Once Jen realized she was going to have to support herself and her children financially, quite possibly forever, she knew that low-paying jobs weren’t the answer. If you’re already working as many hours as you can, the only way to grow your income is to increase your pay rate. For Jen, that meant going back to school to gain a teaching qualification. Although that makes a lot of sense, time spent in school is often time not working and if you’re already struggling to make ends meet, how do you even pay for school?
Guest blogger, Alexis Bonari says, with scholarships and grants and to help you get started, here’s Alexis:
Going back to school can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a divorced mom’s life. It’s the beginning of something new and utterly her own. Still, no one said it was easy.
The idea of financing college seems monumental—especially when you’re busy being a mom, to boot—but it can be done. Fortunately, there are multiple avenues to explore to this end. The ones we’ll discuss here are:
- Associate’s Degrees and Accelerated Degrees
Luckily, various institutions are literally giving away gobs of money, and many of them are targeting women and minorities.
Science and technology sectors (simply called STEM, for sciences, technology, engineering, and math) know that women are underrepresented in their male-dominated field. Many STEM fields in colleges and universities offer scholarships for women and minorities in particular, as do professional member-based organizations like the Society of Women Engineers (they offer annual scholarships for qualified women pursuing engineering).
Check with your college or university or your list of applicable institutions to see if they offer non-traditional women’s scholarships, such as for women with families and other financial weights. You might go beyond the college or university itself and check with local women’s organizations, your church, any clubs you belong to, or even your employer.
Many scholarship opportunities are up for grabs—they’re just not advertised very widely. Do your part by researching online, and be sure not to neglect sites like FastWeb and College Board in your search.
Unlike loans, you have no obligation to pay grant money back. They’re free and allotted based on merit and need.
If you’re a single mom, check out President Obama’s “Moms Return to School” government grant scholarship. It’s a revamped Pell Grant, which began in 1965 to help low-income students attend college. Although Obama’s grant is not specifically for mothers, it sure helps out those of us who could use a little extra.
To apply for a grant and to find out if you qualify for one, you must fill out an application for your college or university of choice and the FAFSA, Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The amount you receive from a grant depends on federal budget restrictions, your student status, and your personal cost contribution.
If you’re a resident of your state, check out state-based grant programs, too. They can give you need-based grant money if you’re attending college or university in-state.
Associate’s Degree and Accelerated Degrees
If you have a job which you intend to work while attending school, consider getting an Associate’s Degree—a two-year program—as opposed to a Bachelor’s—a four-year program. Because the “Moms Return to School” Pell Grant and other forms of aid do not cover all costs of attending school, a single mom may find it more affordable to get an Associate’s and find work afterward.
If you want that Bachelor’s degree instead and have time to study, you may consider accelerating your degree. You’ll sign up for a heavier class load to finish four years of school in three or even two. That way, you’re back in the workplace sooner and ready to start your new life.
Swallowing Your Pride
Many students believe that asking Uncle Sam or anyone else for money is humiliating. It’s not. Everyone is doing it and for good reason—college is expensive. There are other ways you can save money in returning to school, but it requires you to swallow your pride.
Some single moms returning to college opt to move back in with their parents, kids and all. This depends, of course, on whether the parents in question say “yes,” but there’s also the children to consider.
You will be a working, studying mom. That’s literally three jobs. You will need some help now and then and so will your children. Having someone you can trust like your parents to be there for the children and for you when you’re in a bind can help put your mind at ease.
The Divorce Coach Says
Lots of the women I’ve interviewed have gone back to school so if you’re looking for inspiration check out:
- April – she became a para-legal – she blogs about raising two daughters as a single mom over at It’s All About Balance .
- Carolyn – she’s currently in a nursing program and just been elected president of the student nursing association – pretty impressive for someone who couldn’t get out of high school fast enough.
- Julia – she went through an accelerated master’s and principal’s license, with the support of her young children.
Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching international student loans as well as scholarships for actors. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.
Photo credit: uniinnsbruck