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Finally attempting college at 42…UPDATE in first post


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Hello all. I have been a member here since 2010. Mostly lurking. My kids have gone back-and-forth with public school and homeschool. My sig is probably very old but I don’t know how to update it on this new format?

My oldest is now 17. He had finished high school and is attending a culinary program at the local Polytech. My middle is currently schooling through the summer on her own ambition. She is using power homeschool through Acellus and is on track to finish early as well. Youngest is finishing 6th grade with the same Acellus program. Covid sent us back to homeschooling. But the youngest might be heading back to public school in the fall. 

Long story, I know. But now I’m contemplating returning to school myself now that they are all getting older. I would need a completely online program for our current circumstances. I’m looking at SNHU for now. $250/month is manageable for us during this difficult time. 
 

My problem is that I don’t know what degree to pursue?!? I will be starting from scratch with only a high school diploma from 1997.  One would think I would have this figured out by 42 but NOPE. 

I’m considering paralegal, psychology, and gerontology advocacy. 

How does one figure out what to pursue in middle age? And how does one choose an online school these days? I want an accredited school that is well respected and not-for-profit.  I don’t want a degree-mill school. 

HELP!!!

~Courtney 

 

UPDATE:

I took the plunge today and submitted my application to Thomas Edison State University (I’m a NJ resident). They have a ton of online degree paths. I’ve decided to just start ticking off the gen Ed requirements while I decide what to pursue. 
 

I’ve looked at financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Unfortunately I don’t qualify for anything. We are considered high income in much of the country but the area of NJ where we live is very high cost of living and we have 3 teenagers. So on paper we look wealthy. But in reality, we are not. 
 

Oh well. Walmart here is paying $17/hr for shelf stocking. I’ll just have to pay-as-I-go. 
 

Thank you all so much for you wonderful encouragement and feedback. 💜

Edited by knittingmomof3
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Wow congratulations on your new adventure. I will say the hardest part is starting. You will need to take gen ed courses so while taking those, you can use your time to figure out what courses are available and which one you are interested in. All the best!!!! 

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9 minutes ago, Lilaclady said:

Wow congratulations on your new adventure. I will say the hardest part is starting. You will need to take gen ed courses so while taking those, you can use your time to figure out what courses are available and which one you are interested in. All the best!!!! 

Thank you so much! I took AP courses in high school but my confidence has waned over the years. I don’t really know if I can do this? I haven’t even been in the workforce since 2004 (medical billing) when my oldest was born. I feel like a dinosaur 🙈

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23 minutes ago, knittingmomof3 said:

My problem is that I don’t know what degree to pursue?!? I will be starting from scratch with only a high school diploma from 1997.  One would think I would have this figured out by 42 but NOPE. 

 

3 minutes ago, knittingmomof3 said:

I haven’t even been in the workforce since 2004 (medical billing) when my oldest was born. I feel like a dinosaur 🙈

I haven’t work since December 2004, when my oldest was born. I started taking classes at Community College at 47 because it was an affordable way to take classes. I already have my bachelors or I would be able to qualify for two years of community college classes free. There are people getting an associate degree for transfer within two years doing all the courses online. It is feasible for accounting and legal studies.

If money is tight, look for programs that subsidize the cost for people who hasn’t gone to college. 

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Do it! I graduated today with my AA. I'm 48. When I went back to school in 2018, I kind of had an idea the direction I wanted to go. I graduated with something completely different! Take the gen ed and do life. You'll learn where you're supposed to be. 

In the last three years, I was the oldest person in only 1 class! Everyone was welcoming and supportive. 

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If you've been at home, I'd consider working first or alongside the first classes to get a better idea of what you might like. When I went back to the outside working world (instead of strictly freelancing), I tried several things before finding a good fit. 

I would also check community colleges that might have shorter-term certificates related to your current possibilities. Some schools will have areas of study that are online. 

Psychology is tough, in the sense that you generally need a more advanced degree to really work in the field, but the good aspect is that almost any college or community college will have at least a couple of online courses. Remember, you do not need to start at a college to graduate from it! Do those first few classes wherever it is most convenient. 

Gerontology advocacy has some shorter-term certificates for sure, and it's also an area where volunteer work should be abundant, and you can get a better feel for if you will like it. It's possible you could volunteer for some things online. 

Paralegal - the work is interesting, but the atmosphere can be tough. Because lawyers are frequently intense and often slightly crazy, lol. I did contract work for a lawyer's office a few years ago, and everyone thought I would love it, but I sucked at ignoring it when the lawyers would fight and yell and so on. It didn't affect me directly, but it stressed me the heck out. I talked to a few friends who are paralegals/assistants, and they said it wasn't super unusual, so it was a no for me. 

Good luck! It's going to be exciting. 

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4 minutes ago, Arcadia said:

.If money is tight, look for programs that subsidize the cost for people who hasn’t gone to college. 

Very good idea. "Non-traditional student" is a good search term. 

