Why a University Education? The world in which we live is constantly evolving. We are demanding more and more from our citizens than ever before and in order to live up to the demands of the world we need a solid education upon which to base our skills and knowledge. There are many alternatives available for receiving an education these days, which is good news for those who have not yet managed to obtain a four-year college degree. Truthfully, that degree is the difference in literally hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime than not having a degree. Four Reasons for a Four-Year Education Money. The first reason that you should consider a university degree is the fact that it will substantially increase your earning potential. If nothing else appeals to you, this is typically the one reason that most people return to school after years in the work place. If you are in high school and haven't really had to deal with the bills and burdens that many adults face it's difficult to explain how important any edge when it comes to earning ability truly is. However, you should be aware that you need to choose your major wisely if money is your sole motivation. Not all careers pay equally when compare to the education required to enter them. Insurance. This may seem like a strange term to use when discussing why you should get a university education but this is perhaps the best insurance you can find as far as employability goes. Having a university degree gives you a competitive edge over those who do not. In many cases you will find that education is beginning to trump experience as employers are seeking workers with more rounded skills rather than those with very specific skills. The modern university typically requires a brief exposure to all kinds of information and coursework that isn't necessarily related to your major. This provides graduates with a broader understanding of the world (at least that is the assumption). Employability. Believe it or not, those with degrees are much more employable than those that do not have them. There was a time when the trend was to employ those who had experience over those who had education. That trend is rapidly evaporating as companies want employees that can fill multiple roles more and more often. The limited exposure to certain ideas or ideals and principles that most people receive as part of their university education makes you a more employable candidate because you should be able to adapt and adjust, as this was required during your educational process. Confidence. There is nothing quite like believing in yourself. Getting a four-year education is one way to build confidence not only on a personal level but also on a professional level. Whether or not you realize it, this is often the best reason for pursuing a university degree. This reason, as a matter of fact, will actually affect all of the other things I mentioned above. If you have more confidence in your ability you will be more willing to go out there and get the job done. As a result, you will earn more money and you will insure that you are an asset to your company by proving yourself to be just that. Regardless of your personal reason for pursuing a university degree there are very few wrong reasons to get your degree. Good luck in your educational pursuits. I know they will serve you well. Scholarships are Excellent Source of Financial Aid If you are getting ready to attend college I'm sure you are wondering how on earth you are going to pay for it. Even graduating high school students are more and more often finding that they need to contribute in some manner to their college educations. Whether you will be taking out student loans, applying for scholarships or grants, or praying for some sort of work study program to come along there are a few things you need to know about financial aid at the college level. First of all, financial aid can be a tricky beast. For this reason it is best to apply early and keep records of everything you send to the financial aid office. The information age has made things easier on one level and yet has eliminated the personal factor on other levels. However, if you own a personal computer you will find that Internet is an excellent source for financial aid and scholarship information. While the government offers a wide array of financial aid resources, there are many opportunities for you to get an education that do not revolve around government funding. You simply need to spend the time finding them. Your local community is an excellent resource and a good place to start when it comes to financial opportunities for those preparing to attend college. Civic organizations and local businesses like to give out scholarships to promising students. Many of these have very specific requirements and you should pay close attention that you meet the qualifications before applying. There is no sense in wasting your time and that of the scholarship committee by applying for scholarships for which you do not qualify. Scholarships are preferable to student loans, as they do not need to be repaid. This is one of the most important things you need to understand when seeking financial aid for college. Loans are killers to your income for the first several years after graduation. The fewer loans you can manage to take out for your education the better. They are however there for those who couldn't possibly afford an education without them. If you don't find the scholarships you are hoping to at the local level, you should check with the county in which you live, your state, and the school you plan to attend. There are excellent resources for each of these when it comes to financial aid. Within the college you will be attending you should consult your department head (for your chosen major) in order to see if there are any scholarships available. You will be surprised at the number of scholarships for which you may qualify. Apply for all that you meet the requirements in order to apply. Competition for these scholarships is often fierce but you never know when your letter of application might spark the interest of one of the panel members or you simply might be the most impressive candidate. When applying for scholarships remember to read all the instructions carefully, make sure you have all the necessary documentation, and that you have checked and rechecked everything for accuracy and clarity. It takes time to make corrections and they can often be the difference in your being awarded a scholarship and the honor going to another student. Scholarships are by far the best route to go when it comes to applying for financial aid but you should be careful that you aren't placing all your eggs in one basket. Try for multiple scholarships, work-study programs, grants, and if necessary loans in order to achieve your educational goals. Online Education Offers Unparalleled Learning Freedom As the information age rolls on we are finding more and more universities that are willing to invest in the education of students who may not necessarily be in a position to attend classes at that particular university. The offerings are still somewhat limited but there are opportunities to earn associates, bachelors, and even master's degrees strictly though online course work. This is something that was virtually unheard of even a few years ago. Today's students truly do have more options available to them than ever before if they are willing to invest the time and effort into their studies, there are few limits to the level of education you can receive, even if it has been years since you last attended a university or community college. Even those colleges and universities that do not offer full fledged degree programs exclusively through online learning mediums are beginning to offer many courses online for students with busy schedules and lifestyles. This means that you now have the opportunity to combine distance or online learning with a few night or weekend courses in order to complete your degree even if you have a full time day job and family that needs to see you at home on occasion. Even if a degree is not something you are necessarily seeking you might be amazed at the wide array of courses that are available for those interested in increasing their depth of knowledge on different issues from the comfort of their own homes. I know that the idea of self-directed online learning opportunities appeal to me on many levels. These opportunities however, are not necessarily a good idea for everyone. We all learn in different manners and some of us learn best by actually being in the classroom and hearing what has to be said or from hands on experience. This type of learning is not necessarily possible when it comes to distance learning in an email or bulletin board type of environment, which is how many Internet classrooms operate. Online learning is also not a good idea for those who aren't perfectly willing, able, and capable of holding themselves responsible for their learning. Face it, for some of us it is much easier to get up and go to a classroom than it is to force ourselves to log on and pay attention at home. We all have areas in which our discipline is well in hand and others where we seem to have no discipline whatsoever. If you can't hold yourself on task or have difficulties not being distracted by the many other novel things there are to do online you might be best served through an actual classroom experience rather than a distance learning environment like those of online classes. This is not meant to discourage you from distance learning or online classrooms. In fact, I think these are by far the best option for many working professionals who are seeking to advance their careers, knowledge, and/or earning potential. You will not need to feel as though you are choosing between the future needs of yourself and your family and the limited time you have with your family already. You can schedule around your family time and make the sacrifice when it comes to sleep. With online classes it doesn't matter if you are in your pajamas or in a suit and tie you can still do the work you need to do online and no one will be the wiser. You also might find that you can squeeze your education into your lunch hour, particularly if you can type and chew at the same time. The truth is that online classes offer superior flexibility to those hoping to further their education. Whether you are hoping to earn a degree or simply wish to broaden your horizons by taking a few online classes, you just might find that the possibilities are limitless once you begin taking these courses from home. Great Reasons to Complete your Degree A university education is one of the best possible ways to insure your earning power upon graduation. There are all kinds of fields and all kinds of majors, some paying higher than others but as a rule, college graduates will earn more money over the course of their lifetimes than those who do not have a college education or degree. We live in a world that increasingly demands more of its citizens. We need to have the ability to hold academic conversations on the corporate level that go well beyond the score in last nights basketball games. Companies' want well-rounded employees that epitomize all the great things that a four-year degree has to offer. For this reason, even those who have labored in order to gain an associate's degree are getting left behind in favor of those who have a more 'complete' education. If you have already entered the work force there is still the time to increase your earning potential by seeking higher education. Colleges and universities