Is going back to school right for you?

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If you decide to go back to school, make sure you have a support system in place. Ask family or friends if they are willing to look after your children while you're studying. If you work, discuss your situation with your supervisor to ensure you have a plan in place to address work-related responsibilities.

The phrase "back to school" doesn't just apply to kids. Many adults are headed back to the classroom in hopes of starting a new career or improving their odds of promotion within their current job. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students over age 25 grew 43 percent from 2000 to 2009 - and it's expected to increase another 23 percent by 2019.

"Anyone considering going back to college needs to do their homework," said University of Phoenix School of Business Dean Dr. Bill Berry. "Returning to school is a big decision, and you have to be sure of your reasons so you get the most out of your educational experience."

If you've been thinking of going back to school, Dr. Berry recommends asking yourself the following questions and answering them honestly:

* What are my goals? You need to be clear about why you want to go back to school. Some common goals include getting ahead in your career or starting a career in a new field.

* Do I have time to take classes? According to the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, whether taking classes online or in a classroom, it can take at least eight hours a week of work to successfully complete assignments.

* How can I leverage my support system? Ask family or friends if they are willing to look after your children while you're studying. If you work, discuss your situation with your supervisor to ensure you have a plan in place to address work-related responsibilities.

* How are my computer skills? As more and more course work is done online, it's critical to have these skills in order to succeed. If your computer skills are a bit rusty, look to see if your college or university offers any courses to help strengthen your skills before enrolling.

* Do I really know what to expect? Programs such as the University of Phoenix University Orientation workshops are required for incoming students with less than 24 credits. The three-week, no-cost workshops allow students to experience the University's academic rigor. "We want our students to succeed," said Dr. Berry. "Offering this workshop lets them figure out if this is a good fit for them, and what is expected of them as students."

What to Look For

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning recommends that you:

* Look for colleges that are accredited - Check for their accreditation on their website, or look for them at www.ed.gov.

* Ask about Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) - If the school has a system for evaluating your prior learning, you could save time and money when earning your degree.

* Find out about student services - For example, will you have access to faculty and advisors to help you with classwork and your program goals? For example, University of Phoenix assigns every student a Graduation Team made up of advisors for enrollment, academics and finance, in order to help you navigate your entire college experience.

Going back to school is a big decision, but if you ask the right questions and do the right planning, it will be a decision you can make with confidence, knowing it will pay off with a brighter future. You can learn more about University of Phoenix programs at www.phoenix.edu.

Courtesy of Family Features content