We’re talking about how to decide whether or not to go back to school today. September is, after all, back to school month right? Why might Mamma want to go back to school?
Getting additional schooling is all about opening doors. Whether you are interested in a new career path or moving further on the path you’re on, there are some jobs that require advanced degrees before we are allowed entry.
I dealt with the several years ago – I wanted to go for a promotion at my company, a job I was very capable of doing, one I would have enjoyed. The spot opened up. I talked to the hiring manager about applying for it, someone I knew and liked. He said, “Girl, I know you can do this job, everyone knows you could do this job, but you have to have letters. I can’t even interview you without letters! Go get some, it doesn’t matter which ones: PhD, PharmD, RN, PA … I love you, but you gotta have letters.” Many companies require the letters MBA for the higher level jobs.
Education generally means more opportunity. Typically, the higher the level of educational attainment, the lower the unemployment numbers for that group of people.
But going back to school while working and raising kids is a very big deal, isn’t it? Like you have a lot of free time now? How are you going to carve out another 10 – 20 hours a week to go to class, do the homework, do the labs/practical work/group study? Something is going to have to give to make this happen.
Take the time to carefully consider the whys and hows before you make the jump:
Motivation: Why am I doing this?
Money: How much will it cost? How much could be paid for by tuition reimbursement by my company? How do I get those funds? Does the program have to be approved by my management? What would this do to our family’s debt load? How much more could I earn when I graduate? How many years at that higher income would it take to make up for the income lost due to tuition/reduced earning now because of time away from work? Can I afford to quit work and go back to school full time?
Additional price to pay: How much time will this take away from my family? For how many years? What else will I be missing at home and for how long?
My husband and I decided that we could make it work and I found a program that would let me take classes nights, weekends, and occasionally online, I got the support of my then boss, and I jumped.
It was a mixed experience. I learned that academia is maddeningly inefficient. The girl sitting next to me in class, the one with the Hello Kitty backpack, the one who spent all class time texting her boyfriend, made me insane. The professor who insisted that I show up for every class, the one who didn’t understand that the national meeting in Baltimore wasn’t optional, he frustrated me further. The fact that I was pulled away from baseball games and mother/daughter teas and just time hanging out at home was more painful than I had anticipated. The actual learning was fun.
I eventually changed schools to a smaller (and cheaper!) community college that had all the classes I needed, and was much more accustomed to dealing with “non-traditional” learners. I even had a professor who let me bring one of my kidlets to a lab I had to make up (kiddo still remembers it and thinks it was massively cool.)
Know why you are doing this. Both the time away and the money spent will need to get you somewhere in order to be palatable. Thoroughly research all your options before making a jump. Talk to other people who have been there. Make sure the school you choose is accustomed to working with non-traditional learners. If you can clearly see the goal, if your family is with you in their willingness to pay the price, if you have thoroughly mapped out the path to get you there, then you are ready to decide.
Have fun thinking this one out, Mamma. And if you decide to make the leap, Godspeed.