The best pieces of advice to help moms succeed when they go back to school
There are lots of reasons why moms go back to school. Some moms return to school to complete a degree, change careers, or gain a promotion at work so they can earn more money. Whatever your reason is for going back to college, the pieces of advice in this post can help you achieve your dream.
It’s always nice to have a road map or a plan before you undertake a journey. Having a plan can help you identify potential challenges, so you can come up with an action plan to deal with the challenge.
I jumped back into college without really having a plan. All I knew was that I needed to graduate in three years. I didn’t really take the time to identify potential challenges or a way to combat them. My lack of planning made things harder than they should have been. All in all, I am happy I got through college in spite of it all.
So, don’t be like me. Have a plan for your journey and make your life less stressful. Here are the best pieces of advice for moms going back to school.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY CAN BE FOUND HERE
1. CHOOSE YOUR PROGRAM OF STUDY
So, you have decided you want to go back to school? Great! The next step is to choose your program of study. What do you want to study in college?
The best degrees for moms going back to school are degrees that allow you to use your skills, earn a good salary, and are family-friendly.
Don’t choose a degree because you read about it, or your friends told you about it. Choose a degree you are interested in, and you know you can complete.
2. FIND A COLLEGE THAT OFFERS YOUR PROGRAM OF STUDY
Once you have chosen a course of study, the next step is to find a college that offers the program. Check out community colleges (if you don’t already have a degree) or four-year colleges. Most big cities or towns usually have a lot of options.
3. FIND OUT THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENT
After choosing a college to attend, the next step is to find out their admission requirements. You can actually do this step before choosing a college. Make sure you can meet their requirements before investing time or money in any school.
4. CONSIDER AFFORDABILITY
For moms going back to school, affordability is a big concern. Can you afford the college you want to attend? Is the tuition competitive? Can you get lower tuition somewhere else?
College is expensive, so it’s really important to consider whether you can afford a particular college or not before you dive in.
5. HOW WILL YOU PAY FOR COLLEGE?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will figure things out later. You need to know how you will pay for college before you enroll. What are your options for paying for college?
Will you pay out of pocket, use student loans or something else?
6. SEARCH FOR SCHOLARSHIPS, GRANTS AND OTHER FINANCIAL AID
College is much more affordable if you can get some scholarships or financial aid. Research scholarships and financial aid packages. Make sure you apply for anything that you qualify for before the deadline.
7. HAVE A CLEAR AND ACHIEVABLE GOAL
This advice is very relevant if you are going back to school as a parent. Before heading back to college, take the time to articulate your goal for going back to school.
Many moms go back to school without having a strong purpose. These moms are more likely to give up when life gets rough. Ensure you have a clear goal, but most importantly, your goal should be achievable.
I remember when I wanted to be a doctor. I was very clear about my goal, unfortunately, that wasn’t an achievable goal for me, for so many reasons.
8. EVALUATE YOUR EXISTING SKILLS
Do you have what it takes to succeed in college? For example, you need some tech and writing skills to do well in college. Brush up on your existing skills and figure out any additional help you may require to succeed in college.
9. DEVELOP GOOD STUDY HABITS
Learn what kind of study habits work best for you and the best time to study. I will be honest with you, going back to school as a parent, you will have to learn to be flexible with how you study and when to study.
You will have to adapt and possibly change your usual study habits if necessary. Trying to stick to your usual patterns (your study habits before you had kids), probably won’t work and may lead to tears and frustration. As long as you study, you can figure everything else out.
10. ORGANIZE YOUR FINANCES AND LEARN TO SAVE MONEY
If you are self-funded like I was, college is going to eat up a big part of your income or savings. You have to learn to organize your finances and save money.
Look for little ways to cut costs to make college more affordable. For example, consider renting textbooks instead of buying (as long as it’s a cheaper option). You can buy used books or older editions of textbooks (as long as the material is still relevant). This is how I was able to afford college.
Of course, you may not be able to save on some things, but save whenever you can.
11. SEEK HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT
Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed, burned out, or failing out of college before you seek help. Seek help as soon as you need it. There’s nothing to be ashamed of asking for help.
Getting the help you need can put you back on track no matter how dire things look. Whether it’s academic, medical, psychological, or financial help, the sooner you ask for it, the better you will be.
12. REMEMBER TO HAVE SOME FUN
Lots of moms go back to school and end up giving up a lot of stuff they love, because of lack of time. College is hard and requires a lot of time and dedication especially for moms. However, you don’t have to give up everything.
