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7 tips for transitioning to college

For-profit schools advertising quick and easy certificate programs to nontraditional students often have low graduation rates, and the credential it offers might ultimately be considered worthless by future employers. Credits are also less likely to transfer to other schools, leaving students with significant debt and minimal reward. Stay focused on accredited community colleges and four-year schools.

1. Choose wisely

For-profit schools advertising quick and easy certificate programs to nontraditional students often have low graduation rates, and the credential it offers might ultimately be considered worthless by future employers. Credits are also lss likely to transfer to other schools, leaving students with significant debt and minimal reward. Stay focused on accredited community colleges and four-year schools.

2. Consider a community college

Community colleges are often the first stop for a nontraditional student, as they offer lower-cost courses, evening and weekend class options, a faculty accustomed to teaching a diverse group of learners and assistance helping students adjust to college life for the first time or after a lengthy absence. “Many students who graduate from high school aren’t ready for the four-year university experience and prefer to work first,” says CharMaine Hines, associate vice chancellor at Wayne County Community College District. “We help them get ‘retooled’ when they return to school to obtain additional education or earn credentials they don’t currently have.”

3. Consider credit transfers

Students who have already earned some college credits should meet with a counselor at the schools of their choice to see which would transfer toward a degree, says Kevin Kucera, associate vice president for enrollment management at Eastern Michigan University. Bring old transcripts to the meeting with the admissions counselor so he or she can research the courses and see if there are equivalencies at the current school.

4. Look for satellite campus options

Many of the state’s four-year universities have locations in metro Detroit, and hybrid-style classes are often located at these centers.

5. Check for special services for veterans

Veterans’ services offices have counselors trained to help students navigate the maze of veteran-specific financial-aid programs along with providing traditional academic and other support services.

6. Start slowly

Ryon Walker, a Navy veteran entering college, suggests potential students consider easing into their new lives as college students by starting with a lighter course load first. “See how one class fits into day-to-day life, and build from there,” he says. “I know people who’ve been in the workforce a while can have a hard time getting adjusted.”

7. Just stay motivated

It sounds simple, but many can find it difficult to return to school after years in the workforce.

“I know people in the Navy and the civilian work force who say they had plans on going back to school but lost the eagerness to learn,” Walker says. “I try to keep my eagerness by reading books – mainly historical pieces and African-American literature – learning new vocabulary words and incorporating some math. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

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