Planning Your Journey
Finding and enrolling in a great program is one thing, but finishing your degree is another, entirely.
That’s why it’s important to begin your journey with the end in mind. After all, this is a big commitment of your time, energy, and money. Don’t take it lightly!
Have a clear understanding of your motivation for finishing your degree and use that to push you forward throughout the process.
Are you looking for a pay raise? Hoping for a promotion? Considering a relocation, maybe work for an entirely different company?
It’s also critically important that you understand how long the process is going to take. Someone who only completed a few semesters in college has a very different journey ahead of them from someone who’s only a couple credits short.
Then, take some thought to map out that timing and how it aligns with your life goals. For example, if it’s a two-year program and you and your spouse are planning on having a child in a year, that’s something to certainly take into consideration.
What are Your Individual Needs?
Everyone is different. Once you’re back in the classroom, what will you need to succeed?
How do you work best?
Alone or in groups? In quiet spaces or someplace more busy, like a coffee shop? Do you take frequent breaks or do you go into focus mode for hours at a time?
What support will you need?
Are you someone who likes leaning on a trusted expert to guide you through the process, or do you prefer to do it on your own?
How much time will you need?
On a weekly basis, how much time will you require to get the work done? Everyone works at different paces.
Do you have to set expectations with your employer?
If your studies will occasionally conflict with your work schedule, have that conversation. Even if they won’t, it’s better to be transparent about your exciting new venture.
Weigh all of these options and you’ll start to set yourself up for success. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you’ll need to be successful and finish that degree.
Another key thing to remember here is to embrace the challenge. Be clear about your motivation, understand that this will challenge you, and harness it to your advantage.
It’s really easy to get frustrated with yourself, especially if you haven’t been in school for many years. You may run into days where you’re feeling overwhelmed and that you’re not good enough to get the job done.
Be PROUD of yourself.
Ultimately, you’re finishing your degree to push yourself to be a better version of yourself… and that is a totally amazing and worthwhile venture.
Financing Your Degree
Education can be expensive, so financing your degree completion is a very common fear. People are often worried that they can’t afford it so they don’t even bother getting started or exploring their options.
At the very least, you should get a sense of what options are available to you financially.
Most often, there are funds available to help you pay for your degree, whether it’s a loan, scholarship, or some other kind of financial aid package.
For example, many states or municipalities offer grants for adults who are pursuing their degree. Do some digging in your area to see what might be available to you (here's a look at what's available in Tennessee).
Additionally, many employers offer tuition assistance for employees who are taking classes or completing a degree. Check with your HR department to see what may be available at your organization.
So, really take the time to do some digging and explore the financial options that might be available to you. You may surprise yourself at how affordable this whole thing can be!
And the best part is, you’re not alone through this process. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of programs and you have an idea of which schools might work for you, reach out to their financial aid office or admissions counselor for help. They will be more than willing to walk you through the process and point you in the right direction.
Build a Cheerleading Squad
Create a team of people who will support you when things get challenging.
Because, they are going to get challenging.
Whether that’s friends, family, mentors, or all of the above, build a cheerleading squad of people you can rely on to support you, motivate you, and keep you focused.
You’re going to have days where the assignments just seem too challenging. You’ll have days where it seems like everyone is understanding the material but you. You’ll have days where it seems like everything is due at the same time.
Be proactive about a solution to those days. In fact, you’ll probably be surprised about how accommodating people are. They’ll see someone working on bettering themselves and that kind of energy is contagious.