So you’ve made the decision to return to school. You have your class schedule in hand
(or nearby). And it doesn’t matter if you’re a mother, wife, single woman, or in a
loving partnership. You’ve decided to improve/enrich yourself and your life, or your earning capacity, or your family life, or maybe even all of the above. BTW, it doesn’t matter which type of school you will be attending: adult school, high school/GED, 2 to 4 year college, grad school, medical school, trade school, law school; the list goes on. And iit is my firmly held belief--from the bottom of my heart and soul--that you are absolutely, positively on the right track.
Here are some suggestions from someone who has been through that process more than once and has made enough mistakes to know what worked well and what would have worked better if only I’d known then...
1) Keeping it real: If you want to be analytical about the whole thing, estimate the number of extra hours per week you’ll need for things like commuting, in-class time, homework, projects (done independently or with a group), lab hours, study, etc. Add those hours together plus 3 hours more for each class. That’s a conservative estimate of the weekly hours needed for your commitment toward a better way of life.
2) You are going to need help: We did not come into this life alone nor do we leave alone; it just feels that way sometimes. This is not a good time to indulge in such feelings. Especially if you have children, you’re going to need extra support. If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby who are willing to help with the kids, you’re more than halfway there, but you may have to ask first. Likewise, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted neighbor, colleague, or friend who might also lend a helping hand. Try if you can to get commitments of help with the kids before your classes start. Things can change for everyone, so better to ask for more help and not need it rather than the other way around.
Children come first, but that can also mean that they might be capable of a little more responsibility (if they’re old enough). Mom going back to school isn’t one of those adverts for online universities that makes your relationship with your kids seem so perfectly warm and fuzzy (insert emoji for getting sick), but you are parenting from a place of leadership by example. And that’s the main way that children learn.
If you’re working a job, you may need to adjust your hours and honestly estimate if school+work is possible for you financially, as well as approved of by your supervisors on the job. Again, these adjustments are better made before your semester starts. If school isn’t possible right now, it will be—just put it in your planning mind and heart and it will happen sooner than rather than later.
3) If the teacher or class don’t fit, you must change classes or drop before the deadline!
Disclaimer: Most teachers I’ve met are blessings, but some are not.
For students under the age of 18, it’s not so easy to do. But as an adult student you have more options. If there’s a professor whose class you can’t get anything out of, but you know it’s not the material itself, change classes. Many core courses have more than one section of the same class, taught by different people. If there’s only one teacher for that particular course, decide whether it’s worth it for you to suffer through with an instructor whose teaching style or accent makes it next to impossible for you to comprehend. If it’s a required course, just get what you can out of the material, turn in all work on time, clarify assignment directions with the teacher, and do your best to pass. If it’s a required course that has more than one class option, such as geography vs. astronomy, my advice is to switch to the other class. You can also drop the current, unwanted class and take the other course next semester. This all depends on you and your priorities. Sometimes switching is not possible. This is a hard one! In all my years of going to school above the secondary level, I’ve only taken action with about two handfuls of teachers. It’s always a hassle, but it was worth it to me at the time. And there were some instances that I let fall through the cracks. Both decisions were the right ones for me. There is no judgment in any of these actions, but you may have to assert yourself. Only you can decide what’s right for you.
3) You do not have to get an A in everything! No one asks you what you got on your second semester geography final or your score—which is held in some type of Fort Knoxian cloud that’s probably lost in the void by now--on the Calculus portion of the CSET teacher’s test. You just have to pass. Please…let’s not make things harder than they already are! You want to pass even if you have to take the class or test more than once, and you want to do the best you can, regardless of grade. That’s all that anyone, including you, can ever ask. Your best is different at different times. It is not the same when you’re not feeling well, sleep deprived, or going through a difficult family matter as when the sun is shining and the birds are singing your name in the enchanted, mathematics forest. We are human; we are not machines. Please, please look at the big picture and don’t lose the forest for the trees.
In the words of the late, great LS,
4) “Some things are going to fall through the cracks.” Let’s be realistic—your hair, make up, meals prepared by you, front lawn, garden, perfectly ironed clothes, wardrobe, organized kitchen, or all that might be near and dear to your image of how you want the world to see you, have to take a back seat. You won’t have the time for everything, and most students won’t have the extra money. And those friends who like to party after work on a Friday may or may not drift away. Some may become better friends than you would have imagined. And the new and old friends who stick with you through times such as these are true blue. You can always find the party peeps at your next job or promotion once you’re out of school.
I send all my hopes and dreams to you who embark on this meaningful journey toward a better life--at any age and for any reason. It isn’t easy and it wasn’t as straightforward as I would have hoped for, but it was worth it. There is nothing to compare with the self-esteem gained from accomplishing something that’s challenging and that takes both dedication and stamina. It may not happen in a New York minute, but you will be forever changed for the better. Even those close to you who may resent what you’re doing or who may even feel a bit envious are also changed for the better because you are showing what is possible as you lead by example.