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While there’s a fairly regular procession of people who go from high school to college, there is also a large and increasing number of people going to college later in life. It may be that they took a break after high school and worked, or started a degree and didn’t finish, or completed a degree but wonder what they might be able to accomplish with additional education. Is now the right time? When is the right time to go back to school? Margie Decker, Executive Director of Career Services at Strayer University, and Kimberly Williams, Strayer University Campus Dean, both weighed in on these important questions.


Decker points out that sometimes someone will decide to go back to school without really understanding what they hope to accomplish or where they want their career to go. “The motivation has to be clear for the path to be clear,” she says. “Going back to school is not an easy thing to do—especially for adult students. If they’re not sure why they’re doing it, it will be harder for them to motivate themselves into clearing a path for the long road ahead.”

She and Williams both pointed to motivating factors:

  1. Stagnation
    “When someone realizes that there’s no room for growth within their current organization, that’s a good time to go back to school,” says Williams. Decker agrees. “If you’ve hit the ceiling and you want to continue to do more, that’s a pivotal point,” she says. It may be that you’ve gone as far as you can without further education, whether that’s finishing a bachelor’s degree or pursuing higher degrees. Either way, if you can’t move forward or up within your field, it’s time to think about going back to school.
  2. Desire for Change
    Sometimes the issue isn’t a dead end, but a desire to do something different. “If someone begins to feel that they want to explore other career options, and research indicates that a degree is needed to do that, there’s no time like the present,” says Williams.
    For example, someone who has been working in business sales may realize they’d rather work in IT. Additional schooling would provide a smoother entrance into the new field. Or it could be a matter of moving into a different area in a similar field, but one requiring specific expertise to enter.
  3. Desire to Learn More
    “When someone has the desire to sharpen their knowledge, skills, or abilities for any reason, going back to school is a good option,” Williams says. Career advancement may be a secondary part of this goal, but gaining more expertise is sometimes its own reward.

Decker knows that the decision to return to school is a highly personal one. “We’ll see people who are helping their own children enter college and then realize their own motivation to earn a degree. They want to set a good example and be a good role model. And the timing works well, with the hands-on family time being reduced as children who have become adults move away from home.”

Williams and Decker agree that the bottom line is: If you have a strong motivation to go back to school, regardless of the root of that motivation, the time is right.

Learn more about Strayer University’s degree programs.


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