Work, Parenting, and College: 5 Tips to Be Successful

Woman reading with Children

Radio host and author Earl Nightingale once wrote that it’s never too late for a person with a purpose or worthy goal to reach “those upper layers on the pyramid.” Such a person, he wrote, “can travel further in a few years than he might otherwise travel in a lifetime.” 

Perhaps you've started your family life at a young age. Perhaps it wasn’t financially possible for you to get your degree when all your friends went off to college and then life took over. Now you’re a parent, and pursuing a college degree can seem like a far and distant dream.

Whatever your reasoning may be, we say it’s never too late! So if you’re a parent who wants to go back to school, here’s some advice to make your bachelor’s degree become a reality.

Going back to school while raising a family

Statistics show as many as one in five college students are parents. The 2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) found that around 3.8 million college students are actively raising children, 70% of which are mothers, and many are single mothers at that.

There are a variety of reasons why parents might choose to go back to college. It can be for personal fulfillment or to switch professions, to advance their existing careers, or to better support their families.

It’s not too late to start your journey.
Pursue your purpose at PLNU.

For working professionals who want to advance in their careers, a bachelor’s degree can help you earn about 65% more than those with just a high school diploma.  

Here are some tips to get you started and help you succeed.

1. A student parent: know what you’re in for

Is additional schooling even worth it?   

It’s essential to do your research and decide on your career path. You don't want to find yourself a few years later in debt simply because you didn’t do your research. Instead, do the due diligence and make sure a degree will help you achieve your career goals.

Not all bachelor's degrees were created equal.

Once you’ve decided a bachelor’s degree is the way to go, it’s time to decide on the school that’s the right fit for you. Make sure the school offers an accredited, quality degree.  

Consider the program's reputation, third-party endorsements on the school's website, and testimonials of alumni. Attend informational events and speak to professors and current students.  

It can be scary for adults to go back to school while raising a family. Speaking to an admissions counselor, though, can help ease your fears, and you certainly won’t be alone! There will be plenty of other parents in your classes in your same situation.

Talk to your kids.

That being said, it’s essential not to cut your kids out of the loop. They need to know why you’ll be doing more schoolwork. Even if they are little, you’d be surprised at how much they can understand and even help! 

Make sure your children understand how your decision will benefit not only you but, ultimately, them as well.

2. Money matters

A parenting student (and especially a single parent-student) must carefully think about money. Money matters to everyone, but a parent is more vulnerable. You never know when something unforeseen in connection with your kids can crop up that might impact your studies. 

Going back to school isn't always cheap.

The secret, however, lies in the planning. You must have a budget in place and think long-term about how going back to school will affect your family. Evaluate your financial capacity. Make sure your salary leaves enough legroom for emergencies.

Allocate some money for necessities, but also keep in mind that your degree might lead to a lucrative new career that will be a win-win down the line. Most importantly, don’t let a lack of money stall your dreams!  

There are many financial aid options you can consider:

  • Apply for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • The U.S. Department of Education gives financial aid to students. Perhaps your state can help? 
  • Employers often subsidize employees that want to further their career by studying. Speak to your employer about your plans.
  • Schools have financial aid centers that can help. See what PLNU can offer you here.  We believe in a holistic — and personalized — support system.
  • There are also quite a few scholarships just for moms! See some national-wide options here.

3. Time waits for no-one

Making the minutes count.

Being a parent and a student can be a daunting task. Throw in a 9-5-day job, and it can easily become overwhelming. Our third tip, therefore, is to make sure that, with a little planning, you can utilize your downtime effectively.

  • Try taking audio notes, which you can play and review while commuting or doing other tasks.
  • Other moments like waiting in line can be made more productive if you have flashcards of important topics you can review. You can also catch up on your reading or watch an assigned video.
  • Break up your study time into small, manageable bits. Not only will it give you more stress-free time with your family, but it’s also a more effective way of studying.
  • Plan meals beforehand to budget more time for studying. It can also be fun to create a menu together with older children to add more quality time back into your routine.
  • Be sure to organize your notes, assignments, and other important school documents. It can be a huge time waster to search for that one thing you need while you could be studying instead.
  • Be strict with your bedtime for younger children. Once they’re in bed, you can focus on studying.
  • Your local library or the quaint coffee shop on the corner can be the perfect place for some quiet, quality study time.

4. Stay motivated

Parents are strong students.

The higher education marketplace is great for parent-students who want to succeed. And in many ways, being a parent can make you a stronger student. You know what you want and what you’ve sacrificed to be in class. Parent-students can multi-task and say focused — a skill we’ve mastered by having children!

Learn when to say no.

Parents are often asked to join things, volunteer, or sit on committees. It’s more than okay to say 'no' as a parent-student or a single parent trying to obtain a higher degree. Once you've graduated, there will be plenty of time for these things again. For now, though, you want to make the most of your decision to care for your family while completing your classes.

More tips stay motivated:

  • Student advisors are great people! Build a relationship with yours from the start to help you stay motivated and encouraged.
  • Set practical goals for yourself. Smaller objectives will keep you motivated if you see the progress you’re making each day.  
  • Your professors are people too. Especially those who are parents themselves will understand your situation. Professors like students who engage with them and want to discuss their progress. In an online course, professors will often schedule virtual office hours. A lively discussion with your professor is sure to keep you motivated! Let your professors know you have children. That way, a sudden emergency at home won't come as a surprise.
  • Study together. With video chat software, it’s easy for parent-students to stay in touch with classmates who might be struggling with the same coursework as you are.
  • Don’t forget to reward yourself from time to time for a job well done.

5. Don’t feel guilty

‘The science fair was today?’ 

You might not be able to do as much during your studies that you’ve done before. , And as you may already know, you don’t have to know everything just because you are a parent. Remind yourself that this, too, will pass.

  • Apologize if you’ve missed a big family moment and keep moving forward.
  • Involve your older kids in your coursework by working on your school assignments together.
  • Remind younger kids they can play with a special toy only when you’re doing schoolwork.
  • Occasional screen time can buy you some time with a looming deadline.

Remember: there’s no better way to teach kids perseverance than by demonstrating it yourself. Don't feel guilty about following your dream.  

Go back to school in San Diego

A parent going back to school can only take care of a family — and themselves — by remembering to practice self-care. Going to school is an investment in your dreams and ultimately for the greater good of your family.  

Why not see what PLNU is offering?  

With part-time, online, and hybrid programs at a community college near you, PLNU’s bachelor’s degree programs may be just what you’re looking for! 

We provide thought-provoking and stimulating coursework, real-world examples, and other professional resources. 

Spend some time browsing PLNU’s accelerated undergraduate programs and be sure to connect with us about any questions you might have.  

Our student counselors are friendly, knowledgeable, and available to help you find your unique academic path to fulfill your calling. Most of our coursework is online, but there are also person-to-person meetings at a community college near you. 

Our virtual information events can also help you decide! See here for our upcoming events.