(BPT) - As you make your New Year's resolutions, you may be thinking about completing your education to pursue your career goals - or even enter an entirely new field. But if you've been out of school for a while, how can you make your resolution a reality? Between work, family and other obligations, the idea of going back to college can seem challenging. Fortunately, there are several ways you can make today's technology, your life experience, your employer and flexible educational opportunities work for you.
To help get you started, here are some ways to maximize your time, energy and financial investment to help you reach your educational goals and check that resolution off your list.
Set your own pace and schedule
These days, there are more available options than ever before to access highly flexible educational opportunities. Many institutions of higher education offer online/remote or hybrid classes that make it easier to fit them into your busy schedule.
When researching opportunities, ask about specifics of different learning modalities, such as whether remote/online classes are synchronous (you attend remotely but at set times, making it easier to engage in real-time interaction) or asynchronous (you can engage with class materials on your own timetable), or how often hybrid classes expect you to participate in person, and where.
You may also consider a school that offers competency-based education (CBE) as an effective way to potentially meet your educational needs more efficiently. Through this flexible learning model, you earn credentials by demonstrating mastery through multiple forms of assessment. Look for a program that is also designed to develop and measure high-demand skills. This will help you demonstrate your capabilities to employers.
Get credit for previous experience
Just because you've been out of school for a while doesn't mean you've stopped learning. Many schools today acknowledge the value of adult learners' experience by offering credit for prior learning (CPL) or experiential learning opportunities, which grant college credit for skills and knowledge you've gained outside of school, such as during military service.
It's always worth asking a higher learning institution what their CPL policies are, and what kind of assessment is required to be granted college credit. Assessments could include (but are not limited to) examinations, certifications, licenses or a review of a portfolio of your work. CPL is one effective way to help you save time, money and effort when you're working toward a degree program.
Seek flexible, affordable online general education courses
On the road to earning an undergraduate degree, virtually every college or university requires certain general education courses. These classes are typically the necessary prerequisites for taking more advanced courses in any field of study as you work toward a degree. They include introductory classes in a variety of subjects including English, composition, math, science, history and more.
If you haven't completed some of these crucial classes yet, there are affordable options to help you complete these courses at your own pace. Sophia Learning is an online learning platform that allows students at any stage of their higher education journey to complete college-level general education courses that are ACE®-recommended for college credit.
Sophia offers over 60 high-quality, general education college-level courses, available through a $99/month subscription. Students can move through the courses at their own pace, making Sophia extremely flexible for busy working adults.
This option provides an affordable alternative pathway to completing general education requirements, offering an integrated experience for students. This means your Sophia subscription includes all your course materials and learning coaches. Visit Sophia.org to learn more about flexible options for completing general education courses.
Explore employer-sponsored tuition benefits
To help attract, retain and upskill employees, many companies today offer education benefits such as tuition assistance - even for part-time employees in some companies - and your coursework does not always need to be directly related to your job. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2023, providing learning opportunities has become a priority for organizations that are working to improve retention.
Ask your employer about their tuition assistance program, as this can save you money as you work to increase your value as an employee. Some employers also offer these benefits to spouses and children of employees, so that is another avenue to explore.
Using these tips, you can start exploring the possibilities for achieving your educational goals, no matter where you are in your educational journey.