When you make the decision to go back to school, the hardest thing may not be the actual classes. What parents find most difficult is managing their time while trying to balance everything in their lives.
We’re all going to have days when being a mom and a student collides with one another. But you can do it, as do thousands of student parents each year in Oklahoma. Your experiences as a parent are an incredible asset as you develop your plan to complete college. As a mom, you know how to manage your time, set priorities and multitask. Start now and develop your college plan!
Doing something for yourself is good for the entire family
Moms say they want to take college courses but do not feel it would be fair to their families. Going to college does not take away from your children nearly as much as it does to enrich their lives.
It shows them that mom is a disciplined, intelligent adult who wants to improve her life as well as her family’s circumstances. It also models good schooling behavior because your children see you studying and scheduling your time well.
Be your own financial aid expert
Grants, scholarships, loans and work study programs are available for student moms, but you need to be a smart shopper! Fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at the beginning of each year (this can be done before taxes are filed). Financial aid awards to student parents often include living expenses and child-care costs.
Before you accept any form of financial aid, it is critical that you meet with a campus financial aid counselor. Make this appointment as early as possible because they
are very busy at the beginning of each semester. Want to learn more about financial aid and fill out your FAFSA? Go to okhighered.org/adult-students.
Share your school schedule
This is more than letting the family know when you are in class but also the time you need to – uninterrupted – write papers, study for exams and so forth.
Look at your weekly schedule. How long does it take to commute to school and child care? Which hours do you have to work? When are your classes? What days can you grocery shop? At what times can other adults help?
Next, find the holes in your schedule when you can study and have family time. These two activities should be just as important as all the others, but you have to make them a family priority.
Get everyone ready for school
On weeknights, chaos often erupts as families look for backpacks, check homework and pack lunches. Adding a bedtime routine and seeking assistance from all your children can alleviate some of the stress. Have your children get their backpacks ready and place them by the front door at night while you lay out their clothes for the next day. Set a tone in your house where being ready for school is everyone’s responsibility.
Meet other student moms
One of the great things about college is the friends you make. You will not be the only student mom on campus. It’s important that you find other students completing their college goals as well as taking care of their families. Don’t be shy. Find out which of your classmates also have children and see if your campus has a student parents’ organization. If not, consider starting one yourself!
Introduce yourself to your instructors
The time to get to know your instructors is early in the semester and not when you are struggling in their classes. Many professors are very familiar with balancing college life and raising children. Your instructor should have office hours, which are the times they leave open to meet with their students. Drop by, briefly introduce yourself and tell them why you are taking their classes. This lets the instructors know that you want to do well in their classes and maintain positive student-instructor relationships.
Identify careers that interest you
Not all of us enter college knowing what we want to be when we “grow up.” If you already know that you want to be a veterinary technician or an architect, then your degree plan should meet those goals. Let both your instructors and academic adviser know about your career aspirations and ask if career guidance is available on campus. A career services office can share information on how much a particular job pays, who is hiring and what sort of degrees those employers are seeking. They may also help with résumé writing, arranging interviews and hosting campus job fairs.
Meet with your academic adviser
Nothing is more frustrating for students than to discover they have gotten off-track on their degree plans. Most of us simply do not have the time or finances to take course work that is not a part of our degree requirements. One way to avoid these mistakes is to meet each semester with your academic adviser for a degree check. A degree check is when your adviser checks the courses you’ve taken as well as those you plan to take to ensure you are on track for graduation. Your adviser can also assist if you are struggling in a class. Make sure to contact the adviser ahead of time for an appointment.
Make use of academic support services
Your college or university wants to see you succeed, and they understand that all students need a little extra help once in a while. Tutoring, computer labs, library tours, study groups and developmental course work are all there for you to take advantage of, and it makes good sense to check these out early in the semester. If you are struggling with a course, speak to your academic adviser about campus support programs.
Take your family to campus
Your family probably wonders what your school day is like, especially if they have never been on a college campus. Give your kids a campus tour and include them in campus activities like homecoming, holiday events and free movie nights. Not only do they feel more included in mom’s exciting college adventure, but it also sends a message to your campus that many of their students are also raising families.
Remember who you are
You are college material. You are one of the thousands of oklahoma moms who are completing their college educations. You can study for your spanish test and wrangle kids at the same time. It won’t always be easy, but we promise you, it will be worth it.