, you may not be able to complete your degree in a year. Assess the amount of courses you can reasonably manage in your schedule and progressively move forward.
How can I best balance my school, professional and personal commitments? It all comes down to time management and creating a plan. Develop a routine in a structured environment by setting up certain dates and times to accomplish whatever you need to do. Once you find your niche – maybe an hour after the kids are in bed or a few hours on a Sunday morning – stick to it. Finding the balance between life, work and school will be your key to success.
What will I study? While you cannot choose ‘undecided’ during the application process, you can switch into any program. You are not married to the program noted on your application. Once you receive your academic evaluation, your academic advisor can discuss with you the requirements and help map out any degree program that interests you. Also, if you started a program 30 years ago, we can help you cultivate the same program regardless of our degree offerings.
What do I need to do to prepare? To familiarize yourself with the distance-learning format, you can take an entry-level online course at any community college for a similar experience. As you map out a degree plan, look at a variety of credit options that you feel comfortable with; maybe you prefer to learn in a discussion format rather than on your own, or taking tests comes easily to you. Research what materials you will need to go back to college. Most importantly, discuss with your family the type of commitment you are making – it will affect them all. An understanding, supportive family atmosphere will help you achieve your goal; a spouse helping with the dishes so you can finish writing a paper can feel like a miracle.
Recognizing the expectations required for going back to college will only help you as you navigate the tricky balance of work, school and life. Since no one is telling you to go do your homework, creating a structured environment and routine will help you cultivate the self-discipline necessary to achieve your goals. As you drive your own educational success, remember that, in all efforts “there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.” A very true quote, stated by our namesake, Thomas Edison.
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Featuring stories and information about Thomas Edison State College and going back to college as a busy adult.