Add a bit of fun to your life. If time and resources permit, a little social life won’t hurt. Keep doing some of the things you love like reading novels, listening to music, or watching good movies. As long as everything is done in moderation, you will be just fine.
13. TAKE ONE CLASS OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Whether it’s a prerequisite or an elective, take a class that will challenge you or pushes you out of your comfort zone. For me, that class was my speech and communication class.
I had to do a presentation in front of the class and I thought I was going to die. I ended up getting an “A” in that course, and I discovered public speaking wasn’t too bad!
14. LOVE YOUR BODY AND HEALTH
For moms going back to school, it’s easy to abuse your body or neglect self-care. But, you can’t afford to do that. No matter how busy you are, you can always find time to eat healthy, exercise, hydrate, and get some sleep.
15. BECOME A GOOD MANAGER OF YOUR TIME
This is one of those things that is really not negotiable. Unless you learn to manage your time effectively, you are going to struggle to balance college and being a mom.
Going back to school while raising a family is a balancing act, and the only way to make it work is to manage your time well.
16. DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS
Critical thinking is a skill that is lacking in so many people. The good news is that it can be learned. You need critical thinking to do well academically and also to make the best decisions for you and your family.
As a parent going back to school, you have to make a lot of difficult decisions, the ability to think critically and problem solve is essential for your success. So, learn to dig deep.
17. STAY POSITIVE EVEN WHEN YOU FEEL ANXIOUS
There are days when you will feel anxious and overwhelmed with everything. There were days when I felt giving up was the best thing to do to save my sanity. But, I looked on the bright side and I persevered.
Things aren’t always as bad as they first appear, so even when you feel anxious or defeated, don’t give up, or give in. Take a step back, assess the situation, get help if you need it, and keep plugging away.
Staying positive and motivating yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself.
18. HAVE A PLAN FOR DEALING WITH EMERGENCIES
When you have kids, you are bound to have some emergencies. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with those emergencies. If you are a single mom, you need a plan and someone you can rely on in an emergency.
What happens when your child gets sick and you can’t take him to the child care center? What if you are running late to pick up your kids? What if you are sick? While we all hope for the best, it’s better to think ahead and have a plan for emergencies.
19. MAKE SOME FRIENDS
Everyone needs a friend. Don’t isolate yourself from others. College is a great way to meet new people and make friends. Be outgoing, reach out to people, and be willing to make friends.
While you don’t need lots of friends, a few friends certainly won’t hurt. Your friends don’t even have to be moms like you. I made some single friends while in college, and they were pretty awesome.
20. CHOOSE EARLY CLASSES IF YOU CAN
I liked going to school early so I could finish my classes in good time. I was able to do this in my first year of college (taking prerequisite classes), but I couldn’t do it when I started my major.
If you can, try to choose early classes. I found that waking up early, going straight to school, and coming back in the early afternoon gave me a lot more time to spend with my kids and do other stuff.
It’s okay if early classes doesn’t work for you, but I wanted to put it out there since I think it’s beneficial.
21. TEST OUT OF COLLEGE COURSES TO SAVE TIME AND MONEY
As a mom going back to school, you are probably thinking of ways to save time and money. When I decided to go back to college, I wanted to graduate as quickly as possible, so I could save money, and start earning a better salary.
The way I accomplished those goals was to test out of as many classes as I could. So, instead of spending two or more years taking prerequisite classes, I spent three semesters (spring, summer 1, and fall).
In all, I took seven CLEP exams and was able to complete college in record time. Depending on your college, you can test out of even more courses. Before taking a CLEP exam, find out if your school awards credit for the test and what score you need to have.
You can actually take some CLEP exams before enrolling college, as long as the school you want to attend will accept them.
22. CELEBRATE SMALL VICTORIES
When a mom goes back to school, life becomes even more hectic. There are days when getting through the day will feel like a major victory. It’s okay to celebrate small wins in your life because they serve as motivation for bigger wins.
Made it to through the day without someone having a meltdown? That’s a small victory. Completed an assignment before the due date? Yup, another win.
Little things matter when you are a mom in school, so feel free to celebrate these wins while you continue to work on your big goals.
23. REMOVE TOXIC PEOPLE FROM YOUR LIFE
Not everyone is going to be happy you are going back to school or moving on with your life. Unfortunately, some people will only support you as long as you stay on their level. The moment you decide to go after your dream, they feel threatened and become toxic.
