How to Keep Learning (Outside of School)

I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school. Part of the itch is that I’m seeing all my friends from school starting graduate programs, and the other part is that, four years out of school, I think I finally miss the classroom setting. (It did take a solid four years for me to get here, though, ha!) While I’d definitely like to go to business school at some point, it’s not the right time for me.

I may have to wait on jumping into the classroom for a bit, but I’m still ready to keep learning. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of learning new things since graduation. (Dare I say that I think I’ve learned more over the past four years? Between life skills and new skills, probably.)

Always Learning

  1. 1. Youtube // I’m just going to put this one out there, I don’t think there’s anything you can’t learn from watching Youtube videos. And the best part is that it is free. I have yet to find something that I need to learn that isn’t on Youtube. From how to figure out a tool in Lightroom to how to get a Quickbooks error to go away to how to get my power drill up and running. I probably teach myself how to do something at least once a week from Youtube. It’s such a good place to start when you just need to pick up a small skill, but you can also deep dive if you need to.

I also used to use Youtube tutorials when I was in college for refreshers on how to do complicated math problems. I loved how easy it was to follow along, pause when I needed to, and rewind. A bonus that was not available with my live lectures.

  1. 2. Private tutor // This might not seem like an obvious choice, especially when there are so many online options, but I think a tutor is a great idea. I’ve always preferred learning things one on one and tutors can be godsends when you need to learn something. I like that it holds you accountable for staying on top of studying, while also allowing you to focus on the things that are holding you up. (Versus having to stay on a group schedule or trying to learn things completely on your own.)

If you want to learn something like a new language or pick up a new skill like photography, it could be valuable for you to be working one on one with someone you can practice and work with.

  1. 3. Lynda // I am obsessed with I’m so impressed with both the number and quality of the courses. It’s worth at least signing up for the free trial and poking around. There are courses on business, design, coding, marketing, and more. It’s like an entire university of content in there. I’ve been doing the Final Cut Pro lessons, and I’m picking up tips and tricks I’d never know if I was just playing around with it myself.

Lynda is an especially great resource if you want to brush up on or pick up skills for a new or current job. Think of the skills you’ll be able to master between now and your next review. Or how your resume will stand out now that you’re a pro at Google Analytics or Photoshop.

  1. 4. Classes like General Assembly // Now if you’re craving a school environment, something like General Assembly is a great choice. There are online courses available, but also courses that are in person in various cities around the globe. Some of the courses are immersive, full-time classes (all-day, every day type things) and others are ones you can take after work or on weekends. Plus, there are frequent free events!

These classes are a commitment, both timing and financially, but also invaluable if you’re ready to pivot your career or take the next step at work.

  1. 5. BOOKS // With the internet, I think books are vastly underrated now. Some things move too fast for books to keep up with, but there’s something to be said about a good ole fashioned book. Reading is always a good idea. Whether it’s a textbook or a workbook or, maybe, a simple non-fiction book. It’s pretty inexpensive, and the number of directions you can go are unlimited.

KEY TIP: Regardless of where or how you’re learning, the real trick is going to be self-discipline. Commit to learning Spanish, or Lightroom, or Ruby on Rails, or Mailchimp. Whatever you want to learn, you have to give yourself the chance to do it and to do it well. While the pressure of a grade may not be there, it’s up to you to make it happen!

Have you learned something new outside of school?!

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Great post! It’s so important to keep learning throughout life. I didn’t know about Lynda: I’ve now got four tabs open with courses I want to do!

Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

I just started using Lynda this summer! I watched tutorials for HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Django, which helped me so much with my summer job in which I designed and developed four websites for other people’s research projects! Yesterday was my last day of work and I’m off for vacation now, but I’m sure I’ll be returning to Lynda even now that I’m done with my summer job 🙂 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

Jordan M

Do you actively participate with, such as with Adobe Software applications where they teach you skills and provide the practice files? I have watched videos that have helped, but I am never sure whether the practice files will actually help me more or not or just be a waste of time.


A few years after law school, I had an itch to go back to school so I decided to do a certificate program in international affairs for “fun.” Well on my first day, my teacher, who stood there the whole time and talked at us, gave us our assignment that was due right after Memorial Day weekend. It was at that point that I realized that I have no desire to sacrifice my vacations and weekends working on papers.

My point being is that before you sign up for an MBA program or anything like that, try a few individual live classes first.

Now I just take individual classes for fun. I switched out of the international affairs class into a world history class and the teacher was much better. I spent eight months learning Italian at one point in a classroom setting after work. I am now relearning Spanish in a classroom setting.

My biggest teacher has been reading interesting non-fiction books. I learn so much better that way then sitting in a classroom and having some old man talk at me. I have gotten to the point where I don’t enjoy fiction that much anymore because I am not learning anything.


That’s exactly why I don’t think it’s the right time for me! I have so much going on with my blog/business now that I can’t take the financial risk to take on a full school workload. I think eventually when I’m ready for the next move, it’ll make more sense!

Alyssa J Freitas

I so agree with your point about YouTube! When it comes to blogging related tasks (coding, photo editing, etc.), I will turn there first for a tutorial. I also really like to use Khan Academy for academic videos.


