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    Balancing Parenthood and College: Resources, Scholarships, and Support
    for Single Parents

    Juggling school and parenthood can be challenging, but our guide to college success for single parents can help. Use this guide as a starting point to find resources, support, and scholarships to help you successfully navigate college while balancing family responsibilities.

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    Reviewer:

    Ayna Molina

    Ayna Molina is a special education teacher, wife, mother of four, and grandmother of one. A native of Miami, Florida, she attended the University of Arkansas a single mother. Her experience as single parent and student inspired her to study education. After graduating with her degree, she moved back to her hometown of Miami, where she has worked for the last 30 years in the educational field.

    College Success Single Parents

    Single parenting is a deeply rewarding and sometimes demanding journey. Deciding to pursue a college degree when you’re in the thick of caring for a family adds an extra layer of complexity to your already busy life and presents a new set of challenges to overcome. While making your way as a single parent student can be exciting and empowering, not everyone who sets out on that path achieves success. According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 52% of all single parent students drop out of college before obtaining a degree.

    Of course, sticking it out until graduation day is well worth the effort. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that bachelor’s degree holders earn an average of $500 more per week than those who have only graduated high school. To help you succeed, we’ve put together this guide to higher education for single parents. Keep reading for information on overcoming the most common obstacles, including lists of scholarships and resources to help support you along the way.

    Degree Barriers as a Single Parent

    Single parents face more hurdles than traditional students in the pursuit of higher education. Obtaining a degree isn’t easy for most students, but it can be especially daunting when you’re solo parenting. As a single parent student, it’s likely you’ll contend with financial pressures, constraints on time and energy, and the effort to find adequate support. Though these hurdles may be challenging, overcoming them lays the groundwork for a brighter future for you and your children.

    Financial Strains

    Paying for school-related costs is just one of the financial puzzles single parent students must solve. Single parents often bear the sole financial responsibility for themselves and their kids and might not be able to count on additional financial support from their own parents. As a result, many single parent students find themselves living on limited financial means. Psychology Today reports that almost 90% of undergraduate single mothers live near or below the poverty line. Such pressing financial strains can divert time, energy, and attention away from studies.

    Thankfully, there are abundant financial aid options out there specifically for single parents, and many of them do not need to be paid back. Numerous grant and scholarship opportunities can help you finance your education, while federal aid programs can alleviate the everyday burdens of food, housing, and healthcare expenses.

    Time & Energy Barriers

    Time is a limited resource and often in short supply for single parent students. According to a study by the American Educational Research Association, these parents have less time at their disposal than their childless peers. After all, parenting in any situation is energy-intensive work than can test the limits of your physical and mental energy. The parent-student balancing act of work, childcare, and classes leaves even less room for rest and recuperation.

    Single parent students can rise above these challenges by exploring online college and part-time degree programs tailored to their unique situation. Online study offers the flexibility to attend classes synchronously or asynchronously, enabling you to craft a schedule that suits your needs. Opting for a part-time pace allows you to focus on just one or two classes each semester, making your academic load significantly more manageable alongside your parenting commitments.

    Lack of Support

    For many solo parent students, the task of securing reliable childcare is a primary concern. Striking a balance between academics, work, and personal life can be tough for any student, and the added responsibility of childcare further complicates the equation. Even if you’ve already established a dependable child care routine, unforeseen circumstances like a sick child or unavailable caregiver can disrupt your plans, making it tough to attend class or turn in assignments on time.

    There are several potential solutions to help solve this issue. Enlisting the support of nearby family and close friends can provide valuable assistance in times of need. Establishing connections with other single parents, especially those who are fellow students, opens up opportunities for a mutually beneficial support system where you can trade childcare or study together. Single parents are also eligible for subsidized childcare services, like Head Start, which provide an additional layer of child care support.

    What Support Do Single Parents Need?

