Are you a parent who’s debating whether you should return to college while your children are still young? You’re not alone: according to a 2017 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the number of undergraduate college students raising children grew by 30.2% from 2004-2012 (the most recent eight-year period for which national statistics are available), with more than 4.8 million students who were parents in the classroom in 2012.[i]
Managing work, child-rearing, and school can be a daunting prospect, but making it happen has the potential to transform your life and your children’s. If you’re a parent who is considering going back to college, here are five potential benefits to consider.
Going Back to College Sets a Good Example
By going back to school, you show your children that you value education. You also have the opportunity to demonstrate responsible behavior:
- Planning your study sessions
- Sacrificing leisure time to complete your assignments
- Seeking extra help from instructors if you need it
- Cheerfully tackling classes or assignments you don’t enjoy as much
Showing your children that education matters is one of the best gifts you can give them as a parent. Don’t hesitate to talk to them about what you’re doing, either.
You might explain why you’ve made the decision to go back to school. For example: “I don’t like my old job, so I’m going back to school to earn my medical assistant diploma. It will be hard, but when I do it, I may be able to find a new job that helps people. It could earn us more money, too.”
You can also talk them through your study habits. For instance: “I really want to watch TV tonight, but I have a test on human anatomy next week, so I’m going to spend an hour studying my flash cards first.”
Going Back to College Can Influence Kids’ Future Behavior
You may worry that you’re making a selfish decision by going to college as a parent—after all, time spent in school means time spent away from your kids. However, your choice may influence their attitudes toward school—and usually for the better.
Research from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that compared to children whose parents only graduate from high school, children whose parents complete at least some college are more likely to:
- Complete high school on time[ii]
- Choose academically challenging subjects in high school, such as calculus or Advanced Placement courses[iii]
- Enroll in post-secondary training or college courses within three months of graduating from high school[iv]
- Attain a degree[v]
So, don’t feel guilty about making time to earn a new qualification.
Going Back to School Can Increase Your Earning Potential
While individual circumstances and job markets vary, research repeatedly demonstrates that earning potential rises with education level. A 2014 Georgetown University report found that high school graduates stood to earn $1.3 million over their working lives, while those with some college but no degree would earn $1.5 million and those with an associate degree would earn $1.7 million.[vi]
The opportunity to compete for higher-paying jobs can have a real impact on your family life. If you currently work more than one job, earning a qualification could mean you can get on a career path where you’ll only need one, which might free up more time at home. If you do successfully land a higher-paying job, you may face less pressure from your bills. You may also have enough to pay for enriching activities for your children, such as music lessons, tutoring, sports teams, or other clubs.
What You’ve Learned as a Parent Can Make You a Better Student
Another benefit of going back to school is that what you’ve learned as a parent could serve you in the classroom. For example:
- Time management – Whether it’s arranging child care or planning your family’s dinners for the week, you probably better understand where you can make time in your schedule for studying.
- Patience – As a parent, you’re probably more likely to understand that you won’t get it all the first time, and that you have to keep trying in order to succeed.
- The value of a dollar – Although your education can be an affordable investment, you understand that it’s an investment, and you have to put effort in to get out the full value.
Children Grow Up – Invest in Yourself!
Finally, your children are going to grow up and move out someday. When they do, you’re likely to have another 10-20 years of working life left. Make the investment in yourself and your career prospects now. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be on the path to a more rewarding and satisfying career!
[i] https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/C451-5.pdf, p. 2
[ii] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018421.pdf, p. 7
[iii] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018421.pdf, p. 5
[iv] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018421.pdf, p. 7
[v] https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018421.pdf, p. 9
[vi] https://1gyhoq479ufd3yna29x7ubjn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/collegepayoff-summary.pdf, p.2