Adult Student Timeline

Let's Go Back to School

Ready to go back to school? Let’s do it! Here is an overview of major areas to consider when choosing a path to go back to school as an adult student, as well as some helpful tips for the application process.

Set your career goal on CollegeMapper

If you need some ideas for careers, you can take the career test on CollegeMapper under goals, and we will give you some carer ideas that match your personality well. It's ok if your goal changes from time to time; the important thing is that you always have a goal.

Decide on a two year, four year, or vocational/tech school

You have many options: certificates, AA degrees, and BA degrees. Many of these can be done online, too. If you start at a 2 year school, make a transfer plan, if needed. You can get an associates degree (also called AA), and you can be finished then, or you can transfer to a four year school to earn your bachelor's degree (BA). If you start at a four year school, plan your courses for all four years. You can also attend a vocational, career, tech, or trade school. These programs can take from one to three years, and you can earn a certificate that qualifies you to work in your chosen field.

Consider online schooling

Many colleges offer certificates, AA degrees and BA degrees wholly online. They often also offer programs that are partially online and partially on campus (these are known as hybrid programs).

Visit schools to see which program options and costs work best

Schools are always happy to meet and talk with prospective students, so don't be the least bit shy about calling and scheduling an appointment to visit.


Have you taken any previous coursework after high school? You may be able to receive college level credit for those classes. This can save you time and money. Tell your schools what coursework you have already done. Each school sets their own policies and you never know what they might give you credit for!

Have your resume updated and ready to go

Job opportunities seem to just pop up and this can help you be ready to act when opportunity knocks. Try to update your resume every six months or so.

Find out which tests (if any) your chosen schools/programs require

Make a plan now to be sure to meet all deadlines.

See if your schools/programs require any essays

Many schools do not require any sort of application essay, so see if your schools do and start early. Be sure to make this look good because you will be judged by it, so put your best foot forward!

Review the application

Begin to get all the pieces assembled and ready to submit.

Meet with the admissions officer at the school

Be sure to get their name, email address, and phone number so that you can call them if you have any questions as you fill out the application.

Submit your application

Be sure to pay the application fee if there is one.

Verify that your app is complete

Ask politely if your application has been received and if it is complete. They should easily be able to answer this question. This is a VERY important step because it is your responsibility to make sure you app is complete.

Meet with a financial aid officer at your new school

Discuss all possible options of funding for your program. Apply for every scholarship that you possibly can, and then apply for scholarships in your local community, like through the Lions, Elks, Rotary, etc. Search the internet for scholarships for returning adult students