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The Roadmap has eight steps. Click the links below to be brought to the corresponding chapter!
Step One: The Crossroads
Step Two: Loading Zone
Step Three: Intersection
Step Four: Follow the Map
Step Five: Toll Booth
Step Six: Check for Gas
Step Seven: Ask for Directions
Step Eight: You Made It!
- Greater understanding of child development will enhance your teaching and give you an opportunity for hands-on experience.
- Courses in management and human relations will give you useful classroom skills and prepare you for growth within the profession.
- School is a great place to expand your network of colleagues and professional resources!
- Generally (but not always), earning a degree means a salary increase.
- More than ever, parents want their children educated by highly skilled early education providers. Your degree and the training it represents will be a meaningful asset to you and to your employer.
Before beginning your journey, and if you haven’t done so already, register with the MA Department of Early Education and Care’s Professional Qualifications Registry (PQ Registry). You may also want to review the Massachusetts EEC Career Ladder for Early Education and Out-of-School Time Educators, a resource to help understand how additional education can advance your career.
The eight steps of the Roadmap can also be helpful to center directors in guiding their employees to enhanced skills and credentials.
Get a printable version of the Roadmap!
Before beginning on any journey, it is important to determine where you want to go and how you will get there! At the crossroads of the Roadmap, early educators need to assess their educational goals, their capacity to attain their goals, and determine where to start.
- How much time can you carve out for attending school?
- How will school fit your work schedule?
- What family constraints are you facing?
- Will you get a salary increase by earning a degree?
- Do you have existing students loans? Are they in good standing or are you behind on payments?
- Do you need Adult Basic Education or English as a Second Language classes?
Continuing Education Units (CEU’S) from professional development workshops do not usually translate into college credits.
Don’t forget to include commuting time and homework time when planning your schedule!
College for Adults: This website has lots of great information to help you decide where to begin if you are an adult returning to school.
BTWIC’s Student Loan Information Network: An excellent resource for those with existing student loans.
Higher Education in MA: Smart Choices, Great Futures: This short publication by our friends at Crittenton Women’s Union offers advice to adults returning to school for a college degree.
It’s good to have a guide or a travel companion when you are on a long trip. You should connect with a career advisor or mentor to help you make the decision to earn a degree.
- Speak to to your center director, or your family child care network coordinator for advice and support.
- Enroll in a mentor or coaching program
- Reach out to appropriate friends or family members for help with children or dependent care
Your coworkers might have some helpful advice, or may be able to put you in touch with supports they used while in school.
Contact your regional Educator Provider Support Grantee and your regional Educational Opportunity Center for FREE career counseling and assistance applying to college.
Throughout the state there are five regional Educator and Provider Support (EPS) Grantees to assist early educators in their professional development. Early educators can obtain free career and academic counseling from their regional EPS Grantees by calling and setting up an appointment. Each EPS Grantee has their own website, and the link has a list of all five with their contact information. You need to scroll down to get this information for the EPS office in your area.
Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC’s) are another resource located throughout the state that provides free college counseling and assistance with college and financial aid applications. EOC’s provide support for all professions, but may have an early education specialist available.
Choosing the right college or university is similar to approaching a busy intersection with several possible ways to turn. You need to read all the signs and consider what each option has to offer you towards reaching your ultimate decision. For example, starting at a 2-year community college and then transferring to a 4-year institution may reduce the cost of your degree.
- What is the cost for tuition and fees per semester?
- Does the school offer flexible class schedules (weekend, evening, or online options)?
- Does the school offer courses in the areas that most interest you?
- What are the graduation and job placement rates of the college and its early childhood degree program?
- What is the transfer policy for any credits you already have?
- Will you have the option to transfer credits you earn to another school?
- What kind of support network does the school offer students?
- How long will it take to get your degree?
Visit the campus and get a feel for the college and its students and faculty.
Sit in on a class, if possible.
Each 3-credit class takes about 9 hours per week for class time and preparation.
Beware of for-profit institutions that charge much higher tuition and have low graduation and/or job placement rates.
In order to apply for admission, you need to research what materials the school you wish to attend requires with their application. When you apply, you’ll discover which materials each school requires. Since the requirements differ, it may be helpful to keep a check list for each application.
- Does the school you’re applying to require any standardized tests for admission such as the SAT or the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)?
- Community colleges and state universities require a placement test before taking many classes. Be sure to ask about this and whether they have study guides or fees.
- You will need to send a copy of your high school transcripts or GED and/or any additional transcripts.
- Most schools charge an application fee from $10-$70. Speak to the admissions department to find out if there is an application fee or if you’re eligible for a waiver.
Signing up for a class doesn’t mean you are automatically on the path to a degree! It is critical to speak with a college advisor about your academic and career goals.
Make sure you apply to the appropriate degree track, especially if you hope to transfer to a four-year college; there is typically a special track at 2-year colleges for students planning to transfer to a 4-year school after graduating with their Associate’s Degree.
Keep in mind that the application deadlines are totally inflexible. Colleges will not give you an “extension” on their application deadlines.
