Never too late to learn

As my last class in my final semester of the graduate school program I’ve been working on comes to the end, there is a lot to finish up. I have to complete the last work on a 40+ page communication plan that has taken about 3 months to develop. It involves close to 75 research references, analysis of survey results from over 500 respondents, and creation of a PowerPoint presentation that I have to present via Zoom to classmates, professors and advisors.

All while running the blog, my social media accounts, and all the other things in which I’m involved.  Plus, focusing on my biggest responsibility … my 3 children.

Why? Why pay for the privilege of adding pressure to my life?

People go back to school for a lot of different reasons. Maybe they want a degree, credentials or expertise to better their chances of a promotion or pay raise at work. Could be they want to make a career change. They might have been laid off from the they had and have to acquire other skills.  They might have retired after 20 years in the workforce and want to now work in a new field, or fulfill a longtime dream they’ve had.

For me, there were the same 2 motivations for each of my forays into graduate school education. One – To actively increase my knowledge and understanding related to an important endeavor in my life. Two – To learn, because there is always so much I don’t know about so many things.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.

According to statistics I found, enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions by students age 35 and up increased 23% between 2000 and 2014. It’s projected that number will increase another 20% between 2014 and 2025. That’s a projection of higher numbers than those projected for younger students.

More options

You don’t have to get a degree in order to expand your education.

There are a lot of amazing certificate programs available to people now, offered by everything from community colleges to nationally known Universities. I personally completed a couple of that type of programs. I spent 2 years in a program for nonprofit management through Johns Hopkins, and about 8 months completing a certification program in genealogical research through Boston University.

Both programs were conducted entirely online – and that was before the pandemic made distance learning, Zoom and other meeting platforms a widespread experience.  Distance everything has included distance learning for even the youngest children, so what used to potentially be intimidating has become commonplace. If you want to further your education but you’re juggling work, health, family, all the other responsibilities in your life, the obstacles for returning to school in a traditional classroom may just be impossible to overcome. Distance learning and virtual classrooms solve that problem.

The certificate programs typically last from about 6 months to 2 years and can be attended full-time or part-time. They are offered in a wide variety of subjects. Health care, fundraising, journalism, management, statistical analysis, computer graphics, digital marketing … The range of offerings goes on and on.

Community colleges are a great place to look for extremely affordable certificate programs.  An increasing number of four-year universities also are offering certificate programs. Typically within a department titled something like the “College of Professional Studies” or “School of Continuing Education.” Even Ivy League schools like Harvard offer an impressive variety of certificate programs. Many community colleges also have online associate degree programs.

A surprising variety of colleges offer online bachelors and masters degree programs. A small number even have doctoral programs in a limited number of specialties.

No matter what type of program you pick, you can apply for financial aid and scholarship money just as if you were a traditional undergrad student. If you’re currently employed, be aware that many employers will cover all or part of the cost of furthering your education. Don’t be afraid to inquire.

I’m going to end this blog post here because it’s crunch time for my final paper and PowerPoint presentation for the program I’m in. Everything gets handed in by Wednesday, and that night I have to present the project live on Zoom.

Attending the program part-time, I’ll have earned my masters degree in a very reasonable 3 years. If this disabled single mom can go back to school, odds are that you can, too.

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