So ive been an EMT for the past 2 years and while i enjoy the medical part of the job i have battled back issues, nothing serious but i doubt i can lift fat sick people for the next 20 years. Im 22 and recently moved away from home (played Junior hockey till i was 20, hence the later start on my career and moving out). Im looking at going back to school for nursing and then possibly physio when im done the RN degree, my question is has anyone gone back to school later in life and how did they afford school and living on their own. do i take out a loan, work when i can and hope to pay off a bunch of debt later in life 

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First, 22 is not  "later in life." I teach college courses and many of my students are in their early 20s.

Now onto some of your actual questions:

1. Don't go back to school unless you are absolutely sure what you want to study; no field of study is a guaranteed money maker.

2. If you can work and go to school part-time, try to do that in order to avoid loans.

3. If you can't juggle work and school, take your time returning. Shop around. Find the best program for what you want to study and that fits your budget. Many employers won't care which school you went to, only that you have the degree. Find the lowest-cost program with the quickest track for completion if you're doing a practical degree like nursing.

Your best bet is to go the college's financial aid office and ask how to afford it.

Also, if it's a 4-year degree, consider community college for the first 2 years.  BUT!  Talk to the college you want your degree from and find out what classes they want you to take for your major -- and if community college is an option.  I often get students coming in with their AA's, and say, welcome.  You can take ONE class in your major this semester and one or two the next semester, and then it opens up, because you don't know how to do what's in the later classes until you've had these prerequisites.  It would save a lot of time if the transfer student had taken those two classes before they got to my college!

Don't worry about not knowing exactly what you want to major in.  Most college students change their majors.  (But a significant minority don't.)  Still, it's worth it to explore career options, well, now.  Go to the college's career development center (if they'll let you) and take a career interest inventory.  Talk to nurses or PTs about their work.  BTW nurses often have to do some heavy lifting too -- one of my good friends has had double knee surgery, largely I think from lifting 300lb+ patients.

The thing NOT to do is to think you know the answers to questions (like:  I could never get aid/scholarship; I could never afford grad school -- ridiculous! -- &c.), and fail to ask.

Except in grad school, where you can get a full ride by working, working while going to school is a problem.  Going to school full-time is a full-time job.  Adding more work on top of that?  You may have to.  You're an EMT; maybe the pay is good.  But stocking shelves or running the register at the snack bar... only if you have to.  Your classes need a lot of attention.

Does it matter what school you go to?  Depends on the field, and the school.  Having worked at college ___ (I'll be nice and not name it), there is no way in hell I would hire any graduate from its computer science program.  (NOT the school I teach at now.)

Ask more questions as needed, especially of people who have some relevant knowledge.  You're off to a good start.

I did go back to school later in life, at least later than you will.  I had a masters in counseling, and was working full-time, but decided in my late twenties that I really wanted to be an engineer.  Started engineering school at 27, going at night - even with a previous bachelors and masters, it took 5 years at night, including summers.  I was married, and my wife also worked full time and went to school.  It's totally doable, and actually, when I look back on it, those were some of the best years of our lives.

When I finished the BSEE, I got a full-time engineering job with a company that paid for my grad school.  I paid for the engineering bachelors by living very modestly, working full time,  and putting every spare penny towards school.  I paced myself according to how many courses I could afford.  No loans - I hate the idea of being in debt. 

Agree with Will, but would add one caveat, especially since a classmate got tripped up by some slightly off in-person academic advice from the college.

Get a couple of the College catalogues (at least that's what they were called in the dark ages when I was an undergraduate) from both the four year school(s) and the community college you consider attending.  That way you'll have the four year degree program, and be able to determine which courses at the community college will meet the prerequistes for the four year degree.  There's also the possibility of doing a sort of stop-gap career move.  One of my grandmothers took the then two year nursing degree and was became a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).  Another career move might be to become a Physician's Assistant (PA).

As to the "later in life", good sir at age 22 (in the US at least), many folks are either just finishing their basic professional / collegiate education, or are in the midst of a continuing professional education or a trades apprenticeship.


^This, indeed.

And especially:  start on your major in your first year.  If it's in health sciences, you'll need to.


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