Career Spotlight: Software Developer

In my Career Spotlight series, we dive into different careers by answering common questions people have about them.

This edition of Career Spotlight focuses on my current role as a software developer. A software developer is responsible for designing programs and applications within a software development life cycle.

But what does that mean? Let’s take our phones, for example. Just about all the applications, from the navigation app to your favorite games, were created by software developers. The same goes for most, if not all, of the programs on your computer.

Have you been asked to update any applications on your phone? Software developers are responsible for that as well. Not only do they create software, they also have a responsibility of maintaining it after it gets to the customer.

Depending on what job search site you use, the number of open software developer positions can vary from 50,000 to over 200,000 jobs. It is a career that is in high demand all around the world.

According to a U.S. News report, software developer ranks as the number one job for salary, jobs, future growth, salary, and work-life balance. All of these factors make software developer a highly rewarding and satisfying career to pursue.

Let’s get into some questions.

Q1. How did you get into software development?

It’s interesting how I ended up going down this path. My first career was in teaching. I loved it because I felt I could make a positive difference in my students’ lives.

There was one school I taught at that put an emphasis on the students learning computer concepts. So, every grade took at least one computer class throughout the year.

One day, I decided to spend some time with my students in their computer class as a way to bond with them. In the class, they were working on learning to build code through a game, and I instantly got sucked into it. It was so fascinating to think that what they’re working on could lead to creating so many things that I use daily.

From there, I took a few free coding classes online to see how I would like it, and I was hooked.

I considered going back to school to study something involving coding, but it was hard for me to commit to pursuing a different career when I already put so much time and effort into teaching. I was torn.

I had one of those light bulb type moments one day in the middle of the school year when I was sitting at home after teaching all week, and I felt mentally burned out from it. I couldn’t see myself being happy long term feeling this way. As much as it hurt to leave my students, I made it a goal to return to school to change my career path.

Q2. How did you get a software developer job?

I got into my current position by chance, really. I did an internship with a company over the summer between the first and second year of my program. I worked with a team that assigned me a task of automating an application to create less manual work for people using it. Through this task, I found that I really enjoyed the work.

At the end of the internship, I was presented with a job offer by the company, but I wasn’t informed on what my job would be. I ended up accepting the offer because I loved the company, and I felt that I could develop my career with them.

Fast forward to the next year where I’m about to begin my orientation, and I get an email saying what team I’ll be on and what my specific role would be. As luck would have it, I got placed into a software developer position. Some other areas I could have ended up in were information security, quality, or data science.

Q3. What did you study when you returned to school?

I studied computer science. The school I attended offered both computer science and computer engineering, but because there were more requirements to graduate for computer engineering, I opted for computer science.

I took many math courses like calculus and linear algebra, but most of my time in the program consisted of computer science courses. Some of the classes I took include java, data structures, algorithms, operating systems, and a yearlong senior project.

Q4. What is the difference between software development and software engineering?

This is one of those questions where the answer you get depends on who you ask. In my industry, both titles are used interchangeably, and that’s how I treat it.

If we’re looking for a difference, it would be in the engineering part of software engineer. software engineers use a set of engineering principles in problem solving and creating software just like other engineering professions, but a software developer may not necessarily use these same principles when creating software.

Because of this, it’s common to hear that a software engineer can do what a software developer does, but a software developer may not be able to do all of what a software engineer does.

Q5. What does a typical workday look like as a software developer?

One of the things I love most about my job is the variation of what I’ll do in a given day. One day I could be writing code for functions of an app that operate behind the scenes, and the next day I could be learning about user interface concepts.

My workday starts when I get into the office. The layout of the office is open with no assigned seats, so I can sit anywhere to work. Think cafeteria style, but with more defined spaces for people to work. I’ll spend some time checking my emails and seeing what meetings I have scheduled for the day. These meetings can vary from meeting with members of my team to taking time to learn something new through my company. I could be in meetings anywhere from 30 minutes to all day depending on the day and time of month.

When I’m not in meetings, I work on assignments that I am responsible for completing in a given time frame. As a software developer, usually this involves writing and updating code for the application I am responsible for. These assignments update every couple of weeks, so there’s always something to work on.

I work as part of a team, and we all have responsibilities that are geared towards completing goals that we set in increments. We meet daily to discuss what we’ve done for the day, what we plan to do the next day, and anything that may be holding us back from completing our work. There’s a lot of accountability and checks in place to ensure we are on track to reach our goals.

