How to get a higher education with a family

How to get a higher education with a family
How to get a higher education with a family

A graduate school is a challenge. Whatever university you go to or the field of your studies, you are going to have to manage a significant amount of work and find a balance between your university commitments and other responsibilities. For students with families, finding this balance can be especially difficult.


Part 1 of 3: Prepare for new challenges

Handle Graduate School with a Family Step 1

Step 1. Do your homework

Realize that even if you were an outstanding student before entering graduate school (most are), you will face new challenges. The specific nature of the coursework, research, teaching, and lab requirements will vary dramatically depending on the field you have chosen, your school and department, as well as your salaries and eventual funding, which is why you have to do some research to find out more about what you are getting into.

  • There are many departmental websites that will give you answers to basic questions about specific programs, so you need to start to get a feel for your obligations as a graduate student.
  • Consider making contact with students at this school. Most programs have a director of studies who can connect you with students in the program. You can send him an email to ask him more specific questions. Students taking this program at the moment might get a better idea of ​​the amount of work involved and funding and, unlike the website, they could also explain to you the possible drawbacks of studying in this department.
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Step 2. Clarify your goals

Graduate school is not something you do just because you have no other ideas of what you could do with your life. No one should waste years of their life, money and energy on education without having a clear idea of ​​their goals and what they need to do to get there. This is all the more true for students who have families. Find out your reasons for pursuing higher education and research the opportunities available to you after that. Don't think that just because you're going to get a doctorate you're going to get a wonderful job and get rich.

Many people in academia don't like to admit it, but the job market for people with doctorates is extremely thin, especially in the humanities or social sciences. If you are studying in any of these fields, think twice. Even if you come to the end of the program and do well, five to ten years later, you could end up with an impressive doctorate, colossal debt, and jobless. For students with families, this could be boring. Do your research and get started with all the cards in your hand (if you do)

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Step 3. Discuss your plans with your partner

If you are married or in a serious relationship, it is imperative to discuss this upcoming challenge with your spouse or partner. For most people who have families, a program at a graduate school often requires a move, stopping their current job, creating a new budget, reorganizing arrangements for caring for the children, and a reassessment of the distribution of household chores. These are major developments that are going to turn your life upside down, which is why you need to discuss them honestly and openly.

If your partner is not a student, they might not understand what your new commitments are going to look like. Once you've researched it on your own, be sure to pass this knowledge on to your partner and explain any possible misunderstandings. Let her know, for example, that you may have to work on weekends or travel for your research

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Step 4. Prepare your children

If your children are old enough to understand, you need to discuss your plans openly with them. Remember that your decision to go to college will also affect them, they are likely to have to adjust to a new school or new faces, change schedules and spend less time with you. Be direct with them and speak to them in a manner appropriate to their age and maturity level and explain to them why you have chosen to take this path.

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Step 5. Think about the money

Whatever your financial situation, a graduate school is an expense that you should carefully consider. Ideally, you should avoid entering graduate school, especially in the humanities or social sciences, unless you have found full funding for your program, which means funding for fees. admission fee and a small monthly salary, often in exchange for a teaching position or laboratory work. However, people with families should be extremely careful, as full funding is unlikely to include some expenses, for example, the children's school.

  • Find out about the costs for child care in advance. If you were taking care of your children yourself and want to pay for child care for the first time, you might not know what expenses to expect. If you quit a “real job” to go to graduate school, you might not realize that your salary will not be enough after you remove all the costs incurred by your children. Either way, you need to know what to expect.
  • Also make sure you are familiar with the tax cuts or deductions associated with childcare costs.
  • Also consider changes in your partner's income. If you are married or in a relationship, you must also assess your partner's income. Do you have to move to take your courses? If so, your partner is probably going to have to find a new job, how will you pay the bills during this time? Will your decision to attend college affect your partner's schedule and make them work overtime? If so, you need to take that into account as well.
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Step 6. Think carefully about borrowing

You might be tempted to get as much financial help from the government as you can, but this seemingly appealing decision at the moment could turn out to be unwise in the long run. Doctoral programs in particular are spread over a long period. The debt is going to pile up and you are going to have to face the dire job market for college students. How are you going to pay off your debt?

