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Going back to school - in a big way

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

So, i am a single mom.  I have three kids ages 9-15.  I am a Barista at an in store starbucks (less pay, less benefits, no tips).  alimony ends  in a few months.  Something has got to change.  So I want to go back to school for counseling.  Straight through from Freshman (I have a handful of credits that may or may not transfer) through my Masters.  Quit my job and just power through.  Heavy course load, every J-term and summer school.  No breaks. Would have to pull a 3.01 or higher to get into grad school so time to study is a must.   i would no doubt qualify for a fair amount of grants and probably food stamps.  I will still get child support and rent from my property.  The rest i think I need to just suck up and take out loans.  When it is all said and done, I can hopefully sell my house and use the equity to pay off the loans.  Two of my children will be graduated by the time I cross the finish line so i won't need this big house and the housing market can only get better than it is now.  Once I have an associates I can sub teach at the local schools hopefully which will be an added source of income where I control the schedule.  and hopefully I can find at least part time work in my field once I get my bachelors which will fulfill any practical hours as well as provide a little income.

 

When I am done I want to focus on crisis counseling and other short term counseling needs.  think of it as a high school guidance counselor for grown ups.

 

is this insane?  is this a cruel thing to do to my children?

 

Do i have any other choices/  is there a better way?

 

has anyone else done anything like this?

post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilyka View Post

 

When I am done I want to focus on crisis counseling and other short term counseling needs.  think of it as a high school guidance counselor for grown ups.

 

is this insane?  is this a cruel thing to do to my children?

 

Do i have any other choices/  is there a better way?

 

has anyone else done anything like this?

 

I am solo parent to an almost 9 year old ds.  After many years of teaching elementary school, I decided to go back to school to get a Masters in Counseling Psychology, which will lead to my MFT (Marriage & Family Therapy) license.  My ds was 7 when I began the program and it hasn't had any profound effect on him.  Actually, since I started my practicum a year earlier than planned, I have been around a lot more because I am not working full-time and my schedule is a lot more flexible.  It might actually be a more difficult transition when I graduate next year and begin working full-time again.     

 

My program is 3 years, full-time with summers.  The final year is a practicum (also called a traineeship), in which you begin working in the field and accumulating hours for your licensure.  All of my classes have started at 4:30pm or later, as the program caters to working professionals. 

 

Since you haven't completed an undergraduate degree, I would suggest just focusing on getting that done.  While working on your bachelors, start looking for volunteer opportunities with your local crisis hotlines.  They provide excellent training, supervision and experience.  Crisis lines are a great way to start building up the psychological stamina to work in such positions and to start making connections within the field.   Additionally, start exploring what graduate programs are available in your area and what are their requirements for admission.  

 

Switching from teaching to counseling has been one of the best decisions in my life.  I can finally join the ranks of those who love and are passionate about their jobs.  It has been an amazing journey for me and so worth the thousands of $$$ in student loans I have accumulated. 

 

Oh, one final thing about students loans... if you decide to work for a non-profit, public service, you can enroll in the income-based repayment program and after 10 years (or 120 payments) of consecutive payments any remaining balance will be forgiven!   IBR - Public Service Info 

post #3 of 22

You can totally do this!  But it's gonna be hard, and you will hit bumps.  Be flexible about being able change your plans - the amt of time you spend working, studying, mothering, etc.  Something might feel like it's not working out, and you'll need to re-adjust your schedule somewhere.  I can't get homework done when I'm with my kids, so I've had to take fewer classes and stretch out the time frame of my education. 

 

Good Luck!

post #4 of 22
You sound committed & ready to do it! It's wonderful you've found your passion & I believe just about any person who is motivated to do so can finish college. My spouse went back as an adult & loved it! My only caution is to try to minimize your student loans. If you take out private & the two main federal loans, you could potentially graduate with 3 separate monthly payments. Not easy on an entry level salary! Weigh your projected debt & the monthly payments expected to service that debt against your projected salary. Good luck to you!
post #5 of 22
My mom want back to school when I was in highschool and I am so proud of her! She's worked her butt off and made the Deans list and now has a successful career in horticulture, her passion. There will be times when its not easy and you'll have to rely on your oldest for help with the younger ones more than you would like, but it will be all worth it in the end. I was the oldest and took care of my little sister and it has made me a more self sufficient adult. I think it was a great experience for me and changed everything for my mom and family. You can totally do this.

