Single Parents: 5 Hacks If You Are Struggling to Find a Way to Go Back to School

Posted By Patrick Oney on February 22, 2019

Hey, single parents: we know that little in your life is ever simple. From struggling to cover diapers, childcare, and clothing expenses on one income, to balancing school pickup with your work schedule—not to mention the emotional struggle of doing it all alone.

And now, on top of everything, you want to go back to school. Whether to secure a promotion or find yourself a new (and better-paying) career, going back to school can change your life for the better. If you’re struggling with going back to school as a single parent, consider these five hacks that will make your balancing act a little simpler. You’ve got this!

1. Build a Village

“It takes a village”—that’s one of parenting’s oldest clichés, and nowhere is it more true that in single parenting. As you’re considering going back to school, start with building your village. Who can you ask for help with childcare, carpooling, or emotional support? Talk to family, friends, and neighbors about your goals and your plans for going back to school, and what kinds of needs you and your family might have. Most people will be excited for you and want to contribute to your success. Let them know you’ll need help ahead of time, and you’ll likely feel less uncomfortable reaching out when you need something in the future.

2. Leverage Your Status

You may be eligible for scholarships and financial assistance specifically for single working parents through the government, your college, or private organizations. Talk to your school’s financial advisor and research scholarship and aid opportunities. Additionally, many companies from clothing brands to cell phone carriers to grocery stores offer discounts for students1. You might also look into social benefits as well, such as WIC, to help out with the basics.

3. Host Family Homework Parties

If you’ve got kids in school, why not have family time and get your studying done all at once? Take everyone to the library or sit around the kitchen table and do your homework together. Your kids will have quick access to you if they need help, and you can set a good example for them of good study habits and dedication to education (and get some help yourself brushing up on basic algebra). Make it fun by adding snacks or small prizes for whoever gets their work done first.

4. Schedule down to the Minute

As a single parent, you already likely know the power of a schedule. But when you’re going back to school, that schedule becomes a non-negotiable priority. Find a system that works for you—digital, notebook, or day planner, whatever—and write down every doctor’s appointment, exam, field trip, and soccer game. Start doing this now if you don’t already, even before going back to school, to solidify the habit.

At the beginning of each semester, write every due date in your calendar. Schedule in study time, and hold yourself to it. Also schedule household tasks such as grocery shopping, meal planning, chores, and meal times. Check the schedule daily to make sure everything gets done.

5. Study Online

Degree programs online, like Independence University’s, or online classes combined with traditional programs are great for single working parents. During your college search, look for online or partially online options. They will allow you to complete your coursework and participate in class discussions when the kids are in bed, without worrying about having to miss class for a doctor’s appointment or to stay home with a sick child.

The flexibility of online classes can fit around and into the cracks in your chaotic schedule, and many online programs can be completed as quickly or as slowly as you need. But even if you study online, try to connect with fellow students to build a virtual support network. Also make sure to block out time for schoolwork in your schedule, and don’t schedule over it.

As a single parent, you’ve already got plenty of the tools you need to be successful in going back to school. You’re dedicated, motivated, hardworking, flexible, brave, and strong. You can handle tough things. Find the support you need, research colleges, and follow these five tips, and you are well on your way.