As one of your considerations when choosing a University you should identify any support structures they have for students with child dependents. For example if you miss lectures or project deadlines because of family commitments is there room for an extension? This is imperative because some courses carry heavy penalties for work handed in late. If you are the only carer for a pre-school child that is unable to go to nursery due to illness it can cause great distress. Ensure you discuss flexibility options such as working from home in emergencies. Showing that you have made this consideration prior to any unfortunate event will show you are a forward planner that takes your study very seriously.
There may be grants available from private companies or charitable organizations for individuals disadvantaged or in hardship. The fact that your time is shared with such an important duty, as parenting, does mean you have less time than someone without this responsibility; therefore somewhat disadvantaged. Your local library should have a grants directory, if not you should be able to gain access to one online. When studying with additional responsibilities every little bit of financial support helps. You maybe able to apply privately for something like travel costs from a local business so think outside the box when conducting a search for funding. In addition, Family Friendly Britain encourages student support staff or students to inform us of any funding they become aware of that could be directed toward students with children. We will include any information we receive in our blog or newsletter as soon as it comes available.
It is an advantage if the University you plan to go to has childcare facilities. The staff will be more understanding with issues such as lectures that run overtime, whereas private nurseries can charge up to £10 late fee. If the University has several campuses make sure the nursery you choose is in a convenient location to you. If the University does not have childcare provisions, check if the independent childcare you choose operates on a term time only service if that is all you need. Some childcare provisions can have very long waiting lists so book early. Crèche’s are rare at Universities but some colleges that offer degrees may have them. If you do have the option of a crèche make sure the opening times are in line with your classes. It has been known for a course lecturer to change a course time to run 9.30–12.30 a.m. yet the crèche opening times remained 9.00-12.00 a.m. Child Minder’s can be a great asset as they are more flexible regarding hours after 6.00 p.m. Make sure you are a 110% happy with your choice of childcare as having to change in the middle of term can be very time consuming and distracting.
If the University you chose is not commutable you may be able to receive an allowance to pay your current rent/mortgage while you are studying away. This means that you do not need to lose your home in order to study. You need to contact your local council or grant administrator for details on this. Looking for a place to stay near your University if needed should be done as soon as you confirm your acceptance. Don’t depend on the University accommodation to provide a place for you. They may simply not have the type of accommodation you need. Put location and your safety first when choosing accommodation. Identify a convenient place in easy reach of your University, Childcare provision and local amenities. If you don’t drive, try and find somewhere that has a good public transport route. If going into private accommodation use a repeatable letting agency. Ensure that the property has a current gas safety certificate and energy performance certificate. Any deposit paid should be registered either with the letting agent or a private scheme.
If you plan to study in a place where you have no family members or close friends nearby you can become socially isolated and find it difficult to have time with others. Evening childcare is limited and can be charged at a greater rate than day care. Getting your child involved in a hobby or interest can bring you in contact with other parents allowing social time for yourself and child. Dentistry’s & Doctors need to be registered with immediately. Don’t wait until something is needed before you decide to register, as they may need your records in the event of an emergency. With the commitment of studies and the responsibility of parenting you can easily forget to keep up to date with certain things such as child jabs and health checks. Therefore, ensure you get registered with all the necessary health services and make yourself aware of the local pharmacies and walk-in NHS centres as it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
We hope you have found this post helpful.
Sonia Michelle Reynolds currently undertaking her PhD while being responsible for child dependants has written this post. Sonia also went through College and University being the carer for a young child in addition to studying in a different city to her hometown. Having first hand experience of the demands, struggles and complications it can bring she has shared this practical information that will inform students with child dependants how to make good choices when going through further or higher education.
Please fill out the contact form if you are an education provider and would like to book Sonia for:
- Consultation for student advice and guidance staff
- Advice, counselling, mentoring for student or student groups
- Representation at open days