Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How to Earn a Degree as a Single Parent

As a single parent, you want what any parent wants for your child: to provide for their current needs while preparing them for an even better future. At the same time, you want to advance the prospects for your own future which, in turn, raises the prospects for your child or children’s future.

One great way to do this is by earning a degree. Unfortunately, this can be quite a challenge, given the many hats you already wear and responsibilities you already undertake. The good news is, though, that with the right mix of patience and perseverance, you can earn the degree you’ve dreamed of and use it to change your life.

Cast Vision

The biggest challenge you will face as a single parent trying to earn a degree is finding the time to study. As you begin your pursuit, it’s important to let your children know about your endeavors, so they will be more inclined to respect your time, assuming you have children who are old enough to talk.

Let them know that you’re working hard, not only to improve your life, but to improve their lives, as well. Explain, in vivid detail, the benefits they can expect to receive from you reaching your goal. Once they see “what’s in it for them,” it will be easier to set boundaries as you seek to set aside time to study.


As you work toward your degree, it is helpful to have motivational reminders of the self-improvement you’re working toward. Find stories of others who have been positively influenced by educators and have been able to change their lives as a result of their efforts. If it’s something along the lines of computer programming, motivate yourself by understanding how rapidly the field is growing, and how in-demand you’ll be once you graduate.

Be Consistent

Most children (and most adults, for that matter) thrive on routine. If a child expects something to occur, they will be more likely to embrace it. That’s why it’s so important to set aside a specific time to study and then stick to that time as frequently as you can.

Of course, random interruptions every now and then are perfectly acceptable, but if you try and study just any time you might have a few minutes, it won’t become routine and your children won’t as easily adapt to the change of not having you around to focus on them. By making it a routine, though, children will habitually learn to set aside that time in their own minds, understanding that, for example, during 7 and 8 o’clock on a given weeknight, they need to find something to play with on their own.

Stay Accountable

Your goals and dreams you expect to result from a degree are certainly admirable, but that doesn’t mean the process will be easy. There will be many days of discouragement along the way- even days that you want to give up. That’s why you need someone outside of your family who you can trust completely to hold you accountable and keep you going. Have them check in with you on a regular basis to ensure you’re studying the way you should. It also helps if you can call them any time you’re having a rough day so they can provide encouragement and reminders of why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s also helpful to have a professor with a degree in adult education who can cater to your specific needs.

Room to Breathe

In order to keep moving forward, you occasionally have to give yourself permission to step back. On those especially difficult days, it’s okay to take a break, take a moment to breathe, and spend some time focusing on yourself. If you’re too legalistic about always making forward progress, you’ll become overwhelmed when real life happens and be more inclined to give up. By giving yourself some freedom, though, you’ll be much more likely to return to the fight once you’ve had a chance to pick yourself back up.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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