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7 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

Thank you so much! I took AP courses in high school but my confidence has waned over the years. I don’t really know if I can do this? I haven’t even been in the workforce since 2004 (medical billing) when my oldest was born. I feel like a dinosaur 🙈

Do it! I went to college beginning when I was 38. It took me five years (PT) to get an AA. My fields of interest were almost identical to yours, except I also considered Communications with a secondary language (French). I ended up with a General Studies AA with focus in communication and language. If I had it to do over, though, I would do paralegal, because that is where I ended up. 

I also love psychology, but I decided against it because you typically need at least a Masters to work in the field. My interest in psychology is certainly quite useful in law, though. 

It helped to have a sense of humor about being the “old” lady at college. What it came down to for me is this: the years will pass anyway; might as well be working towards something. Even if it takes ten years, ten years will pass anyway. 

 

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8 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

Thank you so much! I took AP courses in high school but my confidence has waned over the years. I don’t really know if I can do this? I haven’t even been in the workforce since 2004 (medical billing) when my oldest was born. I feel like a dinosaur 🙈

Well the good news is that the programs you'll be looking at are likely *tailored* to adult and nontraditional learners, meaning they'll likely be a good fit. 

Any college you're applying to should have a career counseling office, and they're required to provide the same services (of all kinds) to distance as well as on campus learners. So you should be able to talk with them and get them to send you a link to do career testing. As an adult, you already have more experience to know what you like and don't like. I would STRONGLY encourage you to do not only the career testing they provide but also some other free career testing you'll find online (there are lots!) to get ideas. I found one engine for my dd that generated suggestions based on different levels of education goals (AA, BA/BS, masters, etc.). 

I would think the paralegal would be a good fit if you enjoyed the medical billing. If your goal is to re-enter the workforce, you might also consider a certificate or AA program through a local technical college. You might be able to go back to that medical setting, assuming you enjoyed it, and have more options with a degree.

What did you want to do with the psychology? 

I think as far as the gerontology advocacy, you might google for what jobs you get with that certificate. I've been playing around with the "what do I want to do when I'm done with ds" thing, and my googling found that some of those certificates don't bump you up as much as you'd think. In our area, one like that was coming in with jobs at $18-25 an hour, where right now you can start at Target for $15, kwim? And, fwiw, some jobs the certificates might open up could be stressful. A friend was telling me how emotionally hard it was to work for A Place for Mom, that families just had constant baggage the workers were having to deal with. So definitely google for jobs you can get with that certificate or degree and see if it's something you'll enjoy.

Good luck! 

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First of all, your yarn avatar is adorable.

Just a thought, I know this isn't in the subjects you mentioned.

Did you know that you can do two-years at a tech school, and then take the nursing certification? You'd be an RN.

Of course getting a four-year degree -- and then sitting for the cert -- sets you up for a higher degree when you're ready.

Also some hospitals (states) are so hungry for nurses that they pay for the nursing degree as long as you work for them after you get your degree.

Re: can you handle the course work? There's not a doubt in my mind that you'll be awesome. I've often noticed that full-on adults who've raised kids rock at college.

Re: psychology. My experience has been that you'll need to get at least a masters degree for a good salary. Which isn't a hard thing if you're interested. But it would be more money.

PM me if you'd like any more info!

And congratulations, I think this sounds fun!!

 

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10 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:


 

My problem is that I don’t know what degree to pursue?!? I will be starting from scratch with only a high school diploma from 1997.  One would think I would have this figured out by 42 but NOPE. 

I’m considering paralegal, psychology, and gerontology advocacy. 

How does one figure out what to pursue in middle age? And how does one choose an online school these days? I want an accredited school that is well respected and not-for-profit.  I don’t want a degree-mill school. 

HELP!!!

~Courtney 

As far as what you want to do, I would consider what kind of earning power you need. Will you need to work full-time, part-time, want (or need to for field) to pursue graduate degrees? I have a friend who is starting a paralegal program next fall, they seem fit for the role and in our area, there are always a number of jobs available. 

I started college at 46 and took a number of general studies my first year. I thought I'd love psychology (did not), hate sociology (loved that), and ended up majoring in history. My original goal was to get a degree and work in admin somewhere. 

I opted for a local school and took all online classes my first year - ds was still in high school (homeschooled). 

Homeschooling made me a better student. I could relate to other students & professors. I made it a point to visit professor's office hours to get to know them. My undergraduate experience was really positive. Best of luck to you. 

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I went to college, from scratch, starting at 36 and will be graduating this year at 41. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! When I started back, I went really slow- one class first semester, 2 classes second semester...I wish I would have jumped in a little more quickly. I wasn't sure that I could handle a full load of college level courses but I was totally wrong. Do not discount what 20-something years of life experience (and homeschooling) has done for your mind. You are way more capable than you know.

Since you'll need gen-ed, you have some time to figure out what you want to do. Start knocking out those lower level courses. I did all of my gen-ed through the local community college. It was cheap and had a ton of online options (I imagine that most schools have even more online options now). I am now at a state school heading into my last semester of a nursing program. 

