Moms: 5 ways education can enrich your life

Shannon Christensen's first trip to college ended in a roadblock. She started an art program with high hopes, but her journey ended when meeting a new boyfriend meant she started to neglect her studies and skipped too much class. By the time Christensen would head back to school, she had eight children, a 2,500 square foot expansion planned on the house, and a busy life that involved family, church and raising her growing brood. Still, she made the choice to hit the books again, as part of her quest to build a better future for herself and her family.


Going beyond the paycheck

Christensen is just one of thousands of women who made the choice to go back to school later in life, to not only boost her earning potential, but to enrich her life and shape her career path. The U.S. Department of Education reports that, in 2009, 15.3 percent of all U.S. women aged 25 to 29 years were enrolled in an education program, while 9.3 percent of women aged 30 to 34 were pursuing at least some schooling. While the thought of hitting the books after a long hiatus might make even the most seasoned working mom start to sweat, the enriching benefits of going back to class can often outweigh the costs.

5 ways education can enrich your life

Considering the stress and strain of balancing family, work, school and life, you may be surprised to find the life-changing benefits of returning to college as an adult:

1. Opportunities to build relationships with instructors: In Christensen's experience, returning to school as an older student came with extra respect from professors who valued her life experience. "Teachers usually appreciate adult learners because we have experience and insight," she said. "We tend to write more in-depth papers that the instructors are more interested in reading."

2. Discovering that you can do it: For students like Christensen, the fear of repeating past failure can be a motivating factor. Remembering how she balanced child care, home improvement, church life and school, Christensen wonders how she made it through four years of higher education. "I was tired," she admits. "I started out on my own strength but finished with the help of others."

Antoine Lane, a corporate trainer and life coach at Training Lanes went back to school at 28 to earn a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a two-year advanced certificate, all with honors. He remembers being nervous about two things: "Am I actually smart enough to be in college?" and "Will I be able to keep up?" he remembers. In the end, the very act of answering these questions added drive to his education and his career future. Getting an education offers you a rare chance to both take some control over your future and build your confidence while you're at it.

3. Learning the value of your current knowledge: If you lost your rose-colored glasses years ago, you could be better off in education. "[Younger students are] innocently ignorant about the realities of the marketplace," says Lane. When you go into an education with experience in the workforce, you might realize for the first time how important your journey has been so far.

4. Becoming a member of an exclusive club: Cap-and-gown is the new black. With 20.1 million women over the age of 25 holding a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Department of Education, older women may find it easier to compete in the workforce with an education.

5. Enjoying the power of options: It makes sense that a college degree could lead to higher earnings, but unemployment rates also drop significantly for those with more education. In 2010, the unemployment rate for workers with a high school diploma was a whopping 10.3 percent, while the rate for those with a bachelor's degree dropped to 5.4 percent. Decreasing your odds of unemployment means increasing your chances at a fulfilling job.

Non-traditional education for a non-traditional student

Of course, not all training programs are created equal. Check out a few popular options, with specific benefits to non-traditional students:

  • Certification/coursework: Explore higher education without committing to a full degree program.
  • Hybrid online/on-campus training: Get the best of both worlds, with flexible online schooling and face-to-face campus education.
  • Night/weekend classes: Build your schoolwork around a full-time work schedule with online or campus-based courses at uncommon times.

Taking the plunge and loving the results

Higher education offers a unique opportunity: dedicate yourself to something for a few years, and enjoy the results for a lifetime. Today, Shannon Christensen works as an artist, author and family advocate--all areas of her life which were touched by her choice to return to school. Her studio, The Art of Family, has been featured on television, she has spoken at international arts banquets, and has been featured in magazines. Another enrichment came in her personal life, when she married the man behind her leaving school the first time around. They just celebrated their 29th anniversary. Sometimes, it's the roadblocks in life that lead to the better path.

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