today are offering more options for students wishing to return to college than ever before. In fact we are seeing an increasing number of college students that are classified as non-traditional students. We are seeing many more adults returning for the education they didn't receive the first time around, which is good news. It also means that more and more options are becoming available at night and on the weekends for those adults. Even better is the fact that more and more often we are seeing courses being offered online for those who are seeking to complete their education. This allows even more options for those students who are desperately trying to balance careers, family, and education. As more and more opportunities such as these arise we will also see a growing number of graduate studies opportunities being offered in a similar fashion. If you are thinking of returning to school after years of absence or perhaps attending for the very first time while managing an existing career there is no time like the present in order to do so. Not only will a college education give you greater earning potential in your lifetime it can also qualify you for promotions within the company for which you currently are employed. The truth of the matter is that you really can't go wrong when it comes to going back to college and getting or finishing your degree. You can increase your earning potential, your promotion potential, and most importantly your self-image. There is something about having a degree that makes you feel better about yourself and your ability to provide for your family. Even if you never actually use your degree for anything other than a plaque on the wall, you will have the knowledge that you accomplished something that only a small percentage of the population ever gets around to completing. If nothing else, your college education is worth every penny you will pay in order to have it for the wonderful sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting it. Your college degree won't make you a better person; just give you a better opinion of yourself as a person in many instances. If you need a confidence booster in your professional and your personal life, getting your college degree is often just the bump of confidence you need in order to accomplish many great things. Graduate Degree Options Many people find that in the courses of their careers they wish they had the ability to go back to school for even further education. Unfortunately, not everyone has the good fortune to live in the vicinity of a university that offers graduate level studies in the career they have chosen. Chances are that a good percentage of the population does not and if they do chances are even better that they have very busy personal and professional lives that make intensive graduate studies difficult to pursue at best. If you are one of the many people that feel you have made your choice and are stuck with your undergraduate degree or that a post graduate degree is simply out of your reach, I hope you will read this article with great interest and learn that there options available to you no matter how far away from a university you live or how little time you have to devote to your graduate studies. A graduate education is a very intensive course of study that is very narrow and specific. In other words, many students find that their graduate coursework is their favorite by far as it gets into the meat of the subject matter of their interest rather than merely hitting the highlights. Only a small percentage of the population at this point in time has a graduate education. Though this does not necessarily guarantee you any employability it can provide you with very specialized knowledge or skills that will help you perform your job better and qualify you for more interesting and specialized positions in your field of study. If you would like to pursue a graduate education but feel you are too far from the nearest university that offers a comprehensive graduate education in your field, you might be surprised to find that the nearest graduate level curriculum is as far away as your living room or your favorite Internet cafe. Online courses give new hope to potential graduate students. Many of them will actually allow you to work around your work schedule and at your own pace while trying to achieve your dreams of higher education and life long learning. Online courses are becoming more widely accepted across the nation and around the world. We live in the information age and it only makes sense that we are taking control of our educations by using services and demanding services like online courses in order to further our educational goals. At the moment there are only limited offerings for graduate studies, most of them centering on educational fields with only a few graduate degrees offered in other fields such as the medical industry. As demand grows so will the availability of graduate courses and degrees that are being offered online. If you happen to be fortunate enough to live relatively close to a university that offers graduate studies in your field you might want to check with the university and see if they offer weekend graduate classes. This is a new trend that seems to be growing in popularity as a valid option for those who hope to return to college but can't afford to give up precious work or family time during the week. These courses are much more intense than your average once or twice a week night course but they allow you to pursue your graduate degree in a much quicker manner than traditional programs have allowed and are much more employer and family friendly. Of course you also have the option of taking one or two classes at a time at night in order to achieve your graduate degree as well. Masters degree students only need to take 9 hours a semester in order to be considered full time students and qualify for financial aid. All in all, you do not need to sacrifice your goals of graduate studies in order to maintain your career or achieve some sort of balance between work, education, and family. Whether you choose online courses, night courses, or weekend courses for your studies you have many opportunities to achieve the degree you desire without sacrificing heavily in order to do so. Free Application for Federal Student Aid For any student hoping to attend college in the coming year, the first place you need to start is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that is commonly referred to as FAFSA. The earlier you fill out this form the better as far as your chances of receiving the full amount of financial aid that is available to you as well as to clear up and fix any potential problems that may arise well ahead of the deadline for aid being awarded. The final date for application changes from year to year and is generally somewhere near the beginning of summer. Earlier is much better than later as far too many students wait until closer to deadline in order to fill out their forms and if you have any questions you are likely to find yourself standing in or calling into longer lines for your answers. There are a few things you need to know about the FAFSA. Most schools require this form to have been filled out before they will award any financial aid, not just federal financial aid. In other words you should check with your school but you may need to fill out this form even if you are only applying for departmental scholarships and not federal financial aid. It is a good idea to begin at the financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend at any rate to make sure they do not have additional forms that they require you fill out in order to apply with financial aid through the university or college as well as the federal government. Another thing you need to be well aware of is that you will need to fill out one of these forms for each year that you hope to receive financial aid of any kind. This is not something that is automatically renewed or guaranteed. There are many changes that could affect the amount of money you are eligible to receive as well as whether or not you are eligible to receive federal funds at all on any given academic year. For this reason you must apply for aid for each year that you attend. Another thing that you must remember is that while a subsidized student loan doesn't been to accrue interest until you graduate or cease to be enrolled for the required hours, an unsubsidized student loan begin accruing interest from day one. This means that you will owe a substantial amount of money in interest upon graduation if you take out an unsubsidized student loan in order to pay for educational expenses. Student loans make college educations possible for many people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. At the same time there are many people, who neglect to use these loans responsibly, which is the beginning of irresponsible spending habits that can plague people for the remainder of their lives. Take great caution that you use your student loans for their intended purpose and use them wisely. The FAFSA also enables you to apply for Federal Pell Grants and Federal Work Study programs in addition to student loans. Of the three mentioned above, student loans should be a last resort rather than a first. The amount of money available can prove to be quite tempting so be very careful and read all the terms before signing up for any and all financial aid. Your high school, college financial aid office, and the Internet are all excellent sources for information on scholarships, grants, loans, and work study programs for which you may qualify. Finding the Right College Program for You There are all kinds of college programs that are available today for those seeking higher education and degrees in a wide variety of fields. The problem often lies in finding the type of education that is appropriate for your specific needs. We all learn best through different methods and identifying your learning method is a great way to understand what learning environment will work best for you. The common learning environments for college level studies are the following: community colleges, universities, and online or distance learning opportunities. Community colleges tend to offer smaller classrooms with more discussion-oriented styles of learning and discourse. Universities tend to be more lecture oriented while distance and online learning opportunities are quite often self-directed learning opportunities that require a great deal of discipline in order to be successful. When trying to identify the college that will work best for you, you should keep in mind your personal learning style. Beyond that you should also consider the type of environment you expect from your college education and the amount of time you wish to devote to the pursuit of your education and degree. Some people find that university life is far too distracting while others find that the solitude of online and distance learning is a distraction in and of itself. You will find all kinds of cultural opportunities at a university that you will not find through home studies or on the community college level. For some students, these opportunities are icing on the cake and an important part of the learning experience as you delve into other cultures, art, music, and history. Others find these opportunities to be far too plentiful and far too distracting for their study needs. Whichever student you tend to be will make a huge difference in the best situation for your learning needs. Another important consideration is housing. Most universities have ample on campus housing for their