Single parents are in that category either because the other parent has left or abandoned the relationship, has divorced the spouse, been jailed, or has died. In addition, some single fathers acquire the status by adopting children, and single mothers sometimes choose to be artificially inseminated. They, like other persons, are also in need of a good education, perhaps even more so because they have the needs of a family to consider and also because of the benefits to be derived from the acquisition. Going to college as a single parent can be quite challenging, and the dual focus of balancing children and personal growth that this special group has, is recognized by some educators. Like every other student, there is also help available for the single-parent student.
Single-Parent Student Issues
As a single parent, many issues have to be considered and dealt with. For example:
- Time Management – which involves balancing job responsibilities, school work deadlines, child care requirements, and personal matters. The first consideration for the single parent could be his college status. That is, whether he would be working fulltime and attending school part time, working part time and attending school fulltime, or both working and attending school part time. This has implications for the duration of the college course and the parent’s ability to support his family during the period.
- Timetabling – to avoid missing classes and other presentations because of the need to pick up children from school or day care, or attend the children’s school functions. Some courses could perhaps be scheduled for weekends or nights when help can be obtained for watching the children if they are not old enough to stay by themselves.
- Financial Matters – regarding fee payments for self and children, payment of bills, transportation and health care services, provision of food, clothes, and living accommodation for family. Assistance would probably need to be sought and obtained.
Learning Options Available
In today’s technologically-advanced world, attending college does not have to be a physical, on campus, or even daytime experience. There are options available for the mom or dad who is going to college as a single parent. These include –
- Online Courses
- Distance Learning
- Evening and Weekend Classes
These involve online learning which features information being easily accessible on a computer. The information may be on the Internet or installed on a computer hard drive or a CD-ROM. Single parents can opt to attend college completely online, for example, at Kaplan University, from which information can be obtained at http://www.getinfo.kaplan.edu/business_cln.aspx, or attend partially online where physical attendance at some classes is required for some courses, like at Capella University, where information can be accessed at http://www.inrdx.com/chainserver?tag=203536443&VKEY=10134&cvkey=10134&lp=dp&cType=3007&logo_img=%3Cimg+class%3D%22blurbImg%22+title%3D%22image%22+alt%3D%22image%22+src%3D%22%2Fimageserver%2Flogos%2F120x60_Capella_Stacked.gif%22+%2F%3E&spoi=PSYCH_MS_SP. There are many other educational facilities that are eagerly awaiting applications from single parents, and they all welcome enquiries which are accommodated by online request forms, aimed at assisting with registration.
Distance learning must involve instructors and learners interacting with each other from a distance. This provides lecturers with instant feedback from students, which distinguishes this medium from online learning. In addition, computers and networks are not necessarily required, as the medium features televised broadcasts and correspondence courses. In recent times the Internet has expanded the distance learning offering, so that it can now take place through live instruction broadcasts on the Internet, as well as chats, video-conferencing, email courses, and scheduled online conference discussions. This is therefore a viable option for single parents, especially those with young children, or those who prefer that medium. The Canadian Virtual University offers courses through distance learning to students all over the world. They can be reached at http://www.cvu-uvc.ca/english.html for information and registration.
Evening and Weekend Classes:
Depending on the nature of the course a single parent may wish to pursue, online or distance learning may not be suitable and therefore not offered by the college. These courses include computer courses, which require hands-on practice, and are available from just about any recognized institution. My City College goes a step further in offering a kind of internship for its programs which can be taken at a Diploma, Associate Degree, or Bachelor’s Degree level. Single parents have the option of contacting them at http://www.mycitycollege.com/ , to see whether arrangements can be made for attending classes in the evenings and on weekends.
Assistance for Single Parents Who Want to Go Back to School
All students require assistance where the college experience is concerned, but single parents require more and different kinds of assistance. For instance:
- Special Accommodation: to help alleviate stress relating to housing, travel and transportation considerations. The Murray State University, through its Housing Office, offers a housing complex called the College Courts Apartments, which provides twelve reasonably-priced fully-furnished two-bedroom apartments for single parents with small families. The waiting period for acceptance is long, however, and so application for a unit should be made early at http://www.murraystate.edu/secsv/hous/colcts.htm.
- Office Hours Extension: because students who attend evening and night classes do so after the closing hours of the regular office. They, however, may need assistance with a class schedule, a payment problem, or some other issue which needs to be brought to the attention of the college.
- Focused Courses: these could include lectures on parenting guidelines, stress management, and health and other resources available for children, etc. They could be scheduled during regular class times, for convenience, or at other special times to accommodate the single parents.
- Academic Advisors: these are usually lecturers who have knowledge of what is required of single parents, academically, and the resources that the college has available to assist them. They are therefore able to helpfully guide the single parent to balance the demands of successfully completing the program against his personal issues. They could also advise single parents to develop a good rapport with their lecturers to help avoid class conflicts arising from child care issues and other parental obligations. The advisors could even learn from the single parents about services they may need which the college lacks, and they would be able to advocate for those improvements to make college life more manageable and rewarding for single parents, which could increase the population of this special group and improve the college’s bottom line.
- Financial Assistance: The first place to seek financial assistance is government grant programs, as grants do not require repayment. This is done by sending in a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which the government uses to determine a student’s qualification for assistance. Information on how to apply for FAFSA is available at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm. The amount granted is usually not enough to cover the total cost of his college education, but the single parent still has other options for funding, including fellowships and scholarships from the college he is attending, his workplace, and other private organizations.
Many scholarships are awarded yearly and, like grants, they do not need to be repaid. Some employers offer scholarships to their employees an incentives for minimizing employee turnover and enhancing productivity, since a satisfied employee will stay with the company longer and work harder. Applying for some scholarships involve writing an essay, while others require applicants to be involved in community projects. Since several scholarships can be obtained by a single parent, they should be able to provide enough funding to cover college expenses. Nevertheless, if the need arises, single parents can source loans for this purpose, as a last resort. Loans, however, attract interest rates and therefore need to be repaid. Low-interest ones should therefore be obtained.
Benefits of Being a Single-Parent Student
Despite the challenges encountered by single-parent students, there are benefits. These include:
- Being Purpose-Driven: Single parents have specific reasons for going to college. They usually are trying to achieve a particular goal, not just pleasing parents or peers. Some of them are from families which had limited resources for a good standard of living when they were growing up, so they are aiming to make better provisions for their personal families.
- Experienced: It is said that experience is a great teacher, so the experiences that these single-parent students bring to bear on their college life enable them to be more focused in class and strive for excellence for overall success. Keeping their goal of obtaining a college degree in mind, single parents use their level of maturity to drive their zeal and desire for success.
- Educational Advancement: Whether attending school fulltime or part time, single parents have the opportunity to benefit from college courses which offer a rounded education. Depending on the timetable schedule, single fathers and mothers could be able to participate in college athletic programs and/or other sports activities which could have educational and career advancement opportunities embedded.
Going to college as a single parent can be challenging and interesting if that is a route that needs to be traveled. Fortunately, the issues involved with the venture can be successfully addressed as there is assistance available to the parents to make it a beneficial experience.