Back to School Returning to School

Returning to school is a big decision. Let us help.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Higher education or going back to school is a BIG decision that has the potential to change your life. Do some research. Ask questions. There’s no doubt that it affects you, but it also has a huge impact on your family and your work. Then there is the question of how to pay for it. Finally, you need to decide “which program?” and “which school?”


Do I have basic computer skills? You should have a basic level of comfort with a computer and be comfortable with such things as word processing, spreadsheets, Power Point, creating and sending email, and internet research.If you’re considering an online education program, these skills and computer access are even more important.

Do I have time to take courses? Do I have good time management skills? You’ll need to spend at least 8 hours a week on school work to succeed in a three - credit hour course, whether it’s an online or a classroom - based course. Online courses offer more flexibility, which is a good thing if you have good time management skills, but may be a problem if your skills aren’t quite where you’d like them to be. In the case of both online and classroom - based education, you’ll have assignments on a weekly basis.

Am I self-motivated? Self-disciplined? This is an important question. Remember adult students have many responsibilities besides school – families and work, for example. Like time management, self discipline is important for all students, but even more so for students who decide to take their courses online.

What about writing? You’ll be asked to read and write – a lot. Assignments, reports, emails, research, discussions. Writing is an important skill and one that is sure to improve the longer you’re in school. What about my support system? We’ve all heard the saying that “it takes a village,” and this is definitely true for adult s in school. Your “village” can include significant others, children, parents, work colleagues and supervisors. Maybe you could even enroll with a “buddy” to create your own support team.

What does my system look like? Do I have a place to work? Doing homework on your lap in front of a television is generally not the best idea. Do you have a place to do school work? A space for your books and files? You’ll need some way to access a computer and way to download and save documents. If you want to take online courses, you’ll probably need to have your own computer and broadband connectivity. Even if it’s small and perhaps shared with someone else, having a dedicated “school space” is important.

What are my goals? It helps to be clear about your goal and to keep it in mind along the way – some of the common ones are: “I want to get ahead in my job or career.” “I want to understand more about my business.” “I want to land a job in this industry.” “I’ve always wanted to get my degree.” “I want my kids to know how important school is – if I do it, they’ll do it.” “I want to take advantage of tuition assistance.” What’s your goal?


Employer-sponsored tuition assistance: If you’re employed, check to see if your employer offers a tuition assistance benefit. Begin with your Human Resources Department.

  • How much will the company pay towards tuition?
  • Which costs will your company cover (tuition only, books, labs, fees, prior learning assessment, etc.)?
  • Will your grades affect your reimbursement amount?
  • When will the company pay (at the beginning of the semester, once grades are received, etc)?
  • How long must you be employed to be eligible?
  • Is there an employment obligation after the education is received?
  • Can I access my class during work time?
  • Is it possible to arrange a flexible work schedule to accommodate my school schedule?

Financial Aid: Student Financial Aid is another way to pay for your education, including tuition, fees, books, and supplies. It is managed by colleges and universities through their Student Services. Financial aid can include:

  • Loans, both from the federal government and from private lenders
  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Work-study programs for full time students
  • After you’ve identified the schools or colleges you’re interested in, ask about Financial Aid options. You can also look at the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website: Remember that you need to take be enrolled for at least 9 credits or you will be required to begin paying your student loan back.

Shop around!: Often similar programs that are offered by different providers have very different price tags. Don’t assume that the first “price” you see is your only option. As a rule, the best educational bargains are generally found in community colleges –it’s best to start shopping there.


Choosing the right school is a critical decision! Ask lots of questions. Look for online reviews. Ask friends or co-workers about their experiences

  • If you’re considering a college or university, find out if it’s regionally accredited. Take a look at the US Department of Education's site. And be careful to avoid a “diploma mill” which is an organization that claims to be a college, but exists only for profit and to distribute degrees.
  • Then look at the school’s reputation and experience with adult students
    • What student services are available?
    • Are they available at times when adults can access them or only during traditional business hours?
    • What about the school’s bookstore, library and technical assistance?
    • Is tutoring available?
    • Are advisors trained to work with adult students?
    • What is the estimated time required to complete a certificate or a degree?
    • Are the courses accelerated?
    • Are course evaluations available to the public?
    • Can I learn more about the faculty member’s background and teaching experience?
    • May I review a course syllabus?
    • Is there a career center? Does the career center have a relationship with the employers I’m interested in?
    • What are the steps associated with enrollment?

Check out our Training & Education page for a list of colleges near you that have thriving programs that will prepare you for success in the Petrochemical industry.


Want a Higher Salary?

Those with an Associate's degree qualify for jobs that make an average of $32 per hour! That's $20 more than entry-level jobs for those without a college degree.

Student Spotlight

Javier Martin

I'm working towards my Associate's degree in Process Technology. I'm excited about the work I'll be doing!