students while a few campuses experience on campus housing shortages and rely on housing that is located in and around the college area in order to fill in the gaps. Some universities will even offer limiting housing opportunities to students who have spouses and children. While housing on community college is seen, particularly in rural areas where there is limited housing available in and around the schools, these are more often the exception rather than the rule. Most community colleges are largely commuter campuses with very limited if any housing opportunities. Online and distance learning programs offer no housing to students. Another concern that most also be considered carefully is the distance between classes and any special needs you may have. Universities tend to be large and spread out. It is quite possible to need to get from one end of campus to another (a mile or more in some cases) with a 10-minute window in which to get it done. For students with special needs or physical disabilities this can be quite problematic, especially on days of inclimate weather. Community colleges tend to have smaller campuses, which mean less real estate to cover in between classes. Online and distance learning classes go with you wherever you have access to a computer. This means that they are as portable as you need them to be if you have your own laptop and wireless Internet access. You must consider all these things and so much more when narrowing down your college choices. Do you really want to take the personal responsibility required in order to succeed in online and distant learning courses? Do you want to be limited by the meager offerings of coursework available at the community college level? Is it worth it to you to pay the high price involved in a university education? These are all questions that you need to consider carefully before making the decision as to which college environment is the most desirable for you. Financial Motivation for Two-Year Education When it comes to college, you are considering an expensive proposition any way you look at it. There are however, ways in which you can greatly reduce your overall expenses when it comes to getting your college degree. The first method, which in many cases is the most preferred, is by attending a community college for the first two years of your college educational experience. Believe it or not you can literally save thousands of dollars over the course of spending two years on the community college level. You will hear all kinds of arguments on why it is better to attend all four years at a university. The universities almost always make these arguments. Unfortunately, their opinions are a little bit biased in these matters. Most universities offer equivalent courses with community colleges meaning that the first two years of study should transfer with no problems or snags along the rocky road to your degree. The universities make money each semester you begin class as a student. It is in their best interest financially to have you from the beginning rather than as a transfer. In fact, many universities offer lower level classes as auditorium classes. They pack more students into classes and have fewer professors or graduate students teaching the courses and maximize their money off the first and second year students rather than those in upper level courses. Yet another reason to consider a community college for the first two years of you education. Getting back to the expenses of a community college, most community colleges are largely commuter campuses. This means you won't face the high housing costs that are associated with universities, particularly if you are attending college close to home. Community colleges also offer far less distractions that cost additional money than most major universities. This doesn't mean that there aren't ample social opportunities; it simply means that there are fewer of them. This also leaves fewer distractions than universities present when it comes to studying. Community colleges simply cost less all around. While it would be nice if you could receive a full four year education at this level, they are able, for the most part, to keep expenses down by not requiring the level of qualification that universities require of their professors for upper level courses. You will have excellent, if not superior quality of education at lower levels than you would have on the university level, but you will also eventually need to move on to the university level in order to complete your education. For this reason, you would do well to save half of your savings over university costs for each of the two years you are attending community college and apply it to your university education. This will ease the burden of the additional costs of the university and feel as though you are paying the same amount for tuition throughout your education regardless of the fact that you are literally saving thousands of dollars on your educational expenses. Some states have educational savings plans that allow parents to save for tuition at current costs by enrolling. These plans cover two years of community college education and two years of university education. By locking in today's prices you are eliminating the inflation. When you consider the fact that college tuition is increasing at an alarming rate this is by far an excellent way to go. You should check with your state and see if they offer a similar plan to parents of younger children and what the requirements are in order to enroll your child today. If you are looking for a real value in education whether or not you only go for your two year degree of move on to a university in order to finish your four-year degree you should find that a community college education offers a significant value for the money. Most people find that every penny they spent in a community college was a penny well spent. Financial Aid Options for Students When it comes to financial aid for college there are primarily two sources: privately funded financial aid and federally funded financial aid. When applying for or receiving either you need to make sure that you are fully aware of all the fine print involved. Most people find that the expenses of college are much too great to afford without assistance of some sort. If you are a parent chances are that you will some day face the need to pay college tuition along with the worry of how on earth you will manage to accomplish that goal. The problem is that not every student who wishes to attend college qualifies for either federally funded student aid or the vast majority of scholarships that require either exceptional grades or a specific and exceptional talent in order to receive. For those students thinking outside the box may be necessary in order to receive the much needed educational assistance or financial aid. If you do not qualify for federal financial aid for your children, then you may want to consider the benefit of other scholarship options. One common scholarship option that is often overlooked is the ROTC program that most universities offer. There is a price to pay for these scholarships but many find that price provides valuable experience and is well worth the education and the experience received during the process. If your child is interested in the possibility of a military career or becoming a military officer, this is a great way to go. As a parent you may want to see what sort of, if any, flexible spending accounts your state has set up that can help you set aside money for college expenses for your children. Many states have these and there are programs such as Upromise that allows you and others to dedicate the spending from a credit card to be used as a 'match' program for your child's college funds. While it isn't a dollar for dollar match of your credit card spending every little bit helps. The real beauty of programs like Upromise is that you can enlist the help of family in friends when saving for your child's college educational expenses. Regardless, it is never too early to begin saving for your child's college education and these expenses seem to be rising exponentially. There are many programs that exist to help minorities and women pay for their educational expenses. Some of these scholarships are needs based while some of them are solely merit based. On all levels competition is fierce, however, if you qualify for any of these scholarships you would be doing yourself a disservice not to apply for them. You never know when your application might be the one that captures the attention of the scholarship committee. The one thing you should keep in mind is to read all the instructions, make copies of everything, and follow the directions. You'd be amazed at how many worth applicants are denied scholarships each year because they did not follow the directions on the application properly. Another thing you should keep in mind is neatness. You are much more likely to win a scholarship if the committee can actually read your application. There are many great opportunities for financial assistance when it comes to college. The trick is typically in finding the great sources. Your college's financial aid office is an excellent source of information for financial aid as is your high school counselor. See what your options are before you sacrifice the dream of a college education. Educational Savings Accounts When it comes to getting a college education, financing is one of the most important considerations that you will need to make. Unfortunately for far too many it is one the last considerations that is made when it comes to the educations of our children. If you are a parent you owe it your child and yourself to plan ahead and plan carefully in order to cover the cost of your child's education. There are fortunately, a few great ways in which you can do this. The most common is to begin by opening up an educational savings account for your child (under the age of 18). When you open up an educational savings account for your child, you can contribute up to $2,000 per year per child. This is a combined total contribution however and includes the contributions of grandparents, friends, and family in addition to your own personal contributions. The money from these funds can be withdrawn tax-free as long as they are used for educational purposes. Educational expenses in this case include books, tuition, fees, supplies, and college room and board provided that your child is at least a part-time student. If you do not use all the funds for your child there are options as far as what to do with the remaining funds in the account. The first option would be to leave the funds in the account and allow the account beneficiary to withdraw them up until the age of 30. There is a penalty involved and the beneficiary will be required to pay income tax on those funds. You could also elect to roll those funds over to the next child under the age of 18 who will have educational expenses in the future. The money you set aside in these accounts to cover the cost of the education of your child or children is not tax-deductible however, it is a great way to begin saving money and investing in the future of your child. If you begin investing the maximum amount $2,000 per year upon birth your child should have a nice nest egg to help cover educational expenses. If your child is fortunate enough to qualify for scholarships and other sources of financial aid you can turn the funds over as a graduation gift or save it for the next college student in your family that comes along. Either way you've saved yourself a good part of the worry that goes