While being a parent is one of the greatest joys in life, preparing for college as a single parent can be a difficult and stressful process. While you need to get organized and dedicate time to the preparation process, your children continue to require the care and attention that they deserve. The question is then how do you balance your act? Whether you are planning to physically attend a college nearby, far from home, or online, and regardless of how old your child or children are, here are a few, universal tips for how to prepare for college as a single parent.
- Find Childcare Help
An important part of preparing for college is arranging childcare if you have young children so that you can focus on working on your applications. Successful applications are usually detailed and precise, which requires undivided attention and time which is why you may need help caring for the children. This may be in the form of hiring a nanny for the hours that you dedicate to college application, taking the children to daycare, or having family members help you by entertaining the children or sending them over to their houses.
Once you have arranged for childcare, you will want to research different options on platforms such as BestValueSchools.org and follow through with application processes. There are some aspects of a school or program you will want to keep an eye out for when you choose schools to apply for, which will be covered more in other tips.
- Explore Financial Options
The fact that you have dependants means that you may need to stretch your finances to accommodate a college education. This means that before you decide to go to college, you need to analyse your current finances and potential funding opportunities to see how you can manage for the time that you will be in college. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to do this;
- Cut Back
You can look for areas in your household that you can cut back on so that you still have money to allocate for your children’s wellbeing while also attending to your financial obligation in college. For example, if you can cut back on entertainment, those funds can be diverted to paying for college without straining the grocery budget. You simply have to make a priority list and see where you can divert funds from into your college expenses.
- Make Extra Money
In some cases, you may need to make extra money to meet your college expenses while caring for your children. Due to the time and commitment it takes to complete college, you will need a relatively easy way to make extra money. You can search for ways to make money conveniently from your home by searching online options. These can be in the form of freelance writing or using shopping apps that can help you save money.
- Explore College Funding
You can also look for college scholarships or loans. These will help in that any money you save can be diverted to your children’s well-being. You can check various college portals for funding opportunities, or carry out a general online sweep in search for college scholarships or loans.
- Create Distractions
If your children have reached the stage where they don’t necessarily require hands-on care but you need to create a conducive environment for your applications, you can manage the situation in different ways. You can organize for your kids to enjoy themselves at a social outing, such as a movie for example, and create a dedicated time for you to work on applications or preparations.
- Find a Quiet Space
Alternatively, if your children are young adults and can be left unsupervised, you can find a quiet spot away from the home. You can allocate chores to your children or provide entertainment for the time that you’ll be away.
The point is to create an uninterrupted environment where you can clear your thoughts and put in the work that is needed to get accepted into college.
- Create a Schedule
You can create a schedule around your daily responsibilities regarding the children. You can organize your time in blocks where you focus on one activity for some time depending on the dynamics of your family. For example;
- 7:00–8:30 a.m.—research different universities
- 8:30–10 a.m.—house chores
- 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.—activities and lunch with kids
- 2:30–3:30 p.m.—Apply to a college while children do quiet time
This is merely an example of what block scheduling entails. Your schedule should be unique to your daily responsibilities. The main aim is to figure out the times of the day when you can be productive enough to accomplish different stages of the application process.
- Try Not to Procrastinate
Procrastination may be one of the easiest temptations when preparing for college as a single parent. The fact is that you spend most of your time catering to your children over and above other requirements such as work and social dynamics. At the end of the day, you may be exhausted or wish to indulge in an activity that doesn’t require any mental, emotional or physical energy from you. As much as this may be the case, you still need to research, apply, and get ready for college. Some ways to help you avoid procrastination when it comes to preparing for college include:
- Begin your day earlier than usual so that you have some quiet time to tackle some of the items on your to-do list regarding college preparation
- Give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate but stay committed to the schedule you set
- Begin with the most difficult tasks while you still have the drive and energy to work, and then conclude with the simpler tasks
- Remove as many distractions as possible such as gadgets which may be your go-to when you aren’t attending to your children’s needs
- Work with a colleague or friend who is also going through the same preparation process for motivation
These are some of the few hacks that may help you avoid procrastination when you eventually have the time to prepare for college.
