How to Survive Your First Semester of College (As a Mom)

Tips to help you get through the first semester of college successfully

In many ways, the first semester of college is probably the most important one since it can set the tone for the rest of your college days. Many college students (especially moms) never recover from a bad first semester of college, so it’s really important to get off on the right foot.

As a mom, you are going to face some unique challenges that other college students won’t face, so that adds a different level of stress to your college experience. With all that said, going back to school as a mom can be a positive experience for you, as long as you have a plan for your first semester of college and beyond.

In this post, I will show you how to get through the first semester of college successfully, so you can lay a solid foundation for the rest of your college days.

Here’s how to rock your first semester of college as a mom



When I decided to go back to school as a single mom, I knew the first semester was crucial for my success. If I could survive the first semester, then I believed I could go all the way, so it was really important for me to set some goals and have a solid plan for achieving them.

Now, did I meet all the goals I set? No, I did not, but setting goals gave me something to aim for, and more importantly, those goals served as a guide. Without goals, you can find yourself in a whole lot of trouble as a mom in college.

For example, if you don’t set the right goals for your first semester of college, you can easily get distracted with other domestic responsibilities, and before you know it, you are behind in college and playing catch up. You really don’t need that on top of everything else.

So, believe me when I say the first step to getting through the first semester of college is goal setting. Now, the question is, what kind of goals should you set for your first semester of college? Below are some important goals you can set.


  • Study and do some schoolwork every day. This one is a biggie if you don’t want to fall behind in college.
  • Attend all your classes and pay attention during lectures.
  • Pass all your classes (if you like you can specify a minimum grade. For me, it was at least a “B” or you can specify a minimum GPA you’d like to achieve). This was important for me because I wanted to apply to the nursing program.
  • Stay organized.
  • Use your time well and be productive.
  • Not totally ignore your family.
  • Manage your finances well
  • Stay healthy (which means, getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising when you can, etc.).

There are lots of goals you can set for your first semester of college, but it’s better to keep your list short. Also, your goals have to be realistic to avoid disappointment. Aim high, but understand you will have a lot on your plate.

So, go ahead and write down some goals you’d like to achieve. At the end of the semester, review your goals to see if you achieved them. Take note of what worked, what didn’t, and any obstacle you faced that prevented you from reaching a particular goal. That’s how you improve and continue to thrive in college.

Related: How to Stay Healthy as a Busy Student Mom


You know what they say. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It’s all well and good to set those lofty goals, however, unless you have a clear plan, you are not going to achieve any of them.

Don’t get me wrong, lots of moms and other college students manage to get through college without taking the time to create a plan. I mean, you can wing it and still do all right, but as a very busy mom, having a plan makes life so much easier, so why wouldn’t you want to do it?

I like knowing what I want to do, and how I want to do it. For example, before I enrolled in my first semester classes, I knew which classes I wanted to take because I had mapped out a plan.

When I met with an advisor to discuss my plan for applying to the nursing program, she tried to tell me what courses to take, but I told her I had a plan, and I didn’t want to take some of those classes because I was going to test out of them.

Not to toot my own horn, but the advisor was impressed and wished me luck. And, I actually tested out of those classes (the only “downside” was that I had to take two unrelated classes to make up the twelve credit hours I needed to take).

So, my point is, a plan is your best bet for achieving your goals. Write it out. Put a time or deadline on it (where applicable). I find that when I map things out, they get done more often than not, compared to when I just have it in my head.

Another benefit of having a plan is that it keeps you focused, and that’s very important when you are a mom in college.

So, here are some examples of goals and a plan to achieve them.

Goal – Study and do some school work every day.

Plan – Schedule fixed study times in my planner

Goal – Never submit an assignment late

Plan – Make a note of all deadlines. Start working on assignments as soon as I receive them. Allow at least two days before the deadline.

When you look at these examples, don’t you feel like it’s something you can do? That’s the beauty of setting goals and having a plan.

Now, over to you.


Lots of students are so excited about their first semester of college they forget to think about their workload and other responsibilities. If you are a young adult in college with no other responsibilities, then that’s fine since you can just go ahead and focus on your studies.

However, if you are a mom, older adult, or have other responsibilities like work, then it’s vital that you consider your workload and how much you can actually take on in your first semester of college.

Here’s what I am talking about.

Let’s say you are a mom who has to work thirty-five to forty hours a week. You have three kids you homeschool or maybe they are doing online school at the moment, and they still require your help with homework and schoolwork. Perhaps, you are also a single mom.

As you can see, that’s already a heavy workload for anyone to manage. When you throw in college, you can see how things can look pretty overwhelming. So, my point is, think about all your outside responsibilities before you choose how many classes to sign up for.

I know for some of you, you have to take a specific number of classes or credit hours to satisfy your financial aid requirement, and that’s fine. If that’s the case, then you should focus on reducing some of your workload outside school.

If your goal is to have a great first semester of college, then you must pay attention to your workload. Be mindful of things you sign up for. Don’t get carried away and sign up for everything under the sun.

I know some of you have been waiting a long time to go back to college, while others want to complete college as fast as possible. While I understand that, you have to be realistic about what you can handle unless you want to drop classes mid-semester, or not do as well as you should academically.

It’s important to learn how to pace yourself while you are in college. This is one of the keys to getting through successfully.