You can totally do this!

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4 hours ago, Quill said:

 

It helped to have a sense of humor about being the “old” lady at college. What it came down to for me is this: the years will pass anyway; might as well be working towards something. Even if it takes ten years, ten years will pass anyway. 

 

YES. I've heard it put, do you want to be 45 (or whatever age) with a degree or just 45?

I also agree that it's good just to embrace your age. I've made a lot of young friends, too! I have a small group of people that I'm close with in my cohort and the age range is 21-34, and then me at 41. It's great and I love them.

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3 hours ago, PeterPan said:

 my googling found that some of those certificates don't bump you up as much as you'd think. In our area, one like that was coming in with jobs at $18-25 an hour, where right now you can start at Target for $15, kwim?  

It doesn't look as substantial by the hour, I think, but $15/hr ft is $30,000 per year and $25/hr is $50,000 per year. That's a pretty big difference. 

Even 15 to 18 is $30k vs $36k, and $500/month makes a big difference to many people. 

It's definitely worth considering, but make sure to look at the numbers in various ways. 

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2 hours ago, Alicia64 said:

First of all, your yarn avatar is adorable.

Just a thought, I know this isn't in the subjects you mentioned.

Did you know that you can do two-years at a tech school, and then take the nursing certification? You'd be an RN.

 

 

RN is not a certification, it's a license that requires a degree. It takes 2 years for the degree plus prerequisites (about 2 years worth if you're starting from scratch). So 4 years total for RN (roughly. There are accelerated courses but they usually require a previous bachelors). You might be thinking of LVN/LPN, which is a license that you can get without a degree. CNA is a certification and can be obtained with about 4 months of school (I think). 

I only correct you because people often think of nursing as a 2-year degree because that's the typical length of the nursing school portion of the process, but it's actually a much lengthier degree for the RN. 

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11 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Do it! I graduated today with my AA. I'm 48. When I went back to school in 2018, I kind of had an idea the direction I wanted to go. I graduated with something completely different! Take the gen ed and do life. You'll learn where you're supposed to be. 

In the last three years, I was the oldest person in only 1 class! Everyone was welcoming and supportive. 

First, OP, you can totally do this. As this poster said, what you start off studying may not be your final choice...and that's okay. I hope you find something that works for you.

As for @AbcdeDooDah, congrats re: what I bolded! I hope you are celebrating however your heart wishes (a long nap, a big bowl of ice cream, a weekend alone, whatever you want and can manage)!

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15 minutes ago, sassenach said:

RN is not a certification, it's a license that requires a degree. It takes 2 years for the degree plus prerequisites (about 2 years worth if you're starting from scratch). So 4 years total for RN (roughly. There are accelerated courses but they usually require a previous bachelors). You might be thinking of LVN/LPN, which is a license that you can get without a degree. CNA is a certification and can be obtained with about 4 months of school (I think). 

I only correct you because people often think of nursing as a 2-year degree because that's the typical length of the nursing school portion of the process, but it's actually a much lengthier degree for the RN. 

RN does require a degree, but an associate's degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN gets you there in many states (most? all? idk). 

Having the bachelor's degree will open up more career paths. 

One thing to consider with nursing is that it is usually physically taxing. 

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11 hours ago, AbcdeDooDah said:

Do it! I graduated today with my AA. I'm 48. When I went back to school in 2018, I kind of had an idea the direction I wanted to go. I graduated with something completely different! Take the gen ed and do life. You'll learn where you're supposed to be. 

In the last three years, I was the oldest person in only 1 class! Everyone was welcoming and supportive. 

AWWWW!  Congrats!  

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30 minutes ago, sassenach said:

RN is not a certification, it's a license that requires a degree. It takes 2 years for the degree plus prerequisites (about 2 years worth if you're starting from scratch). So 4 years total for RN (roughly. There are accelerated courses but they usually require a previous bachelors). You might be thinking of LVN/LPN, which is a license that you can get without a degree. CNA is a certification and can be obtained with about 4 months of school (I think). 

I only correct you because people often think of nursing as a 2-year degree because that's the typical length of the nursing school portion of the process, but it's actually a much lengthier degree for the RN. 

Thank you for clearing me up. Back in the 70s a relative became an RN -- only having two years of college. So when I read something recently about the two-year deal, I just assumed it was right.

But in the back of my mind, I've always wondered how she was an RN without four years of college? Has something changed?

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15 minutes ago, Alicia64 said:

Thank you for clearing me up. Back in the 70s a relative became an RN -- only having two years of college. So when I read something recently about the two-year deal, I just assumed it was right.

But in the back of my mind, I've always wondered how she was an RN without four years of college? Has something changed?

You definitely can become an RN with a two-year nursing degree. I don't know if all states allow it, but certainly many of them do. 

