You know that a master's degree in business administration will help you take your career to the next level so you can better support your family but making the decision to go back to college is never easy. As a single parent, you already have to be a consummate juggler to balance work, home, and relationships. Adding business school to the mix, particularly if you're pursuing your Master of Business Administration (MBA), can be a complicated challenge.
Complicated, however, does not mean impossible. Don't let the potential drawbacks of returning to school outweigh the benefits. If you really want to go back to school to get your online MBA, there are ways to prepare for the extra workload today that can pave the way toward success tomorrow. With a little extra planning and foresight, you can earn the MBA you need to create a better future for you and your kids and still keep your life in the present running smoothly.
Know Before You Go
Here are the 5 things single moms should know before going back to school for their MBA:
1. Track down your financial and community resources
Once you find the right program and carve out the time to finish it, you can also seek out resources to help you finance it. You may be eligible for federal or private scholarships and grants, which you do not need to pay back, or for subsidized and unsubsidized loans, which offer a range of interest and repayment options.
Apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) today to find out how much government financial aid you might qualify for. You can also seek support from various college groups, online forums, or school advisors for additional resources and advice. Check with your college or top choice schools to see what resources are available to their MBA students or that they recommend. Then, broaden your search.
There are several organizations that offer programs to help single parents earn their MBAs. The Forté Foundation, for example, offers a 10-month MBA prep program that pairs women considering an MBA with support networks and coaches. One of the program's participants herself founded a website that collects resources for single parents in one online portal.
Search for other single parent support organizations, and you're likely to find even more resources for aid, whether financial, emotional, or academic.
2. Identify your support system first & keep your kids in the loop
Naturally, going back to school to earn your MBA will be hard work. Without reinforcements rooting you on and ready to help out when you really need it, you're likely to feel overwhelmed and unprepared to handle the demands of business school on top of work and family. Find your allies among close friends and family who can support and encourage you during this time. It can be difficult to also find time to stay in touch with family. This situation is where quick check-ins come in handy. Send a text with a quick update about your day, how you did on an exam, or just drop a line letting your family members know they’re in your thoughts. Beyond moral support from your family and friends, your network should include babysitters that you can trust to be there when you need them most. Lack of consistent child care is a major hurdle for moms going back to school, so it's important to get your sitter schedule squared away ahead of time to avoid any surprises down the road – and always keep a backup on speed dial.
Additionally, it's also a good idea to explain why you're going back to school to your kids before you start. Before classes begin, sit down with your kids to explain what you're doing and why. Even if you plan on cramming your studies into the hours after bedtime, take the opportunity to frame the changes you'll be experiencing in a positive light, before your kids witness the effects of an all-nighter on your mood.
Help your kids understand that the changes are temporary and that the harder you work now, the better the future will be for all of you. That way your kids can have your back, even when a long study session leaves you extra sleepy one day. If your kids understand the benefits your MBA will bring beforehand, they'll be more likely to understand and back you up when you get busy, too.
3. The family that studies together, stays together
If your kids are also in school, establish a family study time. Seeing you dedicate yourself to your education can actually motivate your kids, while providing you the opportunity to make your time at home more efficient. Plus, studying as a family is a great way to ensure you spend time together, even when you're all busy with school.
If you can convert an area of your home into Study Central, having a dedicated space can help everyone in the family settle into a studying routine. If not, just gather your books and supplies around the kitchen table, which will encourage you to feed your bodies in addition to your brains. Remember, a well-fed brain functions better!
4. Work on your time management skills
Balancing kids, employment, education, and personal matters all at once may seem impossible, but it can be done. Child care will fall through. Kids will get sick the week your capstone project is due. Sometimes it's easier to take problems in stride if you anticipate them. There's no need to persistently predict disaster, but learning to abolish procrastination and planning for a little leeway will help prevent a bigger crash when complications do crop up. Dedicate some time every day to studying, working on assignments, or attending classes and try not to let anything interrupt you during that time. Maybe you have to make the most of your free time between meal prep, morning commutes, lunch breaks, and bedtime. Some days will be harder than others. A steady schedule can make all the difference between giving up early and finishing what you started.
5. Don't forget to take good care of yourself
Getting your MBA online is like a marathon, not a sprint. Even if you're pushing hard to reach the finish line, it's critical to take care of yourself and refuel along the way if you want to make it all the way through. Everyone who works hard needs regular rest and relaxation to keep going, so remember not to overload yourself with work, school, and childcare responsibilities without also making time for your own health and happiness, too. Eat right, work out, and rest regularly, and you'll feel better prepared to take on anything that life throws at you while you're working toward your MBA. It may require some creative time management on your part like propping your textbook up on the treadmill. Finding ways to integrate self-care into school, work, and family life will go a long way in keeping you and your family sane while you complete your MBA. If your family has a tradition like a weekend trip to the park or family dinners on Sunday, save the date no matter how pressed for time you might be. Regular bonding rituals keep families close.
As a woman, getting your MBA is empowering. Women who step up to the challenge find that their lives improve in many ways—both professionally and personally. According to the Forté Foundation, women who get their graduate business degree may see salary gains when they get out of school and for several years to come. Studies have also found that companies that employ women MBA-holders experience a higher return on equity, sales, and invested capital. Many companies are increasingly hiring women MBAs because they realize the bottom-line impact of having a diverse management workforce. The workforce can only benefit from strong, educated leaders.
Without a doubt, single moms and parents face pressures that other MBA students do not. With great planning – from finding resources, to creating backup plans, to setting up systems for accountability and connection – you and your family can thrive as you work toward a better future that all of you can enjoy.