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post #6 of 22

Hey! I wanted to offer some encouragement, and to let you know that I'm always inspired by single parents who find a way to do school like this.

 

I'm a single mom to almost 5yo DD, and went back to school part time in Fall 2009 and have gone straight through, taken out a ton of loans, and am graduating in August - 10 days later I begin graduate school, with an assistantship (which means they pay my tuition and pay me a stipend).

 

I was working retail (40 hours/wk at $11/hr, when I went back to school I dropped to 32 hours/wk) and it was a dead end - I'd never be able to do more than what I was doing, I was miserable, and I could barely afford to live. So, I went back to school, took out loans, and yes - have moved a lot - but am absolutely content with my experience. I figure - it's either continue to work retail and be miserable, or be in school, have access to loans as a sort of cushion (I know, I know, but 6% interest is better than a 20% interest credit card), and have more opportunities. 

 

I want to touch on something that I see kind of echoed throughout the replies - the time you spend in undergrad will connect you to a lot of social capital - networking, meeting people, volunteer opportunities, projects, etc. You will find yourself peeking in more windows and doors - opening some, leaving others - than you ever would have without being in that environment. Sure, I'll have a B.S. when I'm done, which enables me to do a grad program, but the resources I've gained through my classes, relationships w/faculty, work study positions in student affairs - these are all things that are much more valuable than the degree itself. I've gained experience in a number of fields and areas of interest, and more than that I've had a ton of support. 

 

So...DO IT. :) 

 

And, fwiw, my DD is fine - she says she wants to be a teacher (oh - my undergrad is in Literature, Language, and Writing and my MA will be in Written Communication - Teaching of Writing - I'll teach basic comp classes, essentially), and she loves "doing homework." She's sometimes sensory-sensitive, and she's really smart and sometimes her emotional capacity hasn't quite caught up with her mental ability yet, but I don't blame that on school at all - and I figure, it would be the same battle regardless of whether I was at school or at work. I wouldn't do anything differently - and school allows me to be more flexible than working a full time retail job would. 

 

Hope this helps.

Good luck!!!!

post #7 of 22

Awesome, it's nice to meet another person doing the same thing! I decided to go big or go home. I have two kids, ages 7 and almost 5, and I start school in August. I just left my husband, which took a lot of planning and figuring out. I was working as a para in a special ed preschool, and I LOVED my job, but it didn't pay enough to live on.

 

So now I'm moving an hour away to live in university-owned family housing, and I will be going to school full-time and not working. I'm very excited about this. I got the max amount of grants possible, but I still had to take out loans to cover the remaining half. I'm hoping next year I will be eligible for more scholarships, I wasn't really eligible for much this year. Hopefully with food stamps we will be able to survive!

 

I have no college credits at all, and I'm planning to get my bachelor's degree and go straight into getting my masters as well. I would like to be a speech pathologist, so a masters is a requirement.

 

I am ridiculously excited about all this, and if I could wish it away and make it be August already I totally would. :)

 


Good luck to you! Let's keep this thread going!

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PenelopeJune View Post

Awesome, it's nice to meet another person doing the same thing! I decided to go big or go home. I have two kids, ages 7 and almost 5, and I start school in August. I just left my husband, which took a lot of planning and figuring out. I was working as a para in a special ed preschool, and I LOVED my job, but it didn't pay enough to live on.

 

So now I'm moving an hour away to live in university-owned family housing, and I will be going to school full-time and not working. I'm very excited about this. I got the max amount of grants possible, but I still had to take out loans to cover the remaining half. I'm hoping next year I will be eligible for more scholarships, I wasn't really eligible for much this year. Hopefully with food stamps we will be able to survive!

 

I have no college credits at all, and I'm planning to get my bachelor's degree and go straight into getting my masters as well. I would like to be a speech pathologist, so a masters is a requirement.

 

I am ridiculously excited about all this, and if I could wish it away and make it be August already I totally would. :)

 


Good luck to you! Let's keep this thread going!

