Your Back-to-School Plan

You've got this!

Stepping back into the world of education might seem daunting, but remember, every great journey begins with a single step—and you're already on your way.

Your plan includes:

  • Advice for completing your bachelor’s
  • Funding tips and tricks
  • Career and degree options based on your area of interest
  • And more!

We know there’s a lot of information here, and we don’t expect you to read it all at once. We suggest bookmarking this link so you can come back later!

Your Criminal Justice back to school plan

Is Earning My Bachelor’s Degree Really Worth It?

Higher Earning Potential

Broader Career Opportunities

Personal Growth & Development

Networking Opportunities

Flexibility & Adaptability

Graduate celebrating wearing a cap and gown
  • 84%Higher Salary

    Typical earnings for bachelor’s degree holders are 84% higher than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma.

  • $1.2MMore Lifetime Earnings

    College graduates on average make $1.2 million more over their lifetime.

  • 50%Less Likely to Be Unemployed

    College graduates are half as likely to be unemployed as their peers who only have a high school degree.

Association of Public and Land Grant Universities

Something like 25 percent of entry-level jobs will be automated in the next 25 years, and so it’s likely many jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s will be eclipsed by AI or technological automation.

A college degree gives you a broad set of experiences and skills, and if or when you are replaced by a robot, or your position is diminished by new technology, with a degree you will be more nimble and better able to find another position compared to someone who hasn’t developed those skills and earned a bachelor’s degree.

Ben Cater, Ph.D.

Associate Dean of General Education, Point Loma Nazarene University

Resources to Fund Your Education

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Your First Step to Funding Your Degree: File the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the gateway to a multitude of financial aid options. By completing it, you become eligible for federal grants, work-study programs, and loans. Plus, many states and colleges use FAFSA data to award their own financial aid.

File Your FAFSA

It Unlocks Financial Aid Opportunities

It’s Not Just for Freshmen

It’s Not Just for Federal Aid

It Helps You Plan

It Matters When You File

Student filing their FAFSA
  • BillionsIn Scholarships

    Appily’s Scholarship search tool is the nation’s largest, multi-billion dollar scholarship database. After you create a free account, you can narrow down your options and apply to any scholarships that interest you within the tool.

  • 85%Receive Aid

    Approximately 85% of full-time undergraduate students who file the FAFSA receive some kind of financial aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

  • ~HalfOf Employers Offer Educational Benefits

    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that while it varies from year to year, on average, between 45-55% of employers offer tuition assistance.

Appily; NCES; SHRM

3 More Ways to Save Money on Your Degree

Finding ways to cover tuition and other college costs is important — but you may also consider these ways to decrease the amount that needs covering.

Transfer as many credits as you can.

Look for accelerated programs.

Take classes one at a time.

Student filing their FAFSA

Try These Tools

Appily’s Scholarship Database

The nation’s largest, multi-billion dollar scholarship database can help you discover funding opportunities that you don’t have to pay back.

ACE Credit for Prior Learning

If you participated in military service, workplace training programs, apprenticeships, standardized exams, or other types of experiential learning outside the college classroom, you could receive college credit recommendations or validated competencies through Learning Evaluation.

College-Level Exam Program (CLEP)

CLEP exams let you test out of introductory courses and move to more advanced courses sooner, saving time toward your degree.

How Can Your Life Experience Shape Your Career Options?

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Top Careers in Criminal Justice

The Criminal Justice sector offers careers that are integral to the functioning and safety of society. The professions we've highlighted promise a blend of challenge, respect, and the chance to make a tangible difference in the community. Pursuing a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice paves the way for a career that upholds justice and public welfare.

  • Police Officer

    Police Officer

    Job responsibilities: Enforces laws, maintains public safety, and responds to emergency situations.

    Why pursue this career: A wise choice because of the essential role of law enforcement in communities.

    Related degrees: Bachelor's in Criminal Justice or Bachelor's in Law Enforcement

  • Forensic Analyst

    Forensic Analyst

    Job responsibilities: Gathers and analyzes physical evidence from crime scenes.

    Why pursue this career: A smart choice due to the growing reliance on scientific evidence in criminal investigations.

