Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Should you consider going back to school?

You've been thinking about going back to school, but you're not sure. Are you too old? Is this too random? Here are three factors that might mean it's time to enroll:

1. You have unanswered questions.
        You're no longer satisfied by pat answers. You want to dig deeper. You know there's more out there than what you've been taught. You want to find out what you think for yourself.

2. You have time on your hands.
         You've reached a stage in life where (unlike most people you know) you are a bit bored. You look at your calendar and wonder, "What should I be doing?" or "What's next?"

3. You're considering a career change for the next season of your life.
         You know yourself better now than you did when you finished school and entered the world of adulthood. If you had it all to do over, you'd choose differently. Why not do that now?

One of the joys of my job is to invest in students who are coming back to school after a long time away -- the military veteran training for a new line of work, the stay-at-home mom whose kids are now grown, the retired missionary still hungry to learn, the relatively new believer who feels a tug to pastoral ministry after a career in oil.

One of my students discovered the difference a caring nurse can make when he and his wife lost their third baby in a row. He enrolled in our nursing program, hoping to be there for others in difficult times.

I'm no spring chicken myself. I finished my PhD at 39 years old, a decade older than most of my classmates. I suppose it runs in the family. My Dad went back to school for a degree in counseling in the middle of a career as a remodeling contractor. He graduated with his MA the year after I graduated with my BA. And though counseling did not become his bread-and-butter, it better equipped him for lay ministry in the church and on the job.

When people find out you're heading back to school, they may be surprised. They may try to talk you out of it. It's a sad reality that those whose dreams have never been realized often become naysayers to the dreams of others. Don't let their pessimism dampen your enthusiasm. On the other hand, you'll want to make sure that those most affected by your decision are on board. It will make the journey much more joyful if you're pulling in the same direction.

At the end of the day, this is between you and God. If he's called you to do it, he'll provide the strength to do it.

Many schools offer Adult Degree Completion programs for those with life experience going back to school to finish a degree. Lots of schools offer courses online so you can learn without relocating. Others allow community members to audit classes for a reduced price. At Prairie College, if you're 55 or older, you can audit a course for just $25. What are you itching to learn?