When you think of going back to school, do you start sweating as a lump of dread settles in your stomach? Does this contemplation also spark a hint of excitement buried underneath layers of routine, dreams of your future, and big questions that you might be too scared to ask?
Then this blog post is for you.
Because those big questions are scary. It’s hard to imagine your life being different when it takes so much energy to get through days during a pandemic. We get it; and that’s why we’re here to ask the big questions with you.
1. Is it too late to go back to school?
Short answer: Absolutely not.
Somewhere along the way, American culture has created certain expectations for the average individual’s life, and within those expectations exists a timeline that’s actually extremely hard to follow, especially during a pandemic when normal doesn’t mean anything anymore. Whether you feel behind or ahead of this imaginary timeline—or like you’ve missed out on it altogether—rest assured you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
A recent study showed that traditional 18-to-21-year-olds who live on campus and go to school full time make up only a third of the college population nationwide. At Bethel, students in our Graduate School, Bethel Seminary, or the College of Adult & Professional Studies are generally considered post-traditional students, and we have a whole support system built around this kind of journey. Most of the students in these programs are between 35 and 40 years old and anywhere between 5% and 16% are over 55 depending on the school.
2. Am I too busy to go back to school?
Short answer: That’s up to you.
Imagine your life separated into buckets according to activities that take a lot of physical, emotional, or mental energy. You have individual buckets for work, walking your dog three times a day, parenting children, caring for parents, connecting with your church community, getting appropriate rest, cleaning your living space, sharing meals with your friends, keeping up with “NCIS,” and whatever else your life holds.
Now imagine how much time each of these buckets typically takes. That’s both literal hours and minutes, and also all the squishy stuff in between—like the time it takes for you to get ready for bed or destress from work or clean the kitchen after dinner. Most of Bethel’s post-traditional programs will expect students to work on course material for 15 to 20 hours outside of class, which can ebb and flow depending on the week.
Going back to school will require you to be intentional with your time. If you’re already burnt out, this might be a great opportunity to re-prioritize your commitments. It also might push you to your breaking point. Only you know how much you can handle right now, so take your week at a glance and see if you can set aside 15 to 20 hours for coursework.
3. Can I afford to go back to school?
Short answer: Financial aid is rather invaluable.
The vast majority of students receive some sort of financial aid to help pay for their degree. At Bethel, that number shakes out to 99%. Financial aid can look like scholarships from a specific institution or organization, grants and loans awarded according to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and even military benefits if appropriate.
The first step is making sure you’re familiar with the general financial aid timeline to ensure you’re on track to receive all the support you deserve. Whatever school or program you’re considering should have a financial aid office ready to help answer questions specific to your financial situation.
4. Am I smart enough to go back to school?
Short answer: Yes. Hands down.
We promise that going back to school is going to be hard. It’s a life adjustment, and you’ll be learning so much in a considerably short time—it might feel a little like whiplash. That feeling, however, is not indicative of your intelligence.
For students in our post-traditional programs, we have a resource called Student Success, which is all about exactly that—ensuring your success through academic advising, academic support, accessibility services, career development, single parent support, and more. You deserve to be supported throughout your academic journey, no matter what you need.
5. Is going back to school worth it?
Short answer: Yes! But we admit, we’re a little biased.
Real answer: Only you can decide if and when you want to go back to school.
We believe that pursuing your degree is a valuable endeavor. You can elevate and even change your career; build lifelong relationships with your classmates; make connections in your field; and even discover the depths of your hidden potential (for it really is endless).
And we leave you with the room to wrestle, dream, and decide if this is the season for you to embark on something new and hopefully not too scary. For whatever you decide, you are not alone.
If you’re ready to explore the next steps for your educational journey, our College of Adult & Professional Studies, Graduate School, and Seminary admissions teams are here to help! Whether you have logistical questions about things like prerequisites, enrollment timelines, or program specifics—or even more personal matters, like determining if Bethel is the place for you or discerning your calling—we can’t wait to support you!