Last January, I started back to college after being out for several years and several years before that.
I have a hard time finishing my degree, which I've changed like 5 times since I initially started in 1999. Yes, really, that long ago! I quit after finding out I was pregnant with my oldest, went back, quit again when his bio-father walked out, went back after my youngest was born and I lost my job, quit again when my job wouldn't accommodate to my school schedule.
Fast forward to last year, my mom's health declined. She made me promise to go back to school and give it one last try. She knows I've struggled and how much I wanted to at least get a degree. So I embarked on getting loans and what I owed paid off so I could start back.
10 Things To Do When You Go Back To College a Second Time
Check that the college you're going to attend is accredited and that any courses you take, the credits transfer.
- This is huge, if you take classes, you want to make sure the credits transfer if you decide at a later date to move onto a higher degree at a different college or university.
Make sure you get the most financial aid grants you can before taking out loans.
- If you're still in your Associates Degree or even Bachelors Degree phase, you can and might qualify for grants over having to get loans. You can check that out here at FAFSA
Sit down with a counselor at the college
- Determine if your degree is a right fit for you and work on a timeline.
- Working with a counselor is important. They know what is needed for each degree that they specialize in.
- Most colleges have counselors for each department of degrees (ie. business counselor, medical/nursing counselor, etc) Be honest with your counselor though.
- They can't help you to the fullest extent if you're not honest with yourself and them.
Do NOT overload your schedule.
- Some colleges (like the one I'm going to right now) have incentives to take more than 15 credits per semester.
- Advantage: You get done faster.
- Disadvantage: You're overloaded with coursework, homework, studying, etc.
- Even if you're a stay at home mom like I am, it's a lot to handle. You still have your family, household, plus college. You'll end up burned out and want to quit.
Research your professors before scheduling the course they teach.
- Some are great, some are not so great.
- Others push their own political and religious beliefs on their class and degrade anyone who has opposing opinions (Yes, I had a professor who pushed his own beliefs on the class. I had to drop his class because it was a horrible experience).
- You're not going to have every teacher be a perfect fit, but you'll want to get one close.
- I use the website Rate, My Professor, to get an idea on the professors.
- Keep in mind, some people don't fit well with professors, so read the reviews before deciding yay or nay.
Be prepared, don't just get the bare minimum in supplies.
- At least one 3 subject notebooks for each class
- 1-2 folders (per class)
- 1-2″ binder (per class) – use different colors so you know which one is for which class
- 1 pack (100 count) index note cards (per class)
- Printer Paper, Printer & ink – I love my Epson ET-4750. Since it's an eco-tank printer, I have to buy ink less often, which you will need also. For the Epson – you'll need the black ink & colored ink.
- different colored pens for note taking
- pencils – I like old-fashioned wooden pencils, they break less and last longer, so don't forget a sharpener
- Don't forget also a book-bag that will be able to carry your tablet or laptop you'll need also for your classes. ( I love rolling bags since I have back problems and those books, notebooks, binders, etc can do soo much damage)
- A voice recorder, so I can record class lectures.
Get your books early!
- DO NOT WAIT until the week of or before. If you're getting your books from the campus bookstore, and you wait too long, I can promise that books will be sold out or back ordered. I know, you would think it doesn't make sense that bookstores don't have the correct amount of books, however, people wait for a long time to schedule courses for whatever reason so they schedule, head over to the bookstore and grab up all the books immediately.
- Research to find the cheapest books.
- Renting – It's cheaper and if you don't need the book again, it's the most cost-effective. Just make sure you read all of the rental guidelines.
- eBooks – You don't have to worry about carrying heavy books, you can still highlight, notate, etc… but, some you only have access to for 12 months or through 2 semesters.
- Physical books – he most expensive, but you get to keep them forever (Nursing books, business books, etc can really help in the future), put notes in, highlight until your highlighters don't work anymore and highlight with new ones.
E-mail your professors early for their syllabus.
- I've done this with a few of my classes and it's helped me out a lot. Some have a similar syllabus for each of the courses they teach but change it up for the course section.
- Some syllabus (or syllabi, google is telling me that syllabi are spelled wrong) are written by the department and have to be a certain way.
- Knowing in advance what's expected, what is being done the first couple weeks will help you get a head start on at least the reading and you'll come into class with the knowledge the professor expects.
Get to know the people who sit around you in your classes.
- Chances are if you're doing any type of group work, those are the people who you will be grouped with.
- They are also the ones who you want to have study groups with.
- Get phone numbers, emails, get them on Facebook, etc.
- Seriously, if you need to ask a quick question on a homework assignment, often they will answer quicker than your professor.
Talk to your professor(s)
- Whether you're struggling or not, talk to them.
- They can often wait a few minutes after class and explain a concept you're having a tough time with.
- They can also be used as a reference in the future if you do well enough in their class.
- Talking with them will help them remember your name, face, and how active you were in their class.
Go to open houses, beginning of the semester events, job fairs, etc. Talk with department heads/Deans and have honest conversations with them. You'd be surprised who you can get in your corner when you're having a rough time with life. A lot of time if you explain to the Department Dean the reasoning you're struggling, they can give you tips that helped them.
Don't be afraid of getting tutoring. Tutoring is a huge help and it doesn't mean you're not smart, it means that you just want to make sure you're grasping the concepts in the class. There are different ways of finding tutoring. Check with your college first. Often it is included in your tuition. If it's not included, YouTube tutorials can help, or a website like Alison.
Instead of lugging my clunky 17″ huge laptop around, I used my Samsung Tab 4 8.0.
I bought a case that had a Bluetooth keyboard with it and it looked just like a mini laptop. I could still access my programs, emails, ebooks, etc., but didn't have to lug around a huge laptop all of the time. The only days I did bring my laptop was when I knew I had a few hours between classes so I could do some work at the library, student lounge or coffee shop.
Don't forget after your classes are over, you can sell your books. Shop around to make sure you get the most money back. Often the bookstore at your college/university DOES not give you the most money back. Don't let those books collect dust. Get at least a few bucks back. You're going to need it if you have student loans.