“So Kate, what are you up to these days?”

“Well, I’ve got a college counseling business.”

“So you counsel college students?  What school do you work for?”

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“No, actually I help applicants navigate the college admissions process.”

“Oh! [Insert comment about teen’s college search or fond college memory here.]”

Of course it’s not totally off the mark to assume the majority of my clients are high schoolers--they are!  Most of my work days are in fact spent attempting to calm terrified teens and their stressed out parents, but there’s so many more people tackling the college process too!  Sometimes students call me because they’re unhappy with their first college choice and are looking to transfer.  Beyond that we’re also Increasingly seeing the definition of a “college student” broaden and evolve.

Nowadays the college landscape is changing dramatically and so is the population enrolling.  Continuing education students are the most rapidly growing population working towards their degree and colleges are taking notice  (Don’t believe me? Check this out: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=89).  Programs are being specifically designed to be completed in the evenings after a full-time work schedule or exclusively online.  

Heading back to school can be just the ticket for many adults who are already well into their career.  As an increasing number of recent graduates head right to grad school many find it necessary to head back themselves to compete.  An advanced degree could be just the ticket to a raise or even a promotion.  Want to stand out from the pack?  Add an MBA!

Finishing a degree that was never completed could also open doors that had previously been closed.  Some employers require a Bachelor’s for higher levels of management and finishing up those last few credits may be all that’s standing in the way of advancement.

In today’s landscape we find ourselves having to reinvent our careers multiple times, taking detours and turns that we would have never anticipated in our 20’s.  Many look to entrepreneurship as a secondary source of income or look to a shift in job titles to reinvigorate a career. A post-graduate certificate or master’s degree is a wonderful way to jump start a career change, providing the necessary credentials and the skills needed to be successful.

Even though colleges are catering to adult learners there are still some choppy waters to navigate.  It can be hard to determine if old credits will transfer or exactly which program is appropriate given an individual situation.  There are even programs out there willing to grant credit for on-the-job experience if you know where to look!

To complicate matters further there are many for-profit institutions out there offering less-than-reputable degrees for exorbitant prices.  Many of these “schools” can end up deepening the financial hole for someone who had pursued the degree as a way out of an already tough situation.  The trick is finding a reputable college with an appropriate degree on a schedule that makes sense.  A little luck and some are also able to uncover scholarship dollars or have a portion of tuition covered by an employer!

My advice: take the time you need to make a smart choice and be sure to read the fine print about what’s being offered.  As with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.  And of course don’t just assume that working with a college counselor is for your kids!  Someone like me can help you discover unique programs and evaluate if continuing education is even the right step to take.  I look forward to hearing from you and helping you plan your next move!