|Academic (Photo credit: tim ellis)|
Many people go to university direct from school or college with a clear idea of what they want to do and where their career is heading.
There are others who go to university without that clear focus, who study for a degree in a subject which is of interest to them but may have no clear idea what they will do with it afterwards.
There is also a third group of people who choose to go straight into the workplace without even considering university.
Fast forward a few years and the picture may have changed as any of these people may have decided the time is now right to take up studying again and return to university. This is not an easy decision, particularly today with rising university costs and increased unemployment.
So it's important that if you are considering a similar step, you think very hard about it before making your choice and ask yourself these questions.
If you are thinking of returning to university, you first need to ask yourself why. Why are you motivated to go back to studying? Do you simply want to pursue a course of study in an area you're interested in - for enjoyment and self-fulfilment, or are you looking to change your career and need a relevant degree to make this happen? Or are you already in a career which will be enhanced with the right degree?
These are very basic, but important questions you need to have clear answers to before you go any further. If you don't have a clear answer and a strong motivation, then you could be potentially wasting not only three years of your life, but also a great deal of money.
Once you have established your reasons for returning to study, you need to look at exactly what you want to study. This is not just about the subject but the specific course - courses can vary hugely in terms of quality, content and teaching methods, so make sure you do your research to find the one that is most suited to what you want to achieve and is most suited to your learning style.
This question is related to what you want to study, which will to an extent dictate where you go, but there are wider considerations to think about. This is particularly the case if you have a family or other commitments, which may affect your range of options.
You could be restricted by simple geography if you are unwilling or unable to up-root yourself, you may need to tailor your choice according to a university course's admissions policies, or there may be another reason entirely.
This is really a question of how you want to complete your degree. Do you want to go away to university for three years full time study or would you prefer to study part time over a longer period, so you can continue to work? These days, the options for different types of study are broad, so again, it is important you carry out your research into what will best suit you.
No-one can be unaware of the rise in university tuition fees coming into effect at the end of 2012 (in the UK - ed). It is therefore more important than ever that if you are considering returning to university you fully work out the cost implications.
Unless you are fortunate enough to have a lot of money to play with, then university is an enormous financial commitment that you need to think through - particularly if you also have a family to support whilst you study. You will not, however, need to start repaying any student loans until you start earning over 21,000 pounds.
Back to studying
If you have been working for several years, you may also need to get used to studying again. This may be easier for some than for others, so it is a good idea to try to establish your preferred learning and studying styles as quickly as you can in order to create an effective study routine. This should also help you settle into university more easily.
When you graduate
It is advisable that from the very start of your degree course, you have a clear view of what you will do, or at least exactly what you want to do, once you graduate. This will not only help you to focus more effectively on your studies, but it will also motivate you to do everything you can to ensure you find the right job within your chosen career path.
This motivation should include gaining relevant internships during vacations, voluntary work and targeted job searching to ensure that your three years at university conclude with a productive result.
Helen Trudgeon writes for Terbell Ltd http://www.terbell.co.uk, event management training specialists based in London.
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