How to go back to school after taking a year (or 10, or 20) off

Remember your first year in school? You went, realized you didn't know why you were there, and took time off. Returning? There are several different types of programs, including traditional lecture-style, build your own degree, online university, and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

How to go back to school after taking a year (or 10, or 20) off

Traditional education

  • This is the college or university style most people are familiar with.
  • Students move onto or near the campus, attend classes in lecture halls, work in groups in the library, and cram for tests in a cafe.
  • This works well for students who like the college experience, but not so well for people who can't move or who dislike the rigidity of following the strict pathway allotted for students in this format. Some would rather build their own degree.

Build your own degree

  • By building your own degree, you can pick your own concentration and give it whatever name you want.
  • "Cross-cultural socio-economics with a focus on the psychology of property ownership" could be a title, or, perhaps, "A study of literature across time and space in Europe."
  • This method of education is ideal for self-directed, driven people who are certain of what they want to learn, and wish to work closely with mentors to meet their goals.

Online university

  • An online university functions similarly to a traditional lecture-style university, except that the curriculum is hosted online.
  • So there's unlikely to be much of a classroom experience, but your options for mobility and housing location are much more broad.
  • This works better for people who simply can't settle down near or on a college campus.

Massive open online courses

  • Massive open online courses mirror the online university in that all courses are completed online.
  • However, the courses are picked from a myriad of accredited universities; resulting in somewhat of a hodgepodge of courses based ideally on your interests and needs.
  • These courses are free, but for a small fee will give you accreditation to be used on a resume or as a contribution towards a degree elsewhere.

Think critically

  • It's important to think critically about what your needs are, as well as your desires.
  • As you develop a more solid idea of which structure will best suit what you want to get out of your education, you can dig deeper and do more research.
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