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Going back to school is easy

If you’re worried about being an adult in college - stop.

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by Kaitlyn Heisick

Once upon a time, jobs in this country used to thrive in manufacturing and industry. Now outsourcing and foreign competition has left many working adults thinking about going back to school, but the idea can seem daunting. Adults often worry about whether their skills or finances are up to the task. Not to mention being the oldest person in a classroom.

But college isn’t just for kids anymore. According to the Census Bureau, students over 35 now make up as much as 15 percent of college students nationwide. Bonnie Isaacson, non-traditional student advisor at UWEC, says returning to education is always a good investment.

“Even when the economy is down, it’s a good time to be in school,” she says. “In three or four years, when your degree is finished, the economy will probably have turned around.”

Nearly every barrier that used to keep adults from college has been broken. Childcare is available for those with families. Night classes and online options allow you to work around a busy schedule. There’s financial aid programs just for nontraditional students. So how do you get started? Let’s break it down.

Define Your Goals: Figure out what you want from your education. Are you ready to get a degree? Or would you rather just test the waters? Many colleges, including UWEC and Stout, offer “special student” programs that allow students to try out the university without progressing toward a degree. Isaacson offers a one-credit class designed specifically for introducing adult students to UWEC. If you’re still not sure, contact a career counselor for more information.

Look at What You Have: Have you been to college before? Laura Weisenbeck Dragseth, community relations coordinator at Globe, says nationally and regionally accredited university credits can transfer differently. Credits from a state university will likely carry over to other UW schools, even if you have been out of college for years. In some circumstances, UWEC can forgive poor grades from previous semesters. CVTC also has a work experience program where on-the-job training at your place of employment can count for credits. 

Pick a Program: If you’ve made it this far, you probably want a degree. Is it an undergraduate or graduate degree? Globe University offers two masters programs online. How about a major, minor, or both? Also look for test requirements. Students older than 22 do not need to submit SAT or ACT scores to UWEC, but they must take university placement tests regardless of age. CVTC requires the COMPASS assessment for entry into all programs.

Pick an Institution: Once you have an idea about what program you want, it’s time to look at specific universities. What are the benefits to a community college versus a state university? If time is an issue, look for places that offer evening or night courses in your field. Call a representative or look at a website from the contact information listed below to answer your questions.

Don’t Forget the Big Picture: The most important factors are usually finances and family, Isaacson says. How are you paying for college? Look for scholarships for your situation or degree. Will you need childcare or married housing? Talk to your family and friends to make sure they support your commitment. 

Jump In! If you’ve decided that college is definitely for you, get in touch with your university of choice. Most have a non-traditional student representative who will be able to help you plan it all out. If you need specifics, Weisenbeck Dragseth suggests contacting an admissions representative who can help walk you through the application process. 

There you have it. Whether you’re looking for a job change or enhancing your skills for the one you already have, college might be the right way to go. You might even get invited to a party. I mean, study session.

WHO TO CONTACT

    UWEC
    Non-trad website: UWEC.edu/nss
    Call 836-3259 to set up an appointment with Bonnie Isaacson

    UW-Stout
    Website: UWstout.edu
    To request info: 1-800-447-8688
    Email: admissions@uwstout.edu

    CVTC
    Website: CVTC.edu
    Get started checklist: CVTC.edu/pages/1206.asp
    Phone: 833-6200
    Email: InfoCenter@cvtc.edu

    Globe University (Eau Claire)
    Website: EauClaireGlobeUniversity.edu
    Phone: 855-6600
    Have a rep contact you by email

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