Are you looking to start earning more for your family? Would you like to advance in your field or enter an entirely new field? Maybe you need to expand your skillset.

If you said yes to any of these scenarios, going back to school to earn your degree can help you achieve your professional goals.

But which college is the right one for you?

Figuring this out is hard enough when you’re still in high school. But as an adult, choosing the right college to help you meet your career goals can feel entirely daunting. And this time around, you don’t have guidance counselors or parents helping you with choices. If you’re currently working and taking care of a family, you simply don’t have the time research the 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States.

I’m about to make your life a whole lot easier by laying out exactly those things adult learners need to consider when choosing higher education. And if you read this article all the way to the end, I’ll make finding the right school for you ridiculously easy. Seriously!

Ready to get started? Let’s go…

8 Considerations to Help Adult Learners Choose the Right College

In my experience, having helped countless adult learners head back to school to earn their bachelor’s degree, there are 8 things you should absolutely look for when selecting a college:

  1. Be Certain the School is Accredited

As I mentioned previously, there are well over 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. But just because a school exists does not mean that is offers the best programs. And when you’re an adult looking to advance your career and earn more, you’ll definitely want to get your degree from a college that has been rewarded accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

When a school has been accredited, it means its educational programs have been intensely scrutinized by a group of experts who have deemed the school and its operational systems as having high standards.

Why is Accreditation Important?

There are a few different reasons accreditation is important. To start, many employers look to see whether a candidate has gotten their degree from an accredited school. When you are among a group of finalists for a new position or promotion, every advantage counts.

Secondly, one of the most popular forms of accreditation in this country is called “Regional Accreditation.” This makes it easy for a student, who wants or needs to change schools for any reason, or an adult going back to school having taken some college courses in the past, to take their credits with them, so long as both schools are accredited.

And finally, accredited schools can participate in the federal and financial aid programs, as well as employer tuition assistance. While these programs can help students save, they are not 100% guaranteed. Be sure to read this entire article because I’m going to share how you could potentially save BIG on your tuition bill.

You have a few different ways to find schools that are accredited:

FAIR OPTION: First, you can visit the Department of Education website, which offers a full list of accredited schools.

GOOD OPTION: You may also want to check out the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website. This is the actual agency that selects which agencies can be considered “accreditation agencies” and gives them permission to accredit institutions. I know, it’s confusing but that’s higher education for ya sometimes!

BEST OPTION: And finally, and perhaps the easiest option, is to sign up for free with OnlineDegree.com to search for schools. Our Smartplan offers different filters so you can find the college that best matches your needs, including only those that have been accredited.

  1. Look for Schools That Offer Online Degrees

When you were 18, the thought of going “away” to school was exciting. You wanted to move away from your family, claim your independence, and enjoy campus life and all it had to offer. But as a working adult with a family, moving to another state to attend college is hardly an option.

For a long time, the only option adult students had was to take night or weekend courses at their local community college. This was very limiting as far as program and teacher options, and still required busy adults to commit to an inflexible class schedule.

But thanks to advanced technology, adult learners now have the option to earn their bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree 100% online. This means you can study when it’s most convenient for you and never have to miss a family function. No commuter traffic, no childcare conflicts, no missing classes because you or your kids are sick or your cat needs to suddenly go to the vet.

With online learning, you’ll have access to learning materials 24/7 so you can learn at the best times and at your own pace.

  1. Go for Adult-Friendly Schools

Just as looking for schools that offer online degrees is important, so is looking for schools that are “adult friendly.” What does this mean, exactly?

Well, as more and more adults have begun to head back to college to earn their degrees, some schools have begun to cater to them, tailoring their offerings to meet the specific requirements of adult learners.

As an example, many schools that offer online degrees have open enrollment, which means prospective students don’t need to get their enrollment packages in by a certain tiny window of time. 365 24/7 these schools allow you to enroll into their degree programs.

Adult-friendly schools also tend to offer their older, adult students technical support to ensure easy, seamless learning. Some may also help after graduation with job placement.

  1. Look for Tuition Discounts

I mentioned earlier that there was a better way on how to pay for college tuition than the traditional financial aid or tuition reimbursement and there is. And that is by looking for schools that offer upfront tuition discounts. With these discounts, you can usually save between 5% and 25% on the overall cost of your tuition. Pretty awesome, right?