along with providing for your family by having this fund set up for your children. You can sign up for programs like Upromise in order to subsidize your contributions with donations from corporate sponsors as their way of thanking you for buying their products or using their services on any credit cards that you, your friends, and your family members have registered to go into your child's account. Every edge you give yourself when it comes to investing in the education of your children is an edge worth having. College tuition rates are rising at an alarming rate while corporate expectations of college degrees are rising at the same near lightening speed. This means that a college degree is more critical for our children than in any past generations. Take the time now to check into securing the future of your children by establishing an educational savings account. Let friends and family know that any gifts they are planning to give your children that involve money would be appreciated if they instead invested in the future of your children rather than the now. You can also ask your friends and family to sign up their credit cards with Upromise in order to provide a little bump in donations to your child's college savings account. These little steps add up to significant savings over the course of 18 years. You just might find that the investment you are making is adequate to cover the costs of your child's tuition in full. Community College Disadvantages While there are many distinct advantages that can be associated with attending a community college there are a few disadvantages that I would be remiss in not mentioning. We all like to look at the positive side of things and the good in my opinion of community colleges, at least as a springboard for university learning far outweigh the bad. However, if you are considering community college as an option whether for your associate's degree alone or have plans to move along to the university level upon completion you should see the big picture and not just the sunshine and flowers. The first thing you should be aware of, and this applies primarily to those students with plans to transfer, is that you should always consult the college you intend to attend next in order to make sure that the courses you are taking on the community college level are compatible with the core requirements for the university. In many cases they are similar enough to be considered compatible but there are exceptions and it is better to find this out sooner rather than later. If you plan to attend a University that is located near the community college you are attending you should check and see if they have some sort of articulation agreement that will allow associate's degree graduates to transfer seamlessly. Many states are stepping in and passing laws that require colleges in their specific states to accept community college credits as transfer credits in an effort to keep qualified workers in the state. Some universities are even offering distance learning programs to associates degree graduates in order to allow access to students who live a greater distance from campus to have access to educational opportunities that would have been denied to them in the past. Of course if you live in one of these states, a former disadvantage may now work in your favor. Many community colleges do not offer housing opportunities and most of those that do are still largely commuter campuses rather than residence campuses. Rather than spending funds on housing these colleges tend to reserve their spending to assist in academic pursuits. Community colleges in rural areas are much more likely than those in larger cities to offer housing on campus. The lack of on-campus housing makes participation in sports and other activities a little more difficult than colleges that are largely residential in nature. If you decide to make a community college your last stop when it comes to your personal educational experience you will be denying yourself a great deal of earning potential over the course of your lifetime. For this reason you should seriously consider the benefits that transferring to a university will present for your educational goals. My largest complaint when it comes to community colleges when compared to larger universities was the fact that there are such limited opportunities to take specific classes than when compared to those classes on a university level. You will find that you must remain within your sequence of courses on the community college level or you risk needing an extra semester or year in order to complete the requirements for your associate's degree. Universities tend to offer greater flexibility, especially in lower level courses that are required by all in order to graduate. My other major complaint when it comes to community college is the fact that they often have much smaller libraries than universities. This seriously limits the ability that students have to do extensive research with the exception of rare cases. Universities simply have deeper pockets than the average community college. For this reason they will have bigger libraries and far more bells and whistles than the average community college. Hopefully we'll see this change over time as well. Despite the disadvantages that can be associated with community college educations, I feel that they are very much outweighed by the benefits that the community college learning environment offers. Community College Advantages If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in a community that has a community college you should really make the time in your schedule to check and see what kind of classes they can offer that can help you advance your education and your career. You might be amazed at the different types of courses you can take even on the community college level. I know that I have found some of the courses that are offered and the degree of learning that takes place to be quite impressive. I think that many people who have in the past disregarded the important role that community colleges play in providing an affordable venue for learning will be quite amazed as well. Community colleges have an undeserved reputation for inferiority when this could not be further from the truth. A good many of the nations nurses are products of community college educations. In many states, the associates degree nursing programs are quite rigorous and provide more clinical experience than most bachelor's degree nursing programs. This means that students graduating nursing school with an associates degree in nursing are often better prepared to deal with patient care than those who have the 'superior degree'. This by no means is meant to disparage B. S. Nursing students at all. In fact, most hospitals will not even consider you a candidate for an administrative nursing position unless you have the Bachelor's degree. This is only meant to point out that associates degree programs can be quite competitive and inclusive despite common misconceptions. Of course there are other benefits to learning on the community college level, at least for the first two years of your education. One of those benefits that speaks volumes to me is the fact that teachers in community colleges are dedicated to teaching. They are not working on their own research or books. They are there for the purpose of helping you achieve your goals, which means you aren't an interruption in their pursuit of their own goals. Community colleges also offer an excellent buffer for students who may not have been on top of their game academically in high school or those who are returning to college after a long absence from academia. You won't find the large auditorium classes on the community college level that major universities are famous for offering. You also won't find that teachers do not have time for their students. There is a lower teacher to student ratio in community colleges so that professors will have time to address the needs of students. Another benefit is that even if you do not go on to get your four year degree after completing your community college education you will find that your earning potential is significantly improved over those who do not have at least a two-year college education. Research also indicates that students who complete a two-year degree program at a community college are more likely to finish and get a four-year degree than those students who begin their educational experience at a four-year university. There are a few problems that can be associated with a community college education and you should take note of these so that they do not become a problem for you. First of all, some universities do not accept many of the courses that are offered on the community college level as transfer credits. Make sure that you know what courses are required for the university that you are planning to transfer to in order to avoid this. You also may find that you are limited on the courses you can take and the times in which they will be available. Make sure that you have all the limited courses well ahead of time so that you aren't taking another year of classes in order to graduate. All in all, a community college education can be just as enlightening as a university education if you enter into the process with an open mind and a willingness to learn. I hope you take advantage of this much less expensive option before moving on to university courses if possible. Common Types of Financial Aid If you are planning to attend college or the parent of a child you hope will attend college, I'm sure you are concerned over how you are going to be able to afford the process. A college education in many cases is a significant investment. The good news is that there are many options for the average family when it comes to paying the high costs involved in higher education. Types of Financial Assistance for Educational Expenses Scholarships. You will find that scholarships come in many different shapes and sizes and have all kinds of strange requirements in order to qualify to receive them. Some are based on need while others are based on merit. You will also find that there are many community and faith based organizations that offer scholarships in addition to certain corporations that offer scholarships in a gesture of good will to employees and the children of their employees. These are an excellent source of educational funding, as they do not need to be repaid. Federal Pell Grants. This is another financial aid source that doesn't require repayment. However, you must qualify based on need in order to receive this particular type of college assistance. You can only obtain a Pell grant if you are an undergraduate college student who has not yet earned a college degree. There is a formula that is used to determine the amount of award for which you are eligible. This depends greatly on your means as a family and how much you can realistically expect to contribute towards the cost of your education. Loans. This should be used as a last resort when it comes to paying your college expenses, as this is money that must be repaid with interest. There are several types of loans that are available and you should consider carefully and weigh your options before taking out a loan. However, if this is the only method you have for covering the cost of your tuition it will be money well spent once you've managed to repay the debt. 1) Student loans. There are three different types of student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and Perkins loans. You must qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized loan, which will put off your interest accumulation until after graduation or you cease to be enrolled the minimum number of hours. You do not however, need to qualify in order to receive an unsubsidized student loan, which will begin accruing interest immediately. If you happen to be in exceptional financial need you can apply through your university for a Perkins loans. These are low interest loans that must be repaid to the university. 2) Parent Loans. These are commonly referred to as PLUS loans (parent loan for undergraduate students). These loans allow parents to borrow the money required to cover the costs of education that are not covered by other means of financial assistance. Repayment on these loans begins 60 days after the funds are transferred and can take up to 10 years. 3) Private loans. These loans are not guaranteed and are solely credit-based loans. They do not however, have the same limited scope that government loans have and in many cases can help bridge the gaps in actual educational expenses and the amount of money that you are allowed to borrow through traditional financial aid opportunities. Before signing up for any particular sort of financial aid it is a good idea to see a financial aid counselor at the university you are planning to attend. They will have the best information about what steps you need to take in order to apply for financial aid at that specific universities and unique scholarship or grant opportunities that might be available to you through your state or the college. Higher education is a dream that is definitely worth having. Do not allow financial limitations to keep you from your goal if possible but enter into all financial arrangements with great caution and thought.
