Useful Tips for Parents Going Back to College

Your children are going to get back to school? Here are some great tips for parents to prepare for school reopening.

Every parent knows the hard work that goes into raising children. Making sure everyone is healthy, well-fed, and cared for is a full-time job in and of itself.

And when you add going back to college?

It's a major challenge, to say the least.

Balancing a job, schoolwork (yours and your children's), commutes, cooking, cleaning, and all the other responsibilities you have as an adult, it's no wonder parents who also attend college are notoriously frazzled.

Mercifully, with some well-thought-out planning and purposeful strategies, you can learn to juggle all areas of your life — and succeed! Here are 3 parenting tips to get you started.

Top Parenting Tips for Success as a "Nontraditional" College Student

1. If possible, choose online learning over in-person learning.
For parents, online courses are far more practical than in-person courses. This is true whether you're considering online masters programs or BA programs.

With online classes, for example, you'll often have the ability to choose when you listen to/watch lectures, read and digest course materials, take tests and exams, and communicate with your peers.
Furthermore, you won't have to worry about a commute. This is always time lost for any student. But as a parent, your time is even more precious because any time you're away from home, you need to have child care, and you're not spending quality time with your family or taking care of the many other responsibilities you have!

Finally, online learning is often less expensive than traditional in-person learning. Because you're not using many campus resources and expenses as an online student, you always save a few bucks from the get-go.

2. Make sure your entire family knows their schedules and responsibilities.
If your children are old enough to understand a basic schedule, make sure that they have one. When everyone knows what's going on, it takes that burden off you. You no longer have to be the ringleader 24/7.

A communal chalkboard, dry erase board, or corkboard where everyone can see their daily schedules (and where you'll be at any given time too) is the best way to display these schedules.
On the same board, consider adding other useful documents, charts, and information. For example, you might display a list of important phone numbers, a folder where your children can put forms you need to sign for school, or a chore chart.

Chore charts are a great idea for kids who are old enough to take on some household responsibilities for themselves. This can be a great help for parents and will teach children valuable life lessons as well. Try to keep things basic, but make sure everyone has something they need to accomplish every day. Some ideas may include:
- Dusting
- Sweeping or mopping
- Taking out trash
- Feeding pets
- Setting the table
- Washing dishes
- Prepping lunches
- Helping with dinner

3. Speak to your professors about your situation.
Many nontraditional students make the mistake of staying quiet about their unique situation. The better idea is to be upfront with your professors.

Tell them that you're a parent and that you have many other serious responsibilities at home that could conflict with your studies. At the same time, make it clear that you're going to give it your all in their courses, and tell them the steps you're taking to make the transition and your success as likely as possible.

Being upfront with this type of explanatory email (or a visit to your prof's office hours, if possible) does two things. First, it's a great introduction. Whether you're a nontraditional student or not, you should always take time to introduce yourself to your professors one on one. You want them to know your face and your name.

Second, it gives you a foundation of legitimacy in the event that you have a sick child you need to care for instead of attending an online lecture or an emergency situation that requires you to be late on an assignment. If you use these excuses without any foundational explanation, your professor will likely be far less understanding.

As any "nontraditional" student will tell you, attending college while juggling a family and/or career isn't easy. Still, it's worth it. Remember the reasons you're going back to school. Keep the phrases, "This won't last forever" and "It's not always going to be like this" in mind. You might even write them on sticky notes and keep them on the fridge or your bathroom mirror.

The point is to not forget what you'll reap from this experience. With a new degree comes new doors that were never open to you before. This could mean a more flexible career, more inspiring work, and hopefully a pay raise.

You're going back to school to start a new phase of your life. Plan ahead, do your best, and put in the work. You're going to do great! Good luck!


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