Going back to school to earn a degree after being out in the world for any length of time will be full of challenges and deciding if it is the right thing to do can be daunting. Once it is decided that returning to school is the best option, there are still many hurdles to overcome. 

What schools are best to apply to for those over a certain age? Do they have evening classes? Are classes offered online? Will it be affordable or will there be new loans needed?

The answers vary for each individual so it is important to do a personal inventory before hitting the books. For some, having a support system in place at home will make things easier once the decision is made to go back to school. That could be a spouse, partner, friends and/or family. Someone who will offer support when it’s crunch time and there are more things to do than there is time to do them.

There is also the question of money. Not just the aforementioned cost of school, but the cost of living while going to school. Is there a big enough nest egg to take some time off working full time or will there need to be a work/school balance that gives time to earn a living while going to class?

Pastor Shane Russo of Girard, Ohio, made the choice to go back to college as an adult not just once, but twice. Once for a bachelor’s degree and several years later for a master’s degree when he found he needed to take his life in a new direction.

“I was figuring out if being a pastor was the right thing to do,” Russo said.

Russo is married with three children and gives credit to his wife, Angela, a teacher, for her support during his schooling.

“My wife was extremely supportive both times. She was vocally supportive as was as financially. Her teaching allowed us the financial stability for me not to work,” he continued.

Since his family was growing at the time, he feels that they didn’t necessarily overcome all of the obstacles that they encountered but they managed. He listed three major factors they needed to work through.

“Time, money and children. We didn’t really overcome them as much as absorb the chaos and take on a lot of debt.”

There were also other personal challenges for Russo. Some people who didn’t really know him wondered why a 30-something man, married with children was in school and not working. Does Russo think it was worth it? He feels some people still don’t understand why he did it, but his answer is still yes.

“Professionally, both degrees helped me further down the path to my career as a pastor,” he said. “Most people could not care less. So I remind myself that I did it for me and my family more than for anyone else.”

Shane Russo and iFire Girard

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Shane Russo helped to organize the gospel group iFire Girard while he was studying for his Masters in Divinity and continues to sing with them. Photo by Angela Russo.


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