On the job, I am always learning. If I get stuck with my work, I have a mentor that I can reach out to for support. Compared to teaching, the stress level is very reasonable.

The work time is flexible as well. I can arrive anytime in the morning before my meetings and leave when I feel that I am at a good place with my work. I also have the flexibility to work from home, which is a huge benefit for me when my son has to stay home from daycare, or if I have other things to take care of outside of the office.

Conclusion

This was Career Spotlight, where we focused on common questions people have about software development.

If you have any other questions about the profession or want to learn more, leave a comment!

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for another Career Spotlight article!

How I Got Multiple Internship Offers While In School

Getting an internship is an important milestone in a student’s college career. Internships open the door for career opportunities by giving you a chance to show your employer that you’d be a great fit with the company after the internship ends.

If they like you, they’re likely to either offer you another internship if you’ll still be in school next year, or they’ll offer you a job for when you graduate. It’s an amazing feeling to have a job secured before you finish with school because it’s one less stress you have to worry about.

An internship also gives you highly valuable experience that you can put on your resume to show other companies that you’re serious about what you want to do when you get out of school.

When I went to school for my first bachelor’s, I didn’t bother getting an internship anywhere. I was confident that I was going to a health profession school after completing my bachelor’s, so my college career lacked any real-world experience outside of my part time job.

I didn’t make that same mistake during my second bachelor’s degree program. Through 5 key steps, I obtained multiple internship offers, and I interviewed with even more companies. Having multiple internship offers allowed me the opportunity to decide where I wanted to go as well as consider potential job offers after finishing the internship.

If you’re trying to obtain an internship while you’re in school, here are some things I did, and I hope you find them useful in your search.

  1. Utilize school resources

Most schools have a career center, or something similar, where you’re able to inquire about job opportunities, networking events, and professional development.

I utilized my career center frequently whenever they hosted events such as resume workshops or mock interviews. Their job is to be a resource for students, and they can provide a wealth of information to help you land the internship of your dreams.

They were also a lifesaver with regards to getting my resume presentable for companies. There are many people out there who charge for services like this, but your school more than likely offers this service for free.

Tip: If you haven’t already, check out your school’s career center and see how they can help you succeed.

2. Go to all company hosted events

Different companies often visited our school to meet with students and share information about the company.

I highly recommend attending as many of these company hosted events as possible. It was through one company meet and greet that I received an internship offer on the spot.

If you struggle with meeting new people or networking in general, I wrote a post addressing some things you can do in these situations called Networking As An Introvert.

3. Attend Career Fairs

Career fairs that are organized by your school are great opportunities to put yourself out there and network with other companies. Many times, companies are looking out for students graduating soon as well as those seeking internships.

Tip: Research what companies are going to be present and see what they’re looking for at the career fair. Look for companies you’re interested in networking with, and print enough resumes to cover those companies, plus a few more just in case! This will save you time on the day of the fair.

Make sure you do your research ahead of time on what each company does, so when you get asked why you want to work for that company, you’ll have a stellar answer ready to go!

Also, have your elevator pitch ready to present! This is a quick rundown of who you are, what your interests are, and what you bring to the table. It’s a way to spark interest in the people you’re networking with and a great jumping point to talk about why you’d be a great fit with the company.

4. Reach out to the department head of your college

The department head for my major was an incredibly valuable resource. Companies would email him job and internship opportunities, and he would send them to the students.

Try to set some time with your department head to talk about internships and see how they can help you. Or if they’re busy, you can always reach out by email to see what opportunities he’s come across.

It’s important to know that for every successful student that leaves the college with a job, that’s one more student that makes the college look good. So, it’s in their best interest to help you find success in your internship search.

5. Attend your classes and be engaged

This is an important part of how I got multiple internship offers. When you attend your classes, engage in what’s going on in the class, and show you care, the professors will see that. The professors themselves have valuable insight into opportunities for students.

I had a couple professors who would ask students who were doing well in their classes what their summer plans were. If they didn’t have any plans, the professors would provide themselves as a resource to obtaining one, if the students were interested.

Going to class and doing well also puts you in a great position to ask for a reference letter if a company requires it. The more time you spend with the professors in class and show you care, the better the letter will be. And, you’ll definitely want a stellar letter of recommendation.

