Going to Target as a young parent is hard. Going to college may very well feel impossible. You barely have time to eat sitting down. “Sleep,” is a word that hasn’t meant anything to you in months, and you’ve changed your body weight in diapers in the last week.
Going to school now might feel absurd, but it is achievable. Parents all over the world balance their domestic and academic responsibilities by working hard and leveraging the right strategy. In this article, we take a look at a few key considerations that will make it easier to thrive in college as a new parent.
Go at your own pace
Did you know that the four-year college program is something of a myth? That is certainly the goal that most people go in with and it is an admirable one. The quicker you achieve your degree, the less you will pay for things like room and board.
However, if you are a parent, you probably aren’t living in university housing anyway. For you, the focus should be more on balancing your personal and academic responsibilities. You want to get good grades without feeling completely overwhelmed.
The average college student gets their undergraduate degree in about six years. It doesn’t matter when you get the degree. What matters is that you go at your own pace. There are even certain benefits to going at a more relaxed pace.
For example, if you only take a few classes per semester, you may be able to pay more in cash, saving you tons of money in interest payments over time. Even if you can’t swing cash payments, you will still get more bang for your buck just by doing well in your classes. Failing classes costs money and looks bad on your transcript, so go at a pace you are comfortable with, whether or it means getting your degree in four years, or ten.
Consider Online Classes
Online classes are becoming increasingly more common. While they used to be viewed with a degree of suspicion, they now hold the same pedigree as a traditional degree. There are several reasons why they are a particularly good option for young parents.
- Online school tends to be more flexible: Some online classes allow you to do the work whenever it suits you. For these courses, you will be given a set of tasks, and be left to complete them at your convenience over a certain span of time. Other courses may mimic a more traditional schedule, with predetermined online meeting times.
Even these classes will save you a commute, which can free up an hour or more of your time every day. Young parents know that every second counts.
- Pick the program that works for you: Online school also gives you a much wider range of options for getting your degree. With a brick-and-mortar school, you’re pretty much left with universities that are within driving distance of your home. With online schools, you can study “anywhere,” all from the comfort of your home.
- Online problems could save you money: Emphasis on the word “could.” Some online programs are more affordable than their physical alternatives because there is a lot less infrastructure to pay for. If you choose a strictly online school, you’ll likely find slightly better online deals. With universities that have physical locations, the opportunities to save by going online might be less common. Still, if you are trying to save money (what new parent isn’t?) this is a good opportunity to at least explore.
Some students will also opt for a hybrid schedule, taking some classes in person, and others online. It ultimately comes down to selecting a learning environment that will allow you to thrive.
Make Good Use of Your Support System
Naturally, everyone’s support network is a little bit different. Maybe you have a partner. A parent. A friend, or sibling. Hopefully, there is someone in your life who is willing to help out with your child, or your other domestic responsibilities.
As a new parent, you may feel the urge to take on everything yourself. While it is certainly natural to want to do as much for your child as you are capable of, accepting help is good for your entire family in the long run. You won’t be the best parent you can be if your attention is overly divided. The same goes for your academic pursuits. Accept whatever help you can get and be grateful for it.
A Sink Full of Dishes Never Killed Anyone
As an extension of our last point, it’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t always be able to do everything. Being a parent is a full-time job. Being a student is as well. The general rule of thumb is that you will get about two hours of homework for every hour you spend in the classroom.
That amounts to a lot of work.
You won’t be able to do it all. Sometimes, success will hinge on your ability to recognize priorities. Give yourself a break on minor household chores. The odd dirty dish isn’t going to do you in.
The road ahead won’t be easy. So few things worth doing are. Going to school is a challenge that you can overcome with the right strategy. Core to your approach should be an emphasis on self-care. The best car in the world won’t get you anywhere without gas in the tank.
The same goes for you. You need good sleep, proper nutrition, and time to relax and decompress. Many parents sacrifice self-care under the misconception that it is a selfish use of limited time. This isn’t true. If you want to do right by your family, you also have to do right by yourself.
This is true all of the time, but especially when you are trying to balance the responsibilities of school with those of parenthood. Take care of your physical and mental health. It’s key, not just for success in school, but also in life.