Back in 2010, I decided it would be a good idea to pursue a BSc in Medical Sciences without having picked up any tips for studying as a student parent. As I looked ahead, I envisaged myself displaying stellar organisational skills and sailing through to the end effortlessly. Three years on and I am in my final year, realising that was never going to be possible! Since then, I have been the Students With Caring Responsibilities Officer for my students’ union. This has given me the chance to compile my own little list of tips for studying when you are a parent:
1 Don’t Panic
Before we begin with all the other tips for studying as a parent, don’t even begin to worry about how you are going to manage with children and a degree. You are simply going to be able to do it. I soon realised that while I was nursing viruses and snotty noses, my new friends were nursing hangovers. Trust me, if the people you study alongside can handle socialising and studying, you can handle parenting and studying. In fact, your lack of social life may even make meeting deadlines easier.
2 Make Connections
Okay, so you won’t be doing tequila slammers with the rest of your classmates. Not often, anyway. You will, however, need to have a couple of handy connections. Get talking to people and add them to your Facebook/Twitter/whatever. If or when you miss a lecture because of your caring responsibilities, you can grab notes or recordings off your new friends.
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3 Familiarize Yourself with Your University’s Extension Policy
Over the summer I managed to organize an extension for myself after putting my hand out of action making a baked potato (I severed some tendons, I may be the first person to manage this ever). Even with a firm physio letter in hand, organizing an extension for my essays and exams was a nightmare. I completely underestimated the process. Later, I helped another student organize an extension after giving birth. Both experiences taught me that you definitely need to familiarize yourself with an extension policy before using it.
4 If You Are in College One Day, Stay There
Early on in my degree, I chose to drive myself mad by becoming a freelance writer as well. Aside from having almost no free time, I have had to get organized, fast. On the days when I am in college, I stay there and turn myself into a library hermit. When I am not there, I work. In the evenings, I am parenting. There isn’t much uniform regularity to this, but it somehow works.
You know those really enthusiastic professors that bug everyone with pre-reading lists? You need to listen to them. Everyone else can get away with ignoring them, as they don’t have as many responsibilities as you. By pre-reading, you get ahead of the crowd and you do not have to panic when something you wouldn’t otherwise understand comes up. A major plus to this is you can watch everyone else annoy each other as they fight over library books. Trust me, it is sort of fun.
6 Make Your Responsibilities Clear
My professors are mainly parents, which means they are incredibly supportive! If I come in half asleep, they know it is most likely due to various nocturnal wakings rather than downing a few too many beers the night before. This also sort of ties in with the whole learning about your university’s extension policy point. The more a professor knows about your personal life, the more they can help you when problems arise. This is particularly important if you have a personal tutor or mentor, who is likely to have a major effect on your academic progress.
7 Aim to Submit All of Your Essays a Week in Advance
This is a fantastic piece of advice I picked up from a lecturer. By pretending your deadline is a week earlier than usual, you can accommodate those little emergencies. Suddenly week long outbursts of colds are no longer an issue, because you were super prepared anyway. This also prevents you from falling back on extensions. Ultimately, the more organised you are, the better your references will be for the future!
Studying as a parent is both fun and invigorating. Sure, I rarely feel organized. I also often suddenly realize that I have more work mounting on me than Lady Gaga’s personal assistant. Still, I don’t think I would have done college any other way, even if it would have meant more tequila shots!
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