Do You Know These 6 Tips for Becoming a Successful Single Parent Student?

single parent student

So you want to become a single parent student? I know why.

You’re tired of working one, two, or three jobs and barely making it right?

You definitely should be thinking about going back to college.

However, as a single parent, you feel your back is up against the wall.

You want to attend school but feel it’s impossible.  

If you can relate to this, you’re in the right place. A couple of years ago I was in the same boat as you are and having this conversation with myself.

As a single mother of two young boys, I was the only breadwinner for my children and household. To stop working fulltime to attend school just was not an option for me. 

Why I Became a Single Parent Student

I was working crappy job after another. My paycheck never was enough to pay bills. I lost count of playing Russian Roulette on what bills would get paid that month with hopes that my electricity, water, or gas wouldn’t be cut off. 

I was fed up of robbing Peter to pay Paul and not even making enough to survive for my boys and me.

The thing is, I had a college degree. Matter of fact, I had a Bachelor of Science degree in Biophysics. It sounds pretty impressive huh?

At the time, it sounded pretty impressive to me also. The degree was really useless unless I returned to school to earn a PhD.

I knew I had to take to find a career that would allow a steady source of income so I can be able to provide for the boys that called me Mom.

This is the moment I had to look myself in the mirror and say I have to be a single parent student, whether I like it or not. 

I didn't want to make the mistakes I did before; Earning a degree that would still leave me unemployed and broke. I first went to ONET find careers that were not only in high demand but would allow me to work while earning a degree.

After hours of researching degrees, I kept coming across a career in education. This was my sign to put my passion for teaching others to use.

The best thing was since I had a Bachelor’s degree I could work as a full time teacher (hint: I would be able to earn a first year teacher’s salary) while completing an alternative teacher’s certification program.

I was excited that I would be able to earn an income while working on a degree in my career field at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong, I found plenty of degrees that allowed for career advancement and financial gain, but it wasn’t doable for me as a working single parent student.

After deciding on education, it now was time for the fun part; finances and what institution of higher learning to attend. With having a Bachelor’s degree already, I didn't qualify and unable to receive federal funds like a Pell Grant.

My only other option was private student’s loans with sky-high interest rates. This was an option I didn't plan on doing under any circumstances.

So I asked myself how I could do all this without receiving private student loans. Then a light bulb went off.

I found a program at a local college that will allow me the option to make a monthly payment for my tuition. This was the best decision I made in a long time.

Not only was I able to now have a great career as a teacher in Chemistry, I was able to return to school as a working single parent student and earn a degree all while graduating debt-free from student loans.

I want to share with you these six tips that a working single parent student needs to save stress and make an investment instead of a liability. 

1. Trade School or Traditional College

What is your passion? There are a lot of careers in which single mothers are focusing on that don't require  four-year degrees. So much emphasis is placed on getting a college diploma but it shouldn't be the norm for everyone.

If you have a passion to become a cosmetologist, massage therapist, or other skilled positions, find a trade or technical school that specializes in that field. 

Make sure it's a field that pays and beware of those for-profit institutions.You ever notice that most colleges don't advertise that much on T.V and radio. It's a reason for that.

I just don't know if air & heat mechanic is a good trade to pick up. Maybe you should become a electrician that knows how to fix air & heat. You see where I coming from?

If you are interested in becoming a firefighter or police officer, the education requirements is a high school diploma. However, if you want to be more competitive, it’s best to get an associate’s degree (i.e Police Officer-Sociology, Criminal Justice).

2. Should you Attend Online Classes or Nah?

Being a single parent student is time consuming. Some working parents are choosing programs at universities like Grand Canyon and University of Phoenix that offer highly expensive tuition rates (usually in 5 digits for a year’s tuition).

They usually choose these types of programs because of the flexibility to attend classes around their schedules. Many others are choosing programs at schools that promise a fast track but fail to mention the amount of debt you will occur.

Many traditional colleges understand working parents are going back to school to get a degree. They see the need to offer programs to parents that allow them to work and attend classes around their schedule.

Check with distance learning and online programs at colleges in your state.

Community and four year colleges are offering certificate, associate, bachelors, masters, and PhDs through distance learning/online courses.  This is a less expensive route compared to attending a strictly online college

For example, Northwestern State University in Louisiana offers several associate, bachelor, and master degree programs their online distance-learning program.

No matter if you live in the state of Louisiana or not, Northwestern will charge their online students the same tuition rate as the in-state students.

3. Can you get a Job with Your Degree?

There is no point in wasting time and money on programs that will still leave you unemployed. Trust me, this is important and you’ll thank me later.

It’s critical to research the job market to determine what degrees are in high demand and lead to employment. 

I learned the hard way that getting a degree can still leave you broke and unemployed. Before you make the leap into your education, I advise you to ask yourself a couple of questions first.

Is this degree in high demand? Will there be a growth in this career in the next ten years? Will my salary increase if I get this degree or certification?

ONET OnLine will provide you with information for education programs, careers in demand, salary information, and expected growth for all 50 states.

Also, if you're like me and already have a degree, find what degree or certification program you need to move up the career ladder.

4. How to Avoid Debt

As a single parent student, you don't need any more debt. Colleges know some students don’t qualify for financial aid and don’t want to be captive to Sallie Mae.

They offer payment plans where you can split your semester’s tuition into monthly, quarterly, or semester payments.

Contact your financial aid and cashier’s office if you are interested in setting up a payment plan.

As a single parent, we budget everything from groceries to our monthly bills. Why not place the expense of college into your monthly budget.

Plan ahead for the cost of college (tuition, books, fees, etc) and put back a portion of your earnings to cover the expense.

5. Flexible Part-Time Employment

I will be the first to admit that parenting is tough. When you're parenting solo, this can make parenting even more difficult.

Maybe you are starting to feel the stress of trying to work and be a single parent student. I know you're stressed out, but don't give up and quit school.  

Why not choose part time, flexible jobs that work in which you are able to choose when, where, and what time you work. 

6. How to Obtain Scholarships and Outside Help

The cost of college tuition is rising. Whether you are a first time or returning student, let’s face it college is expensive. With raising children, the addition of college tuition can become a financial hardship.

Many organizations want single parents to be successful and able to provide for their children. They offer scholarships and grants for first-time and returning single mothers to offset the expensive cost of college. Search FastWeb for scholarships for single parents students based on need.

Congrats on Starting Your Single Parent Student Journey

Parenting is hard enough. We have to balance many situations. You’ll need help going back to college. Before you jump into a degree program, please I repeat, please do the research.

Think to yourself:

  • Is there a need for the degree?
  • Will this degree convert to employment?
  • Is it actually worth it?

There is no sense in pursuing a degree, diploma, or certificate that is pointless or will not increase your yearly income. 

Don’t get stuck with mounds of debt from student loans and still be unemployed.

The time is now to jumpstart your education no matter if you are a first time or single parent student already. Remember to just learn from my story and you too can do it!