Should you go Back to School?

December 11, 2012

The inspiration to put this post together came when I called my friend last week. She is 39 years old and mother of three beautiful kids. She mentioned that she is going back to school and sounded very excited. I was excited to hear that as well but wanted to make sure she had figured out all the details first. Since we are very close friends I asked her questions like, why she wants to go back to school, how is she planning to pay for the tuition, what about her current job or does she know what she would like to do after completing school and most importantly does her husband support this idea of going back to school. The answers I got wasn’t very convincing that my friend has done enough research, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to study or how she is planning to pay.

There is no doubt that school is expensive. With tuition so high, it is very important to plan before going back to school. You will be investing both money and time; therefore, it is critical that your investment makes sense.

If you are planning to go back to school then here are few tips that may help with your decision.

Why you are going back to school.

Knowing why you want to back to school is very important. Is it for career change, is it because you want something to keep you busy, is it to improve your skills so that you can get a promotion, or is it because someone close to you has decided to go back to school and you want to as well. Whatever the reason, you need to evaluate each one carefully and determine, does it really make sense. Is it worth the time and money that you will be investing?

Finance.

How are you going to pay for your classes? Are you going to pay yourself? Or are you going borrow a loan? If you are going to pay yourself then it is important to create a budget. You need to make sure your cash flow is positive. If your expenses are more than your revenue then it would create an issue. It is also important to discuss with your spouse. If you are working then check with your employer and see if they offer tuition reimbursement. If so then get all the details and take advantage of this opportunity. Make sure that the program that you are planning to take is approved by your Human Resources department.

If you are planning to take a loan then make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and it gives your access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. FAFSA becomes available in early January each year and there are different deadlines for different programs. So make sure your visit the website www.fafsa.gov and get all the details. After you have submitted your FAFSA, it will be determined if you qualify for a grant or special program to fund your education. Or if you qualify for a student loan – you may qualify for a low-interest student loan and you won’t have to begin payments until you have completed your studies.

Family and School.

How are you planning to balance your family, school and work (if you will still be working)? Are you going to take online classes, evening or day classes? Are there any family commitments that would need to be shared – like picking kids from school, taking them to piano lessons? It is important to get all these straightened out first otherwise it will get really hectic once you start classes.

Going back to school is not an easy decision. It needs discussion and thorough planning in order to make it a success!

Please share your thoughts and experiences.

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