Single parents who go back to school: How they make it work

As a single parent you might ask whether you can go back to school at the same time while still trying to hold down your day job. The answer is, “Sure you can!” Furthering your education is about more than increasing your earning potential. It’s about pursuing your dreams, and feeling good about yourself. Learning is a lifelong process, and whether you are returning to school in order to change careers, advance in your current career, or update your skills to keep pace with changes in the workplace, you will need to exert a fair amount of self-discipline in order to be successful (and maintain your sanity) along the way.

Rule #1: Don’t expect it to be easy. It takes a lot of stamina (not to mention time management skills) to work full-time, go back to school even part-time, and be an effective (if a rather fatigued) single parent. But it can be done. No matter how difficult it might seem single parents do have options available to them, which will allow them to pursue a higher education should they so desire.

Although many colleges and universities now offer coursework online, evening classes, and accelerated weekend programs, contingency and back up plans remain a definite must! It is better to be prepared than to be sorry.

This brings us to Rule #2: You will need some outside help and a strong support system to make it work. If you have school age children, remember that there will be sick days, snow days, and school holidays throughout the year.

You might consider registering an infant or a preschooler for campus childcare during the day. Most community colleges and technical schools now provide daytime childcare. Many four-year universities are now offering childcare services as well. Not only will your child be nearby; you may have the opportunity to spend time with your little one between classes.

In order to manage your time more efficiently, you might want to consider enrolling in evening, weekend, or off-campus courses. Some schools are accommodating the needs of parents returning to school by offering flexible class schedules. Earning credits for independent study, and life and work experiences are other practical options.

Talk to your employer about whether the company offers tuition reimbursement for earning credits, in addition to the availability of flextime to attend classes during your normal working hours.

For mothers who find themselves single again and are returning to both the workforce and college after an absence, some states offer assistance to women who are divorced or widowed. Often there are special grants available, which support career counseling, job training, childcare, and sometimes even transportation.

Finding the time to study when your children need attention can be another huge challenge. It isn’t easy juggling work, school, and family. Trying to study late in the evenings after the kids are asleep and everything is quiet is just one alternative. Arriving to class a few minutes early is another. Squeezing in a few minutes to study here and there will add up more quickly than you might think.

Fortunately, a growing number of continuing education programs today are offering nontraditional students access to resources and support services particularly designed to help adult students reach their academic and professional goals. More schools are offering programs, which specifically address the needs of single parent students.

Rule #3: Whenever the going gets rough, it helps to remember that you are doing this to provide both you and your children with a better future. You also are setting a good example by showing your children that anything of value, which is worth having, is certainly worth the effort it takes to succeed.


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