You don’t need toxic people in your life. Going back to school as a parent is already hard enough without toxic people trying to bring you down. Surround yourself with positive people who encourage you to be the best that you can be.
24. GET YOUR HUSBAND AND KIDS ON BOARD
Having the support of your husband and kids is very important when a mom goes back to school. A supportive husband can make life a lot easier for you since they can take on more responsibility at home.
I went to college as a single mom and didn’t really have much help around the house. My kids were babies, so I had to spend a lot of time caring for them too. If you have a supportive spouse and older kids, your journey should be much easier than mine, as long as you ask for help and delegate tasks to them.
Don’t try to do everything yourself when you can ask for help.
25. STAY FOCUSED WHEN YOU ARE IN CLASS
I had classmates who texted or talked the whole time they were in class. This is very distracting and not a good use of your time. Sometimes, your professors or teachers slip little nuggets of information during a lecture. You don’t want to miss valuable information because you were distracted.
Try to stay focused when you are in class, so you can get the best out of every lecture.
26. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR COLLEGE’S RESOURCES
Most colleges have resources that are beneficial to students. Find out what resources your college has, and which resources you can utilize to make your college experience better.
If you are a first-generation college student, some colleges have special resources or services to support you. My college had academic advisement, transfer advising, help with registering for classes, tutoring and academic coaching, disability support services, and many others.
There’s no reason why you should struggle through college when help may just be a call away. So, make sure you know what your college offers, and take advantage of the free resources. Don’t forget to check out the library too!
27. INVEST IN THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR COLLEGE
Depending on your program of study, you may need to buy some special tools for college, but there are a few things most college students need. Investing in the right tools for college will make it easier to succeed, and your life will be more pleasant.
Some tools to invest in include:
- A good laptop especially if you plan to attend an online college (it doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but it should be fit for purpose).
- A backpack or laptop backpack (if you plan to take your laptop to school).
- The right clothes for college, for example, jeans, comfortable tops.
- Good walking shoes. I did a lot of walking when I was in college. Walking from one part of the campus to the other can take a toll on your feet, so you need good and comfortable walking shoes to mitigate that.
28. BECOME MORE ORGANIZED
Being organized is one of the best ways to ensure you thrive in college. Take some time to organize your life before you start college. Put your home in order, clear out clutter, organize a study space for yourself.
Staying organized will also help you keep track of important dates and deadlines, so you don’t miss out on important things. It’s easy to forget things when you are busy or juggling lots of things, the only way to balance it all is by staying organized.
Related: How to be an Organized Mom in College
29. FEEL GUILTY BUT STILL DO IT
This is just another way of saying, ditch the guilt. Moms carry a lot of guilt no matter what they are doing. Working moms feel guilty for working, stay at home moms feel guilty for not working. It’s a vicious cycle.
I have been a mom for a while and I have decided that I won’t allow guilt get in the way of progress. As long as I am making good decisions that will benefit my family, I am just going to have to learn to live with the guilt, if I can’t ditch it.
So, don’t let guilt stop you from going back to college or pursuing your dream.
30. FOCUS ON THE REWARDS
Being a mom and going to school is tough. Some days, you will wake up and decide it’s time to quit. Sadly, some moms actually follow through. But, you know what? Quitting is easy and doesn’t solve anything.
Instead of quitting, focus on the rewards. Think about how you will feel if you complete college. Focus on how your family would be better off financially if you earn a college degree and get a better paying job, or your dream job.
Focusing on the reward is how I got through college. When I felt beaten down, I reminded myself why I went back to college. The promise of a better life spurred me on when I thought I couldn’t carry on.
I hope it does the same for you.
Final thoughts on the best tips to help moms go back to school
Whew! That’s a whole lot of information to consume. I wanted to give you as many tips as possible to help you not only go back to school but to succeed.
I know not all moms will know someone who went back to school with a family (I didn’t), so for those moms, I want to be a useful resource.
Use the tips and advice in this post in any way you want. Take what you need and ignore what doesn’t apply to you. What’s important is that you take action and go after your dream.
Going back to school as a mom is a rewarding experience, that’s why I am rooting for you.
Are you a mom who wants to go back to school? What’s stopping you?
Related mom and student articles
15 Important Success and Life Tips for The Mom Going Back to School
13 Reasons Being a College Mom is Amazing
13 Quick and Easy Tips for Moms Going Back to College