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Going to uni as a single parent.. is it even possible?

(22 Posts)
Amaya123 Thu 28-Jul-16 11:25:33

Has anyone ever completed uni as a single parent? if so how did you find it? is there any help available? Its something ive always wanted to do but really dont know how it would fit in with a little one?

Thank you!!!

Sofabitch Mon 01-Aug-16 08:45:08

I'm not a single parent. But its hard. You'll need full time childcare and an iron will to spend breaks between lectures studying and not in long lunches.

Its possible but not Easy.

RevoltingPeasant Mon 01-Aug-16 08:51:51


I'm not a single mum but I am a university lecturer. What subject are you wanting to study? Subjects like education or medicine which require placements may be a lot harder if you don't have family help.

Things to help/ think about:

- is this your first degree? If so you should be eligible for a student loan so effectively don't have to worry about fees for now.

- how you will support accommodation/ living costs? Savings, family help, or will you get a pt job?

- what childcare do you have in place? I work in a humanities subject and we 'only' have about 10 contact hours a week. People assume this means you only have 10 hours to do per week <hollow laugh> Any degree worth its salt will see you working at least 35/40 hours per week, if not more, so make sure you have good FT childcare. You may check out campus nurseries, as many unis have one now.

- could you do the degree PT? This would take 6 years instead of 3 in most cases (unless you are in Scotland) but might make for a significantly easier experience - although you don't bond with your cohort as much, as most people do it in 3.

- are you eligible for a hardship grant or scholarship of any kind? Ask the uni you're applying to. We have funds through our student union and also small bursaries for people in your position.

We do have single mums getting through. Mostly their children are a little older, i.e. over 7/8 so can sort themselves out a bit in the evenings. They do it by treating it like a FT job: up and out door with kids to school/ childcare, at uni for 9 whether they have a lecture or not, use all non-lecture time to study/ complete assignments in advance, and do housework etc in the evenings after kids are in bed. Feel free to pm me if you want smile

Dickcheese Mon 01-Aug-16 08:55:17

I wasn't single when I did it but similar advice to the others. There are grants available for childcare and adult learning allowance and you should be able to get the full maintenance grant. My best friend is finishing her first (or is it second) year of occupational therapy (so even has placements) and she is a single mum to a 5 year old. She works hard, has a part time job and I think she does has a supportive family but it's definitely possibly

RevoltingPeasant Mon 01-Aug-16 09:37:21

Oh, and btw - it will all be super worth it when your DC cross your graduation stage. One of my favourite memories is a single mum with a primary aged daughter; at graduation she was wandering around with a glass of champagne grinning, with her daughter ogling all the people in gaudy academic gowns, the marquee, and going 'Mum, you did it, I can't believe it, wow!'

grin It's a great example to set your DC.

RevoltingPeasant Mon 01-Aug-16 09:38:12

when your DC *see you cross your graduation stage

wowbutter Mon 01-Aug-16 09:42:59

Why not do a distance degree? Then you can work, pay for childcare, and do your degree in the evenings. You can get loans to cover the tuition, and live on your wages.

LazyFemme Mon 01-Aug-16 09:45:43

As a single parent and student you'll be eligible for housing benefit if you rent (do double check this as they're cutting benefits by the second but I think this is still the case), not sure if you'd get any help with a mortgage.

What course are you wanting to do? If it's something like teaching or nursing where you do placements and essentially work a full time job with essays to write on top, then yeah, it's bloody tough (single parent nurse speaking). If it's something like English lit where the contact time may only be a few hours a week you might find it easier but you'll still have to do a lot of self directed study.

Do you have childcare? Family and friends who can help? Will you be able to work at all?

morningtoncrescent62 Mon 01-Aug-16 13:59:35

I had two children when I did my degree, OP - they were aged four and six when I started. There was quite a lot of financial help back then (1990s) for mature students, but I've no real idea of what exists now. I'd been in crap low-paid jobs, so between HB, child benefit and student loan I was actually a bit better off studying. Guessing it's probably not like that any more.

In terms of managing study, I was very lucky with my course and uni. At the time I lived in a village about 2 miles from the uni with a good bus service so I didn't have any long or complicated journeys to factor in. I didn't find it hard to get to lectures or seminars because they were always during the day when DDs were in school, and the tutors were very accommodating about seeing me at convenient times if I ever needed anything. I found I had to be super-organised about getting coursework done, and I could never afford to get behind. There were certainly times it was very hard going, having to do the reading and write essays when the children were in bed, but all of that got easier the more I did it. Several times during the first year I found myself questionning why I'd ever started - and then, once I got into the course itself and the way of studying, I found I loved it so I was motivated to get on and finish it. As someone upthread said, there's nothing like having your children there on graduation day, brimming with pride and seeing university as a prospect for themselves.

I'd recommend going to see the uni/s you're considering, and asking them about things like timetabling - I've since heard from other people that not all unis or courses are very understanding of mature students, and they might have classes which clash with childcare commitments, or have assignment deadlines during school holidays which don't work for you. So it's worth asking in advance, I think.

RevoltingPeasant Tue 02-Aug-16 14:16:16

I'd recommend going to see the uni/s you're considering, and asking them about things like timetabling

That is a good point, OP. At my university, for example, if you have a timetabled session which clashes with your childcare, we automatically try to move you (we do the same for disabled students who may have difficulty attending at certain times, and for anyone with caring responsibilities).

But previous places I've worked at have had the attitude that 'if you are a FT student you should be available FT'.