Going to college is pretty exciting. You want all the latest gadgets and cool toys. Anything to make college easier and make you more productive. Except, a lot of the things you end up spending money on will go unused.

You can get into a lot of financial problems in your first semester of college, so you have to be vigilant. Be wary of signing up for credit cards or loans because they are offered to you or are easily accessible. I know how tempting it is to have access to money you don’t have to pay back for a while, but it’s a slippery slope that can cause long-term financial damage.

So, watch your spending in college especially the first semester when you are still trying to figure things out. Create a budget and try as much as possible to stick to it. Avoid unnecessary bells and whistles and stick to only what you need.

One of your college goals should be to graduate with minimal or no debt, so keep your eye on that. There are some essential items all college students need, beyond that, it is a personal choice.

Finally, always look for ways to cut costs and save money. Look at different options before making any financial decision. While the best option isn’t always the cheapest one, try to save money wherever you can.

Talking about college essentials, here’s a short list of things you need for your first semester of college.

Of course, you might need other items depending on your major, but the items above are must-haves for all college students.

Remember to shop smart!


I am not going to lie. Going to college can become a grind especially if you are juggling other responsibilities. There’s a reason mid-semester slump is a thing. No matter how excited you are about going to college, after a while, college life starts to take a toll on you.

Yes, this can happen even in the first semester of college, so you need to watch out for it especially as a mom. You need to find a way to stay motivated when you are tired from staying up late every night to study, or your kids refuse to go to bed, or you look around and your house is a mess.

Some days, you will feel like throwing in the towel because everything becomes too much to handle. Sadly, this is the reason the graduation rate for student parents is pretty poor compared to the rate for non-parents.

So, make sure you have a plan for staying motivated in college even in your first semester. Yes, this applies to you whether you are a mom or not. Lots of college students lose motivation in college. Some get pretty burned out they lose interest in studying or finishing college. Don’t let that happen to you.

Here are some ways to stay motivated in college.

  • Take breaks. Don’t allow yourself to get too overwhelmed.
  • Keep your eyes on the prize.
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish a big goal (or even a small one).
  • Always focus on the positives. Positives thoughts can keep you from getting down on yourself.
  • Have fun whenever you can.

Here is what you can do if you are losing motivation in college.

Related: How to Get Back on Track for Moms Losing Motivation in College


In a way, the first semester of college is mostly about surviving and doing the best that you can. Many students struggle to adapt to college life because it’s unlike anything they have ever experienced.

Self-doubt and uncertainty can derail you if you take your eyes off the prize. So, it’s crucial to build up your confidence, so you can weather the storm.

While lots of college students have confidence issues, I have noticed a lot of moms struggle with this issue. Many keep questioning their decision to go back to college, while others feel out of place or like they don’t belong because they are much older than their classmates.

Another reason many moms struggle with self-confidence is that they think they don’t know enough or aren’t smart enough. So these moms tend to shy away from group work (if they can) or class discussions. But, you can’t get through college this way.

If you have confidence issues, you need to address them as soon as possible because they can hinder you and make college harder for you.

Here are some ways to fix self-confidence issues (especially if you are a mom returning to college after a long gap).

  • Identify knowledge gaps and fix them.
  • Affirm to yourself that you belong. There’s no reason to feel self-conscious in class. Remind yourself you are living your dream and pursuing your goals.
  • If you have a problem with how you look (you shouldn’t), you can groom yourself, dress nicely but affordably, and learn to be comfortable in your own skin. Personally, I feel more confident when I am well-groomed (clean clothes, clean hair, and teeth), and when I dress nicely.
  • Always be prepared for class. Do you have a professor who likes to call on you? Then, make sure you are prepared to dazzle before each class. Take some time to go through your previous notes before class and be ready if called upon.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others (even friends).

There you have it. Some easy ways to boost your confidence in college. Self-confidence can affect your performance in college, so it’s an important area to focus on if you struggle in this area.


One truth I have learned is that no excitement or motivation can never replace hard work. I have been excited about a lot of things in the past, but many of them yielded no result because I didn’t invest the time I needed to.

No matter how excited or motivated you feel about something, you still have to work hard to make it a reality. Want to leave college with a degree? Then, you are going to have to work hard for it. There are no shortcuts (at least I don’t know of any).

You put your head down and keep plugging on day after day until you achieve your goal.

Now, working hard doesn’t mean you completely ignore yourself. No, you still need to take care of yourself because you need a healthy body and mind to work on your goals.

So, have a plan for staying healthy while in college. Take as many breaks as you can squeeze out of your busy schedule, and never ever give up.

Related: How to Stay Healthy as a Busy Student Mom

Final thoughts on how to survive your first semester of college

The first semester of college can set you up for success, so it’s good to get off on the right note. That’s not to say you can’t recover from a bad semester. You can, but it’s so much easier if you start off right. note.

So use the tips in this post to lay a solid foundation for your life in college. Set goals, create a plan, manage your workload, and work hard. Don’t forget to have some fun while you are at it because we all need a break sometimes.

Finally, remember to stay confident and positive no matter what you are going through. And, remember to ask for help if you need it.

You got this!

Are you thinking of going back to school or are you in your first semester? What do you find most challenging?

Related mom and student articles

Time Management for Moms in College: How to Balance it All

How to Create an Effective Student Mom Schedule

How Many Classes Should I take My First Semester of College?

How to Survive Your First Semester of College (As a Mom)

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