Succeeding in College as a Mom

Motherhood is no joke, and going to college is definitely no joke either.

When you combine the two, one would think about having a breakdown due to the insanity behind trying to execute both simultaneously – but it can be done!

I had my son, Romeo, at the end of the first semester of my junior year of college at Clemson University. I didn’t let the birth of Romeo become a setback. I actually turned his birth into motivation to finish school on time. However, I didn’t take time to understand all of the challenges that would come along with motherhood and obtaining an education combined.

After achieving both a Bachelor’s and Master’s during the first four years of my son’s life, I believe I can write a whole textbook on the strategy behind graduating college while being a mother so I wanted to share with you some of the basics to assist you  if you are currently balancing both. Below are the six tips you should consider when thinking about returning to or staying in school as a mother.​

1. Build a Village

The saying ” It takes a village to raise a child” is completely true. This is the first thing that you need to develop when considering going to college while being a mother. Anyone that says they did it on their own should be considered “special” cases. From my experience, there is no way you can be successful without building a sense of community around you. This community involves people that you can depend on who are in your corner during tough times. More than likely these individuals will be your family members and close friends but because I was 2 hours away from my hometown, my village became my sorority sisters. These women empowered me and held me accountable. They would take turns watching Romeo so I could go to class and to work. They challenged me to stay on Romeo’s intellectual development. They were truly my family and the village that groomed Romeo into the articulate gentleman he is today. I cannot stress to you enough how valuable it is to have a community of people that you can count on when you need help. Focus on building that circle of close people and everything else will begin to fall in place.

2. Get Solid Financial Aid

FAFSA is your new friend and savior. Know and understand your financial situation. Calculate the cost of school, books, housing, daycare, etc. and make sure that you have enough money to fund your entire living situation not just school. Food stamps, rural housing, section 8, daycare vouchers, and Medicaid are all options I tried to help cut expenses. You need to be able to focus on being a mom and excelling in your academics. Work needs to be number 3 on your list, therefore you need to have a comfortable financial aid plan. Seek scholarships! The opportunities for free money are everywhere and they only require an essay and resume most of the time. Scholarships and grants will be your new best friend. I am not a huge fan of loans but I did take some out in college during extenuating circumstances. Do extensive research and speak with your financial advisor on a regular basis to ensure that you are financially stable.

3. Find Employment with Reasonable Hours

After reading number 2, you could be a little confused about why I would have this listed as number 3. My answer to your confusion is… You can never have enough money when you are a mother! Once your financial plan is set in stone, try to obtain a work study or paid internship/employment in the field where you can use your degree. This is extremely important and will set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs post-graduation. Work Study jobs can also allow you to study on the job, work day hours, and maintain part-time hours. This extra change in your pocket will help you in case of emergencies as well as self-care for you. This experience will beef up your resume and allow you to be well rounded. ​​

4. Communicate with Professors

Communication is key when attending school as a mom. This is something that I believe professors should know up front. There will be slim to no other parents in your classes and your professors need to understand the family dynamics that you are experiencing. Communicate with your classmates as well when assignments call for group work. There were many times that my teammates wanted to meet at bars to go over the assignment and I didn’t feel comfortable because I had Romeo. They understood my situation and accommodated by meeting at my home or on campus for group projects. Never be ashamed or feel like you need to hide the fact that you are a mom. Motherhood is not a weakness and in fact it is a strength that sets you apart from the rest. Communicate your priorities as a mom up front and this will facilitate a smooth semester with your professor and classmates.

5. Study at the Right Time

When you are home with your child, your priority is your child. Be attentive, listen, and engage with them. The time you spend nurturing them is vital to their growth. This is where the challenge of studying comes in. Depending on the age of your child, this can become really difficult. While attending Clemson, Romeo was between the ages of newborn to 1.5 years old. Those years are relatively easy because all he did was cry, eat, poop, and sleep. I could hold him and read because he didn’t require as much. While attending graduate school, Romeo was between the ages of 2- 4.He was more active and required more attention and more activities. Understand the age and the attention that your child is seeking and create work arounds.

6. Overcome All Barriers!

This is the most important step of all.  Excuses are tools of incompetence. Don’t use them. You don’t need them. No one should feel sorry for you. No one should pity you. You are a mother. You are bullet proof. Don’t allow the stress to overcome you! Maintain resilience to bounce back and keep moving.

Stay focused on your end goal, Mama! Get the degree and remain an awesome mom. It will be difficult, but you can do it!

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