Before You Apply

Weighing School Options

Have you asked yourself if going back to school is right for you?

Here are some things to consider before making final college decisions.

Girl Applying For College

Congratulations on the efforts you’ve made to advance your education, career, and ultimately, your life.  Choosing a college is a huge step.

Whether you intend to take online classes, attend a campus based university, or both, there are certain things you need to accomplish before deciding on a school.

The following information will help students prepare for enrolling into college and what they should do before they apply for college.


Are you a busy professional, stay-at-home mom, high school graduate, or a lifelong student? Your day to day life and current obligations will ultimately affect what online education or campus education you choose.  The good news is that despite your current situation – whatever it may be – there are several programs for different types of college degrees that can accommodate your academic and professional goals.  Night classes, distance learning, and technological advancements have all made higher learning more accessible to non-traditional students.

Before you apply to an online program or campus based schools, assess your current lifestyle and what you can and can’t change about it.  For example, would it be impossible to drive even ten miles to a campus based location three times a week? If so, it would be important to consider applying to online schools.


guy studying outside

Do you program computers for fun?  Is massage therapy a passion? Can you envision yourself heading a successful corporation? Earning a college degree is a great opportunity to advance in an area you actually like.  With so many available program options though, the hardest part is often narrowing down your decision to a single degree program.

One method used to determine which of your interests will parlay into a successful career is to remember what you wanted to be as a kid.  A child’s knowledge of available job opportunities is generally quite limited, however, can be telling in the future.  For example, did you dream of becoming a firefighter?  Even if that dream faded over time, you may find that there are similar job characteristics in forensics, criminal justice, or even culinary school.

Once you’ve identified your interests that are available as college degree programs you can then narrow your options down by evaluating your career goals.

Career Goals:

Answering the following questions will provide further clarity showing what college program is right for you.

  1. Are you driven by money or passion?
  2. Do you prefer to lead or follow?
  3. Does an office job appeal to you?
  4. Can you accommodate a ton of travel?
  5. Would you rather not talk to people all day?
  6. Are you drawn to service and helping people?
  7. Do you prefer a paintbrush, pen, or keyboard?
  8. Would you rather be surrounded by kids than adults?



Has having a family inhibited your ability to attain your college degree in the past?  New advancements in technology and the proliferation of accredited online schools have made it easier than ever for moms and dads to earn their college degree.  Now more than ever employers are viewing online college degree programs as an equivalent to their campus-based counterparts.

As you start to review different online college programs (and also campus-based if it’s an option), talk to your family about it.  Chances are they will be your biggest support group and can help you manage going to school and being a parent.

Current Working Situation:

An accredited college degree can equate to huge dividends for employees.  Are you employed but haven’t had time to earn your college degree yet?  That’s okay – there’s no time like the present.

Even if you’re plugging 10+ hours a day, there’s still time to earn your college degree. How is that possible?  Hundreds of online and campus schools offer night classes and online programs that work with the busy professional’s schedule.  Some college programs will allow you to determine the pace at which you want to complete your degree, making it easier than ever to maintain your work life, and also work towards advancing your career on the side.


Earning your college degree doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Not only does the cost of tuition vary among schools, there are a number of ways to pay for college as well.

law education series

If you’re a working professional, one of the first things to determine is whether or not your employer will cover some or all of the costs.  Many firms will pay for their employees to attend online programs or campus based schools so long as their studies are related to the specific business or industry, and that they maintain a pre-determined Grade Point Average (GPA).  If your current employer does not have such a program, don’t fret – there are more options.

From a federal standpoint, the Department of Education will provide more than $116 billion this year to help millions of students and families pay for post-secondary education.

If you’re exploring options for paying for college research the different forms of financial aid (loans, grants, and work-study), how to apply, and more.

Not only does having a college degree increase your earning potential, it improves your access to a variety of jobs.

The Department of Education claims that today more jobs than ever before require specialized training or a two- or four year college degree.  More education means more choices, and that means more opportunities for you.

It’s estimated that by 2014, 90% of the fastest-growing careers will require some post-secondary education.

Your high school diploma is useful. But a college degree increases your chance of employment by nearly 50%.  A two-year degree or even some college can have a positive impact on your ability to find and keep a job, too.

Wrap Up:

Once you’ve thoroughly reflected upon the six elements discussed in this section, you should have a significant idea of not only what type of college, whether it’s an online school or campus based university, but also what program best suits your academic and professional goals:

  • Lifestyle
  • Interests
  • Career goals
  • Family
  • Current Working Situation
  • Costs

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