Lots of single mums make the decision to study with the intention of changing or improving their career. Many are super successful and absolutely love it.
But it’s not for everyone.
If you’re thinking about returning to the world of academia, we suggest you do your homework to be certain it is right for you at this point in your life.
Study courses are not cheap and if you start but don’t finish, it could be a waste of money and time, which is in short supply anyway.
For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself that will help you make an educated decision about returning to study as a single mother.
IS IT THE RIGHT TIME TO STUDY?
Being a student is associated with being young. Studying as a mature student brings to mind a ticking clock and a sense of urgency.
Although getting your study done and dusted sooner rather than later has many advantages, there is no age deadline to study. According to The Guardian:
“Age is not a barrier when it comes to learning. About 40% of mature students studying at university are over the age of 30, some in their 50s and 60s. Many have mortgages, families and are in full-time employment.”
Instead, focus on your own circumstances and whether it is the right time for you to make this commitment.
If you return to study as a single mother, timing is everything. Getting it right could be the difference between seeing it through or giving up.
CAN I AFFORD TO STUDY AS A SINGLE MOTHER?
Whether you plan to study full-time or part-time, it can put pressure on your finances which may already be stretched.
If a loan is too eye-watering at this stage in your life, you could try for a scholarship. Being a single mum may be the trump card you need!
In addition to the cost of your education, you must account for loss of earnings due to study. Can you take the hit? Check for government payments available while you study to help bridge the gap. AUSTUDY provides financial support if you are 25 or older, in approved full-time education and under the income test limits.
DO I HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO DO ALL THE COURSE WORK?
Before you start shopping online for pencil cases, work out whether you actually have enough time in your week to see this thing through.
Course information will include how many hours you will be required to work each week. This is just a guide so round it up to allow for false starts and interruptions from little people. Don’t forget to add on travel time for on-campus study.
Use a weekly planner to work out if you physically have enough hours available to complete the study. If not, can you shift commitments around or arrange childcare to free up time?
If yes, great. If no, consider waiting until you have more time available. This might come when your children are at school or when they are older and more independent.
AM I CHOOSING THE RIGHT COURSE FOR MY LIFESTYLE?
Choosing the right course for you is half the battle so allow yourself plenty of time for research. With study, there many ways to reach a similar destination.
Since covid, online study has become more popular than ever, which means you don’t have to get to a campus and allow for hefty travel times. Some courses are entirely online, while others have a few on-campus commitments.
Explore study options that have the flexibility you need for your lifestyle. Nowadays many university courses are set-up with mature students in mind, knowing that you need to juggle work and kids around your learning.
WHAT IS MY MOTIVATION TO STUDY?
This is really important because your motivation is your reason to study. It needs to be strong enough for you to persevere even when times get tough … and they will.
Are you following a life-long career dream? Or are you doing it because a couple of friends are studying and thought, why not?
Like with all long-term goals, your motivation will be highest at the beginning, but it will wane. Make sure you are fully focused on your “why” to ensure your commitment will carry you through.
WHAT IF I START AND DON’T LIKE IT?
It might be that you start with brilliant intentions only to discover it’s not for you.
If this happens, you are not alone!
According to PolicyForum:
“In Australia, 50,000 students drop out of university each year – that’s more than one in five students.”
Best tip ever: Make a note of the census date for your course which is usually about three-weeks after the start date. If you cancel before census date there will be no fees or debt repayment.
CAN I JUGGLE WORK, STUDY AND PARENTHOOD?
This could well be the juggle of your life!
Can you do it? Or better still, can you do it without having a nervous breakdown?
Only you know the answer to this. Think carefully about all your obligations. You are a mum, possibly an employee. Can you squeeze another hat into the ring?
For some, we only really find the answer by giving it a go.
If you find it too hard, most universities and colleges have the option to defer for a year which is a fairly simple process. It can give you the breathing space you need to focus on your family and recharge ready to get your head back into the books further down the line.
Further reading: Tips for studying as a single mum.