Nursing program (2 yr, 4 yr, or accelerated) plus passing the NCLEX-RN equals RN in my state. 

The opportunities and career paths can be very different, though. 

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12 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

Hello all. I have been a member here since 2010. Mostly lurking. My kids have gone back-and-forth with public school and homeschool. My sig is probably very old but I don’t know how to update it on this new format?

My oldest is now 17. He had finished high school and is attending a culinary program at the local Polytech. My middle is currently schooling through the summer on her own ambition. She is using power homeschool through Acellus and is on track to finish early as well. Youngest is finishing 6th grade with the same Acellus program. Covid sent us back to homeschooling. But the youngest might be heading back to public school in the fall. 

Long story, I know. But now I’m contemplating returning to school myself now that they are all getting older. I would need a completely online program for our current circumstances. I’m looking at SNHU for now. $250/month is manageable for us during this difficult time. 
 

My problem is that I don’t know what degree to pursue?!? I will be starting from scratch with only a high school diploma from 1997.  One would think I would have this figured out by 42 but NOPE. 

I’m considering paralegal, psychology, and gerontology advocacy. 

How does one figure out what to pursue in middle age? And how does one choose an online school these days? I want an accredited school that is well respected and not-for-profit.  I don’t want a degree-mill school. 

HELP!!!

~Courtney 

Check out your state flagship. You might be surprised at what they can offer financially. I returned a few years ago and got my AA with the local community college, then transferred to our University. Gen Eds really will help you sort through what you love and will be required for any four year degree, so the first couple years are worthwhile exploration. I loved it and while my GPA at eighteen was mediocre, my adult GPA was excellent. I was very prepared to read critically and write effectively from homeschooling. 

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51 minutes ago, sassenach said:

RN is not a certification, it's a license that requires a degree. It takes 2 years for the degree plus prerequisites (about 2 years worth if you're starting from scratch). So 4 years total for RN (roughly. There are accelerated courses but they usually require a previous bachelors). You might be thinking of LVN/LPN, which is a license that you can get without a degree. CNA is a certification and can be obtained with about 4 months of school (I think). 

I only correct you because people often think of nursing as a 2-year degree because that's the typical length of the nursing school portion of the process, but it's actually a much lengthier degree for the RN. 

This is precisely how it is here now. DD is pursuing her RN. 

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16 minutes ago, Alicia64 said:

Thank you for clearing me up. Back in the 70s a relative became an RN -- only having two years of college. So when I read something recently about the two-year deal, I just assumed it was right.

But in the back of my mind, I've always wondered how she was an RN without four years of college? Has something changed?

Yes, it’s hugely changed since the 70’s. Even in the last 10-20 years it has changed a ton (like a lot of fields, I think). Everything is trending towards requiring more education and higher degrees. 

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39 minutes ago, katilac said:

RN does require a degree, but an associate's degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN gets you there in many states (most? all? idk). 

Having the bachelor's degree will open up more career paths. 

One thing to consider with nursing is that it is usually physically taxing. 

Right. But the associates is actually way more than 2 years of classes if you don’t have your gen-Ed finished. I’ve often joked that nursing is the only field that the associates is a 4-year degree. It may depend on the state but most places, the nursing portion of the associates degree is a full 2 years of school. This does not count prerequisites (anatomy, Physio, micro, chem, English, psych, nutrition, stats) AND gen-ed. So it often takes 2 years to complete what you need to even apply to a nursing program. The interesting thing is that bachelors of nursing programs are also 2 years for the nursing portion. So in my case, I could (and did) apply to both associates and bach programs at the same time. The only difference was the competitiveness of getting admittance. 
 

ETA: again, the only reason I’m posting this stuff is that it’s a pretty common misconception and one that I also had until I got started in pursuing nursing. I would have started my prerequisites MUCH earlier had I known that nursing is not actually a 2-year degree. 

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Apologies to the OP for hijacking your thread, and thanks everyone for coming to my TedTalk!

12 minutes ago, stripe said:

I think this has a good explanation : In fact, before you can be accepted into an associate’s degree program, there are a number of “prerequisites” courses that you must complete and do well in. These will take you AT LEAST a year to complete. 

http://nursingschoolprograms.com/adn-degree/rn-degree/

For those that are interested:

I returned to school with 7 college credits to my name and the belief that I could get my RN in 2 years. What I quickly learned was that I needed about SIXTY credits of prerequisites/degree completing courses outside of the nursing portion of the degree. As I was finishing up those courses, I also needed to take the TEAS, which is the most common entrance exam for nursing school. Some schools require the HESI. Then I took my TEAS score and my prerequisite transcript and applied to multiple nursing programs. They are all competitive to get into and have slight differences for their requirements. The one that I am attending also required 100+ hours of volunteering in medical or multicultural settings and an interview, in addition to high GPA and TEAS scores. 

