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Deciding whether to return to school or not can be an overwhelming decision. How much will your workload be? Can you attend part-time while still working? How will it affect your personal or family life? How much will it help you advance your career – or get into a new one? And of course, how much will it cost?

There are many variables to consider. Cut through the time it can take to make this decision by sorting out everything today with the information below.

How to Make Your Final Decision

There are two conclusions you need to come to in order to figure out whether to return to school or not: those are whether the pros outweigh the cons in your particular situation, and whether you can afford it or not. And let's face it, if you can't afford to, then you don't need to waste time and energy going through a pros and cons list. So start with the finances.

1. Create a financial worksheet
Grab a blank sheet of paper and draw a horizontal line dividing the top from the bottom. The top portion is for you to list out the costs to return to school. Call the school you'd like to attend or visit their website to list out estimates for tuition, textbooks and fees. Use the bottom area for figuring out where you can get the money using sources like employer incentives, scholarships and grants, the GI Bill, savings or loans. Now subtract the total estimated cost from your total estimated funds. Determine if it's feasible for you to actually do this. If so, go through the next step. If not, you'll need to figure out how to make the financial situation a feasible one for you before you can move on.

2. Create a pros and cons list
Use the lists below as guidance to create your own list of pros and cons on the backside of that same sheet of paper. Then go through your list and decide if the pros outweigh the cons. If yes, you'll need to start applying to colleges! If no, then you can allocate all that time and money toward something else that's important to you.

The Pros of Returning to School

We'll start by outlining many of the pros benefiting people who return to school.

1. Mental stimulation
People settle into the routine of a 9-to-5 job and family after school but may find that they miss the lively debates and general atmosphere of learning. By going back, you'll definitely be stimulating your brain.

2. Career advancement
Lots of advancement opportunities come with specific degree requirements. You'll likely not get this as a direct benefit upon graduation, but a degree can open up many doors in certain instances. You'll also open up more opportunities if you ever find yourself job hunting again.

3. New career field
Do you feel burned out in the field you've been working? Even though you may be starting a little fresh in another field, is it one that you can't stop thinking about? If you want to enter a new field badly enough, learning with a fresh vigor could be well worth it in the long term, especially considering the passion you may have for it.

4. Meet new people
College and graduate school is a great opportunity to expand your social circle with people who have common interests with you.

The Cons of Returning to School

Returning to school is not all roses and diplomas. There are several cons that may apply to you.

1. Less time for yourself, family and friends
You'll be making a significant time investment in college, meaning less time for your family and friends. Most of your spare time will be spent studying, keeping up with relationships and working.

2. Investment costs
Unless you've earned lots of scholarship money, college is a significant financial investment that will tie up money you could be spending elsewhere.

3. Hefty incidental costs
Fees above and beyond tuition costs include extra gas costs to get to class, graduation fee, application fees, textbooks and equipment.

4. Unknown financial payoff
While you will definitely get a payoff from the perspective of educating yourself, it's a gamble if you'll see direct career advancement from doing this.

You've got everything laid out on the table now to make the best decision for you and your loved ones. Don't delay.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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