Some of the goals you make after your release may require you to have a certain level of education. Pursuing an education can open up doors and help you discover new interests. A formal education is not for everyone. If you feel that going back to school is not the correct path for you, know that many career paths do not require higher education. However, don’t sell yourself short. Many adults who pursue an education later in life quickly discover that attending school as an adult is a much better experience than how they remember it being in their youth.
Things You Can Do Now
Set a Goal
Having a career goal or two will make planning your education much easier. Think about your skills, interests and passions as you set your career goals. See “Setting a Goal” for more information.
Identify where you are now so that you can better determine where you want to go and how you can get there. By asking the following questions, you can better understand how to achieve your educational goals:
- What is my current education level?
- What education level do my goals require?
- Do I need a refresher on some basic skills before diving back into school?
Types of Programs or Degrees
Adult Basic Skills Program
If you are unsure that you have the necessary skills to successfully complete your GED or obtain a college degree, Oregon’s Adult Basic Skills Program can help! The Adult Basic Skills Program provides reading, writing, math and basic computer literacy courses. The Program also helps individuals prepare for their GED.
In addition to preparing individuals for the GED and higher education, the Program is also a great resource for those who are interested in obtaining workplace skills. These courses help individuals become self-sufficient.
Follow this link for more information on the Adult Basic Skills Program in Oregon, as well as a list of course providers: http://www.oregon.gov/highered/institutions-programs/ccwd/Pages/adult-basic-skills.aspx
GED / High School Diploma
If you have yet to complete your high school diploma, consider pursuing a General Education Development Certificate (GED). A GED is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Many jobs require a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, obtaining a high school diploma or GED is a prerequisite to attending any college, as well as most professional certificate programs.
The State of Oregon provides two options for adults who wish to complete their high school education. The first is the Adult High School Diploma (AHSD) Program. Generally, the AHSD Program is only for students who were specifically exempted from attending high school. Therefore, the second option will, in most cases, be the appropriate route for reentrants seeking to complete their high school diploma. The second option is the GED Program. Oregon’s GED Program is partnered with the GED Testing Service and provides extensive preparation for taking the test. To obtain a GED, individuals must pass Oregon’s GED test. See “GED Resources” to find a GED Program near you, or follow this link: http://www.oregon.gov/highered/institutions-programs/ccwd/Pages/hs-equivalency.aspx
Professional Certificates or Licenses
Some jobs require a professional certificate or license. Examples include cosmetologists (barbers, nail technicians, etc.), massage therapists, electricians, and plumbers. The requisite certificate or license can either be obtained through an apprenticeship program with the employer or union, or through a college or school program.
When considering potential career paths, identify whether the job requires a certificate or license. Keep in mind that, in addition to further education, obtaining a certificate or license often requires testing and/or fees.
Undergraduate Degrees (Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree)
There are two types of undergraduate degrees. The first, an Associate’s Degree, takes approximately two years to complete and can be obtained from a Community College. The second, a Bachelor’s Degree, takes approximately four years to complete and can be obtained from a University or College. Pursuing either an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree requires a high school diploma or GED.
Generally, tuition at a Community College is less expensive than tuition at a University. See “Community College Resources” to find a Community College near you!
Pursuing an Undergraduate Degree requires you to focus your studies on a particular subject. Once you have decided on a particular subject, you have chosen a “Major.” For example, you may decide to major in anything from History to Biology. As you pursue your degree, the majority of your classes must be within the subject area of your selected Major.
You may also pursue a “Minor.” Rather than your Major, which is the primary focus of your studies, much like it sounds, a Minor requires only a minor focus on a particular subject. Also different from a Major, you are not required to have a Minor to obtain your degree.
If you decide to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree, know that there are two kinds, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS). The major difference between a BA and BS is the type of classes you will be required to take. Generally, a BA focuses on liberal arts (i.e. Humanities, English, Social Sciences, Foreign Languages) and a BS focuses on the sciences (i.e. Computer Science, Nursing, Mathematics, Biology, Physics).