    As a single parent fulfilling the dual roles of student and caregiver, you’re responsible for more than assignments and work. You’re also nurturing another life that depends on you. Even more so than a traditional student, you’ll need to seek out resources that support your success as a student and a parent.

    With thoughtful planning and strategy, you can secure resources that will help you meet financial goals, provide housing and essential care, and allow you to confidently manage your academic commitments.

    Financial Aid & Funding

    Higher education is an expensive pursuit, but multiple aid opportunities are available to single parents in need of a financial boost.

    Federal Pell Grants are an excellent source of assistance for single parents, since aid is calculated based on financial need. Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are also available through individual schools for undergraduate students with exceptional financial needs. To apply for either of these programs, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    Additionally, there are numerous scholarships dedicated to encourage and support single parent students. We’ve outlined 20 examples in our listing below.

    Flexible Class Scheduling

    A flexible class schedule that caters to your unique needs can be a game changer, especially when it comes to a surprise illness, childcare snafus, or conflicting commitments during class times.

    Fortunately, online classes can provide maximum convenience for parents with busy schedules. Synchronous classes allow you to engage with professors and classmates in real-time via the internet. If you need even more adaptability, asynchronous classes provide the freedom to watch lectures and complete coursework at your own pace.

    Affordable Housing

    Many college students find budget-friendly housing through dorms and other on-campus options, but it’s not always practical, safe, or permissible for single parent students to live in dormitories with babies or children.

    Finding a reliable housing solution while working toward your degree can relieve one of the main financial and logistical stressors of being a single parent student. Some colleges and universities have addressed this problem with dedicated on-campus housing for single parents. Moreover, many single parents qualify for financial needs-based housing assistance, such as Section 8 housing vouchers.

    Basic Needs Support

    Navigating the challenges of single parenthood and education extends beyond the basics of funding your studies, attending classes, and securing affordable housing. As a single parent, you’re also responsible for the essential needs of your family, like clothing, food, and health insurance.

    Family, religious organizations, and charities are often eager to provide resources such as food and clothing. Some scholarships even offer funds for childcare or living expenses alongside educational needs. Public assistance programs can also play a pivotal role in meeting basic needs.

    Mental Health Resources

    The demands of single parenting and college life can each pose their own mental health challenges. Combining the two can understandably intensify the pressure on your mental well-being. Seeking community with friends, family, and other single parents you can trust, both online and in person, can help. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, stress, or anxiety that are affecting your daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for guidance and support, including those available to you through your school’s counseling or health center.

    Convenient and Affordable Childcare

    Enrolling in college is a huge investment of your time and energy, and your children’s basic care needs will still need to be met, even if you’re in school. Childcare stands as one of the most pressing issues affecting single parent students, and daycare, babysitters, and nannies can be costly.

    While many colleges and universities lack on-campus childcare services, you’ll also find that some schools do offer daycare facilities or co-op childcare options, though you may need to make some inquiries and go on a waiting list. Proactively establishing a childcare plan and an extended network of caregivers can be invaluable. This safety net ensures that you’ll have a reliable support system in place, no matter what comes your way.

    Academic Support

    When balancing single parenthood and student life, it’s likely that you’ll need additional academic support or accommodations to ensure student success. Take advantage of your college’s career counseling services to plot an advantageous career path and class schedule. Communicate openly with your professors about your situation, letting them know that you’re a single parent and solely responsible for your child’s welfare. Most professors are understanding of this unique situation and willing to allow extra time to complete assignments in the event of a parenting emergency.

    20 Scholarships for Single Parents

    According to the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, 42% of college students who drop out do so because of financial constraints, and single parenthood has the potential to magnify the financial stress of school. Single parent students don’t just have to find ways to pay for educational expenses, they also have to consider food, housing, and basic necessities for themselves and their dependents.

    Fortunately, there are several scholarship opportunities aimed at supporting single parents throughout their college careers. To help you find the best scholarship opportunities for your situation, we’ve compiled a list of 20 scholarships available to single parents.