So how do you find these schools? Easy, sign up free with OnlineDegree.com and we’ll show you exactly which schools offer these discounts. And these are automatic discounts. There is no need to write essays or fill out a bunch of paperwork that is required when applying for scholarships or grants.

  1. Credits for FREE Courses

Another fantastic way to save is by looking for schools that accept credits for courses that you have taken for FREE. If this is a new concept to you, I think you’re really going to like it!

Here’s how it works:

OnlineDegree.com offers tons of fun and interesting courses in a wide range of topics from marketing to computer science, elementary education to criminal justice and more! You take as many FREE courses as you’d like (yes, seriously) and we’ll then connect you with those schools that will happily accept those credits. This will save you not only a lot of money (on top of those discounts we already found you) but also time toward earning your degree.

  1. Duration

When you’re 18, the idea of taking 4 years to earn your degree doesn’t seem like such a long time. But when you’re a working adult who needs to advance their career and start earning more pronto, you want to get that degree as soon as possible!

If you’re interested in earning your degree in the shortest amount of time possible, then look for schools that not only offer online programs, but ones that offer accelerated 8-week semesters, rather than the more traditional 16-week semesters. This will help you earn your degree in a fraction of the time.

  1. Transferring Credits

If you’re someone who started your college degree years ago but then life got in the way, you’ll definitely want to look for schools that will take those credits you already worked so hard to earn. Transferring credits is another way to help you save and earn your degree much faster.

What is the Process for Transferring Credits?

I’ve gotten this question a lot over the years. It’s a fairly simple process… most of the time. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Head on over to your former school’s website and look for the search tool and enter “transcript.” Follow their directions on how you make a request. You’ll most likely have to fill out a form and pay a small fee. They may also ask you some information such as your Social Security Number and the address of the school(s) you want the transcripts sent to.

Many websites now allow you to complete the entire request online, using an electronic signature. But there are still those schools that will require you to contact the registrar’s office and send in a paper request and traditional signature.

What Credits Will Transfer?

Each school will have its own credit transfer policy, but, typically speaking, general education courses, such as English, math and history, are the most transferable. You may find some of your elective courses and others won’t transfer as easily. And remember, if your first school was regionally accredited, you’ll want to be sure the new school is as well.

If you still have questions about transfer credits, just check out the new school’s policy by either looking on their website, in the course catalog, or by calling the registrar’s office.

What are Some Reasons Credits Won’t Transfer?

In addition to your new school not being accredited, there are some other reasons why previous college credits may not transfer. Some schools have a time limit on credits. So if your credits were earned more than 10 years ago, they may not transfer. Other schools may put a limit on the number of credits you are allowed to transfer.

And finally, if your chosen field of study is rapidly advancing, you may be required to repeat some classes to ensure your skillset is up to date. Some fields where this often happens is nursing and computer science.

The good news is, you may also be able to receive credit hours for any on-the-job training and experience you have received as long as it’s related to your major. Be sure to find out what the new school’s policy is on this and ask if they give credit for any professional accolades, credentials, licenses you may have earned.

Once the new school receives your transcripts, they will get in touch with you to let you know how many of your credits they will accept.

  1. Make Sure Books are Included in the Cost of Tuition!

Not many students think about this one, but books can cost an arm and a leg. No one wants to carefully plan and budget their education only to be hit with a nasty surprise down the road. Make sure that the school you are interested in includes the cost of books in their tuition.

OnlineDegree.com Makes Finding the Right College Easier

I told you at the beginning of this article that I was going to make your school search much easier and I am. In fact, that’s actually why I created OnlineDegree.com in the first place. I wanted to make it as easy and affordable as possible for adults to go back to school.

Our platform is 100% FREE for you to use, and it only take a couple of minutes to sign up. Once you do, you gain access to our Smartplan that will help you find schools that offer:

  • FREE courses you can take for credit
  • Schools that offer tuition discounts
  • Schools that are “adult friendly” and offer flexible enrollments and course schedules
  • Schools that don’t require SAT or ACT scores
  • And much more!

We’d love to help you reach your career goals, so head on over to our signup page and get started today!


About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.