How to begin...

This photo is by You can see all of his Morguefile (and free) photos here: Richard B's Morguefile photos

Non-traditional students can spend a long time THINKING about going back to school before they actually do it. I know I did, but I had an idea about what I was going to take in my mind already.

Through the years I spent raising my daughter, I used to wonder what my life would have been like if I had chosen to be a teacher instead of a typesetter/graphic artist.

Now I can see that both careers have their good and bad points. On the good side of teaching, there is the pay. And sometimes you reach a student or maybe even a few - - and can be a good influence on the future.

You can also do this by volunteering as a scout leader, however, or becoming a big brother or sister.

On the good side of my other career, typesetting and graphic arts, you do have some flexibility, depending on the job.

You get to work a shift, and not have to go home and work another shift of grading and planning. You get to sleep at night (usually) in the printing business, which is also a plus.

You can have great or not-so-great bosses, co-workers, working conditions, and decision-makers in a school OR in a factory. It all just depends on the place. And now I know.

I would not have known this about teaching, though, if I hadn't decided to become a non-traditional student, and go back to school. I would always have had a huge question mark about it.

So... for me, the beginning of MY decision to become a non-traditional student was sort of decided long ago, when I took my first education class at the age of 19. I wasn't able to finish my training then, but I always wanted to. When I decided to go back, it was an easy choice.

Some people have asked me, how does a non-traditional student begin? What should he or she do first?

I think that a non-traditional student should explore all his or her options before deciding to go back to school. If this means taking time off (if possible) or staying at the same job for a little bit longer, so be it.

There are so many school options today. Some jobs will pay for classes outside of work. Some SAY they will, but when you ask about it, they might inform you that they no longer offer that benefit. That happened to me. (So make sure to ask in person before deciding about that.)

Non-traditional students don't have to settle for night classes only, anymore. They can go to classes along with "traditional" students (during the day) and they can also take online classes.

Non-traditional students might find that they qualify for student loans and grants. They can go to the FAFSA site and fill out the online form. It takes awhile to do, but it's worth it.

SOME ADVICE: make sure you hit the "save" button every page you do. That way, if your computer freezes up, you don't have to redo everything. Also, have your tax and income information handy.

Hmmmm.... how do I know that? Because I had my computer freeze and had to completely redo mine. I also had to stop and find my tax information and that held things up.

You may also want to check your local employment office to see if they offer any grants or training programs, especially if you were laid off from your job due to downsizing. It's worth a call or visit.

If you are considering going to trade school or to technical school, find out if the credits will transfer to other schools or universities. Some do, but some don't. It would be a shame to have to take a year or more of classes OVER just because the school you chose had credits that didn't transfer. I have a friend who had that happen to him.

Above all, don't let fear make your decision for you. Just because you might be an older student, or maybe have not been in school for awhile, that doesn't mean you can't learn something new. GOOD LUCK!