My name is Nelle. I’m 25 years old and a single mother to a 5-year-old boy.
I got pregnant at the age of 18 and had my son at 19. I graduated from university in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Creative Musicianship.
Going to university was one of the most challenging and greatest achievements in my life. I started attending university when my son was one years old.
It was a very daunting experience to begin with, as I had no idea what to expect, and was unsure how I was going to manage the workload.
I’ve learnt so much from my university experience and I want to share some tips with you on how you can thrive and survive this exciting journey, and here’s how:
- Build a relationship with your university
Building a relationship with your university is vital. It’s extremely important that you make them aware of your situation so they can support you in the best way possible.
My student support department at my university were extremely helpful with providing a timetable that worked around my childcare arrangements. I also made regular contact with them if I was struggling with the workload and needed extra support.
My advice would be to take advantage of any help you can get and remember that communication is key to having any successful relationship.
Getting your finances in order is absolutely key to surviving university, or life for that matter.
University comes with many financial responsibilities, so it’s important you are keeping on top of your finances by budgeting regularly.
If you are struggling with where to begin when it comes to budgeting, I highly recommend you use the Money Advice Service online budget planner
Also don’t forget that student parents are entitled to a number of grants to help with childcare, living costs and any resources you need for your course.
I advise you to contact Student Finance to find out what help you may be entitled to. Last but not least, let’s not forget about the good old NUS card (Oh! How I miss being a student, sigh), I encourage you to take advantage of any student discounts you can get your hands on whilst they last.
- Time management
Managing your time can be tricky when you are a mother, but it’s important that you do the best with whatever time you have.
The amount of time you put into your studies will determine the quality of your work. I suggest you work out a study schedule by determining what time works best for you.
I completed most of my work when my son was asleep at night and took advantage of my commute to and from university on the train, to complete any extra work.
I’d also recommend keeping a diary with all your homework and exam due dates so you avoid missing deadlines.
- Ask for help
Do not be afraid to ask for help, because you WILL need it. I made a solid effort to get regular feedback and guidance from my teachers when I was struggling with my work.
I also reached out to family and friends to help with any extra childcare I needed, especially during exam period.
There’s no way on earth I would have got through my degree if I wasn’t bold enough to admit I needed help. Don’t suffer in silence and remember there is no shame in asking for help.
- Be prepared to miss out on having a social life
University was definitely a wake-up call for me, as I learnt quickly that my lifestyle was completely different to all my peers.
Be prepared to miss out on a few social events, nights out for drinks, parties and all that good stuff. I had to grow up real fast, and there was certainly no time for hangovers or drunken nights.
Unfortunately, my social life only went as far as my lunch breaks at university, I found this extremely frustrating as I felt like my youth was dying before my eyes.
I understand that my experience of having a lack of a social life isn’t the same for everybody, but for those who feel they can relate, I want to say don’t be discouraged and understand that this time will pass.
On the flip side, if you are able to go out with friends, I would encourage you to have fun and to make the most of it.
- Have fun
Don’t get carried away with being too serious (or mumsy lol), and make an effort to enjoy every moment.
University was one of the biggest highlights in my life and I would do anything to go back (just without the stress of exams lol).
I formed some of the greatest friendships and would definitely say my university experience has played a major role in the woman I have become today.
I hope my tips have helped you in some way and I wish you all the best with your studies.
Remember! Be proud of yourself for making a decision to study, don’t be discouraged and enjoy the journey.