It's back-to-school time. In the old days, that meant that many high school graduates packed up their VW buses and headed for college, depending on mom and dad to pay the bills for four steady years of campus life.
But today, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 75 percent of college students are older than age 24, work part or full time, commute to school, pay for their own college expenses and even juggle family life.
According to Jesse Hafen, company director of admissions for Stevens-Henager College, a nonprofit college dedicated to providing higher education for these "new-traditional" students, the path to getting a college degree can be stressful for many, and may even prevent some from finishing their degrees.
"The longer it takes to get a degree, the more life gets in the way of success," said Hafen. "Research shows that more than half of full-time students who enroll in a traditional four-year university take five to six years to graduate, but institutions such as Stevens-Henager offer many bachelor's degrees in three years, associate’s degrees in 20 months and master's degrees in 15 months."
To help today's new-traditional college students shorten the time to graduation, Hafen offers the following tips:
Find a college that caters to your needs with flexible class schedules, frequent enrollment periods (such as monthly), accelerated course formats, and a large selection of on-campus and online courses.
Find a program: You know you want to get an education in order to make a good living, but if you aren't sure what career you want to pursue, find a school with free online aptitude assessments and counseling to help you choose.
Find a schedule: Most four-year universities require students to plan their own class schedules each semester, but some colleges actually map out a full course of study for each student, figure costs and identify scholarship and financial aid options for those who qualify — all up front.
Find and use campus counseling and student services as a resource. Schools that cater to "new-traditional" students will provide information on jobs, transportation, housing, child care and more.
Seek a college with instructors with real-world experience who offer practical coursework during class, and one-on-one tutoring to help guide you.
Get a career: Before you start your job search after graduation, work with a career counselor to learn how to write a professional resume, dress professionally and interview well. A counselor will also help place you in a job in your field.
"My final recommendation for the new-traditional student is to take the time to thoroughly research the schools you are considering. It's free and well worth your time," added Hafen. "In my career, I've seen students who are single moms, working heads of households and more, who have graduated and gone on to have wonderful careers because they've put these kinds of strategies into play."
Published with permission from RISMedia.