You're heading back to school. Congratulations. Deciding to enroll in continuing education courses is a big decision, but it's one that can be rewarding, whether you're looking to build your resume, get ahead at work, or just learn something new.
It may have been a minute or two since you were in college, though. A lot has changed—in your world and in the world of education. That can make going back to school feel pretty daunting. College is different from what it was when you were an undergraduate. Classrooms don't work the way they used to; professors don't teach the way they used to. You're different too. You've got a different set of priorities this time around.
So, here's the big question. What do you need to worry about this time? What challenges await you, and, more importantly, what strategies can you put in place now to make sure you're ready to meet and overcome those challenges? You'll find a number of useful suggestions below. The most important of these, though? Make sure you know how to get help if you should find yourself being treated unfairly.
Education Isn't What It Used to Be
Somewhere back in the mists of time, universities were different. They were institutions of “higher learning.” You didn't go to college looking for a job; you went because you wanted to be “educated.” Faculty were engaged in the “academic conversation,” and they taught because they wanted to introduce their students to that conversation. People sat around on the quad or in dimly lit coffee houses and discussed Shakespeare and Nietzsche, Einstein, and Hawking. No one worried about grades or tuition money, and everyone got along.
OK, maybe that was never really the way it was. Maybe higher education has always been about getting that piece of paper that says “graduate” on it so you can get out into the world and get on with the business of making money.
Here's what has changed, though: whether you graduated thirty years ago or five, college is far more serious than it was when you were an undergrad. The fact is, schools take themselves more seriously each and every year. Why? Simply put, money. Federal and state governments have slashed education budgets, and that means schools have been forced to find new sources of income. Improving bottom lines means attracting more students, and attracting more students means schools will do whatever they can to make sure they stand out.
What does that mean for you? Your school's reputation has a lot to do with your success, so you can expect your school to hold you to the highest expectations, both professionally and personally. You'll be expected to excel as a student. You'll be expected to maintain the highest standards of ethics and integrity. Your school will likely punish you severely for even the most minor of infractions.
High standards are all well in good. They can push you to be the very best student you can be. There's a fine line, though, between “high” standards and “unreasonable” standards. Keep in mind: you do have rights, and you shouldn't be afraid to demand them when necessary.
You Aren't Who You Used to Be
Your undergraduate years were probably focused mainly on coursework. Well, coursework and the occasional party. Most of us didn't have a job when we were in school. We certainly didn't have mortgages or kids' soccer tournaments to worry about.
Things have changed. If you're like most CE students, school isn't at the top of your list of priorities anymore. In fact, it may not even rate in the top five. You've got a boss to keep happy, kids' lunches to pack, episodes of Only Murders in the Building to catch up on.
In short, this time around, your education is more about juggling your many responsibilities. That may sometimes put you at odds with your continuing education program. Again, most schools' chief concerns are their reputations. Faculty and administrators may not be sympathetic to what is going on in your life. Your instructor may not care, for instance, if your kid has the flu or if you've got an important presentation to prepare for at work. They'll still try to punish you for missing class.
Ultimately, you may have to push back against some of these demands. Keep in mind that you aren't just a student: you're also a customer. You aren't a nineteen-year-old undergraduate anymore either. You're an adult, and you have a right to demand your school treat you fairly. The good news is, you don't have to do that alone. Joseph D. Lento is an attorney-advisor who specializes in helping students get the rights they deserve. No matter what situation you're dealing with, he can make sure your school treats you fairly.
Defining Your Own Path
One of the most important differences between an undergraduate degree and continuing education is that you must be more self-motivated and self-directing this time around. In college, everyone pretty much had the same goal: get a good-paying job. Your advisor knew where you were trying to go because all their other advisees were headed in the same direction. They handed out the same advice all day, every day. It was good advice, but it wasn't aimed specifically at you and your situation.
Now your goals are far more individualized. Maybe you're trying to get CE credits to move forward in your job. Maybe you're looking to improve your resume so you can go looking for a brand-new job. Whatever your situation, you can't count on an advisor or a professor to know exactly what you're trying to accomplish or exactly how to get you there. You have to take control over your own education. You don't have time to wander around deciding what feels right, the way you did as an undergrad. You have a life outside of school, and you need to maximize your time in class.
If you should get lost along the way, or if you feel like your school isn't giving you all the resources you're entitled to, remember that the Law Offices of Joseph D. Lento are here to help. We specialize in helping students navigate the often complex world of education, and we can make sure you find your way.
Navigating the Digital Campus
One of the fastest-changing elements of education is technology. Again, even if you only graduated a few years ago, you'll likely find that classroom technology is considerably different from when you were an undergrad.
For one thing, you'll find that many of your courses are online now. Schools have figured out that online courses let them reach more students, and more students equal more tuition dollars. In some cases, you may not even have the choice to take a face-to-face class in a particular subject.