Common Attendance Methods for Returning Students Are you one of many Americans that dreams of returning to college but fears that option ended for your many years ago? If this is you, then you are in luck. There is no time like the present to go back and pursue your educational dreams. In fact, there has been no better time throughout history than today for those who wish to return to school but cannot give up their careers in order to do so. Educational opportunities abound today in America and only show evidence of increasing and improving with time and technological advances. There are many options available for the returning students of today that would have been summarily designed to those hoping to further their educational goals in the past. If you are hoping to go back to school consider the options below very carefully before deciding which will be best for you. The All or Nothing Approach This endeavor is a giant leap of faith. It involves quitting your job, packing up your life and going back to college with every hope for a better future hinging on your performance. This is a high-risk endeavor for many professionals who have families and careers to consider. However, the rewards will be much quicker with this approach than most of the other available options. You should consider carefully whether this is an appropriate plan of action for your specific needs or if the risk would be too high for your family to endure. Night School Most community colleges and universities offer a wide assortment of night classes to those students who have daytime careers but are hoping to further their educations. You will find that despite common preconceived notions there is a wide mixture of students in night classes. There are first time college students who simply prefer night classes to early morning classes, retirees hoping to learn something new, and professionals hoping to grab a few more credit hours towards their degree. You never know whom you will find in your night classes but chances are you will find that there is a special sense of community among night school students that you won't find in traditional day classes. Techno Wizards for Internet Courses Believe it or not you do not need to have spectacular technical skills in order to take the average online or Internet course. The truth of the matter is that the most technical skill most of these classes require is the ability to visit websites, open email, and download an occasional file. Internet classes offer extreme flexibility for those with busy family and work schedules. This is the option of choice for many returning schools. The good news is that more and more universities and community colleges are offering these sorts of classes in many different fields and majors. The more demand grows for these classes the more classes will be offered. The fact is that as consumers we have the right to ask for what we want or need. College students are consumers who are paying a hefty price for the product they hope to receive-a solid educational experience. Do not be afraid to request that the university you are attending offer more options for working students if you find that you are in need of a class that isn't offered in a flexible manner. Chances are if you need the course, there are others like you who will as well. If there is enough demand, most universities will oblige the demands of their students. Associate Degree Vs. Bachelor Degree There really are few ways to compare a two-year education with a four-year education that would be fair to either degree program. The truth of the matter is that both are excellent for certain things while both also offer serious limitations. When it comes to pros and cons they both have their own set of both that make excellent food for thoughts. Two-Year Education Pros When it comes to a two-year college program there are several things you should consider in its favor before you take the plunge. First of all, you should keep in mind that the degree or certification at the end of your studies doesn't necessarily indicate the end of your education. Two-year degrees are excellent starting points for four-year degrees but also allow you the option to venture out into the workplace with your own skills and knowledge that will allow you greater earning potential than a high school diploma. You will also have the benefit of entering the work place much sooner with an associate's degree than with a bachelor's degree. Most importantly for many who are limited by budgets, two-year colleges offer an affordable alternative for an education or even the first two years of your education. Cons The biggest cons that most people find when it comes to getting a two-year degree is the growing competition for limited jobs. In fact, it is difficult to remain competitive in any industry when there are more and more entering the work force with bachelor's degrees. It is simply more difficult to maintain a competitive edge with only a two-year degree though it is not impossible. The other obvious con when it comes to two-year college degrees is that fact that some positions will not even consider anyone with less than a four-year degree. This means that you aren't even in the running required to worry about competition. Four-Year Degrees Pros A bachelor's degree will earn you far greater earning potential in your lifetime than a high school education without a doubt. It will also place you in a position of serious competition within your chosen field or industry. This means that you will often be given preference when seeking jobs over those who do not have degrees or those with lesser degrees regardless of experience. There is also not enough that can be said about the personal confidence that goes along with earning your degree. You will find that you are much more confident on both a personal and a professional level once you've earned your bachelor's degree. Cons The single largest con associated with a bachelor's degree is the expense. Both in terms of time and money bachelor's degrees exact a price. You should be certain that you are both willing and able to pay that price before setting out to get your degree. Regardless of whether a two-year degree or a four-year degree is in your personal best interest at the moment neither are a waste of time or effort. I hope that you will eventually seek a four-year degree, as this will give you a competitive edge in business, however, even the smallest improvement in your education level can mean big changes over the course of your lifetime. Sometimes it helps to improve your education in steps. Take one class at a time until you have your associate's degree then repeat until you have your bachelor's degree. Good luck! Are Student Loans Becoming Necessary Evils? When it comes to getting a college education most people can agree that the costs can be staggering at best. Even the least expensive colleges in the nation can add up over a four or five year period of time creating crippling debt for those who do not qualify for some of the better grant programs of substantial scholarships. The problem lies in the fact that the parents of most traditional college students make too much money to qualify for the free financial aid that is needs based and very few qualify for the limited number of scholarships that are available to students based on merit. Even among those that qualify competition and fierce and there are no guarantees. Enter the student loan. There are all kinds of student loans and unfortunately with rising costs associated with college attendence and the growing necessity of a college degree for success in this country it is becoming more and more difficult to pay the price that is associated with higher education. There are three types of loans that are commonly found for college students. They include federal student loans, federal plus loans, and private student loans. Each type of loan has advantages and disadvantages that are unique to that particular loan. Below I will give a little information about each of the loan types and whom they may benefit. Student loans. There are three different types of student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and Perkins loans. Perkins loans are only available to students who display exceptional financial need. These loans are available at a 5% interest rate and are available to both graduate and undergraduate students. Perkins loans are extended through the university you attend and will be repaid to the university unlike the other types of student loans, which are repaid to the lending agency. Subsidized student loans are loans in which the interest is deferred until graduation or you cease to be a qualifying student. What this means is that while you are responsible for repaying the loan upon graduation the interest on these loans does not begin to accrue until your begin repayment 6 months after graduation or your cease to be at least a half time student of the university. You must qualify based on your income in order to receive a subsidized student loan. While the needs requirements for these loans isn't as grave as those required in order to receive a Perkins loan you must still qualify. Unsubsidized student loans do not require qualification on a needs basis. You must be a student and enrolled at least half time in order to receive an unsubsidized student loan. The good news however for those who do not qualify based on needs for other student loan options is that this type of loan is available to all qualifying students regardless of need. The interest on these loans however begins to accrue immediately, which means they can really add up over time. PLUS loans are loans that are taken out by the parents of students who need the funds in order to cover educational expenses. The maximum amount that can be borrowed is the cost of attendence minus any financial aid awards the student has already received. The repayment on these