Choosing the right college can feel like a daunting task. Get it right and you set yourself up for major success. Get it wrong and you pay the price, sometimes literally, down the road.
According to a National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report, more than one-third of college students transfer schools before they ever complete their degrees. And some of them will transfer more than once!
Why is this a problem?
Well, transferring to another school can extend the amount of time it takes you to earn your degree and makes the entire process more expensive as well. If you’re an adult student with professional and family obligations, added time and cost is simply not an option – you need to choose the right school out of the gate.
Don’t worry, we’re going to make what seems like a difficult task incredibly easy for you by sharing the 10 things you need to consider in order to choose the right school for your needs. Oh, we’ll also share how you can save thousands of dollars on the cost of your tuition.
Sound good? Then keep reading!
What Makes a Great School for an Adult Student?
What may make one college attractive to a high school graduate may not pose any real benefits to an adult learner. As an example, younger students are apt to care about the layout of a campus and the social activities available. But adult students, who work full-time jobs and have family responsibilities, will be more likely interested in tuition costs and flexibility of class schedules.
While other considerations are important for an adult student to be successful in college, choosing the right school is definitely top of that list.
When a school has all of the right pieces, we say it’s Adult-Friendly.
10 Things You Must Consider Choosing a College
So with that in mind, here are 10 absolutely crucial considerations for adult learners to choose the best college:
1. Think Non-Traditional
When you’re 18, moving halfway across the country to attend a traditional school full-time makes complete sense. After all, you can finally get away from your parents and annoying siblings.
But how many adults can just pick up and move across the country to earn their degree?
The reality is, earning a degree through a traditional standing college is not convenient or practical for an adult learner. Luckily, online degrees have completely changed the pathway to higher education.
As an adult student, you’ll definitely want to select a school that offers you the ability to earn your degree online. Some schools offer a hybrid or blended learning format, while others allow you to study fully online.
As an adult student, earning a degree online means doing coursework when it’s most convenient for you. It means spending a Saturday in your PJs on the sofa studying instead of driving to the next town for a weekend class. It means never having to miss work, your kid’s basketball game, or Monday night football.
And, perhaps best of all, online courses mean you can progress toward your graduation at your own pace and in a timeframe that makes sense given your job and family responsibilities.
A traditional classroom setting simply can’t provide all of these benefits so your number one priority when hunting for schools must be to find one that offers online curriculums.
The reality is, most traditional colleges simply don’t offer adult students enough opportunities to save or lower the cost of their education.
Adult-Friendly colleges DO!
Want to hear a frightening statistic? Americans own over $1.56 trillion (that’s trillion with a “T”) in student loan debt. That’s roughly $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.
With tuition costs and fees continually on the rise, there doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight for students looking to earn their degree. At least not via a traditional brick and mortar college.
Sure, in theory you can spend hours applying for scholarships that most likely won’t be awarded, as thousands of students do each year. But when you consider the time spent applying for these scholarships and grants vs the return on your time and effort, the scholarship math just doesn’t add up.
With over 8000 schools available to you, why choose a college that’s going to help put you in a ton of debt? You need to choose a school that will avoid that heavy debt burden, and enable you to save.
So, How Do Adult-Friendly Colleges Help You Save?
Most of the Adult-friendly colleges understand that adults are in a different financial position going back to school as opposed to a high school student. That high school student can justify the debt over the course of a lifetime, while adults need to be more thrifty in how much they spend given all of the obligations and responsibilities they already have. As a result, many of these schools will have far more competitive tuition rates to help you get there!
Free Courses for Credit
Most people don’t realize they can take college-level courses online that could earn credit towards their degree before they even enroll. This could both lower the price of college and help you potentially finish more quickly. In my purpose to help make college more affordable and accessible, I created OnlineDegree.com where you can take as many college-level courses as you’d like…online, from anywhere, at your own pace, for FREE. You can learn about business, psychology, programming, marketing and many more from top professors around the country. We’ve then worked out relationships with top Adult-friendly universities across the country who can give you credit for the courses you’ve finished. Complete the courses, enroll at the university, save time and money.
