Back to School after 40
This decision can be overwhelming…but it doesn’t have to be
Going back to college at 40+ years can feel intimidating for a lot of reasons. When you have other financial responsibilities, like a mortgage and family expenses, finding thousands of dollars for tuition can be challenging. Then of course there’s the aspect of readjusting to being a student after many years out of school…not to mention the apprehension that can come along with learning new technologies, or the thought of enrolling in classes with people half your age.
Yes, it’s overwhelming, but it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Making the decision whether or not to go back to school is a highly personal one, and it should take you some time think through it.
If you are thinking of returning to school to pick up new skills for your journey, investigate the likely pay (and availability) of the career you’re aiming for. If you want to start your own business, make sure to search salaries for that type of business in your area. Your education will be worth the cost only if you’ll earn more, after tax, than you paid for the course – including the interest you will pay on educational loans.
When you borrow, there are two rules of thumb:
- The total amount of your loan, for all school years, should not exceed the first-year salary you expect from your new job or business.
- You should be able to repay that loan, in full, within 10 years. Don’t go into retirement carrying a student loan.
Do you need a degree? Think about how much education you’ll actually need. Four-year degree programs are expensive and might not pay off for people starting late in life. Perhaps you can fulfill your ambitions in two years with an associate degree. Or consider just taking the courses you need and forego the degree. Your best choice might be a public community college. These schools offer a wide variety of vocational programs at modest cost.
Beware of the expensive for-profit schools that advertise aggressively. Often they provide inferior or inappropriate training. Search online for complaints about any school you’re considering.
Would a certification in a specific field be a better choice for you? There are many certifications for different areas of interest and the cost is much lower (most times) for the certification versus a degree. Make sure to compare tuition with certification cost. Include fees, books and other associated costs in the comparison.
Look for free money. There are education grants available for people pursuing certain fields. Put the words “grants for [your specialty]” into a search engine and see what turns up. If you’re currently working, your employer might offer tuition money to help improve your skills.
To continue reading this information, pick up your copy of “The 4-1-1 on Reinventing You” today.