Of course, there are advantages to online courses. You can sign in from anywhere, and in many cases, you can attend lectures and complete your assignments on your own schedule. At the same time, you need to know that you may not get the same kind of attention you'd get in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Often, instructors have more students in online courses, so they may not be able to give you as much individual attention. Likewise, it can be hard to get the help you need when you're dealing with a face on the other end of a Zoom meeting rather than a flesh-and-blood human being.
You may also find the technology itself to be challenging. Online courses can be confusing, and the technology doesn't always work the way it should. You may have uploaded your assignment four hours before the deadline, but you can't always be sure attachments go through just because you hit the upload button. Technology isn't just about course platforms, either. Many instructors these days assign multi-media projects, and they may expect you to be familiar with programs like Photoshop, iMovie, Excel, or OneNote.
Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and let your professor know if you're having trouble with technology. You shouldn't be held to unreasonable standards. Joseph D. Lento can help you do that too. He has experience dealing with faculty and administrators, and he knows how to negotiate fair treatment.
What Can Go Wrong?
We've talked about some of the general problems you might face as a continuing education student, but in a more concrete sense, what can go wrong?
Obviously, every student is different. Your problems will be unique to you. However, there are four basic categories into which most school problems fit: academic standing, academic honesty, student conduct, and sexual misconduct. We can help with all of them.
Issues of Academic Standing
Again, schools have reputations to uphold. Your school will expect you to meet high academic expectations and will hold you accountable if you don't.
What does that mean in practical terms?
- You may have a minimum grade point average to maintain in order to remain in good standing in your program
- Your program may monitor your progress each semester and penalize you if you fall behind in your courses
- A consistently poor academic performance could put you in danger of probation, suspension, or even expulsion
- Financial aid may be tied to academic performance, putting even more pressure on you to excel
If you're in danger of falling out of good academic standing or facing dismissal, your school probably has some process in place to appeal your grades. This is another way the attorneys at the Joseph D. Lento Law Firm can help. They know how the judicial processes at your school operate, and they can help guide you through them.
Issues of Academic Honesty
Your program will expect you to perform at a high level academically, but it will expect you to do that honestly. As with everything else, schools take academic integrity very seriously these days. Cheating is on the rise, and many faculty have grown paranoid as a result. They're more likely to accuse students of dishonesty and more likely to assign harsh penalties. If you're found responsible for multiple offenses, for instance, you can be dismissed from the program.
If you're innocent of the charges, or if you feel that the penalty you're facing doesn't match the nature of your offense, you have the right to challenge your instructor's decisions. Again, though, appeals processes usually aren't simple. On top of that, you can expect your school to fight you. They don't typically like to admit they've made a mistake. Joseph D. Lento can make sure you're treated fairly, though, that you're provided due process, and that your school affords you every right you deserve.
Issues of Disciplinary Misconduct
Being a student doesn't just involve attending classes. You're part of a community, and as a result, you're held to community standards of behavior. These standards include online activities. You're expected to:
- Treat others in your courses with respect
- Refrain from discriminating against others
- Dress appropriately, even in online courses
- Log in to online courses from appropriate locations
- Exercise decorum in all situations
Some programs, especially graduate or professional programs, may also hold you accountable for your personal behaviors. An arrest for DUI or an allegation of domestic violence could be enough to get you dismissed.
Don't simply accept a “responsible” (guilty) finding or a penalty that doesn't fit the offense. Contact the Law Offices of Joseph D. Lento today and find out how we can get you the justice you deserve. We've helped hundreds of students defend themselves from all types of disciplinary misconduct charges, and we can help you to do the same.
Issues of Sexual Misconduct
If you're a student, no charge is more serious than a charge of sexual misconduct. Title IX, a federal law, requires schools to take virtually every allegation seriously, so schools are especially vigilant when it comes to conducting investigations and punishing offenders.
Title IX also mandates how schools handle investigations and hearings, and procedures can be extremely complicated. There are rules about how long investigations can last, who is allowed to speak at hearings, and even what kinds of questions you're allowed to ask witnesses.
Joseph D. Lento isn't just a student conduct attorney. He's a Title IX attorney. That means he's studied the law, and he knows exactly how to handle the procedures. If you're facing a charge of sexual misconduct, you can't afford to try and handle it yourself. You need help from a professional. You need Joseph D. Lento.
When you were an undergrad, you probably had a safety net in place. If nothing else, your parents were standing by to protect you if you got into trouble. You're on your own now, facing this challenge yourself. In fact, you probably have a lot of people who depend on you. That doesn't mean you have to handle every crisis alone. When it comes to continuing education, the attorneys at the Joseph D. Lento Law Firm are here to help.
Whatever problem you're facing, from issues with technology to accusations of sexual misconduct, don't wait to see what will happen. If you're in trouble, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.