    Scholarships for Single Parents

    American Society of Safety Professionals Family Scholarship Fund

    • Scholarship amount: $500 – $1,000
    • Scholarship deadline: February 15
    • The Foundation Family Scholarship is available to provide assistance to the children and spouses of individuals who lost their lives in a workplace incident. Applicants must provide incident documentation and proof of full- or part-time student status.
    • Apply here.

    Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund

    • Scholarship amount: $3,600 per year
    • Scholarship deadline: June 15
    • The ASPSF is for single parent students earning an associate or bachelor’s degree or postsecondary certificate. Funds can be used for household, daycare, and commuting expenses in addition to educational costs.
    • Apply here.

    Bernice Murray Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: up to $4,000
    • Scholarship deadline: February 15
    • To apply for this scholarship, you must be an undergraduate student and single parent with primary custody of a child aged 12 or younger and attend an accredited school approved for Title IV funding.
    • Apply here.

    Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $500 – $2,000
    • Scholarship deadline: April 10
    • The Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship provides funds to single parents students in the state of Rhode Island. Preference is given to parents who are currently or have previously received state aid or who were previously incarcerated.
    • Apply here.

    BYU Marriott School of Business Single Parent Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: Varies
    • Scholarship deadline: February 1
    • Several scholarships are available to single parents who are enrolled in a graduate program at BYU Marriott and maintain good academic standing. To qualify, a student must have primary custody of dependent children and remain unmarried.
    • Apply here.

    Capture the Dream Single Parent Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $1,000
    • Scholarship deadline: June 30
    • To apply, students must be low-income single parents, residents of the San Francisco Bay area, and enrolled at an accredited, not-for-profit two- or four-year institution.
    • Apply here.

    Custody X Change Single Parent Scholarships

    • Scholarship amount: $500 – $1000
    • Scholarship deadline: December 31, April 30, and August 31
    • Each year, the Custody X Change Giving Fund awards three scholarships to single parents for undergraduate study. Applicants must have primary physical custody of one or more children and be enrolled as a full or part time student at an accredited university.
    • Apply by following the directions here.

    Ford Opportunity Program

    • Scholarship amount: 90% of unmet college costs up to $40,000 per year
    • Scholarship deadline: March 1
    • This program was established to help single parents earn their college degrees. All college-bound parents who are residents of Oregon or Siskiyou County, California are eligible, with single parents are strongly encouraged to apply.
    • Apply here.

    Job-Applications.com Working Parent Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $1,000
    • Scholarship deadline: TBD late summer/early fall
    • Each year, job-applications.com offers a scholarship for working parents pursuing higher education. To apply, students must be a residential parent of at least one minor child and work an average of 12 hours each week.
    • Apply here.

    Kentucky Colonels Better Life Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $2,500
    • Scholarship deadline: April 1
    • This scholarship is available to full-time Jefferson Community & Technical College students who are single parents to at least one child under the age of 12. Applicants must be first-time college students.
    • Apply here.

    LouEllen Dabbs Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $750
    • Scholarship deadline: March 13
    • Any student of Holyoke Community College who is a single parent interested in pursuing a career in business, banking, or finance can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, academic achievement, and outstanding character.
    • Apply here.

    Minnesota Child Care Grant

    • Scholarship amount: up to $6,500
    • Scholarship deadline: 30 days before term begins
    • This grant provides child care funds for Minnesota undergraduate and graduate students who have a child 12 years old or younger. Applicants must also meet additional family size and income requirements.
    • Apply here.

    Roadway Worker Memorial Scholarship Program

    • Scholarship amount: up to $10,000
    • Scholarship deadline: February 15
    • The ATSS Foundation provides this scholarship to the children and spouses of those who were killed or permanently disabled in a road work zone incident. For applicants with a strong commitment to volunteer work, an additional $1,000 may be awarded.
    • Apply here.

