time to go back to schoolCurrently, only 38 percent of America’s college students actually graduate. That leaves millions of Americans with the ambiguity and the persistent question of “what if?” What if they would’ve stuck it out and earned their bachelor’s degree? How would their career be different if they would’ve gone all four years? Fortunately, if you are one of these people, as long as you’re alive, it’s never too late to go back–if you feel so prompted.

Life certainly has a way of telling us it’s time to go back. Our job situations, the economy, or changes in pace of life can all drop the hint to us, if we’re paying attention. If you experience any of the following five signs, it might be time for you to think about completing your college education:

1. The jobs you want require a bachelor’s degree.

This often means that you’ve taken your career path as far as you can without a college degree. In fact, that feeling that you are suddenly and repeatedly hitting a glass ceiling every time you try to further your career is usually a symptom of an under-education.

The good news is, once you attain that higher degree, those glass ceilings will all but disappear. A college degree is a major key to opening new opportunities for yourself. Realistically, with the exception of MDs, lawyers, accountants, and other professions that require higher degrees, there is no limit to where you can take your bachelor’s degree.

2. You’re getting passed up for promotions in favor of younger college grads.

You know how you don’t realize how slow your car really is until a Porsche pulls up beside you and then speeds away into the sunset? Your career without a degree can be like that, too. You can be pretty comfortable, content with your position, convinced that there are other reasons the boss isn’t promoting you time and time again. And then that kid with the degree walks in the door and, only six months later, snags that promotion you’d been working for for six years. And you suddenly feel like you’re moving in slow motion.

3. You find yourself spending less time playing and more time reading.

Many of us declined the opportunity to attend college because there were just too many exciting things happening outside to lock ourselves into another classroom. As we mature, however, playing falls on our priority list in favor of learning and introspection. Books that would’ve put us in a boredom coma years earlier now strangely beckon to us. We’ve finally settled down enough to realize that we actually want to learn.

This is prime time to return to school, mostly because you won’t have to fight those youthful urges. While your younger classmates have to curb their desires to party and have a social life, you’ll be ready to get down to the serious business of learning.

4. The industry you’ve worked in for years is drying up.

Humans were built to adapt, but sometimes we require a little push. Unpleasant economic events, like the recent recession, in which careers or industries can shrivel up and die, can be a powerful catalyst to move you out of what’s comfortable and into the classroom. It’s no accident that, according to a survey of colleges by the Campus Computing Project, 28 percent of schools said their enrollment jumped more than 10 percent from January 2008 to January 2009.

As uncomfortable as changing careers can be, it can also mean a fresh start and new adventures. Part of mastering this transition will be identifying what skills you can transfer over to your new field so that you aren’t treated like an entry-level grunt.

5. You find yourself wondering about that degree that could’ve been.

Sometimes, this is your mind’s way of telling you it’s ready to take another shot at a degree. In regards to career success, regrets can be powerful detractors. Knowing you’re the only one in the office without a degree can affect the way you relate to and work with others. If your head keeps bringing up the subject, maybe it’s time to give a college degree some serious consideration.

So have you been feeling that nagging feeling? Are you thinking of returning to school? What would make you want to do it? What could keep you from going through with it? Share in the comments below!

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