It seems like high schoolers are prepped for college from as early on as junior high. Guidance counselors and teachers sit down and go over future goals and aspirations. From there, college suggestions and prep classes can help students prepare for a post-secondary education. But as an adult, going back to school can be a bit more challenging. Use this college prep checklist to stay on the right track.
Set Some Goals
Your current goal is to further your education and expand your knowledge base. Now is the time to take a closer look at the degree you’re aiming to get and what kind of job awaits after graduation. Say you’ve always wanted to be an artist; is it really going to be lucrative enough?
Study your top three career choices. Which one shows the most growth? Are the projected income levels in your desired range? What about hours and demographics? Can you work this job without having to plan a big move (or are you looking to move)? Connect the dots and make sure you have a goal in place before signing up for classes.
Look at Your Existing Employee Benefits
Now is an excellent time to dig into your existing employee benefits handbook. Does it say anything about tuition reimbursement or paying for higher education coursework? If it doesn’t, it may be beneficial to talk to your manager or someone in human resources to see if the policies have been updated. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement as a benefit. Even if it’s a few hundred dollars, every amount helps.
If you’re married, you should also check your spouse’s benefits package. Some companies help employees and their spouses with tuition reimbursement.
Take a hard look at your finances. Do you have money set aside for college or trade school? That’s great! If you’re unsure how you’re going to pay for schooling, you need to get a plan in place. Taking on a side job is one option. Borrowing money from family is another.
Use caution with home equity or personal loans that have high rates and bad terms. Never go into extreme debt to pay for college.
Apply for Financial Aid
Applying for FAFSA, your first step toward financial aid, should be at the top of your to-do list. The eligibility report will give you a clear picture of how much assistance you’ll be able to receive. You may also want to apply for student loans and other low-interest options to help offset tuition and school-related expenses.
Utilize Grants and Scholarships
Once you select a school, talk to the institution’s guidance counselors right away. They should be your first point of contact for getting the rundown of grants and scholarships that apply to you. Eligibility often varies: your age, background, or even where you live could work to your benefit. Each grant and scholarship is unique and offers a slightly different type of assistance.
You can also search for free money for college on your own. Remember: there is no limit to how many programs you can apply for at any given time. Just watch for deadlines and specific requirements for each one.
Congratulations on taking the next step to improve your future! No matter where the road takes you, be assured that the ride will be an adventurous one. The next phase of your life is going to be exciting. With a little preparation, you’ll have everything needed to start off your college journey with ease.