Molly333 Tue 02-Aug-16 16:07:10

I sit here today as a single mum who finished a degree in Friday , the reason I did a degree was because I was lonely and wanted to give my children a better life . Also I was bored unstimulated in myself . Today I aporeciatte this has been a stressful time but an amazing journey for all of us , me and the children hv really grown with us all appreciating learning . I think it's a great journey you all share , they will be so proud of you and you will be proud of you too . My advice - do it , be organised, embrace new friendships , love learning as these children will leave and you will be left with a lesser career and they won't care ( u need to be a bit selfish here as they will be when teenagers) . You will also worry less when you hv gained ur degree ! Do it !

Molly333 Tue 02-Aug-16 16:11:18

Ps I had no family support totally relying on childcare throughout , at times it was hidious but work ur way round ur hurdles , just look at each week don't look too far ahead or you will scare yrself . Also take sickness breaks if needed , re submissions are not capped marks if it's down as illness x

AlreadyUsed Sun 07-Aug-16 16:20:02

I did it, in 1979 with a 6 year old dd. My university let me rent one of their flatlets in a shared house. I was the first person who did it from my LEA (Local Education Authority) who paid the fees and gave you a grant back in the day.

trafalgargal Sun 07-Aug-16 16:53:39

As a mature student I found even the uni that said to all the traditional students Full time means full time ....were far more flexible with students with caring responsibilies

TheGruffaloMother Thu 11-Aug-16 22:16:51

LazyFemme, I hope you don't mind me asking but we're you a single parent when you took your nursing degree?

LazyFemme Thu 11-Aug-16 23:48:12

I was

TheGruffaloMother Thu 11-Aug-16 23:54:53

I'm starting next month. I have good parental support to help with DD but no support from her dad. Is there anything you'd wished you'd known before starting? Any advice you'd give to a single parent starting the same journey?

LazyFemme Fri 12-Aug-16 07:24:58

You've got support fron your family so you're already better off than I was! Advice? Let stuff go. If you can afford to hire a cleaner do that, if not, let your standards slip so you can concentrate on the important things which are your course and your kid smile I had my baby halfway through the course, I would avoid that at all costs. Enjoy it, it's hard but so worth it

Cakedoesntjudge Fri 12-Aug-16 07:39:22

I'm about to go into my third year of a law degree - I've studied through the Open University - and I'm a single parent to DS (who has just turned 6).

I've done the first 2 years full time and that has been tough but doable, made slightly easier this past year by the fact he started school. I also have a very flexible workplace, and a couple of times when I've had to pull all nighters to get assignments finished, my boss has sent me home in pity when I've got to work and told me to have a nap!

I would have loved the experience of going to uni and the support of having other students around you all the time but it just wasn't practical for me. My local uni is new and is more of a college and doesn't have a law option so I'd have either had to move or travel. I looked into it - you do get a lot of financial help and support (though I'm unclear from when it is they're scrapping the maintenance grants and whether the amount you get would change under the universal credits plan) but I decided this way fit me better. It meant I could keep my job, not disrupt my DS's life and be at home while I did it.

If you do an OU degree, even if you do it at a full time level, you're classed as a part time student so you only qualify for the study fees part of a student loan, not the maintenance side, so you would need some sort of supporting job but it's been the best thing I've ever done and I would thoroughly recommend it.

I'm doing my final year over two years because last year got so tough and my grades count more this year, but even if I don't manage to up it, I'm still currently on course for a 2:1 which I'd be happy with.

If it's the degree itself you're after rather than the whole experience the OU is worth looking into - especially since they're cheaper so you'll end up with a much smaller loan!!

Emochild Fri 12-Aug-16 07:55:58

I'm 2 years into a professional degree so have work placements

My dc were upper primary when I started, youngest starts high school this year. My oldest has HFA.

It's worked for me by treating it as a full time job. I live 16 miles from my uni and i'm there 9-5 every day and the occasional Sunday if I manage to rope the grandparents in. They would help more but live a couple of hours away

I'm very strict with my time at uni and as a result I do no work at home -and i'm getting good grades so don't feel like you have to be a martyr to the workload

It's my first degree so I get tuition fee loan and a mixture of loans and grants totalling around £10,500 per year. I also get help with childcare costs and tax credits
I pay a mortgage so don't get help with that but I do get free school meals and don't pay council tax

So from a financial perspective it's doable although I have had to tighten my belt from previously working

TheGruffaloMother Fri 12-Aug-16 09:51:21

Haha! Ta LazyFemme. I'd have never thought about how the cleaning would fit into things. My place is small luckily but I'll definitely keep a cleaner in mind.

luvillionaire Tue 16-Aug-16 23:28:20

Hi. Yes. It's doable. I'm a single mother of 4. I graduated last year. I was also pregnant throughout my last year too. But I did it. I took a break. And am going back to do MA IN Social Work this sept. The youngest who's 2 now will go to nursery, the others will be in school. Student parents do get some help so you won't go broke..I fact I think when I was studying I had more money than when I was previously working...or maybe less time to spend it?! Lol. It is doable, it's just something has to give... The house work, the kids, mine - I had 3 at the time were old enough to understand that it was important work and it when I finished we would have some good quality time.. I always made sure I stuck to my word with that. I personally believe that kids seeing their parents especially mothers (in this 'feminism' era) achieving has more positive outcomes in the long run. Children tend to follow suit. I want my children to go to university and now I have they can see that it is doable. Also the job prospects are better, in turn better for them too. Cool toys, holidays, nice house etc etc.. But one thing I will say is most definitely factor into ur routine as important as an assignment deadline is quality time with children. I noticed mine got ratty when I became to preoccupied. If u have the opportunity I would say do it. I would though suggest doing a course that has funding, but then I guess that depends on ur area of interest and passion. We can do anything we put our minds too. I really believe that. Good luck x

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