Part 2 of 3: Starting Graduate School With Your Family

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Step 1. Spend time observing the mood in your department

When you start your studies, pay attention to everything that is going on around you. Are there other parents in your program? Do university members seem to support other students in their outside responsibilities? How long does a successful looking student spend in college? Does he also study in the evenings and on weekends? Answers to these questions will help you identify possible problems and adapt to program demands as quickly as possible.

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Step 2. Find out about the resources available

Many universities have a family resource center or other services available to students.

  • You should inquire about these services before committing to taking classes at this institution. The resource center will let you know if the university is suitable for students who have families.
  • Some institutions offer positions or collect job offers for their students and spouses.
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Step 3. Talk to an advisor

Most students are assigned an advisor upon entering the program. Let this person know that you have children. She might have specific advice on how to balance your family life and your academic responsibilities.

  • If you are assigned a counselor who doesn't seem to like the fact that you have children, try to find another who shares your point of view.
  • Like most interactions in graduate schools, your tone and attitude are very important. Don't whine or complain to your counselor about your difficulty balancing school and your children, and don't make requests for special treatment because you have children. You learn to become a professional, behave like one. Make an effort to adopt a winning attitude while remaining open to the advice and constructive criticism that your advisor may offer.
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Step 4. Learn how to manage your time effectively

The first skill a graduate school student must learn to develop is not an academic or intellectual skill, it is simply knowing how to manage time. Estimate how many hours per week you need to spend studying, reading, and researching. Also estimate the number of hours you will spend per week teaching or working in the lab. Remember important family obligations and set up a schedule that allows you to do everything. Then ask yourself how to keep up with that schedule and maximize your productivity.

  • At first, you may find that you do not correctly estimate the time required for your lessons, your reading, and preparation for your lessons. Consider asking a senior to help you, at least until you have a better idea of ​​how to handle your responsibilities. Senior students might also pinpoint "hidden" work hours that you may not be aware of, work that is unofficial but necessary, such as conferences and events in the department.
  • Time yourself. If you've given yourself three hours to do a certain task, set a timer and unless the situation is really dire, stop at your chosen time. If you find that you cannot complete this task for the amount of time you have given yourself, you need to revisit your schedule.
  • Consider actively limiting unnecessary activities that take up too much of your time, such as Facebook and other social networks. By getting rid of Facebook or setting hard limits on its use, you will be able to significantly boost your productivity.
  • Be flexible. Be aware that the demands during your studies will change over time. You are going to have different lessons and different teaching assignments or lab tasks and different projects are going to start and end. Your family obligations will also change as your children grow up. What works this month might not work the next month, so be aware that you are going to need to constantly review your schedule.
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Step 5. Ask for help

It's hard to learn to strike a balance between your student life and your home life, and the first few months of college are likely to be the hardest. Ask for help. If you have a partner, ask them if they can do some of the chores that you usually do, like preparing meals, doing laundry or other household chores, at least temporarily. If you are lucky enough to have close friends or relatives who want to help you, accept their help! They could babysit your children, cook meals, or take your children to their various activities for you.

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Step 6. Spend time with your partner and children

Don't find yourself so caught up in your responsibilities that you neglect your loved ones. Let your partner and children know that you are grateful for their efforts. If these changes have made you cranky, distant, or careless, apologize and let them know that you will try to fix the situation.

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Step 7. Keep a positive attitude

The first few months in college can be overwhelming and difficult, even for people who don't have children! Give yourself some time to adjust and don't feel like you're failing if you're struggling. These changes are part of a process and eventually, if you work directly and adapt when necessary, you are going to get where you want to be.

Part 3 of 3: survive for the long haul

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Step 1. Practice saying no

Some commitments are not worth investing your time and energy in, and if you want to complete your education while taking care of your family, you are going to have to learn how to say no. You need to do this on a case-by-case basis depending on the situation, but in general, here's what you need to remember.

