How to get into college

So you want to go to college? This post is not for the 18 yr old high school senior, rather, it’s for the person that didn’t go to college right away (or failed out at some point) and wants to go later in life. Later in life can be 20 yrs old or 60 yrs old. But this post will still be helpful to those college seniors as well it’s just not geared towards them. Why am I writing this? I teach in a graduate program and have a wide variety of students applying and I wanted to share my advice for those going back for a bachelors that they never earned or for their Master’s. So…

*here is my post on should you go to college which you may want to read first

1. Relax. I understand you are nervous but just relax. It’s school. If you want to go, then go. There is a program out there that will suit your needs.

2. It’s never too late. Again – It’s never too late. You can change careers or paths at any age. Will it be easy? Maybe not but I bet you any amount of money it’s possible. So yes it’s never too late.

3. Why? Why are you going? Do not just say you want to go to college and have a career. What is it you want to do? What do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? If you were independently wealthy and could choose any career what would it be? Then select a field/major based on that desire.

4. Money. I don’t mean cost of college. What kind of job will you get with your degree? Now I don’t think you should get a degree just for money, college is about learning and learning to problem solve. But you need to have some career path in mind when you choose your major. How much will you make? Once you know what you will make then you can start choosing a college…So next is

5. Cost. How much will it cost? The average undergraduate degree in the US costs 30-40k total. So its about as much as an SUV and spread out over 4 years. If you are looking at a public university you should expect to pay that much in tuition. Plus you need to consider your living expenses and health care. Its very easy to work part or full time and go to college. However, the more you work, the longer it will take to get that degree. And certain degrees, like biology will be more demanding and offer less time for work. So you will need to figure this out. Remember that there are tons and tons of scholarships out there, like the ucla undergraduate tuition and fees scholarship fundings. Also, there are tons of jobs on campus that you can have while you go to school which may even pay your tuition. If money is your barrier than you are not doing enough research and planning well enough. If you are looking at schools that cost 50k a year in tuition and money is a problem for you then you are already doing it wrong.

6. Online or face to face. Do you want to go online or face to face? Do you live near a university? There is tons of research to be done here. I always recommend going face to face if you can because of access to campus facilities and professors. Even if you go online at your local university that would be better than going online at a university across the country. Access to the campus is key plus you can always mix up your online or face to face classes, which is the best of both worlds. Also, keep in mind if you do decide to go online that its harder for many people. Why? You need to have a lot of self motivation to be successful online. It takes a lot of self discipline. So consider that. There are no right answers here. Just what works best for you.

7. Finding a school. What is the schools reputation? Who are the professors? Do the professors have websites? Can you see their resumes? If you cannot find this stuff out from the website I would be very hesitant to apply. You should be able to see everything online without needing to talk to anyone. Look at my post on finding a college here

8. Will I get in? Yes you might need to take some tests. Yes you will need to gather information. Yes you will be nervous. My advice, your past matters but only up to a certain extent. Professors want students in their programs that are motivated to do really well and will put in the effort to do well. If you have a rocky past (bad grades, bad test scores, prior arrests, etc.) do not assume you cannot go. You can. You just need to make sure you are showing them that you can succeed. How can you do this? Set up a meeting with the professors and talk to them. This helps a lot. If they have talked to you and know you are really trying and motivated they might let those other things slide. Also, if you do get rejected and you really want to go, sign up for a class. You can always take classes without being admitted. In that class do really well then reapply. I bet you will have no problem getting in after that. Now all of this is case by case and some programs have tough requirements but if you want in, you will find a way. Watch the movie Rudy if you don’t believe me.

9. Tests – yes you might need to take them. My advice is to to prepare, buy the book, take a few weeks and really study. If you do bad don’t worry just follow my advice is step 8. Some people are just prone to doing bad on these. There are ways to study and I will write another post on how to do that.

10. Have a plan. How long will it take you to graduate? Know this. Know exactly when you will be done. Then you can plan things like internships and such.

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