1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

12 Steps Toward Your College Degree

It's Not Too Late to Get Your College Degree


If you continue to wish you had your college degree, stop wishing. It's not too late, no matter how old you are. You don't have to do it on your own. All kinds of help is available for the asking. Start with these 12 steps.

1. Decide If You're Ready to Go Back to School

Student by W P Smith - Getty Images
W P Smith - Getty Images

Going back to school sounds glamorous, but it’s really a whole lot of hard work. Are you ready? Make sure you know what you want and have the support you’ll need in place before you set out on your new adventure. The articles below will help.

Then write down your goal. Did you know that people who write down their goals are more likely to succeed in realizing them? Here's how to do it: How to Write SMAART Goals

2. Choose a Degree

Professional Certification by Steve Cole / Getty Images
Steve Cole / Getty Images
Once you’re sure it’s the right time to go back to school, make sure you know exactly what it is you want to do with your degree so you know which degree to get. That sounds obvious, but it’s an important step.

What do you want to study?
What will you do with your education?
Are you getting the right degree for the job you want.

3. Take a Few Career Tests

Student with Laptop by Nick White / Digital Vision / Getty Images
Nick White / Digital Vision / Getty Images

There are assessments and quizzes available to help you figure out what you’re good at and what you like to do. Do you know your learning style? It can help you determine the best way for you to go back to school.

4. Make an Appointment with a Career Counselor

Teacher by Comstock - Getty Images
Comstock - Getty Images

Career counselors are available in almost every city and at almost every school. Check your phone book, search online directories, ask your local librarian for help, and, of course, inquire at your local schools. If you don’t like the first counselor you meet, try another. Finding someone you like and can relate to will make your search so much more enjoyable. It’s your life you’re talking about.

5. Choose Between Online or On-Campus

Student Thinking by Comstock - Getty Images
Comstock - Getty Images

Now that you know what you want to do and which degree you’ll need to do it, it’s time to decide what kind of campus is better for you, a physical classroom or a virtual one. There are benefits to each.

  1. Is cost an issue? Online courses have different costs than traditional courses.
  2. Do you learn better in a social setting? Or do you prefer to study on your own?
  3. Do you have a quiet place at home and the technology you need for online learning?
  4. Is there a local school that offers the degree you want, and is it convenient?
  5. Are you the kind of student who needs face-to-face time with your teacher?
  6. Do you have reliable transportation if you choose to learn on campus?

6. Research Your Online Options

Woman and laptop by Geri Lavrov - Getty Images
Geri Lavrov - Getty Images

Online learning is becoming more and more popular every year. While it's not everyone's cup of tea, it's perfect for busy adult students who are self starters and have busy schedules.

7. Research Your On-Campus Options

Arkansas State University-Mountain Home
Arkansas State University-Mountain Home

There are a lot of different kinds of schools out there. You have options depending on the degree you’ve chosen. Learn the differences between colleges, universities, and technical, community, junior, or vocational schools. Find out where they are in your area. Call and ask for a tour, a meeting with a career counselor, and a catalog of courses.

8. Make it Happen

Javier Pierini - Getty Images
Javier Pierini - Getty Images

You’ve chosen a school, and in the process of choosing, you may already have met with a career counselor. If not, call and set up an appointment with the Admissions Counselor. Schools have room for only so many students, and the admissions process can be rigorous.

About.com has a college admissions expert to help you. Visit Allen Grove’s College Admissions site and learn What Schools Look for in a College Applicant.

9. Come Up with the Cash

Sharon Dominick - Getty Images
Sharon Dominick - Getty Images

If you’re lucky enough to have a little time before going back to school, you may be able to take advantage of some of Ken Clark’s advice on his Saving for College site.

If you’re ready for school now, financial aid is available in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and other creative means.

10. Dust Off Your Study Skills

Reading by Dimitri Vervitsiotis - Getty Images
Dimitri Vervitsiotis - Getty Images

Depending on how long you’ve been out of school, your study skills might be a tad rusty. Brush up on them.

11. Improve Your Time Management

Driving by Jim Vecchione - Getty Images
Jim Vecchione - Getty Images

Going back to school is going to require some shifting in your daily schedule. Effective time management will ensure that you’ve got the study time you need to get good grades.

12. Take Advantage of Modern Technology

Student at home with laptop by pbnj productions--Getty Images
pbnj productions--Getty Images

Those of you who are Baby Boomers have seen a lot of technological change in your lifetime. You’re probably more adept at some of it than others, but at the very least, if you’re going back to school, you need to be competent on a computer.

Questions or Comments?

If you have questions or comments regarding this article, please visit the forum and post your question. There are lots of people in the same boat who would love to share ideas with you.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.