loans begins 60 days after the loan is dispersed and the repayment period can be up to 10 years. In order to cover the costs involved in education that go above and beyond what the government recognizes as acceptable college related expenses you can opt to go the route of private student loans rather then relying solely upon federal financial aid for your student loan source. These loans require that you qualify in order to receive them based on your credit rather than your need and must be used for educational purposes only. With these particular loans you really need to make sure you read all the fine print as different companies offer different conditions and different perks. You should really take the time and compare prices and options before taking out a private student loan and this should be done only as a last resort. Student loans for many can be the difference in attending college and getting the education you are hoping for and not being able to pay the high costs that go along with higher education. For this reason you should treat them with respect and not take them lightly. Advantages of Universities A degree from a university means many thing to many different people. Only you can define the importance of a degree such as this to you and only you can determine whether or not now is the time for you to pursue a university degree. If you are unsure about how advantageous a university degree could be to your life let's look at some of the advantages to a university education in relationship to a community college education. Money. The first obvious advantage of a university education would be in future earning potential. A four-year degree trumps a two-year degree almost every time. There would have to be exceptional circumstances for someone with a two-year degree to earn more over the course of a lifetime than someone with a four-year degree in the same exact field. While a degree does not guarantee employability, it does improve the odds as well as the income potential that is associated with the field you are entering into. If you have a two-year degree the decision to continue your educational pursuits can be a tough one but it is well worth the effort in the end. Housing. This is another distinct advantage that universities offer over community colleges. In fact, many universities are now offering housing opportunities to students with families in addition to those students who have no families. Colleges and universities are offering all kinds of value when it comes to housing and meal plans. A great deal of the college experience is missed when you do not live on campus. For this particular reason students wishing to enjoy the experience that dorm life provides often consider universities over community colleges. Diversity. This is another key component that is often missing at the community college level. International students find no real price breaks between universities and community colleges so they tend to opt for the housing and cultural atmosphere that universities present rather than going with the limiting educational, residential, and cultural experience offered by many community colleges. You will find students of different races, religions, cultures, and nations on the university level-far more than will typically be seen in a community college unless you are attending community college in a very culturally diverse city such as New York. Culture. This is something that is often lacking on the community college level, as they are largely commuter campuses. You will not see quite the opportunity to experience art, music, the theater, and other wonderful experiences that universities pride themselves in offering to their students. There is nothing quite like the cultural offerings of most large universities and if you get the opportunity I hope you will take the time to stop and experience some of the wonderful things that being in a university community present you with an opportunity to experience. Research opportunities. On a university level you will have the opportunity to participate in research projects with certain professors if your prove yourself worthy and express an interest. This is something that isn't as likely on the community college level as most professors in a community college are dedicated to teaching rather than research. You will find that the experience of working on a large-scale research project is unlike anything you are likely to experience again if you ever get the chance. Confidence. There is nothing quite like a college degree from a university to help you become a more confident person both personally and professionally. This is something that really can't be achieved on the community college level but can only be experienced by getting a degree from a university. If you lack confidence when dealing with others or in your career, I hope that you will find that your university education is just the thing to help you feel more confidence on all levels of your life. These are just a small sampling of the many benefits of attending a university over a community college education. I hope you will carefully consider these when making your decision about which is best for your personal education needs. A Community College Education is a Good Start Many people search and search for the University they will attend upon graduation from high school. Eager students look forward to their time at university while parents wring their hands hoping that their children choose to attend a university that is not only close to home but also within their budget limitations. Another worry that parents have when their children decide to attend college is whether or not that university they attend will have the specialized and individualized services that their children were accustomed to receiving in high school. Face it; larger universities tend to be rather impersonal when it comes to the education of their students. One answer to all those worries and more is to transition your students from high school to a two-year college rather than throwing them to the university wolves so to speak. Many people find that two-year colleges can in fact provide superior educations to four-year universities for those first two years or foundation college level courses. You will not get the specialized or specific instruction in a two year college that is available to upper level students on a university level but most students find the first two years of their college educations focused on getting the requirement and pre-requisite courses rather than the specialized courses in their intended field of study. Many people also find that those first two years at a community college-transitioning from a small pond to a larger lake-are much easier to handle than going straight from high school to a university-out of the pond and into the ocean. Universities often have lower level classes as auditorium classes. These classes offer little individual instruction and are often sink or swim sorts of classes. Those students who have special learning needs are often lost in the shuffle when entering a university. Community colleges offer smaller classes and ample opportunities for tutoring as well as classes on how to learn to study. Two-year colleges are also much easier on the budget than most universities. Most people find that community college does not place nearly the financial burdens on families that universities place. Add to that the fact that most community colleges offer very flexible class scheduling and even some courses online and you will find that there are many reasons to consider community college that go well beyond mere budgeting requirements. Another benefit to students who wish to enter the work force sooner rather than later is that you can actually get a degree or certification in certain programs from a two-year college. This means that you can actually graduate and begin earning much sooner than if you were to attend a four-year college in search of a degree. If you aren't sure you want to invest the next four or five years of your life in pursuit of a degree or you simply aren't ready to commit yourself to one line of work for the rest of your life it is a good idea to spend two years in a community college rather than making the leap straight into a university setting. If you are considering whether or not a community college or two year education is the best course of action for your specific needs, I really recommend creating a list of pros and cons of each and balancing your budget to see where your needs are most likely to be fully met. Remember you can always transfer to a university once you've completed your two-year college education or at any time during that education as long as you meet the universities admission requirements. Good luck and remember that your college education is one of the largest indicators of your future earning potential so take it seriously. A College Degree is Nearly a Necessity Your education is the single greatest gift you can give yourself. While there are educational opportunities all around us, some of them come at a greater cost than others. A college education might require a hefty investment of time and money upfront but the pay off is much better over time than if you used your life experiences in order to achieve the same level of education that you can pack into 2, 4, or 5 years of an undergraduate education on the college level. In other words, over the course of your lifetime you are likely to pay far less for your college education than you would pay (in earning potential) for not having a college education. At the same time, each level of college education you receive increases your overall earning potential. This means that a one-year degree in a technical field will provide a modest boost from a high school diploma when it comes to earning potential but an associate's degree will provide an even better boost. You will see an even more significant improvement in earning potential when you increase from an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree. The vast majority of students enter the work force upon completion of a bachelor's degree. Those students, however, who remain in school for graduate studies often, find that a master's degree even further improves their lifetime earning potentials. The problem for most when it comes to making the jump between degrees and educational levels is cost. There are times in life when we simply need to get out of school and get to work. The good news is that it is gradually becoming easier for those with careers to further their education without sacrificing either their careers or their family during the process. Of course there will be some sacrifices along the way but it isn't an all at once or nothing endeavor. You can work towards your degree by taking online classes, night classes, and Saturday classes. The information age has made it easier than ever before to achieve the educational goals you need to meet in order to satisfy your dreams for the future. Your level of education will get your foot in the door when it comes to certain jobs and your lack of education will limit you far more than a lack of experience will limit you in many cases. As time grows on, more and more companies are seeking employees that have degrees rather than those who have experience in the field. If you hope to remain competitive in the business world you need to arm yourself with the proper education. Check with your company to see if they offer any sort of incentives for employees continuing their education. You might be surprised to find that your company offers to match your tuition funds or even completely reimburse them if you are working towards a degree that will assist you in your job functions. There is no wrong reason to get an education. Even if you are applying for a job that won't use your specific degree, you might find that having a degree at all gives you a boost over other applicants for the same position. A college degree is becoming more and more necessary in today's business climate. You need to take every opportunity that is available to you in order to get your college degree. Is an Online Education Right for You? We live in the information age. We have grown so accustomed to information at the speed of light that the prospect of not having immediate access to countless numbers of facts and figures with the mere click of a few buttons for many of us is simply disconcerting. For this reason, it only makes sense that there are many people across the nation and around the world that are embracing the idea of online learning and educational opportunities with every ounce of enthusiasm they can muster. At the same time there are equal numbers of people around the world who are trying desperately to hold on to traditional methods of dealing with certain things. In fact, some people actually still play solitaire with a deck of playing cards. For people who feel that the information age has left them behind to some degree the chances are quite good that online learning may not be the best available option for you. Below you will find a few questions that can help you narrow down whether or not you would truly benefit by taking some of the many online courses that are being offered in today's information age of learning. 