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Back to School

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Model turned business woman Tyra Banks recently announced that she was going back to school, specifically Harvard Business School to complete their Owner/President Management Program. Whilst to the outside world the model turned TV mogul (Banks doesn't just present wildly popular show America's Next Top Model, but created it as well, along side other shows including The Tyra Banks Show) may appear to have achieved amazing success without an education, Banks felt she needed XXXXX in order to continue to achieve. ""In order for my company to grow and be the best, and to reach these women, and to serve them, I needed the best. So I went to the best," the 37-year old told CBS News recently.

If you left University without earning a degree, or decided against college all together, there may be a time when you decide to go back to school.

However, without the security of wealth that Banks undoubtedly enjoys (in 2009, Forbes estimated her annual income at $30 million), choosing to peruse new qualifications can be an intimidating move to make, espeically as it can often mean having to quit your job or scale back to only work part-time. But it is achieveable. Stylist spoke to two women who have successfully returned to eductation about their experiences and advice for other women wantin to do the same...

Why go back?

A popular reason women go back to school is a change of career, and wanting to learn more about another industry. Lizz Hann, 25, from Llantrisant in South Wales had grown tired of admin jobs and felt like she "wasn’t using all of her brain”, so she decided to follow the footsteps of her mother and go to nursing school.

Likewise, Katarzyna Stawarz, 27, had studied mathematics at University in the early naughties but “lost interest” in her studies. In 2009, she decided she missed learning too much and, with a new-found interest in online user experience (UX), Katarzyna enrolled in a Masters course in Human-Computer Interaction with Ergonomics at the City University London.

What about work?

There are many of us who love learning and often fantasise about going back to University to pursue our passions - but work, family and finances often prevent us from making this a reality. However, women like Katarsyna and Lizz have both found a way to make it work , although they both admit it hasn't always been easy.

Lizz says that her credit cards have taken “a beating” and that while she works part-time, she’s unable to fully contribute to the living expenses at the flat she shares with her partner, and has had to cut back on little luxuries like nights out with friends.

Katarsyna experience has been different, however, as her main struggles have been with balancing her work load (she continues to works four days a week) and the amount of studying she has to do. Thankfully, as the course Katarsyna is taking compliments her current job, her employers have agreed to pay for her first year of study, in addition to giving her flexible working hours to help her balance her work and studying.

Will I be able to handle it?

From low funds to a quiet social life, is going back to school simply too much to handle? While Lizz admits the process has been “difficult” at times, both her and Katarsyna say that it is doable and that you just have to have the right circumstances.

Katarsyna also advises that having a “back-up plan” is essential. She says that before you sign up for a course, you’ll have to ask yourself what you'll do if your course's fees go up, what you'll do if you can’t afford it any more, and if you’ll be able to work part-time or still be able to pay your bills while you study.

Where do I start?

In the UK there are plenty of options if you’re looking to continue your education, or go back to University.

If you’re looking to study remotely online, The Open University is a great place to start, as well as checking out the online offerings from different universities, such as University of Derby.

If you’d prefer (or need) to continue to work whilst you study, part-time or “short course” options may be more suited. Universities including City University London, Liverpool, Oxford and Cambridge offer good options.

If you work full-time and are keen to study something that may help improve your performance or diversity at work, it may also be worth talking to your employer to see if there's anyway they can support you in your studies - financially or otherwise. Prepare in advance the ways in which you feel your studies may contribute to the business in addition to develop you personally.

Have you recently been thinking about going back to school, or have you done so already? We’d love to hear about your experience - share with the group in the comments section below.

Picture credit: Rex Features

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