There’s no denying that returning to school as a parent is challenging.
College parents face a variety of unique challenges. Finding a perfect balance between work, family, and school while attending to household and personal responsibilities can be stressful.
Fortunately, colleges have programs and organizations specifically designed to assist with the transition from parent to student.
Many colleges, especially community and technical schools, have on-campus daycare centers. Even some large, traditional universities offer child care programs as well. Colleges such as Arizona State, University of Oregon, University of Utah, Salt Lake City and Stanford University all offer on-campus daycare centers and in total, over 1200 colleges offer some sort of services, according to educationdepartment.org. See a full list of schools offering daycare services.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Parents in College
Typically, information about scholarships and financial aid for students with children can be found under headings for “non-traditional” students. The term “non-traditional” refers to students who were displaced from college or who never attended college post-high school. Be sure to search through the non-traditional sections on school and scholarship websites. More often than not, you will find some sort of program tailored to parents going back to school.
For example, Raise the Nation is a national grant program that helps single mothers deal with the financial burden of going back to school. Local scholarships—like the Arkansas Single Parents Scholarship Fund—are also available.
Financial aid for college students with kids is also quite common. Depending on their needs, parents in college can qualify for federal Pell grants, student loans, or state/university-specific financial aid programs. The first step in the financial aid process is to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application will determine your qualification for federal aid, and give you a good idea of where you stand in terms of financial assistance.
Online Education for College Parents
Many parents who want to further their educations choose online programs. Online programs have a unique set of advantages that can align with the needs of busy student-parents. The obvious advantage is that online educations allow students to spend more time at home. They aren’t required to commute to class, which means the extra expense of childcare doesn’t apply. Online programs are also more flexible; they allow students to do their coursework on their own time, and without the pressure of a deadline.
However, online programs do have their drawbacks. Many students find motivation to be difficult with online schools, and sometimes getting out of the house and away from the family for a short period of time helps with focus and work ethic. Discuss your options with your family and your advisor to determine which path best suits your strengths and weaknesses.
One of the appeals of higher education is that it instills a sense of community within its students. Clubs, student organizations, and sororities and fraternities allow students to make connections with people who have common interests. This isn’t only for traditional students however. Non-traditional students, such as students with children, also have unique opportunities within student organizations.
For example, the University of Missouri, St Louis and Northern Illinois University, Dekalb both offer sororities for student-moms. Additionally, many colleges have study groups and student-run organizations specifically for college students with kids.
As you explore your educational options, remember to take advantage of all of the opportunities designed for parents returning to college. You’ll find that these programs will not only help you financially, but can make you a happier student as well.
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