Blog College Preparation, Financial Aid

Your Checklist To Attending College As An Adult

By Kelly Larson on Monday, October 23, 2023


If you’re taking steps to start college as an adult, you have big goals for yourself. We know it can be nerve-wracking to take the next step toward a college degree, especially as you consider two big factors: time and money.

You may be wondering how you will afford a degree. Or, you may be worried about how pursuing a degree will fit into your busy life. More than likely both thoughts have crossed your mind—and we totally understand!

These three checklist items will provide some insight before you have the confidence to say yes to completing or pursuing a degree. Keep reading to uncover three considerations that help answer one simple question: Do I have enough time and money to go back to school?

1. The Financial Commitment

The first tuition cost you see is probably not what you’ll end up paying. There is a high chance that you will qualify for loans, grants, and scholarships to help you pay for college. Plus, in addition to tuition that is realistically affordable, you will receive an education that is undeniably valuable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the unemployment rate among those with a bachelor’s degree is only 2%. According to Forbes, “On average, individuals with master’s degrees earn nearly $13,000 more annually than their peers with bachelor’s degrees—a substantial return on investment.” Check out these ideas that may help you avoid dipping into your savings.

Internal aid:

Scholarships are a great way to lower your out-of-pocket tuition expenses. Once you have been accepted to Northwestern’s Adult Undergraduate program, you will be eligible to apply for a variety of internal scholarships that are need based, merit based, or a combination. Graduate students have access to loans and payment plans. Contact the Financial Aid Office with questions.

Outside aid:

Thinking outside of the school can uncover creative ways to generate aid to help you fund your college tuition. Don’t forget to look into external scholarships which are funded by private donors, foundations, businesses, or places like military or para-military organizations if you work or have completed work with their organization. You can often stack scholarships if you receive more than one. Get tips for finding scholarships or search for scholarship money using Sallie Mae or other helpful sites.

Employer benefits:

If you’re employed and the degree you want to obtain will advance your career or benefit your employer, check to see if your employer will cover some of the education cost. You may be surprised at the answer. The Society for Human Resource Management states, “An educational assistance program is an employee benefit in which an employer pays for an employee’s educational expenses, provides tuition reductions or scholarship grants… or offers student loan repayment assistance.”

Local church scholarships:

Some churches set aside funds for college scholarship awards. Be sure to ask your pastor if there are any award opportunities through your individual church or your church’s denomination.

2. The Time Commitment

One of the most important goals to set at the beginning of your academic journey is the time in which you hope to complete your degree. At Northwestern, once you’ve identified your ideal timeline for completion, you can meet with your academic advisor to help personalize your plan to meet your unique goals.

Without a specific plan it’s easy for your dreams to feel too far away or too difficult to achieve. That’s why setting clear, actionable goals is so crucial as an adult learner. This will help to provide parameters for what courses you will take and when you will take them.

As an adult learner, we know you will be juggling a busy schedule filled with different areas of responsibility. The key to not feeling overwhelmed is discovering a program that fits into that picture. Finding a flexible program that works for you gives you the best opportunity for success. If you need help getting started, there are several time calculators available online.

Most of our students spend 15-25 hours a week on school. While it’s a short-term sacrifice, this investment is worth the outcome. If something comes up, it is possible to take a leave from your studies and pick them back up when the time is right.

3. A Healthy Support System

Starting (or restarting) your academic journey is always easier when you’re surrounded by community. Be sure to update your friends and family on this big life step you’re taking. When the people in your life understand that you’re pursuing a degree, they can be great sources of help and support! Before you start this journey towards further education, ask trusted people to join you in praying for wisdom.

Also, building relationships within your degree program is essential. At Northwestern, students are immersed in a Christ-centered community of professors and fellow adult learners who want to see you succeed. Even though courses are fully online, we do our best to make you feel connected through a personal advisor, course discussions, forum posts, small class sizes, and professors that are responsive and engaged.

Finally, don’t be shy about seeking out a Christian counselor if you need it. Therapists can give working adults the added help they need to work through mental health challenges brought on by new pressure and anxiety. You are not alone and there is help.

We at Northwestern are so excited to help you take on this new challenge! It will take courage, but you can do it with the right preparation and by putting good systems in place. If you are ready to take the next step, you can Request Information today.