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Challenges of Returning to School for a Graduate Degree

by Linda Ray, studioD

Many people who have already earned bachelor's degrees and found employment end up returning to school to pursue a graduate degree. Returning students may be motivated by a need to improve their skills to stay competitive, a desire for more impressive qualifications or a wish to change career paths. People who return to school for a graduate degree can have a rewarding and beneficial experience, but they may also face obstacles.

Course of Study

One of the major problems for students returning to graduate school is that they might be unsure about what sort of curriculum or focus will give them what they need. It would be unfortunate, for example, for someone to return to school for a graduate degree with the goal of landing a higher-paying job, only to find that her venture did not end up fulfilling this purpose. Returning students need to determine their exact goals and reasons for pursuing a graduate degree. They must then research their options to determine what line of study, what school and what specialization will meet their personal requirements. Sometimes it’s best to choose a curriculum that matches your previous experience. On the other hand, a completely new line of study may prove to be the best route.

Other Obligations

Younger students tend to have fewer responsibilities than adults returning to school. People who have been working with some degree of success for a while may have a family, social obligations or a commitment to continue in a current job. While younger students may be able to base most of their lives around their education, this is often not the case for returning students. Time, scheduling, cost and balancing priorities become important factors when choosing a program of study.

Fitting In

Fitting in socially is not necessary for academic success, but it can be a concern and a stumbling block for those returning to school after some time off. Returning students might be uncomfortable participating in a group of younger students. They might also have trouble relating to classmates who are entirely absorbed in the academic experience and have yet to work or build a family. However, social interaction can play an important role in the education process, especially when students need mutual support to succeed. It's not necessary for a returning student to commit to new social obligations, however, as returning students can forgo the social aspects of earning an advanced degree and concentrate on getting positive academic results.

Skill Sets

Although there are common points, school and work involve different skill sets, and returning students can be caught off guard when they find out that what worked on the job doesn't work quite the same at school. Returning students can find their rhythm at school, however, by focusing on common character strengths needed in work and school, such as dedication, perseverance and organization.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

Photo Credits

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