how to go back to college after drop out

Deciding to return to college after dropping out poses more challenges than applying to college as a freshman student or as a transferee. Although the college application process may not be that different, various circumstances in the personal and career lives of adult learners or working professionals may require some additional, well-calculated steps.

With the right reasons to go back to college and also enough motivation and support, being an undergraduate student all over again can prove to be achievable and sustainable and, more importantly, rewarding.

In this post, we will discuss the different steps for going back to college after dropping about, and they are:

  1. Establish the reason for going back
  2. Plan how to attain balance
  3. Determine the right major
  4. Find the best-fit college
  5. Inquire about credit transfer
  6. Obtain the necessary documents
  7. Fill out the application form
  8. Research financial aid options
  9. Look for a support system

First, let’s discuss some of the most common reasons why some dropouts decide to return to college.

6 Reasons to Go Back to College After Dropping Out

Different college dropouts plan on returning to school for different reasons. As you will learn later on when we’re talking about the steps to take when applying to college, having a reason for going back to college is very important.

The following are some of the most common reasons why some individuals decide to give college another try:

1. Career Advancement

Staying where you are in your career for far too long can keep you from enjoying the many perks of grabbing new opportunities as well as reaching your full potential as a hardworking and promising employee.

Working at a large company?

Consider aiming for a promotion every 5 years.

That amount of time is usually enough for you to gain mastery of the skills of your current role while at the same time polishing the necessary ones for your next goal.

In some instances, however, your capabilities may not be the ones that are keeping you from enjoying a promotion but a lack of the required qualification.

By going back to college to continue completing the undergraduate degree program you once pursued, you could get your hands on the credentials vital for meeting stringent company policy on progressing up the career ladder.

2. Switching Jobs or Industries

It’s not all the time that career advancement involves getting promoted.

Taking a lateral move in your current professional life or making a complete industry switch also counts as such. Either way, showing up to job interviews with a degree under your belt can make you stand out from the rest of the aspirants.

On average, a working individual will change careers 5 to 7 times during his or her working lifetime.

And with an ever-increasing number of job and industry options, it’s not unlikely for up to 30% of the entire labor force to now change careers per year, which means that a typical worker could have had around 10 jobs by the time he or she is 42 years old!

Currently feeling unhappy with your current job that used to feel like such a good fit?

Going back to college to major in something that aligns with your interests and passions could help facilitate your planned job or career switch.

3. Increasing Earning Potential

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (New York Fed) says that the median annual wage for full-time workers whose highest educational attainment is a high school diploma is equivalent to $30,000.

Meanwhile, for individuals with a college degree employed full-time, it amounts to $52,000.

The $22,000 difference in pay gap is the highest on record with the New York Fed, which has been tracking earnings since 1990.

Additionally, every college major, most especially in the STEM field, analyzed by the bank earned more than a high school diploma, with some exceptions. College degree holders, over a lifetime, can enjoy $800,000 or more in increased earnings.

Being a returning student requires both time and money alright, but successfully completing a program allows you to recoup your investments sooner or later by getting a bigger paycheck each time.

4. Pursuing Interests

As you go along with your career, you might come across something so fascinating that it could shake things up and bring about a change in the way you see and think about yourself as well as your future.

Interests can enrich one’s life and also give new ideas and a different perspective on things.

Loving what you do makes you happy at work. As a result, it enhances your performance and also improves your productivity.

Due to this, succeeding is very much more likely if you like your current career.

But if there’s something new that you believe could bring you even more happiness, perhaps it would be a great idea to consider pursuing it.

In some instances, as a college dropout, going back to school and taking the right major can help you chase a more interesting career or immerse yourself in a more exciting industry.

5. Non-traditional student-friendly options

According to data provided by the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), up to 33.4% of all postsecondary students in the US are non-traditional students — older than 24 years of age, delayed enrollment in college after high school, attending college part-time, working full-time, financially independent and/or have dependents.

Many different reasons exist why there are plenty of non-traditional students attending college these days, including the fact that working on an undergraduate degree is easier now more than ever.

For instance, non-traditional students may choose to have some or all classes online.

Some institutions of higher education have programs for adult learners, too, which many dropouts who would like to go back to college may find attractive.

Some examples of these schools include Antioch College, Empire State College, Excelsior College, Granite State College, King University, Liberty University, Walden University and the University of Maryland.

6. Life Changes

Once when you were an undergraduate student, you may have run into circumstances that interfered with all kinds of college-related tasks and activities, from attending the best-fit school, choosing the right major, paying for tuition to going to classes, which may have caused you to decide to drop out of college altogether.

Or you may have had to choose something else over your dream of becoming a bachelor’s degree holder, such as having to get employed full-time to make ends meet or take care of a loved one who suffered from a serious health problem.

Fortunately, nothing in life is constant.

And now that whatever circumstance that had caused you to turn your back on college once has changed, you may feel like it’s a great idea to grab the opportunity to finally finish what you have started in the past.

9 Steps to Going Back to College After Dropping Out

Thanks to your previous college experience, you don’t have to go through certain things such as reviewing for the SAT or ACT or partaking in extracurricular activities when returning to college.