Absolutely! There are so many lessons learned outside of the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom once you graduate. Financial responsibility is at the top of my list, along with being able to diagnose car problems (always important!). One skill that should never be pushed to the sideline is the ability to communicate effectively not just online, but in person, as well. Nothing can replace the art of conversation with a friend or with family!

Haintso Rakouth

Skill share, udemy, tree house, as well meetups offers all courses and workshops.


I have been using Khan Academy and love it. I’ve been out of undergrad for 5 years now & grad school for 3 (went straight to grad school- best choice for me). But I also went into a different field than my undergrad degree so I miss the history side of my life I had thought I was going on to become. Khan lets me really dive deep into different areas. I love it~


I’d really like to attain fluency in French because I studied it for four years, and don’t want all that time and knowledge to go to waste! And this isn’t academic, but I also really want to take music lessons outside of school or teach myself through YouTube videos. I’ve wanted to learn piano for as long as I can remember, and I’d also love to pick up guitar.

Alexa |


completely off topic, but where did you find the clock/time screen saver on your mac?? I’ve been looking one for my desktop and my iphone. Thanks so much:)

Laura and Kahn Academy are both amazing tools as well. Totally agree with you on using Youtube as a learning tool….it has literally everything you could ever need to know!!

Ashley S.

Many libraries now allow their patrons to use for free with their library card. My husband used to pay for it each month but now he is LOVING being able to get it free through our library. Just another perk of getting your library card! 🙂 (yes, totally nerdy librarian here and proud haha)


I am going to business school in 2 years….just a quick tip though is that if you know you are thinking about bschool take the GMAT as soon as possible! There is a neg. correlation between test score and time away from school. People who take it during the 2 years post undergrad score 40 points higher than those that wait and it goes down from there.

Jen Kessler

I’ve been out of school for 8 years now and I’ve been doing self-study for 7.5 haha! There are so many great resources for free or little cost. I have watched a lot of Creative Live courses from photography to business to interior design.

Change This Manifesto website is also a really great site with free books and manifestos on business, motivation and ideas. Once you start reading here you may never start.

One last thing: the book Personal MBA. I have yet to read it but it is my alternative to a typical MBA school. You might like it a lot since you enjoy reading too!


It’s always great to keep learning. A great way to dip your toe into going back to school is going to the local community college maybe just to take a few classes or earn a certificate. Plus if you do decide to go back to get another degree, you can probably use those classes towards it.


This is a great post. I’m going into my senior year of college and am trying to decide whether or not to go to grad school right out or take some time off. It’s so important to keep the mind active no matter what. I’ve taken some online classes this summer at Udemy, which is another great place to find new topics to learn about.


There are also places online that you can take courses for free. If you’re looking to learn about math/science – Khan Academy is really great. Duolingo is amazing if you’re looking to learn a foreign language, and if you’re really craving a college type of class EDX provides free college courses from a lot of prestigious schools.
Maria l From the South


I’ve been out of school for 6 years now and have always had that urge to be a “student” again. Thank goodness for open courseware, which was just starting to pick up speed when I was leaving school. A lot of major universities have it, including MIT ( and Yale ( I second the recommendations about YouTube and Kahn Academy – I’ve used both extensively since graduation. Additional recommendations: I have found in-person and online private tutoring through WyzAnt ( And for language learning, if you live in Boston, Philly, NYC or DC, check out Fluent City (


I had the same thoughts after I graduated! I ended up signing up for some classes “for fun” like film, magazine, and other courses that might be considered more of an “elective”. It was the best thing I ever did for myself! I just found that homework could be a little bit of a buzzkill, but luckily it was never too time consuming or cut into my personal life too much :).


I think you’re at a good point now! I graduated in 2012 and started considering my MBA in 2014. Due to my company being bought out, I ended up studying for the GMAT and applying for full-time programs. I decided to take a new job with a promotion and go part-time which made more sense financially. It’s a commitment, but you can take online hybrid classes with most programs and time off as needed. I started in January 2016 and am taking off this Fall for my wedding, but picking it back up in January 2017 to finish in 3 years total. Completely manageable!


This is an amazing post, Carly! I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how lifelong learning is an important component to a well-rounded life, so this post came at the perfect time.

EdX is my favorite! I crave classroom style learning, and I’ve had the opportunity to take classes (not for credit) from Harvard, Georgetown, and MIT. I’m entering my freshman year of college as an electrical engineer (so not a lot of artsy classes), but I’ve been using EdX to supplement all the math and science I learn with other subjects.

Christina Minderman

I love that you called out General Assembly. I started taking some workshops classes there earlier this year and really enjoy having an in person learning experience about 1x monthly and growing my marketing and content development skills for my travel resource blog. The classes are fun, engaging, and provide useful tips that are real world applicable – not just theory.

Emmalisa Tilli

I am sooo glad I came across this article of yours. I did a post today of creating a blog for beginners, and it is true, when they say you can never stop learning! Very interesting blog you have! I started doing a library and informations course, and when I qualify, thinking of doing an Arts History degree (If I can!) or maybe a Magazine course I was thinking….. Moving to Perth next month, so got LOTS of dreams, goals and PLANS!!!! <3

Grace Lee

I was wondering if there were any study tips you could provide now that most schools have moved online following the COVID-19 lockdown. I’m pretty nervous about my next college quarter, which will be online only!