Moms Going Back to School: Path to Earning Your Degree

A better tomorrow begins with a single step. By going back to school, you’re investing in your dreams. You’re working toward a goal that can positively impact your family’s livelihood. As a mom going back to school, you’re not only actualizing your own educational and career goals but also inspiring your children to believe in the power of a good education — to reach higher and dream bigger. You, and your children, are daring to be brave.

Women working with her computer at home.

You’re busy. From raising a family to building a career, you may not have much free time available. However, there are a wide array of online and on-campus degree programs designed for working adults and parents. You can find a program that fits your lifestyle, making it easier to balance your personal responsibilities while also pursuing an education. If you’re considering going back to school, make sure to seek out resources, tips, and information on how you can help make your educational transition a successful one.

From simple time management tips to critical information about financial aid, this guide will help you make an informed decision and empower you to take that pivotal first step.

Discover the following sections of this guide:

Why Moms Like You Are Choosing to Go Back to School

You’re planning ahead. Looking toward the future. You want to learn and sharpen your skills. You want to accomplish something substantial and create a better tomorrow. Mothers, like all parents, want a positive future for their families. By going back to school, you’re aiming for career growth, financial benefits, and that important sense of satisfaction that comes from achieving a challenging goal. By choosing to go back to school, you’ll start down the path toward advancing not only yourself but also your family.

The facts support your choice to go back to school. Studies show that college graduates are more likely to be employed, remain employed, and boast higher annual and lifetime earnings as compared to those who don’t hold a college degree. They’re also more likely to have access to employer-sponsored pension and health insurance plans.

A college degree can also pay off in the long run. According to research published by the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Office of Retirement Policy, having a college degree has a substantial impact on an individual’s overall lifetime earnings:

  • Women with bachelor’s degrees earn on average $630,000 more over their lifetimes than women with only a high school education.
  • Women with graduate degrees earn $1.1 million more over their lifetimes than women with only a high school diploma.

However, a degree offers more than just future financial security. As a mother, by pursuing a college degree, you’re leading by example and making an impression on the ones who matter the most: your children. Research has shown that with a college degree, you’re investing in your health: Earning a degree can positively impact your overall life expectancy, as individuals with college degrees have been shown to exhibit healthier behaviors, are able to access health information and navigate the national healthcare system more efficiently, and have overall improved psychological well-being as compared to those who lack a college education.

If you’re thinking about going back to school, there’s a wide range of online degree programs and certificates to choose from. Check out your options, and learn how an online degree can help you achieve your goals.

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Steps for Mothers to Take to Go Back to School

Going back to school as a parent takes creativity and perseverance and sometimes can require a nontraditional approach to learning. These four steps can help you earn a college degree:

  • Define your goals. Before you start applying to college, outline what you want to accomplish by earning a degree. Do you want to advance in your existing career? Have you taken time off to raise a family, and you want to finish a degree to be more marketable when you rejoin the workforce? Defining your goals will help you identify the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them.
  • Consider a nontraditional approach. Parents often find that enrolling in online college coursework provides them with the flexibility they need. Online students can do much of their learning on their own schedule, so you can balance work, family, and studies.
  • Develop a support network. Going back to school is a big undertaking, and everyone needs Determine who you can call on if you need help with babysitting, studying, or prepping for an exam.
  • Set boundaries. Parents going back to school need to stay focused on their studies. Let your family know that you’ll need quiet time while you’re focusing on your education.

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5 Creative Solutions to Challenges Faced by Moms Going Back to School

The potential challenges of adding school into the mix of motherhood can seem sizable at first. However, every challenge comes with a creative solution and a chance to grow. For moms like you daring to be brave and choosing to go back to school, it’s about the end goals: pursuing a satisfying career, advancing your abilities, increasing your financial stability, and setting an example for your children.

Here are some of the top potential challenges that parents may face when going back to school. With a few tips and the support of your family and friends along the way, you can overcome these challenges and enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

1. Potential Challenge: School-Work-Life Balance

The elusive work-life balance may seem tougher with school added to the mix. With children, work, and family responsibilities, you might be wondering how you’ll be able to manage it all.

Solution: A growing number of reputable, well-established, nonprofit higher education institutions are offering online programs — in part to support the needs and demands of today’s nontraditional college students. Online programs are usually quite flexible: Students can often complete their coursework not only on their own schedule but also from the comfort of their own homes. This makes it easier for you to maintain an effective personal balance while pursuing a full-time or part-time education.

2. Potential Challenge: Fear of the Workload

As a mom returning to school, you may think that you’re not prepared for the amount of coursework that comes with pursuing a degree and don’t have an idea of what to expect.