6. Prepare for interviews

This is probably the single biggest factor in obtaining an internship. When you receive an opportunity to interview with companies for internships, it’s important to prepare for each interview.

To prepare for your interview, take the time to do background research on the company and figure out why you would want to work there. Look up reviews from other people who interviewed with them for the same position to get an idea of what questions you may be asked. The better prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be when you’re interviewing for the internship.

Summary

I went back to get my second bachelor’s degree in my late 20’s. As a nontraditional student, I was able to secure multiple internships by doing these 5 key things:

  1. Utilize school resources
  2. Go to all company hosted events
  3. Attend Career Fairs
  4. Reach out to the department head of your college
  5. Attend your classes and be engaged
  6. Prepare for interviews

I hope these tips help you in your internship search like they’ve helped me. Remember to like, subscribe, and share, and I look forward to hearing from you!

I Became A Father While Still In School. Here’s What Surprised Me The Most

It is such an amazing feeling becoming a father. When your newborn holds your finger for the first time, and you’re holding them with all the love in the world, you realize that you would do anything for them.

My son was born one year into my second bachelor’s degree. My goal, at the time, was to complete the program in two years. With him added to our family, I was wondering if it could still be possible.

My wife and I took the whole summer leading up to my second year to plan how our family will function while I was still in school and we were both working. Once the semester started, we implemented our plans.

There were many ups and downs with raising a newborn during the following year, but here are the things that surprised me the most about it.

  1. Daycare is ridiculously expensive

As new parents, we could not believe how expensive a traditional daycare costed. I’m talking second mortgage or vacation every month type expensive. This was probably our biggest concern while I was finishing up school. Adding an expense like this on top of everything else we had to pay was incredibly stressful.

At one point, we considered having my parents help with babysitting, but they lived over an hour away from us. Taking two hours out of our day traveling for our son on top of driving to and from work and school wasn’t feasible for us.

Instead, we decided to research the different daycare options in our area, and select the one that fit our budget as best as possible and one that we were comfortable leaving our son with.

Tip: Daycares will fill up fast for newborn care, so it’s important to research your options and get your name on a wait list for when your child reaches the minimum age that the daycare will accept.

Our budget during the year was tight, but thanks to some solid planning over the summer, we made it through to the end.

Aside from the traditional daycares, another option to consider is in-home care. This is where people take children into their homes and care for them. In-home daycares vary, but a reputable one will be licensed in the state its in, and will have good reviews. They don’t take in as many kids, but the ages of the children can vary widely. They will typically be cheaper than a traditional daycare as well.

Tip: Research all your options before deciding on care for your child. Keep in mind these options:

  • Traditional daycare
  • In-home daycare
  • friends/family

2. I felt like a natural caring for my son

This one was weirdly surprising to me. My experiences with babies and small children were very minimal. In fact, I couldn’t remember ever holding a baby prior to holding my own son. But, whenever I held my son, my heart felt full and my life complete.

I was told a few times in my life that I’d be a good father, and although I know it’s something I’ll continue working at for the rest of my life, with my son, I feel like a natural.

3. Changing diapers and cleaning weren’t an issue

When I thought about changing diapers before my son was born, I would always cringe. I’d think about the kinds of things I’d find in a diaper, the smell, and then cleaning it up. I couldn’t help but feel a little queasy.

Once he was born, however, all those feelings went away. I don’t even remember his diapers having any sort of foul smell for the first few months.

Changing his diapers was a part of caring for him, and I’d do my very best to make sure he was receiving the best care.

4. People are much more comfortable talking to you with a baby

It’s amazing to me how many strangers strike up conversations with my wife and me when we have our son. And while I’m not at my most comfortable when people engage in small talk with me, it’s easier when my son is there being the center of attention.

Other dads are incredibly supportive, too. I remember going into a men’s restroom to change my son one time, and other guys that going in and out of the restroom offered their support and words of encouragement. It’s not something I expected with my son, but it’s a great feeling.

5. My professors were incredibly supportive when it came to my son

I almost tear up thinking about this point. While I tried my best in school and got to know my professors, I didn’t expect them to be so supportive and understanding when it came to things going on with my son.

Whenever he got sick or couldn’t go to daycare for the day, I notified my professors saying I wasn’t going to be in class that day. Often, I would get a response wishing my son well or giving me an update on what’s going on in class and what I should do to prepare for the next class.