It’s also a little known fact that there are ways to save towards universities through tuition discounts. No scholarship applications, no applying for grants, etc. A tuition discount immediately lowers your total cost of education without having to write a single essay.
Where do you find these amazing discounts, you ask?
As part of our mission to make college more affordable for adult students, we’ve also organized numerous discounts at colleges and universities across the country.
How much extra can you save with these discounts? Our discounts typically range between 5% to 25% depending on the school and could equate to a huge amount of savings. And, as a bonus, you don’t have to spend hours applying for them. They are all available to you when you register for free.
3. Accreditation is a Must
Chances are you and your family would never consider taking a medication that was not first approved by the FDA. Why? Because you know that medications approved by this government agency have gone through rigorous testing and scrutiny to ensure your safety.
Accreditation works a bit the same way. Institutions that have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have been given a specific seal of approval. These institutions must comply with rigorous standards and undergo an annual review in order to achieve accreditation.
So basically to be accredited means that an institution is doing everything in its power to ensure all standards and student needs are being met.
Now you may be assuming that accreditation is a requirement for all higher education institutions, but it’s actually 100% voluntary. So it’s important that you do your homework to make sure you choose a school that has been properly vetted by the CHEA.
Most employers will only consider candidates who have earned a degree from an accredited college because they want to ensure those they hire are adequately prepared to work in their industries.
4. The School’s Transfer Policy
Many adult students are returning to school after taking some time off for personal or financial reasons. Some may have begun their college coursework previously and have already earned some credits.
A key part of choosing the right college is to make sure they have fantastic policies for prior transfer credit. This can be very helpful and shorten your journey, provided you choose a college that accepts previously earned credits from places like community college or OnlineDegree.com. Some colleges will even translate workplace competency into transfer credits.
So, how do you find colleges that have great transfer credit policies??
As part of our mission to make college more accessible, we’ve done some of that help for you. We’ve identified the best Adult-friendly schools and partnered with them to allow our students to transfer their credits, making their path to earning their degree that much faster.
Why spend more time earning your degree than you have to? The faster you graduate, the quicker you can advance your career and start earning more!
5. Graduation Rates
Accreditation will give you an indication of what an official agency thinks of the college. But what counts even more is whether or not the school is able to prepare and support students enough for graduation.
How do you determine this indicator? By looking at the school’s graduation rate.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), graduation rates indicate the percentage of students who were able to complete their program within a specified time frame. At first glance this may not seem to be an important indicator, but consider the fact that colleges with low graduation rates end up hurting students more than helping them, as those who don’t graduate end up with a mound of debt and no degree to show for it.
The NCES reports that the six-year graduation rate for full-time, first-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree in 2010 was 60%. The numbers aren’t so good for adult students, with only 33.7% completing their degree in that same time frame.
Be sure to check out these numbers for the schools you are interested in. They can be an incredibly good indicator of whether or not the school has enough resources to support the needs of adult learners.
And speaking of…
6. Support and Resources for Adult Students
Since most adult students will want to leverage the flexibility and cost savings of nontraditional learning formats such as night classes and online courses, it’s important that they inquire as to whether the school offers academic resources to support these nontraditional formats.
While younger students attending regular campus classes can simply stroll into an academic support center during regular daytime hours, adult learners don’t have that same luxury. So it’s highly beneficial when on-demand resources are provided.
Find out what kind of adult student support services the school you are interested in offers. You may find some schools offer web-based tutoring and provide writing and design support for your classroom media projects.
The bottom line is, the more help available to you, the more chances of your success!
7. Assisting in Your Post-Graduate Job Search
Many adult learners choose to go back to school in an effort to change career paths. This means once they’ve completed their coursework and obtained their degree, they’ll need to look for employment opportunities in their new chosen field.
