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Back to school: Not just for kids anymore

Hack Reactor

Back to school: Not just for kids anymore

By Kevin Juhasz for Hack Reactor

K-12, college, job, retire — it’s a method of education and life that’s gone the way of cursive writing, dodgeball, and Trapper Keepers.

Trapper Keepers are making a nostalgic comeback, but stopping your education after a diploma or degree will never return. People are more likely to set up for a career that allows them to move from company to company rather than dedicate a career to one organization. In order to find success and survive in that kind of environment, you’ll need to make yourself a lifelong learner. For some, school’s out for never.

The pandemic has also spurred more adults to increase their knowledge and education to better their lives, which is part of the reason companies are struggling to fill lower-wage positions. 

Some adults who are just beginning or considering more education will need some tips on what to expect and the best way to approach a return to education. There are standard classes, certificate courses, and bootcamps.

Many of these are also available online to help boost the chances of achieving your goals.

Decide what you want to do

This is the first and most important step for any adult looking to return to education. One of the things you’ll need to examine is what kind of education you want to have.

There are a few options that are available depending on what your career goals are. If you’re happy in your current field and looking to add some knowledge for a promotion or move to a better company, then short courses and certifications might work best.

Traditional schools might be a good choice, especially if you have no degree or want to expand on a current degree. Just realize that these programs will require courses that may not be of interest or help to your career.

If you’re looking to reinvent yourself completely and quickly in the tech field, then a coding bootcamp would be a  great choice, especially for those already in the tech field.

“It really comes down to the conversation of ‘Is traditional education for you?’ or ‘Are you looking to get into a field as fast as you can’?” said Jeff Pryor, enrollment manager for Hack Reactor. “I believe that if you’re looking at the investment aspect of it – and you know what you want to do – then a bootcamp definitely has the advantage.”

All of the choices, however, require you to do a serious examination of where you are, where you want to go, and what’s the best way for you to get there.

Do your prep work

Some educational pathways are not going to be a situation where you can jump right in and start learning. Bootcamps, for example, are so fast and immersive that it’s critical to complete the studies needed to make sure you’re successful in the main program.

This will also allow you to get a taste for the career you’re seeking. See if the educational institute you’re seeking allows you to attend a class or if they offer free prep courses like Hack Reactor does.

“Start by attending a few events and see if you have an appetite, then commit to a program after you’ve done your research,” Pryor recommended.

Look at your options

If you’ve left your job, you may choose to stop work altogether and devote all your time and energy to a program that will offer you focused education that’s quicker than a traditional college. If you’re not in any kind of a hurry, then a longer program or a traditional path may be more to your liking. Regardless of which you choose, just know that you will need to commit to your program to achieve success.

Examine your finances

Make sure you completely understand the costs of your education and how you’re going to pay for it. If you’re attending a school that offers financial aid, such as grants, then you’ll need to have a FASFA filled out and look at all options available.

If you’re going the non-traditional route, such as a bootcamp, then research the various methods that you can use to pay for your courses and select the one that best fits your budget and goals.

Also, take a look at things in your life that may qualify you for assistance. If you’re military or a parent, for example, there may be scholarships or specific aid for you. Also check with your current employer about tuition assistance.

Don’t worry about your age

As the number of lifelong learners increases, their presence is more common. Educational institutions aren’t interested in when you’re born, they’re just interested in anyone who is motivated and wants to succeed.

“Our student population is those who have typically been in the industry for 5 to 10 years and are looking to reinvent themselves,” Pryor explained.

Don’t be shy, quiet, or embarrassed

Admit you don’t know everything and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Adults who are active and inquisitive in classes have a better chance of success than those who choose to stay in the background.

“When approaching any educational scenario, you are your biggest cheerleader,” Pryor explained. “You’re your biggest fan, and you should advocate for yourself.”

Don’t avoid online classes

Once an occasional option, remote and online learning is now more the norm, especially among older students, who require the flexibility to fit the education into their current lives. Adults may want to seek out online education. Studies have shown that adult students who attend online classes are more likely to complete their degree or studies than adults who take in-person courses. Students who take classes online make up more than 10% of all college graduates.

Approach course and work like a job

Studying will be easier and learning better for adults who treat their school like their job. Scheduling time to study, setting deadlines for papers and projects, and creating an action plan for assignments are just a few of the methods needed for a successful education.

Stay organized

Adult students will have obligations that might include family and working while learning. Getting an education is going to add more to the plate so it’s important that you stay organized.