If a person has a previous bachelors, there are a lot of different accelerated options. My friend who had a bachelors did all of his science prerequisites (there are usually recency rules, so even though he was a public school science teacher, he had to retake those classes) in 2 semesters then applied to an accelerated bachelors program that was 15 months long. So for him, it actually was only about 2 1/2 years from start to finish but he had a significant head start on his education (plus the ability to handle 18 credits of prerequisite science per semester, which would have buried me).

Now, if you go back some decades, things were much different. My cousin, who became an RN in the early 90's, got her LVN in about 6 months and then did a 2 semester bridge to RN. My grandmother, who became an RN in the 60's had her LVN and then just had to take a test to achieve her RN. I have no idea how much school any of it took but I don't think it was much. 

Most recently, an associates (ADN) was enough to get a hospital job. In a lot of areas, it still is. However, in California it is exceedingly rare for an ADN to get you into a hospital position. With the move creation Magnet status hospitals, which want 80% of the nurses to have a minimum BSN, hospitals are just not hiring fresh ADNs anymore. Frankly, I think it's a racket to even have associates programs anymore (at least in CA). With the exception of a public health and a research course, the ADN and BSN are nearly identical. Most of my friends that ended up in ADN schools are going straight into a BSN bridge so they can pursue hospital positions. Again, California is among the most competitive states for new grads so I know that ADNs can still get hospital positions in other states. 

Nursing is only showing signs of requiring higher and higher degrees. There now exists a new crop of entry-level Masters programs, which I disagree with on principle. These allow people with unrelated bachelors to receive a masters of nursing (MSN). IMO, this really dilutes what a master's should mean but I suppose the old schoolers might say that about BSNs. 

If you read all that, here is an award 🏆

 

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9 minutes ago, sassenach said:

 Nursing is only showing signs of requiring higher and higher degrees. 

Right, and it's important to think about which path to RN will serve your purpose even now. You may be able to get it more quickly with a shorter degree, but will that get you the jobs you want in your area? 

We're talking RN, which the OP hasn't even talked about, lol, but the same could be said for many degrees and types of work. Sometimes the certification is the truly important thing, and sometimes it's not. 

OP, have you considered any kind of online work to give you a bit of breathing room and more time to make up your mind? This doesn't help you now, because it's seasonal for late spring/early summer, but I've done online scoring for standardized tests. The pay isn't amazing, but it's online and you can usually get your hours whenever you want them (no standard schedule). I probably won't do it anymore, as I have enough other things going on, but it served me well for several years. 

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Just now, katilac said:

 

Right, and it's important to think about which path to RN will serve your purpose even now. You may be able to get it more quickly with a shorter degree, but will that get you the jobs you want in your area? 

We're talking RN, which the OP hasn't even talked about, lol, but the same could be said for many degrees and types of work. Sometimes the certification is the truly important thing, and sometimes it's not. 

OP, have you considered any kind of online work to give you a bit of breathing room and more time to make up your mind? This doesn't help you now, because it's seasonal for late spring/early summer, but I've done online scoring for standardized tests. The pay isn't amazing, but it's online and you can usually get your hours whenever you want them (no standard schedule). I probably won't do it anymore, as I have enough other things going on, but it served me well for several years. 

I'm so sorry for beating a dead drum but I think I was just hoping that you would walk away understanding that an associates in nursing is NOT a 2 year degree. There is no path to get an RN in 2 years unless a person has a previous degree.

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14 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

Thank you so much! I took AP courses in high school but my confidence has waned over the years. I don’t really know if I can do this? I haven’t even been in the workforce since 2004 (medical billing) when my oldest was born. I feel like a dinosaur 🙈

You can certainly do this-I got my teaching degree when I was 54. Go for it!! Something else I learned-there were many times that I was not the oldest student in the class. There are many non-traditional students now.

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49 minutes ago, sassenach said:

I'm so sorry for beating a dead drum but I think I was just hoping that you would walk away understanding that an associates in nursing is NOT a 2 year degree. There is no path to get an RN in 2 years unless a person has a previous degree.

Perhaps I should have been clearer that I wasn't referring to the OP specifically. I didn't say you could be a registered nurse in two years, I said you could be a registered nurse with an associate's degree - I was interpreting your initial post as referring to a four-year degree being required. 

You are responding here to me saying, You may be able to get it more quickly with a shorter degree, and, well, you can do exactly that where I live. Even with no prior degree, even with nor pre reqs. Successful completion of the Associate of Science degree makes you eligible to take the nursing exam and become a licensed RN. 

You can enter with a high school diploma or GED, and it is scheduled for five semesters with zero acceleration. So, one semester more than a typical associate's degree, three semesters less than typical bachelor's degree. That's definitely quicker. 

We used to have a path to get an RN in 2 years with no prior degree, an accelerated 18-month program, but I don't know if that exists anymore. I don't think we have a nursing shortage any longer. 

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On 6/12/2021 at 12:32 PM, katilac said:

 

You can enter with a high school diploma or GED, and it is scheduled for five semesters with zero acceleration. So, one semester more than a typical associate's degree, three semesters less than typical bachelor's degree. That's definitely quicker. 