Tip: Always communicate with your professors and be proactive whenever you find out you’re going to miss class.

My grades never suffered because I missed a class due to my son. My professors were always flexible and wanted me to succeed. I am still grateful for their support, and I hope other students in my position have the same luck with their professors as I did.

Summary

Becoming a father is an incredible feeling. I learned so much about him and myself, and I continue to do so. During the first year of his life, there were 5 things that surprised me the most:

  1. Daycare is ridiculously expensive
  2. I felt like a natural caring for my son
  3. Changing diapers and cleaning weren’t an issue
  4. People are much more comfortable talking to you with a baby
  5. My professors were incredibly supportive when it came to my son

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!

Networking As An Introvert

If dogs were all I needed to network with, I would be set. With their warm coats, lovable demeanor, and innate understanding of humans, it’s easy for me to run up to any dog I see while I’m out on the town and greet them as if I’ve known them all my life.

Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. In order to develop your inner circle, your professional contacts, as well as get ahead in your career, networking with others is a crucial, constant task to accomplish in your daily life.

As an introvert, it takes getting out of my comfort zone every time I try to get to know someone else. Whenever I see an opportunity to connect with someone, my palms start to sweat, my heart races, and my mouth gets dry. It never fails.

If you experience any of the things I just described, or something similar, it’s okay! You are not alone in this. The ability to network, like other skills, is something that can be developed. Here are some things you can do to improve your networking skills.

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication

Whenever I get caught in my own thoughts, it’s so easy for me to forget my body language. Be aware of your nonverbal communication! People gather information about others in such a quick manner, and most of that information comes from nonverbal cues.

The way I address my nonverbal communication is to be actively aware of the message I am sending. Some questions I’ll ask myself would be:

  • What am I saying with my facial expressions?
  • Am I slouching?
  • Am I crossing my arms?

Addressing these questions will help with your nonverbal communication.

As an example, If I am new to a job, I’ll make sure to have a smile on my face, position myself so that I am not slouching (such as in a chair or standing) as well as not crossing my arms.

If I’m not paying attention to my facial expressions, sometimes I can come across as being not very approachable. This can hinder my networking opportunities, so I make time to be aware of the message I am sending in this way.

Slouching usually sends a message of not being interested in what’s going on, so watch out for it!

The reason you don’t want to cross your arms while networking is that it creates a perceived barrier between you and the person you’re talking to. We don’t want barriers when networking! It’s important to show that you’re open to communicating with others.

2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation

This is a huge networking problem for me. Imagine you’re joining a group mid conversation. The discussion interests you, and you want to contribute. Or, the conversation doesn’t interest you, but if you don’t contribute, then you’ll feel like the quiet person of the group who doesn’t add to the conversation.

In either case, finding the right time to jump into the conversation can be tricky as an introvert. For me, I always sit on the border of wanting to wait until an opening comes up, but also not wanting to miss out on giving my input. I’ve missed out on so many conversations in my life because I waited until it was too late.

Especially in a group setting where there’s obvious extroverts excited to share, how do you engage in the conversation?

  • Look out for side conversations

If you’re the kind of person that shutters when thinking about speaking up in a group conversation, look out for smaller side conversations within the group you’re with.

When you hear someone speaking up, but not quite loud enough that it gets picked up by the whole group, try to make eye contact with the person and build on what they were saying. The eye contact part is important here because it creates a connection between you and the other person to start talking. Throw in a smile and genuine interest, and you’re on your way to building your network!

On the flip side, it’s okay if you share your input out loud, and the whole group doesn’t hear it. It’s practice, and you’re actively working on networking! There’s a strong chance that someone will hear and engage in a side conversation with you.

  • Use a person’s name before sharing

This can be helpful if someone is taking control of the conversation. If you have something to add, say the person’s name and make eye contact with them before you talk. This can give you the space to contribute to the conversation.

3. Use your skills to your advantage

I haven’t always been very good at small talk. However, I’ve been a stellar listener for as long as I can remember. When networking, I always make it a point to remember something specific about the person I’m talking to, and I’ll try to incorporate it into a conversation we have later on.

A while back, a coworker and I were talking about vacation. He was telling me about his plans for his vacation. I made sure to ask questions to show I was interested, and it allowed him to talk in the conversation more than me, which is usually where I’m most comfortable.