    Related degrees: Bachelor's in Forensic Science or Bachelor's in Biology with a forensic focus

  • Probation Officer

    Probation Officer

    Job responsibilities: Supervises offenders and helps rehabilitate them back into society.

    Why pursue this career: A stable choice given the focus on reducing recidivism and integrating individuals back into the community.

    Related degrees: Bachelor's in Criminal Justice or Bachelor's in Sociology

  • Crime Scene Investigator

    Crime Scene Investigator

    Job responsibilities: Collects and analyzes evidence from crime scenes.

    Why pursue this career: A prudent choice because of the critical role forensic evidence plays in solving crimes.

    Related degrees: Bachelor's in Forensic Science or Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

  • Emergency Management Director

    Emergency Management Director

    Job responsibilities: Plans and coordinates responses to natural disasters and other emergencies.

    Why pursue this career: A smart choice due to the increasing frequency of natural disasters and the need for preparedness.

    Related degrees: Bachelor's in Emergency Management or Bachelor's in Public Safety Administration

  • $45K

    Median salary for protective service jobs, ranging from $35K to $69K

  • Limited

    Overall employment growth in protective service jobs in the next decade

  • 410K

    Openings in protective service jobs projected each year over the next decade

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How a Bachelor’s Degree Can Help You Reach Your Goals

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Best Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Degrees

The realm of criminal justice is vast, spanning law enforcement, forensic sciences, and the study of criminology. Earning a degree in this sector not only provides insights into the inner workings of the justice system but also offers numerous pathways to impactful, respected careers.

  • Criminal Justice

    Criminal Justice

    Offers a foundation for careers in law enforcement, corrections, and court systems.

    Example Degree: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

  • Forensic Science

    Forensic Science

    Prepares students for roles in crime scene investigation and laboratory analysis.

    Example Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Science

  • Criminology


    Focuses on the sociological and psychological aspects of crime, often leading to roles in social work, corrections, or law enforcement strategy.

    Example Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Criminology

Explore Your School Matches

Appily partners with institutions across the country that are known for having exceptional programs and providing strong outcomes.

No matter which career or degree you choose, you’re likely to find a path to success at these colleges and universities.

Ready to Take On Your Future? Start Here!

Returning to school as an adult can feel overwhelming, but breaking the process down into manageable steps can help alleviate some of that anxiety. Here’s a good place to start:

Write your “why.”

Write your “how.”

Follow the Steps to Apply!

Your Next Steps

Let’s Address Your Top Barrier for Completing Your Degree

Remember, every challenge has a solution, and institutions are increasingly tailoring their services to accommodate non-traditional students. Taking the first step might be daunting, but resources and support are available to help you navigate your journey back to education.

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Your Step-by-Step Guide for Applying to College

Applying to college as an adult can be a different experience than applying straight out of high school, but the core steps remain similar.

Get Organized

Research and Shortlist Schools

Understand Application Requirements

Gather Necessary Documents & Letters

Keep Track of Deadlines

Complete Applications

Submit Financial Aid Applications

Follow Up

Your Next Steps
CEO at a restaurant

Spotlight: Build Your Application Timeline

Creating a well-structured application timeline is crucial for managing the college application process effectively, especially for adult learners who often juggle multiple responsibilities. Here's a sample timeline you can reference:

  • 12-18 Months Out:
    • Begin research on programs and institutions.
    • Start preparing for any required standardized tests.
  • 9-12 Months Out:
    • Take standardized tests if required.
    • Begin drafting personal statements or essays.
    • Request transcripts and letters of recommendation.
  • 6-9 Months Out:
    • Finalize your list of schools and understand their deadlines.
    • Begin scholarship and financial aid research.
  • 3-6 Months Out:
    • Complete and submit applications.
    • Apply for financial aid and scholarships.
  • 1-3 Months Out:
    • Follow up on applications and financial aid.
    • Prepare for interviews if required.
  • Post-Submission:
    • Await responses and make informed decisions based on acceptances and financial aid packages offered.

Remember, this timeline is a general guide. Adjust it based on your personal circumstances and the specific requirements of the programs you're applying to.