Wow, what state are you in? Maybe I should have gone out of state for my degree, lol.

ETA out of curiosity I looked up several ADN programs in Louisiana and while a few were 2 1/2 years, all of them had prerequisite classes in addition to the 2 1/2 years. 

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1 minute ago, sassenach said:

Wow, what state are you in? Maybe I should have gone out of state for my degree, lol.

Louisiana. 

Most of the young people I know who aspire to be nurses do a four-year program at university, but it's not the only choice. The community colleges near me aren't hugely cheaper than university imo, but lopping off three semesters certainly saves some money. 

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Of the three that you mentioned, I would not consider psychology.  There are no real jobs that come out of a psychology BA; nearly everything requires graduate work.  Pay coming out of graduation is not particularly great for many jobs in that field either.  

Being a paralegal is ok, but not a great choice imo, either, unless you are really drawn to the work.  The pay is decent if you can find a job (our firm paid a daily flat rate rather than salary, to offer flexibility in scheduling to associates) but unless you find a great niche--like working for a bank doing repossessions or the like you are stuck with the personalities in the office.  My senior partner threw phones at walls, another partner was a raging alcoholic, and a third was a serial adulterer.  I'd like to say that they were aberrations, but judging by the stories I hear about my fellow graduates over the course of 20+ years at CLEs and work lunches, I'd say not.

Gerontology advocate sounds cool.

I'd also look at respiratory tech, nuclear medicine technology, and MRI technologist if you want a two year program that is going to get you pretty solid pay when you are done.

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Knittingmom, 

I also encourage you to go back. To add to the voices of support, I also went back late in life for a career change and just finished my second bachelors. Like Sassenach, I went back to get my BSN in nursing. I also live in California and the job market here for new graduate nurses is intensely competitive. You will have 500-1000+ people applying for every coveted new graduate residency spot that opens up at the hospitals in my area. We have several direct entry MSN programs here too, so people who already have bachelors degrees can become nurses at the masters level. (I didn't do one of those programs because they're very expensive.) But, because they are new nurses, I am competing with them as well for those residency positions. Associate degree nurses are relegated to working at skilled nursing facilities or medical offices.

Anyway, whatever you decide to do, I agree that your GEs will likely help you to clarify. Take your time to explore interests, if possible. I went to Western Governors University and it is online and nonprofit. You pay by term, so you can accelerate your courses. I liked my program and am happy with WGU because the school allowed me to continue homeschooling while being a FT nursing student. It wouldn't have been possible without the flexibility that their program offered. 

I wish you the very best in your studies -- it is never too late! I will probably go on to get a second doctorate. 🙂 I am 46, BTW.  

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I have thought about this a lot. I have no answers..but I sure have thought! One thing I have considered is geography. This is so diverse it can include anything from anthropology to archeology to geology etc. My first bachelors was in economics and math. I never liked economics. Is your goal to get a job with your degree? Or to just enjoy the study?

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22 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

...My problem is that I don’t know what degree to pursue?!? I will be starting from scratch with only a high school diploma from 1997...

What degree to pursue? Look for  a field that:
1.) you have both an interest in AND aptitude for, and
2.) that will yield a decent paying job -- so, a "growing" field (rather than declining), and one that will repay any student loans you may have to take out for the training/education needed for that occupation.

22 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

... How does one figure out what to pursue in middle age? And how does one choose an online school these days? I want an accredited school that is well respected and not-for-profit.  I don’t want a degree-mill school. 

HELP!!!

~Courtney 

I strongly recommend doing a little career exploration. There are MANY jobs out there now that did not exist 25 years ago when you were finishing up high school. Check out the these past threads (all linked on PAGE 6 of the big pinned thread "College Motherlode", at the top of the WTM College Board):

CAREER EXPLORATION
overview
Career testing/counseling (2nd post links tons of resources for tests, exploration, curricula, etc.)

career exploration
How to explore possible career/major fits?
Ideas for [putting together a] course on career research/planning 

career tests
Best free or cheap career tests? 
Career aptitude testing free? 
How to explore possible career/major fits? 
 

22 hours ago, knittingmomof3 said:

... And how does one choose an online school these days? I want an accredited school that is well respected and not-for-profit... I don’t want a degree-mill school...

Once you have an idea of what type of education you need for the occupation you are interested in, then you can start exploring schools. Usually an in-person/on-campus local community college or university is a good place to start, but there are some decent online programs, as well. Not all occupations have an all-online degree program, so that's where finding out if your local options are quality choices will help you, as well.

And, of course, you can always ask more specific questions here (esp. on the WTM College Board) for ideas of how to search for a good online college program. 

BEST of luck as you start thinking about "what comes next"! Warmest regards, Lori D.

 

 

Edited by Lori D.
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Hi Everyone. 
 

I am absolutely OVERWHELMED with all the positive replies. I wasn’t online much today so I am just catching up and you all have such amazing insight and advice. I can’t thank you enough. I will try to sort through all these replies and respond on Monday. 
 