 

 

I have a friend who is a single mama working on her SLP undergrad right now. :) Another friend completed her SLP Masters, and her cohort had 100% job placement. Awesome!! I envy your schoo's family housing. Our "family housing" is such a joke - $770 for a 2br that looks like a dorm. It includes utilities, but anyone can live there and there aren't many families, not to mention that it costs the same as an apartment in the area.  Good luck!

post #9 of 22

Thanks Rosadesal! The family housing I'm moving to is pretty great...right on campus, 2 bedroom,  $472 a month includes all utilities. They aren't cute, but they are clean and safe, which is all I really need. It's for married students and/or with children, and graduate students.

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PenelopeJune View Post

Thanks Rosadesal! The family housing I'm moving to is pretty great...right on campus, 2 bedroom,  $472 a month includes all utilities. They aren't cute, but they are clean and safe, which is all I really need. It's for married students and/or with children, and graduate students.

 

wow. SO JEALOUS.

post #11 of 22

Is anyone else getting a lot of doubt from people around them? Everyone is super excited when I tell them I'm going to school, but when I explain that I'm going full-time for the next six years, their faces get funny and they all say, "Wow. Well, good luck!" It's very frustrating and makes me doubt myself just a tiny bit every single time it happens.

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 

I am back wallowing in indecision.  Counseling, what I want to do is, is not exactly a thriving job field.  As a matter of fact I have yet to find anyone with a counseling degree who is actually working int he field.  I would love to go back for...I don't know, I want to do urban agriculture but I have only found two programs in the whole country.  So I am thinking there is something else I should go to school for that would help me realize my dream.  I wish there was a someone to talk to who was not employed by the school.  I want educational guidance.  Not a hard sales pitch.  :/  In the mean time I am just going to start doing what i want to do and learning the skills I will need.  My goal is to help people in low income neighborhoods, essentially, homestead.  Home Ec. meets landscaping.  Any suggestions?

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lilyka View Post

Counseling, what I want to do is, is not exactly a thriving job field.  As a matter of fact I have yet to find anyone with a counseling degree who is actually working int he field. 

 

Depends on where you live and what population you want to work with.  In my area, the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a ton of jobs, especially in community mental health and for those wanting to work with kids & families, drug & alcohol rehabilitation and the homeless/severely mentally ill.  Additionally, I have several former classmates who have easily found counseling positions in LA & San Diego after graduation.  I was also offered two full-time positions, one school based and the other in residential care, after I graduate next year.  So, it really depends on where you live. 

 

Find an agency (or agencies) that you would love to work with and go talk to them... make the connections.     

post #14 of 22

i just finished my 4 year bsw in 3 years, and am starting my master's in the fall. i've worked my ass off every minute of the day for years, but i've been given support from the most unlikely of places (and no support from people i thought i could count on) and offered a ton of amazing opportunities.  i have no regrets.

it's definitely impacted my kids. balancing their needs with a super demanding school schedule has been a real challenge, one i've failed at many times. one the one hand they've enjoyed my more flexible schedule and i've been happier and so a better parent because i'm interested and engaged by my studies. on the other hand, i'm exhausted, stressed, and distracted a lot of the time. still, i think it's better than working for minimum wage. at least i'm going somewhere.

 

as for the finding of jobs after graduation, do your programs have practicum or placement or co-op programs? those are fantastic for hooking students up with jobs or getting them a reputation that gets them a job.  another thing to consider is that if you love your job, that happiness will offset some of the financial struggle.

 

best of luck to you!

post #15 of 22

That's great, josybear! Good for you!! Sounds like you are on a great track.

 

I agree with what you said at the end. Yes, it's a few years of some serious hard work and maybe not having very much time for them, but on the other hand, you could be working two full-time jobs for minimum wage and be stuck there permanantly.

post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 

I am not worried about the time thing.  It can only get better regardless of heavy y class load is.  I work 50-60 hours a week for minimum wage plus a second job and rental property I have to gkeep up with.  You would think that would be enough but working this much costs a lot of money.  It is a vicious cycle.  My only concern is the money.  i cannot work full time and go to school full time and take care of my kids and maintain sanity.  I worked full time while going to school last time but I had no kids, no pets, no responsibility outside of those two things.  

