Tips From a Student Parent
Tips and Tricks for Student Parents from Student Parents.
I am currently a level 5 student at the university. I have 3 young children, I also have a husband who is currently a level 4 student. Juggling university and home life can be a challenge sometimes, especially when you have children to take care of. I have compiled a list of some tips that have helped me and other student parents whilst studying. I hope these are helpful.
1. Organisation – this is key to studying in general but more so when trying to balance studies and a busy home life. Try keeping a large calendar or planner on display in your home, somewhere that this will be seen regularly. Put important dates on there such as assesment deadlines, birthday parties, school plays, term dates, etc. I have become extremely forgetful since starting university and this really helps to make sure I don’t miss anything! I also always keep a personal planner in my bag, it’s great for writing down any important dates on the go but the calendar in a phone works just as well.
2. Scheduling – Schedule time to study. I have found this helps to keep me in check. When the kids have gone to bed, all you want to do is sit with a large tub of ice cream, maybe a glass of wine, favourite tv show and chill. Without a schedule, this would be my night every night. A schedule gives me the motivation to get stuck into the books. Pick days that you know are going to slightly more relaxed. For example, if you have a full day of lectures, then you have to pick up the kids, cook dinner, bath them, do their homework with them… the last thing you are going to want to do is sit and study. Take those nights to relax. I pick evenings where my day is not so busy. Also use any free time when the children are school or childminders to study. I find this to be most productive.
3. Library – Sometimes you can schedule time to study and, in a house, full of children, distraction can be everywhere. Try heading to the library. The library is open till midnight (I have made use of the late opening hours a lot!) and is full to the brim of any literature you could possibly need. Take a thermos of coffee and you are set.
4. Child Care- There is a nursery within the university grounds. I have no personal experience of it, however I do have peers who use this facility and have heard lots of positive feedback. My youngest is with a childminder. It can be difficult when searching for childcare, so make sure to use reputable sites such as childcare.com. For school age children, many schools run after school clubs which can be handy for those afternoon lectures. These also tend to be cheaper than looker for other options.
5. Communication – sometimes things happen, and you may not be able to attend university due to child sickness, lack of childcare, etc. Speak to your lecturers, they will understand and may also be able to offer advice on how to catch up. Good communication with your peers is extremely valuable in situations like this, you may be able to copy some notes and get an idea of what you have missed.
6. Support – Good support networks can help to take some of the strain off. If you have people who will babysit for you on a day when you have work, let them. Don’t be afraid to ask people. If you need help, ask for it. The chaplaincy and the student union are always there if you need an ear. They are always there to help when they can, and you can always contact the student officer for students with caring responsibilities.
7. Get Involved – The university puts on family friendly events. It’s a good way to meet other parents and are cheap fun events for the kids.
8. Finance/Funding – make no mistake, student finance is confusing. My advice would be to apply for everything. You will be surprised at what you may be eligible for. You can get help
with childcare costs and extra allowances on top of your student maintenance. The university has financial advisors who can also advise you on what you may be entitled to and how to apply. The university also does bursaries so check if you are eligible. You may also be entitled to help with housing costs, child tax credits. Also, being a student gives you a council tax reduction so make sure you apply for this.
9. Student Discounts – TOTUM, Student Beans, Unidays. These are just some of the companies that will help you grab a bargain and save money. Check them regularly as there are always new offers being added. I also always ask “do you do student discount?” It never hurts to ask.
Written By Danielle Diamond
Being a mother and a studying is not an easy job but it is not the end of your world. I migrated to the United Kingdom and did not have extended family support, but I wanted to become a psychologist. I have three young children and they are 8, 6 and 2 years old. It was already a full-time job being mother and I knew studying will a lot for me to manage.
When I first thought about studying two years ago, the University Of Suffolk career advisers said that there are quite a lot of matured students in the University and offered me a place that year. At the beginning it was very hard for me to take in everything. Less sleep, very tired, stressful days with deadlines coming up and so on. I was looking for a way to cope.
On an exam planning lecture, a lecturer said that you must plan your work early and work effectively. Which were very familiar words, but they then added “at this stage, if you can score higher results in your assessment that’s good, but if you cannot, nothing is wrong, you can try next time. no one is going to give you world prize for high grades.” This was something no one had told me. During the first year no one is going to give you world prize for high grades. After this I relaxed, and I started to plan and look for the ways to work effectively with less stress. My aim was to achieve a middle score in all the modules and have a stress-reduced life.
When planning, I started with my home and planned my family responsibilities.
Family time is important, so I decided to have family time every Sunday afternoon, which also gave me a chance to share my course with my family members. I explained to them about my work loads and deadlines and how important to me achieving my dream is, and how it will make a difference in the family. Now we have the family time every Sunday and can work together to plan around family responsibilities and share the work within the family.
There was another thing I learned, help can be found around you whenever you need it, just ask for it. There might be people around you whom you might trust to go to, or you can get it from support networks within the University that are free for you to tap into.
If you are a full-time student you will get financial support for child care and there is other support available that the University Financial Support Advisers will be happy to advise you with, as per your situation. There are free clubs available in your areas such as painting clubs, homework clubs, and handwork clubs and so on. So definitely have a look at what your town and university offer.
When it comes to your food, its can appear hard to get meals sorted every day. My family needs a balanced diet so I got registered with one of the local farms and they deliver my fruit and vegetables every week, and I use a slow cooker and do as much prep as I can the night before, or get some help from my family members and cook lots of one pot slow cooker recipes. This make my family happy and also gives me lot of time to study. I found lot of nice safe vegetable cutters for an affordable price so I can get my children involved too. As a mother I felt guilty about leaving my children to help me in house hold tasks at the beginning, but I saw how much they were enjoying working together and how proud they are when they are making their family food. I also saw lot of confidence in them.
You also get lot of student discounts and there are second hand shops available in Ipswich. Lots of online shopping and student discounts are out there and it’s about shopping wise.
Then I looked into the planning of university work, it was a lot. Daily readings, note takings, learning statistical packages and academic writings and so on. But I learned a lot from people from learning support. They help you with your academic language usage and writing style, help you how to take notes effectively and advise on how you could use your learning material effectively. This will make a difference in your academic life. Also, there is tutorial tutor support and peer support. Speak your friends and seniors how they came out of their stress of studying and coped with family responsibilities, how they balanced life with their entertainment and relaxing needs. There are lot of lectures and staff in the University who would love to share their experiences and tips.
Once I had learned to manage, life in the university became amazing. I am on track and have learned how to get my work done successfully.
Nothing is out of your reach.
Written by Zamrooth Sherifdeen