Going back to school can be a daunting idea at first blush. In fact, of all the things you may be considering, it could be at the bottom. But I urge you to at least give it some serious consideration.
There are many roads back to the schoolhouse.
Your choice will depend on a number of factors:
- Subject matter — what is your passion, what is it that you really want to know more about?
- Time — how much time do you have or want to spend in your studies?
- Location — where do you live relative to the location of a school you might choose?
- Money — how much do you have or need for investing in your continuing education?
And just as there are many roads back to school, there are many roadmaps to select the roads. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
If your idea of going back to school is limited to sitting in a physical classroom, there’s a whole new world of online learning to explore.
I took my first online class about six years ago while I was enrolled in a classroom course at the University of Phoenix. I attended Phoenix in San Jose, CA, and in a two-year course in Computer Information Systems, one class was taught on line.
The experience was new – interacting with a teacher you never saw or heard, lectures delivered by e-mail, papers turned in the same way, and very limited interaction among students. But I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it (I had a good teacher!)
I’ve come a long way since then and have completely embraced online education. I now teach online at the University of Maryland University College. UMUC has a very robust online teaching framework which facilitates both teaching and learning, and I find that the students really enjoy the online experience. You will, too, in all likelihood. So if school is on your agenda, by all means check out the numerous online colleges that are available today.
- Before listing some searchable websites that provide the names of numerous online colleges, I will unabashedly put in a plug for UMUC. UMUC is one of the largest public providers of online higher education in the Nation. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, UMUC had over 153,000 online course enrollments. Currently, UMUC offers more than 100 bachelors and masters degree programs and certificates fully online. In FY 2006, UMUC offered more than 600 distinct courses online. You can get more information at http://www.umuc.edu/index.shtml.
With the commercial done, here are some additional sources of online college information:
- EarnMyDegree.com at http://www.earnmydegree.com. This website is searchable by 15 types of programs (e.g., business, culinary arts, healthcare, etc.), area of concentration (e.g., marketing, healthcare administration and management, nursing) and type of degree (certificate, associates, bachelor’s, master’s, MBA and doctoral.)
- ELearners.com at http://www.elearners.com. eLearners.com offers information on accredited online degrees, online colleges, on-campus degree programs, online certificates, online courses, and online training. Their database is searchable by subject, degree level (associate, bachelor, master, etc.) and by college name. The site also offers a Guide to Online Education to answer questions about distance learning and online education
- http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com. Guide To Online Schools is an education directory specializing in online degrees, online schools, and distance learning. It offers links to 119 schools offering a total of 2,532 programs.
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There are no less than 1,202 community colleges in the U.S., and about 16% or 1.9 million of the 11.6 million students at these schools are 40 or older. Chances are good that there is one within easy driving distance of your home. You can probably find a catalogue of courses online. Better yet, drop by the school, get a feel for the campus, and pick up a catalogue at the administration office. You may be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of subjects offered.
If you want to look further, check out these sources:
- American Association of Community Colleges (http://www.aacc.nche.edu/) This is an excellent site for locating community colleges in your neighborhood. At the top of the home page is a link called “Community College Finder.” Clicking here takes you to a map of the U.S. Roll your cursor over any state and up pops the number of public, independent and tribal community colleges in that state. Click on a state and you arrive at a page that lists all the community colleges, each one of which is a link to key facts about that institution: president, web address, street address, city, zip code and telephone number.
- The University of Texas at Austin also has a website that lists community colleges by state: http://www.utexas.edu/world/comcol/state. By clicking on the link “Web U.S. Higher Education” on that page, you can also find a list of all accredited four year colleges listed by state. Each school name is a link to that institution’s website.
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Colleges specifically for working adults
- The University of Phoenix — It bills itself as the “largest private university in the United States” with more than 190 locations (as well as online classes). At the University of Phoenix, you “attend class at times and places that fit your schedule, learn from instructors who have substantial experience in the fields they teach and receive personal attention in small, interactive classes.” http://www.universityofphoenix.com.
- Heald College — If you live in one of nine California cities (Concord, Fresno, Hayward, Rancho Cordova, Roseville, San Francisco, San Jose, Salinas or Stockton), Honolulu, or Portland, OR, Heald College offers evening and part-time programs for working adults. Heald says it provides “practical, hands-on learning” in “small, student-centered classes,” with financial aid available for those who qualify. http://www.heald.edu.
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On-campus colleges and other courses – comprehensive listing
- www.matchcollege.com provides a comprehensive directory of more than 6,000 technical certification programs, vocational schools, junior/community colleges and four-year universities. The site has information regarding housing, financial aid, admissions, athletics and more. It also provides statistics broken down by state, city and individual college campuses.
On-campus colleges — classes for older students
- Back to College (http://www.back2college.com/library/faq.htm) is a useful resource for rebooters looking for an on-campus experience. The site offers information and guidance on finding the right school, advice from educational experts, online discussion forums and a free newsletter. The site also offers a brochure on scholarships available to “re-entry” students. And Back to College offers reassurance: If you’re worried about “fitting in” with a younger student population, don’t – adult learners are the fastest growing academic demographic group.
- Universities.com (http://www.universities.com) has an extensive list of on-campus colleges offering courses in a wide variety of subject areas. You access information with a succession of pick-and-click choices. Here’s an example of a search we did:
- From the home page, click on On Campus Colleges and Universities in the left hand navigation bar
- Select type of degree (we selected Masters)
- Select subject area (35 listed, from agriculture to visual and performing arts); we selected Natural Resources and Conservation
- Narrow the subject area (16 to choose from within Natural Resources and Conservation); we selected Land Use Planning
- At Land Use Planning, seven universities were listed, each with links to more information about the course and the school.
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Community centers, art and photography classes, trade schools, etc.
Community centers are great places to find courses in everything from art to photography to basket weaving.
- To find a community center near you, go to Google or Yahoo! and type in “community centers [and your city]” and you will be astounded at the instant results. I tried this for a random selection of cities around the country and in nearly every case, found multiple community center listings. I also found Google to have somewhat better results, with maps.
- To refine your Google or Yahoo search, type in “art classes [city]”, “photography classes [city]”, or “trade schools [city]”.
The resources are out there, and it has never been easier to find them. When you think about the opportunities we all have for learning, stretching, growing, venturing out, you will probably find yourself wondering why you haven’t already been taking advantage of them.
Now’s the time! Go forth and search, and find, and do!
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Last revised August 2007