Five important steps to take to prepare for graduate school – when you have young kids

So you’ve been accepted to your desired graduate school and are understandably thrilled. Or perhaps you’re considering getting an advanced degree, and feel a little perplexed.

Whether you do it to switch careers, attract a promotion, or sharpen your resume for better job opportunities, pursuing postgraduate studies is a worthwhile milestone. 

But then you think about the kids, the years of studying that lay ahead, and the amount of time it will rob from your family, and it starts to feel like an impossibly daunting task. But worry not! While it can be difficult, there are plenty of ways to prepare for graduate school when you have young kids by your side. 

Read on for five important steps you can take so you can successfully prepare for graduate school as a parent with a young kid or children. 

1) Give yourself plenty of time to study for the GRE

When preparing for graduate school, one of the most important things is to ensure you meet and fulfill the admissions criteria of the program you’re enrolling in. Most graduate schools require you to pass the graduate records examination (GRE), which makes it important to take a GRE prep course in preparation for your graduate school admission.

And, of course, there are many such tests out there online. In a recent piece on comparison of GRE prep courses, Bryce Welker recommends the likes of Target Test, Magoosh, Princeton, Kaplan, and Achievable GRE. Nonetheless, it’s good to consider factors like the test price, customer support, instruction quality, and resources before subscribing to one.

2) Make sure you can afford graduate studies and create a budget

In all honesty, postgraduate studies do not come cheap. On average, you should expect to shell out around five thousand dollars for the fees alone. This is not to mention expenses like childcare, meals, and housing.

Even if you get a student loan, your studies are employer-funded or you’re a beneficiary of a postgraduate scholarship, it’s important to have an idea of the costs you’ll have to cater for and make sure you can afford them.

Perhaps now more than ever, you will also need to create a solid budget that you can stick to throughout your graduate school studies.

3) Weigh your options between studying online versus in person

Depending on things such as your budget, convenience, daily commitments (at work and at home), and how long you want to complete your graduate school program, it’s wise to carefully weigh your options between online programs vs. in-class learning when pursuing graduate school as a parent with young kids. 

Basically, online graduate programs are great for those with long work or study hours. Besides being cheaper and offering more flexibility, they can be particularly beneficial if you need to strike a balance between your job, studies, and personal life.

On the other hand, in-person learning can be a better alternative if you need to study from a distraction-free space and receive hands-on learning without fulfilling stricter technical requirements. 

4) Find a daycare provider or baby sitter if necessary

Especially if one or more of your kids haven’t reached school-going age, it can be wise to have a daycare provider or babysitter available by the time you start attending classes. This is particularly if you will have to travel between the university and your home.

With a trusted person taking care of the kids, it becomes easy to focus on your studies while parenting, enough to perform well regardless of whether you’re studying online or on campus. 

5) Allocate time for your family

Even if you’re going to be studying full-time, it can be perversely counter-productive to lack time for your kids, spouse, other family members, and friends. It is not unheard of to have to sacrifice social time when taking a marathon postgraduate course, but the graduate school doesn’t negate the importance of spending quality time with your family, especially the kids. And for what it’s worth, no kid wants to grow up with an absentee mother or father.

It’s thus important to determine your course outline and commitments ahead of time so you can best create a schedule that allows you to set time aside for family interactions, most importantly spending time with the kids.

Postgraduate studies can be downright daunting, more so if you have young kids. It gets even tougher if you’re in the working economy and have to balance all that with your social life.

It takes courage and the ability to juggle many balls, but it gets easier if you’re well-prepared from the get-go. The above few steps will hopefully be instrumental for you when preparing for graduate school as a mom or dad with young kids in the equation.