Although declaring a Major is necessary to completing your Bachelor’s Degree, you are not required to pick your Major before you enroll. Because you will be spending the bulk of your time studying topics within your Major, think carefully before you make your decision! Additionally, while many employers will not have a preference, some employers may require their employees to have a certain kind of Bachelor’s Degree. As such, keep your career goals in mind as you pick your Major!
While a Bachelor’s Degree can only be obtained from a four-year university, it should be noted that the first two years of your Bachelor’s can be obtained at a community college. Tuition at a community college is often significantly cheaper than that of a four-year university, so attending community college is a great option for those looking to keep costs down. Community college is also a great choice for those who believe their high school grades may not be sufficient for admission into a four-year university. Universities will typically consider your community college transcripts in lieu of high school grades for admissions purposes.
Be aware that every institution is different! It is important to speak with your potential school’s academic advisor to learn about the school’s specific requirements.
If you decide to pursue education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree, there are various types of post-graduate degrees. The most common types are a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate Degree (PhD). Additionally, there are alternate forms of post-graduate education, such as law school or medical school.
These degrees are highly specialized and are often related to a very specific subject. A post-graduate degree take an average of two to four years to complete. As you pursue your undergraduate degree, consider speaking to your school’s Career Advisor about your post-graduate goals. Be sure to speak to your Career Advisor early so that you can begin planning as soon as possible!
Applying for College
Picking a school
There are many factors to consider when deciding which schools to apply to. Think about the school’s location, cost, accreditation, offered courses, and reputation. Be aware that schools considered “for-profit” may lack accreditation.
An Associate’s Degree can be obtained from a community college. As previously mentioned, community colleges are often more affordable than four-year institutions. Additionally, students can complete up to half of their Bachelor’s Degree through a community college. See “Community College Resources” to find a Community College near you!
Universities or Colleges from which you can obtain your Bachelor’s Degree are either “Public” or “Private.” A Public University is funded by the state. In Oregon, there are seven Public Universities, and tuition at one of these seven public Universities is less expensive for students who are Oregon residents. Follow this link for more information: http://www.oregon.gov/highered/institutions-programs/public/Pages/public-universities.aspx
Every school will require certain materials throughout its application process. Once you have a list of schools that you may want to attend, look over the requisite application materials and focus on obtaining them as soon as possible. For example, every school will require you provide an official copy of your high school transcript or GED. To obtain these documents, you must contact your high school’s administration to submit a request. Because this process can take time, it is important to start acquiring the application materials long before the application deadline!
If you have questions regarding items on the list, contact the College or University to which you plan to apply!
Be aware that many Colleges and Universities will ask you provide information regarding your criminal history. While this information can affect your admissions chances, be honest in your application materials!
SAT and ACT Tests
The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that assess your capabilities regarding reading, writing, math and science. Four-year Universities require completion of the SAT or ACT prior to admission. If you are applying to a Community College, you are not required to take either test. Additionally, if you are transferring from a Community College to a four-year university, many four-year universities will not require you to take either exam.
After you take the SAT or ACT, you will receive a score that will be provided to the schools to which you apply.
The SAT and ACT differ slightly in their content and style. Most universities will accept either the SAT or ACT, but be sure to verify this with the schools to which you plan to apply. Be aware that some schools place a great deal of emphasis on the score you recieve, meaning they may require applicants receive a minimum score to be admitted.
If you are concerned that you will not be a competitive candidate for a specific four-year college due to your previous grades, then achieving a high test score could help your chances. There are a number of courses that can help prepare you for the SAT or ACT, but they can be quite costly. It might be a good idea to do some research online as to how you can independently study for these tests without spending a fortune. Additionally, each exam has a registration fee (approximately $60). However, if you cannot afford the fees, you can apply for a need-based fee waiver when you register.
Most schools have an application fee, generally ranging anywhere from $40 to $100. Typically, schools offer a need-based financial waiver for those that cannot afford the fee. To apply for the waiver, you will need to provide the school with proof of your financial need. Contact the school’s admissions office to learn more about their process.