How to Decide If It's Time to Go Back to School

Oct 20, 2021

By Douglas Fehlen


1. Assess why you left school.

Take an honest look at why you left college the last time around. Was it impossible to meet work or family responsibilities? Did financial difficulties force you to quit? Or were you simply unprepared to meet the academic challenges of college? Whatever the reason for your previous departure, try hard to understand what kept you from succeeding in school.

2. Consider whether things are different now.

When you've identified what went wrong during your first stint as a college student, examine whether barriers from that period remain. For example, does your family situation now allow you to attend classes? Can you complete coursework successfully given work obligations? Is school financially viable? Do you feel prepared for the workload?

3. Think about why you want back to school.

It's important to go to college for the right reasons, not just because it might seem better than what you're doing right now. If you go back to school without a conviction to succeed, it's possible you'll find yourself wanting to leave again. Most students who have dropped out recognize that it's hard to fake it at college - you have to be genuinely invested in it to succeed.

4. Examine whether you have a plan to achieve your goals.

Knowing why you want to go to school is obviously important, but being prepared for school requires a lot more than that. Are you clear on what program will help you reach your goals? Have you identified potential schools that would be a fit for your academic needs? These are the kinds of questions you'll have to answer in mapping out your road to college success.

5. Ask yourself whether now is the right time.

Some people may be in a place in their careers where it's best to wait before enrolling in school. Perhaps you'd like to put in more time at a company before you can pursue college study again. Or maybe an employer education reimbursement program kicks in at a certain future date. There are many possible situations in which waiting might be best.

6. Consider your level of motivation.

One-time dropouts are typically older than peers and have a greater appreciation for college. They are often more motivated, too. Students who have had the opportunity to advance their learning - only to lose that opportunity - often return to the classroom with greater focus. If you feel you have this positive perspective, now might be the time for you to return to school.

7. Think about whether you have support.

While you may feel more ready than ever to return to school, it's important to know that challenges will arise. Having support during trying times can help prevent small issues from becoming major impediments to learning. Before enrolling in school again, think about whether you have an adequate level of reinforcement from family, friends and colleagues.

Do you worry that having children will make it difficult for you to go back to school? Learn about parent-friendly academic programs that can make it easier to go back.

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