•Look for convenience. Many schools now offer online courses that make it easier for adult learners with family obligations.
Administrators, faculty, tutors and advisers should be flexible and willing to meet with you when you're not working. The school library should have extended hours.
"Those colleges that are really geared toward adult learners will support your schedule," she says.
•Not feel guilty. Maybe you worry that taking courses will take time away from your children, but Hawkins says the opposite may be true.
"It's often very inspirational for the family to see you go back to school," she says. "You and your children can do your homework together. You can show them how much you value education. You should see the pride in the children when their parents walk across the stage (to receive a diploma)."
•Do your due diligence. "You wouldn't contract with a homebuilder unless you know he knows how to build homes, would you? You'd ask others about his work, wouldn't you? The same thing is true for schools," she says.
Specifically, she advises doing more than looking at a school's website. Make sure the school is accredited and that past students have good things to say.