Going Back to School Is An Option as a Mom
Are you a mom going back to school?
More and more moms are going back to school, willing to juggle one more thing for the chance at a brighter and more secure future for themselves and their families.
Research shows that women with bachelor’s degrees earn $630,000 more over their lifetimes than women with only a high school education. On top of that, they are more likely to gain and maintain employment, and feel satisfied at work. They’re also a great inspiration to their children!
But going back to school as a parent is challenging! You will have a lot to juggle; you will have to learn how to work, go to school, and be a mom.
Luckily, many top accredited colleges now offer online classes that make it easier than ever for mothers to earn a reputable degree, whether your days are spent in the office or chasing after kids. You can listen to lectures during your morning commute or take tests after the kids are tucked into bed. Online classes make it possible to “do school” anytime, anywhere.
So, while going back to school will be tough, it won’t be impossible!
How will I balance everything?
This seems to be the #1 question from moms. You are already juggling so much, and the thought of adding one more thing seems impossible.
But with a little extra effort when it comes to planning and organizing, you can make it all work. Here are a few tips:
- Test the waters
You don’t have to jump in to the deep end right away; you can ease in. Enroll as a part-time, online student, taking a few courses that you can complete at your own pace. Once you get into a routine and see how schooling fits in to your busy life, you can increase your course load and even go full time if that works.
- Budget your time
To be a successful student, you will need to create a schedule that blocks out specific timeframes where you can commit to working on your schoolwork. Whether you use a written calendar, an app, or alarms on your phone, find what works for you and be strict with yourself and those around you. That time is dedicated to school and that can’t be negotiable.
- Find a dedicated and organized space
Not only do you need to dedicate time, but you need to dedicate space. You cannot be focused and engaged while lounging in your recliner, when kids are fighting in the background or with a pile of toys at your feet. You need a quiet, tidy work area with no distractions. Also be sure to have access to a printer, notepads and paper, post-it notes and pens, and whatever other tools may be necessary for your school work.
- Work with your employer
Communicate openly with your employer about your plans to go back to school. It will help him or her understand the stress you’re under, and they may be able to offer support and perhaps some leniency when it comes to your work schedule. Some employers even have tuition assistance programs that you won’t want to miss out on!
- Build a support system
As the old saying goes, “It takes a village,” and this is never truer than when you’re a mom juggling online college classes. Before your semester begins, arrange for childcare, carpooling, and help with activities and even meal planning from your friends and family to give you the support that you need to concentrate on your schoolwork.
- Find financial help
Paying for college is a huge concern for many moms that are going back to school. The first step in getting tuition assistance is to fill out the FASFA. This will give you access to federal and state grants that can cover some (or all!) of your college expenses. There are also numerous scholarships and tuition assistance programs available for mothers – reach out to your college and see what they offer! You can get more information about financial aid here.
- Once enrolled, get a jumpstart
Once you are registered for online classes, check out the classroom portal. Read through the syllabus, add important dates to your calendar, and bookmark any resources mentioned. If you have questions or concerns about the course expectations, reach out to your professor early.
Adding college courses to your already busy schedule may seem impossible, but it just requires some planning and organization, which you can handle!
Should I go to a community college or an online school?
Night classes at community college used to be the go-to option for people going back to school, but online programs have opened new doors and offer increased flexibility.
Attending classes on campus means having to be there at a scheduled time, and you waste precious time driving there and parking. You also have to deal with obstacles like traffic, bad weather, sick kids and unreliable babysitters.
Online learning, on the other hand, eliminates these obstacles and wastes far less time. You can fit classes in during the early morning hours, on your lunch break, or when the kids are in bed for the night. It works around your commitments, whenever and wherever you’re available. All you need to do is log-in and you’re ready to go!
That’s not to say there are no benefits to taking classes on a college campus. Some students appreciate the face-to-face learning experience and real-time conversations with classmates, and learn better in a classroom setting.
Should I go to online school full-time, part-time or just take a few classes?
It depends on how much time you can commit!
A good rule of thumb is: For every one credit hour, expect to spend approximately 2-3 hours outside of class studying. So a three credit course will require 6-9 hours of study time per week.
To be considered full-time, most schools require you to take at least 12 credits per semester, which would mean an additional 24 to 36 hours of study. If you are able to work that into your schedule, you can earn your certificate or degree quickly.
But most moms can’t attend full-time classes. Part-time or just a class or two each semester is still worthwhile and will get you on track to earn that certificate or degree that will advance your career.
What do I go to school for if I don’t know what I want to do?
At My College Guide we have a wealth of information about all majors, but narrowing it down will require some self-reflection.
What are your skills and interests? When you were in school, what classes did you excel in and enjoy? What everyday tasks do you find fulfilling now?
Ask your friends, family members and coworkers what strengths and weaknesses they see in you.
As you consider the options, remember that as a parent, you have more at stake. You need to choose something you will enjoy, but that will also provide job stability and a good income to support your family.
- What type of training or education will I need for this new career? Where can I get that?
- How long will the transition take?
- How much money will it cost?
- Will this new career work well with my lifestyle now and in the future?
- Will this new career pay off and offer the financial stability I need?
Going back to school is an investment of time and money, and it’s important to choose a path that will offer a return on that investment.
What are the best careers for moms going back to school?
The best careers for moms going back to school are the ones that are interesting and challenging, and also job security and a good salary.
Based on studies and surveys of mothers, as well as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some of the best careers for moms going back to school:
- Medical Assistant
- Sonogram Technician
- Dental Hygienist
- Fitness Trainer
- Social Worker
- Web Designer
- Public Relations Consultant
- Market Research Analyst
As you can see, healthcare, education, hospitality, marketing and technology are popular fields for moms going back to school. These careers may be a good fit for you, and are likely to provide a good return on your investment.
How can I afford college? Are there grants and scholarships for women going back to college?
Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay for college on your own. There is financial aid available, including scholarships and grants for mothers returning to college, married or single moms going back to school, and college grants for women – there are opportunities for people in all situations!
Step One: FAFSA
First, you will want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There is no age limit to financial aid; this application is open to everyone. It will give you access to grants, loans and work-study programs.
Many students – especially non-traditional students – don’t complete the FAFSA because they don’t believe they will qualify for need-based assistance, but the truth is, most students do. And even if you don’t, the FAFSA can help you access student loans with very low interest rates.
Here are a few examples of scholarship opportunities for moms going back to school:
- GoGirl! Grants – for women living or studying in California; Must be 25 or older and demonstrate financial need
- Imagine America Scholarship – for adults over age 21 who plan to improve their future and enter a trade profession
- Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Foundation – for low-income women over 35
- Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation – for a low-income mother of minor children seeking her first degree or certificate
- Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers’ Annual Single Mother Scholarship – for single mothers working towards an undergraduate degree and/or a law degree
There really are so many grants and scholarships, if you’re willing to do some digging.
And finally, check with the financial aid office at the school you choose to see if they offer any additional financial aid opportunities for parents returning to school.