When is the Right Time to Head Back to School?

For many years, I batted over whether or not now was the right time to go back to school for my master’s degree, and every year there was something holding me back.  Whether it was working full-time with little spare time, tag-team parenting two energetic boys (one of whom has special needs), trying desperately to manage a work/life balance, or fear of over-commitment (yes, please), I never seemed to make time for me.

Back to School or Not?

back to school

Then I turned 40. And with this milestone came a desire to focus more of my time on personal and professional growth – for me! Not for anyone else despite the nudging from colleagues and the concern from my family (when will you find the time??). It was solely for me. Realizing that I was older than the average graduate student (33 years old according to gradschoolhub.com) and that I bring with me a wealth of experience, I was empowered to begin this journey.

Let the Research Begin

Firstly, I had researched programs for years, looking for ones that met my career goals and complemented the 18 years of work experience I had acquired. Secondly, I found that many graduate programs did not require the GRE (graduate record examination) scores in order for admission which was incredibly gratifying. Thirdly, I just needed to select a program that fit my schedule and met my goals, contact an academic advisor, and get started, with the latter being the most important.

Here are a few tips for those students who have been wavering on going back to school:

Choose your program.
Overall, be honest with yourself and select a program that interests you and meets you where you are – academically and financially. It’s a commitment of time and energy, and personal fulfillment should be your guide.

Contact an admissions counselor.
They are there to support you through the entire process. Certainly, ask questions about financial aid, courses and paths, transfer credits/work experience, and other expectations you may have. Ask questions!

Get organized.
Prepare yourself and schedule time to work on your graduate studies. Perhaps if the degree is applicable to your current job, you may speak with your employer about using work-time for study. Furthermore, reading articles and case studies for class that will impact your work performance is a great asset to the organization!

Plan ahead.
In addition to creating a schedule for study, graduate students need to prepare for the unexpected. Life happens. Children get sick, schedules get bumped. Unquestionably, stay ahead of your assignments and you will stay on course with your studies.

Cut yourself a break.
Undoubtedly, you are doing amazing things by prioritizing you and your education. Know that the graduate degree is now the “professional standard”. By going back to school, you are upgrading your skills and qualifications. This makes you more competitive in the market.

Back to School Decision

So, yes. In the spring of 2017, I enrolled in a completely online master’s program in Management and Marketing. I found the flexibility I was looking for, and am enjoying the challenge and fulfillment that learning brings. Cheers!



Join the Conversation


  1. m says:

    What about support for those who are interested in completing their undergraduate degree while having to balance work and family life?

    What online, and flexible options might UMBC have?

    1. Dennise Cardona says:

      Hey there! Thanks for reaching out. I’d like to refer you to UMBC Career Center. They have an incredible support system in place, and have lots of info to help with work/life balance. Check them out: https://careers.umbc.edu/

      I hope this helps! – Dennise Cardona, Digital Content Specialist, UMBC Division of Professional Studies

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