This scenario may be all too familiar: you wake up in the morning, stretch, scratch, and dread what lies ahead- a long commute to a job you hate where you make barely enough money to pay rent, buy gas, or even buy the good crackers instead of having to buy the economy-size boxes of crackers that taste like salted paper.
Now-a-days, one literally cannot afford to not have a college-level degree: gas prices have sky-rocketed into oblivion, and filling-up your gas tank feels like being raked across miles of broken glass without pants on. Try finding suitable housing in a semi-urban area without taking out a pact with the devil. It’s rough out there; perhaps dropping out of junior college wasn’t such a good idea.
Surely, when you were 19 and you told the “man” (and maybe mom and dad too) to shove it, it was because you were an “artist,” and you didn’t want to conform to the misguided standards of society. You emphatically maintained you’d rather live in the moment than to settle for arbitrary class-schedules and uppity academics that would fill your head with useless jargon. That’s right: you were from the school of hard knocks, and you had a PHD in life-lessons!
And then, when the haze of youth fizzled from your once wistful eyes, you began to clearly see what was before you: work at Nordstrom’s, be an office monkey, or go back to school.
“But how? But when?” How can you possibly go back to school now that you have financial responsibilities? You may think that you cannot afford to quit your job or work part-time and go back to school. Fret no more; there are a few things you can do. In fact, there are 26 ways to do it without screwing yourself over.
But wait- though there is a light at the end of the tunnel here for you, don’t just go to work tomorrow morning and throw your apron in the garbage disposal, and don’t flip off your boss (well, unless he/she deserves it). Careful planning and execution means you’ll be financially secure and able to study.
Going back to school can lead to awesome opportunities down the road: you can meet and network with students or faculty to find the job of your dreams. You may finally be able to apply for a job that you’ve had your eye on, but never got a foot in the door because of your lack of A.A., B.A., B.S., or even M.S. and P.H.D.
These days, the internet is your best tool to getting back into school. Many accredited institutions offer online programs for a variety of concentrations and disciplines, particularly art programs and web design programs.
But onto the nitty-gritty: how to do it without screwing yourself over:
1. Plan and plan some more. Before you quit your job and dive head-long into your exciting new career as a student, figure out where you’re going to go and what you’re going to study. That’ll save you some time and money.
2. Decide whether you want to attend classes on a campus or remotely. There is a ton of great online schools and universities that offer entirely remote, web-based formats. Also, there are a lot of schools that offer half and half: half web based study and half on-campus study. Whatever you choose, make sure you have the time to dedicate to attend class either physically or remotely.
3. Ask yourself one key question (ok two): How much do you really hate your job (and boss for that matter), and how will earning a degree improve your life in the long-run? How you leave is as important as when you leave your job. Do some soul-searching to figure out if quitting and going back to school is what you really want to do. If you can not stand your job and salivate over when you can tell your boss to shove it up his or her respective posterior, perhaps you should consider taking some time to formulate a more reasonable approach. After all, leaving and quitting on good terms only serves to make you look better in the eyes of a future employer, and who knows-maybe you’ll get a few good hook-ups and a good reference out of the deal. Moreover, ask yourself, how will getting a degree improve your life in the long run? In the short term, you may be stressed from the transition, but does earning a degree mean greater financial reward from a future job?
4. Establish some goals prior to quitting. Do you want to go back to school for two years, four years, etc? How long it will take you to obtain your degree can determine how much it’s going to cost you.
5. Calculate costs. How much is it going to cost you to go back to school? Are mom and dad going to pay? Are you going to have to sell blood or donate eggs to pay for school?
6. Calculate your living expenses. So, now you’ve figured out how long it will take you to earn your degree: How much money do you have in the bank? If you calculate your living expenses and can comfortably afford to work either part-time or not at all while going back to school, enjoy the fun. If not, ask yourself: do I like Ramen noodles?
7. Consider alternative work. If you don’t have enough money to live off of while going back to school, consider working part-time instead of full-time or doing working freelance to supplement your income while you attend class and study. In fact, you could start working for yourself while in school by doing things that you love to do- this can be an excellent opportunity for you to make a career switch.
8. Seek some professional help – no really. You may be in for a world of hurt if you’re not properly mentally prepared for the transition of working-stiff to student-stiff. It’s not easy, but talking to someone about can help you get some clarity and prepare you for any possible stress. Talk to friends and family members about what you’re thinking of doing and ask for some advice.
9. Begin to organize.You’ve figured out you want to go back but need to work at your job a little while longer to scrape some cash together. What do you do to minimize your daily homicidal/suicidal thoughts as you trudge your way through the work-day? Begin to organize your next moves towards the ultimate “take this job and shove it” fantasy.
Organize: Get Your Ducks in a Row
Once you’ve figured out what you want to study and where you want to study it, start organizing your plot for world domination – I mean quitting. A well-organized and well-formulated plan makes for a much easier transition.
10. Get past college transcripts. If you have taken college-level courses in the past, contact your alma mater to obtain transcripts of your academic performance (no matter how poor your grades were). Many schools accept transfer credits, which can decrease the amount of classes and credits you need to take, thereby decreasing the amount of time and money you invest in your new academic career.
11. Take some entrance-examinations or proficiency tests to determine what level of class work you’re able to take. You may surprise yourself with how much of that useless geometry you’ve retrained over the years.
