Going back to college after being away for a period of time can seem overwhelming. People talk themselves out of the experience because the preliminary application process is cumbersome and tedious. If you stay organized and understand what’s in store it may seem more manageable. The following are steps on how to approach the process of going back to college.
Finding a School: Why do you want to return to college? What program or degree are you interested in? These two questions must be answered before you find the right school. Do you have colleges and universities in close enough proximity to you that a commute is feasible or will you be relocating?
If you have schools in your vicinity the change in your lifestyle will be much less traumatic. If not then you must search for a school. College search websites aren’t complete with all information for all schools but they do give you enough of an overview to make a start.
Every school has a website. Take your time studying the degree requirements and the school’s approach to the course of study you’re interested in. Take note of the school’s location if it’s going to constitute a move for you. Is this some place you want to live for the duration of the degree? Look at the local Chamber of Commerce website to help you answer that question. After you’ve made a decision it’s time to tackle the application.
Applying: Most, if not all, institutions of higher education have online applications. You may also request or print the application to mail in. An fee must accompany all applications. This is usually $50 but occasionally may be more. If you choose to apply online you can do that right away and charge the application fee. Make sure you have names, addresses and dates of former schools you’ve attended.
There are always supplemental documents to submit which include transcripts, possible letters of recommendation, possible statement of purpose or some other form of personal statement, and resumes. Make sure you take note of the deadline for application materials. This is a non-negotiable date and it’s always better to get your documentation in well ahead.
Each school has a different way of accepting supplemental materials so make certain you know what those are. To obtain your transcripts from former colleges, again, go to the college website and find their guidelines for transcription requests. Try looking on the pages for the Registrar or Student Records as a start or search under “transcript request”. High school transcripts will probably require a phone call to the school.
After You Are Accepted: Presuming all has gone well you have been admitted to your favorite school and are looking forward to beginning your degree program. Make sure you go to the college website and read through the financial aid information and requirements. Some need a separate application specifically for the school and you will always have to complete the FAFSA.
The FAFSA asks for a multitude of financial information so get your ducks in a row before you tackle it. This includes bank account information, property information, wage information and tax information. It’s long and comprehensive but it will tell you if you’ll need to get outside funding to attend school. Check the FAFSA website for deadlines as well as checking the financial aid application deadline for your school. Don’t forget about scholarships. Your new school will have information in their financial aid site regarding how to apply to any available scholarships.
The steps necessary to go back to college are many but when that acceptance letter arrives and you feel as if your future is more secure it all seems worth it. Enjoy your time at school!