 

I still don't know what i want to do. I am really limited by what the schools around here offer. It is frustrating.  And I still cannot think of anything I WANT to do. Every time I mention clinical social work or counseling every says "yeah there is a lot of work in drug rehab and inpatient care.  Dear God, no!  Otherwise there does not seem to be any jobs.  So scratch that.  Ugh...so frustrating.  Teaching seems like my only avenue and I think I would hate that too.I could subsitute teach if I had a degree and I would not mind that.but it hardly seems worth going to school for (and yet it is required.  but around here most minimum wage daycare positions require a four year degree.)

 

If anyone has any suggestions I am open.  I am not really suited to business, retail or anything nursing related (if I go back to school it will be so I can get a job where I can have weekends, nights and holidays off).  I want to help people.  I want to feed people. I want to create a whole shift in how communities shift and function.  Especially low income communities.  I essentially want to be a stay at home mom to the world. Or my church.  I want to write Sunday school curriculum, be a church secretary/janitor/tour guide. and maybe paint icons...except I have zero art skills.  i am really screwed.

post #17 of 22

I hope you will find your passion before you start. I love the urban homesteading idea. College might not be necessary for that path. Could you start a  nonprofit? Small business loan? S.C.O.R.E. offers free business advice and mentoring. Could you volunteer with a community garden group? Could you pass out flyers and offer classes? Take related classes, even online? Starting small might be slow, but compared to 6 years at school, maybe it could work.

 

Full time school with kids is totally doable - not easy, but possible. I was 50, and my youngest were 11 & 12 when I graduated, with a 3.8 GPA. Yes, I am also single. But my degree did not match my dreams, and I regret the time and money I invested in an interesting but fairly useless degree. I have a job I love, but is quite unrelated to my degree, and doesn't pay too well. I am also trying to start a small business to make ends meet, and it is more in the direction of my heart. I will have to wait till my kids are grown to pursue my real plans, but the home business will be experience in that field.

 

There are lots of career planning books out there. Two of the classics off the top of my head are: "Do What You Love; the Money Will Follow", and "What Color is Your Parachute?" Both have exercises to get you thinking about where you want to be, and how to get there. I am sure there are many more books available. Please be sure of your goal before committing years of your life.
 

post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the book recommendations!  I truly have no idea where to even start.  I like the idea of volunteering but really have no time to volunteer.  I work 50-60 hours a week at job one, have an etsy shop and a rental property that needs constant upkeep.  Plus three kids and an ex husband who can't stop judging me for not being being a helicopter parents (hey dude, if you wanted your kids to have  a stay at home mom who could constantly be watching their every step perhaps you should have stayed married to her....).  I teach Sunday school and try to help out at church as often as possible.  I love being at church and doing the stuff there. I was not joking about wanting to be the church secretary (for my church, not someone else's).  That would be bliss.  

 

I have thought about starting a non profit but I cannot even begin to imagine how one just up and starts a non profit business.  or where the money comes from to pay the people who are not profiting.  And while I think anyone and everyone should have at least one edible plant in their possession and everyone can grow at least some small portion of their food I am not a good gardener.  I throw down seeds and eat whatever comes up. i want to teach people on food stamps how to shop and cook and eat really well with what they are given (i work at a grocery store and about 90% of food stamps recipients could really use some help.)

 

I have thought about dietition but heaven help me that is a lot of science!  But I am feeling optomistic right now.  A dietetics degree could enable me to do the whole food stamp thing and also help people be healthy while finding balance, I could get my IBCLC certification and just go nuts.  Yeah.....If I time it right my daughter and I will be in biology and chemistry together and she can help me (smartypants that she is)....hmmmmmmmm

post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 

i did it.  :D  I filled out my financial aid form and application today.  I am aiming for the spring semester of 2013.  It seems like an eternity but it is only one semester.  In that semester I will finish paying off all my debt and be read to jump into this with both feet.  I decided to go with dietetics.  And to get my lactation consulting certification when I am done.  I am so freaking excited!!

post #20 of 22

I was going to suggest social work, but dietics sounds like a great option as well.

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