Returning to the Classroom


I’ve always loved to learn new things. It doesn’t matter what it is or where I am, the wheels in my head are always turning. This quality really comes in handy in my job as a public affairs specialist for the Department of the Army. I’m responsible for examining, processing and managing information for my organization.

About four years ago I decided I wanted to go back to school to earn my graduate degree. I had already successfully completed my undergraduate degree at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (go Aggies!) but at that time I had no interest in going any further.

I wanted a small break from learning (believe it or not) but most importantly I wanted to see the world, so that’s exactly what I did. I visited Paris, Rome, Germany, Ireland, London, Poland, Amsterdam and wherever else I could afford to.

Last fall I moved back to the States after living overseas for almost a decade. I put off going back to school while I was away for a laundry list of “reasons” like – ‘I don’t have time, I’ve been out of school too long, I have to work, I’m not interested in any of the classes being offered or I don’t want to take online courses.’ Yada yada!

Now that I’m back in the U.S., I really don’t have any other excuse except for procrastination and my tendency to entirely over think everything (i.e. wheels turning again).

In all seriousness, they were some things I had to strongly consider in my overall decision to return to the classroom.

  1. Educational Costs- Who’s going to pay for this? As a military veteran, I qualify for the post 9/11 G.I. Bill, along with a lot of other government employees who served time in the military. I advise everyone to take the time to find out what benefits they qualify for. A good place to start is Even if you do not qualify for the G.I. Bill, speak with your supervisor Human Resources Department or career advisor to find out if your organization provides any educational assistance/programs to help employees complete a degree or professional certification. Avoid going into debt at all costs.
  2. Advantages – How will returning to school benefit me professionally and personally? I was interested in studying a few different subjects but I wanted to focus on obtaining an advanced degree that could help increase my marketability and overall earning power within my career field. I also wanted to study something I was passionate about and enjoyed. I just barely scraped by in my college math classes so I already know pursuing a Master’s in aerospace engineering could pose a problem. Find out what your primarily motivation is for returning to school. No matter how old you are, school will demand a major investment of your time, energy and resources. Ensure the return on it is just as great.
  3. Job Responsibilities- Will I continue to work while I’m in school? Quitting my job while I hit the books is not a realistic option for me right now. But for others, this may be feasible. I know that regardless of my school work, I still have to manage all of the responsibilities entrusted to me by my employer. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to keep them in the loop about your plans. Whether you stay or go, consider what’s best for you, your family and your career long-term.
  4. Balance – Am I able to mentally and physically handle the demands of school? I spent several years zooming through life consumed by a mountain of responsibilities for my job, church, family and professional organizations. My work life balance was completely out of order and it wasn’t long before I became burned out. Eating properly, getting adequate sleep and regular sunlight should NOT be considered a luxury. Realize that some “priorities” may have to shift or disappear to accommodate school.

There may never be the absolute perfect time to return to the classroom, but we can never allow excuses, lack of information or a reoccurring case of the “what-if’s” to hinder our pursuit of higher education.

Dijon N. Rolle is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Rachel Niebeling

Great post Dijon! I also went back for my Master while working full time! I think your point about balance is so key. You really have to mentally prepare yourself (and your friends/loved ones) for the dramatic shift. I definitely surprised myself with how much time there really is in the day if you don’t waste it watching TV.

Dijon Rolle

Rachel, Thank you for reading. You are so right about time management, I’m trying to discipline myself now. I put myself on a schedule especially in the evening when I like to watch TV. I’ve been able to get more done when I clicked off the remote and the computer.

Dijon Rolle

Dave, thank you for reading the post. Not sure if you are an Army civilian or what field you want to study in but here is a link to a program for civilians that offers assistance with obtaining a graduate degree in legislative affairs
Program also offers opportunity to serve on Capitol Hill. No G.I. bill needed. Open to all career fields within Department of the Army.