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Reach Higher is an adult degree completion initiative led by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. 

Four Tips for Single Parents Returning to School

Father And Young Son Reading Book Together

Single parents can finish their degrees, too. Returning to school after having a child presents its own set of challenges, but those challenges can be magnified if you don’t have a plan. Here are four tips for single parents returning to school to complete their college degree.

Tip #1 Write Down Your Goals

Make your goals specific. For example, “I will have taken all of my required courses by spring 2020. I will do this by taking two courses each semester and one course during the summer.” Make a contract with yourself and sign your name. Promise yourself to move ahead with a well-thought-out plan.

Tip #2 Get Organized

Do not make a habit of throwing your school stuff on the kitchen table every night. Find a shelf, box or file cabinet in which to keep your school materials. The kitchen table can certainly turn into your school desk at night, but you need a defined, organized place to keep everything. Otherwise, valuable study time is wasted on looking for misplaced things or items the children somehow managed to “borrow.” Having a designated study space/office will help you focus on your studies, also. Set boundaries if it is a shared common space, such as the dining room table.  Tell your family members that when you are in there working, they should not disturb you.

Tip # 3 Abolish Procrastination

Single parents in college do not have the option or the luxury to procrastinate. Guaranteed, the first time you put off an important school paper, a child will get the flu, and the paper will suffer the consequences and not be done on time. The best way to manage the inevitable stresses of juggling multiple responsibilities as a single parent in college is to prioritize and NOT procrastinate. Complete assignments as soon as they are assigned and then sit back and enjoy a little guilt-free time away from the pressures of school with a side of “pat on the back.” If your classes are online, post your required responses early, so you can respond to your classmates’ questions as the week progresses. Waiting until the end of the week just means that there will be a lot more responses for you to read through.

 Tip #4 Learn to Say “No”

When returning to school, you must learn to say “no” to demands that do not help you progress in your studies, or personally benefit you and your children. Many of us have trouble saying “no.” If this is difficult for you, keep a tangible reminder — like a picture of a vacation spot you’d like to visit —  to remind you of what you could enjoy with your kids thanks to the added income and increased job security. Explain to your family what completing college will mean to all of you.  Remind them that studying and evening classes are just a temporary thing, and that you will be able to take breaks to spend time with them between semesters and after you’ve completed your assignments.

Oklahoma is comprised of more than 300,000 adults who left college with no degree. The Reach Higher: DirectComplete program can help. Please visit https://reachhigherok.org/directcomplete/ for more information.