The Top Five Things You Should Look for in a College When You’re Middle Aged

When you’re returning to school in the middle of your life, you are already facing challenges. You’re not a typical student who juggles studies with the frivolity of youth. You’re juggling the demands of your current responsibilities…job, mortgage, and possibly parenthood…while also trying to further your education. But you’ve made the decision to improve your career chances by finishing or advancing your degree, and that’s a noble goal. When looking for the right college to pursue your dreams, here are the top five things to keep in mind.

Location
This is necessary to consider since you’re likely rooted in your current job and mortgage. Going back to school at middle age doesn’t mean taking off to the college of your dreams. It means finding a college close enough to your current location that makes it feasible and practical to attend.

Flexibility
Because you are not in a position where you can attend class all day and party all night, make sure the college has viable options for non-traditional students. Things to specifically look for include the availability of evening and weekend classes, possible online classes, and even correspondence classes that allow you to complete courses of study on your own time.

Affordability
Financing college is always a concern, no matter when you decide to attend. Look into grants, scholarships and loans that may be available to you, but also make sure that you choose the most affordable path. Your goal in attaining a higher degree is also to attain a higher salary, but don’t set yourself back by amassing a huge student loan debt. Remember, because you are in your middle years, you will not have as much time to pay off debt as when you were younger. You don’t want to negate the positive outcome of higher salary with the negative of higher debt.

Accredited
While this won’t be a problem with most state sponsored schools, it is worth checking to see that the college you choose is accredited for the degree program you are pursuing. Accredited colleges have been peer-reviewed by a board of experts that say this college meets all the requirements to provide meaningful degrees in the topic area.

Welcoming to Non-traditional Students
Because more and more people are entering college later in their lives, many colleges have adjusted their course offerings to accommodate non-traditional students. This includes the ability to set a flexible class schedule, as well as academic counseling support for the unique challenges of older students. You should also check into the ability to transfer credits from any earlier academic pursuits as well as alternative admission options for older students.

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