How to Go Back to School as a Parent
There’s nothing like being a parent to make you aware that you want something better for your family. Whether it’s because you need a higher income to support your family or because you want to show them the importance of finishing your degree, children have a way of making education a priority.
There’s also nothing like being a parent to put obstacles in your educational path. Children can take so much of your time, money, and energy that you might feel like you have nothing left for anything else.
The good news is that many parents have gone back to school when they have little ones at home. The challenges of getting a degree while your children are small are different than the challenges of a more traditional student, but that doesn’t mean they’re insurmountable. You may even discover that your unique situation offers some advantages. Of course, that doesn’t mean everything will be easy.
Here are some tips to ease your transition into student parent life:
No matter how smart or organized you are, it’s human nature to get discouraged occasionally. Keep your doubts at bay by reading or watching inspirational stories about people who have overcome obstacles and succeeded in spite of them.
Talk to others in your situation.
Finding a community of people who have done what you want to do will help you believe in yourself. If they did it, you can, too! Plus your aspirational family and friends can offer you tips on how to make it work. They’ve been down the school/family balance road before, and they might have suggestions for how to organize your routine or how to teach your kids to stop interrupting you while you study. Maybe you can even support each other with joint study sessions or babysitting swaps.
Look at all your educational options.
If a full-time, brick-and-mortar university education won’t work for you, there are many other possibilities. You could take some or all of your classes online. You could attend a satellite campus. You could attend a community college or trade school. You could attend part-time and/or take evening classes. You could take just a class or two until your schedule or budget allows you to ramp up.
Talk to your college or university.
You don’t know what resources are available to support you as a student parent until you ask. Many schools have a resource center for women and/or non-traditional students. Workers can guide you to any financial aid that’s available for people like you. There are probably a few grants and scholarships, especially if you’re in a non-traditional field of study. If your school has a child care center, they can guide you to it, or if not, they can at least help you find one off-campus.
Your family and friends can l encourage you to take the next step, and this will hold you accountable. If you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who believe in you and want you to be happy, grab that gift and don’t let go! There will be many stressful and discouraging moments when you question your decision and whether or not you’ll succeed. You need a few trusted people in your corner who will listen to you and push you to do your best.
Take the first steps.
Sometimes the first step is the most paralyzing one. If you’re overwhelmed, taking a step or two toward your goal might be less daunting than committing to the long-term objective. Maybe you could visit the campus or check it out online. Maybe you could investigate what classes you’ll be taking. Or maybe it’s time you take a deep breath and register for classes. Whatever is holding you back, taking concrete action can make your dreams more real and make your fears fade.
Once you start working toward your educational goals, you might be surprised at how well you can do. As a parent, you might wonder if going back to school is even possible, but if you’re committed to making it happen, you’ll find many people who can help you. It won’t always be easy, but going back to school as a parent is not only possible, but empowering for you and your family.
Kaylie Astin is the founder of familyfriendlywork.org, a website dedicated to helping people balance their work and family lives. She is also a freelance writer and recently completed a program in web design and development at Davis Applied Technology College.