I’m 26 years old and a mother of a two and a half year old girl. I have been wanting to finish my degree for some time, but I really didn’t see how I could manage it. Then I found out about the CUNY Online Baccalaureate. I thought to myself, “Online college? Seems like a good idea!” I had some obvious trepidation at the thought of managing an education with a toddler who hit her terrible twos like a sandstorm. But, after some trial and error, practice and determination, I think I finally have a handle on it!
ORGANIZATION IS KEY- I have never been organized. I am the type of person who leaves things lying around. I think I seem to like chaos. When attending classes, whether it be in a brick and mortar institution or online, organization is a must. I am currently taking four classes and I realized I cannot just leave things lying around. I printed my syllabi, so I can see the due dates. I bought a whiteboard, so I can write down my “to-do” lists. I bought folders, so I can organize the notes for all of my classes. I bought highlighters, so I can highlight the important dates and facts. It really does make it seem all that much easier!
USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE- That seems like a given with online classes, right? Well, it actually took me a while to figure that out. I realized, I can put notes and mark dates on my iPod. Why not? I use my iPod everyday and it helps me remember that I have assignments to do or books to buy.
RESEARCH THE BEST DEAL- Whether it be finding the lowest price on books or the lowest tuition, examine all of your options before making a final decision. I have had to buy some expensive books, but it helps to research coupons or sales before the semester starts. When applying for my acceptance, I first looked at other college tuitions and programs. I also research scholarships and grants.
MANAGE YOUR TIME- With a toddler running around, laundry, dinner and all the other errands that arise, I often left assignments to the last minute. More often than not, I put out shoddy work and was very stressed. I learned that if I do a little bit of work everyday during my daughter’s naptime, I get much more done. If I spread the work out over the week as opposed to doing it all on the one day my husband is home, I have more time to do fun things. There is a LOT of reading with online courses, and it is a misconception that it is easy. I try to do my reading in the first half of the week, and the assignments in the second half. I also realized that if I organize my assignments in the order that they are due, I am able to finish far ahead of the due date.
LET YOUR CHILD “GO TO SCHOOL” WITH YOU- I know, it’s a horrible idea to plop your kid down in front of a television for hours. I hate to do it, but sometimes, “Finding Nemo” is the only way my daughter will sit for more than 5 minutes. Often enough, I let her sit with me while I am doing my assignments. She plays with her pretend computer and says “I’m doing homework”. She also likes to take pencils and pretend she is writing in her book and helping Mommy. I enjoy spending that time with her, and I get to do my work also.
DON’T FORGET “ME” TIME- It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day activities and work and never wind down. I realized that sometimes, a little mindless reality television helps me clear out my head before doing an assignment. I have written better papers after loosening up a bit and just relaxing. It sounds impossible, but whatever works for you is what you should do before settling down to your computer. Whether it be a hot bath, a bowl of ice cream or an hour of “Glee”, you should always try to get some alone time. The less stress you have, the better your chances of getting more work done.
AN “A” IS NOT ALWAYS AN OPTION- You can’t always get in A in every class. While you should strive to do so, it’s no use in getting upset over a “B” or “C”. Sometimes, a class can be too difficult and sometimes you can’t focus. There is no shame in getting a lower grade, as long as you have tried your best and you have worked as hard as you can. Now, if you’re getting low grades due to missing assignments or just being lazy, maybe college is not an option for you right now.
At the end of the day, it IS possible to “have it all”. You just have to be willing to persevere above all the craziness. Remember, you can teach your child that you don’t have to sacrifice education because of circumstance. It’s never too late.