Going to College as an Adult

Sanrith Descartes

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A post in the "how much do you make?" Thread got me thinking about this. I went to college late in life. It paid off for me. Over my 3 degrees I learned the college game pretty well in terms of jumping through the hoops, avoiding pitfalls and financial aid.

Anyone think there is a need for a resource on the board to help out those who never went to college and are working jobs but dont have careers? Sort of a repository for how to do the college thing and avoid all the pain points. Four years sounds like a long time, but it really isnt once you start. The getting started is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Getting started: some general terms and ideas. For this purpose the term 2yr college = community college that generally only offers an Associates degree . 4yr University = full university offering a bachelors degree and beyond.

Public vs Private school. Public is subsidized by the state (think Univ of Florida), Private is not subsidized and run for profit like a business. Public is going to be much cheaper than Private.

Credits = think of it in terms of an hour of class a week. So if you take a 3 credit class, it will generally mean 3 hours of class a week for a semester.

Semester = a calendar period for classes. Around 17 weeks fall/spring and 12-14 weeks in summer. So a class in Fall would start in Aug and end in Dec.

An Associates degree requires 60 credits in a 3 credit system. Thus an AA degree is 20x 3 credit classes. A bachelor's degree is 120 credits (40x 3 credit classes). You can think of an AA as the first 50 credits of a bachelor's degree. So AA is 60 credits then add 60 more and you have your bachelor's degree. You dont need an AA. If you do all 4 years at a 4yr University you can just get a bachelor's. The AA is the route where you go to a 2yr school, get an AA and then transfer to a 4yr to finish a bachelor's degree.
 
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TJT

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I personally hated university. I started at 23 and was out by 25. I later got a Masters online as the Army was paying for all of it.

But I will help as much as I can!
 

Sanrith Descartes

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Not sure if the best way to do this is one long edited post or separate replies. I'll let someone tell me how best to do this.

Set a goal, do some research and have a plan:
Decide what major you want to pursue. Ideally you compromise between what you want and what will get you the lifestyle you desire. This project from Georgetown U is a great place to start. They analyze each college major and breakdown jobs, wages etc.


To put this in WoW terms, you need to pick a class, pick a role and then research the shit out of best gear/best spec etc. In this case you pick a job, research what classes you will need to get it and then build a plan to get there as efficiently as possible. Be prepared to modify your plan and have a backup. For example, you may decide that you want to security and job availability of being an accountant. Then you take Accounting I and go "WTF? Debits and credits are so backasswards. This blows". But Finance I was pretty cool, so you decide to swap majors. This shit happens every day.

So you got a major. You look to see what is close to you in terms of schools. I am going to propose going the 2yr college and then 4yr University to finish up as it's the most cost effective. So you find your local Community College and go online to apply. You are going to need your high school transcripts (gotten from your high school. Warning. Do not open the envelope you get with your transcripts. Either have it sent directly to your college of choice or to you. If to you, keep it sealed.

So now you go through the admissions process and they eventually accept you. They may or may not require a college test (SAT or ACT). Odds are if you are an adult they will wave it if you haven't taken it.

You search for something online called <your school name> catalog. The catalog is like your contract with the school. It describes in minute detail exactly what you need to be awarded the degree you want. If they change the requirements down the road it doesnt matter. Your year's catalog is what applies to you. Find you major in the catalog and see exactly what it says. For example, if you want an AA in accounting it might say minimum 60 credits to include...
2 English composition classes
2 math classes of college algebra and above
1 bio science class
1 physical science class
2 humanities classes
1 health class
Accounting I and Accounting II
Minimum 7 elective classes (anything you want to take).

Think of this as your spec build. These are the talents you have to have. Each semester you enroll (choose) what classes you are going to take out of the list above.

Now you think ahead. You find the closest 4yr public University and make sure they offer your major. Then look at their catalog for the bachelor's requirements. Now when you are picking classes to take for your AA (like those electives) you choose classes that are also required for your bachelor's degree. Thus helps you make sure you transfer into the 4yr school with the max number of required classes for your bachelor's.

A note on prerequisites. Some classes require you to have taken a previous class first. This can be a pain in the dick if you dont pay attention. Because that prerequisite class can have it's own prerequisites. Each prerequisite is basically a semester. So if you failed to notice prerequisites on a required class it can set you backwards 4 or even 8 months of real time taking those classes. This blows. This is why you do your research.

A note on cleps. A clep test will let you get credit for an AA level class with just a single 2 or 3 hour sit down test. This is a big money saver. You can buy prep books and if you are good at learning from reading a book you can bang out some serious credits for little cash. The bigger bonus is the time it saves since you dont have to take the 4 month class. I clepped National Government without studying. If you are knowledgeable about some areas (history, government, languages etc) this is basically a must do.
 

