Feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Struggling to balance family life and furthering your education? You’re not alone. According to a National Center for Education study, approximately four million college students are parents (Williams, 2022). You took the first step and committed to going to college, now what? Embarking on this new journey it is essential to feel prepared and confident. As a working parent going to college, you might face some obstacles along the way. Here are some tips and tricks for parents in college to ensure that you succeed in all aspects of your life.
One of the challenges that most college students face is time management. For most parents, their children are their number one priority. Time is valuable. Managing time can get a little tricky but is not impossible. The first thing you need to do is:
- Set a routine. As a family, decide what your routine will look like. Will schoolwork be worked on at the same time as your children? Or, do you work on homework when they’re in bed? Whatever you decide for your routine, make sure you have one and that you stick with it.
- Limit the number of distractions and interruptions. Designate an area to do your schooling. Make sure this area is quiet and provides enough space to work. During this time, turn off your phone to give your full attention to your studies.
Life can sometimes be complete chaos. Laundry that’s overflowing onto the floor and a to-do list that never ends. Don’t get discouraged and remember to do the following:
- Plan ahead. To be organized is to be prepared. Look through your class content. Get an idea of how much time assignments will take to complete. Do not wait till the last minute to complete. Keep track of those assignments in a planner. Write out all your commitments and reminders there. If you are a parent, you probably already use a cell phone calendar or application to keep track of all the extracurricular activities that your children are involved in. The takeaway here is to use whatever works best for you. In doing so, it will help you stay organized and decrease stress.
- Breaking up assignments into smaller manageable chunks. After going through the expectations for your classes you can break down those assignments into smaller sections. This will result in lifting the burden of feeling overwhelmed and completing homework a lot easier.
- Organizing your notes. It is good practice to take good notes. Your notes should be written clearly so that you can use them to help in future assignments. Each class should have its own section for notes. Properly labeling the topic, the class, and the date will help keep your notes organized and easy to find when you study.
As humans, we all experience stress at some point in our lives. It’s how we handle ourselves in those situations that either has a positive or negative impact on our life. To limit the stress in your life as a parent going to college:
- Stay positive. First and foremost, you are a parent, and you need to set a good example for your children. I don’t need to remind you that your children are always watching. Control of your emotions is vital. Recognize stress when it comes on, calm yourself, and figure out a solution to overcome it.
- Allow for breaks. When you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed, tired or stressed–take a break. You won’t be able to accomplish anything feeling this way. Giving yourself time to clear your mind will give you a chance to relax. I like to take a break from my schoolwork by walking to pick up my children from school. When you go back to your studies you may discover the solution to the problem you faced from the beginning.
- Set goals and reward yourself. You are working, supporting the family, and still finding time to do your schoolwork. It is okay to reward yourself for doing a good job. Set up weekly, monthly, or semester rewards for a job well done. The reward should be something that you enjoy doing. Include the whole family in this celebration if you prefer. Who doesn’t like ice cream?
Support is Available
- Ask for help. Never feel hesitant to ask for help no matter how you’re feeling. Know that you’re not alone and that there are people in your life that can help. Reach out to family members, your spouse and friends. Find other college parents going through the same struggles.
- Have a plan. As a parent, you are juggling many tasks daily. Set up a plan of action in case something comes up and you need to be in two places at once. Have a plan in place for someone to watch your children while you do schoolwork or to give you a break.
- Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) Resources- Get in contact with your school or academic advisor and ask for help with the areas that you are struggling in. Here is a list of student resources offered at Moraine Park.
- Career services
There is no cookie-cutter mold for how to be a successful parent in college. Some tips that work for some college students may not work for others. I can assure you that by following these tips on time management, organization, stress management, and knowing the support that is available for you will result in decreasing the amount of stress in your life and as a college student. Sacrifices might need to be made in managing your time. Your family might have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches sometimes because you don’t have time to cook a meal. You need to make those choices and decide what is important to you. Progress doesn’t happen overnight. It’s all about staying positive and taking things one step at a time.
Written by Crystal Guell, a fellow parent and Moraine Park student. Learn more about CRYSTAL GUELL’S PATHWAY TO EDUCATION.