So you want to go back to school: Successful strategies for selecting a school and a program of study Dr. Kurt R. Linberg, PhD Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce 2011 Professional Development Series February 2, 2011
Overview You’ve made the decision to go back to school to either complete a degree that you started or enroll in a graduate program. That is the easy part! Now it’s time to address the following: Should you pursue a certificate or degree? How do you choose the right program for you? How do you prepare a solid admission application? How will you be able to balance all your responsibilities? How will you pay the tuition? Tanabe, G. and Tanabe K. (2007). Adult students: A painless guide to going back to college. Belmont, CA: SuperCollege
Disclaimer Unless otherwise stated, the statements, opinions, and content of this presentation are from Kurt Linberg and should not be seen as the views of Kurt Linberg's current or past employers.
First, Why? You have been passed over for a promotion that you deserved. You want to start a new career. You are hungry for a challenge. You have always had a personal goal to complete your degree. From my experience, working adults must have a passion for pursuing the advancement of their education. It’s a lot of work! What is your passion?
Some poor reasons I am bored at work and there must be something else I can do. I want to please my (spouse, parents, boss, etc.). I have some personal problems, maybe I can focus on something else like getting a degree. I have financial problems, maybe I can use the financial aid to help pay for some of my other expenses.
Nothing worth having is easy... “All life is based on the fact that anything worth getting is hard to get. There is a price to be paid for anything. Scholarship can only be bought at the price of study, skill in any craft or technique can only be bought at the price of practice, eminence in any sport can only be bought at the price of training and discipline. The world is full of people who have missed their destiny because they would not pay the price. No one can take the easy way and enter into any kind of glory or greatness.” – William Barclay
What is a degree worth? In a lifetime, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million. Those with a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million. Those with a master's degree, $2.5 million. Those with doctoral degrees earn an average of $3.4 million, while those with professional degrees do best at $4.4 million. http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf
Accreditation The importance of region accreditation: Example: Higher Learning Commission of North Central Quality oversight of institution (e.g. AQIP) Credits will transfer if move from area or “stop out” Degree will be honored if pursue higher educational credential Consideration of additional differentiation via Professional accreditation Technical degree accredited by Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) Business program accredited by ACBSP or AACSB.
Online Learning Online learning continues to improve and grow in popularity (Per Sloan 2010 report, over 5.6 million students taking online courses fall 2009 term). Convenient, but not easy! Successful online learners are dedicated, write well, stay on schedule, and can handle technology challenges. Better fit for goal-oriented and learning-oriented students (Rossman, 2002) Some schools offer 100% online programs, some “hybrid” or blended online and traditional. What are your thoughts & experiences with online learning? Rossman, M. (2002). Negotiating Graduate School. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Narrowing your list… Depending on your interest, there may be 1000’s of potential schools. 1st pass: 24+ candidates 2nd pass: 7-12 Use selection criteria to get list to 7-12. Narrow the funnel to 3-5 for in-depth research. 3rd pass: 3-5 As a working adult, you have never had more opportunities for advancing your education. Be Selective!
What degree program and where? 1st Pass Review college directories, like http://www.petersons.com Go to the school website, review course catalogs, study learning outcomes, job placement information, and look at faculty info. Schools should be regionally accredited, and possibly professionally accredited. Ask peers and your supervisor for their thoughts about the degree programs and the reputation of the schools. Are classes offered so that I can attend school and still work (evening, online). Note tuition for the programs.
What degree program and where? 2nd Pass Visit schools Attend information sessions How many students are enrolled? How many have graduated? Chat with current students or recent alumni Confirm reputation of the school Understand requirements for the degree and typical time to complete Compare total costs for degree program
What degree program and where? 3rd Pass Is there a strong alumni network? How many alumni are working in careers related to their new degree? How much are they earning? Are there remedial classes and other support services? Will previous college credits or prior-learning experience be accepted? How long has the college met the special needs of adult students, either in-class or online? Do you feel welcome into a community of adult learners? Is the total cost reasonable, compared to the perceived value? How helpful is the financial aid office?
Admission Application Schools and programs have different admission requirements, so understand the content and the due dates. Are there admissions exams, like the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? If so, study and give yourself lead time.
Is an essay required? If so, prepare an error-free essay that clearly covers all the required content/format AND shows your determination for successfully completing the degree program. Why will you persevere? What will you do with the degree once you earn it?
Is an interview required? If so, treat it like a job interview.
Reference letters … official transcripts from other colleges? Get started early so they arrive on time.
Figure 1 below shows an example wheel of life with example "dimensions" (we'll explain how to choose the right areas of life or dimensions for yourself below).
Work-life-school balance I have worked with many students that had the skills, knowledge, and talents to complete a college degree, but were not successful. Why? Attitudinal issues (~10%) Mental or physical health issues (~10%) Work-life-school balance issues (~80%) http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_93.htm
Maintaining Balance Get spouse (or significant other), kids, and parents, to support your decision and understand the impact on family time. Get support from employer (e.g. can you study during lunch breaks?). Eliminate all unnecessary activities (e.g. TV). Make tough decisions to free up other time (e.g. golf) Dedicate specific blocks of time to study (productive time). Learn how to say “No”. Learn how to ask for help. Stay healthy!
How will you pay? Consider employer tuition reimbursement Use a portion of your personal savings Research scholarships or grants that you could apply for (e.g. http://scholarships.com) Research federal or state retraining programs Pursue financial aid (school and/or federal) Private loans
Your Dimension Of Greatness No one can know the potential,Of a life that is committed to win;With courage - the challenge it faces,To achieve great success in the end! So, explore the Dimension of Greatness,And believe that the world CAN be won;By a mind that is fully committed,KNOWING the task can be done! Your world has no place for the skeptic,No room for the DOUBTER to stand;To weaken your firm resolutionThat you CAN EXCEL in this land! We must have VISION TO SEE our potential,And FAITH TO BELIEVE that we can;Then COURAGE TO ACT with conviction,To become what GOD MEANT us to be! So, possess the strength and the courage,To conquer WHATEVER you choose;It's the person WHO NEVER GETS STARTED,That is destined FOREVER to lose! ~ Author Unknown http://www.cybernation.com/victory/youcandoit/poems.php
Q&A Dr. Kurt Linberg, Dean, School of Business and Technology at The College of St. Scholastica firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: dr_linberg LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kurtlinberg Blog: http://kurtlinbergblog.com