Adjust your expectations.
Prepare your family.
Manage your time.
Develop a study strategy.
Know the resources.
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#1 - I need a change in my life. I'm thinking about going back to school, but I'm not sure that's what I want to do.
A very important first step, and one that is often overlooked, is to give you the time and space to really listen to yourself. What's important to you? What do you feel most passionate about? Is there something that you've always wanted to do? Give yourself permission to think broadly about these questions, without editing for what's "possible." Maybe you could journal about these questions. See what comes up for you. You may be surprised by what comes to the surface for you, or you may confirm what you've always known about yourself. Once you've identified an area, or perhaps a few areas, that you would like to know more about how to pursue, there are additional things you can do to further explore your options.
One method you could employ would be to look into some programs/classes in the community on assessing your own interests, how to be the best you can be, etc. Use these resources for additional guidance on what fields you would like to investigate, or choices you want to make.
Seek out career counselors in your community, those who can guide you through the maze of information that might assist you in identifying the appropriate next step on your life path. In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, there are a couple of available resources for seeking this kind of career search guidance: the Adult Learning Center. If you're not in Hampton Roads, perhaps there is something similar in your area.
Check your local library for books and tapes on career decision-making and/or personal development.
When you have an idea of a field (or a few) that you might like to pursue, seek out people who do that or a similar type of work and try to schedule an appointment to see them and ask for their ideas on how to enter the field, what the work entails, what training is needed, etc.
Don't be afraid to ask questions or to consider the possibility that you might go in entirely different directions than you thought you would!
#2 - What should I study?
Some returning women want to come back to school because they have a particular goal in mind and want to take the course of study that will get them there. For others, the goal at this point is to return to school, with just what to study still a big question. In either case, the University Catalog will be of great help. For specific academic programs, you can look up where they are described in the book, then turn and read all about the requirements and courses. For women with a more general idea of what they want to do (or maybe two or three ideas), the process often involves reading about several degree programs, including their course requirements, and getting a "feel" for where your interests lie.
If you're looking at getting a Bachelor's Degree but aren't sure which one, take note in the catalog of where the "General Education" requirements are discussed, as that section lists courses that you could get started taking while you gather additional information about which degree you will eventually seek. If there are a few areas of interest that you have, you could make appointments to meet with the program directors of each of them, to ask for more information and get a "feel" for the field and the course of study. (See Question 10 of this section for more discussion about program directors.)
One additional resource that you may want to explore if you are at the beginning of a Bachelor's degree program is a local community college. The General Education requirements mentioned above can be earned through a community college with later transfer to the University. In Hampton Roads Virginia, check into Tidewater Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, or Paul D. Camp Community College.
#3 - Though I went to college right out of high school, I didn't stay long enough to earn many credits. A degree seems so out of reach.
Often women who are interested in returning to school have many reasons they did not complete their degree at the traditional age. Sometimes it involves having left school to start their families. Other times it may have been related to taking a job that didn't make it easy to continue studying. And still others state that financial concerns kept them from being able to continue. But, here they are, how ever many years later. They still haven't finished the degree and still wish they had.
#4 - I need to continue working full time. College just seems out of the question for me.
Most of the returning students at Old Dominion continue working while going to school. There are many supportive services available to make that possible.
Teletechnet is an innovative way for students to take courses offered at convenient times and places. Telecast from the Old Dominion campus in Norfolk, these courses can be accessed via technology literally all over the world. Check out the Teletechnet web site for more information about the program.
In addition, be sure and check with your employer's human resources department for any support or career development programs they may offer related to employees' pursuing additional education, i.e. tuition reimbursement. Also, you may want to explore the resources available through Old Dominion's Career Management Center.
#5 - Financial concerns make me think I won't be able to pursue my goal of getting a degree.
Almost everyone who wants to return to school has to factor into the decision how they will be able to pay for it. While the process of obtaining financial support for continuing your education may seem cumbersome at times, remind yourself that there really are lots of available resources and commit yourself to the process of searching for sources that apply to you.
A first step for nearly every aspiring student is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. You can access that form as well as a wealth of additional information through the Old Dominion University Financial Aid Office. Filling out the FAFSA and sending it in will get you into consideration for all of the financial aid programs that Old Dominion administers. Your form will be processed and you will receive an award letter telling you what help may be available to you through those programs (which you then agree to accept or decline).
In addition to the financial aid programs available through the University's Financial Aid office, there are an unlimited number of independent sources offering financial assistance for higher education. Here is where the persistence on your part comes in. Resources such as the Directory of Financial Aids for Women, and the College Student's Guide to Merit and Other No-Need Funding are just two examples of guides, which list thousands of organizations, providing financial support for returning to college. Similar resources that are specific to a variety of ethnic groups, military families, people with disabilities and various fields of study also exist to help you identify all possible sources for which you might qualify. Check your local library for access to these and other reference resources.
Of course, don't forget the wealth of information available on the internet regarding financial aid. Visit the finance section of our online resources page for more.
#6 - I'm so nervous about returning to school. It is such a change from what I've been doing. What if I can't make it?
Rest assured, nearly every woman has some similar reservations about returning to school. Here's a little-known fact: Adult women students (that's women over 25) make up approximately 27% of the student body at Old Dominion University, and they have the highest grade point average (GPA) of any group. It makes sense. Women who return to school come with the life experience and motivation to make their desired change successful. Look at all you've done outside of the classroom -- juggled home, job, community activities -- you've learned a lot and shown your level of competence in the process. You bring all that with you and it shows in the success you'll experience as a student. Many faculty members have been known to say that returning women students are their favorites because of this depth of experience, enthusiasm and commitment.
