Dixie Darr

Five Reasons to Return to College

In Degree programs, Learning on January 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Too often, the decision to go back to school is a knee-jerk reaction to change. Schools know that their enrollment rises when the economy tanks. Can’t find a job? Return to school. It gives you an acceptable answer to the question, “what do you do?” Saying, “I’m a student” is so much easier to say than I’m unemployed, even if you’re 40. Going to school makes you seem like someone with direction and purpose. A man with a plan. A woman on the rise.

A classroom may not be the best place for learning. Albert Einstein famously said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”  Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk or Brain Rules by John Medina illustrate this idea. Common sense indicates that colleges are increasingly expensive and decreasingly relevant. For more info, see Anya Kamanetz’ TEDxAtlanta talk or read her book, DIY U.

Make sure to check for degree requirements and don’t just assume you know what’s needed. For example, starting your own business does not require any degree at all—and for the record, most degrees in business administration emphasize skills needed to work in corporations, not skills for entrepreneurs.

  1. You need certification for your field – If you want to work in corporate America or government and advance to the management level, you probably need a degree. Depending on the position, you may need a specific degree, but maybe not. Degree requirements are typically written into the job description, and you won’t even be considered without the degree.
  2. You want to change fields – The loss of jobs in the auto and other industries cost Michigan 335,000 jobs. The state launched the No Worker Left Behind program in 2007 and has retrained 80,000 workers. The largest group trained for jobs in health care. When my friend Sheila decided in her early 50s to enter the ministry, she needed to go to seminary for a master’s of divinity degree to meet her church’s requirement. Before you sign up for college classes, however, make sure you really need additional education. You may be able to adapt your current skills to the new field.
  3. Fulfill a personal goal—My friend Pat had no burning desire to finish her degree, and as a small business owner, no need to do so. However, she learned that her father’s dream was for her to finish college, so she did. Sandy is going back to college because “I just love to learn. The exchange of ideas between the teacher and the students pushes me understand and consider the material in new ways.”
  4. Be a role model for your kids—“How can I expect my kids to go to college if I don’t?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from my adult students. Earning a degree will make your kids proud of your accomplishments and will show them that education is important throughout your life.
  5. Improve self confidence—I remember in my mid 20s going to parties where people would ask me where I went to school. Because I was smart, they were very surprised to learn that I hadn’t finished college. When I finally finished my degree at age 30, I breathed a sigh of relief that I could finally answer that question without cringing and I could stop the careful wording on my resume that, without lying, implied that I had a degree.

If you decide that college is right for you, go for it and good luck.

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