Adult Learners – Preparing for College

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Going to college or entering a job training program is a big decision. You have to be in the right frame of mind to succeed at getting a credential or finishing your degree.

There are many reasons adults over age 25 return to school. Some are planning a career change or need new skills or credentials to move up in their career. Others enroll for personal development or after there has been a change in their life situation.

There are a number of things to consider before making your decision:

Research what degree or certificate that you wish to pursue.
Keep in mind the following:

  • Certificate Programs generally take one year to complete.  At most Maryland   community colleges you will need 20 to 30 credits to earn a certificate.
  • Associate Degrees (AA or AS) typically takes from 2 to 5 years to complete. You must complete 60 credits in your degree program in order to graduate.
  • Bachelor’s Degrees (BA or BS) typically take from 4 to 6 years to complete. You will need to complete 120 credits in your degree program in order to obtain your bachelor’s degree. As a part-time student, it might take you up to six years or more to earn the degree.

You cannot get a bachelor’s degree at a two-year community college.  However, you may be able to apply some or all of your credits from an associate’s degree towards a bachelor’s degree.  Talk with your advisor about this option and what you can do to prepare.

  • Master’s or Professional Degree – typically take from 2 to 4 years of full-time study to earn the degree (after completion of an undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree program).

Know if your degrees or credentials from another country.
If you have a degree or credentials from another country, it may not be easy to verify your educational and work background or your job skills.  You may need to obtain credentials from a United States accrediting institution. This means having your foreign degrees, credentials, and work experience evaluated to determine whether or not they qualify you for U.S. degrees or credentials. It is important to research whether an institution of higher education or training is “accredited.”  This means that the institution and its programs have been evaluated in the United States against standards for measuring quality. Accreditation by a recognized accrediting agency is one of the requirements for institutions to participate in federal student financial aid programs

The U.S. Department of Education also provides information on what you need to know about having your foreign credentials recognized in the U.S. 

Learn about the various course options.

Many adult learners such as yourself, who attend college, universities or private career schools are working full-time or part-time.  To better meet the needs of working adult, many of these institutions offer weekend college study options that allow adults to earn college credits during the evenings and weekends.  Often, these institutional courses are scheduled in ways that provide students with flexible options and the opportunity to complete their program of study by attending only in the evening and on the weekends.  These options might include:

  • Online courses
  • “Hybrid” courses that combine classroom instruction with online instruction
  • Individualized self-paced courses (Sub-Window when someone hoovers over it that shows the following definition) Individualized self-paced courses are a self-paced style of learning that helps you build the skills employers are looking for at a pace dictated entirely by you — without the constraints of preset deadlines. With this type of course, knowledge gained on the job can help you move more rapidly through subjects you've had experience with, while allowing you more time to work through new or more challenging material.

Find out if you qualify for credit for life experience.
If you have an abundance of knowledge and practical experience in your field but no degree or certificate, you may be eligible to receive life-experience credits in Maryland. A number of Maryland institutions recognize that adult learners bring a wealth of learning experiences—from the workplace, the military, volunteer activities, and public or community service —to the college classroom. Students with training, work, or life experience that is equivalent to eligible college courses may be able to earn credit toward their degree or certificate programs.

Keep in mind, each college independently designs its life credit program.  So it’s important to research any potential programs to determine their relevance to your education objectives and life experience. 

Research the cost of the school.
There are a number of ways to pay for the post-secondary degree or certificate.