Sanrith Descartes

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Financial aid and paying for this:
Depending on your state, 2yr community college should run between 100 and 200 a credit (plus more fees than a cell phone bill). So let's assume $100 for simplicity. Say you need 20x 3 credit classes for your AA. Each class is $300 plus fees. Buy used textbooks when possible. The college textbook racket is a major scam. Let's assume $50 for your book and fees per class. That is about $7,000 for your Associates in Arts degree. If you pay for the whole thing. There are mad ways to get money to pay for this. Each school has an entire department dedicated to helping you with financial aid. Spend time talking to them. Apply for everything under the sun. This is where grades matter. I got my AA with a 3.97 GPA. This qualified me for a community college scholars scholarship with paid 50% of the tuition at the 4yr school I transferred to. Dont skate on your grades. Grades = free money if you do it right.

Assuming $200 per credit at the 4yr school and the same $50 per class fees and book you are at $13,000 for the 60 credits at the 4yr school. So combined about $20,000 for a bachelor's degree. With financial aid, this can get knocked down a lot depending on your current financial situation. If your income is low enough you might get it for close to free.

So this is where you look at starting pay for your degree and how long to pay off what debt you acquired for the degree. If you choose correctly you can end up with a career for life for that 20k.
 

wormie

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Good stuff.

Also if this is your first go at it, there are tax deductions available up to $2500 federal and possibly some state stuff too.

As for textbooks:


And for research access for stuff your uni library doesn't have access to:

 

Borzak

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I started school at 24. I felt like a grandpa, having worked for 5 years before going to school and working part time while in school. I was lucky in that my major for my B.S. they spent a ton of time taking field trips to people and companies working in the field to give you an idea of what was available, demand for that job, pay for that job and such. I think a large part of studies in college now don't ever touch that. Besides field trips to local places during class lab 2-3 times a semester we would go out of state and listen in on papers given, professor was there to make sure you asked a question that made sense at the end. The things I went to at the start they paired you up with a professional. Kind of like a mentor deal. Talk to them, ask what they do, demand for that, how did you get there and such. For instance the Wildlife Society had meetings where masters students gave their published papers and all the professional wildlife biologist would attend and get paired up with a student.

Financial aid I don't know. I wrote a paper for the SRT and they gave me a scholarship. Sons of Republic of TX which I was a member and they seemed to like the idea of someone being a member getting a scholarship, and at a school in state that factored in with the SRT. But a fair number of people I went to school with you could tell when financial aid came in. Spend on stupid shit and be broke by the end of the semester digging for quarters in the couch. School was much cheaper 25 years ago I think. The number of students getting a student loan was probably much lower at the time. Appy even as an older person to anywhere and everywhere. You never know. A friend of mine went back and got his M.S. 10 years out of school and got a scholarship for it.

I don't know about text books. I bought maybe 3 or 4 getting two degrees. Those were for stuff outside my major and some of those I just skipped on. The ones in my major were provided by the college in the university, and you gave them back at the end of the semester.

If you are an older adult or have any experience in the real world at all ask the dean or professor if there is anything you could get around or skip. I talked to my major professor early on and was talking about the business I had been in. He set me up with the dean and I got some of the stuff taken off my list to graduate or traded out for actual stuff in my study. So I got out of communications class, music appreciation and a couple of other classes. But I went to a university of 15k and a college in the university of 300 so that probably won't fly at a larger school. It was nice getting my 140 hours required for graduation in my B.S. that mostly dealt with stuff I needed to know and not "filler".
 
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Sanrith Descartes

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I went back to school at 46 to get my law degree. Part time though, didn't want to worry about living as an adult without a paycheck coming in.
How did it work out for you? I was going to do the same thing and got accepted this year. And then kept looking at the cost and ROI and said no thanks. I also felt like (and I could be wrong) that law is one of those things where years of experience are the most important.
 

Attog

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Law school full-time is a three year commitment, I'm going to school part-time, keeping my full-time day job. I am in the 4th year of a 5 year program. For me it is good as I am a middle-aged guy in a technology job dominated by younger people, with the law, I picked a field where being a middle aged guy is an occupational bonus. I love law school but I may be the exception and not the rule.

If you love history and you love to read, law school is great. If you like getting up in front of groups of people and arguing, also a bonus. I had never done that before but it is mandatory at my school and I'm glad it was, turned out to be a great experience and will likely shape my career path going forward.
 

Borzak

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If you are an in a posistion that you could work and telecommute while going to school seems like it would be ideal. Guessing those chances are pretty slim tho. I worked at home while in school, eventually that type of work went bye bye for an odd reason. I worked a year as an intern for the US Forest Service and it was a good connections builder. Fair number of people I went to school with had the idea that $7/hour at the time (minimum wage was $4.25) would be great for the rest of your life. Lot of people that had never held a real job in their life tho.
 

