Now the ball has dropped signaling the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, many adults will be spending some time re-evaluating their lives and thinking about a change. For some of them that change could mean going back to college to pursue that unfinished degree or to earn another. Only now, the carefree days of their youth are behind them and studying will compete with work and raising a family. Pursuing a college degree is a noble, and expensive, endeavor and one that should not be entered into lightly. This New Year’s Resolution means time management and family finances will be challenged, but there are some strategies to employ to ease the stress.
Taking care of a family while working can be hard enough on its own, but throw in college courses and the task may seem insurmountable. With some organization and forward thinking the obstacles can be overcome.
Daycare – Finding a reliable babysitter or daycare provider is very important for any parent going back to school. Interview several candidates if necessary and if any give off any sort of negative feeling don’t use them. Timing is likely going to be critical and someone who is late or unavailable on a regular basis won’t work out. Make clear they may also need to be able to adapt their schedule somewhat, though it’s only common courtesy to give them a call if the children will be picked up or dropped off later than normal. If a study group suddenly decides to get together after class right before a big exam it would make sense to join them and arrange for someone else to pick up the kids.
Network – In cases where the plan is falling apart, have a few close friends or relatives on whom you can rely when an emergency happens. Have their phone numbers readily available so they can be called instantly.
Distance – Try to choose a campus as close to home as possible to cut down on traveling which interferes with family time.
Studying – Realize study time will have to occur whenever the opportunity presents itself. If children have afterschool activities or they seem needy when home, wait until they go to bed to study or do it while on lunch break. When it’s family time, don’t worry about the upcoming exam or term paper.
College costs have skyrocketed over the last few years but there is some financial help available.
Grants – Some programs offer adult student grants for parents who are returning to school. Grants are better than loans because the money usually does not need repaid. Grants can be available through federal and state government sources, civic groups and employers.
Save – Review your household spending, draw up a budget and cut out some expenses when possible. Put the money that is saved toward tuition.
Going back to school can be a challenge for a working parent but it is one worth facing. The knowledge and skills gained could mean a big difference in the future of the family.
written by: Christina Lloyd