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Life as a parent returning to college – Daily Sundial

Life as a parent returning to college – Daily Sundial


My two teenage sons motivate me, frustrate me, inspire me, and exasperate me. They make me smile and, to use their jargon, make me cringe.

They have observed my return to school, starting with their participation in my graduation ceremony in June 2022 for my third AA in psychology. The first two were won before they were even born. Then they saw me transfer to CSUN two years later to pursue a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.

It's one thing to be a returning transfer student, with a year or two of graduate school under your belt. Wait, not a belt. Who still wears that anyway?

Either way, you have some experience. This isn't your first rodeo. Maybe you took time off for personal reasons, like traveling, or just to be done and need a break, or even COVID because not everyone wanted to learn online, some people prefer a real in-person education. Maybe you wanted to change careers, learn a skill, or like me, you want to get your bachelor's degree on principle.

You've already worked, moved, bought and sold cars, traveled, partied with celebrities, loved and lost, buried your father. You lived a life, but, because you had kids, you never really finished getting that degree.
Now, for me, these kids are (fairly) self-sufficient, allowing me to become that rare creature: a returning full-time transfer student, a single mother with two jobs, and two teenage sons.

As a working mother, I enjoy online classes, mainly because I don't have to drive two hours or more round trip to attend classes. Asynchronous classes are my favorite because I can attend classes when it's convenient for me, but I enjoy the camaraderie of in-person classes.

If it's a synchronous class, I try to keep my video camera on so I can be more involved. Just because a course is online doesn't mean you should be excluded from your peers.

Speaking of peers though, I don't have many as a returning transfer student who is a parent. According to, in California, approximately 20% of undergraduate students are student parents. Additionally, 181,182 students are single mothers. Among these students, nearly 40% report feeling disconnected from their university. Only 28% of single mothers earn a degree or certificate within six years of enrolling. On the other hand, 55% of single mothers leave school before earning a college degree.

I feel a disconnect not because the majority of my classes are online, but because the majority of the time I am the oldest person in my class, including the professor.

While it is interesting and entertaining to be a part of a class where the majority of students are just out of high school or in their early twenties, I find it off-putting when professors teach and use language that automatically pigeonholes me into their group of peers. . I'm not. My experiences are probably more related to the professor than the students, but as mentioned, not always, considering I'm almost 51 years old.
To be clear, I am not unhappy with my return to school, but I would like to see more accommodations automatically provided to students who are parents.

For example, adding more online courses, offering in-person classes on weekends and evenings, and, if possible, for students who need it, on-campus child care or a discount at affiliated schools that can provide child care services.

It is up to them whether student parents decide to use these accommodations, but it is better to have the option than not.

That said, one thing that is very phenomenal about being a returning transfer student parent is the amount of financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships available. I received way more than I ever received as an 18-year-old new freshman, and the funds are certainly helping me continue my education.

I could not continue my studies without financial aid. Another amazing thing about going back to school is that my kids see my efforts, and we are often aligned over our lack of desire to finish or start our homework, let alone go to school.

It gives me a new way to interact with my middle and high school sons, and a good example to them that it's not too late to pursue your goals, whatever they may be.

The coolest thing on the horizon? My oldest son and I will both be part of the Class of 2025. He will graduate from high school and I will graduate from CSUN. Let's hope it's not the same day!




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