If Americans were asked what the typical college student looks like, it’s likely that most would describe a 20-year-old carrying a backpack. But today’s college student demographics are much different.
In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics found that during the fall 2019 semester, 7.4 million college students were age 25 years or older, while data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that nearly 1 in 5 undergraduates are parents. The study also found that students who are parents have higher GPAs than those who do not have children.
Student-parents deserve to be congratulated, because finding ways to balance work, familial responsibilities, and homework deadlines is not easy. If you feel like you have a grasp on most of the challenges you face as a student-parent, but you’re still looking for creative ways to blend family time with study time, below are a few ideas for how to do just that.
Set Up a Dedicated Study Space
Experts agree that setting up a dedicated study area can help students avoid distractions and improve their concentration. It should also be noted that a dedicated study space doesn’t have to be a separate room in your home. For example, once the kids have gone to sleep, the kitchen table could be an ideal spot, because it likely gives you enough room to spread out your textbooks, pens, notebooks, and laptop. Or, if you need to study while the family is awake, you can look for ways to “share” your study space with the whole family. For instance, student-parents who have older children may be able to study separately while together around the kitchen table. Those who have younger children can provide their kids with learning resource games, such as puzzles and educational coloring books, that they can use at the table while their parent studies.
If you have the ability to share your parenting responsibilities with a partner, communicate regularly with one another on where and when you’d like to have some quiet time to study. Maybe that means everyone else goes to play outside while you have some alone time in the house, or perhaps you can head to a room on a different level or down the hall. Clearly communicating and setting expectations can help everyone in the family anticipate your study needs.
Create a Family Study Routine
Setting up a daily study routine for the whole family, where you plan to focus on schoolwork at the same time, can also be beneficial. The reasons for this are numerous, as good time management may reduce stress, ward off procrastination, and help you feel that you’re using your time wisely.
Student-parents who want study time to be a family activity are not only setting a good example for their children, they’re ensuring that they and their children are using their time effectively. Because the study routine is something that all family members will be involved in, deciding on what time of day works best, as a family unit, can help everyone feel invested.
Flashcards are an effective study tool for students of all ages. They not only help students to engage their active recall of the subject matter, but they also encourage confidence-based repetition. Another benefit of flashcards is that creating and using them don’t have to be solo activities. Even adult-learners can benefit from making and using flashcards.
For example, in addition to inviting family members to help design and decorate their study materials, student-parents who have older children can invite their kids to lead flashcard study sessions with Mom or Dad.
Let Your Children Become Your Teacher
A study published in the journal Science found that students who quiz themselves before exams have better outcomes than students who simply read and reread their study materials. This is great news for adult learners who are looking for creative ways to blend family time with study time.
To accomplish this, student-parents can create a list of quiz questions and then invite older children to step into the role of quiz administrator. Creating a pop quiz is also an option. In this case, children would be encouraged to ask their student-parent quiz questions at random times, such as when they’re cooking, driving, or doing housework.
Make Your Successes Their Successes
When adult learners invite their children to help them study, Mom’s or Dad’s success becomes the success of the entire family. As such, kids can and should be included in celebrating their parent’s good grades. For example, when a parent does well on a test or exam, the family can acknowledge that achievement by preparing a special meal or dessert, or by planning a fun activity.
An example of a celebratory activity could be as simple as a camping trip to a park, the beach, or even just the backyard. For families who prefer the indoors, “indoor camping,” where a tent or blanket fort is set up in the living room, is also an option.
Lead by Example
A 2018 study by the U.S. Education Department National Center for Education Statistics found that children whose parents attended college are more likely to attend college themselves.
As such, the faculty and staff at Maryville University would like to commend all student-parents who are taking brave steps to advance their education. In addition to setting a positive example for their children, they may also be helping to set them up for success.
To those of you who are considering starting or finishing your college degree, we invite you to contact Maryville University to learn more about available online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs.