6 Questions Adult Learners Should Ask About Returning to School


This is it: You’ve made up your mind. This is the year you’re going to go back to school to finish your college degree/take that continuing education course you need/earn your master’s. Congratulations!

As you get started, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all of your i’s dotted and your t’s crossed. That means you know exactly what you need to do regarding enrollment, transfer credits, online options, and financial aid. If it’s been awhile since you last stepped into a classroom, some of these details may be a little fuzzy. The best way to be crystal clear and move ahead on your path is to meet with an advisor at your chosen school and ask as many questions as possible.

To make it easy, we’ve prepared a list of top questions adult learners should ask about returning to school. All you have to do is print it out and take it with you.

1. Which Test Scores and Application Materials Do I Need to Apply?
If you’re in the process of applying to go back to school, the first thing to do is find out what materials you need to have to apply. Gathering transcripts and letters of recommendation can take time, so get started as soon as possible.

You also need to check in regarding standardized tests: Which ones does your program require? For some tests, previous scores can be used, but only for a certain amount of time. For example, the GRE (the exam required by many graduate schools) test score is good for five years, so you may not need to retake it.

2. Do I Have Credits Hiding Out Somewhere?
This is a big one, because it can save you time and money when you head back to school. If you took any kind of post-secondary courses, from a math class at your local community college to a certification program at a trade school, find out how many credits you have and if you can apply them to your current program. The best way to get started is to obtain a transcript and have it reviewed by a program advisor. He or she will be able to tell you how many of your previous credits can be transferred over.

3. What Kind of Night, Online and Weekend Options are There?
Class structures have probably changed since the last time you were in school. Make sure you ask your advisor about all the class options, from regular classes to online to nighttime to weekends. A mix of all of these might be the best fit for your busy schedule, and make going back to school easier than you imagined.

4. What Are the Time Commitments?
Your advisor should be able to give you a clear idea of the time commitment estimated for each course, including homework. This should help you determine what your work schedule will be while you’re in school, as well as if you want to go full- or part-time.

5. Are There Internship or Other Practical Requirements?
It’s important to ask your advisor what kind of internship or practical work experience will be included as part of your program, especially if you’re going for a masters. You want to make sure your program is going to help you get the kind of background and hands-on learning you’ll need to succeed in the workforce after you graduate. (It’s also a good idea to ask your advisor about specific course requirements, so you know exactly what you’ll be studying.)

6. What About Financial Aid?
Even though you’re not fresh out of high school, you’re still eligible for financial aid.  Don’t forget to check out scholarship options as well, as there are plenty for adult learners. Check out this page to get started.

What other things do adult learners need to think about before they go back to school? Add your thoughts in the comments below!

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at myFootpath.

About the Author: Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages.

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