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TIPS FOR BUSY MOMS WHO WANT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL
by Esther Laurie
Moms, we get it, choosing to go back to school and get your degree can be a tough decision. It definitely takes perseverance, hard work and some long nights to make it happen. However, finishing your degree can open up a ton of possibilities—whether it’s going back to work full-time or part-time, freelancing in your area of expertise or even launching a startup. Bottom line: The right degree can unlock the right opportunities to help create a life and career you love. With that in mind, here are six practical tips to help you get it rolling and to stay sane in the process.
1. Research your options. There are a lot of great schools and programs out there—in state, out of state, online, hybrid, fulltime, part-time, daytime cohort and evening cohort. Yikes! With so many options, it’s good to narrow it down to what you need to succeed.
Also, look at the requirements and qualifications of the career you want. Talk to people in the field you’re interested in and start making connections. Someone I know went back to school and got her masters in clinical counseling. However, what she really wanted to do was work in the school system, which you can’t do with that specific counseling degree, so she ended up going back to school for another degree.
School is expensive. Research cost of tuition, scholarships and grants available and Financial Aid options. This is something I could have and should have done better, but I just didn’t know what to look for or where to start. When I first went to college, I didn’t even know you could buy used textbooks online! (P.S.—that saves so much money.) There will be information on the school’s website, which is a good place to start, but it’s also helpful to talk to professors, professionals, current students and acquaintances. Ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy!
2. Have a Plan School is time consuming. Take a look at your syllabi and know when big assignments are due and know the important family dates like concerts, games and vacations. Also, keep in mind intense seasons at work that may require more time and attention. Map out these important dates and make sure you carve out enough time to study and work. Make yourself a priority!
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3. Build a Support System Get your family on board. School is a lot of work, time and energy. Make sure you have family and friends that are supportive—you’ll need their help and encouragement. Let them know what you need—quiet study time, extra help around the house, carpool help, etc. If your family knows why you’re doing this, they’re more likely to catch the vision and cheer you on.
4. Be Kind to Yourself Know your limits and be realistic. My mom always told me, “You can only do what you can do.” I thought it was silly at first, until I realized how true it is. School is a major commitment. It’s a wonderful season, but you’ll be stretched and you may have to say ‘no’ to things, even good things, like volunteering. Maintain your mental and emotional health by creating a healthy rhythm and balance for yourself. And don’t feel guilty about it.
Take time for self-care. Get enough sleep, rest, exercise and eat well. Also, treat yourself to coffee with a friend, pedicures, a massage or whatever keeps you centered, grounded and positive. Carve out time for this and above all, breathe.
5. Tell Fear to Take a Hike! Yes, there will be students who are young whippersnappers who can recall information like they’re a walking text book. Don’t worry about it—let them be nerdy. You have life experience and a perspective many don’t—use it and be proud of what you bring to the table. You may consider testing out of general courses with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) based on lifeexperience and extracurricular work. Remember to keep your head held high—you can do this.
6. Have Fun This will challenge you, and some