Flash forward to when he returned from his vacation, and I made it a point to ask about it. I brought up specifics to show I was listening before, and he was happy to share. Now, we talk about things we want to do on our vacations all the time!

If talking is not your strong point, don’t worry! You have many other strengths that you can lean on when networking with others. Think about your skill set, and try to incorporate it into conversations with others. Skills like empathy, team work, positive attitude, trust, and creativity are just a few examples of skills you can use.

3. Preparation is key!

Like many things in life, preparation is a big component to networking success for introverts. If I didn’t prepare a few questions or have a goal in mind for when I was networking, I would stumble with my words, feel awkward, and not make a good impression.

Practice what you want to say in networking situations. Have questions ready in your head. Doing this will allow the conversation to take off, and you can guide the conversation based on the responses. Having that buffer of questions in your head ready to go can go a long way in developing your networking skills.

4. Send a follow up email

This is important in a work setting. If you successfully network with someone, and you get their contact information, send a follow up email thanking them for their time. Say something specific about the meeting and keep the line of communication open between the two of you. This can go a way in maintaining the connection for the next time you meet with them.

5. Be true to yourself

As an introvert, it’s exhausting to be the center of attention and talk for any extended period of time. I need a decompress day just to recover. This holds especially true for when I try to be someone else to build my network.

Conversations are so much easier when there’s things in common between the people talking, isn’t it? If you’re trying to network with someone, it can be so easy to jump on the first thing the reveal they’re interested in or like to talk about. If you do not share the same interest, it’s important to refrain from expressing interest in it as well.

For example, if your boss says to you that his favorite hobby is watching baseball games, but you have no interest in baseball, you wouldn’t want to tell him that baseball is your favorite sport and you’ve been playing it since you were a child.

Instead, having a follow up question ready for this situation would put you in a better position to build the relationship for the long term. Some follow up questions to something that doesn’t quite interest you would be:

  • I’m not very familiar with that. What would be some important things to know?
  • What’s your favorite thing about it?
  • How long have you been involved with it?

Having a follow up question ready will enable you to keep the conversation going, and it allows the person you’re with to talk about something they’re interested in.

Tip: It’s easier to talk about something you’re interested in as opposed to something you’re not. This holds true to the people you’re talking with as well.

You do not have to share all the same interests as the people you’re networking with, but chances are you have more in common than you think.

In being true to yourself, when you’re talking with others, you can casually add your interests into conversations to see if they have the same interests.

For example, if someone asks you what you did last weekend, that would be a perfect and low risk time to share an interest you have. If you went to a concert or festival you enjoyed, or even played video games, you can put that alongside other things such as relaxing or running errands.

If the other person shares a similar interest, they’ll keep the conversation going. If not, it’s okay! You’re being true to yourself, and you’re working on your networking skills.

Summary

Networking as an introvert can induce a lot of stress and cause anxiety. In this blog post we hit on 5 keys for introverts when working on your networking skills

  1. Be aware of nonverbal communication
  2. Look for the right moments to engage in a conversation
  3. Preparation is key
  4. Send a follow up email
  5. Be true to yourself

Working on these 5 things will put you well on your way to growing your network.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!

Does Your Company Offer Tuition Assistance? 5 Things To Consider Before Taking It

With the increased concern of being able to pay off student loans affecting millions of people nationwide, companies are adding tuition assistance to their benefits package to attract and retain talent.

Whether it’s to help pay down student loans you already have or to help pay for any future classes you’re thinking about taking, tuition assistance is a great benefit to consider taking advantage of. But, should you accept the assistance if it becomes available to you? Here are some things to consider before signing on the dotted line.

  1. Is there a commitment to the company attached to the offer?

This is something everyone must ask their manager or human resources department before accepting tuition assistance from their company. Some companies require a signed statement saying that an employee will work for the company for x number of years in exchange for accepting the aid.

If you’re fully committed to the company and see your long-term future with them, then this isn’t so much of a problem. You can accept the tuition assistance and develop your skill set to reach your goals within the company.

If, however, you’re on the fence about your future with the company offering the assistance, then it’s important to find out if there is a time commitment attached to the offer. You wouldn’t want to be stuck repaying the assistance with your time if you find that you want to be somewhere else.

