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Competitive Advantage

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Tips for Completing Your Degree

Tips for Completing Your Degree | A Returning Student Guide  

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If you’ve been thinking about going back to college, you probably have plenty of questions, such as: Where do I begin? Will all the courses I took still count? How long will it take? And—most importantly—can I afford to finish my degree? 

This Returning Student Guide will address those questions while providing practical tips for completing your degree. You will also be introduced to different degree options and resources to help pay for it all. You just might find returning to complete your degree to be easier than you might have thought. 

Identify Your Goals 

Start your road back to college by determining what is motivating you. What do you want to accomplish with the degree, and what do you want to get out of this degree program? Answering these questions will help you make critical decisions throughout your re-enrollment process. 

Adult students have different needs based on their personal and professional circumstances. 

Do you have a specific course of study you’re focused on completing, or are you seeking the fastest path to a degree? Pinpointing your specific objective ahead of time will help you make the most of the credits you have earned and help ensure you select the shortest, most direct pathway to that degree. 

Consider your Needs – Remember your WHY

To ensure success, returning adult students must also take an inventory of their day-to-day responsibilities and keep those needs top of mind as they plan their return.    

For example, do you work full-time? Do you have family responsibilities to balance? Are you a single parent? Practically, if one or more of these are true, you’ll want to look for a flexible degree program that offers evening and online classes. Choosing a college with on-site daycare could also be a priority for you and make balancing your academic and family obligations easier. 

Returning to complete a degree will require hard work. To get through the trying times, returning adults should also take stock of their motivations for completing a degree and keep them top-of-mind. 

Completing your degree can be worth it for so many personal and financial reasons, such as: 

  • Boosting Your Earning Potential: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor’s degree earn a median weekly wage of $1,432. By contrast, people with some college education but no degree only earn $935. 
  • Unlocking New More Fulfilling Career Opportunities: A college degree can help you extend your career possibilities. For example, C2C student Kiara Chinn used her college degree to realize her dream of starting a restaurant and now plans to pursue a master’s degree. She explains, “I want to make sure I can effectively manage my business, and what better way to do that than to have business mastery? My learning and education will take me where I couldn’t have gone otherwise.”
  • Being a Positive Role Model for Future Generations: Data from the Pew Research Center shows that children who have a parent with a bachelor’s degree go on to college themselves and have significantly higher college graduation rates. 

Explore Available Programs 

Look for degree programs that align with your career goals, interests, and personal aspirations. If you want to pursue a healthcare career, you might explore online programs in nursing. Want to learn how to develop software and websites? A computer science degree could fit the bill. Is your focus on securing a degree to meet the requirements for a better job, a promotion, or simply completing that chapter in your life? 

Regardless of your motivation for returning, understanding your options and selecting the right degree plan will greatly impact the time and cost of completing a degree.  

For instance, traditionally, the rule of thumb prescribed to returning students is to return to the college you previously attended to complete a degree. This is usually a wise decision because more of your credits are likely to be honored; you don’t have to bother with ordering transcripts, and chances are that’s where you’ll be closest to completing a degree. 

Understand Your Degree Options

That “rule”, however, may not apply in all cases. For instance, if you’re one who began college at a community college and later transferred to a university where you completed classes for a bachelor’s degree. 

If this was your college experience, your fastest path to a degree may be back where it all began. Today, returning students can transfer the credits they earned at a university back to the community college they attended previously to earn an associate degree. The process is called Reverse Transfer. 

Does this sound revolutionary? Well, it’s not. The practice has been around for some time. The C2C program has simply capitalized on this degree transfer option and actively promoted it to returning students in cases where it offers the fastest path to a degree. These former students are combining their university and community college credits and reaping the more immediate rewards of an associate degree. 

Since 2017, hundreds of former students have been surprised to learn they had already earned enough credits for a degree, while many more discovered they were just a course or two away. Thanks to this little-known program, these students were able to satisfy the requirements needed to earn an associate degree. Each could check that box on the application form, qualifying them for more job opportunities and, in some cases, a promotion or pay increase with their current employer. These graduates were then free to apply that coursework to pursue a bachelor’s degree and beyond–and many did so successfully!                

Another little-known degree option that has become popular across the state with returning students is the University Studies Degree. This IHL-accredited degree option is one to consider if you previously changed majors several times and have earned a lot of college credits but not enough to complete a degree in any specific major. 