- Delegate Where Possible
You may have other priorities other than caring for your children and preparing for college. Perhaps you run a business, manage a team at work, or are working on a renovation project, for example. You will have to delegate some responsibilities as much as you can.
This can be in the form of hiring an assistant to take care of certain aspects of your business while you juggle your children and college preparation. If you are managing a team at work, you may need to delegate more tasks to your teammates than you usually do. Such delegation helps to create the time you need to focus on your children and college while knowing that other priorities are being attended to.
- Explore On-Campus Care
Depending on the college that you are attending, there may be programmes that facilitate child care for students who may need to bring their children on campus. This may be in the form of a day-care or a study centre for students with children that are school-going age. You will have to find out how much these facilities will cost you so that you can arrange a schedule for your child or children.
- Prepare Your Children
Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to prepare them for the new college dynamics. This may be in the form of discussing how you are going away for college and leaving them under the care of trusted guardians, that you are moving with them, or that you will be taking online courses and need their cooperation regarding household dynamics. Some such discussion may mentally prepare you and your family compared to a sudden transition which may then be difficult to adjust to.
- Talk to Your Professors
Once you are accepted into college and know your professors or lecturers, you can discuss your family dynamics with them. College courses are generally more flexible than high school courses. Together with your professors, you can explore the best means of learning that can accommodate your family dynamics. This can also be in the form of extended deadlines and grace periods. Your professors may also suggest ways that you don’t have to compromise family responsibilities.
- Speak with Graduates
Speaking to graduates who also went through the process as a single parent is another way that you can prepare. The insight that they may give you may be perspectives you hadn’t considered or situations that you can’t foresee. These may be life experiences that you have to walk to appreciate. Speaking with people who have travelled the road before may give you pointers that others may not be able to.
- Mentally Prepare
Going to college is a major milestone which requires you to be in a healthy headspace. You may need professional help to gain perspective of the road that you have to commit to for a while. From the hours required to learn and study, balancing examinations and family dynamics, and being away from family, there are a lot of factors that you may need professional guidance from a therapist or counsellor to deal with. You may then be better equipped when the time comes for you to begin your studies.
- Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is an important, though sometimes overlooked, aspect of preparing to go to college. Self-care can have various meaning to different people. It may mean practising yoga, following a fitness routine, taking a walk through nature, or simply unplugging from life’s busy demands and sitting quietly. Regardless of what self-care may mean to you, the point is to be centered and at peace before beginning your journey of tackling college while being a single parent. It’s important to practice self-care throughout the process of obtaining your degree so that you remain the best version of yourself for your wellness and children.
- Explore Online Options
One major advantage of attending college online is that you don’t have to leave your home. All you require is a well-functioning laptop and reliable internet connection so that you can access your college portal.
The fact that you can attend college without having to leave your children also means that you can be flexible about attendance. The modules, coursework, reading material and online lectures are available when you are available. This means, depending on your dynamics at home, you can find the most conducive times to attend college while appreciating the fact that you will still be with your children.
It is also a resourceful option of studying. You don’t need to financially facilitate for relocation, housing, food, car expenses, and purchase of materials. The money you would have spent on these can then be diverted into your household.
Preparing for college as a single parent has an added layer of preparation. You need to make sure that you are in a conducive environment to make sure that you meticulously research various colleges and follow through with the varying application processes. This means that you may need to get childcare assistance. You may also create distractions for the children or get them to go out and about.
Create a schedule that you can stick to and avoid procrastination. Explore your finances to make sure that you don’t stretch yourself too thin when it comes to household provision. Prepare your children for the transition and talk to your professors in order to create the best possible learning platform. Speak with former graduates and mentally prepare for the transition.
You need to explore various techniques of self-care that will help your wellness throughout the process. You can also have an open mind and explore online college options that eliminate the need to move. It can also cut back on many financial obligations as it is a convenient method of learning while at home.