You are all so encouraging. Thank you all 💜

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My mom got her BA in Accounting when I was 11. It was pretty inspirational for me in terms of what it meant to work hard. 

Figure out why you want to get this degree. For fun? To get a job? Personal fulfillment?

If it's just for fun or personal fulfillment, then look for a topic that interests you (for my FIL it was ancient Hebrew). Just look at the classes you just want to take.

If it's to get a job, then look at the level education needed for different jobs available in your area. Compare that with salary. Also, look for part-time or full-time availability for a particular career (for example there are very few part-time options for electrical engineering).

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My dh went back to college at 42. He's 45 now(just finished his 3rd year) and a bit over half-way through his bachelor's in Engineering. He started with only 3 credits. It has been very hard on him (and the whole family) TBH. He's worked FT w/ OT. His general ed courses were mostly easy (except English 2 which is not his strong suite). His engineering courses and upper level courses have required a lot of work. For him, the hardest part has been managing the stress and changing expectations as he has so little time.  I've thought about going back myself but I'd have to wait until dh was finished as I have to manage and take care of everything I possibly can now.

(I know everyone has gave a positive perspective but I'm just throwing this out there for honesty.) I do think it would be much, much easier for me to go back to school being that I SAH. If I thought it would be as hard as it has been for dh, there is no way I'd do it.

For me I've considered our CC that has a program here for OTA that I thought seemed interesting, pay is supposed to be decent too. I also considered going back for my Master's. Maybe I'll have it figured out more when dh finally graduates. I'm also waiting to see if my younger girls decide they want to go to school for Jr. High and HS as that will aefect things too. I have a Bachelor's in SW but of course the pay is peanuts. I think I'd like to work if the girls go to school so we have extra funds - for expensive teenagers, retirement, travel (so many things so little money) but I don't know if I want to work in SW.

 

Edited by Soror
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On 6/11/2021 at 9:30 PM, knittingmomof3 said:

I’m considering paralegal, psychology, and gerontology advocacy. 

First of all--congratulations!!!  

As far as what to major in, one thing you might consider is why you are getting a college education.  Is it mostly about vocational training or more about education in general?  If it is vocational training, then majors like the first and last one on your list would be appropriate (are those even majors?), but if it is more about the education, then a major like psychology would probably be more satisfying.

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Hey Everyone. I’m finally getting back to this thread (crazy weekend and I finally got my first Covid vaccine yesterday after dragging my feet for a long time) and I can’t thank you all enough for your feedback. I don’t know how to multiquote (I really need to learn how to do that 🤦🏼‍♀️) so I will just give some more information here. 
 

I have battled anxiety and depression for 27 years. It has been debilitating at times. Last summer during the height of Covid, I sought more help for my mental health. The one hour intake appointment over the phone with a psychologist was billed to my insurance company and applied toward my deductible. My cost after the insurance discount was…over $500. For ONE HOUR. The psychologist recommended I consult with a psychiatrist for possible medication therapy. I scheduled that appointment but when I called to find out how much the visit would cost, I was told they couldn’t tell me that until after the appointment when the psychiatrist selected the billing codes. So I canceled the appointment because who orders something when they don’t know how much it will cost?!?!  “Yes, ma’am. I’ll take that box of lobsters. How much is it? What? You can’t tell me until I get to the register? And what? If I decide they are too expensive, there’s nothing I can do about it?!? I have to buy them anyway?!?”
 

I know you all know that the mental health care system in this country is broken (as well as the entire health care industry) so it got me thinking. What if I got a degree in psychology or social work and got a license to be a therapist? Nothing special. Just someone that people could talk to and get helpful feedback. I could charge a reasonable hourly rate and not participate in insurance. Because $550 for one hour?!? What even IS THAT?!?

 If I start Gen Ed classes and decide I want to pursue Psychology/LCSW in order to work as a therapist, am I crazy? I just want to work with real people and help them outside of this broken system. 
 

I welcome all feedback. I’m talking to a college and career counselor tomorrow to try to figure out what direction to take…

Thank you all for indulging the questions and concerns of a mostly-lurker for the past 11 years. I really appreciate the honest opinions and feedback. 💜

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On 6/12/2021 at 1:19 PM, BlsdMama said:

Check out your state flagship. You might be surprised at what they can offer financially. I returned a few years ago and got my AA with the local community college, then transferred to our University. Gen Eds really will help you sort through what you love and will be required for any four year degree, so the first couple years are worthwhile exploration. I loved it and while my GPA at eighteen was mediocre, my adult GPA was excellent. I was very prepared to read critically and write effectively from homeschooling. 

