Choosing the right Type of University for Older Students

Thinking of going back to school? Are you older, have kids and a family along with a full time job? Well that was my life and I can tell you if nothing ever overwhelms you, the thought of committing yourself to four years of school can within minutes . The financial aspect of school along with the time you would have to give up were areas of concern and reasons for my panic attacks.

Choosing a school today is made easier by websites like google or myspace since you can go on and search for opinions from people who are already attending classes. Typically if there are real issues with a school like fraud or lack of leadership the students will have talked about it on the web.

In addition to searching the web for articles or discussions on schools you have to determine what kind of environment you learn best in, is it a classroom or by yourself with some guidance. For me it was the self taught. I liked the idea of going to school on line once the kids were in bed and I could take the time to focus on my studies. The flexibility with on line learning opened up an opportunity for continued education that a typical University could not provide since I wasn’t willing to give up countless hours during the evening to commute to and from school to attend classes.

The college I chose was Kaplan University. They have several different distance learning degrees to choose from. I chose a Bachelor program for Business Management/Applied Management. Some of the outstanding characteristics of this school that was appealing were the desktop arrangement. Everything you would ever need neatly placed on your desktop when you logged in to the University. It had email contacts for the staff (counselors, teachers, and fellow students), it had your degree program (which would show have many classes you had left and what grades you had gotten so far), your current classes along with a place to register on line for the next quarters classes. This sure beats standing in line at a registration office on campus or trying to schedule a meeting with your counselor.

In addition to the great desktop arrangement, Kaplan sends you your books or signs you up for e-books on line. So there is no running to the campus bookstore and spending a ton of money. The books are included in your tuition. What a time saver?

Time management is one area that I loved but the professors at Kaplan University were another. They not only guided you through discussions each week, but were available (most day or night) through AOL instant messenger or email. Some even gave us their personal numbers so we could keep in touch after we went on to other classes. One professor actually contacted me after his class to encourage me to go into international finance, because he thought I was made for it. For him to take the time to talk to me about my future, my strengths and how to go about it made a lasting impression.

Not only were the professors wonderful and the flexible schedule nice but another thing our family got used to was the year round school. I’m not saying it was easy but together we made a decision that going to school year round was the best and fastest way for me to finish. Unlike traditional Universities, on line schools typically only take a few short weeks break in between quarters. It is enough time to rejuvenate yourself but not enough to loose your focus. My family used to joke that they knew what week of school it was by what we had for dinner. Our typical quarter schedule was four weeks on, a week break, four more weeks on then two for finals. If we were in school my family ate frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs or sandwiches but let a break come and they had real food like meatloaf, roast or fried chicken. They would joke with family and friends that it was back to regular food again once Mom was off a break.

This family unity is what helped in completing the four long years while holding down a full time job, two kids and other responsibilities. Without the flexibility of school, the financial aid (loans that were deferred until after graduation) and a supportive family it would of been much harder to finish my goal of becoming a college graduate.