Better late than never is a phrase that I have used may times in my life but in 2018 it has taken on a whole new meaning. As a 39-year-old woman, I decided to go back to college and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I graduated from a community college in 2000 with a Certificate in Computer Applications. At the time, I figured that was enough for me to enter the workforce and fast. I could always go back to college later and pursue a higher degree, right? Well, here I am, but how did I get here?
One of the first steps I had to take was deciding if I wanted to go to an on-site institution or take classes online. When I attended college before, online education was not available. The choice was easy to make back then but going back now – I had options and lots of them. So, what has caused a shift towards online education and what is the driving force behind adults going back to college later in life?
Online education has grown exponentially over the last decade. “Recent data and studies released indicate that while overall enrollment in online programs grew by 30% over the past 4 years, there was a 110% increase in the number of online programs and a 130% increase in schools working with online graduate programs.” (“2017 Online Education Trends”). Access to technology, globalization of universities, modernization of curriculum, and financial assistance are a few examples of how online education is achieving success. There are many factors that one must consider when researching online degree programs. I had to find an institution that would allow all online courses with no classroom requirements. With over 50-degree programs, “4,646 total enrollment, 2,111 undergraduate, and 2000 online students” (“National Center for Education Statistics”), The University of West Alabama was the most logical choice for me.
It is hard to believe that I have almost completed my first semester of online courses. Six weeks prior to beginning class, I got a new job and shortly after I relocated. There were so many changes in my life at once and starting college again after nearly eighteen years was scary. Learning a new job, working overtime, going to school, and dealing with the logistics of moving was hectic. Friends and family questioned why I was still pursing college if I had the job that I wanted. I even questioned myself at times, especially when I logged over eighty-one hours of study time for one course. This was something that I have always said I would do if the timing was right.
One of the benefits that my employer offers to its employees is tuition reimbursement of up to $5,250 per calendar year. This is a benefit that many take advantage of and most of them take online courses. In my department alone, there are four online college students out of the twelve people.
As the shift to online education has evolved, more and more people are headed back to class or virtual classrooms. The demographics have also changed with adults making up a large portion of college attendees. Making the choice to go back to school as an adult can be both exciting and intimidating. Many adults are nervous that they don’t have time or won’t be able to keep up with the material. However, succeeding at school is about dedication, persistence, and hard work, not your age! “In 2014, there were approximately twelve million college students under the age of 24 and 8.2 million college students 25 and older.” (“7 Reasons More Adults Are Going Back To School”).
Career advancement is one of the biggest reasons that most adults consider going back to college. In some instances, one may have started their bachelor’s degree right after high school but was unable to finish. Or, maybe they did finish, but would like to continue to get a master’s degree. Either way, securing these degrees will open the door for many career opportunities. In the competitive job market, a formal degree can make the difference between hiring a candidate with one and overlooking one without the degree. I have heard there is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a diploma in your hand from a university to let you know that you’ve achieved something great. Even if you’ve faced challenges in life, going back to college is a great way to boost your confidence. If you aren’t going back to college for yourself, there’s a good chance you’re doing it for your family. People who go to college immediately after high school often don’t know what they want to do and are more interested in socializing than studying. As an adult you have the life experience and responsibility to take your education seriously, making it much more likely that you’ll succeed this time around.
Education is an invaluable asset whether you are 18 and fresh out of high school or 39 years old and wanting to further your career. I encourage everyone to take that leap of faith because it could be one of the best decisions that you will make in your life.