While this proven success of adult women students is true and can be comforting as you start your new endeavor, that's not to deny the reality of the challenge, you may be feeling. So, to let you know that there are many resources to help you with specific challenges, here are a few you may find helpful as you return. First of all, the Women's Center sponsors a variety of support programs for adult women students. The Writing Center and Developmental Math are two offices on campus that provide support services for brushing up your skills in those areas. These offices have staff members who are knowledgeable about the special challenges returning students may face and are available to assist you. In addition, our University Library and Computer Services offer many programs and services that will help you become oriented to where and how you can access all of the information and technology you will need as a student.
Finally, the support of others who can share in what you're going through can be extremely helpful. Here at Old Dominion, Delta Sigma Lambda is a student group that is particularly geared to meet the needs of adult women students. Both a student organization and an ongoing informal support group, DSL provides returning women with helpful information regarding the ins and outs of returning to school including specific classes, encouragement for how to talk with professors, as well as social and service activities that help to round out the total college experience for members. Research has shown that students who get involved in campus activities are more successful academically as well. It makes sense -- the more you identify yourself with your student role, the more you will put yourself into your schoolwork, and the more successful you'll be.
In addition to this type of organized support, don't forget to enlist your loved ones. Involve your family and friends in your process of going back to school. Discuss your hopes and dreams with them. Ask them for what you need to be able to juggle this new role. Most of all, believe in yourself. Know that you CAN do it!
#7 - I took a few college classes twenty years ago, but I wasn't a great student and I haven't done any coursework since then.
Many returning women find themselves in this position. Often their concerns in this regard are from one of two perspectives. On the one hand, there are questions regarding whether credits earned 20 years ago will have any bearing on application for admission and transfer into Old Dominion at this point. Part of the application process includes having official transcripts sent to the University from any institution you attended in the past. Instructions for making the appropriate requests are part of the application process and information about this process can be found online at Transfer Guide. The good news is that credits earned at any point in the past (with a grade of C or better) can be accepted as part of your current record of completion if they fulfill any current University requirements.
Another piece of good news is that the Admissions Office knows that it is not unusual for adults who want to return to school to not be particularly proud of their academic accomplishments during their traditional college-age years, and that is taken into admissions consideration. So, breathe easier and trust your abilities now.
The second area of concern that aspiring returning students often express regarding credit earned years ago is related to their ability to recall what they learned. Of course, being out of practice at being a student, it does make sense that you might be a little "rusty" on some of those skills. Again, the good news is that there are several programs and services available to help you "brush up" as needed. Some of those programs are described in Question 6.
Finally, give yourself permission to seek out the tools that could help you recapture those skills.
#8 - I've done so many things in my professional life but never earned a degree. I want to get a degree but I don't want to spend a lot of time studying things I already know.
Good for you for acknowledging your strengths! You have a wealth of experience and knowledge that comes with all that you've done. That's why there's a program called Experiential Learning. This program is offered at Old Dominion as a way for students with diverse backgrounds to capture what has been learned through those experiences and turn them into course credit. Visit the Experiential Learning web site for more information.
#9 - I'm concerned I'll feel like a "fish out of water" with all the young students in my classes.
This is a common feeling expressed by women who are considering returning to school. Once they are enrolled and taking classes however, this concern seems to just fade away. Remember, Old Dominion University boasts an enrollment that includes 27% adult women students -- that's one of the beauties of this contemporary, technologically savvy institution. So, you'll probably find lots of other adult women in your classes, but even if you happen to be in a class where the other students seem to all be a bit younger than you, we think you'll find out very quickly that Old Dominion students are very comfortable with the diversity represented within our University community and you'll soon feel you're just "one of the crowd."
#10 - I have got so many questions, and I don't even know whom to ask.
You can believe that you are not alone in having so many questions about returning to school - indeed. Give yourself credit for your level of awareness regarding the challenges related to going back to college, and keep reminding yourself that the answers to your questions are available -- just don't be afraid to ask.
Program Directors for the various academic programs are also commonly identified by returning women as people from whom additional information would be helpful. A list of all of the academic departments and contact information can be obtained through the University's web site.
In addition, there are a number of programs offered through the University that may be particularly pertinent for the special needs you may have as a returning woman student. These offices are presented as resource options in discussion of other questions contained within this site, but for a quick look at these programs try these links: Teletechnet, or Experiential Learning.
Finally, at the bottom of the page, there is an email link for the Women's Center. Feel free to drop us a note with any questions or concerns.
Scholarship Information for Women
One of the main concerns of college women is financial aid. For this reason, many books and Internet web pages are devoted to college scholarship information. This web page gives valuable information on scholarships for women. Listed below are websites and books containing hundreds of undergraduate and graduate scholarships for women. These sources give all necessary information such as applications, deadlines, qualifications, and monetary amounts. These scholarships are based upon everything from financial need to specific fields of study. Funding a college education does not have to be an impossible feat for a woman, with many scholarship opportunities available.
Surviving through school can be a challenging process. Below are several sections that give tips on how to manage your time better, lower your stress, study effectively, boost your self-esteem, and test taking.
As you begin
Multiple Choice Questions
How to Stay Calm During Exams
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