As a parent, it’s safe to say your needs have taken a backseat to those of your little ones, which is why it seems so difficult to consider going back to school. Several questions are probably running through your head.
Am I too old to go back to school? Will I be able to handle school work on top of my family obligations? Will my children feel neglected?
While these are valid questions, it’s important to know that it can be done! Hearing some great back-to-school tips may give you the self-assurance you need to overcome the apprehension you’ve been feeling.
It’s normal to be uneasy about returning to the classroom as an adult learner. But rest easy—you’re not alone!
More and more adults are continuing their education. In fact, as of April 2012, more than one-third of college students were older than 25, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
So before you head back to school, find out how you can make the most of the experience. But don’t take my word for it—hear it straight from others who have been in your shoes.
Tips from other parents
Here are some great tips from others who have continued their education after having children. These students have earned or are in the process of earning a variety of degrees from colleges and universities across the country, so take advantage of the advice they share.
Dayna Steele (Maritime juris doctor degree)
TIP 1: Sit down with your family and explain how important this is to you.
TIP 2: Make them aware that you’ll need an hour or two of uninterrupted study time and ask them to honor that request.
Ellen Pober Rittber (Juris doctor degree)
TIP 1: Let your kids pitch in with house work and family stuff. This will help them feel like they’re a part of your academic success.
TIP 2: Be sure to have reliable babysitters.
Pamela Layton McMurtry (Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts)
TIP 1: If you’re not in a big hurry to complete your degree, just take one class at a time. It’s less stressful but still enriching.
TIP 2: Never neglect your family or your dreams!
Tracey Cobb (Bachelor’s degree in management; Master’s degree in counseling)
TIP 1: Build a solid support system, whether it is your family or a community of people with similar goals. They will help encourage you and hold you accountable.
TIP 2: Procrastination kills! Whenever possible, try to stay ahead of assignments. That way, even when your kid gets sick or you have school conferences to attend, you won’t fall behind.
TIP 3: Believe in your dreams and do whatever it takes to reach your goal. When challenges arise, let them fuel your desire rather than kill your dream.
Jessica Gottlieb (Masters of Education degree)
TIP 1: I found I was a much better student in my 30’s than I was in my 20’s. Being able to draw on your life experiences makes otherwise daunting tasks simpler.
TIP 2: I think parents make wonderful students and conversely, students make excellent parents.
Eric Chen (Master’s degrees in management and accounting & taxation; Juris doctor degree; MBA)
TIP 1: As an adult learner, you are more mature and more focused on learning than a younger student. You should be seeking to acquire specific knowledge to make you more skilled, more productive or more valuable to the workforce.
TIP 2: Set aside 5-10 minutes each morning to plan your day. Make a list of all the things that need to be done and check them off as you go. At the end of the day, revisit your list to see if you accomplished everything and make note of how you could plan better next time.
TIP 3: School is a marathon, not a sprint. The long term goal demands a steady approach.
Sara Chana Silverstein (International board certified lactation consultant; Certified classical homeopath)
TIP 1: If possible, make your weekends family-focused.
TIP 2: Be ok with a “B” instead of an “A” if your family really needs you.
Dr. Alanna Vitucci (MBA)
TIP 1: Sitting down and having dinner with your kids is more important than whether or not you cooked the meal from scratch.
TIP 2: Find things that your kids love to do, but also give you time to study. For example, I bring textbooks to the playground and read while my kids play.
TIP 3: Know how your body works. I know that I can’t write anything after 10 p.m. so I get up early and write when my mind is fresh. That way, I get done what I needed to in half the time it would have taken me at night.
Tracy Gibb (Bachelor’s degree in business & technology)
TIP 1: Though you may feel guilty for spending less time and energy focusing on your kids, remember that you are teaching them the importance of education. Actions speak louder than words!
TIP 2: Don’t sacrifice your kids too much. Set aside time for them every single day when they get your undivided attention, even if it’s just 15 minutes. I put my son to bed and read him stories no matter how busy I was.
These insights from parents just like you illustrate several ways for working parents to be successful in the classroom. These back-to-school tips ought to help instill the confidence you’re seeking as you begin your journey towards graduation.
So as those butterflies flutter in your stomach when that first day of school rolls around, keep in mind that you are fully capable of earning a degree. Just remember Eric Chen's advice:
“School is a marathon, not a sprint.”
If you know of other helpful back-to-school tips for parents continuing their education, please share them in the comments below or connect with us on Facebook!