One of the reasons you might be apprehensive about going back to school is the process it takes to transfer colleges. Changing schools can feel like starting over, especially if it’s been awhile since you were in college. Even though it takes some time and effort on your part, transferring colleges isn’t as scary or difficult as it sounds. As long as you follow a few simple tips, you’ll be on your way to finishing your degree and landing the career you’ve always wanted.
Find the Right Program
Before you commit to a specific school, do your homework. College choices have come a long way, and there are lots of options that cater to adults going back to school, working adults, parents, etc. that can make your life easier. Online colleges are now in abundance, and the convenience many times trumps that of most brick-and-mortar schools, not to mention many are financially reasonable.
Look closely at the program you want to major in and make sure it has the academic focus that fits your career goals. For instance, a major like business can be helpful, but most colleges allow you to tailor it to your future job by concentrating in one area, such as management, finance, human resources or accounting to name a few. Look through your options and make sure the classes will teach you the skills you need to advance in your field.
Also take the time to compare credit hours, program flexibility and convenience, and price. These factors are of varying importance depending on who you talk to, but it’s your job to make sure the college you choose will fit your needs and lifestyle. If you have to be with your kids every evening but can work after they go to bed, traditional night classes may not work for you, but flexible online options will. Be realistic about your lifestyle and choose what option works best for you.
Interview Others In Your Field
If you’re going to transfer colleges to change careers or advance in your current job, it’s important to be certain that the major and academic focus you choose will indeed land you the job you want. Unless your employer has given you a specific directive, it’s wise to ask around and find out exactly which major is best to help you meet your goals. Talk to other professionals who already have the job you want, as well as potential bosses, and find out what has been most valuable in their studies with regard to their career. They may not only be able to point you to the perfect major, they may be able to save you time and money by avoiding mistakes in picking the wrong college program.
Research Credit Transfers
Transferring credits to your new school can not only save you time and money, it can give you a leg up on the competition by allowing you to spend less time in school to earn your degree. The process varies, but by taking the time to communicate with your old school, secure your transcripts and then work to transfer as many credits as possible, your overall experience can go much more smoothly. In most cases, you can avoid retaking entry-level classes and jump right to the core of your major’s curriculum. Keep in mind that while the process can seem daunting, it’s a common practice when you transfer colleges, so there are people both at your old and new schools who can walk you through it.
Set Goals and Stick To Them
When you transfer colleges, it’s easy to doubt whether or not you’ll complete the program, since you didn’t the first time around. But if you set clear goals, both for your classes and your future career, and stick to them, you’re setting yourself up for success. Most adults who go back to school spend an average of two years earning their degree. So look at your life for the next two years or so and map out exactly how you’re going to get there. Be mindful of work, family and other commitments, and make school a priority within your schedule. If you’re realistic about what it will take to graduate and communicate that to others around you, you’ll find that you can stay on track more easily and take steady steps towards your end goal. There may be bumps along the way, but by keeping the finish line in your sights, you’ll have what it takes to finish strong.
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.