School days

The back-to-school season is a time to refresh and renew our priorities. It’s a chance to jump back into an environment of learning and challenge our minds. If you have ever considered returning to school as an adult, now is the perfect time to make your goal a reality.

Fortunately, there are more options today than ever before for adults considering a higher education. The Columbus area is home to many programs geared toward working adults. Here are few questions to ask yourself if you are thinking of enrolling at a local college or university.

  • How will classes fit into my schedule? This is probably the most commonly asked question by adults who are working full time. Many traditional institutions cater to younger, full-time students and schedule a majority of classes during daytime hours.
    However, there are a growing number of schools that offer convenient night and weekend courses, allowing students to go to school and keep their day jobs. Some even offer a combination of in-class and online learning, allowing students to attend class once or twice a month and conduct the remainder of their coursework online.
  • What type of technology is used in the classroom? As you might imagine, the last decade has brought sweeping changes into the classroom. Most of today’s students now bypass the dusty reference books in college libraries and log onto the Internet instead. In fact, some schools are even phasing out textbooks altogether. Students pay for access to electronic textbooks, which can be downloaded on laptops and PDAs.
    Schools are also offering electronic, interactive simulations that allow students to make real-world decisions in a learning environment and receive instant feedback. Web-based writing tutorials and electronic plagiarism-checking tools are also a part of this new high-tech education landscape. As you consider which school to attend, make sure your top choice utilizes technology that will help you stay ahead in today’s business world.
  • What will it cost? You’ll want to do a careful assessment of tuition and make sure it will fit into your budget. In addition, you’ll also want to account for additional expenses such as books, course materials, childcare and transportation. The good news is that there are several financial aid opportunities for working adults, so don’t let the sticker price of tuition deter you from your dreams. By working with a qualified enrollment counselor, you can determine a financial aid package comprised of grants, loans and/or scholarships that works for you.
  • What is the learning environment? Carefully consider the type of learning environment present at each college and ask to visit a class. Are the courses small in size or in large lecture halls? Are they taught by the professors themselves or by teaching assistants? Does the format encourage discussion? Do you work on individual projects or in learning teams?
    More working adults are choosing a learning environment similar to the real world, where instructors function as facilitators rather than lecturers. In this type of classroom, lively discussion takes place among working adults about how to apply the lesson in the workplace. They also work in learning teams, similar to the real world.

By conducting a bit of investigative homework, you’ll be confident in your choice for a college or university — one that will help you succeed in your career and life. Don’t let another autumn pass by without seriously considering whether returning to school is right for you.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at [email protected].