The Smart Shopper's Guide to Going Back to College:
How to Choose the Right School for You
Returning to college is a big life decision. Google reports 51% of prospective students spend over a year researching their options.* But with so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Become a savvy shopper—focus your search on what matters most with this resource.
So, what’s on the top of your mind?
Use the dropdowns below to select the top three factors you’re weighing when looking into a college. Hit the “Find Your Focus” button to reveal personalized tips to help you find your best college fit.
The Motivated Multitasker
Going back to college is a big time investment, so it’s natural to feel some concern about being able to keep up. Life’s obligations aren’t always flexible, so it’s important to find a school that can fit around your schedule. If you’re concerned about flexibility, you’ll want to focus on the following:
Whether it is work, a family, or life in general, you are always on the go. School is a big commitment and you need to make sure you can fit it into your schedule. Many schools have programs that cater to working students, so look for these options:
Course choices:Online, night and summer courses are great ways to make school fit around your schedule. Find out when you can start classes as some programs may have limited start date options.
Ask:Will my previous college experience and credits transfer and count towards my program?
Ask:How long would it take me to complete my degree?
Are there any accelerated options?
Or, if you would rather pace yourself, inquire about part-time options.
The Career Climber
Career Advancement +
You’ve got big plans for your future - and who wouldn’t like to move on up? Whether you’re looking to climb the career ladder or branch out into an entirely new field, you’ll want to focus your search on the following:
You’ve paid your dues and are looking for more in a career. Wondering whether going back to school is worth it? Focus on the following:
Resources:Career counseling, job fairs, internship opportunities and student professional development organizations are all worth looking into. The alumni community may also prove to be a helpful networking resource.
Ask:Where do graduates from this program work? Are there any notable examples?
Ask:What kind of career services does the school offer? Does the school offer resources to help connect students with potential employers?
The Thrifty Thinker
You’re no stranger to couponing or digging to find the best deal—and that’s awesome! Keeping yourself in a good financial position is undoubtedly important. If you’re keeping your eye on the bottom line, it’s best to focus your search on the following:
Money makes the world go ‘round, and there’s no shame in seeking out the best possible educational value. Here are a few tips for finding the right value for you:
Avoid sticker shock:Some colleges may seem expensive on the surface. But in reality, the out-of-pocket cost for students can be lower once discounts and financial aid packages are factored in.
Ask: Does the school offer any scholarships? How would being a part-time vs. full-time student affect financial aid?
Ask:Are there any fees tied to specific programs or courses? Are there fees for taking classes online instead of in-person?
The Reluctant Returnee
Academic Concerns +
Sure, maybe it’s been awhile since you last hit the books, but that’s not a deal-breaker! Everyone has to adjust to taking college-level courses, though some schools may be better equipped to help. If you’re looking for strong academic support, focus on the following:
Going back to school can be intimidating. If you’re unsure how you’ll handle being a student again, focus your search on these points:
Helpful resources:Schools that offer support in the forms of student groups, mentoring or tutoring services and academic advisors can help you acclimate back into the world of homework and exams.
Ask: What kind of academic support resources are available to students? Be specific! If you’re concerned about math, focus your questions on that subject.
Ask:Does the school offer remedial classes or other programs to help you get up to speed?
The Speedy Scholar
Time to Completion +
You’re a master of getting things done, and quickly—so why would education be any different? If you’re focused on completing your schooling as fast as possible, you’ll want to focus on the following:
You’ve spent enough time in school and now you want to move on as quickly as possible with degree in hand. If you’re ready to fly through your remaining schooling, seek out these topics:
Accelerated programs:Depending on your field of study, some schools may offer accelerated courses and degree programs.
Ask: How many of my transfer credits can I apply to my program? If you have enough transferrable credits, you may be able to move directly to more advanced courses. You may also qualify to test out of lower-level classes.
Ask:How many credits can I take per term? What is the average time to completion for my program of interest?
The Cautious Customer
School Reputation +
You have an eye for quality when it comes to making a purchase—and that’s definitely not going to change when researching college options. If you’re looking for a high-quality education, you’ll want to focus your search on the following:
You know that school is a huge commitment, whether it time, money or overall effort. You don’t want to choose just any old school, which makes you a smart, thoughtful consumer. Focus on the following:
Accreditation:Schools can be either regionally or nationally accredited. It is important to ask about a school’s institutional accreditation as well as any program-specific accreditation and the significance that could have on your future.
Ask:How well do students do on licensure exams? This may give you a good idea of how well the school prepares you for your chosen career.
Ask:How long has this school been around? Are they well-established and active in your community?
The Knowledge Nomad
Your road to a college degree has been winding, but that hasn’t stopped you from pushing on. What’s important now is to make sure the credit you’ve earned will be put to good use as you continue. You’ll want to focus your search on questions of credit transferability, so be sure to look into the following:
If you’ve made multiple college stops along the way, you’ll want to focus on the following:
Transfer policies:Each school has different ways of processing transfer credits. If you have a degree from another school, it is especially important to ask how that can be applied to your new program.
Ask:Can I test out of any prerequisites? Can I receive credit for work or military experience?
Ask:How can I leverage the credits I’ve earned at a previous school in my new program?
The Productive Parent
Balancing Family & School +
Being a parent is a full-time job on its own, and if you add going back to college into the mix, it might seem downright daunting. That said, you don’t have to put your life on hold—many colleges offer flexible learning options. You’ll want to look out for these things while on your college search:
Raising a family is obviously an important priority. So how can you best fit college and work into your already busy schedule? If you’re concerned with balancing work, school and family obligations, focus on the following:
Course choices:Online, night and self-paced courses are great ways to make school fit around your schedule. Find out when you can start classes as some programs may have limited start date options.
Ask:Will any of my classes require in-person attendance? Does this school offer accommodations to students with children?
Ask:How long would it take me to complete my degree? Are there any accelerated options? Or, if you would rather pace yourself, inquire about part-time options.
The Bewildered Beginner
Not sure where to start? +
There’s a lot to consider when returning to college, so it’s understandable if you’re a little unsure of where to start. Don’t let that bog you down, though! We’ll help you get started by focusing on a few of the most common factors to weigh when deciding on a college:
You’ve got a lot you want to figure out—but could use some guidance. Let’s start by focusing on some of the most common concerns:
Cost:Will previously-earned credits transfer in?
What will your total out-of-pocket cost be after financial aid and scholarships are applied?
Course flexibility: Can you take classes online? Year-round?
Will I need to complete some of these classes in person?
Faster path to degree:Does the school offer self-paced courses or ways to earn credit for work experience?
Now that you've got a better handle on what to focus on in your college search, you might want to check out what Rasmussen College has to offer you. Click the button below to learn more about our Bachelor's degree programs.
Source: Google, “Education Search Analysis” report, Q316
Advertisement: This resource was created by Rasmussen College to promote its bachelor completer programs and to provide general career-related information. Please see www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of the programs we offer. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.