If you’ve read my little blip of a page before, you’re probably either a dear friend or a follower of Single Parent Link. I love writing but unless something really gets me fired up there are huge 3-4 month gaps in my posts. And there is a very good reason for this; I returned to college in the Fall of 2012 to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. So in the harsh 16 week winters of my writing soul, my page remains on hiatus. I’ve been officially freed this semester, the sun is shining again, and Kelly approached me with this idea. I’m going to share a little about my decision of returning to school- how it came about, how it has morphed some along the way and where I’m at now. I’m also going to share what I hope will be a help to any single parents, or at least older students returning to college.
Because simply, when I was in college the first go-round…brace yourself…the school didn’t even have a website. AOL was on dial-up and the biggest thing were those weird chat rooms. I was back in class for 2 months before I realized I had a separate school email in addition to the “Blackboard” that pretty much determines your online presence in classes. I’m not really an internet flunkie but NO ONE holds your hand when your 35 like they do when you’re a sweet 17-18 year old fresh out of high school.
Prior to my single mom status I had completed an Associate Degree in Interior Design, which after the separation the job search confirmed that I pretty much qualified me to be a manager in the cabinet section at the local hardware store. Working weekends. And all other odd hours. Nope, couldn’t do it. I have a roller coaster of a business cleaning homes that has allowed me a flexible schedule and decent pay (when people don’t cancel or re-schedule). I quickly realized it was not something that would completely support me and my kids for the indefinite future. I had taken courses at the local university, before the Interior Design side-track, with a major in psychology and minoring in Elementary Education/Special Needs. How hard would it be to finish the psychology with a different focus? I re-enrolled at NKU with a Psychology major and double minors of Religious Studies and Criminal Justice.
And just like that I was back in the world of financial aid, transcripts and finding the cheapest textbooks.
Before anything…even choosing a school….you will want to complete a FAFSA application to determine grants and loan options available. Filling this out in January before the Fall you intend to start classes gives you the best chance at some of the limited grants since they are a first come/first serve basis.
Next, I highly encourage meeting someone at the school you choose (and I don’t think I need to explain the need to research this!) and ask a TON of questions. Here’s a few: What school or program specific scholarships are available, and the easiest way to apply? How many (if any) of my prior experience or credits transfer to this program? Some schools offer a way to test out of some credits that is highly discounted compared to paying for the course. How long will this program take? How long will adding a minor/major add to that time? What do employers really look for in this field? It’s not a bad idea to find someone that does what you want to do and ask what was beneficial to them and what they might do different if they could go back. Where can I find a list of campus resources, especially ones that may help a single parent (child care options, textbook loan programs, tutoring labs).
Also I recommend meeting with someone within your program or major and ask them some things they learned along the way. One thing that was a live and learn for me was that while some classes don’t have prerequisites that you have to take prior to later ones, there are classes that are necessary earlier (for someone who isn’t there to mess around) like Career Planning as a Psych major, or the fact that taking Animal Learning is completely redundant and excruciatingly boring after Research Methods.
One of the biggest hang-ups in my scheduling I have found is that some online classes are only open to students in certain programs such as the PACE (returning adult something or other). So even though I need the classes offered online, and there are open seats, I’m restricted from taking them because that is not part of my declared program. Nothing is more frustrating!!!! But it certainly would have been nice to know this before I started.
So if you are considering returning to school NOW is the time to start your research, file for FAFSA in January and begin next summer or fall.