Monthly Archives: October 2012

Back to School: More on being an adult learner

I received email about my post on being an adult learner. Below is a summary of the continued discussions. I am always happy to have those conversations. Keep it coming! – yer pal carrie

Dear friends considering going back to school,

New England has so many great schools, so many outstanding programs – the options are endless. I recommend shopping for the best program for yourself – talk with program directors and ask for contacts of recent graduates and current students. Talk to people about their experience as a learner and what their career path is. Make a personal connection.

When I was shopping for a masters in education program, I looked at programs and spoke with people at Framingham State, UMass Boston, Bridgewater State and Salem State. I ended up choosing Salem State and was very satisfied with my decision and my learning experience. My criteria included: online or blended learning options; eportfolio, rigorous courses; research opportunities; and cost. Someone gave me great advice: the name of school doesn’t come into play so much as the degree and work experience. I kept that in mind and didn’t let the attractiveness of a UMB degree dissuade me from smaller schools.

In my conversations, I ruled out Framingham right away because I did not like the program director. I then ruled out UMB, even though I really liked the director, because a current student told me she was disappointed in her studies (2006-2007). She told me felt she wasn’t learning enough and didn’t feel challenged; that UMB did not meet her expectations. So I was torn between Bridgewater and Salem. Both directors were good, all students I spoke with were great. The Bridgewater graduate I chatted with was hired by the school to work in IT and he was very pleased, saying he used everything he learned and was satisfied. But I chose Salem in the end because it felt right. I had a good rapport with the program director, I loved the campus, I liked being there when I visited. I was able to tailor my course choices for higher education and research, and I got plenty of support along the way. I built a long lasting connection to SSU – I teach there now as an adjunct.

So, my recommendation is to find several programs (2-3) that are in your area and seem to offer what you want. Then makes some calls, ask to speak with program directors and students. The experience should satisfy you, challenge you, and provide you with a foundation for career growth. You will get a sense of the program and culture by talking with different people. The admissions office staff can only provide a little insight – talk with people engaged in the same studies you pursue. It is worth the effort.

Look for both degree as well as certificate programs. List out all the options in your area – school, program, degree/cert, time for completion, credits, and cost. Might also note online or traditional, and if a thesis or practicum is required for degree programs. Talk with people in your workplace of professional community – especially those who have the job that you want to have. Ask them how they got there. Share with them what you want to do – ask them for feedback. I made an appointment with the person who had the job I wanted at the time and sat with her over coffee. I asked her if she would hire me then or what I would need to work for her. I asked her what it would take to land a position similar to hers. She gave me great advice to all my questions and even shared her thoughts about picking a school. She told me to go with my gut – to pick the school I liked best and felt most confident about.

It was rough at first, but as I mentioned earlier, I am completely satisfied with my choice. If you feel a calling, if you feel ready, go for it. Go back to school.