before you go back to school…

When you’re young, you just want to do everything your way, the right way. You’ve figured out a master plan all on your own and you don’t want anyone telling you it’s a bad idea. Now more than ever, we are finding those blueprints laid out in our young adult years are faulty. 

What happens when your first career choice doesn’t work out? Perhaps you go back to school. According to The National Center For Education Statistics 8.2 million students enrolled in college in 2013 were age 25 and older (re-entry adults). Being that those with a bachelor’s degree statistically earn twice as much as those with only a high school diploma or its equivalent, it may be a wise choice.

Knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life at 17 is ludicrous because:

  • You have little-no work experience.
  • You haven’t yet the slightest grasp on what financial stability is and how much you need to make in a year to maintain any kind of lifestyle.
  • You’re young and broke and naive to the game of borrowing money and paying it back WITH INTEREST.
  • With no way to test run most careers, you invest blindly.
  • You are not yet the person you will spend most of your life being.

Mental Health Daily records the suggestion of psychology experts that state the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25. Experiences that happen up until that point can determine attributes of the personality you will have for the rest of your life. Hence, your teenage decision to work with the public may change by the time you’re in your mid-twenties, especially if you’ve encountered any negative events to impact your feelings towards it.

Teenagers also don’t realize that investing say, 50K + in an education for a job that pays 30K is a terrible idea. Especially if the the jobs available for that career are on the decline, rare, or becoming extinct. Example: Don’t spend three years in college for a degree in Poetry because you “like it” and are “good at it.” Creative Writing majors are later given the advice to  pursue a BA in English (broader job spectrum) and then a Master’s degree (for financial security and better chance of being hired, probably as a teacher.) In the end, a lot of time and money has been invested and not one poem has paid a bill.

Bills. How can you possibly know what job to go for, what degree to get, and how much to invest in schooling if you’ve never paid for more than a cell phone bill? 25K a year sounds amazing at 20, but it’s poverty at 30. Most college students hear the cost of their college tuition and they are not developed enough to understand how long it will take to pay that back and how much income to expect if and when they finally start their career.

What’s worse is that the majority of adults still have no idea how to manage their money. According to these staggering statistics, only 40% of Americans have a budget and track their spending.

So what do you do?

Don’t repeat the mistakes of a teen! Absolutely there comes a time when you must assess you situation. If you do not have savings, if you are living paycheck to paycheck, and if you have debt that you can’t seem to pay off with your current job, you may need a career change. The key here is to think long and hard about this career change.

  • What truly interests you?
  • What can you see yourself doing?

Talk to people that you know that are in the professions you are considering. Ask them what a typical work week is like doing that job or if you are able to come in and observe. If you decide this could be for you, do a little more research.

  •  How much schooling does this career require?
  • What will that schooling cost?
  • Can you accommodate the time necessary to go to school?
  • What is the projected job growth for that career?
  • What is the national median salary?
  • What aspects of the state that you live in effect job availability and salary?
  • How long would it take you to payback any loans you may need with the projected income you’ll be making?
  • Can you see yourself doing this until retirement?
If everything aligns and you feel you are making the wisest choice for your future, you should proceed with looking into schools and training.

If you’re returning to school after 25 you should feel proud, never embarrassed. Making an important decision at this point in your life has a better chance of success now more than ever before. Take everything seriously from this day forward, meaning don’t plan to blow that first great paycheck you get. If you increase your spending at the same increment as your pay grade, you’ll be in the same predicament. Instead:

  • Make a short-term and long-term financial plan for your life.
  • Pay back any school loans and debt as quickly as possible.
  • Put as much into a retirement plan and savings as you can.

Pursuing an education while having adult responsibilities doesn’t have to be a burden. With time and research you can find the best career fit for your passions and lifestyle with being financially smart. A more rewarding career and life is just a few days of soul-searching and number crunching away.

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More about Erika Lauren

Erika Lauren is a Boston born French girl spending her days as a workin girl and dog mom, and her nights as a nocturnal writer. She's a content creator for The Haute Mess, XOJane, and Email:

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