    Single Parent Fund of Northwest Arkansas

    • Scholarship amount: $1,250 – $2,500
    • Scholarship deadline: June 15
    • This fund is for single parents in Benton, Carroll, Madison, or Washington Counties in Arkansas with low to moderate incomes. To be selected for financial assistance, students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0.
    • Apply here.

    University of New Mexico Downer-Bennett Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $200 – $1,000
    • Scholarship deadline: January 5
    • This scholarship is available to non-traditional and single parent undergraduate students at the University of New Mexico. To apply, students must have a cumulative total of at least 12 UNM Main campus credits earned by the end of the fall semester.
    • Apply here.

    Scholarships for Single Moms

    Answer Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: varies
    • Scholarship deadline: March 10
    • This scholarship is open to nontraditional female students aged 25 or older, who are the primary caregiver to at least one school-aged child. Applicants must be enrolled as a full-time student in qualifying institutions in select counties in North and South Carolina.
    • Apply here.

    Patsy Mink Foundation

    • Scholarship amount: $500 – $1000
    • Scholarship deadline: August 1
    • The Education Support Awards are available to low-income mothers with minor children. Students must be pursuing their first degree at the postsecondary educational level.
    • Apply here.

    Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award

    • Scholarship amount: up to $5,000
    • Scholarship deadline: November 15
    • Three levels of Live Your Dream Awardsare available to students who are the primary financial support to themselves and their dependents, have a financial need, and are enrolled in an undergraduate degree program.
    • Apply here.

    Supermom Scholarship

    • Scholarship amount: $2,000
    • Scholarship deadline: January 28
    • The Supermom Scholarship is for undergraduate and graduate single mothers who have a demonstrated financial need. Applicants must also submit a short essay on their experience as a single mother.
    • Apply here.

    Women’s Independence Scholarship Program

    • Scholarship amount: $500 – $2,000
    • Scholarship deadline: December 31, April 30, and August 31
    • To qualify, students must identify as a female survivor of intimate partner abuse, be separated from the abuser, and be sponsored by a nonprofit agency providing survivor services. Preference is given to single mothers of young children.
    • Apply here.

    Resources for Single Parents

    We’ve put together a list of 20 resources that can provide you with additional support as a single parent student. Keep reading to discover valuable tools, tips, and support opportunities that will empower you to balance the unique challenges of single parenthood during your educational journey.

    • Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program: These grants provide campus-based childcare services to encourage low-income parent participation in postsecondary education. Funds are used to create or maintain campus-based child care programs.
    • Child Care Aware: This site provides single parents with vital information on childcare resources, services, and programs. Links include information on how to pay for childcare, how to budget for it, and how to find a quality program.
    • Child Care Development Fund: The CCDF offers assistance to low-income families who need access to affordable childcare options so parents can attend work, work-related training, or school.
    • Childcare.gov: Parents can learn about their options for local childcare, health and social services, financial assistance, support for children with disabilities, and more on this government-backed website.
    • Circles App: People with similar struggles can connect in safe online spaces and 24/7 group chats led by qualified facilitators. Groups include gatherings for single parents, handling everyday issues with children, support for stressed out moms, and more.
    • Enlightened Helping Hands Foundation: EHH is dedicated to serving disadvantaged single parent families by providing them with case workers, life skills workshops, money management skills, and government program referrals.
    • Guide to Single Parent Support Systems: Learn how to approach family, friends, and community members with these practical tips for creating a dependable childcare support system.
    • Head Start: Head Start provides early learning and development programs at no cost to qualifying families. Early Head Start serves children birth to age 3, while preschool opportunities are available for children aged 3 to 5 years.
    • Mental Health America Screening: Protect and foster better mental health with this free online screening, which includes additional information and resources on how to find mental health support.
    • Mental Health Tips for Single Parents: These tips can help single parents maintain a healthy balance as they face the mental, emotional, and financial challenges of becoming a single parent student.
    • Mint: This free budgeting software can help single parent students manage their limited resources to provide for their own needs, childcare costs, and necessary life expenses.
    • Parents Helping Parents: Access virtual and in-person community support groups to share highs and lows with other single parents, ask questions, and gain feedback to help yourself and your children.
    • Parents Without Partners: This non-profit serves single parents and their children by connecting them to local meetings and chapter organizations where they can receive support and forge relationships with other single-parent families.
    • Quizlet: This study website helps students stay on top of their studies with science-backed learning tools. It’s simple to create digital flashcards, practice tests, and more, making it easy to drill class material.
    • Single Moms Planet:This site is dedicated to uplifting under-resourced single moms and working mothers. SMP partners with financial and business institutions to deliver programs and resources to support and educate these women.
    • Single and Parenting: Join support small groups where participants watch video seminars from counselors and professionals and engage in small group discussions and workbook-based studies with other single parents.
    • Single Parent in Need Foundation: SPIN supplies crisis relief funding to U.S.-based single-parent families in the form of monetary assistance, gap funding, and expense relief for healthcare, housing, education, transportation, and basic human needs.
    • Single Parents: Surviving Single Parenthood: With over 116,000 members, this Facebook group is a hub for single parents looking for camaraderie, support, and a place to share with other single parents.
    • SNAP: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program supplies supplementary food budget funds to needy families. Many single parent students are eligible for benefits. Check the website for additional eligibility information.
    • WIC: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children provides funding for food, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, and infants and children up to age 5.

