Going to college as a parent poses unique challenges. Both are full-time jobs and balancing them can feel like an impossible tightrope walk. Yet millions manage it all around the world each year. You can be one of them. With the right strategy, going to school and raising a family is an attainable feat.
In this article, we take a look at a few tips and tricks to help you find success.
No, this isn’t where we tell you to lower the bar for yourself. You can certainly be an effective college student while also taking care of your family. However, it is prudent to set reasonable expectations for what the process will look like.
Now that you have a family, you probably aren’t going to be looking into faraway colleges, and comparing the relative values of their various dorm life living arrangements. Most likely, you’ll need to opt for a more local educational experience.
This could mean a community college or a nearby university. It could also mean taking classes online. Whatever the case, having a child may narrow your options a little bit. That’s ok. You can still get a great education that sets you up for your dream career.
Accept a flexible timeline
Most people want to get their degree as quickly as possible. However, the reality is that graduating “on time” (within four years for undergrad or two years for a graduate degree) isn’t even the default for people who are going to school full-time without a family. The average student takes four and a half years to get their undergraduate degree.
While it’s still possible to graduate in the idealized time frame, you should keep yourself open to the possibility that it might take longer. Things come up. Some of them are related to school — maybe you want to tweak your degree or retake a class to get a better grade.
Things also come up with life. Perhaps you are working a job, or your child’s schedule simply doesn’t allow you to take a full slate of classes. Keep in mind, full-time students take at least fifteen credit hours a semester. Accepting the old adage that each credit hour results in two hours of homework a week and you are looking at a very full slate as it is.
Give yourself permission to go at a gradual pace if that’s what you need. Otherwise, you risk burning out, which is bad for yourself, bad for your studies, and bad for your family.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
It’s ok to need help getting through your degree while raising a child. If you have friends, family members, or a partner who can pitch in it will make a big difference in the amount of time you are able to dedicate to your education.
If you don’t, look into available resources at the school. Many will offer daycares for young children free of charge so that you have a safe space to take your child while you are doing your school work. In select circumstances, it may also be appropriate to tell your college professors about your situation.
College does assume a very adult attitude toward problems. Students are primarily expected to be capable of taking care of themselves. However, if you have occasional situations in which you need to miss a class or make up an assignment, your professor may be more willing to work with you if they are aware of your other responsibilities.
Make School a Priority
It sounds almost too simple to qualify as advice, but it’s something many people need help with. When you are the parent of a young, needy (they are all needy) child, doing anything for yourself can feel selfish, and impractical.
You can’t let school fall into that category. You are getting an education to make a better life for yourself and your child. That alone is enough of a reason to give it full priority.
Make a schedule for yourself. Set aside X number of hours for school work every day, and make sure you hit that goal. With discipline and good time management practices, you’ll earn your degree. It may be difficult, but your hard work will be well worth it in the end.
Finally, try to practice a little bit of self-care. Stress management techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and even exercise, can provide an important foundation for living a healthy, productive life. It’s hard to make time for self-care routines when you are already busy, but the investment usually pays off in reduced stress and heightened productivity.