It’s not always easy to finish college before you start a family. If you found yourself with children before you got your degree, you may be wondering how you can get a degree while balancing the busy life of a parent. The good news is that there are many options available if you do your research and plan ahead.
If it’s been a while since you checked out the college scene, a lot has changed. Before, you had to choose between a community college and a four-year college or university. They might have had a few options for online classes, but not very many. Nowadays, you might be able to complete your entire bachelor’s online, without ever setting foot in a classroom. The options are virtually limitless, and you aren’t limited to applying to colleges in your area. The rise of online education and the increasing popularity of nationwide colleges and universities mean that you can great education anywhere. You may be happiest choosing a combination of on-campus classes, which give you more student and teacher interaction, and online courses that afford you more flexibility.
College costs money, and there’s really no way around it. You are already expecting tuition, but you should also consider fees. Many colleges and universities charge an application fee of $50-$100 per application. If you need to have transcripts sent from other institutions, it can cost you another $5-$10 per transcript. These are generally unavoidable costs associated with getting into the college of your choice, so you should prepare for them.
Once you get into college, however, the funding options expand significantly. Because you are a parent, your financial burdens are usually higher than the average single student. As a result, you may be able to receive greater incentives. You can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine your eligibility for federal grants. If you are not eligible for grants based on your income, you will almost certainly qualify for student loans, possibly both subsidized and unsubsidized.
During this process, you should also explore the many scholarship opportunities that are available to you. On a grander scale, websites like Scholarships.com can help match your demographic information and abilities to various scholarships. On a smaller scale, you should check the Financial Aid department of the school you plan to attend. They may have a foundation that features scholarships for students. For example, Rasmussen College offers a scholarship to students who maintain certain registration requirements.
Flexibility is key for the student parent. You will need to schedule your classes and study hours around childcare, nap time, grade school and extracurricular activities. It can get overwhelming quickly if you do not plan ahead. One helpful hint is to carve out more time than you may need. Your professor can tell you how many hours a week you should expect to be doing homework. Take them seriously, and plan to have that time available. Then, if you don’t need that time, you will have the flexibility to add tasks back to your schedule as necessary.
It is very important to form a plan for caring for your children while you are studying or in class. One advantage of brick-and-mortar institutions is that they usually have affordable daycare that caters to students. On the other hand, the advantage of taking online classes is the flexible schedule and the ability to take classes and study at home. However, you should not fall into the trap of thinking that online classes are necessarily easier. They require focus and usually have an equal amount of homework. Plus, you can expect to have set times where you are expected to log in. You may not require as much childcare as you would for taking formal classes, but you should still plan your schoolwork around childcare arrangements.
You want your kids to go to college. One of the best ways to ensure that is to get your degree. With a little extra work, it is far from impossible.