SPOILER: college is crazy-expensive

I am 29 years old and left college (a large public university) over 7 years ago during my junior year because of an illness which was hurting my grades. After recovering, I immediately started to work in a different state. In the last seven years I have moved very quickly into a successful career – launching a well known organization and even running for office. But I am ready to finish my degree now. Because of my experiences and my line of work, I am applying to a better school than I originally attended. My question is about the personal essay. While I’ve researched what makes a personal essay good for high school students, I feel it’s a bit different for those who have left school and are re-applying. Can you give me guidance? The school I’m applying to accepts a large number of non-traditional students, even though it is an Ivy. They also stressed that I discuss what I’ve been doing since leaving college. Is there a formula for a good college essay for adults?

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My suggestion is to research area community colleges and online universities. Online learning is a great option for adults going back to school, but lots of community college offer options for night study for adults with full-time jobs, too. Call the admissions offices, and schedule a time to speak with an adviser. Explain your goals, and find out what programs they offer. Each school is different, so they will be able to determine to what extent job experience can substitute for curriculum requirements. You may be able to skip core classes that are unnecessary due to your work experience.

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It’s probably best to check with specific schools to see how what credits you need to finish a bachelors degree. If you’re going back to school after a long hiatus, you may not be able to simply finish one more year to close the degree. You’ll have to meet with an adviser who can assess your transcripts and guide you toward the credits you need. My best advice is make a short list of schools in your area you can attend, and begin making contacts with the admissions offices to set up a meeting with a counselor. Gather real information about what you’ll need to finish a degree before you enroll in classes. That helps to ensure that you don’t take unnecessary classes or enter the process disillusioned about the time and cost. Good luck, and congratulations on your decision to finish!

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And it’s totally normal to be a little anxious about going back to school after a 10-year break, but more adults are going back to school these days. You’ll be surrounded by students of all ages and skill levels, including fellow military veterans and people who went straight from high school into the workforce. It sounds like you are committed to furthering your education, and that’s what admissions committees want to see. Congratulations on your goals to continue your education!

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To answer your question about what is “financially smarter,” I first would like to tell you to speak with your financial advisor as I can only give you some general thoughts and not specific financial advice. I would suggest that you and your husband should consider how much extra money you can put toward your tuition and the collateral expenses that don’t show up on the tuition bill, such as books, commuting costs, day care, giving up a paycheck, etc. If you can’t afford to go back to school without going into even more debt, then I would highly suggest waiting until you can. The average class of 2016 graduate , which is up 6 percent from last year. If you are still paying off student loans — even if you can get yourself out of debt soon — adding more will only have a domino effect in your life.

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Well, first let me say that I am not an expert on Cornell’s admissions criteria. Second, I’m going to assume that you applied to Cornell out of high school and for whatever reason, didn’t get in. Every university has a unique transfer policy, many schools welcome transfer students with open arms and go out of their way to make it easy for them to do so.