Sanrith Descartes

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If you are an in a posistion that you could work and telecommute while going to school seems like it would be ideal. Guessing those chances are pretty slim tho. I worked at home while in school, eventually that type of work went bye bye for an odd reason. I worked a year as an intern for the US Forest Service and it was a good connections builder. Fair number of people I went to school with had the idea that $7/hour at the time (minimum wage was $4.25) would be great for the rest of your life. Lot of people that had never held a real job in their life tho.
I got all three of my degrees while working full-time. Night classes are pretty standard these days. It's a kick in the ass some days but it is definately doable. This way you keep what income you have while going to school.
 
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chaos

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I went to school at 32, powered through and got an MS. I don't know if it was worth it or not tbh, and I sure as shit wish there was a different path for people. I work with two guys who have no degrees that are basically goddamn wizards with computers, one in particular has been hacking longer than I've been alive, manager got grief over trying to bring this dude on the team because he didn't have a degree. The MS in particular wasn't really worth it, they focused on project/program management type shit, systems engineering.

But, you know, easy to shit on it after you have it. I worked full time while getting it done. Mix of night classes and online stuff, 1 or 2 during the day but my job at the time allowed for it. I don't know how I could help anyone going to school now but if I can I would.
 

wormie

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I dropped out of college when I was a dumb ass kid. Went back 10 years ago and haven't stopped. I am well over 300 credits at this point and still going (17 more this semester). I have the luxury of being able to live comfortably while working 15-20 hours a week, if that, and living in NY where state schools are cheap. So my experience probably doesn't translate well but if someone needs some advice on being an older student, I can probably offer something.
 
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TheBeagle

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I graduated at 42. BS in Biology, graduated Magna Cum Laude. Bounced around Montana and Idaho a couple years working fisheries and having a blast. Pay was shit though and with responsibilities back home in Texas I went back to my career in the pool business.

Racked up about $25k in debt but I don't regret it at all. I may no longer use my degree at work but it gave me a lot of confidence and authority that's translated into higher earnings. If I was a little bit younger I would go back for a Master's but at this point I just need to grind paychecks for 15 years then go buy a couple dozen acres in Montana.
 

Borzak

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Night school didn't cross my mind, that would be a good option. Night classes in my major were not an option, except for out of class work rarely.
 

fris

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I never finished mt degree. I've been with my company (big) for about 20 years and not sure how many even know. My current role was previously held by a west point grad, then 2 MBA guys before him.

I've debated going back, nights or online. But honestly, only having an mba would make any diff.
I did u of Phoenix about 15 years ago. Holy shit a waste of $$.

Im jaded
 

Ignatius

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Law school full-time is a three year commitment, I'm going to school part-time, keeping my full-time day job. I am in the 4th year of a 5 year program. For me it is good as I am a middle-aged guy in a technology job dominated by younger people, with the law, I picked a field where being a middle aged guy is an occupational bonus. I love law school but I may be the exception and not the rule.

If you love history and you love to read, law school is great. If you like getting up in front of groups of people and arguing, also a bonus. I had never done that before but it is mandatory at my school and I'm glad it was, turned out to be a great experience and will likely shape my career path going forward.
I'm finishing up my undergrad at 30 and seriously considering this. I wanted to go to law school since I was a kid (family is full of lawyers), but I started making decent money at Apple and never followed through.

Dad died, felt bad about not finishing undergrad, but I'm like 20 hours away and debating "what's next".

I think I'd like it but the cost is a little scary.
 

Borzak

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I was 3 hours away from having a second minor. I really didn't need a minor in math/statistics considering how much I'm not a fan of it. I used it a lot in working out management projections but I don't do anything like that in my work. Was kind of concerned to become someone who makes a career out of going to school.
 

Sanrith Descartes

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I dropped out of college when I was a dumb ass kid. Went back 10 years ago and haven't stopped. I am well over 300 credits at this point and still going (17 more this semester). I have the luxury of being able to live comfortably while working 15-20 hours a week, if that, and living in NY where state schools are cheap. So my experience probably doesn't translate well but if someone needs some advice on being an older student, I can probably offer something.
300 credits? Puts me to shame. More power to you. Just curious what part of NY? You are right about how cheap state schools are. I'm thinking about applying for a PhD program at CUNY.
 

wormie

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300 credits? Puts me to shame. More power to you. Just curious what part of NY? You are right about how cheap state schools are. I'm thinking about applying for a PhD program at CUNY.
It's one of the CUNY schools. Cuny allows classes to be taken at any campus so I have been all over, including the grad center.