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Kathleen MarieThe Scholarship Process for Single Parents

by Kathleen Marie

Attention single parents! Have you been thinking of returning to college to earn that bachelor’s degree you “temporarily” postponed in favor of marriage, children, a job, or all three? Are you tired of not being taken seriously because you do not have a degree in your field? Are you still postponing that degree because you think you are too old, classes are too hard, or college is too expensive?

Well, wait no more! Colleges are seeing a big increase in the number of older, returning students on their campuses, and many of these students have children. These students are realizing their dreams of graduating from college to go on to a more satisfying and better-paid career. “It’s too risky to quit my job,” you say to yourself. You’re right! It’s a risk, but think of going to college for four years as a business deal. You are an entrepreneur who is willing to invest your talents and four years of your time. All businesses take risks, if they feel the risks will pay big dividends.

What are the dividends you can expect after four years in college? You will gain a more rounded view of the world, catch up on current events, have professors guide you on your way, but most important of all, you will earn more money at a position you enjoy.

“Well,” you say, “that’s all fine and good in theory, but what about putting it into practice?” Well, that's what this article is about. Returning to college and supporting yourself and your family can be compared to running a home business. Start by choosing from several methods to support yourself and your family:

- Work full- time and attend college full- time
- Work full- time and attend college part- time
- Work part- time and attend college full- time
- Work part- time and attend college part- time
- Don’t work and attend college full- time or part- time

You will need to assess your own individual wants and needs when choosing. I found that it was possible to succeed as a full- time student and single parent of four children. I first enrolled in a community college and worked part-time and went to school part-time. This was the slow approach. The next semester, I chose the last option. I quit working and attended college full-time. My main concern at this time was finances. How were the children and I going to eat?

For the next year, I received AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and food stamps, but I knew there had to be a better way. By my third year in college, I was self-supporting through grants, loans, and scholarships. This was accomplished through trial and error. Following are several suggestions that may save you time and energy in your return to college.

Registration
Registering in a university takes time and perseverance, so dig in and start early. Fall semesters usually start in late August or early September, and Spring semesters usually start in January. Whether you plan to begin classes in Fall or Spring, begin the application process six months ahead of time. Find out from the university how long the process will take. There is usually an application form to be completed, a registration fee to be paid, and official transcripts that you must request from either your high school or a university if you have attended one before. There may or may not be an entrance exam required.

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