Send me back to skool
May 11, 2008 1:00 PM   Subscribe

How does a 25-year old college dropout go about getting a fresh start at a new university?

I dropped out of San Jose State about 2 years ago. I want another shot at getting my degree, but I have no idea how to go about choosing a school to attend.

I chose San Jose State mostly out of fear and laziness, as it was the closest and cheapest university that I was accepted into. After an on-again-off-again relationship with the school, I eventually dropped out. It's been 2 years now, and I have a better idea of what I'd really like to study, and have glimpsed what the future holds for me without finishing my education.

For a number of reasons, I don't want to go back to SJSU. The top reason being that it just wasn't a good fit for me. The second reason is that given the amount of credits I'd have to makeup I'd simply prefer to use the time to start over again rather than play catchup.

I'm very open and would love to get away from the SF Bay Area and California, so how do I narrow my choices and find schools that will fit me?
posted by sambosambo to Education (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you more interested in a) how to apply to a school; b) how to choose a school; c) specific suggestions for a school to attend; or d) ways to live and pay for whatever school you get into? Your question is kind of vague.

If it's 'c', you might want to tell a little bit more about yourself - what you're interested in studying, how your grades/transcripts will look to potential schools, how much ramp-up time you're willing to devote. Otherwise, I'd probably suggest moving to Georgia for two years to get in-state status & studying at Georgia Tech. Unless you hate math or hot weather. Then Wisconsin or North Carolina might be a better choice. Note that this is random advice based on nothing :)
posted by amtho at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2008

Depending on the university you decide upon and your grades on the classes you've already taken you may be able to transfer those credits and bypass certain academic requirements or at least knock out some electives.

As far as the university you want to go to I'd suggest one of two tracks; atmosphere or degree path.

If the last couple of years has shown you what you would REALLY like to major in then look for schools that have good programs for that major. Depending on your tastes, look for schools with a traditionally great program or those that are progressive and forward-thinking (and if you're lucky, they're one and the same).

That all being said, most people nowadays change their majors (or maybe wish they had). If you're not sure or want to play it safer try to get a feel for the atmosphere of schools; what a school is "like". By that I mean those intangibles that would make your college experience enjoyable regardless of your major or other factors. For some reason examples aren't coming to me; maybe others can elaborate.
posted by justnathan at 1:46 PM on May 11, 2008

I found The Princeton Review college finding site very useful for my college search. It has rankings among many traditional and non-traditional categories, student interviews and extensive breakdowns and information across many categories for all decent-sized schools in the US.

I would look at what type of intellectual environment you want to be a part of as a first consideration. Free form liberal arts? Cutting edge research? Training for the real world? The atmosphere of the school is the biggest factor in your happiness and success, from my experience.

Getting out of state is a great experience, but if money is a factor you should be aware that California has one of the best public higher education systems in the country. Being a CA resident all you have to do is finish the IGETSE certification at a state or community college and you are essentially gauranteed admission to any University of California, which is an amazing education/value ratio.
posted by sophist at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2008

amtho: b.) how to choose a school

I've been to bookstores and have seen the college guides, but it's like having a phone book in that there are a LOT of mechanics in there, but it's not necessarily going to help you find one that works.

sophist: The Princeton Review is a good start, but does anyone know if there's something similar geared more towards working adults instead of high school students?
posted by sambosambo at 2:18 PM on May 11, 2008

Unless you can get a killer scholarship elsewhere, or if you have some degree of independent wealth, I'd be pretty wary of leaving CA. It's a huge state with many excellent public universities - take advantage of that! You'll be more than able to leave the Bay Area while paying (relative) peanuts for a better education than you'll get at many private schools.

Additionally, while the Princeton Review is a great resource, your best resource of all will be to ask alumni (or current students) of the various schools in which you're interested about how they liked their college experience. You should also visit a few campuses and see what you think. Nothing, *nothing* compares to first-hand experience and advice. I've found that too much advice you read online or in books is heavily predicated on the subjective nature of the people doing the ranking, if that makes any sense.

If you absolutely must leave California, we'll need more info to know which schools to recommend to you. What environment would you like? What would you like to study? Are you going to be studying full-time, or will you be a part-time student?

Personally, I'd recommend going to a school without a real campus, but that's also what I'm used to. I went to the notoriously campus-less NYU and it was pretty fantastic, and it was very accepting of older students as a result. CUNY, also in NYC, is another terrific resource. However, if you don't want to go to NYC, then I can't really help you without knowing more.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:50 PM on May 11, 2008

Sticherbeast: I'm not adverse to staying in California, but would still love the opportunity to go elsewhere. I know it's much more expensive to study out of state, but if I'm going to go into debt for something, I don't mind it being for my education.

If it helps anyone to answer the question, then the field(s) I'd like to study is some combination of gender studies, anthropology and journalism.
posted by sambosambo at 4:03 PM on May 11, 2008

From the cost perspective, sophist's suggestion is a good one - using your SJSU credits plus some classes at your local community college to get your AA plus a preferred position in applying to a wide range of schools (pubic and private) in California. It would also give you access to the college advising services at your cc campus. Also, cc attract a really diverse group of students from high school to retirement age. Teachers usually love the returning students like you because they take the classes serious and do the work. Getting to know your teachers (drop in during office hours) will also give you good recommendations when you transfer. Finally, you have less debt, since you will then need only two years at the four year school to focus on your major.

I would also go to your local public library (or sit in the aisle of your book store) and flip through all the different college guides. Most have a section of school which meet certain needs (best for engineering, best for arts) and see if any offer guidance of best for returning students and/or list an average age for the student body. Look for guides that emphasize the quirky and nonstandard (eg: 40 Colleges That Change Lives).

Finally, Guilford College in Greensboro North Carolina might appeal to you. They have a large, primarily evening program for adults (over 22) who are working on their BA.
posted by metahawk at 6:52 PM on May 11, 2008

What are your Top 3 reasons/motivations for going back to school? This could really have an impact on where will be best for you.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:07 AM on May 12, 2008

If you're looking for a college experience that will blend most gracefully with adult responsibilities, become a New York State resident and check out Empire State College, which is a part of SUNY (State University of New York). Flexibility is their middle name, and they're jacked into the actually-pretty-good SUNY system. Glancing over their website, it would appear that they offer studies in women's studies and anthropology, and they have locations all over New York State.

It would also appear that they have some sort of program in Tirana, Albania. Hunh.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2008

You also might want to see if your school of choice as any special programs for non-traditional students who are returning to school.
posted by theichibun at 8:45 AM on May 15, 2008

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