OP stated that she is looking at SNHU (Southern NH University).  Could be that she is just interested in their online program because they are convenient and well-regarded.  Or maybe she's a NH resident, in which case the state flagship would be prohibitively expensive.  UNH has the highest in state tuition in the country - higher even than the highest out of state tuition of other states.  Last time I checked they did not have a great deal of flexibility in scheduling or online options - they are designed for traditional students.  Furthermore, they are located in a far-flung corner of the state, so inaccessible to most of the rest of us without a long commute (3 hours for us!).  Our public colleges and universities are chronically underfunded because our tax structure is broken; NH Advantage my a$$ - it's caused a huge drain of the young and talented, and is only a boon for the wealthy.

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I hope you figure out a plan that will work well for you.

To work as a counselor with either a psychology or social work degree, you would need to do years of graduate work after the bachelor's degree. If you are ready for that kind of commitment to academic training, it is something that you could pursue. If you wanted to have your own independent office, you would also need some background in business.

You seem to have a heart for wanting to help others. Maybe look at what kind of jobs are available in your local medical community, to give you more ideas about what you might train for. Or perhaps you could find a job that doesn't require a college degree at first, to dip your toes into the experience. For example, our local hospital system hires people for a variety of jobs, such as transporting patients from place to place within the hospital. Something like that could give you a glimpse at the kinds of medical jobs that draw your interest. I just scanned what job openings are available, and there are also things like respiratory equipment assistant or patient registration representative that only call for a high school degree.

I am just mentioning medical here, because there are medical areas that you can train for with just a few years of schooling. Counseling does not happen to match that, but there are other options. My DD has thought about phlebotomy, for example.

Here is another idea that wouldn't require college training -- optician. You can get on the job training for this.

I'm just throwing things out for you to consider. I think that your desire to help others is commendable. If counseling is what you are really wanting, just know that it is a long path to get licensed.

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36 minutes ago, knittingmomof3 said:

 If I start Gen Ed classes and decide I want to pursue Psychology/LCSW in order to work as a therapist, am I crazy? I just want to work with real people and help them outside of this broken system.  💜

Not crazy.  This will require a Master's Degree, but you can pick off those gen eds one at a time, with some extra psych electives to decide if you like it well enough to complete that route.  One step at a time - slow and steady wins the race! 

I used to work for a psychologist in another state who charged $120/hour - no insurance.  He shared office space (a 2-room suite with a waiting/reception area) with another psychologist, and they shared a part time office worker between them.  He chose his own hours, and was always booked.

My sister works in psych, and all of her psych colleagues have their own personal mental health struggles.

You can do this.

Edited by Amy in NH
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2 hours ago, Storygirl said:

I am just mentioning medical here, because there are medical areas that you can train for with just a few years of schooling. Counseling does not happen to match that, but there are other options. My DD has thought about phlebotomy, for example.

Here is another idea that wouldn't require college training -- optician. You can get on the job training.

I have a niece who did on the job training for phlebotomy. The hospital she works at is now paying part of her tuition while she’s going to nursing school. Medical jobs can also be good because they usually come with good benefits and lots of options for different shifts.

Edited by Frances
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Knittingmom, 

I have (well-managed) bipolar disorder, ADD, and generalized anxiety disorder, and I went back to school (after a long period of stability) to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. (I am also a retired attorney, so I advise against being a paralegal for a variety of reasons!) I think you will find that a lot of people that work in psych have either their own lived experience or some connection via a loved one, which is why healthy boundaries are so important. But, IMO, these experiences can also help us to be more empathic caregivers/providers. You may want to think about volunteering somewhere or shadowing a provider to dip your toe in to see if mental health is for you. I volunteered in the emergency department and the ICU of my local teaching hospital for 18 months while I knocked out pre-reqs for nursing school. It helped to solidify for me that this was the path I wanted to go down.

I currently work at our county psych hospital as a mental health associate, which is a tech position that does not require any special training (though, they prefer people who are nursing assistants, it is not required). In a psych unit, mental health associates typically have the most interaction with psych patients -- we can be their 1:1 person (if the provider has ordered that level of care for the patient), we can work on the floor, we do rounds on all the patients every 15 minutes, etc. We are basically the eyes and ears of the nurses, keeping them up to date on what is going on with their patients. I can go into more details, if you have an interest. Anyway, that's just an example. We also have counselors from NAMI and social workers who come in to talk with the patients, we have recreational therapists who do outdoor activities and games with the patients, we have art therapists who help the patients to express their emotions in a healthy way through different media, etc. So, there are many ways to support healing without years and years of school, and volunteering is a great way to explore the many paths that are available. And if you have any interest in working in mental health, it is a very underserved community that really needs people who want to be there, so I encourage you to explore that interest. It is very rewarding work. I work in a 100+ bed locked facility, with very acute, lower socio-economic status folks, and I enjoy working with our patients. I also recognize that it isn't for everyone, and these vulnerable folks really need caregivers who want to do this work and are invested in their care.

Anyway, just wanted to send you along more encouragement as you think through various options. I went through the same kind of soul searching about 5 years ago. 🙂      

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  • knittingmomof3 changed the title to Finally attempting college at 42…UPDATE in first post

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