Returning to school after being out for any length of time is no easy task. However, if you dropped out of college in the past, you may have some concerns about the process of re-enrolling and how to set yourself up for success. First, it’s important to understand that dropping out of college is not uncommon. In fact, in the U.S., the overall dropout rate$1 for undergraduate college students is 40 percent.
While every student has their own reasons for leaving school, the most common culprits include financial concerns, lack of clear direction (or not knowing if they want to continue in their major), individual learning styles that may be incongruous with a particular school, dropping out to enlist in the military, or simply not being able to take on the course load or time commitment.
The good news is that leaving school doesn’t necessarily dictate your future success. Many former students are able to return to school, earn their degree, and set themselves up for a brighter future. Here, we’ll cover the most common reasons to go back to college and help you understand the process to re-enroll.
Reasons to Go Back to College
If you’ve been thinking about going back to school to earn your degree, you’re not alone. According to Forbes$1, two million former students have returned to school. Better yet, these students have either completed their degree or are working toward one. If you’re on the fence about pursuing your education, here are some of the most common and best reasons to return to college.
Create a Better Future for Your Family
Many parents and adults go back to school because they want to find a more rewarding and/or lucrative career path to provide for their families (or future family). Maybe they work long hours at their current job and can’t devote as much time or energy to their family as they’d like. Others who return to college may simply want to switch to a different industry where they see more opportunities to advance in their careers.
College graduates earn an average salary of $78,000 a year$1, which is almost $30,000 more than a working professional without a degree. A higher salary is likely a selling point for anyone to go back to school, but this can be particularly enticing for parents who are supporting a family.
Switch Industries or Occupations
Some people lose their jobs and decide they want to find something new, while others may simply feel burnt out and decide it’s time to switch gears. Regardless of your individual circumstances, switching careers generally requires learning new skills, and some industries may prefer that you have a degree or a foundation in a particular subject.
While some skills can be acquired with experience and on-the-job training, earning your degree can open the door for additional professional opportunities.
Advance Your Career
Changing jobs is one thing, but earning your degree may also help you advance in your current occupation or industry. A bachelor’s or master’s degree may make you a more viable candidate for management or leadership roles. While it’s possible to work your way up and be promoted within, you may have an advantage over other prospective candidates if you have a degree in a related field.
How to Return to School After Dropping Out
The process to re-enroll in a college or university program involves several steps, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. If you’re serious about returning to school, follow these steps to make the process as seamless as possible.
Choose a New School or Return to a Previous One
You have two options when you decide to go back to school: return to the institution where you began your studies or apply to a new school or university. Some schools allow prior dropouts to return to school without reapplying. If you’d like to continue your education at a college or university you previously attended, make sure to check with their admissions office to determine their requirements.
In some cases, the school or university may have been part of the reason a student dropped out in the first place. If that’s the case, find a school that offers the program or course catalog you want to pursue. Also, try to learn as much as you can about the school including class schedules, curriculum, teaching styles, and remote or in-person learning options. If you’re putting in the effort to return to school, you want to make sure you choose an institution that aligns with your needs and your learning style.
Find a Schedule or Format That Works for You
In addition to finding a school or university that offers the curriculum you’re looking for, you also want to find a school where you can fit your education into your lifestyle and vice versa. For instance, you may be working full-time or supporting a family. Look for universities that offer online options and a flexible class schedule.
National University offers four-week class schedules vs. the typical semester or quarter format, as well as remote learning opportunities that caters to working professionals. Browse the course catalog$1 to see if this may be a good fit depending on your ideal major or degree program. Whichever university you choose, make sure to do your due diligence to determine if you’ll be able to attend school while working.
Check Your Academic Standing
Depending on your previous performance, you may need to take some steps to improve your academic standing. Some students may have left school with bad grades, or in more extreme cases, placed on academic probation. This is when a university puts a student on probation because their grades are dropping, they may be close to failing out, and immediate action is needed to raise these grades to remain in school. If this applies to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t get back into school and succeed, you just may need to retake some classes or talk to an admissions counselor about your options.
Some schools require you to apply for academic renewal, where previous classes are not considered as part of your cumulative GPA. With this strategy, you may need to retake certain classes in order to earn better grades. Academic standing rules can vary from one school to another, so make sure you understand any requirements so there are no surprises.
Find Your “Why”
Understanding your reasons for initially leaving school and weighing them against your decision to return is important to your future success. This process of discovery — sometimes known as “finding your why” — is twofold and can help you succeed as you return to school to earn your degree.
First, determine the reasons why you left in the first place and how you can change your approach to avoid these same pitfalls. Leverage resources like school counselors and advisors who may be able to help you stay on track.
The second part of finding your “why” is understanding why you want to return to school. What’s your motivation? Is it to set a positive example for your children? To find a better career or make more money? Whatever your reason, keep it at the top of your mind when you choose your major or degree program and when you spend long nights studying or completing school work.
Get Your Transcripts
If you’re applying at a new school, you will need to provide your transcripts. Regardless of how long you have been out of school, you’re able to request access to your academic records from a school you have previously attended. You may have some old college credits that you can apply when you return to school. You can determine this by getting access to your transcripts and speaking to an advisor from the school you plan to attend.
In most cases, you can request your transcripts online through a web portal or use a form to request a digital transcript.
Apply for Financial Aid
If necessary, look into financial aid options to help you cover some of the costs of going back to school. If you’re taking online classes or commuting to school, you’ll save money on room and board and on-campus expenses. Financial aid can help cover other expenses like tuition, course credits, books and materials, and more.
Earn Your Degree With National University
No matter how long you’ve been out of school, you can pursue your academic goals and earn your degree at National University. The flexible class schedules allow you to complete your coursework on your own time. Contact us$1 to speak to an academic advisor who can help you get back on track with your education and set yourself up for a successful career and future.