Solution: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the information you need before enrolling. Speak with an enrollment adviser (EA), who can help you gain an idea of what to expect with your coursework. Also, reach out to alumni. These former students can offer insight into what prospective students might expect from their course loads. Alumni organizations can help connect you with former or current students through student portals and social media platforms, such as LinkedIn.

3. Potential Challenge: Affordability

Moms going back to school are sometimes hesitant to consider higher education due to the costs, especially if they haven’t explored the available options for financing their education.

Solution: Many universities and colleges often provide guidance to students on an individual basis. For instance, you can speak with an EA, who may be able to address any questions you might have concerning loans, grants for mothers going back to school, or scholarships for mothers going back to school. Advisers can point you in the direction of financial aid options that are intended for mothers going back to school. Furthermore, you can develop a savings or budget plan for your time during school to help ensure that you meet all your expenses. Lastly, most online programs allow you an element of flexibility with your course scheduling — this can allow you to maintain a full-time job to support yourself and your family while also pursuing an education on a full-time or part-time basis.

4. Potential Challenge: Finding Clear Information

Some of the most common sources of information on college for many people are friends, family, and co-workers. However, few speak directly with an admissions advisor or an EA or research colleges online.

Solution: Advisors understand the ins and outs of the college programs they represent. Ask questions and talk with them online, via email, or over the phone to ease your concerns. Additionally, you should visit your desired college’s website to learn more information about the school’s curriculum and admission requirements. Many schools host informational webinars to prepare you for enrollment and connect you with faculty, advisers, and alumni. It’s also a good idea to follow the college’s social media channels, so you can become a little more familiar with the school’s culture and image.

5. Potential Challenge: Understanding School Performance Metrics

Tuition and convenience shouldn’t be your only determining factors when choosing a school. In the hunt for the right school, many prospective students don’t consider a school’s graduation rate, accreditation, or the types of jobs graduates accept — these metrics are just as important, if not more so, than convenience or tuition.

Solution: Speak to a counselor or advisor, and do some research to learn more about a school’s graduation rate and accreditation. Information about a school’s accreditation, average graduation rates, and more can be found on its website.

Make an Informed Decision

When you decide to go back to school, it’s vital to assess all your options and potential concerns. Once you’ve done so, and you’ve done the proper amount of research to address any of your concerns, you can make an informed decision about going back to school.

Here are a few points to consider:

  • Goals: What do you want to achieve with your college degree? Remember, an EA can help you develop a better understanding of what you can do with your degree following graduation.
  • Time: Between working and raising a family, you might need to balance your priorities and your time differently. Evaluate the amount of time you have open that you can devote to pursuing an education. Online programs are excellent for those with limited time and/or critical work responsibilities.
  • Finances: Consider your financial obligations. If you need to apply for loans, scholarships, or grants for mothers going back to school, then reach out to an advisor at the university you’re considering for additional guidance.
  • Family: It’s important to understand how going back to school may impact your relationship with your spouse, significant other, or other family members. Communicate with them regarding why you want to go back to school and why it’s beneficial for the whole family.
  • Physical Resources: Do you have what you need to get started with your coursework? If you’re enrolled in an online program, do you have a decent computer and at-home workspace? If you’re enrolled in an on-campus program, do you have a way to physically get to class?

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Helpful Tips for Moms Going Back to School

Balancing motherhood, student life, and a career is possible — and easier — with proper time management and effective study habits. If you’re going back to school, these new changes can be exciting and invigorating for both you and your family. With the support of your family, advisors, professors, and peers, you’ll be motivated to excel in your studies.

Learning to Balance Student and Parent Responsibilities

Here are some tips that can help moms navigate going back to school.

Tips to Stay Motivated

  • Build and maintain a relationship with your student advisor to stay encouraged and motivated as you progress through your degree program.
  • Make smaller, easy-to-achieve goals to see the progress you’re making day by day.
  • Work with your professors. Seek them out during office hours to discuss your progress and if there are areas of study that you can improve on. Online courses and their professors usually offer scheduled virtual office hours, making it relatively straightforward for online students to have a one-on-one conversation with their professors.
  • Get together with your peers for study sessions. Remember, with social media, group chats, and video chat software, you can communicate with your classmates entirely remotely.
  • Turn to friends and family for encouragement, and reward yourself for small victories, like a completed project or paper.

