This is Part Two of my series: Returning to Study as a Young Mum. If you missed Part One you can read it here, for a rundown of the pros and cons of my student-mama experience.
In today’s post, I want to talk about what you should consider if you are thinking of returning to study after having kids. It is definitely not a decision to be taken lightly, as studying almost always requires a big financial and time commitment.
Questions to consider before returning to study
It’s impossible to predict what life events will happen to you during your course; life with kids is unpredictable. But there are definitely some general things to consider before enrolling in any course.
If you’re considering returning to study, make sure you think carefully about the realities of studying while raising kids.
You might like to consider the following:
What course do you actually want to study?
This might sound obvious, but it’s important to consider which course will suit your needs and desires. There is no point enrolling in a course that you have no passion for. Study for the sake of study is a waste of your time, money and energy. Think about:
- What are you passionate about?
- What are you good at?
- Do you have any previous qualifications or experience that you want to build on?
- If you dream about undertaking a specific career, what course is required to get you there?
What mode of study is most suitable for you?
Will you enrol in a distance education or on campus course, or a course that combines both modes?
- Distance education (or online learning) is flexible – you can study when and where you want – but it is usually self-guided, which means that you won’t have as much access to teachers and learning support staff, and you must be able to motivate yourself to meet deadlines and to do the required reading.
- If you study on campus, you will need to consider childcare costs and availability.
Part-time or full-time study?
- Full-time study will require a more concentrated effort in the short-term, but you will complete your degree in half the time.
- I’m a part-time student, so my degree will take me a minimum of 6 years to complete, which is definitely a very big time commitment.
Which university, TAFE or college offers your preferred course?
- Is the school flexible?
For example, what is their policy regarding assignment extensions? What will happen if, for example, your child is sick and you can’t complete an assignment on time? Can you take time off when needed? I took a semester off when Harry was born.
- Is it close to where you live?
- If you choose to study online, will you ever be required to attend classes on campus, go to work placement or Prac, or attend on campus exams? If so, will you have access to childcare during these periods?
How will you pay for your course?
- If you’re in Australia, is there FEE-HELP available?
- Do the fees need to be paid upfront? Are there discounts for paying in full?
How much time will be required for study each week, and is this achievable for you?
Adding study to an already busy schedule is not always possible, so it’s very important to be realistic about how much time and energy you can really devote to your studies.
- As a rough guide, my university suggests that we spend 10-12 hours on each subject every week.
- When can you schedule study into your day? Will you hit the books during your child’s naptime? Or after they go to bed? Or even early in the mornings?
- Make sure you account for all of your commitments – work, family, social, rest, self-care, exercise, housework, and parenting. The less time you have available for study, the more stressful it will be for you. And you may not be able to achieve the grades that you want, or are capable of getting.
What support do you have available to you?
- Do you have a supportive partner, or extended family, that can help with child-minding during busy periods, like exam time?
- I have found that it is extremely important to be clear about the amount of time that I need to study, and to set firm boundaries with my husband and children in regards to my set study times. It’s ok to be flexible with your study schedule, but there will be days when all of your focus and attention will be directed towards your assignments or exam prep. Without adequate support, it will be extra challenging to complete assignments on time.
- You may also need to renegotiate your responsibilities at home. For example, if you usually cook dinner each night, you might need to ask your partner to cook a few times each week while you study.
These resources are best suited to my Australian readers, but try Googling “going to college” and you’ll find stacks of helpful info.
For information about government fee assistance, visit the Study Assist website here.
Compare Australian universities here
Find uni and TAFE courses here
For information about different pathways into higher education, visit this website
Search for online courses here
The number one question to ask yourself
I’m sure there are other things that you will need to consider before taking the plunge into higher education, but this list is a great place to start. The main thing to consider is this: will the benefits of returning to study outweigh the sacrifices that you’ll have to make along the way?
Only you know the answer to this, but I really believe if you dream of returning to study, and you are realistic and willing to put in the hard yards (for many years), you should go for it! You’ll demonstrate the power of commitment, perseverance and the value of education to your children.
And I guarantee you’ll learn so much more than what’s written in your textbooks.
It’s your turn!
Do you have any questions to add to my list? I would LOVE to hear from any other mums that have experience with returning to study 🙂