Must have skills for single moms who want to succeed in college
Single moms in college face a lot of challenges. Some of these challenges while pretty daunting can be navigated with the right skills. Lots of single moms struggle to get through college because they are ill-equipped to tackle these challenges.
Whether you are a single mom going to college for the first time or for a post-graduate degree, having the right skills will make college easier to manage, and ensure you are able to complete college in good time.
In my experience, here are some of the most important skills single mothers attending college should have.
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1. GOOD COMMUNICATION AND INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
From the moment you decide to go back to college, you are going to start interacting with a lot of different people. Knowing how to communicate effectively is a very useful skill to have.
I remember when I was trying to decide between two colleges. I sent a lot of emails because I had a lot of questions that needed answers, and also made a few calls to clarify some things (because nothing beats talking to a real person).
After talking and emailing, I got enough information to make a decision on which college to attend, because I was able to communicate my needs, and what I was looking for in a college. So, the ability to work and communicate with different people in your college will go a long way to making your college experience a positive.
Whether it’s talking to your professors, an academic adviser, the staff at the testing center or financial aid office, or your fellow students, good interpersonal skills will ensure you get the help that you need to succeed as a single mom in college.
If you need help with your communication or interpersonal skills, I recommend you read the book below for some useful tips.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Related: 10 Important Questions for Single Moms Going Back to School
2. ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS
Single moms in college need organizational skills to manage all their responsibilities. A single mom in college needs to plan, delegate, and control different tasks, for everything to run smoothly.
To balance family, college, and work responsibilities, you will need to be organized. While it’s possible to wear more than one hat without being organized, the problem is, you will struggle to be productive and effective, if you are disorganized.
Good organizational skills will allow you to stay focused, use your time and energy efficiently, and also multi-task successfully. When you are a single parent, you are responsible for practically everything, which means, the only way to achieve your desired outcome is to learn to be organized.
Being organized means keeping your home in a reasonable order, staying on top of your academics, and keeping up with your work responsibilities. Disorganization often leads to chaos and increases your stress levels.
Personally, I prefer it when my life is orderly and everything makes sense. I can’t really thrive when I am disorganized. I don’t like the feeling that everything is out of control or that I am just reacting to things, instead of being proactive.
So, if you are struggling to keep up with the demands of parenting and being a college student, start by taking a good look at how you currently run your life. Are you organized? Is everything in order? Do you have a clear plan, or are you flying by the seat of your pants?
Related: How to be an Organized Mom in College
3. ANALYTICAL AND PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
As a single mom in college, you will likely face some new challenges. The ability to analyze different situations and find solutions to these problems will determine whether you succeed or not.
Lots of single moms have learned how to be creative to get by. As a mom in college, you will require a higher level of creativity to be able to problem-solve. For example, what happens if your regular babysitter can’t look after your kids and you have to go to work or school? What if your kid is sick on the day you have a test?
Those examples are some of the real-life problems that could happen to you.
The ability to think on your feet and come up with solutions without panicking is really important to your success. So, learn to become a confident problem-solver. Develop the ability to analyze situations quickly and effectively.
Effective and creative problem-solving requires a lot of practice. As long as you have a good process for approaching problems, you should be able to come up with solutions for any obstacle you might encounter.
4. GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Poor time-management is the reason many single moms can’t juggle college and parenting effectively. Single moms in college are responsible for a lot of things, and the only way for things to run smoothly is to have good time-management skills.
When you have poor time- management you will be unable to stay on top of all your responsibilities. With poor time-management, your ability to juggle everything becomes harder, and you may find your life spinning out of control.
The easiest way to avoid feeling overwhelmed or burned out is to manage your time well. Keep a schedule of tasks that need to be done, make a note of important deadlines, how much work you need to do, and things that need urgent attention.
Don’t let your work or tasks pile up before you start working on them. Pace yourself and always allow yourself enough time to complete tasks. Good time management skills will increase your overall productivity, meaning you can get a lot more stuff done in the time that you have.
Good time-management skills can be learned even if you are a chronic time waster. You just need a little self-discipline and lots of practice until it becomes second nature.
Time management is one of the most important skills you can develop as a single mom in college. Taking control of how you spend your time will not only help you stay on track and get more done throughout the day, it will also keep you sane.
5. HOW TO SAY NO
As a single parent in school, you have to learn how to say no. Knowing when to say no can be a lifesaver for single mothers attending college. While no is such a simple two-letter word, it’s also one of the hardest words to say (especially if you are a people pleaser).
Saying no isn’t fun especially to your kids, friends, or loved ones, but if you want to succeed in college, learning how to say no is something you must do. You are going to have lots of opportunities to say no throughout this journey, so the sooner you learn this skill, the better you will be.
You need to know when to say no to your kids, your employer, fellow students, church, or someone else. You’re going to have to say no to staying up late watching TV or wasting time on Facebook when you should be sleeping or studying.
So, get comfortable saying no because the alternative is far worse. Saying yes when you should say no will end up costing you a lot of time and energy you should be spending on something else.
Yes, you will probably feel guilty for saying no, but think of it as self-care and doing what’s best for you and your family.
6. RESEARCH SKILLS
For single moms in college, good research skill isn’t something that is optional but necessary. You need to know how and where to find answers to your questions or get much-needed help. I find that it’s easier to find answers when I get a headstart and have some information.
