Having Children While in College: Challenges and Solutions

Having Children While in College
Photo Credit: John Walker

This article is written by Marina Salsbury.

Having a child while in college presents many challenges, both educationally and personally. Whether through planning or lack thereof, it creates obstacles college students don’t usually have to face. Not only do student parents need to focus on studying in the library, working on online college classes, or social life, they must take total responsibility for a whole new life. However, one can be successful in balancing the challenges of parenting and college successfully with careful planning and organization.

One of the biggest challenges for new parents is time management. Children are demanding and don’t care if their parents have an 8:00 AM test and haven’t slept in three days. Children get sick, babysitters cancel, and babies require constant attention. Time management is crucial for any parents, even if they’re not in school. Without strong time management skills, it’s extremely difficult for college parents to balance educational and personal lives.

Planning ahead and always having a backup plan is essential. Scheduling one’s day, week, or often month ahead of time can help to see where time is available to study or prep for schoolwork. Even small chunks of time can be utilized for work if they’re recognized and accounted for ahead of time. Many parents choose to do all schoolwork after kids are asleep, while some prefer to attempt to multitask. Whatever course of action is chosen, it’s helpful to keep a daily planner with all personal and educational projects and assignments accessible at all times. Successful preparation requires not procrastinating on projects. It’s almost inevitable that if a project is put off until the last minute, a crisis will crop up.

Financial difficulties are another major challenge for students parents. In 2000, approximately 10.4 percent of full-time college students also worked at least twenty hours per week. Having a child while in college requires either a stable support system to assist in meeting financial needs or effort to find flexible employment. Financial aid is often more readily available for nontraditional students like college parents in the form of scholarships and grants to help with tuition costs. Some colleges also offer reduced rate childcare for students. However, otherwise childcare is usually costly and often unreliable for changing schedules.

Those struggling to balance parenthood, college, and employment obligations often fail to care appropriately for their own personal needs. Stress is high and loss of sleep, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise can contribute to exhaustion and illness. Finding time, even if just minutes a day, to care for one’s own needs can decrease the stress college parenting can cause. While stressful, college and caring for young children are life phases that do not last forever. By finding time to care for one’s own physical and mental health, one will be able to withstand the stress for this time.

Raising young children and going to college are both stressful activities. Together, they create a whole new situation that requires constant planning, organization, and flexibility. Finding a stable support system and organizing one’s daily life to carve out time to study, work, and bond with family is an ever-changing and difficult task. However, with the right determination many are able to successfully navigate these challenges and make it through early parenthood without sacrificing continued education.

Marina Salsbury planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes for Online College Classes and other sites about everything from education to exercise.