Education can be defined as the facilitation of learning and the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, and habits. In today’s modern society, the ways in which people learn and access information have grown exponentially, and we are exposed to new topics, ideas, and perspectives almost daily through our access to the internet, social media, and the constant cycle of streaming news and television. The skills required to be a relevant 21st-century participant are ever-evolving and being adaptable to this ever-changing environment is necessary in order to keep up with the way the world is trending today. Being educated is more valuable today than at any other point in history, and what it means to be educated has never encompassed more than it does today.
A Lifelong Journey
Nobody ever really stops learning; We are exposed to new information daily, whether we choose to acknowledge and engage with it or not. Whether we encounter new facts, new perspectives, or new skills, learning is omnipresent and luckily for us, the human brain is like a sponge – it absorbs everything.
Embracing this journey opens oneself up to endless possibilities and awakens us to new opportunities that can take our lives in any number of directions. Our biggest ally on this quest is technology, as daunting as it may be for some – because of advancements in technology, learning platforms have never been more accessible to every single one of us as they are right now. Taking advantage of what is literally at our fingertips today is the first step in recommitting oneself to improvement through education.
Whatever You Want to Be
We tell our children that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up and that the key to their ultimate success is through education. However, as adults, we tend to fail to walk that walk. Why are we so hesitant to take our own advice and heed our own warning?
As we advise the younger generations, earning a degree (or multiple degrees) yields more money. More money provides us with a more stable, more satisfying lifestyle and opens more doors for us in terms of life experiences – asset acquisition, travel, property ownership, etc. Our self-imposed expiration date for when this widely-accepted reality is no longer attainable is our own biggest roadblock – if you want more money and are desiring a greater degree of success, then the advice you would give a high school student pondering their future is the same as the advice that should drive your own actions. Further your education, earn a professional certificate, graduate from a degree program – recommit to being a professional learner and stay open to where that journey will ultimately take you.
Reasons Why You Should Consider “Going Back” to School
Below are several reasons why you should consider a return to learning:
- A variety of learning platforms
Because of the digital evolution, “going back” to school doesn’t necessarily mean going anywhere. With online classes, distance learning, and the emergence of accredited online schools and universities, the possibilities are endless when it comes to what learning module is right for you and your current lifestyle. Enrolling in an education program – whether it ends in a certificate, college credits, or an actual degree – does not mean what it once did, back when you graduated from high school and headed off to a college campus and your classes became your full-time job. The ability to continue to work full-time and take classes in and around your current professional schedule makes going back to school a much more viable option than it ever was before.
- A flexible schedule
Online and distance learning provides a greater level of flexibility and enables students to study at their own pace. This fluid course schedule meets the needs of all learners and is malleable to all lifestyles. The rigidity that many of us encountered back in our underclassmen days – where we were stuck taking prerequisites at 8:00am on Monday mornings – are no longer the norm, and oftentimes the duration of a course is self-paced, meaning you can take as long as you want and complete your coursework whenever you want.
- The opportunity to earn more money and change your career
Let’s just call it what it is – work is about earning enough money to support the lifestyle that you want and need. Feeling professionally fulfilled isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive to this fact, but at its core, people work to earn money. With the world around us constantly changing, it is important to keep up with the skills that are necessary in order to survive and thrive in today’s job market. Taking classes isn’t just about learning content – skill development and trade acquisition go hand-in-hand with memorizing facts and mastering subject matter information. How to access information – resources available to learners, new perspectives needed to make meaning of material, reading, writing, and communication skills, etc – is just as important as learning content, especially in today’s society. The skills learned through organized educational programs are most often transferable to real-world applications and can make you more marketable as a professional employee.
- The availability of more “stuff”:
There is more available to us today than there was in the decades prior, and exposure to things that we never learned before can help us as people to discover more about who we are and what we value in our own lives. Personal growth and self-reflection can be enriched by taking a class or enrolling in a program about a subject matter that we had never even considered before or that wasn’t yet available to us as learners when we first went to school. Human geography and the sharing of ideas and perspectives have opened up countless new learning paths and the opportunities to submerge ourselves in content that we never even thought to consider before can enhance our lives in even more meaningful ways.
How to Take the First Steps
Things always seem too overwhelming in the beginning, until we take that first, manageable step to actually do the thing that we are fearful of starting. In addition to considering all of the benefits outlined above, take the following first steps as a way of beginning the process of becoming a student again, all of which will help make the process less daunting and more tangible:
- Explore your options
As previously mentioned, there are a variety of learning environments available today. It is important to invest time in exploring all of your options and investigate all programs thoroughly and carefully. Doing so will give you a greater sense of control over the process, enabling you to choose the right learning platform for you. Whether you choose a brick and mortar school, an online degree program, or a self-paced blended learning classroom, understanding the pros and cons of each will help you gain a better understanding of the level of commitment this process will take – both in terms of money, time, and product. This will also help you set realistic goals for yourself and give you a better sense of a timeline from start to finish so that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Organize your finances
Don’t break the bank to make your dream of returning to school a reality. There are plenty of financial options out there – whether it’s finding the right program at the right price, applying for student loans, or meeting with a financial advisor – doing your homework and understanding exactly what the cost of this new adventure will be is an important step to take so that you aren’t overwhelmed by this commitment and so that you have a realistic understanding of the impact that this will have on your life and finances today.
- Seek out information about other adult learners
If you are feeling apprehensive about returning to the classroom due to your age, seek out information about other older students who may be enrolled in the same school and/or program. Whether through talking to an advisor or an alum, demographic information about student populations are more readily available for those who wish to know, and better understanding the social environment of the program that you are thinking of joining may help you feel more comfortable and confident in your ability to be successful.
- Build your support squad
Having a solid support team is important in all aspects of life. People that you can rely on for help and support, advice, money, or those that will just listen to you when you need to get something off of your chest – these people will be even more valuable to you as you begin your education journey. Network with your family and friends and let them know what you are thinking of doing and what you will need from them to help you get through it all. Maybe one of them will join you? Perhaps you will inspire a friend to enroll with you, making the prospect of going back to school less daunting because you won’t be doing it alone. Either way, having a support system is important, and being proactive and upfront with them about your anticipated needs will be helpful for everyone involved.
Trapper Keepers may no longer be around, but investing in the tools needed to stay organized is just as important as it was when Lisa Frank was the queen of back to school. What are the tangible, physical tools that you will need in order to stay organized and feel like you are prepared to face this change? Calendars, highlights, tablets, notebooks – all of these items can help get you in the mindset of being a student again and will be helpful to have readily available and on hand to start the learning process. “Dress for the job you want” is great advice when returning to life as a student, especially if you’ve been away from the world of formalized learning for a while. Reintroducing yourself to the habits you’ll need to be a successful student is a good place to start to get your head in the right space to take on this new challenge.
You Can Do It
The most important thing to keep in mind as you begin the process of going back to school is that you can do it. Believing in yourself and finding a program that is right for you and your life today are the most important first steps to take as you embark on this journey of self-growth and invest in yourself and your future.