Few things are more challenging than being a single student mom. College and parenting are no walk in the park by themselves. Taking on the two of them together at the same time requires incredible strength. Most students have to worry about being a good paper writer, pass exams, and make new friends. Some may also have to work.
In turn, a single mom needs to do the same but with parenting responsibilities on top. No textbook prepares one for something like this, so here are several helpful tips on navigating life as a single student mom.
#1 Feel Comfortable Asking for Help
Being a single parent while in college requires a support system. It is not always easy to accept help and especially ask for it, even more so for a person who is used to doing everything on their own. However, the truth is, there are more people out there willing to help than you probably realize.
If a friend or family member offers to become a babysitter for a weekend so that you can study for an important exam, do not reject their help. Chances are they genuinely care and do not mind spending an evening or two building lego houses. If you want to get through the next three years unscarred, let them do so.
#2 Tell Professors that You Are a Single Parent
With a rare exception, professors are approachable and understanding. Some of them are single parents themselves (or perhaps even were single student moms once upon a time). It is totally okay to approach them early on and tell them about having a child. They can forgive a late essay submission or a couple of missed classes if they know how much a student has on their plate.
Also, they know about student services and online classes available. The latter can be a salvation, so do not be afraid to ask for recommendations. Colleges have more resources to accommodate student parents’ needs than most students realize. Even if professors do not mention them, find out on your own.
#3 Apply for Financial Aid
A full-time student with a child likely will not have any time left for employment, even part-time. Luckily, there are options:
- Federal student aid – FAFSA
- Search for available scholarships – org
- Helpful information about eligibility – Scholarship America
- Advice and information about scholarships FinAid
But be careful with deadlines. The earlier a student applies, the higher the chances for success. Ideally, do this as soon as you get accepted to the college.
Also, do not forget to apply for aid for the following year once you are in college. It is easy to lose track of time once you have a million classes to attend or when you have to write a paper on WritePaper, and study for midterms while still taking care of your child. Make a post-it (or three) and set notifications on your phone.
#4 Make Sure that You Can Rely on Your Childcare (and Get Backup)
Childcare is the most necessary help a single student mom needs. Make sure that you have a trusted babysitter’s phone number on your speed dial. Ideally, get a hold of at least two of them to avoid a situation when you cannot attend the exam because the babysitter had a family emergency and could not come.
Also, believe your friends and family members when they say they are available to babysit. Childcare is a serious expense for a single student parent, so neglecting free help is unreasonable. Besides, students can apply for childcare assistance via the college services or child care programs akin to ChildCare.gov. Once again, be sure to apply in advance.
#5 Become a Guru of Time Management
No matter how helpful a single student mom’s friends and professors are or how well the student services work, the most important thing is time management. College may be hard even for students with no parenting responsibilities. For a single mom, the challenge grows twofold.
Try to avoid the situations when you suddenly realize there is a frantically written ‘write paper’ note in your planner three hours before the deadline. Essays written in a rush never turn out good.
The same goes for study sessions. All student moms have to rely on late night and early morning hours to get schoolwork done. Sticking to the schedule is key. Once you get behind on readings and assignments, it will be much harder to catch up. Schoolwork to complete has a way of growing like a giant snowball.
#6 Do not Neglect Self-Care
Self-care may seem like a luxury to single student parents, but it is actually a necessity. Aside from time management, mental health is the single biggest make-it-or-break-it thing for anyone with a lot on their plate. Make sure that you have at least a couple of hours a week to do something that helps you unwind, be it a coffee with a friend or a movie night.
#7 Stop Feeling Guilty
Single student moms often feel guilty because they cannot spend as much time with their children as they would like to. Stop. It is all-too-easy to go down the self-blame road, but the truth is, you probably decided to go to college to give your child the best future you can. There is nothing to feel guilty about.
Sure, not everyone can talk themselves out of self-blame. If this is the case, professional help is a good idea. Most colleges have free on-campus counseling and psychological services. Visit their office whenever you feel overwhelmed. It will help.
An essential tip for a single student mom is to learn how to be comfortable asking for help and accepting it whenever offered. Otherwise, it is impossible to get through college as a child’s primary caregiver and not end up with a mental breakdown. Aside from this, make sure to excel at time management, notify your professors that you are a single parent, get a reliable babysitter, and make use of financial aid services. No one is saying it is going to be easy, but you can do it.