Dust off a forgotten dream – USA
A few years ago, a feature film popularized the concept of a ‘bucket list’, an inventory of things you would like to accomplish before you die. As the idea gained steam, Americans dusted off forgotten dreams like learning a new language and running a marathon, and dared to consider more daring achievements like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or writing a bestseller.
Going back to school is a bucket list idea with both practical and rewarding benefits. Not only does postsecondary education lead to greater income potential and job security, but it can also offer more fulfilling work and a chance to do something you love. But the idea of hitting the books again can seem like an impossible dream when you already have family responsibilities, mortgage payments and other obligations.
Getting that long-coveted diploma will require major planning but it can be done. Here are some tips to make it happen.
- Give it time – Be realistic about when you can start. Making this dream a reality requires long-term planning and budgeting. Can you afford to live on one income or will you have to work while you study? Are your kids old enough to take care of themselves or do you need to make childcare arrangements? What is the total cost and how long will it take you to save for tuition and books? Once you answer these questions, you might find that your first day of school is two years away but it’s still one step closer to reality.
- Get specific – Eighteen year-olds have the luxury of open-ended fields of study but adult learners should know why they’re going to school and what they want to accomplish. Maybe you want to move up in your organization but need an MBA or perhaps you yearn to turn your love of gardening into a landscaping career. Focussing on specific outcomes will help you narrow the choices and fast-track your plan.
- Consider the options – Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to go back to school. Many institutions have mature student programs with flexible hours and remote learning options and some degrees can be completed almost exclusively online.
- Work within your budget – Your dreams of higher learning might include ivy-covered buildings but the local community college or trade school is more affordable and will require a shorter time commitment. If you can accomplish your goals without attending a traditional four-year program, it might be the right choice and you probably won’t even miss the sororities or campus athletics.
- Consider financial aid – Just because you left high school a long time ago doesn’t mean you don’t qualify for aid. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to putting your budget together. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and visit scholarship sites for adult learners, like FastWeb.com. Foresters™, an international life insurance provider committed to family well-being, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship to eligible members and their spouses, children and grandchildren pursuing their first degree or diploma. You can even ask your current workplace if they’re willing to support your education costs. You might be pleasantly surprised.
- Take advantage of tax breaks – Many states allow income tax deductions for 529 College Savings Plan contributions. As well, you may be able to take advantage of the Lifetime Learning tax credit, the student loan interest deduction and the American Opportunity Credit. Visit IRS.gov for more information.
Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. The decision to return to school involves a lot of planning, organizing and paperwork but thousands of people do it every year. Why not become one of them?
Foresters™ is the trade name and a trademark of The Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal benefit society, 789 Don Mills Road, Toronto, Canada M3C 1T9; its subsidiaries are licensed to use this mark.
¹ Synthetic Work Life Earnings by Educational Attainment. US Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey – http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acsbr11-04.pdf
²Foresters Competitive Scholarship program is administered by International Scholarship and Tuition Services, Inc.
410311 US (04/15)