Should I go back to school?
I get this question from military spouses all the time. My answer is always: “It depends!” Choosing to go back to school, whether finishing one’s GED, getting a bachelor’s, completing a certificate program, or even going for a graduate or professional degree, is such an individualized decision.
As a “school-a-holic” myself with an undergraduate degree, two Master’s, and a PhD in three different fields, discouraging spouses from pursuing more education would be slightly hypocritical. That said, I know from experience that it can really pay to do more research and self reflection.
While we often go back to school to advance our careers, this decision influences so many areas of our lives. Your health, your marriage, your kids, and even your spirituality must each play a key role in making this major decision. Above all, however, trust your dreams to guide you while relying on your intuition to sniff out programs that simply fail to meet your needs.
Do Your Homework
Let’s consider a worst case scenario. You pay a lot of money to sign up for an “education degree” before discovering months before graduation that you won’t even be qualified to teach in a daycare setting. Your worst nightmare, right?
Some degree programs, particularly those targeting folks who move around a lot or can only enroll part time, are focused more on bringing in students than ensuring that students are getting an education that truly serves them. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before paying a single penny. This research may include:
- Chatting with graduates of your potential program(s)
- Conducting informational interviews with people already in your desired field
- Ensuring that you’re obtaining the appropriate accreditation for your future career
- Comparing multiple programs
- Looking up professional organizations that might have meetings in your area that are open to the public or free to volunteers
Take Baby Steps
I’m a big fan of baby steps. Taking consistent actions that fit into our busy lives as military spouses leads to huge changes over time—and we can apply this technique to schooling as well. Sometimes full-time school doesn’t fit into our lifestyle or budget, but even one class a session will get those pesky prerequisites out of the way.
Just taking one class, one podcast episode, or one chapter of a relevant book at a time will lead us to success in the end.
Think About Your “Why”
Usually your “why” is that thing or vision that truly drives you to get up early and get things done. This “why” inspires you to do more than you ever thought possible, whether studying for your GED after the kiddos go to bed, applying to a stretch undergraduate school, or going to an in-person info session for an elite graduate program you dream of attending.
You have to be super psyched about your reasons for working so hard. Otherwise, you might get a bit burned out during the process of jumping through all of the hoops along the way to your goals.
Be a Trailblazer
Having such a strong vision can make up for a lot of training. So, remember, if there’s something you want to start, find out if gaining real-world experience is an option. Oftentimes getting out there and working your way up the career ladder is the best form of learning and moving toward our dreams.
I had a client last year whose resume included a lot of volunteer experience but very little paid work experience. While she initially considered going back to school before beginning the job search, she eventually decided to try self-educating: watching online videos, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and engaging in multiple networking opportunities, such as conferences. In the end, she landed a job she absolutely loves without any of the suggested additional education.
Trust Your Intuition
There is one thing that I find to be more useful than all of these other tips combined, however, and it’s a little thing called your good ole gut feeling. Most of the time, deep down, we know what’s best for us and our families.
If you’re hesitant about starting a new program or have a feeling that something’s not quite right about an educational opportunity, chances are it’s not a great fit for you. Remember that a lot, if not most, of our learning happens outside the classroom. Trust your intuition to lead you to become adept in the skills you want to acquire in the way that best serves your unique needs.
Follow Your Bliss
Before you even begin researching degree programs, define the work you love. What task or series of duties do you enjoy and could also earn money? In short, we usually can’t seek ambition from an institution or expect schooling to make us feel content in our lives.
In conclusion, if you feel like, in light of all the evidence you’ve collected, going one step further in your education will help you feel more fulfilled, then go for it! However, if you feel hesitant to invest in a new program, then it’s probably not a step on the road to accomplishing your dreams. And if it feels too good to be true or a bad fit, it probably is.Read comments