by Dawn Papandrea
The time has finally come – you're once again heading back to the classroom, either to finish what you started, or embark in a whole new career direction. So what should you expect this time around? After all, it's been over a decade since you took notes, crammed for an exam, or wrote a term paper. Luckily, with age comes wisdom that can be translated into the modern classroom. Check out 13 perks of going back to school as a 30-plus student.
1. It's all about you.
Day in and day out, you're taking care of things for other people – the kids, your spouse, your aging parents, your boss. But at the heart of your school journey is a personal and individual goal, and every time you crack open your books, you earn some "me time" extra credit.
2. Schools want you.
Gone are the days when adult students had to rearrange their whole life to attend class. Today's schools know that you can be busy and dedicated to lifelong learning, which is why they offer a variety of flexible options from night and weekend programs to accelerated degrees to courses that can be taken completely online.
3. Grownmay get a head start.
All of those years of work experience can pay off in the form of credit for prior learning. If you've received corporate training, done volunteer work, or had other unique life experiences, you can see if your school of choice will let you skip some introductory courses. That may involve creating a portfolio, taking an exam, or other requirements, but you'll be a few credits closer to your degree completion.
4. Reap instant rewards.
Often, if you're attending school as an adult, it's to launch a new career or advance professionally. If that's the case, completing your degree can directly result in a new job title, a raise, or other professional rewards.
5. Help from the government.
There's no question that going back to school costs money, but Uncle Sam will help lighten your financial burden a bit with The Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. The tax perk is designed to encourage adults to follow their back-to-school dreams. Read all about it at IRS.gov.
6. Get an instant career boost.
Oftentimes, schools host events and provide many free resources for those wise enough to take advantage of them. For instance, a career services office can help you retool your resume, on-campus job fairs can connect you with local businesses, and guest speakers can enlighten you with tons of industry insights. Staying after class can pay off!
7. Read between the ROI lines.
Yep, it's perfectly OK to expect a return on your educational investment. Just consider these Census Bureau statistics: Those with a bachelor's degree earned around $26,000 more per year than those with a high school diploma in 2008.
8. You can work your work connections.
So many companies have tuition reimbursement policies in place. Does yours? Even if it doesn't, inquire as to whether or not your employer would be willing to help finance your education.
9. No more writer's cramp.
Taking notes by hand is so 1990s! As an adult student of today's digital world, you'll get to plug in and log on as you learn, whether it's taking notes on your laptop or tweeting with your professor. Embrace the change, and get ahead of the technology curve among your own peers.
10. You have "what you know now" on your side.
The immaturity that sometimes goes with the territory of one's college years won't get in the way of your success as an adult student. After all, you've been out in the real world, you're spending your hard-earned money, and you have clear educational and professional goals (not just parents who are forcing you to go to school!). Self-motivation is the adult student's biggest asset.
11. Lead by example.
What better way to teach your children about the importance of an education that by letting them see you in action as a student? Model good study habits, do homework together, and celebrate as a family whenever someone – even you! – brings home a good report card.
12. Classmates equal connections.
Among the benefits of going back to school is the opportunity to connect with like-minded students in your industry of choice. You never know where that next job opportunity or client connection will come from, but since it's often about who you know, get to know your fellow classmates.
13. You're not alone.
The fact is there are more nontraditional students working toward degree programs than ever before. In fact, 15 percent of those enrolled in college as of 2007 were students age 35 or older, as reported by the Census Bureau. In other words, stop worrying about being "the old guy" in class – chances are you'll fit right in.