It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of high school or you’re making a major mid-life career pivot, there are many different reasons to go to college. Whether you’re starting from scratch or returning to finish a degree, though, timing your academic education can be challenging.
It’s difficult to figure out when is the right time to attend classes without completely derailing the rest of your personal and professional life in the process. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you hone in on the perfect time to sign up for classes and get that all-important degree.
What is Your End Goal?
The first thing that you want to do is consider your ultimate goal in attending school. What are your long-term objectives?
Do you see yourself excelling in your current professional field? Do you need to shift careers and start in a new industry? Are you going to college to help you earn more money so that you can pay off debt or buy a house once you graduate?
Assessing your motivation and purpose in attending college is always a critical first step, no matter what stage of life you’re in. It can help you judge if and when you should start classes.
Are You Financially Prepared?
College is expensive. It’s as simple as that. Are you ready to shoulder the burden of paying for your education?
Of course, you may not have to foot the entire bill. You can always look for additional funding through things like:
Even with help, though, spending time in college means you’ll have to work less. This means you’ll be dealing with a reduction in income and an increase in expenses.
This is okay if you have a plan in place to get to the end of your education without uncontrollable debt. However, make sure that you have that strategy in place to limit the debt and minimize the financial stress as you go along.
What Other Responsibilities Do You Currently Have?
Another major factor to consider is your non-academic responsibilities. If you just graduated high school, chances are your fledgling adult schedule can adapt to the demands of a college career fairly easily.
However, if you have a family, a full-time job, a business, a house, or any other significant responsibilities on your plate, you should seriously consider them. How will you balance school and your responsibilities? Will either one seriously suffer if you take them all on at once? If you wait to start college will some of your current duties lighten up down the road?
How Long Will Your Education Take?
Another critical factor is the length of time that your education will take. If you’re coming out of high school and looking for a bachelor’s degree, the answer is typically four years. However, the length of each academic career can fluctuate wildly depending on the circumstances.
Take, for instance, a master’s degree. If you’re a successful professional with a four-year degree looking for an edge in the C-suite, you might want to go back to school for an executive MBA. This usually takes half the time of a bachelor’s degree.
You can also take classes online and at night to fit things into your schedule easier. If you do this, though, keep in mind that it can lengthen the amount of time that your degree takes.
Are You Ready for Classes?
This may seem like a minor question, but it can have some pretty significant side effects. For instance, if you’re heading to college right out of high school, you probably are as ready for higher education learning as you’ll ever be. You just finished 12 years of school and are well-accustomed to the finer workings of a classroom setting.
However, if you’re coming into school after having spent years in the workforce, your classroom skills may be a bit rusty. Make sure you’re up for the challenge, are ready for lengthy writing assignments, can take serious time to research and study, and can handle the overall workload of a college student without it negatively impacting your GPA as you go along.
Finding the Right Time to Go to College
It’s difficult to pin down the perfect time to go to college. The truth is, no matter when you decide to apply to a university, you’re going to be stressed out by the journey at times. It’s part of the college adventure.
However, it’s still very much worth considering when is the best time to go to college. Thinking through factors like finances, current responsibilities, or the length of your education can help you time your college career to make it as effective as possible. It can also help you avoid any unnecessarily stressful circumstances and ensure that the rest of your life isn’t left behind as you pursue your degree.