Some institutions are committed to supporting their students not only during their academic journey, but also their post academic journey. Check to see if the school you are interested in has a career services department. This department will be able to assist students and alumni in their career planning and exploration processes. They will generally help you do everything from put together a strong portfolio, practice interview techniques, learn how to network, negotiate salaries and more.
You may also want to see if the school offers any potential internships or field placement opportunities that could lead to possible job opportunities once you’ve graduated.
Are you seeing a theme here? Your best bet is to not only look for affordable schools that offer flexible learning formats but also ones that go above and beyond to support adult learners who are on a path not just for a degree, but for a better life!
8. Accelerated Programs and Flexible Schedules
As their name suggests, accelerated programs allow adult students to complete their coursework in a shorter amount of time. So rather than a full semester or quarter, your coursework may be completed in as little as five to eight weeks. This is a fantastic option for adult students who are eager to start their advanced classes sooner and obtain their degree faster.
We touched on the importance of flexible learning schedules, but it bears repeating. Adults students have family and work responsibilities that keep them very busy. This makes it almost impossible to stick to a traditional classroom setting.
Luckily, online degrees allow these adult students to learn whenever it’s convenient for them. This means you don’t have to fit your busy schedule around your coursework; instead, you fit your coursework around your busy schedule.
You can learn anywhere and at any hour of the day: at 6 a.m. before the kids get up, on your lunch break, or in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. You never have to worry about missing a class or missing an important life event. This aspect of online learning is absolutely priceless.
9. Degree Programs You’ll Love
Adult-friendly schools offer online programs that are career-focused and super interesting. This is huge since the degree programs are designed to meet your goals of helping your work aspirations and goals, and piquing your intellectual curiosity as well.
Some degree programs we like are broad in nature (so you can apply it to a myriad of job opportunities) and help you in growing fields where demand for skilled labor is happening. Three great categories are Business, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice. For example, Bachelors in Business Administration…it can apply to so many different careers in human resources, finance, law, and much more. How about Healthcare Administration? Another great one for executives in the growing healthcare field. The news always talks about demand for doctors and nurses, but forgets how important the business side of the healthcare industry is as well. Finally, check out the super exciting field of Criminal Justice. Law Enforcement is hiring, and they offer positions with immense job satisfaction and tons of interesting topics like investigations, forensics, etc.
10. Technical Support 24/7
Imagine the following scenario:
You’ve spent hours in front of your computer completing your oh-so-important mid-term assignment. With a feeling of accomplishment and a plan to go out for a celebratory meal with the family, you click “submit” to hand it in.
Nothing happens! Well nothing except you get a sickening error message.
While an online education is, without question, the most convenient and affordable way you can earn your degree, life sometimes throws you technical issues and you will need a school that provides its adult students 24/7 technical support.
With solid tech support, should any problem arise at any hour of the day, you simply call your tech team to help troubleshoot the problem. When you’re working hard to earn your degree, your technology should be working just as hard to support your efforts!
Choosing an Adult-Friendly College Helps You Succeed
This all boils down to the following…Adult-Friendly schools are key.
Not just on paper, but their real and full commitment to helping adult learners: online, accredited, transfer credits, adult support, etc. The difference in the offering compared to a traditional campus is critical to an adult learners success, and should be paramount in how you choose your college.
Now that you know what to look for, your search for the perfect college should be that much easier. We’ve tried to help you with that as well. As part of our mission to help more adults go back to school, we’ve identified top Adult-friendly schools, partnered with them, and created pathways for potentially receiving credit and discounts to lower the cost and time of your degree. We want to make sure affordable higher education is a reality for adult students.
If we can help you on your journey, get started in only 60 seconds. You’ll be introduced to institutions who share our mission of supporting adult learners on their quest to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to reach their potential, advance their careers, and give their family the life they’ve dreamed of.
What are you waiting for? Now that you have the insider knowledge, take the steps to earn your degree today!