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Adult College Preparation Checklist

Back to College Checklist and Preparation Tips for Returning Adults

I still remember my high school buddy, Helen, whose eyes frequently exhibited a trace of inquiry. She aspired to become a Chemistry professor in the future; however, she dropped out of high school and began working full-time jobs after her father died. 

Adversity is an inevitable aspect of life; nonetheless, you have the ability to overcome. 

Depending on how you strategize, returning to college as an adult after a prolonged absence of study can either be challenging or smooth Therefore, you need a preparation checklist to keep your to-dos organized.

Plan correctly and prepare accordingly” should be the motto of anyone aspiring to be a college student and this guide will help you with that. 

Adhere to this college preparation checklist and your dream job will become a reality, I promise. You can download the checklist from here.

Before Anything Else

The following five prerequisites are crucial for your college education;

1. Right Mindset

Prioritize having the right mindset if you wish to go back to college. It is challenging; fear and failure to attempt will prevent you from discovering your untapped potential.. 

. Therefore, muster your composure and equip yourself to confront the impending challenges.

2. High School Education

To get into college, you’ll require a high school diploma or an equivalent degree. Dropouts should join high school equivalent programs and write the corresponding exams, such as GED and HiSET, as soon as possible before planning for college.

3. Schedule Your Time

It’s not impossible to work a job, give time to family members and continue a college education simultaneously; however, it requires proper scheduling.  Create to do lists with the most important things you need to complete every day. You’ll be able to focus and decide how to be prepared for success using the essential checklist we mentioned below.

Prior to contemplating a college education, evaluate the amount of time and effort you will devote to your work and studies. Determine which time arrangement would be the most covenient for you, and make plans accordingly.

4. Career Goal

Why do you want to go to college

Primarily, you need to know what kind of job or career you wish to pursue. Having a clear idea about these aspects will help you find the best-suited program. 

Alternatively, you need to learn which jobs pay well if your desire is to earn a decent living. You can research about available career options and their popularity from the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

For something more interactive and less boring, use the career search engine of the US Department of Labor.

5. Career Requirements

Fixing a particular job as a favorite won’t be enough. You need to identify the specific skills required for the position and look for programs to master them.

Adult College Preparation Checklist

The following should make it into your college admission checklist including:

A. Find the Right College Program

Once you’re clear about your career choice, find the best programs that’ll fulfill your requirements. 

You can request assistance from your prospective employer—typically knowledgeable about the skills your job requires to be efficient at it. 

Find the skills or knowledge you’ll need to learn and use the campus navigator to locate the best options for you. Your employer can also suggest schools if he knows.  

B. Know the College Admission Requirements and Timeline 

Done Making a Shortlist? 

Good! Now, understand what these schools require to validate your academic background and intention. 

Typically, schools require a curriculum vitae, one or two letters of recommendation, a motivation letter with specific requirements, and official academic documents. 

School timeline is another important factor—college application, document submission, and funding application must be done within a deadline. 

You can list your desired college and programs and note their deadlines and requirements using an Excel file. 

Notably, all returning students should prioritize these eight factors:

1. Application Deadlines

Before anything else, mark the application submission deadlines for your target colleges in bold. 

Early decision and action applications are usually due in November, whereas regular decision applications need to be filed between January 1 and March 1. 

2. Testing Dates

Thereafter, mark the dates for your required Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT). Most students sit for them in the winter, while others sit for retakes of the same tests in the spring or fall. Note the registration deadlines for these tests as well!

3. Financial Aid Deadlines

For those seeking financial support and scholarships, it is crucial to be aware of the deadlines for filing financial aid applications including the CSS PROFILE and FAFSA.

4. Notification Dates

Whether you’re applying to multiple or single target colleges, it is crucial to record their notification dates for acceptance, rejection, or waitlisting to help you prepare for the next step or option. 

5. Offer Comparison

You would have landed several offers from different colleges if you had played your cards right until now. Choose the option that best suits your needs, as you will only be able to select one.

Selection involves assessing critical factors, including tuition fee, subject preference, chances of securing grants and scholarships, and availability of on-campus jobs (if required).

6. Enrollment Deposit Deadline

Knowing the deadline for submitting an enrollment deposit to secure a place at the chosen college is vital. For regular decision applicants, the enrollment deposit needs to be sent around May 1

Early decision applicants need to have their deposit sent in earlier; however, the date might vary. 

7. Special Considerations

The student should be made aware of any specific requirements or submission deadlines for programs, such as honors colleges, specialized scholarships, or transfer admissions.

8. Acceptance and Matriculation Requirements

All accepted students must be aware of any additional processes that are required, such as submitting final transcripts or attending orientation.

C. Write Standardized Tests

Your desired college admission may require standardized tests, including the SAT or ACT. Some college programs also have entrance exams.

They can be specifically painful for adult students who have years of study gap. However, diligent study for these examinations is the only viable option. 

They are well-designed to assess a student andgetting a good score isn’t difficult if you devote enough time and effort. 

They include:

  1. Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)  

The SAT helps colleges to assess a student’s knowledge, aptitude, and capability to cope under pressure. You’ll need $60 to register for the test

The score ranges from 400–1600 and mainly has two different sections, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Mathematics. The EBRW section can be further split into two different parts: reading and writing. 

  1. American College Test (ACT)    

The ACT evaluates a student’s knowledge, aptitude, and critical thinking. It has four different mandatory sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) and one optional writing section. Registering for the test without the writing part costs $36.50. With writing, the test registration goes up to $52.50.

Document Collection

Preparing and collecting the required application materials is time-consuming. 

Thus, it’s better to start early.

Key documents that schools demand include:

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Academic Transcript (High School)
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Motivation Letter or Personal Statement
  • Standardized Test Scores

Your CV, recommendation letters, and statements are essential  to secure admission to a certain program. Craft them wisely according to the college requirements and you’re good to go. 

Finance–Minimum Economic Stability

Adult students coming back to college are likely to already have a paying job as well as life expenses. Therefore, the question comes as to which college costs they can afford and how. 

There are for-profit and not-for-profit college programs for you to choose from. 

Notably, some schools extort adult students. Ensure to mark and exclude such programs. 

Don’t forget about FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Filling up this form puts you on the contender list for federal student aid as well as college grants and scholarships. 

The application portal starts opening on October 1. Check here to know when the FAFSA portal opens in your state. 

You can also apply for low-interest student loans to smooth out your journey. This information can be learned via thorough research and consulting with school committees and advisors. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is credit transferring for college dropouts?

You can transfer the majority share of your completed credits to your newly admitted program if you’re a previous college dropout. I say the “majority share” because the validity of different course credits depends on your old program and how many years you were away from college.

Are online programs viable?

Yes, they are. Moreover, their appeal among adult students continues to grow daily. Online programs are flexible, which helps if you have a busy schedule. They’re also easier to bunk; therefore it depends on your choice and commitment. So, online students should be serious about attending classes and complete assignments before due dates. That way they can get their bachelor’s degree online.

Final Thoughts: Preparation for Adult Learners Going Back to College

Nothing can stop you from obtaining the college degree you wish to apply and complete. However, you have to prepare and approach properly. You are more likely to make advantage of a support system if you are aware of where to get it. Take insights from this college checklist, plan smartly, and show doggedness. 

I can guarantee you that no programs will be out of your reach. Wish you all the best!

Emily Watson
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