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tips for parents going back to school

As a devoted parent, your days are likely filled with work, making sure the kids and family are fed, and driving your children to and from their various activities. With all of these obligations vying for your time, it may seem impossible that you would be able to fit anything else in each day. If you are a parent wanting to go back to school, what do you do?

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Fortunately, with the availability of online classes and flexible schedules from Vista College, there are many options for you to pursue an educational program that will help you get to where you want to go.

Attending College as a Nontraditional Student

When you are looking at going back to college at 30, you are considered a nontraditional student. If you attend classes, you may be surrounded by those who finished high school only a couple of years before. It can be intimidating, especially because by the time you reach 30, it is likely you have more responsibilities and obligations than you did at 20. Your study skills may also be a bit rusty. It is important not to let these things stop you from returning to or attending college for the first time. Take a look at these tips to help you get ready for a return to school and what to do once you are there:

  • Get help from an advisor. Trying to navigate through class schedules, options, and graduation requirements can be overwhelming. Colleges have advisors to assist you so you don’t have to figure that all out on your own. An advisor can also help to translate any rules if you have to drop a class once you register for it and help you spread out your class load so you are not Work with an advisor, and it will be much easier to get on the path to graduating on time with all the credits and hands-on experience you need.
  • Explore study help options. Whether a study group, professor office hours, tutoring, or other resources provided by the college, there are always study help options. Familiarize yourself with these, and do not be afraid to use them. Even if it turns out you do not need them, knowing how to go about getting study help can make a world of difference in your college success.
  • Investigate the college environment. If you are attending online classes, it can be beneficial to explore the system before your classes begin. That way, you can focus on your projects and not waste time trying to figure out how to get everything to work properly. Similarly, if you will be attending classes at an actual college campus, determine where your classes will be and where other necessities on campus are prior to your first class. This way, your time is spent efficiently once classes begin.
  • Make every minute count. When you are juggling family, work, and other responsibilities, you will need to make use of every minute. If you are driving, play and review audio notes or lectures from your phone. Make flashcards of important topics and look them over if you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Often, breaking up study time and reviewing notes throughout the day can be more effective than cramming, and it can help to alleviate stress.
  • Outline your goals. What is it you want to accomplish by returning to school? Do you want to be more marketable for a specific job, or are you looking to add to your current skills? Knowing what it is you hope to get out of your educational program and where you see it helping you in the future can make you more motivated to complete your classes and do well. It can also help keep you on track when the going gets tough.

Even if you are considering going back to college at 40 or beyond, these tips still apply. The biggest point to remember is you need to create a plan that will help you succeed in your classes, job, family life, and other responsibilities, without causing you to crumble.

Is It Worth It?

One of the hardest parts of the decision to go back to school is weighing the potential gains against the time and effort it takes to earn the education. After all, it means spending time away from your kids, which can be a tough sacrifice. But this short-term commitment can have benefits that go far beyond your personal education. It can directly impact your family:

  • Many studies show that highly-educated parents go on to raise highly-educated children. Your Diploma or certification can set a positive example and help your children aspire to learn more.
  • Higher levels of education tend to correlate with higher earnings. Those with a bachelor’s degree consistently earn more than those with a high school education. It varies by location, but the increase in earnings can range anywhere from 38 percent in North Dakota to 167 percent in Washington, D.C.

Don’t forget that financial aid options are available. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can still come in handy for adults returning to school. It may qualify you for federal grants, loans, military benefits, and other assistance, reducing the financial investment you might need to make for a degree or education program.

While it may sound daunting to spend time in school and switch careers, the increase in earnings and the effect it can have on family life make it worth it for many adult learners. The future benefits of a new career are often a significant motivational factor for nontraditional students.

