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Deciding a Major

There was a time, not so long ago, when a college or university education was seen as something only the young and fresh-out-of-high school did. It was rare to see an adult among the students and now it's not uncommon to see people in their 50s, 60s and older returning to school.

Adults returning to school have been categorized as non-traditional students. Non-traditional students are becoming so common that many campuses are catering to this demographic with a variety of financial aid options, specific programs and flexible learning options.

Ways to Return to School

Colleges and universities realize that adults don't have the same low-responsibility lives they may have had right out of high school. They may have families or other jobs that make it difficult to sit in a traditional classroom for traditional lectures or exams during the day. That's why many post-secondary educational institutes have expanded college-experience options to make furthering an education more practical for returning adults.

These options include auditing courses (no course credit is received and assignments or exams are not required), intercession classes, summer classes, night classes, employer-sponsored training programs (often done during work hours), online classes and instructional television (ITV) classes.

There are also distance learning opportunities for adults who are comfortable in an online environment. These types of courses can be available from your local community college or university or one in another state. Distance education can be presented by ITV, Adobe Connect, Blackboard or in other ways. Some colleges specializing exclusively in distance education diplomas offer paper-only instruction with occasional phone help if needed.

Things to Consider

It's important to take the time to carefully choose what you would like to study and the post secondary institution you would like to attend. As an adult, you don't have the luxury of the extra years of a recent high school graduate and a mistake is major selection could be costly, both in time and money.

You should consider what your ultimate goals for returning back to school are. Figure out how much time you can realistically spend studying. Determine the length of time you're willing to put in to further your education. Are you looking for something you can finish in months or are you willing to dedicate years?

Consider the costs. Find out if you're eligible for grants or scholarships. Is the provider's accreditation important to you? It should be. And if you're not sure of a college or university, especially those that provide distance education, make sure you check their accreditation. One place to check for American college accreditation is the American Association of Community Colleges.

Assessing Your Interests

Determine how you would like to use your added education. Is it for personal enjoyment, interest or fulfillment? Do you want more education so that you qualify for a specific occupation? If you're not sure what type of occupation you would like to do, every university has a career counseling office that also offers counseling to non-traditional students. You may be asked to complete personality assessments or vocational assessments, just like a younger student. But the counselor may also take into account your past work experience and any education you currently have.

Is It Worth the Effort?

Assessments of your personality might come up with vocations that aren't marketable enough at this stage in your life. You need to choose a major that will give you the most return on investment. As an adult, you probably don't have the luxury of going to school just for the sake of going to school. It's not a social event like it might be for some new high school grads. You need to choose a major that will provide optimum potential outcome, meaning your investment in your education needs to make you more money and provide you with ways so you can further your career.



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