As an example, my wife accepted tuition assistance from a company she used to work for. She received $5000 to cover tuition costs, and in return, she had to commit to working for the company for 2 years. In the second year of the commitment, we started making plans to move because I received a job offer from a company out of state. We had to consider our options at that point because if she didn’t fulfill her obligations, she would have had to pay back the entire amount she received from the company. This brings me to my second consideration.

2. Would you have to pay the amount back for any reason?

It’s important to get a clear answer on this question before taking any assistance from your company. The reason being is that life happens. If you’re forced to drop out of a program that you’re getting assistance for, or you have to quit working, you want to make sure you’re not stuck with having to pay back what you took from the company.

My wife and I got lucky in our situation with her company. She was able to transfer to a remote position months before we were scheduled to move for my new job. Doing this allowed her to continue fulfilling her 2-year commitment to working for the company in exchange for the tuition assistance.

3. Is the assistance given before the semester starts or after you get your grades?

This point might be the biggest hurdle for anyone thinking about using their tuition assistance benefit at work.

If the assistance is given before the semester starts, then that’s great! You’ll want to make sure you work hard to meet any grade requirements set forth by the company. Grade requirements are normally attached to the deal in accepting tuition assistance to ensure you did well in your classes.

Many times, however, tuition assistance is only given after you get your grades for the semester. In this case, you’ll need to send a transcript or proof to your human resources department showing that you met the grade requirements before the company will pay anything.

When tuition assistance is given after grades are received, a potential problem is figuring out how to pay for the semester up front. You’re responsible for paying for your education in the beginning, and once you send your grades to the company, they’ll send you the money. There are many options to consider here, and it’s a story I’ll save for another day. However, it’s important to explore all available options to see how your education is going to be paid for before the company pays you.

4. Would you be limited to studying what the company wants you to learn?

If you’re interested in going back to school, and you want your company to help with the bill, they usually want you to study something that will benefit the company. It’s important to make sure that your manager and HR department are aware of the classes you’ll be taking and for what purpose before you enroll in any program.

If you tell them that you’re taking classes for your MBA, but you end up taking one finance course along with a couple astronomy and physics courses, they may not offer you the full tuition assistance amount for that semester. Stick with the side of caution here and ensure everyone is on the same page with the classes you’ll be taking as well as the program you’re wanting to get into.

5. Is the tuition assistance for student loans you already have, or is it for taking classes while working with the company?

This is something to consider before accepting a new position.

If you’re swamped with student loans and have no plans of going back to school anytime soon, then having tuition assistance for only future self-development wouldn’t be very helpful to you in paying back your current loans.

On the flip side, if you’re wanting to go back to school for an advanced degree while you’re in your current position, but your company only assists in paying for student loans you already have, then this may also not be helpful for you.

Tip: When a company says they have tuition assistance, make sure to understand what kind of assistance it is, whether it’s help paying down current loans, or it’s to help fund a future degree.

Depending on what situation you’re in, one of these tuition assistance benefits may be significantly more useful than the other.

Conclusion

If you’re thinking about taking advantage of your company’s tuition assistance benefit, take into account these 5 considerations before you accept it:

  1. Is there a commitment to the company attached to the offer?
  2. Would you have to pay the amount back for any reason?
  3. Is the assistance given before the semester starts or after you get your grades?
  4. Would you be limited to studying what the company wants you to learn?
  5. Is the tuition assistance for student loans you already have, or is it for taking classes while working with the company?

Having answers to these questions can save you a lot of time and money.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!

Thinking About Going Back To School? Here Are Some Important Things To Consider

Whether you’re wanting to finish the degree you started, begin a master’s program, or earn a second bachelor’s degree, there’s a few important things to consider before going back to school.

  1. Why do you want to go back to school?

Before I decided that going back to school for my second bachelor’s degree was in the best interest of my family and myself, I created a list of reasons why I should go back to school. This is a good first step to do if you’re deciding something major like going back to school as it enables you to visually gather your thoughts in one place.

Creating a counter argument list is also helpful in comparing the pros and cons of going back to school versus not going back. To create a counter argument list, you would write down reasons why going back to school would not be a good idea, and then you would compare your results with each other to see which side makes the most sense for you.

The list I put together had many good points, I remember, but the number one reason for wanting to go back to school was the following:

  • I am not happy in my career, and I don’t see it getting better without change.