Here are some of the most important steps to take if you are planning on re-applying as a college student:

1. Establish the Reason for Going Back

Prior to applying to any college, determine why you want to go back to college.

Validating the reason behind the plan can not only help you stay motivated until such time that you earn your desired degree but also enable you to make the right postsecondary education-related choices, ranging from the institution to go to, the academic program to enroll in and whether you should attend part-time or full-time.

Picking a major related to the industry you are currently in, for instance, would be a wise move after establishing the fact that you are thinking about going back to college and getting your hands on a degree to qualify for a specialized role.

It’s also a good idea to point out alternatives to returning to college in going about attaining your goal and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each one — see if becoming a student all over again seems to be the best choice.

2. Plan How to Establish Balance

Attending a degree-granting institution once more as an adult or a professional means it’s very much likely that you have a handful of duties and responsibilities to diligently take on at home and in the workplace and elsewhere in between.

While working on your college degree, you will have to commit to your studies as well as the rest.

It’s due to this why you should strategize and create a solid plan on how you will attain a balance between your personal life and career while at the same time doing everything that you can to successfully complete your undergraduate degree program.

Without a workable blueprint, you might find yourself dropping out of college all over again.

Worse, you might have a falling out with your loved ones or lose your job for failing to spend enough of your time and energy on the many different things you vowed commitment to.

3. Determine the Right Major

To major in a previously declared major or major in a new one — it’s one of the most important matters to resolve before you attempt to fill out the Common App or Coalition App to revive your previous college career.

Whether or not you will stick to the major you once took will depend on the reason for going back to school.

Going for the right major is essential to attain your educational and/or professional goals. Are you planning on picking up where you left off to pursue your original career choice?

Is there an entirely different career opportunity that you would like to grab?

Would earning a qualification make you more eligible for a long-overdue job promotion?

It’s exactly because of this why the very first step that should be taken by anyone who is thinking about returning to college sometime after dropping out is to determine the reason for giving college another try.

5. Inquire About Credit Transfer

First things first: technically speaking, college credits do expire.

After some time, the likelihood of them transferring toward an undergraduate degree may diminish as new programs with a new set of course requirements are introduced.

So, in other words, while it’s true that you will still have your previously earned credits, it’s not always that they will transfer, depending on the college or program of your choosing.

Contacting the postsecondary institution you have in mind to ask about its credit transfer policy, needless to say, is a critical part of the entire process of returning to college after dropping out before.

While you’re at it, ask about receiving credit for life and work experience, which will help shorten the amount of time you will have to spend on school and, of course, lower the amount of money you will have to shell out.

6. Obtain the Necessary Documents

Dropped out of college and planning on returning to the same school after less than a year?

It’s very much likely that reapplying is unnecessary — you may simply have to get in touch with your academic advisor for the reactivation of your status.

As expected, policies can vary from one institution of higher education to the next.

Returning to college after more than a year, particularly to another school, will require you to go through the entire application process that’s almost similar to freshmen applicants and transferees — technically, you are a transfer applicant.

Of course, like all other hopefuls, you will have to submit all kinds of documents from the college you previously attended.

Some of those that you are very much likely to be required to submit include transcripts, clearance and recommendation letters. Ask your target school for a complete list of all documents to provide for the smoothest possible college application.

7. Fill Out the Application Form

Both the Common App and Coalition App have a provision for transfer applicants.

It doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that you can immediately proceed with filling out any of them as a transfer student after making up your mind that you will go back to school after dropping out in the past — the college or university of your choosing may prefer one platform over the other as far as returning students are concerned.

Carefully research which platform you will have to fill out as an applicant with some college but no degree. In some instances, you may have to complete a different form altogether, given the special circumstances that you are in.

A thoroughly and correctly filled out application form means absolutely nothing if it’s submitted past the deadline. Whether it’s an early admission plan or regular decision you prefer, research the deadline and keep the important date in mind.

8. Research Financial Aid Options

As someone who is going back to college after a while, it’s not just your everyday life that you will need to figure out how to balance — it’s also a must to determine how you will go about your finances.

Fortunately, many colleges and universities offer institutional grants and scholarships for returning students.

At Michigan State University, for instance, there’s the William E. and Phoebe B. Clark Scholarship designed for individuals who are returning to college after leaving it for a period of time.

Meanwhile, there’s the Alliss Opportunity Grant at state colleges and universities in Michigan intended for adults going back to school.

Submitting the FAFSA form is also something that you may do — just like younger and traditional students, a returning student like you is also eligible for federal aid for as long as you meet the requirements.

9. Look for a Support System

Your quest to continue working on an undergraduate degree as you juggle various commitments, each one equally important and relevant to you, can be less stressful and draining if you have the full support and confidence of the individuals around you, particularly those at home and in the workplace as well as on the college campus.

It would make a lot of difference, for instance, if your family and friends will not only cheer you on but also vow to help out with some of your everyday duties and responsibilities from time to time.

The same is true if your boss and even co-workers agree to have your back.

Trying to earn a college diploma, of course, would not be as intimidating and exhausting if the college you are going to has support services available to transfer, returning and non-traditional students to help you with your educational journey.

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