If you’re thinking of going back to college, the considerations below will get you started. Thinking about these may not be easy, and uncertainty is okay. Being aware of the many choices and researching them to identify those that fit you best, is a challenge for anyone returning to college.

GOALS

The reasons for obtaining a college degree are very personal. They may include professional growth, a new career, personal satisfaction in having completed a goal, or to be a role model. You are the only person who has the right answer for you!

  • CONNECTING CAREER AND EDUCATION GOALS

www.MyNextMove.org and www.ONetOnline.org can help you connect your education goals to your career goals.

  • WHICH CAREERS ARE GROWING? HOW MUCH DO THEY PAY?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics helps you compare professions on the basis of the size of the workforce, projected employment growth, compensation, the education needed for an entry level position, and opportunities for self-employment.

SUPPORT

A supportive social environment is critical to your degree completion: people who believe in you, who will help in a pinch and who will protect your time for studying and classes. Identify and locate your supporters, at home, at work and in your community. Ask your support network for help and line up the resources you need. Make a Graduate! Rhode Island advisor a part of your support network, by contacting Graduate! Rhode Island.

OPTIONS

Degrees can be obtained in many different ways! Options now include:

  1. Online, in-class and hybrids where you will be in a classroom with classmates and the instructor and be expected to do substantial work online as well.
  2. Accelerated programs offer courses that last about eight weeks instead of fourteen, but deliver the same amount of learning. Accelerated programs often have courses that start every five or seven weeks, so your courses may not run concurrently. Adult online courses rely on engaged interaction with classmates and the instructor, either in real time (synchronous) or at a time that is convenient to the student (asynchronous.)

FINISH FASTER WITH PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENT 

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is a method of evaluating what you have learned outside school for college credit. Your past experiences and knowledge (from work, the military, volunteering, and other sources) may already account for skills that you would have learned in the classroom. If you can demonstrate this knowledge at the college level, some  institutions in Rhode Island will award college credit for what you already know. This can save  you time and money.

COST

While the media often highlights the plight of recent college grads with thousands of dollars in student debt, in our experience, these cases are not as common as the media would have you believe. Adult students rarely incur such vast debt. There are many affordable college options for adults in our state, and most adults still qualify for federal and state grants and subsidized loans.

  • Read more about your options for paying for college.
  • Private loans should be a last resort as they have fewer consumer protections.

ELIGIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL AID

Adults can and should apply for all federal and state financial aid grants and loans. To determine your eligibility and start the process, visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website at: www.fafsa.ed.gov. Remember: FAFSA funds are replenished each year on October 1st (new in 2016) and are allocated on a first come-first served basis, so it literally pays to file early. You will need to have your tax return completed before you file your FAFSA.

DEFAULTED LOANS

If you have defaulted loans from previous college attendance, it doesn’t mean you cannot pursue returning to college. You will need to make nine (6 to 9) payments on your defaulted loan to be considered for enrollment. Payments may be much lower than you expect. To find out about the status of your student loans and/or eligibility for a loan rehabilitation program, you can call 1-800-621-3115 (Federal Student Aid) or visit https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/default

MORE FINANCIAL RESOURCES 

There are many scholarship sites and some will require you to pay or give information up front. You should never have to pay for information about a scholarship. Finaid.org is a reputable scholarship site that also contains information about loans, scholarships and savings.

EMPLOYER ASSISTANCE

Ask your employer if you are eligible for tuition benefits and reimbursements that can help you with tuition and related costs.

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