12. Pick a start date for starting new classes. Some schools have regular fall, spring, summer semesters in which you may only start classes during those times. Other schools have year-round semesters in which you may start any time you want.
13. Pick an end date for your job. Ok, yes: you want to get the heck out of that place a.s.a.p! But don’t screw yourself over financially. You’ll only be hurting yourself if you haven’t properly prepared for the axe.
14. Set up a savings account- and don’t touch it! Start putting a portion of your paycheck (as much as you can scrape up) in a savings account. One day when you’re hungry enough to eat carpet and you haven’t got the dough to buy bread, you’ll thank yourself.
15. Apply for student loans or begin begging for change on the corner. If you have to pay for school yourself, every little bit helps. Ask mom and dad, grandma, cousin Tom, or uncle Bob for change in their couches. Apply for student loans and remember you have to pay them back one day. You may not need to shell out too much cash for a local, public school if you qualify as a resident or qualify as a low-income person.
16. Tell your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/dog that you’re sorry for any future stress this may cause them. If you live with someone or share living expenses with another person/animal/puppet, it may be in good faith to let them know that you understand what kind of stress/burden this may put on them. However, ensure them that once you’ve obtained your A.A., B.S., B.A., M.S., or P.H.D, you’ll have more money than Bill Gates and will finally be able to buy that big rock/motorcycle/bone they’ve had their eye on all along.
17. Apply to a school or a few schools and wait it out. It may take some time to hear back from a school to learn if you have been accepted. While you’re chomping at the bit, nervously waiting your acceptance letter or email, balance your checkbook, pay off credit cards, get yourself out of debt. Don’t get behind in bills: if you’re applying for student loans, you will have more than enough money to owe.
18. Now the fun begins. So, you’ve figured out how to save some money, how to make some money on the side, and where you want to go study and what you want to study. Now you can finally break out the old ratty notebook and write your official “I quit!” speech. As fun as it sounds, here are some pointers for executing the deal.
EXECUTE (the plan not your boss)
19. How much do you hate/love your boss/your job? If there are relatively few bad feelings, give your employer at least two weeks notice. Again, it only serves you better to leave on good terms, and you’re likely to get a good reference.
20. Prepare your speech. The speech doesn’t have to be a long-winded, eloquent “I have a dream” (I will one day have your job) type of speech, but it should be a good explanation of why you are leaving. Express some gratitude for having the opportunity to work for your employer and wish them the best. A cheesy grin or handshake is the icing on the cake.
A Suggested “I quit” speech:
Mr./Mrs./ Ms. So and So: I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work for your wonderful company. I have thoroughly enjoyed working here (even if it’s a lie, say it) and I have learned a great deal. However, I have decided that I want to continue to pursue my education and as such, I will no longer be able work here full time/part time. I hope that you understand my decision and I hope that you are able to find a great replacement.
Or: I hate you. I want to go back to school.
21. Tie up loose ends at work. Make sure you complete most of all of your projects before you leave. Even if you dislike your co-workers, make a good lasting impression of yourself (you can always Xerox your butt on the copy machine and post it in the urinals later).
22. Get contact numbers or e-mail addresses from co-workers or other people at work you don’t hate. It helps to network. Who knows, if you didn’t really hate the job to begin with, there may be a job opening once you graduate and are ready to rejoin the work force.
23. Contact your academic advisor(s) at your chosen school, and make sure all relevant paper work is taken care of. Councilors and other academic-folk notoriously misplace or misinform students of what classes they need to take or of the status of entrance examinations and other routine procedures. They’re not bad people (well, most of them) they just have a lot on their plates. It pays to stay on top of things and to keep your paper-work organized.
24. Apply for a new job if need be. If you’re planning on working part-time or at another job while you’re going to school, look for a new job and apply other places. Give it at least six weeks before you start school so you can get into the groove of learning a new job as well as learning at school. During the interview, a prospective employer may ask the inevitable question: “why did you leave your former place of employment?” Fight the urge to blurt out: because my boss was a jerk! Be honest (well not that honest). Tell them, “I am pursing a(n) A.A./B.A./B.S./M.S./P.H.D and my former place of employment did not allow me the time to do so.” Who knows, they might be highly impressed by your ambition, not to mention your good looks and winning smile.
25. Stock up on good cans of soup and non-perishable goods. Spending less money on a daily basis adds up. Let’s face it: if you’ve got a student loan, or if you’re paying for school yourself, your days of expendable income are over.
26. And now for the finale: Quit your job! There is not much more to it. Give two weeks notice if you please, or just cause a scene and get thrown out of the building.Either way, you’ll be going to school and you are not likely to ever have to see their faces again.
It’s all very easy. The hard part is getting started. Once you’ve made the decision to quit your job, although you may put your blinders on, look for other alternatives. Perhaps your boss would be willing to keep you on staff part-time instead of full-time. Some employers may even keep you on as an independent contractor and you can work freelance or from home. And get this: some employers will pay for your education! That’s right! Many employers value the personal growth of their employees. After all, the more you know, the more useful you are to them. This will save you a job and some money.
Getting an education is easier than ever before these days. With some careful, thoughtful planning and some well-timed decision making (and unbridled passion for good measure), you can be on your way to living the good life with a degree under your belt.