Returning To College Is A Family Affair
by Theresa V. Wilson, M.Ed.
The level and quality of family input and support are often ignored when planning a return to college. Even with money and learning confidence, family backing and emotional support are primary ingredients to success. This article provides points to consider before embarking on any college bound venture. Don’t let your initial feelings of self doubt persuade you to change your mind before you begin. These points are meant to encourage you to be creative, think beyond the box, eliminate “tunnel vision,” and to master the possibilities as a self starter ready to attain your college diploma and be successful in your career.
Have You Prepared A Plan Based On Your Decision To Go Back To School? Deciding to go back to college is exciting, challenging, and stressful. An ideal way to approach “Back to College” planning is to begin viewing yourself as an entrepreneur. You are now in the business of attaining a college education. Your company name is called MY COLLEGE EDUCATION, INC., and you are President/CEO. Part of your first steps in this business venture is developing your business plan which includes your mission statement, objectives, and strategies for success.
- Mission: My College Education, Inc. is dedicated to insuring that (Your Name) will complete his/her college education with the least amount of stress, anxiety, and pressure.
- Objectives: (a) to prepare a projected annual budget, detailing tuition, books, and fees; (b) to investigate a variety of financial aid sources; (c) to prepare home environment, family, friends, and associates for the lifestyle adjustments; (d) to develop and adapt time management strategies and techniques; (e) to determine which careers best suit your needs. Personalize this section and add other objectives.
- Selecting Your Learning Setting: In this new technological age there are several worthwhile educational vehicles to consider. You may feel the traditional on campus setting, with opportunities for interaction with the instructor and other students, a preferred choice. To help you make your selection, www.ecampustours.com is a web site that provides virtual tours of various colleges in addition to detailing college planning information. In addition, www.newsdirectory.com/college offer a list of college web sites by state.
Another option is using the Internet for Distance Education, which is an electronic learning system that connects learners with educational resources. All resources, scheduling, instructions and testing takes place online. Students are not required to be in the same location as the instructor. The purpose of distance education is to extend learning opportunities to areas away from the traditional classroom. It is a supplement, not a replacement to classroom instruction and should be used as part of a combination of educational programs. For additional information visit and explore the Distance Education Clearinghouse web site at http://www.uwex.edu/disted/home.html
Do You Have Family Support For Your Decision To Go Back To College? Because this is a home based business, its operations, development and progress affects more than one person because of the changes in environment and living conditions. Many home based businesses falter because owners fail to take into account the adjustments that naturally occur when working out of the home. Before embarking on any “at home” business take the time to explore the idea with all involved.
Make a list of advantages and challenges together with your family members. Especially when children are involved, be sure to include them in this important phase of planning. Discuss “do’s” and “don’ts” when the parent is on “college work time”. Clarify “quality time,” so that you diffuse resentment of changes in lifestyle patterns. Make sure everyone “buys in” and understands the concept and procedures of a work at home business. Most importantly, develop assignments and projected needs so that each family member has an opportunity to participate and support the “back to college” agenda. In doing so, family members and those close to you are encouraged to have a sense of shared ownership in supporting the college bound individual.
How Will You Know If You Are Ready? Deciding to go back to college is more than a run-of-the-mill idea. One important consideration is selecting something not only of interest to you, but is also something you are capable of doing. It should be a area of concentration for which you are willing to study and develop a high level of expertise. For some, it may be only a matter of taking additional courses in order to qualify for a degree or certification status. Others may need specific courses for professional and/or career interests or to perfect a hobby or craft practiced over the years.
It is important to never decide to enter college based on new untested areas or depending on ideas or interest of another. If you have not fully developed your idea, take the time to investigate and explore it from various viewpoints. Take the time to research your topic and write a vision for your back to college plan. It might also be worthwhile to attend one or two college information sessions or review web resources like http://www.collegeplan.org/bcksch/bkschool.htm, a site specifically for adults returning to college. Often these overview sessions are offered to adult returnees as part of evening (after work) information seminars.
It is important to keep the family involved in this early stage of college planning by inviting them to attend with you. Remember two heads are better than one and their observations could prove helpful as you make an assessment of the college program. You also encourage continued family partnership in the college planning and development.
How Much Money Will You Need? As stated earlier, the amount of money needed for starting your college career depends. Imagine it was a business with products and services. A bridal business, for example requires low overhead costs. A computer and printer, telephone, file cabinet, paper, pens, etc. are some of the basic start up materials needed. However, arts and crafts, floral arrangements, or gift baskets will demand purchase of items needed to prepare the products for sale. The same applies to applying college planning and projections.
Budget projections are an important ingredient to college planning process. The results will determine whether you can elect full or part time status, whether you will attend year around or elect Fall and Spring sessions only. Individual semester tuition, books, and fees can vary per semester depending on instructor requirements. Check resources on line for an overview of what to expect http://dir.yahoo.com/Education/financial_aid/ and http://www.back2college.com/library/finad.htm are great places to start. By detailing, analyzing, and projecting expenses, you can provide a more realistic view and alleviate unnecessary stress.
Once you’ve decided the career interest (Nursing or Public Relations, Computer Technology or Architecture, Pharmacy or Art) you will be able to develop financial projections based on beginning supplies and text materials, general expenses and estimated income. Planning income strategies and cutting costs can create a need for additional family discussions. What luxury items must be sacrificed or “tabled” during the business start phase? What family vacations will be delayed or eliminated and for how long? Maintaining up front and open family conversations at the beginning of planning phase can help eliminate unnecessary disappointments later.
Do You Have A “Support” Group? Who are your cheerleaders? A niche group is a small group of people who have a particular interest in what you are doing. It is important to be specific about your ideas and decision to return to college. Take time to develop a description of people you feel will support your efforts and will be receptive to the ideas, goals and objectives you’ve planned and developed. These people become your “niche” or part of your “insiders” circle.
Look closely at this support circle. They will become very important during those times when the challenges of succeeding seem insurmountable or hopeless. When the term paper is due and there’s been an additional assignment on the job or a temporary illness affects your opportunity to complete an assignment, you will need people who will help and encourage you or make you feel better. Your goal is to have your business viewed as offering something of benefit to others. Take the time to evaluate your choices then decide what type of people will be of most benefit to you. They will be your niche support group. Encourage them to share ideas and include them planning and development process.
Will You Be Successful? Your level of success in going back to college will be measured based on the amount of input and time you invest. It will be enhanced by the quality partnerships you develop with people as close as the kitchen table. If you include your family in the very beginning of the planning process, they will be your foundation of support and encouragement. They are key assets and will be your first line of support during those challenging times. Going back to school is a family affair. Including your family increases your chances for success.
A former non profit executive, Theresa is a full time freelance writer and small business owner (www.meetingtheneeds.org and www.renewingyourhealth.org). Her bylines are in over sixty on and off line publications, and she is president of the local chapter of the American Christian Writers Association. Theresa has recently completed her first manuscript entitled Master of the Seas: A Life In The Lord and she looks forward to its publication. Contact Theresa.