Returning to School

Questions to Ask Yourself

Back to School

Higher education or going back to school is a BIG decision that has the potential to change your life. Do some research. Ask questions. There’s no doubt that it affects you, but it also has a huge impact on your family and your work. Then there is the question of how to pay for it. Finally, you need to decide “which program?” and “which school?”

Remember that there are many people ready to help you understand this and make good decisions. In addition to the information below, talk with Student Services at your school of interest, talk with family members and friends about what this decision would mean for you and your life, and keep reading! 


What are my goals? It helps to be clear about your goals and to keep them in mind along the way – some of the common ones are: “I want to get ahead in my job or career.” “I want to understand more about my business.” “I want to land a job in this industry.” “I’ve always wanted to get my degree.” What are your goals?

Do I have time to take courses? Do I have good time management skills? You’ll need to spend at least 8 hours a week on school work to succeed in a three - credit hour course, whether it’s an online or a classroom-based course. Online courses offer more flexibility, which is a good thing if you have good time management skills, but may be a problem if your skills aren’t quite where you’d like them to be. In the case of both online and classroom-based education, you’ll have assignments on a weekly basis.

Am I self-motivated? Self-disciplined? This is an important question. Remember adult students have many responsibilities besides school – families and work, for example. Like time management, self discipline is important for all students, but even more so for students who decide to take their courses online.

What about writing? You’ll be asked to read and write – a lot. Assignments, reports, emails, research, discussions. Writing is an important skill and one that is sure to improve the longer you’re in school. If you need help brushing up these skills, many schools offer just that. Don't be afraid to ask, these services are there to help people like you get ahead in life.

What does my system look like? Do I have a place to work? Doing homework on your lap in front of a television is generally not the best idea. Do you have a place to do school work? A space for your books and files? You’ll need some way to access a computer and a way to download and save documents. If you want to take online courses, you’ll probably need to have your own computer and broadband connectivity. Even if it’s small and perhaps shared with someone else, having a dedicated “school space” is important.

Do I have basic computer skills? You should have a basic level of comfort with a computer and be comfortable with such things as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation software, creating and sending email, and internet research.


Employee-sponsored tuition assistanceIf you’re employed, check to see if your employer offers a tuition assistance benefit. Begin with your Human Resources Department. Consider asking:

  • How much will the company pay toward tuition?
  • Which costs will your company cover (tuition only, books, labs, fees, prior learning assessment, etc.)?
  • Will your grades affect your reimbursement amount?
  • When will the company pay (at the beginning of the semester, once grades are received, etc)?
  • How long must you be employed to be eligible?
  • Is there an employment obligation after the education is received?
  • Can I access my class during work time?
  • Is it possible to arrange a flexible work schedule to accommodate my school schedule?

Financial Aid: Student Financial Aid is another way to pay for your education, including tuition, fees, books, and supplies. It is managed by colleges and universities through their Student Services. Financial aid can include:

  • Loans, both from the federal government and from private lenders
  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Work-study programs for full time students 

After you’ve identified the schools or colleges you’re interested in, ask about Financial Aid options. You can also look at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website: Remember that you need to take and be enrolled for at least 9 credits or you will be required to begin paying your student loan back.

Shop around!: Often similar programs that are offered by different schools have very different price tags. Don’t assume that the first “price” you see is your only option. As a rule, the best educational bargains are generally found in community colleges –it’s best to start shopping there.


Choosing the right school is a critical decision! Ask lots of questions, look for online reviews and ask friends or co-workers about their experiences.

  • If you’re considering a college or university, find out if it’s regionally accredited. Take a look at the US Department of Education's site. And be careful to avoid a “diploma mill” which is an organization that claims to be a college, but exists only for profit and to distribute degrees.
  • Then look at the school’s reputation and experience with adult students-
    • What student services are available?
    • Are they available at times when adults can access them or only during traditional business hours?
    • What about the school’s bookstore, library and technical assistance?
    • Is tutoring available?
    • What is the estimated time required to complete a certificate or a degree?
    • Are the courses accelerated?
    • Can I learn more about the faculty member’s background and teaching experience?
    • May I review a course syllabus?
    • What are the steps associated with enrollment?
    • Is there a career center? Does the career center* have a relationship with the employers I’m interested in?

*Don't forget to visit Student Services and the Career Services offices! Many students don't take advantage of these incredibly valuable services.

Check out our Education & Training page for a list of colleges near you that have thriving programs that will prepare you for success in the Financial Services industry.