Published on 2013/05/21

Returning to the Academy: Questions, Considerations and Concerns

Returning to the Academy: Questions, Considerations and Concerns
The challenges of re-entering higher education may cause some adults to talk themselves out of returning, but remembering the reason for enrolling in the first place can help adult students to persist.

Returning to graduate school after a lengthy absence can be a major life decision; at least it was for me, in terms of relocation, job shifts, schedule management, reorganization of priorities and financial redistribution. Having been out of school for five years, it was going to be a huge adjustment for our family and commitment beyond imagination. What was I thinking?

As life should have it, I am not a spring chicken any more and in order to stay ‘up to the minute’ and be competitive in the education sector, I felt the desire to return to higher education. With the hope of opening a private school for gifted students, I felt the need to pursue a doctorate to add to my credibility. This is easier said than done as a single mother with two active boys.

Many questions came to mind when I considered re-entering the higher education world. How would I manage my schedule? How would I continue to be the chauffeur, head cook and manager of the elementary homework for my boys? With night classes on the horizon, how would there be enough hours in the day to sleep, work, attend sporting events, manage graduate projects, research, contribute to the household chores and be the supportive parent my children needed? Did I mention the built-in sleep deprivation piece that marches side-by-side with higher education?

I decided I could make this work. I am a great multi-tasker, pro with time management and had already successfully completed two master’s programs as a single mother.

I could do this again … I think … I hope. Am I crazy?

What led me down this curvy, bumpy, washed-out path? As I mentioned before, I wanted to add to my knowledge in the education field. I am a ‘terminal’ student; a hopeless participant who seems to return to higher education every five years. My longest break from education was immediately after undergraduate school. There was an 18-year lapse before I started graduate school. There were five-year blocks between the two master’s programs and, once this doctorate is complete, I am finished (I promised my family, I think).

At the University of Wyoming Outreach School, I was offered a graduate assistantship to help with tuition, insurance and to provide a monthly stipend. Without this option, I wouldn’t have been able to make the dive into higher education at this time. The financial arena was something to be considered before the relocation and commitment to the public school system in the new city. There were many questions to think about: student housing (what about the dog I had promised the kids? How do we fit into an apartment?), transportation (the buses stop right at the complex), length of stay (can I get this degree packed into two years?) and ultimate goal (am I being selfish or is this for the benefit of the family?) Surely it will all work itself out.

I had many concerns about returning to graduate school. I really am doing it for the benefit of my children (and others) and I found a great quote to support this crazy idea:

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” (Earl Nightingale; 1921-1989)

Don’t worry; higher education requires ‘mortgaging the farm,’ selling your soul and a great temporary familial sacrifice, but the payoff is well worth it.

You can do it.

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Readers Comments

Tyrese Banner 2013/05/21 at 11:22 am

Thank you for this. You demonstrate that it’s possible to juggle school with work and kids. You’re right; it does require a lot of sacrifice, but it’s worth it if you went back to school for the right reasons and if you keep your eyes on your end goal as you move through your education.

    Pepper Werner 2013/05/29 at 10:01 am

    Never give up on your dreams and certainly shun the naysayers. You can do it! It takes hard work and dedication, but worth it all…for the children!

Natalie MIller 2013/05/21 at 12:53 pm

Your story is very inspirational. I am also a single mother with two children. I recently decided to go back to school (but unlike you, I am going back to finish my bachelor’s degree, not a graduate degree). You brought up some of the same questions I had when I was making the decision to go back. I would have liked for the academic advisors who worked with me to have had better understanding of my perspective/situation.

    Pepper Werner 2013/05/29 at 10:05 am

    I am fortunate that I see the fence from both sides. I am an adviser to undergraduate students and also a student. As a result, it makes me more sympathetic and certainly understanding when an assignment is missed due to a sick child or being tardy for a class when I had to work late. Consider online courses so that there is more flexibility. Do not give up! You can do it!

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