1) Are you disciplined? This may seem like such an innocuous question because we would all like to think that we are disciplined to some degree. The problem is that when you are in the driver's seat for your own education you need to have a little more than some small degree of discipline. You need to be able to meet deadlines, take the tests, and hold yourself responsible for actually learning the information that you need to learn in order to pass the course. There is no one to blame but yourself if you do not manage to do well in your online classes and some people simply do not like being in the drivers seat when it comes to motivating and pacing themselves and their learning practices. 2) How do you learn best? We all have different methods of learning for which we retain information better than others. Online courses are reading intensive. If you have difficulties retaining the information you read you may need to find an alternate learning method or seek solutions with the assistance of the course instructor before moving forward in an online learning environment. 3) Do you have a true desire to succeed? The answer to this question is quite important in determining whether or not online learning is in your best interest. There are many paths you can take in order to achieve the education and degree you desire. This is not the path of the masses, at least not yet. This type of learning, more than any other is easy to give up on through apathy. If you aren't determined to do the assignments, to study the notes, and to really learn the material that is presented to you then you really do not need to waste your time or the instructor's time by continually making up excuses. Online courses are largely self-paced but you do have a limited amount of time in which to learn the material before you need to move on. The teacher is responsible for providing you the information and material but you are responsible for everything that happens from that moment on. Are you ready for that responsibility? Whether you are a first time college student or a professional that is returning to school after a long absence online learning can open new doors of opportunity for your learning pleasure. You must be willing to walk through those doors and take the information that is presented to you however in order to be successful. My sincere hope is that everyone reading this will carefully consider whether or not the lack of structure that many online courses provides is going to be conducive to your specific learning and educational needs before taking the plunge. University Disadvantages We have discussed some of the wonderful advantages that university life and educations present. However, we must in turn discuss some of the other disadvantages that are associated with university learning as well. While we discuss these you should keep in mind that they do not by any means indicate that you should give up on your higher education goals, only that you should view your educational process with realistic expectations. When compared with the community college system the very first and most distinctive disadvantage that comes to mind is the high cost of upper education on the university level. Community colleges are simply more cost effective all around than universities. The costs go well beyond that money that would be spent on room and board making the tuition alone cost prohibitive in many cases. While there are many types of financial aid available to students the vast majority of college students in this country make ends meet through the use of student loans, which must be repaid at quite a hefty interest rate, in order to cover the costs associated with university educations. Beyond the one obvious disadvantage there are a few other disadvantages that bear mentioning in this particular circumstance. First of all, universities do not have the small intimate classroom settings that literally set community colleges apart. In fact, for lower level course, most universities offer large auditorium classes that are taught by graduate students rather than professors and more often than not the students never get to know those who are charged with their education on more than a nod and smile while passing in the halls basis. This method for learning is considered by many to be exceptionally inferior and the statistics prove that students who go straight into a four-year college environment rather than going through a community college first are far less likely to complete their degrees. If that isn't enough of a disadvantage, many people find that the impersonal atmosphere of most universities is quite limiting when it comes to interaction with other students. The smaller classroom environments of community colleges invite interaction between the students in the class. An open line of communication within the classroom is greatly preferred to having so many students that no one gets a voice or the ability to voice their opinions or personal experiences when it comes to certain topics. Another disadvantage to university life is the sheer size of university campuses. Community colleges tend to be much more compact. This means that students have a fairly decent chance of making it to all classes on time and without the worry of walking 2 miles in ten minutes. While this is great for physical fitness, missing the first ten minutes of class each week can limit the educational process that your university experience should be providing. It seems like such a small thing on one hand but when you are hauling around a day's worth of textbooks and a laptop--that hike can be the thing that marines seem dubious about accomplishing. While there are a few distinctive disadvantages to university life, the fact remains that graduation from a university is the single biggest way to increase your earning potential over the course of your lifetime. The amounts are by no means insignificant. I highly recommend whenever possibly that you attend community college for the first two years of your college education. Beyond that, I strongly urge you to consider the value that completing your education and getting a four-year degree can provide. If you wish to build self-confidence, earning potential, and job security, there is no way of doing so that is superior to getting a four-year degree. It doesn't matter where you are in life or your career; it is never too late to begin getting your education. There are so many things in the world that a good education will open your eyes to in addition to the doors of opportunity a four-year degree will open. The True Value of a Two-Year College Higher education in this country is rapidly becoming a necessity in the business community rather than a luxury. There was a time when those who had a high school education still had the opportunity to build a better world for themselves and their families. Those days are rapidly becoming another dieing ember of the past. If you hope to have significant earning potential during your lifetime you are almost completely limited by your learning potential and the level of education you have received. The good news is that you do not have to have an all or nothing approach when it comes to education. You can begin by taking baby steps when it comes to higher education. If you have a community college in your area, this is one of the greatest resources for beginning your college education at any stage in your life. Most community colleges offer classes at various times during the day and evening, even some on Saturday in order to accommodate students of different ages and backgrounds. Community colleges also offer an excellent opportunity to begin your learning quest in a manner that is much more easily affordable to the average citizen than a full-blown university. These colleges are largely commuter colleges though there are several that allow students the experience of living on a college campus at a much lower price than most major universities charge for the same or very similar privileges. Community colleges also allow you to explore your options if you aren't really sure what direction you wish for your education to take without paying such a high price for the process. If you know the career path you wish to take you might find a two-year degree program that can have you out of school and in a career much sooner than a four-year program will allow. If that isn't good enough news for you, many of the two-year programs of study that are offered at the community college level may very well transfer quite easily into bachelor degree programs at the university level. Community colleges offer an excellent start for many people who are seeking higher education whether to further their careers or just to find fulfillment on a personal level in life. There are many wonderful programs in vocational fields as well as academic fields that can be explored and studies on the community college level. For graduating high school students community colleges help students ease into the adjustment from high school to college without going through the culture shock that some universities can put students through. You will find that there are often many opportunities to meet educational as well as social needs on the community college level for students that are interested in pursuing a community college education. You should also discover that community colleges are much easier to budget when it comes to setting aside funds and savings for either your personal college education or the educational expenses of your children. Having them attend a community college for two years then transferring to a University can save a great deal of money and provide you a little piece of mind that your children are still receiving an excellent level of education. Seriously, if you are looking for an excellent value when it comes to education you would be doing yourself or your children a disservice if you do not check out the community college