As an example, there are lots of resources for single moms in college, but the only way to find out about them is to do lots of research.
So, instead of waiting for someone to spoonfeed you all the information you need, become proactive. Do your own research so when you ask questions or ask for help, you will do so from a position of power instead of helplessness.
Being well-informed on a topic is always an advantage because you won’t get pushed around or ignored. Remember when doing research, only use quality or official websites. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so be careful where you go to get your information.
As a college student, you will need to do a lot of research when writing papers, looking for financial aid, or something else. So, work on improving your research skill until you feel comfortable with it.
If you think you need to improve your research skills, check out the article below for some helpful tips.
How to Improve Your Research Skills: 6 Research Tips
7. FINANCIAL SKILLS
Another skill you definitely need to cultivate as a single mom in college is good money management skills.
As a single mom, you are responsible for making all the financial decisions for your family, especially as the breadwinner. Being a sole provider isn’t very easy unless you earn a lot of money. Sadly, lots of single moms don’t earn a lot of money and struggle to make ends meet.
Going to college is an extra financial burden for single parents, so you are going to need to learn to manage your finances effectively. You have to pay rent, other household expenses, tuition, and also cover other college expenses while living on a limited income (or no income).
Knowing how to manage your personal finances is the key to avoiding financial stress while in college. If you don’t know how to manage your finances, the easiest way to start is to create a budget and start tracking your spending. Next, take a look at your expenses and see if you can eliminate a few of them to save money.
Learning good money habits takes time, but the sooner you start, the quicker you can get a handle on your finances. If you are completely clueless about personal finance, the resources below are a good starting point for beginners. Check them out!
Budget Planner and Expense Tracker Notebook
Budget Planners and Bill and Expense Traackers
Yes, resilience is a skill, and one you definitely need to succeed as a single mom in college. The ability to adapt and bounce back from stress and other problems you will likely face will determine whether you succeed or fail.
If you are someone who gets stressed very easily, or someone who gives up too quickly, you need to start building your resilience muscles. Resilience can be developed with practice and determination.
As a single mom in college, there were lots of times I wanted to give up because I was so stressed. Trust me, it would have been so easy to give up. But, I had invested a lot of time and money into going back to school, and I wasn’t about to throw all that away. I admit I can be pretty stubborn.
But more than stubbornness, it was the promise of a better life that spurred me on. A college degree would open doors and allow me to become financially stable. So, if your goal is a better life for you and your family, you must learn to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.
When you go through those dark moments, believe in yourself and your ability to find a way out. Draw strength from wherever you can find it, whether it’s through prayer, reading the Bible, or making positive affirmations. Whatever works for you.
Remember there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so always try to have a positive mindset.
In case you are wondering why this is a skill or why you need it, the answer is, sometimes when everything or everyone fails, all you have left is yourself. So, you’ve got to be able to count on yourself and rely on yourself.
One of the biggest challenges single parents face is lack of support, and this problem is even more evident when you become a college student. If you are a single mom with a reliable support system, consider yourself blessed and fortunate.
So, what does self-reliance look like for single moms in college? It means you can solve problems and make good decisions on your own. As a self-reliant person, you can come to independent decisions on your own without feeling paralyzed or crowdsourcing opinions.
A self-reliant single mom pursues her goals bravely and equips herself to ensure she succeeds. Now, this doesn’t mean you never ask for help, it just means, you believe in yourself and you recognize you have what it takes to make it.
People will fail you, promises will be broken, but as long as you can count on yourself, you are going to be just fine.
So, ask yourself, “can I count on me?”
10. STUDY AND TECH SKILLS
I wasn’t sure whether to include study skills or not because everyone needs to develop their own approach to studying or learning. What I have discovered is that what works for one person may not work for the other, and studying without kids is way different from studying with kids.
For example, I had to change the way I used to study when I went back to college because it wouldn’t have worked, and it would have frustrated me and my kids.
What I will say is that you need good study skills and good study habits if you want to be successful. Something else that helped me in college was being consistent. I did better when I followed a consistent study pattern than when I studied sporadically.
If possible, have a dedicated space you use for studying, but I can assure you that may not be necessary. As long as you are comfortable and have little or no distraction, you should be able to study. Also, find the time that works best for you. Some people prefer studying at night while others would rather study during the day. There’s no hard and fast rule.
You also need adequate or good tech skills if you want to do well in college. You will need tech skills to communicate with your teachers or maybe other students, access your college’s student portal, create documents and presentations, submit assignments, take online classes, and perform Internet research.
You can learn or develop tech skills so don’t worry if you are not very good at it. Your college will have a tech department and you can ask them for help whenever you need it. You can also pick up some skills online or through constant practice.
You will struggle in college without adequate tech skills so make sure you keep working on it and improving your tech skills.
Final thoughts on 10 most important skills every single mom in college should have
Single moms in college have a lot to think about and contend with. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus, that’s why it’s so important to focus on the right stuff. Focus on the things that will get you to your destination.
Lots of single parents fail to graduate from college, but having the right skills will help you to thrive and succeed in college. So, take a second look at the skills list in this post, do you need to work on any of them? Are there skills you need to improve or learn?
Start by picking a skill you’d like to learn or improve, spend some time practicing the skill before moving onto the next one. That’s how you form useful habits and develop essential life skills.
Are you a single mom in college? Do you lack any of these skills?
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