If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking for some time now about going back to school, either for the first time or to pick up where you left off. For me, the unfinished business of earning my degree has been like a pea under my mattress. Over the years I’ve watched one person after another start taking classes, always thinking to myself, “man, I really need to do that, too” only to return to my routine. The next thing I know I’m congratulating yet another person on finishing their degree, at that moment realizing, “wow, I would be finished by now, too.”
The reality is, there will never be a perfect time to return to school. But that doesn’t mean that earning your degree is beyond your reach. Heading back to school takes organization, balancing life’s existing responsibilities – kids, work, spouse and, most importantly, patience and support from those around you. Things in your life will need to shift to accommodate coursework. Not unlike when my son was born, at which point I had to set aside a few hobbies because he took priority. I had to approach my degree in the same manner.
As a first step, do your research. With a soon-to-be 3 year old son and a full-time job as a solution architect and team leader of a group of developers, I quickly realized that finishing my degree online was the only realistic solution. I had previously shied away from online programs, thinking the quality of the materials and instruction would be subpar compared to ground schools. However, as I researched online programs, I found that certain options offer the same curriculum and instructors as the ground schools but with the advantage of being refined for better online consumption.
As you research, check out rankings from sources like U.S. News and World Report and ask colleagues and friends and about their experiences. And while rankings can provide insight into the quality and prestige of the degree, I found the selection and variety of programs from which to choose was incredibly important. I also learned that, for some schools, there is no distinction between online and on the ground – not only do they offer the same coursework, but the same degree.
I was able to find a degree program that feels tailor-made for me. As a Graphic Information Technology major, the coursework merges my personal passions with the right training and content for real world application. This program will enable me to advance in my career and do so with enhanced skills and a greater impact than I would have otherwise had.
For me, my degree will serve as a launching pad. My classes are already making a significant impact on both my personal and professional life. I am learning helpful new tools and approaches that are helping me succeed at my current job – which serve as a great reminder of why I’m on this journey in the first place. While the decision to head back to school is certainly not to be taken lightly, I recommend setting aside a few personal projects and going for it!
Photo by Katherine Bass