Tips for Parents Going Back to College

In addition to being a nontraditional student, you are also trying to balance family life as a parent heading back to school. Add these tips to the ones above to make the most of your college return:

  • Explain to your kids what you are Even though you are the one attending classes, your kids will be embarking on this journey with you. Share with them what you are doing. Show them your class schedule, let them look at your textbooks, and explain what going back to college will help you accomplish. With your kids on board, it will help them and you make sure everything needed gets done.
  • Enlist the help of family. It is going to take the whole family to help you succeed in your new venture. You are going to need their help with chores, making sure everyone gets where they need to be, and more. One way to ensure everyone is on the same page is to make lists for chores, dinner, and groceries, just to name a few. This will help coordinate efforts and make time as productive as possible.
  • Make designated family time. As classes get going and the pressure of papers, tests, quizzes, and everything else heats up, the time can easily get away from you. To make sure this does not happen, schedule family time on the calendar each day. Everyone can schedule the same time, and this will ensure the family doesn’t get neglected. It will also help with balancing your own personal well-being.
  • Get organized. Before your classes start, make sure you get organized. Clear out a space that will be designated for you to study. Eliminate all distractions from that space, and try to get ahead when you can. Prepare lunches the night before so the morning is less chaotic, and work out a schedule with your spouse ahead of time to try and eliminate last-minute surprises.
  • Ask for help. When you embark on a back-to-school experience, you are going to need help. Don’t be shy in asking for help from family, friends, neighbors, or whomever else might be able to assist.
  • Talk to your professors. One of the advantages of a school like Vista College is the smaller class sizes. This makes it easier to talk with your professors and classmates. Converse with your professors at the start of the term. Let them know you have children. That way, if you suddenly get called out of class or need to miss one due to some kind of event that could not be rescheduled, it will not be a surprise.

Finding Balance as a Parent Returning to School

It can be tricky for either parent to find the needed time to attend classes and complete assignments. In many cases, moms often have the most challenges with the elaborate balancing act they must complete every day. There are many online schools for moms, and Vista College is one that understands family time, and mom time, is precious. Here are some additional tips that either parent, but especially moms, may find helpful:

1. Remember to Take Care of Yourself

As a parent, you are used to caring for everyone else, and it can already be difficult to find the time to take care of yourself. Once you add in the element of school, finding that time becomes even more complicated, but it also becomes even more crucial. If you are constantly running between everyone else’s needs and classes, you will hit the burnout point.

Make sure you find time to recharge and to take care of your health. Eat well, exercise, and get as much rest as possible. Constantly burning the midnight oil will only make you burn out that much faster. Taking care of yourself will help you effectively tackle responsibilities and classes in the most efficient manner, and it can also help alleviate stress and prevent illness.

2. Look at the Time You Realistically Have

There are a set number of hours in the day, and there is only so much you can get done. Give yourself a break if something like cleaning or the dishes don’t get accomplished. If you can prioritize your time so your highly important responsibilities get completed, the other things that are not as high on the list can wait.

3. Know It Is Okay to Say No

Many parents have a hard time saying no to requests to join things, volunteer on committees, or other day-to-day occurrences. When you are trying to add college to your list of responsibilities, attempting to do all the other things you have done before may cause you to crumble. Remember it is all right to say no. You need to be in the best possible position to take care of your family and successfully complete your classes.

4. Take It Slow at the Beginning

It can take time to figure out how to best work school into your schedule, so do not be afraid to begin slow. Instead of loading yourself up at first, take two or three classes to start. This will help ease the transition and help you better gauge how to manage your time and complete everything you need to. It is not a race. Even if it takes a little bit longer to complete the program, it is worth it if it means keeping your sanity.

5. Try to Enjoy the Experience

This is important for every student, and especially parents. Remember that this is something you don’t necessarily have to do, so it should be something you enjoy. Celebrate the big things like doing well on a research paper or test, but also celebrate the little things ⁠— you finally understood a concept that was giving you trouble, or you completed a paper in record time. Include your kids in the celebration, too. It will help them and you feel like this is all worth it.

