Returning to Graduate School After a Long Hiatus

You’ve been working for a long time. You always planned to complete that master’s or doctoral degree, but life is so fast paced—career, family, obligations, it just never happened. But things have changed. You’re ready to take that next step. You have a goal, a purpose. You want that graduate degree, but do you dare? Is it possible to return to graduate school after a long hiatus?

Returning to Graduate School

When you make the choice to return to graduate school after a long hiatus, you will not be alone. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately four million students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities in 2011 were 35 years of age or older.

Pete Schlichting was one of those students who returned to graduate school after a long hiatus. As an Airbus A320 Captain with American Airlines, he first went back to school in 2005 in pursuit of a master’s degree after a 15-year break from college. He obtained a MS in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University (ERAU) and now, seven years later, is pursuing an EdD in Organizational Leadership from Northcentral University. “There existed very few options in those days [2005],” said Schlichting. “However, ERAU offered several completely online graduate degree programs. I was stunned and amazed at the opportunities I discovered while in school. The fact that an adult learner can go to school, chase a dream, remain employed and engaged with family and loved ones was simply wonderful. I was so impressed by the advancements in technology that I wrote my graduate thesis on the subject.”

In the years since graduating from ERAU, Schlichting has taught airport and airline operations and other classes for ERAU as an adjunct professor in addition to continuing to fly for the airline. He encourages adults who have a passion for completing that graduate degree to return to school, even after a long hiatus.

Flexibility in a Graduate Program

You will see a lot of change when starting on a new educational journey toward that graduate degree, but online courses—and the flexibility offered by NCU—helps make that transition easier.

One of the biggest positives for Schlichting when choosing NCU for his doctoral studies was NCU’s flexibility. “The University offers a new course every Monday, which provides the prospective student flexibility to meet his/her personal schedule,” explained Schlichting. “NCU offers a strong support system providing assistance to a returning student. The one-to-one system allows the returning students flexibility by not requiring team/group projects. There are no distractions from poor performing classmates.” Schlichting also found the one-to-one learning model a great stress reducer for him as a returning graduate student. “The one-to-one interaction greatly helps when asking questions of the professor.”

Making the Transition Back into Academia

Returning to academia can be difficult for mature students. You have a job, a career, a family and many other commitments. Having the sage advice of those who have gone through the experience can help make it a little easier. Schlichting says for him the most difficult part was re-engaging time management skills. “The university and my professors provided a lot of helpful material and support regarding time management skills, which reduced my stress level.”

Schlichting has a few pointers for new graduate students, encouraging them to learn ways to manage their time. “Take a deep breath. It can all appear to be rather insurmountable upon first glance. Take one day at a time. Plan your day/week to offer yourself the proper amount of time to complete your homework assignments.”

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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