I read this line over and over again until it got stuck in my head. What if, I reasoned with myself, I could change how I feel about my career instead of changing my career? It made sense to try to make it work since I had already put so much effort into my career at that point. In thinking about it this way, I sometimes compare my feelings towards my career with a bad relationship. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying to make it work in hopes that it would get better.

With all the effort given in making my career work, in the end I realized that it just wasn’t for me. So, I continued with the idea of going back to school by building on the list I created previously.

From my list, I put together goals in order to work towards a different outcome than the career I was moving on from. My goals in going back to school was to put my family in a better place financially, and so I could get into a career that I was happy with. With my goals in front of me, I felt comfortable moving forward with going back to school.

2. How are you going to pay for school?

This is a big consideration considering the price of a single college class can reach thousands of dollars. Factor in your current bills and other obligations, and it can get expensive fast. Before I started my second bachelor’s degree program, I took out a student loan for just enough to allow me to get started with school. During the school year, I applied for scholarships that I qualified for, and I also worked full time. I set aside money earned from my work to pay the cost of tuition for the upcoming semester. These things together are the reason why I was able to make it through school without having to worry about finances.

When you’re considering how you’re going to pay for school, you need to be aware of the cost of attendance at the school you’re interested in attending, and how you’re going to get the money to allow you to continue taking classes until you graduate.

Tip: Many schools offer a reduced cost per credit hour after a certain number of hours in a semester.

I highly recommend seeing if the school you’re interested in attending does this. The school I was attending reduced the cost of each credit hour above 12 credits from a couple hundred dollars to under $50. This significantly lowered my overall tuition cost.

Also, if you’re still eligible, fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) online. Enrollment starts each year in October, and it can be a great way to receive aid if you qualify.

3. How are you going to fit school in with the rest of your life?

I’ll admit, this one was probably the toughest consideration for me to address. The reason why it was so tough to deal with was because I needed to work full time for the money and benefits. It is definitely not easy fitting a full time course load alongside a full time job throughout the week.

If you are in the same position as I was with needing to keep working during the school year, careful planning and flexibility is essential. It is important to find out if you can take the classes you need to reach your goals while maintaining your current job. To figure this out, you can talk to the advisers at the specific school you’re interested in attending to see if there would be any conflicts between your work schedule and the times classes are offered.

I knew I couldn’t continue teaching while I went to school because many of the courses that I needed to take were only offered during the day when I was teaching. It wouldn’t have worked for me. Luckily, I found a job that was flexible in allowing me to return to school full time.

On the flip side, there may not be much time available for other things in your life. I know I struggled with not being able to hang out with my friends or do fun activities as often as I would have liked because I had school, work, and family commitments that came first. If you’d like to read about how I balanced multiple commitments and how you can as well, check out the link here:

As A Full Time Student, Employee, Husband, And Father, Here’s How I Balanced It All

4. Do you have credits earned from a previous school & do they transfer?

When I went back to school for my second degree, I spent a couple weeks worrying about my credits transferring from the schools I previously attended. I had to argue my case with different department heads for not having to take any general education courses, since I already took them to earn my prior degree.

The new school I was attending did not offer some of the courses that I took, so I had to fill out transfer equivalency forms saying that a description for a class I took previously matched with the description for a class that was offered at my current school.

If I didn’t go through this process and instead accepted what the school said would be the credits they would accept towards my second degree, I would have been in school for at least an extra semester. The extra cost of tuition and lost wages for not being able to work in my new field would have been a major setback.

Tip: Sit with an adviser at the school you’re considering attending to see what credits you have will transfer and save you time in completing your degree.

If some credits don’t immediately transfer, do some research in the courses offered at the school to see if a class matches with any courses you’ve taken previously, and make a case to present to the department head that oversees the class.

Conclusion

There are many things to consider before going back to school. A few important considerations are:

  1. Why do you want to go back to school?
  2. How are you going to pay for school?
  3. How are you going to fit school in with the rest of your life?
  4. Do you have credits earned from a previous school & do they transfer?

There are many other things to be aware of before returning to school, but having answers to the considerations listed here will have you on your way to creating the future you’ve always dreamed of.

If you enjoyed reading the article, and you feel like it’s been helpful, make sure to like, subscribe, share, and be on the lookout for more ways to feel empowered and confident in your career and education goals!