Looking to further your education while being a parent and college student both at the same time? Stabilize these four things to do just that.
Are you considering being a parent and college student?
Sometimes as a first-time parent, or a parent in general, you may not have the chance to get as well prepared or established as you’d like before the birth of your child.
However, this in no way means that you can’t get prepared a bit later than you would’ve preferred. Better late than never, right?
You can still achieve your goals and provide your child with your best, even if it doesn’t happen until later than you had hoped or planned.
As an expectant mother who had not yet finished college, I knew it was of great importance to me to get back to school and graduate with my bachelor’s degree to prepare myself for providing a decent life for my child.
I found that if you plan on being a parent and college student, you must stabilize these four areas of your life so that you can focus on academic excellence and be a kickass parent too!
I didn’t take the plunge into making this accomplishment until my son was a preschooler, but I did it nonetheless.
Before I could dive into completing my education, I had to make sure I could maintain a stable household for us while I finished school. Otherwise, my progress would have been entirely derailed by uncertainty about how we would make it through.
I realized there were four critically important aspects of my life that I needed to stabilize to return to school while raising a preschooler confidently.
4 ASPECTS TO STABILIZE
1. Rent - How will I afford it?
2. Bills - How will I pay them?
3. Work - How can I schedule it around school?
4. Child Care - Who will care for child while I’m in class?
As a parent, you must maintain a stable household while pursuing your education to keep your focus where it needs to be (on school).
You will need to know that your bills, especially your house payment (whether it be rent or mortgage), can be paid, your job meets your needs, and your child will be cared for while you’re gone.
Uncertainty about any of these factors will cause you to be severely distracted from school.
HOW I STABILIZED THESE 4 ASPECTS
How will I afford my home?
To maintain a stable home, I first needed to find an affordable place to live. For some, subsidized housing may be an option.
Subsidized housing is a home where the cost of the monthly rent is based on your income.
There are options available such as section 8 or public housing. Section 8 will help you pay rent for a private residence such as a house or apartment. Public housing provides affordable living in a housing project.
Unfortunately, this type of affordable housing was not an option for me. Typically there are long waitlists, or sometimes there is a freeze on accepting applications.
I wanted to get back to college ASAP, so I didn’t have time to wait. I had to come up with a different solution.
Based on the income I had at the time, which was $1200 per month, I set a goal to find a rental property that would cost $500 per month with all utilities included.
I didn’t find that exactly, but I did manage to find an apartment that cost $550 per month plus electricity. This amount wasn’t too far over my planned budget, and I could still handle it.
How will I pay my bills?
Now, $1200 per month is not a lot of money to pay for rent, bills, transportation, maintaining a household, and raising a child. Especially when there weren’t going to be many opportunities for me to work overtime or a second job while attending college and actively trying NOT to fail my classes.
As a parent, or just an adult in general, the most surefire way to get super distracted from school is not knowing how you’re going to pay your bills or working too much to pay them without leaving yourself a reasonable amount of time to work on course materials.
What I did was use a combination of income sources that were available to me.
I held onto my tax return so I could use it to help me pay monthly bills, in conjunction with my part-time job that was paying me about $1200/month and my refund checks from school, which were usually for $1500-$3000/semester.
I used these three sources to stay afloat for the entirety of my college career.
NOTE - In case you didn’t know, a refund check comes from applying for financial aid for your education.
Once the financial aid is received by the school and they get what is owed to them, they will send you a check for any additional money that is leftover.
This will be a part of your future debt when it’s time to pay back your school loans, but it is a resource you can use to help you survive while you’re in school.
If you don’t want to accept this money, you can send it back to the lender, but you’ll want to do it within 120 days of when the loan was disbursed or it will start to accrue interest that you will owe.
How will I do this around work?
Not only was it essential to have an affordable home, but it was also even more critical that I had a job that would pay the bills AND provide me with the flexibility I needed to pursue college as well.
When I first found our apartment, I worked a full-time job with an utterly inflexible schedule that was paying me $1200/month. The rigidity of the schedule and requirement to work 40 hours per week was never going to work for the college life I was pursuing.
I needed to find flexible work. I needed a job where I could work part-time, my shifts and workdays could fluctuate, and I could still make as close as possible to the $1200 I had been making at my full-time job (at the very least).
My solution was to work as a waitress.
When I interviewed for the job, I was upfront about my need to work only part-time hours.
I worked at two different restaurants throughout completing my degree. Both jobs were willing to adjust my schedule as needed for the demands of my academic program.
There was always the possibility to pick up extra shifts if necessary. If I had the free time, I could ask some of the other waitresses if there were any shifts they didn’t want to work or ask the manager if there were any days they anticipated needing some additional help.
One of the jobs was at a more high-end restaurant owned by Darden. I only needed to work there about 15-20 hours per week to make my $1200/month. I worked there for the first half of my time at college.
The other restaurant I worked for (for the second half of college) was more low tier, so I had to work three double shifts per week to average my $1200/month. I worked more like 25-30 hours per week at this particular restaurant.
4. Child Care
Who will care for my child while I’m at school?
Before my return to college, my son’s father and I would work opposite shifts so that one of us would always be able to be home with him.
This arrangement was no longer going to be a viable option once I returned to college. Surely I wouldn’t really be able to juggle work, school, and commute time so that one of us would always be present.
I realized it was going to be extremely important to have my child in daycare.
I wanted someone to watch him in a professional, structured setting where those watching him would have him on a schedule and have expectations for how children were to be treated.
My income level made me eligible to apply for a service in my state referred to as ELRC (Early Learning Resource Center), which is essentially subsidized child care.
This program provided me with affordable child care by basing my payments on my income.
Now I knew that I would be able to have my boy dropped off at daycare before I went to school. He had a driver who would pick him up, take him to preschool, and drop him back off at preschool when he finished for the day. (*He qualified for a driver as a service provided through Early Intervention because he was in their speech program*). I would then pick him up from daycare when class ended.
You can use this service link to see what services are available in your particular state regarding child care payments and much more (I have included a link to each state’s subsidized child care application in the Resource section below).
Refer to this child care link to find a daycare and see what programs and regulations are available for child care in your state.
And with that, I maintained a stable environment and work-life balance for my child and myself, which enabled me to successfully earn a bachelor's degree in chemistry with a 3.92 QPA.
Best of all, even though my life wasn't as established as I felt it should've been when I first gave birth, it was a beautiful experience to have my preschooler watch his mama graduate from college!
Perhaps you can implement some of the things I did (or maybe even all), or at least gain some inspiration that helps you devise your own plan of attack for how you too can achieve the stability you need to further your education.
If you want to take advantage of any of the services I mentioned, follow the different programs' links. They have been put into place to help families work toward bettering themselves and becoming self-sufficient. Sometimes we need this help to get to the stage of life we desire. Use that help to get you there.
To assist you with navigating the child care links, I have provided links to subsidized child care applications for each state in the chart below.
Subsidized Child Care Applications By State