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3 Tips for the Parent Considering College

By: Brittany Barber, Ph.D.

It was 3 a.m. and I finally got my 2-year-old to sleep after a long bout of constipation. At 3:15 am, I started working on the final edits for a paper that was due the next day. Three years later, I walked across the stage with my degree as my oldest and my 1-year-old cheered me on.

Nothing about parenthood (or life) will pause when you pursue the credentials you’ve been considering. But here are 3 reasons why you should do it anyway.

1. You accomplish hard things every day.

Just stop and take inventory of everything you've been able to do. You figured out how to have a conversation with your middle schooler. Pumped breast milk then made it to the meeting on time. Worked a 12-hour shift but still made lunches for the next day. Stopped your toddler from having splash time in the toilet. Returned a call from the principal then led a team training. Dropped off your kid at their first dance in an outfit they picked out by themselves. Learned the latest dance on TikTok and listened to your child question why so-and-so can do it, but they can’t for the fifth time this week. Listen—you do hard things every day and pursuing a degree or certificate would be no exception.

2. There’s never going to be a later.

There's no perfect time to go back to school. The stars won’t align. All the answers won’t be there. The nerves you feel when you click “register” for classes may never waver. But don’t wait for that hypothetical later that may never come. My mother told me that my grandmother kept boxes of money around the house. She called it her “rainy day fund,” money that she was waiting to spend on a rainy day, just because. My grandmother ended up passing away while my mother was young and never took a “just because” day to use the money she had been saving. We so easily give credit to tomorrow, as if today doesn’t carry its own gifts. If you can do it now, do it.

3. It’s going to hurt and then it won’t.

The birth of my second child was much faster than any of us anticipated, including the medical team. By the time I got to the hospital, there wasn’t time for an epidural. Realizing I was about to feel everything, I felt terrified. But the nurse grabbed my hand, looked me in my eye and said, “Listen: This is going to hurt. And then it won’t.” Getting that degree or certificate is going to hurt at times. And then one day…it won’t.

Here's to you having a stronger will than a child fighting sleep. Here’s to you starting and finishing because yes—you can do this.

Dr. Brittany Barber serves as the Manager of the Cultural Center at Harper College. In this role, Dr. Barber ensures that the Cultural Center is a welcoming space for students, staff and faculty, that offers a full spectrum of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice programs, trainings and resources.

Last Updated: 4/18/24