Developed exclusively for adults returning through the C2C program, the University Studies Degree offers a more flexible curriculum. It allows returning students who faced challenges in the past to make up failed classes to meet required graduation GPA requirements. The coursework can also be individualized to your goals and interests. If you have earned ninety or more college credits, it may be perfect for you too.         

As you can see, it is important to understand your degree options when returning to college. It can make a big difference in the time it takes to complete a degree. 

In Mississippi, those looking to return to complete a degree can seek the counsel of experienced admissions teams. You can also register with the C2C program and receive the academic guidance and support of a C2C Coach. These Coaches are staffed at each Mississippi community college and public university. Each is familiar with the programs and options available to address the unique challenges of returning adults.  

How To Navigate the Admissions Process

Once you’ve identified your goals and desired program, you’ll need to apply for re-admission. Here are some strategies to increase your chances of getting accepted, particularly if you’re pursuing a more sought-after degree program.

Tips To Meet Admission Requirements

Degree program admissions requirements vary across Mississippi’s educational institutions. Follow these tips to be sure you meet the criteria: 

  • Seek Guidance: If you’re not a C2C program participant assigned to a C2C Coach, our state’s community colleges and public universities have knowledgeable admissions counselors or academic advisors on staff. They can answer questions and help demystify college lingo, such as course prerequisites and financial aid acronyms. 
  • Start Early: Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Give yourself ample time to assemble the required materials, submit your application, and complete a degree plan.  
  • Update Your Resumé: Update your resumé with your goals and reason for returning to complete your degree. Make sure it accurately reflects your experience, education, and skills.   

Tips To Gathering What You Need 

Some degree programs do not require re-admission, while others have more required applications. These methods can help you assemble the necessary materials: 

  • Research Degree-Specific Requirements: Investigate whether you must complete certain prerequisite courses to get admitted to your preferred degree program. For some university programs, you may need to plan to take foundational classes at a local community college. 
  • Identify and Contact Recommenders Early: Consider asking former professors, work supervisors, and mentors for letters of recommendation. Be sure to request these documents at least one month in advance to give your recommenders enough time to create quality letters. 
  • Tailor Personal Statements: Customize your personal statements by answering each college’s specific prompts and explaining how your personal goals align with the program. 

Do I Need to Provide the School with a Transcript?

Colleges and universities typically require new applicants to submit official transcripts from all prior institutions attended. This process can take several weeks, so be sure to request academic records well in advance. However, if you return to the college you last attended, you won’t need to submit transcripts. 

Explore All Available Resources

There are many financial aid options that can help returning students pay for their college education. We encourage you to seek out and complete all potential sources of aid. Start with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if you’re eligible for federal grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. 

The Mississippi state government also offers numerous funding options for returning college students as well. Residents can fill out the Mississippi Aid Application. It will help you identify the state assistance you qualify for.  

In addition, if you are registered for the C2C program, ask your C2C Coach about the C2C Grant. This renewable grant is currently needs-based and provides returning students with dependent children $1,000 per semester to pay for tuition and expenses.   

Learn How to Balance Other Obligations and Priorities

As touched on previously in the article, returning to college can be a big adjustment, especially if you’re juggling schoolwork with family, work, and other priorities. These easy strategies can help you strike the perfect balance: 

  • Use Technology – Make things easier for yourself by using text-to-speech apps like NaturalReaderand Speechify to listen to your notes and textbooks on the go. 
  • Set realistic expectations—Plan ahead, don’t overcommit, and be reasonable about what you set out to accomplish in a day—you’ll be more likely to avoid burnout. 
  • Take advantage of campus service offerings—Across Mississippi, the number of returning adult students has increased dramatically. Colleges have responded with support services to connect and support them. These services can include in-person and online tutoring, study groups, interest groups, and even on-site daycare! Your C2C Coach can provide recommendations and help you access the specific resources at your school.

Ready To Finish Your Degree? Here’s How C2C Can Help Mississippi Students

If you’re ready to complete your degree, C2C is here to help you reach the finish line, too! Our C2C Coaches can help you assess your earned credits, explore degree options, and plan your next steps. They will also help you access the available resources to help make your return a success. Complete the online program registration to confirm your eligibility and prepare you to meet with your assigned C2C coach.  to prepare for the road ahead.  

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C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.