You can get a degree without giving up everything else … and now may be the best time to do it

If life seems more hectic and uncertain to you these days than ever before, you’re not alone. Due to COVID-19, the number of U.S. adults who reported they’re experiencing daily stress and worry soared dramatically in March to 60%, according to a recent Gallup poll. At the same time, those who said their lives were going well enough to consider themselves “thriving” nosedived to a record low.

Between concerns about getting sick, losing a job or working from home, upheaval in kids’ schools and schedules, and childcare in short supply, for many of us, 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years of our lives.

But although it may seem like the worst of times, this may actually be the best time to go back to school to earn your degree. As unnerving as that may seem at first, consider these three factors that together suggest furthering your education may be just about the smartest thing you can do at this time.

1) You probably have more free time than you think. Put it to good use!

Yes, most of us are busy and stressed. But many of us also have more free time than we did before. Harvard Business Review reports that in the United States alone, eliminating the daily commute for people now working from home has saved a total of about 89 million hours each week – that’s a lot of time! Similarly, a survey done by The New York Times and Morning Consult of people working from home revealed that about 40% of them reported having more free time.

Of course, if you’ve been laid off or lost your job permanently, it may feel like you have little but free time to fill. And even if you’re still working away from home, you probably aren’t going out for fun as much as you used to due to social distancing mandates. Instead, we’ve been cooking or baking (in March, the hashtag #stressbaking had over 26,000 posts on Instagram alone), watching more TV or playing games. While activities like those can help us relax, in excess they can be big time wasters that can make us feel unproductive, which can depress us even more.

There’s no time like the present to start making more thoughtful choices about how we’re spending our time. Those free hours here and there can quickly add up to enough time to work on earning a degree or certification that can advance your career and boost your earning power.

Keep in mind that about 1/3 of Americans under the age of 30 now have at least a bachelor’s degree. For most “good” jobs, it’s the minimum price of entry. And only going partway usually isn’t enough to help you meet the requirements of many positions to land that interview.

People who have dropped out of college – about 40% nationwide — on average earn only a little more than those with just a high school diploma. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average full-time employee with a bachelor’s degree earns an average of $20,000 more per year than a full-time employee with an associate degree. And those with a master’s? On average, they earn $16,000 more per year when compared to those with a bachelor’s.

2) Online learning has made “going to college” easier than ever.

The final weeks of March generated as much broadband traffic growth as had previously been expected in a full year, according to a Microsoft report. Clearly, online has become how we socialize, do business and get an education. Although many institutions scrambled to switch to online formats and are still experimenting to get it right, Davenport University is among a much lesser number of schools that have offered online courses for years and, as a result, have perfected the experience of online AND in-seat classes.

Because of COVID, there’s growing awareness and acceptance of online learning. Its ease, convenience and affordability is greatly expanding opportunities for many more people – including adults – who can earn their degree without being physically present on campus and work classes around their existing schedules.

3) There’s special financial help available right now.

In May, Davenport announced a scholarship to support people who are unemployed, laid-off or furloughed because of COVID-19. This new Launch Scholarship provides up to $8,000 per year for up to four years of education. Whether you want to earn a graduate degree, finish a bachelor’s degree or enroll in a professional development program to upgrade your skills, if COVID-19 took your job away on or any time after March 1, this is a terrific opportunity to turn that jolt into something truly positive.

But you’ll need to act promptly! The deadline to apply is September 8, 2020.

In addition, there are many other opportunities to help you manage the costs of earning your degree, so don’t let the price tag automatically deter you from the possibility of reaching your goal. Always talk to a financial aid counselor first – they can help you find funds you’re eligible for and walk you through how others like you have been able to succeed.

Seize this moment to kick-start your future

No matter your age, going to college can be more achievable now than ever – and more important. This pandemic has accelerated demands for a more skilled workforce. Sharpening your competitive edge now can make a big difference in where you end up in the years ahead.

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