If parenting is the world’s toughest job, then parenting while earning an online degree should qualify you for a cape and your own comic book.
Of course, if it weren’t for online degree programs, many current students wouldn’t be able to pursue degrees. Distance learners tend to be older than traditional college age students, have full-time jobs and also have family responsibilities.
“I was able to work full time, and occasionally work extra hours, take care of two small children, spend time with my husband and kids, and complete chores around the house. Online is the only way to go when you live a busy life,” Samson said.
Tips for success as an online student apply to those with or without children. Some, though, require a bit of tweaking if parenthood is one of your responsibilities. For example:
- Create a plan: All students must have a schedule with due dates for papers, exams and other assignments. As a parent, you have to schedule this around your children’s needs. This might mean studying later at night while your children sleep, or early in the morning before they rise.
- Set daily goals: Stay up-to-date by checking in online, even on days you don’t have school plans. This way you’re not caught off-guard by changes on the syllabus or assignments. It’s especially important to stay current with your work, since a child’s illness can make demands that eat into your study time. It’s a way of safeguarding your studies against the unavoidable disruptions of parenthood.
- Be vocal and ask for help: Make sure your professors know your situation regarding work and family responsibilities. Most professors will work with students who show they’re dedicated and willing to work but who may be dealing with something unexpected.
- Use your resources: For parents, this includes family and friends who can help with babysitting, school pick-ups and errands. It’s important to get some time away from the distractions of home to study, work on a paper, or just relax for a couple of hours.
- Know your limits: If you push too hard, for example, by studying when you can’t keep your eyes open, you can set yourself back further than if you conceded and went to bed. Sometimes students need an evening off. Or a weekend. Or even a semester. You’re not in a sprint. You’re running for distance and you have to pace yourself.
Above all, trust that you can do it. Don’t let inevitable setbacks derail your dream.
Becki Morgan earned her MSN from JU – with a 4.0 GPA, no less – while caring for her two children and working full-time as the assistant nurse manager of the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. She said “self-discipline” is key.
“The instructors are wonderful and willing to help, but it is your responsibility to remain organized in order to complete the projects and work on time,” Morgan said.