Best Careers for Parents Going Back to School

Whether you are a mom or a dad, your family probably comes first. So, in addition to considering the subjects that interest you when looking at career education options, you will also want to consider a career with the potential for flexible hours or even the possibility of working from home. There are many jobs out there that support work-life balance. Here are a few careers that might just fit the bill:


Both moms and dads are usually pretty familiar with taking care of scrapes and sicknesses. They have to be nurturing and calm under pressure. Those skills are tremendous assets and can be highly useful in a nursing career. As a nursing student, you learn about caring for diverse populations and understanding things like pharmacology, medical terminology, and anatomy. Before graduation, you typically have many real-world experiences and have prepared for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN).

A significant benefit of nursing is schedule flexibility. Often, shifts are longer than a traditional 8- or 9-hour workday, so you would get more than just two days off per week. You can also opt to work differing shifts, like the night shift. Then, you are home when the kids get home from school. Just be sure you get enough sleep and can adapt to odd hours.

Nursing can also be done just about anywhere in the world. With potential placements in clinics, hospitals, schools, and care facilities, you are not pinned down to a big city or even a specific type of work.

Personal Trainer

When you complete your personal trainer education program, you will be able to help people work toward a healthier life. You can help form nutrition plans, assist with proper exercise form and technique, and more. Not to mention, you will also be healthier yourself, and you can pass these habits on to your family. It is an area that can jumpstart your career, as well as one that your whole family can enjoy.

Personal trainers enjoy an energetic environment and flexible hours. They also get to have one-on-one connections with their clients and watch them reach their fitness goals, which can be incredibly rewarding.

Dental Hygienist

To enter the dental hygienist profession, you will need at least a certificate or Diploma. In an education program, you may learn about equipment use, cleaning procedures, X-rays, and taking the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification exam.

Similar to nursing, you can put nurturing skills to use as you assist people in maintaining good dental hygiene. The work is rewarding, and the hours often follow the times your kids may already be in school. The earnings potential can also be high compared to other career fields.

Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist

The medical profession is always a good place to look at if you are thinking about a new career. As the nation’s population ages, medical insurance billing and coding (MIBC) specialists are needed to accurately transcribe needed documentation, and the demand for these professionals is growing.

In an MIBC degree program, you typically learn about health information systems and processing electronic records with hands-on experiences. Once in the field, the work can often be done from home, and the hours are usually flexible, so you can work while the kids are in school or taking a nap.

Massage Therapist

If you are looking at being a massage therapist, there are many paths you can take. You can opt to work at a spa, in a hospital or medical setting, or even start your own business. No matter what path you choose, you will be helping people in areas like overcoming an injury or alleviating stress. You can set your own hours in many cases, giving you the flexibility to be there for your family when they need you.


Everyone needs a haircut from time to time, and with a certificate in cosmetology from Vista College, you will be prepared to put your creative energy to good use. You will be able to give haircuts, perms, manicures, pedicures, and more. This profession also often offers flexible hours, giving you the ability to work full or part-time and to tailor your schedule to how it best suits your family life.

IT Administrator

With the continuous growth of the digital realm, IT administration and support is a field that is in constant demand, and it is only increasing. This career encompasses things like computer repair, technical support, network administration, and more. In an IT education program, you may learn about the ins and outs of applications and software, maintaining networks and servers, and organizing and developing databases.

In many cases, these tasks can be completed on your own schedule and even from your own home, making it ideal for maintaining work and family balance. If you are already tech-savvy, it is also not likely to be highly stressful. In addition, the earnings potential can be quite attractive.

Choosing a Career Path

There are other career options that can be perfect for parents, but the best way to determine the ideal career for you is to look first at what your interests are. There is no sense in embarking on a new career path if it is not going to be something you are interested in.

Even if you are a single parent, many of these careers may work for you. You are likely used to juggling many responsibilities, and your career enters into that daily balance. A job that offers flexibility and a salary that is large enough to live on is the ultimate goal, while still being something that you hopefully enjoy.

At Vista College, we know your family is important to you. We strive to offer an educational experience to maximize the time you have while helping you be the best you can be for both your career and your family. Whether you are a parent going back to college after dropping out, or you are looking to return to college to enhance your skill set, we are here to get you on the right path to accomplish your goals. Contact us today!


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