Starting college as a parent is a much different experience from those without children. Learning how to balance college, work, and family can be a challenge but there are ways to successfully manage all your responsibilities. Check out our top tips for parents returning to school.
What challenges do parents returning to school face?
Going back to school as a parent means you have extra responsibilities over your childless peers. Not only must you devote yourself to your studies, but you must also keep your kids’ lives running smoothly as well.
Parents going back to school must tackle:
- Childcare: Parents of young children need to arrange childcare while in class, which can be costly or challenging to find the right caretaker.
- Stress/focus: Splitting your attention between multiple lives adds a lot onto a parent’s mental plate, making it harder to focus.
- Budget: When you’re budgeting for people besides yourself, finances can get stretched tight. Paying for your children’s needs can make education feel like less of a priority.
Going back to school while working full time with a child is a lot, but it’s not impossible. In fact, there are a few advantages to finishing your education later in life.
Adult education benefits
Although going back to school as a parent has challenges, there are many benefits to getting an education as an adult.
- Life experience: Being out of school and starting a family puts things in perspective. As you’ve gotten older you’ve learned about yourself, your dreams, and how you want to spend your time. Adult education focuses on your interests and gives you the motivation to work towards targeted goals.
- Clear career goals: Choosing a career path or school major in your younger years may have felt uncertain, but now that you’ve spent time in the workforce your goals are likely more concrete.
- Variety of school settings: When you were younger, going to college most likely meant enrolling at a four-year institution and attending classes in person. But today, higher education is accessible in different settings, including online learning. Now more than ever it’s possible to fit learning into your busy life in a setting that works for you.
How do you balance college, work, and family
If you’ve decided it’s time to go back to school as a parent, your most important success factor will be choosing the right program. Your time is precious, so researching colleges and support systems that address your needs is crucial.
Things to consider when choosing a college as an adult:
- Full-time vs. part-time programs: Unless you’re planning to take a leave of absence from work, going back to school full time is likely not possible. Research programs that allow for lower class loads or part-time schedules.
- Class schedule: Finding classes that fit your schedule will boost your attendance and consistency. Look for day, night, or weekend availability.
- In-person vs. online learning: Online courses allow adults to learn from home and eliminate childcare needs. Consider your personal learning style and find a program that meets your preference.
- Support systems: After being out of school for years, you’ll likely need support when jumping back into learning. Look for programs that offer tutoring, mentoring, or other support resources.
- Test out options: Some schools allow students to test out of general education or prerequisite courses. This option can save considerable time and money for adult learners.
Testing out is part of a system called credit by exam or CLEP. By taking one proficiency test, you can earn the same college credits as attending an entire semester-long course. Credit by exam is open to students of all ages and accepted by 2,900 accredited colleges across the United States. This accelerated degree path is great for dads and moms going back to school who want to make progress in the most efficient way.
Tips for parents returning to school
You can work adult education into your life with these tips.
- Set boundaries: Talk to your family about your new commitment and how they can support your goals by giving you time and space to study.
- Create a routine: Set aside regular time in your schedule to study, attend class, and focus on your goals. If you’re learning from home, set up a designated study space.
- Find reliable childcare: Knowing your kids are taken care of removes burden and worry. Some colleges may even offer childcare on campus.
- Ask for help: Connect with your instructors whenever you have questions. Peer study groups and tutors are also great ways to stay up to speed on coursework.
- Be kind with yourself: Going back to school will be an adjustment. Give yourself time to get comfortable with your school routine, and don’t let setbacks detract you from your ultimate goal.
Above all else, remember why you started school and what you hope to accomplish. Focusing on your end goal will keep you motivated if things get challenging.
Balance college, work, and family with Achieve
Achieve offers supportive college prep services that help parents returning to school. Our test prep courses prepare students to maximize the credit by exam system so they can earn credits without sacrificing work/life balance. Our program is 100% online and offers guidance at every step; in fact, we’ve helped thousands of working parents successfully work towards their goals. Connect with our caring team to see how we can support you.