options in your area before taking the plunge and diving into the university lifestyle. You will find that community colleges often offer an equal level of education for the introductory classes that first and second year college students often take, they are a much better value for the money, and they are an outstanding values for those who are trying to juggle their education with family and work responsibilities. The Dollars and Cents of a Four-Year Degree When it comes down to the importance of an education there is no denying that the longer you stay in school the better off you are when it comes to earning potential over the course of your lifetime. Recent estimates have presented some rather astonishing figures to support these claims however, and I for one think they are well worth mentioning. Let's discuss first things first however. A high school diploma will net the average citizen $200,000 additional dollars of lifetime income on average. This is one small baby step when it comes to the educational process however. Some college, even without a degree will even increase that figure an additional $150,000 for a total of $350,000. If this isn't enough to convince you however try the facts and figures that are associated with the additional earning potential that a four-year degree introduces: $500,000. This addition makes a total of $850,000 more over the course of a lifetime in earning potential. I don't know about you but I find those figures to be quite a nice motivator for going back and finishing a degree. While a person's education may not be an accurate indicator of his or her actual ability it is often used in the business world to narrow down a growing field of applicants for a sadly stagnate number of positions across the country. There are things you just can't see on a piece of paper and ability and capabilities are among those things. Businesses need a defining factor by which they narrow down the field of potential employees and that defining characteristic is often a college degree in the field of business or a complimentary major course of study. While this may not seem fair to many who have the practical skills companies are seeking employees that can fill multiple roles in order to eliminate positions that have been occupied in the past. For this reason they want business people who have technical skills and a college education provides a brief introduction to many skills that are useful in these situations. Unfortunately, the only way to know whether or not you have these specific skills is if you list them on your resume while those who have a four-year degree are believed to have them by the merit of their educations. The earning potential alone should be enough to turn your head when it comes to the importance of earning a college degree though there are many more excellent reasons to pursue the completion of your degree. If you haven't considered some of the other wonderful reasons for returning to college and getting your degree, perhaps the reasons below will provide a little additional motivation. 1) Challenge. There is very little in life that offers the challenge of returning to college after an absence. It is a frightening prospect for many and yet can be equally as exciting. You will find that the constant exposure to academic debate is a great way to feed your mind and open your eyes to new ideas. Challenge your preconceptions and challenge the limits of your own experiences by opening up your mind to the thoughts and ideas of others. 2) Learn New Skills. There is never a bad time to begin learning new skills no matter what they say about old dogs and new tricks. The truth is that as long as you open your mind to learning you are feeding it and that is a great thing. 3) Career advancement. Whether you realize it or not, a college degree is one of the quickest paths you can take to career advancement. If the money wasn't enough to convince you of the impact that a four-year degree can make in your life perhaps the reasons mentioned above were enough to do the trick. Whether or not you realize how much a degree can affect your life the truth of the matter is that it can improve so many things about your life and how you view yourself and the world around you. Now is the perfect time to go back to school and earn your degree. The Benefits of Online Learning While there are all kinds of benefits that are associated with learning and furthering your educational goals there are even more benefits to those who wish to pursue online learning in order to achieve those goals. I hope you will find that many of these benefits are quite enlightening and carefully consider whether or not online learning for your secondary education needs will be in your best interests. 1) Convenience. This is a word we are quite familiar with. Right along with instant gratification. We are a society of people who have lived with drive thru banking and fast food and are rapidly moving in the direction of drive thru pharmacies and dry cleaning. We live in a fast paced world and when we can work education into our busy schedules and on our own terms we find that this is something we tend to like a lot. I recommend that you watch for a growing number of online classes and online students in the coming years as more and more professionals decide to further their degrees and their careers. 2) Flexibility. You can take these classes or do the work during your lunch break, while the kids are practicing soccer, or while cooking dinner (depending of course on how well you multitask). You do not need to be in the classroom every night at 6:00 pm for the next five years in order to get the same degree of education. This by no means indicates that you will not have to do the work. The work will not change nor will the fact that you have a limited time in which to complete the work. What will change is that you will have the option of doing the work in the morning, afternoon, or after those 2 a.m. feedings when you can't seem to get back to sleep. 3) Location. There isn't enough that can really be said about this. Online education comes to you wherever you happen to be able to connect to the Internet. Whether you are at home, at work, or your favorite Internet cafe you can have the convenience of taking your work with you and enjoying the environment in which you are completing your work. 4) Less Expensive. No more convenience meals, childcare expenses, or gas guzzling trips to a college campus that thirty minutes away. You can now enjoy in your own home the benefits of an education without many of the financial hardships that are often associated with attending college. Internet access seems like such a small price to pay when compared with all the reasons mentioned above. 5) Believe it or not, online courses help you brush up your online abilities. Seriously. You will be better at dealing with email, bulletin boards, online research, and you will learn countless other skills along the way that you probably never realized had anything to do with the courses you are actually taking-because they don't. In other words, you are getting more of an education than you bargained for when it comes to online learning. 6) Individual attention. Online students often have more one on one interaction with their professors than students in a classroom. The online classroom is virtual and correspondence through email is essential in this particular learning environment. For this reason it is quite possible that your professors will know more about you and your learning patterns and needs than they will know about most of the students they see two or three times a week in their classrooms. While these are just a few of the benefits of taking online classes you should carefully weigh the benefits with the things that may be problematic about this particular type of learning situation before you take the plunge. Learning is a lifelong process but if you are seeking a degree you do not want to jeopardize that by taking a course that will not address your specific learning needs. If you feel confident that you can be successful in this particular type of learning environment than I feel you will truly enjoy the experience and the flexibility it brings to the educational process. Student Loans Should be Last Resort Student loans are both a blessing and a curse to college students all across the country. On one hand, student loans allow you to have the money you need in many cases to attend college at all. On the other hand, most college students, particularly those entering college for the first time have inflated opinions of their starting salaries upon graduation and the bills they will face while living in the real world. In fact, most freshmen college students have no real concept of the limits of money in which to base their decisions as to whether or not they can realistically expect to repay those funds once they've graduated college. The sad truth is that many college graduates find that for the first 10-15 years after they have graduated college, they are essentially indentured servants to their student loan debts. There are many reasons for this and different college graduates will find different things about their student loans when the appropriate time comes. First of all, those taking out student loans need to understand that a college degree does not guarantee a high starting salary. Beyond that, a college degree is no guarantee that there will be employers lining up to take your name and number upon graduation. The truth is that most college grads take anywhere from 6 months to a year to find a job in their fields and even then the starting salaries are often far less than anticipated. Part of the blame for over-inflated expectations is the fault of universities attempting to validate their high tuition rates by displaying average starting salaries of only those that have successful offers in the field of study immediately upon graduation (which usually indicates a history of working with the company or another company as an intern prior to being hired) and not those students who have no prior work experience in their chosen fields. Part of the expectations is students reading job advertisements for experienced workers in a field and assuming that an education will provide the experience that employers require. Regardless of the reason, most starting salary expectations are not realistic in light of the current market. The problem is that for many students a student loan is the difference in receiving a college education or not receiving one. For these students, there is no option. The price they will pay (with interest) for having student loans in order to get through the educational process will repay itself over the course of a lifetime if they are wise about making the necessary payments and stay on top of things such as consolidation loans and making payments on time. Student loans are a great tool for those who have no other options when it comes to attending and affording to attend a university. On the other hand, for those who do not have an absolute need for the funds a student loan can provide they can prove to be problematic when trying to establish your career and your lifestyle upon graduation. This is a tool for education that should be used sparingly at best. Whether or not you choose to take out student loans in order to fund your college education it is a good idea if you exhaust all other available resources first. Check out your options for grants, scholarships, and work-study programs before leaping into student loans to pay for your education.
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