Tips For Parents Going Back To School


Going back to school as a parent can be intimidating. When my son was born, I thought “I’ll go back to school when he turns one. Things will be easier.” Soon I changed it to age two, then three, and so on. Eventually, I got divorced and became a single mom with no degree after almost five years of being a stay-at-home parent. I finally realized that there was never going to be a “perfect” time to go back. As kids grow they become more independent, but they also have more going on in their lives. No matter where you are in your parenting journey there are a few things you can do to make your time in school a more positive, fulfilling experience for yourself while still balancing parenting and all that comes with it. Here are some things that have helped me:

Be willing to make friends with your peers

Making just one or two friends in your program can help you feel connected to your school and excited about going to class. This can sometimes feel difficult as an adult student. I’m a bit introverted and I also deal with anxiety, so I understand the struggle! If you are going back to school, there is a good chance that you could be the only one in your age group or the only parent. If this is the case for you, check out the student groups on campus to see if there are any chances for adult students and/or parents in different programs to meet up; you may be surprised.

Be aware of your resources and ask for help

It can be difficult to ask for help as an adult going back to school, and it’s easy to think that resources are geared toward the “traditional” younger student in their first few years of living away from home. I mean, if you’re an adult you should have no problem with the piles of financial aid paperwork and dealing with your class registration, right? Remember, you have an equal right and equal opportunity to use these resources, so take advantage. Faculty and staff want to help you succeed, and are trained to help you with your unique circumstances as an adult student.
If you feel like there is a resource that would be beneficial to adult students and/or parents, don’t be afraid to speak up. Talk to your advisor about your suggestions; your feedback is important.

Be organized

I’m not a naturally organized person. I prefer to “wing it” with my free time and just go with the flow of the day. But with working, class, homework, and raising a young child, “go with the flow” doesn’t work well anymore. There is always an excuse to procrastinate and crawl under the covers to watch Netflix. Sound familiar?

During the school year, I organize dedicated blocks of time for homework, errands, and even focused one-on-one time with my kiddo. For instance, I have found through trial and error that I do some of my best work in the early morning hours before everyone else is up, while some mindless chores can be handled in the evening (with a good podcast!), so I dedicate those blocks of time to those activities only. I would also highly recommend taking some time at least once a week to plan and bulk prep some meals and snacks, especially if you pack lunch for yourself and/or your kids. I like to do this on Sundays while watching TV and it takes less and less time as you get the hang of it.
It’s not always what I feel like doing, but for me that level of discipline at home will be a huge part of the reason I will complete my degree.

Be gentle with yourself

Things happen: people get sick, homework gets turned in late, broccoli-tofu-pilaf is a universal failure, and cars break down. As adult students and parents, we often don’t have people to swoop in and solve these problems for us. It’s important to cut yourself a little slack when things don’t go as planned. You are not a failure when you do poorly on an assignment or when your kids have PB&J for dinner…again. You are only human.

If you can, try to find ways during the day to collect your thoughts and relax your mind. I try to schedule a few minutes a day to journal, meditate, space out to music, do an exercise video, or whatever else needed to manage stress. It’s not the same as a full-service vacation to the Bahamas, but it does help me find a little peace even during the hardest days.

Going back to school has taught me so much about myself. I have more courage and ability than I previously gave myself credit for! I encourage every parent who is ready to take the same chance I did. It sounds corny, but if I can do it you probably can, too!

Emily Fix is a student in the Digital Technology and Cultures program at the School of New and Continuing Studies. She lives in Kirkland, WA with her son and dog and spends most of her free time searching for the world’s best coffee.

For more information about how the programs at Seattle University’s School of New and Continuing Studies are geared toward adult students, please contact us

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