Many schools request letters of recommendation from former teachers or employers. It’s best to request these well in advance of the deadline and then, if necessary, follow up with regular reminders.
Many colleges will welcome an exploratory visit and will be happy to set up appointments with faculty, guidance and financial counselors, and current students.
MA Department of Higher Education Public Higher Education Campuses provides links to the websites of all state colleges and universities including the community colleges.
The Center for Educational Documentation provides assistance interpreting the educational backgrounds of people educated in other countries. If you took courses in another country, go to this website for assistance on transferring credits.
The MA Attorney General’s Office has created a Before You Enroll Checklist
The College Application Checklist offers a comprehensive list of the materials you might need to prepare. Not every college will require all of these documents but you’ll want to think well in advance about having them available.
When you plan a trip, it’s wise to know in advance how much it will cost and when payments will be due. Likewise, when you make plans to return to school for a college degree, you want to know how much it will cost and when you will be expected to pay. You’ll also want to find out if you are eligible for scholarships— also referred to as grants — that do not have to be repaid. Scholarships are definitely preferable to loans.
The first step is to complete the FAFSA (The Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The importance of meeting the deadlines cannot be overstressed… Complete your applications early!
- Don’t forget about the cost of school books when calculating the total cost to attend college.
Don’t wait for the deadline.
Make an appointment with your EPS grantee or an EOC staff person (see link in Step Two) to get free help in filling out your FAFSA.
Complete the FAFSA and scholarship application as early as possible.
Remember to be persistent and polite when reaching out for assistance.
The MA Early Educator’s Scholarship Program provides scholarships to eligible early educators who enroll at a specific group of two- and four-year schools. Grants range from $2,250 to $4,500 per semester. The website lists student qualifications and the eligible schools.
Research other scholarships that you may be eligible for on the MA Department of Higher Education Office of Student Financial Assistance Financial Aid Programs webpage.
The College Scholarship Database from Accredited Colleges provides a comprehensive list of scholarships you can apply for.
When you’re on a road trip, you need to check the gas gauge to be sure you have enough gas in your tank. Similarly, when you receive your financial aid letter, you need to determine what you will owe and that you will be able to repay it on time.
- Keep in mind the amount of loans you will owe plus interest, and cost of books, fees, and transportation.
- Remember you are responsible for paying back your loans even if you don’t complete your degree.
Meet with a financial aid advisor in your college financial aid office to make sure you understand your cost.
In order to determine how much money you will owe and what your future payments will be, visit the Federal Student Aid Website and use their Repayment Plans and Calculators.
For help with loans in default or other financial aid concerns, contact American Student Assistance.
Additional information regarding loan repayment is available on the BTWIC Student Loan Network
Once you begin classes you will need to adjust to student life and balancing your job with your studies. This can be really challenging!! Remember to reach out for help whenever you need it. Just as you would do on a road trip in an unfamiliar place, it’s better to ask for directions then to drive around in circles trying to figure out where to go!
- Build and maintain a relationship with a mentor, and use supports such as tutoring through your school.
- Ask your employer (if appropriate) for a flexible schedule to finish your program more quickly.
- Reach out to your academic advisor.
Don’t get discouraged! Returning to school takes persistence.
Get to know your professors early in the semester. If you need their help, it will be easier to connect with them.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for supports to help you along – personal connections are important.
Contact the campus academic counseling service. That’s what it’s there for!
MA Department of Higher Education Public Higher Education Campuses (provides links to the websites of all state colleges and universities including the community colleges). Go to your school website and search for academic advising and/or tutoring services.
We have created a list of advisory services available to all enrolled students at Massachusetts’s colleges and universities.
Once you complete your degree, it’s really important to pay back your loans in a timely way. Depending on your income and family-size, you may be eligible to reduce your monthly payments through income-based repayment.
If you make regular payments on your loans for ten years and are employed in a non-profit setting, you may be eligible to reduce your monthly payments through the federal Income-Based Repayment plan.
Update: January 2013
Legal Services Support for Student Loans
If you attended a vocational school and have experienced misleading claims about graduation rates, post-graduation employment rates, post-graduation income, or general problems with the effectiveness or value of the education, or if you have excessive debt from your time at the school and would like to speak to with someone who may be able to help you find a resolution to these problems, contact Toby Merrill at 617-390-2576.
She is an attorney with the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and is looking to help individuals who attended a vocational school and is unsatisfied with the experience.
I returned to school when I learned from my employer that I would be demoted if I didn’t get a college degree. I was concerned about taking out additional loans because I was already paying off student loans. In addition, my family responsibilities, including caring for my 3-year old daughter, made returning to school extremely difficult.
With assistance from a career counselor, I accessed scholarships so I didn’t have to take out new loans. Although being away from my family one night a week for classes and finding time for homework and writing papers was tough, I am very glad I went back.
I credit a mentor I found at my college with helping me make it through. That, and the support I got from my husband and employer, made it possible for me to complete my degree program.
The coursework helped me think in new ways about how I can make a difference in how the children develop. I plan to stay working in early education because children are our future.