    Expert Interview: A Single College Graduate Shares Their Experience

    Ayna Molina is a special education teacher, wife, mother of four, and grandmother of one. A native of Miami, Florida, she attended the University of Arkansas a single mother. Her experience as single parent and student inspired her to study education. After graduating with her degree, she moved back to her hometown of Miami, where she has worked for the last 30 years in the educational field.

    Q: What’s your best advice to single parent students for maximizing their chances of academic success while also maintaining a healthy work-school-life balance?

    A: Remember that it is ok to ask for help. Be proud of what you are doing and remember to balance your time.

    Q: What’s the best way for students to network and build relationships with other single parents who are also attending college?

    A: There’s seems to be so much knowledge at our finger tips these days. Researching groups of like-minded individuals and being proactive in connecting with them is important.

    Q: In your experience, what was the best way to communicate with professors and advisors about your unique situation as a single parent?

    A: Communication is key. Letting your professors and advisors know about your situation of being a single parent will hopefully help them be a little more understanding when something comes up. There’s a unique responsibility when you’re a single parent – that is you being the only one your child or children can rely on. It’s important to be proactive in communicating any appointments or previously scheduled things that you can communicate with your professors and make a plan for upcoming work, projects or exams.

    Q: In your opinion, are there any specific degree programs or majors that are better suited for single parents, in terms of flexibility and career prospects?

    A: Such an interesting question. We all have a passion or career path that we believe we will follow. Then these tiny humans grab our hearts and we’re never the same again. I have to admit, when I started school, I was positive I wanted to be a nurse. I even began working at a hospital as a nurse’s aide. Then I became pregnant and the hours a nurse worked seemed to be so (too) much or [during] the wrong times. I then researched what options there were and education seemed perfect. I became a special education teacher. I worked the same hours as my little one was in school. And I was available when I was needed.

    Q: Can you recommend any resources or strategies for managing stress and maintaining mental health while balancing college and parenting responsibilities?

    A: Keeping a planner (calendar) of your schedules as well as your child(ren)’s. This should help with balancing and planning ahead for assignments, projects, childcare and anything else. I feel that is a huge step in managing stress as well as preventing stressful situations.

    Q: Do you have any advice for single parent students on building a strong support network of friends, family, and other single parents who can provide emotional and practical support throughout the college journey?

    A: I truly believe that having a community of like-minded individuals who are going through or have been in the same circumstances is a key to your success. Research if there are groups or support centers at your school or maybe check at your child’s daycare [to see] if others are in similar situations.