  • You are going to have to say no to your partner every now and then. Your spouse or partner might want to go to a movie on Saturday afternoon, but if you have to hand in an assignment the following Monday, you are probably going to have to say no to them. These kinds of situations can create resentment, so you need to be careful and be sure to discuss any tensions with your partner.
  • You are going to have to say no to your children on a regular basis. If you want to be successful in college, you won't be able to let your kids participate in all the activities they want or accept all the invitations they receive. Explain it to them as clearly as possible.
  • You will have to limit the obligations you take on for your children's school or daycare. For example, if you are already a parent volunteer, you will have to say no if someone asks for your help with an event. Resist the urge to accept unnecessary volunteer activities.
  • You are going to have to say no on certain academic occasions. It can turn into a minefield. You don't want to sabotage your success as a student, alienate your advisor and teachers, or miss out on opportunities that are critical to your future. But you can't do everything either. Be aware that you may miss an event from time to time in your department, turn down an opportunity to speak at a conference, or actively participate in organizing your department.
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Step 2. Know when to say yes

If you say no too often or to the wrong things, you'll quickly feel like you're failing, at college, at home, or both. Some bonds are not negotiable. It varies on a case-by-case basis depending on your personal situation, but here's what you need to remember in general.

  • You need to know the difference between the wants and the needs of your loved ones. If you say no to your partner too often, they might feel neglected, unloved, angry, or resentful, and that's not fair. Know how to spend more time with your partner or relieve him of household chores at the right times. The same goes for your children: don't neglect their needs in the name of your college career. Make sure you spend enough time with them and let them do fun activities.
  • You are going to need to recognize what is necessary for your success in college. Know that doing the minimum to overcome each obstacle and to obtain your diploma is not going to be enough to reach your goals. In some situations (but not all), you will also have to excel and impress others! Say yes to enough academic engagements, events in your department, conferences in your field, and research trips to ensure the success you seek.
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Step 3. Make it a habit to finish your academic tasks early

In general, it is always better to complete your academic work in advance. If you have to make a presentation by a certain Friday, try to finish it by the Friday before.This kind of advance allows you not to fall behind if something unexpected happens. If you have children, you know that unexpected things happen all the time! Your child might get sick, you might be called on to meet with teachers, or your partner might have a problem at work. You don't want to find out at the last minute that you won't have time to finish something you need to do.

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Step 4. Forget perfectionism

Many graduate school students are perfectionists. They work hard and they want a 20/20 for everything they do. However, at the end of the road, that perfectionism will stand in your way, at school and at home, preventing you from doing the things you want to do and enjoying life. You don't want to become a slacker or be known for your shoddy work, but you don't have to exhaust yourself becoming the best at everything.

  • Realize that most academic tasks are barriers to overcome, not monumental efforts that require genius or perfection. Don't be too hard on yourself.
  • It is better to deliver a presentation on time believing its quality is reasonable for your program rather than asking for a delay. Finish your job even if you think you can do better. Don't sink into college "debt" by letting tasks drag on on your calendar.
  • Forget about your desire to have a perfectly clean house and to be the perfect parent. This is not going to happen and you are going to find yourself frustrated and exhausted if you spend unnecessary hours making it happen.
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Step 5. Take the time to socialize

Between your college job, your obligations as a parent, your marriage, or your relationship, you might feel like you don't have time to socialize. However, it would be better if you give yourself the time. As you go to parties or have a drink with friends every now and then, you will refresh your mind and remember that you are also a person outside of your role as a parent and student.

Try to socialize sometimes with other students in the program and sometimes with people outside of the program. Both of these types of friends are important. Your friends at college can understand what you're going through, and your friends outside can remind you of your life outside of college

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Step 6. Try to take one day a week without college work

If possible, take Saturday or Sunday to rest. This will allow you to take time to spend with your family and believe it or not, this rest will make you a better student when you get back to work.

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Step 7. Be an example for your children

When you feel sad that you don't have time for your family, remember to be setting an example for your children. It could be a good thing, you are a person who works hard and long to get what she wants. When they are adults they will remember what you have done and it might also inspire them to work hard towards their own goals.

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Step 8. Celebrate your small victories

Graduate school is a long-term job. Don't wait until you graduate to celebrate your successes, be proud of the small steps you take along the way. When you finish a talk, when you give a conference, when you publish an article or when you have a good class, take advantage of the moment and make sure your family celebrates it with you!


  • Going to college can be stressful and exhausting when you have a family. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, consider talking to a therapist about how to deal with these feelings. Most universities offer this kind of service on campus.
  • Make sure you use all resources to the maximum. Some universities may offer you free or paid childcare services. Some have associations that help students with children. Others offer scholarships or grants to students who have children. Ask questions and research their website. You might find help there.

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