Tips to Develop Successful Study Habits

  • Study with a classmate, co-worker, or friend who’s also going back to school.
  • Designate a certain spot within your home as your “school,” a place where you can focus and study in peace. If your home is often busy, then consider visiting your local library or coffee shop for some peaceful study sessions.
  • Consider early mornings as a refreshing time to dig into your coursework.
  • Adapt your study methods to your learning style. If you’re a visual learner, create charts, PowerPoint presentations, or flash cards. If you learn best from reviewing notes, then commit to consistent notetaking during class lectures and even during group study sessions.
  • Block off time. While you might set aside a certain amount of time each day to attend your classes, you should also schedule time for reading assignments and other coursework. By working on your assignments a little bit each day, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Tips to Transform Your Time Management Abilities

  • Plan meals with your children. Turn it into a fun activity by creating a menu together.
  • Use digital calendars to keep track of your deadlines; spreadsheets; mobile apps; or even cloud storage systems, like Google Drive, to efficiently organize your notes, assignments, and other important school-related documents.
  • Study while the kids sleep. The house is quiet and free of distractions, allowing you to focus and plan the days ahead.
  • Give the kids activities. Create fun assignments for them, and tell them that they’ll be helping you with your homework by drawing pictures.
  • Make the best use of your time. Your coursework is being completed in the digital age, and you can get creative about how you incorporate studying into your day. If you have quiet time on your lunch break or train commute, this might be a good time to contribute to a discussion group from your phone, catch up on readings, check in with your professors, or watch assigned videos.

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Costs, Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships for Mothers Going Back to School

Fortunately, nonprofit organizations, private companies, and various government initiatives are helping turn college dreams into a reality. Certain grants, scholarships, and other resources provided by charities are geared especially toward moms going back to school. Financial aid can help mothers defray some of the costs associated with pursuing a degree.

Higher Education Costs to Consider

When going back to school, it’s vital to remember that there will be new expenses. From school supplies to new computer software, there are different costs to consider when budgeting. Here are a few costs that you should be aware of:

  • Tuition
  • Computer, internet, and software
  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation and parking (on-campus degree)
  • Child care (depending on your family situation)

Learn About Financial Aid Options

  • Visit and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • Visit your state’s Department of Education to learn about state-level financial aid for students.
  • Talk to your school’s financial aid counselor to learn more about your financial options.
  • Research local charities that help with child care and provide tuition assistance.
  • Speak to your current employer about tuition reimbursement.
  • Check with industry-specific organizations as many offer scholarships and grants to support future graduates entering the industry.

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Scholarships for Mothers Going Back to School

Financial assistance is not out of reach for mothers who are eager to go back to school. In fact, there are a number of scholarships available for mothers going back to school. Here’s a sample of popular scholarships for mothers who are keen on returning to school.

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Grants for Mothers Going Back to School

In addition to scholarships, there are a number of state, federal, and institutional grants for mothers going back to school that can help ease financial strains.

  • Federal:
  • State: Grants vary by state but visiting the state’s Department of Education would be an excellent start.
  • Financial Aid Office: Contacting an institution’s financial aid office can help mothers get a better understanding of how the school can help, as well as other options they may not be aware of.

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Charitable Resources for Moms to Consider

In addition to scholarships and grants, there are a number of charities available to single mothers and mothers in need. These charitable contributions can assist in areas of a mother’s life outside of education.

  • Single Mothers Grant Organization — a directory of single mother grants helping with rent, utility bills, medication, child care, housing, medical bills, mortgage, and education-related expenses
  • Mothers Helping Mothers — a nonprofit organization run by volunteers that’s been providing clothing and baby items for free with the help of donations, grant funding, and private contributions since 1990; additional financial assistance from MHM could prove beneficial to mothers balancing their education and supporting their families
  • Dress For Success — a nonprofit organization working to empower women to find economic independence by providing professional attire, development tools, and other support services

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Dare to Take That First Step

Going back to school means you’re that much closer to building a better future. Remember, the difference between dreaming and pursuing is a single step.

To learn more about how you can start the process of going back to school for a bachelor’smaster’s, or doctorate degreeschedule an appointment with an enrollment adviser today. With the support of friends and family, financial assistance from various organizations, and the guidance of a school counselor and an EA, you’ll be well prepared to excel in your studies and pursue a higher education.

Hey Moms! Here are some other resources to consider when taking the next step:

Going Back to School at 30

Going Back to School at 40

Frequently Asked Questions by Adults Continuing Their Education

Maryville University Online

Recommended Reading

College Student Wellness Guide for Remote Learners

What Is Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Harmony?

How to Make a Career Comeback

Sources, Financial Aid for Single Moms

Frank, Work-Life Balance: Tips for Working Moms Going Back to School

Parents, “10 Things to Consider Before Going Back to School as a Parent”

Scholarships for Women, Scholarships for Married Women

U.S. Social Security Administration, Education and Lifetime Earnings

Be Brave

Bring us your ambition and we’ll guide you along a personalized path to a quality education that’s designed to change your life.