3 Things Moms Should Know When Going Back to College
College is not solely meant for the teenage freshman, and that fact is becoming even more relevant in recent years. A study from the National Center for Education Statistics reports that between 2013 and 2024, enrollment for students over the age of 25 is expected to increase by 14 percent. Among this demographic are moms.
Going back to school during midlife years can be daunting for anyone, but moms face a particular challenge. How do you balance school with domestic responsibilities, or in some cases, another job as well? Regardless of your situation, here are three important things every mom should know about going back to school.
Evaluate your schedule & availability
Ambition is a valuable attribute, but you need to be realistic about what kind of workload you can handle, especially in your first semester back. Take a good look at your current schedule and the schedules of your children. Which responsibilities are absolute necessities? Is there someone who can help share domestic duties, such as a partner, friend, or family member?
Once you’ve determined what free time you have, be sure to properly evaluate how much coursework you can fit in that allotted time. Remember, expect three hours of study per credit hour in college. Of course, this number can fluctuate, but if you enroll in one 3-credit course, you can expect roughly 9 hours of study each week outside of class. Knowing that, be sure you don’t enroll in more courses than you can handle. Try starting with one course and then go from there.
In an interview from Parenting.com, mother of two Niccole Footit decided to go back to school to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree after her husband lost his job. When asked about finding time for her coursework, Niccole said:
“I get a lot done after the kids’ bedtime and sometimes before they get up in the morning. It can be tough balancing everything, but I know I’ll be happy with the end result. I just have to keep in mind that it’s worth it to be tired so that I’ll be able to tell my kids how important college is, because I went myself.”
Take advantage of available resources
Despite the obstacles you’ll have to overcome, there are a number of resources available to help moms go back to school and get a degree. Finding help at home is crucial. Make sure you have reliable child care, whether from a partner or someone else. If possible, get help with other domestic duties, such as laundry, cleaning, shopping, and errands.
When you begin registering for classes, you’ll want to create a strong relationship with an academic advisor. There may be opportunities for testing out of courses you’re already familiar with, and your advisor is the best way to find these opportunities. Next, you’ll want to visit your institution’s financial aid office. CollegeAmerica offers several adult student scholarships, like the Single Parent Scholarship and the Moms in Math Scholarship.* There are other external scholarships and grants available for moms looking to complete their education. Start with a FAFSA application, which will determine if you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. You’ll be surprised to learn what grants and scholarships are available if you do a little digging. Apply for as many as you can.
Avoid scholarship and student loan services scams
As mentioned above, there are numerous scholarships and grants available to women and mothers looking to complete their education. This is money you don’t have to pay back. However, it’s important to use reliable sources when finding and applying for scholarships and other financial aid. Commercial financial aid advice services can cost over $1,000, and may leave you owing more than the total in scholarships they “help” you find. Don’t pay for a service you can easily do yourself, or with the help of a financial aid advisor at your campus, for free.
Unfortunately, there are fraudulent businesses out there that attempt to steal a customer’s identity under the guise of helping them find financial aid. Most legitimate organizations will not ask you for a credit card or bank account number, but never give out this information unless you know the organization you are giving it to is legitimate. For more information on how to spot potential fraud, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
Going back to school as a mom will be stressful enough, and some necessary budgeting is sure to help. You’ll want to avoid any unnecessary financial strain on your family, so be savvy in the resources you use to find scholarships and financial aid.
Pursuing higher education is an investment worth making. According to Brookings, the average college student makes $570,000 more than the average person with a high school diploma over the course of a lifetime.** Taking out a student loan to achieve that goal is worth it; just be sure you’ve exhausted all other resources first.
*Scholarship awards are limited and only available to those who qualify. See www.scholarshipshc.com for details.
**Earnings will vary by location and may be lower or higher than those listed.