Going back to school can for many be a scary, yet worthwhile experience. Earning that "piece of paper" can make a significant difference in their professional or personal life i.e. the achievement of a lifelong dream - but the idea of returning to school after a long absence can present quite a challenge.
In my own experience it was the fear of failure that caused me to question my decision to go back to college. For others who have spent the last few years within the workforce and not in a classroom, they may be concerned about either not fitting in or with being stuck with people that they are unable to relate to.
If you have decided that retraining is the best option for you, than the following guidelines will get you started on the path to completing your education.
Take an inventory
· Are you going to college for the first time or re-entering after an absence?
· Are you currently working or are unemployed?
· Would there be funding available for this program?
· Are you able to take the course on a FT / PT basis or through distance learning?
· Do you have any potential prior college credits you can apply to the course?
· What impact will returning to school have on your family life?
Keep these questions in mind as they will help to guide you and maintain a healthy dose of reality when looking at the different options available.
Define your educational goals
Why do you want to go back to school? Is it your goal to change careers, grow professionally, or finish a degree program started years ago? By focusing on your motivation, you can best define your educational goals. Personality and Interest assessments such as Career Cruising and the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey are available to help pinpoint interests and help you identify occupations best suited to talents and temperament.
Another good resource is the Canadina National Occupational Classification Codes which is available for access online at (http://www23.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/). The NOC includes an overview of a wide range of professions as well as the education and training required for those chosen careers.
Search the Web
The majority of school boards, colleges, universities and training organizations have their own personal website. Accessing these sites can help you to research online courses or traditional programs, find out how to get credit for life experience and information on whether you qualify for financial aid. You can also brush up on forgotten study skills and read motivational articles about others who are successfully returning to school. Finally there are also a host of recommendations online for best-selling books and guides for those looking into retraining.
A lot of schools and colleges also have Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts so you are able to get the answers to some of your questions quicker as well as being able to see what current and past students are saying about them.
Take a Tour
Many colleges and training organizations offer student orientations or campus tours before the start of a semester. Sometimes there is an orientation especially for non-traditional students. These orientations often include information about campus resources, re-entry services, study skills and stress management tips. They also help familiarize you with the campus and provide assistance with other important issues you may need to address while continuing your education.
Finally - What will be the best outcome for you?
Only you can truly know the answer to this question, everybody has a different capacity for learning and how they prefer to learn. It’s only by comparing multiple schools that you will be able to figure out which one has the best environment for you.