Summertime learning Featured

5:36am EDT May 23, 2006
Summer is my favorite time of the year here in Columbus, and I’m sure many readers hold the same opinion. It’s the perfect time for us to enjoy our homes and our neighborhoods working in the yard or cooking out with friends. It’s a chance to celebrate our city and our diverse communities at the many festivals held throughout the season. It’s an opportunity for us to relax and take pleasure in life. But it’s also a time that we don’t take for granted. We want to make the most of the summer — and for some of us, that means getting back into the classroom.

Making the most of the summer months can mean taking advantage of opportunities to improve your business and professional skills or pick up new ones. Many local colleges and universities offer summer courses for busy adults, where you can learn about everything from finance to French cuisine. It’s a great way to meet new people and add to your portfolio. For some, summer classes can mean getting a head start on bigger goals before the leaves begin to fall.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, you’ll have a variety of scheduling options. Some colleges and universities start classes every quarter or semester, while others are less traditional in their approach.

Many people have found it more convenient to enroll prior to the autumn rush, easing into their studies before the days get shorter and their schedules get fuller. A large number of our existing students who started programs last summer are now a year closer to earning their bachelor’s or master’s degrees.

Because summer is such a popular vacation season, the decision to go back to school is often postponed. However, many colleges now offer ways to combine in-class and online learning, making it possible to log on and conduct your coursework over the Internet. Rather than catching up with Danielle Steele or Dean Koontz at the beach, you could log onto your laptop from a breezy patio and make some much needed progress toward your degree. Or, after you’ve tested the performance limits of your family’s minivan at the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, you can log on for a quick economics lesson while the kids play at the hotel pool.

That probably doesn’t sound very relaxing. We all know that school is not easy. But knowing that you are taking steps to secure a brighter future for yourself and your family make it worth the effort. Your investment now is one that will last a lifetime.

So, why should you begin your education this summer? Here are just a few of the tangible benefits of going back to school this summer:

  • Knowledge you can apply on the job. Your experience in the workplace will help you succeed in the classroom. At many of today’s forward-thinking universities, you’ll study more than just theories. You’ll be able to focus on how they actually apply in today’s business world. You will utilize advance business simulations and discuss the problems that instructors and classmates face in their jobs — often presenting solutions that can be tested on your job the following day.

  • Networking. Since classes for today’s working adults are typically filled with professionals, summer courses are a great way to boost your networking skills and opportunities. Chances are you’ll meet classmates from a wide range of industries with a common goal of self-improvement through education.

  • Career advancement. If you knew of an investment opportunity with a proven track record of high returns, would you wait to take advantage of it? Studies continue to show that higher degrees equal higher paychecks. New information from the U.S. Census Bureau reinforces the value of a college education: workers 18 and over with a high school diploma earn $27,915 while those with a bachelor’s degree earn almost double — an average of $51,206 a year. Workers with an advanced degree do even better, making an average of $74,602. In a competitive job market, employers are searching for characteristics that set you apart from other applicants for hire or for a promotion. A higher degree is a great way to make that distinction.

So, as the evenings warm up and you consider your possibilities, think about your potential and what your future could look like with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will accomplish your goal, and the sooner you can take advantage of the opportunities an advanced degree may afford you. Why wait? This may be your best summer yet.

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 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at (614) 433-0095 or