News & Features

Focus on the Adult Student

posted 5/22/2008

94 South Life

February 2008

by Michele Ralston - Whitmoor Resident

With the New Year well underway, many of us have reflected upon the changes we’d like to make in the coming year. If the thought of earning your degree has crossed your mind, you are not alone. Here are a few reasons why you might want to carefully consider going back to school.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 40 percent of college students are age 25 or older. Why are so many adults returning to school? The most common reasons I hear in working with adult students are job security, career development and retaining a competitive edge. Whether a person operates from a proactive or reactive frame of mind varies; however, the rewards reaped in either scenario are tangible.

In today’s economy with an uncertain job market, corporate mergers and downsizing, many people are not waiting for a crisis to beef up on their educational background. Earning your bachelor’s degree or an MBA can help you gain a competitive edge over other skilled workers should a job transition become necessary. Or, it can help prepare you to be a star candidate for that ideal position when it becomes available in the future. Working on your degree now allows you to utilize any educational benefits that your employer offers and proves that you’re serious about your career development.

In some cases, job security is not in question, but upward mobility is the motivating consideration. If a person is working in a stable environment, a bachelor’s or master’s degree can often result in new opportunities within a company or job sector. If you’re looking to stay where you are, but would love to work your way up the ranks and pay scale, investing the time, effort and money in your degree now can pay off in a big way over the course of your lifetime.

Some students return to school because they are not finding opportunities with their current educational level. They are either working a stop-gap job, or are unhappy in a current position. This is often the toughest situation from which to make a change because vulnerability and risk are higher. If you feel this way about your current state, I would argue that it is now even more crucial that you earn your degree. In order to shift gears from surviving to thriving, you need the new skills, confidence, and opportunities that a degree can bring. You’ll net personal as well as professional satisfaction that has a positive effect on all aspects of your life.

What could a degree mean for you and your family? Only you have the answer, but many people around you likely have experiences and advice to share. Entertain the possibility, learn what you can from personal and professional resources, and then decide accordingly. A degree is a worthy goal and warrants the time it takes to investigate thoroughly.

Michele Ralston is a program representative with the Fontbonne University OPTIONS program for working adults. She can be reached at 314-889-4764 or by email at

With permission, copyright (2008), 94 South Life Magazine