As a working mom, I know what a struggle it is just to get through each day, let alone think about taking on extra responsibilities like going to school! Wake up, get the kids up, make breakfast, take the kids to the sitter / school, go to work, come home, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, collapse into bed exhausted. It's a brutal routine that we have to repeat day in and day out.
Working as a receptionist at a packaging company, I made enough money to make ends meet, but each month was a struggle, with no end in sight for a better life. I always had a bit of regret that I never completed my college degree, choosing to get married instead, but school just seemed like a distant part of my passed up opportunities in life. But after Kevin was born, I really wanted to spend more time with him and make sure that he had the things that he wanted and needed. I knew that having that degree would give me a chance to start moving up in my career, start earning more and having more financial freedom, but how?
What are scholarships for moms?
That's when I heard about scholarships for moms. A friend of mine who now lives in New York had gotten a scholarship to the University of Phoenix, and was working on her business degree, and it was almost free to her after the financial aid she won. "Why would anyone want to give moms scholarships?" I asked myself. It turns out however, that moms in my situation were so commonplace that many companies have found an opportunity in providing resources to help these moms get back to school. Many colleges are part of an education awareness project called Project Working Mom: Putting Education to Work where over $2 million in scholarships is being awarded to moms.
Many of these scholarships are for online schools, where you can take classes remotely via your internet connection. This gives you the flexibility to take classes on your own schedule. For me, I spent an hour each night on lessons and spent 3-4 hour chunks on the weekends taking exams and catching up on what I missed on busy days during the week.
Do I qualify?
My biggest fear and concern was that I was simply not qualified for a scholarship. I mean, what achievements could I point to that would make some admissions officer pick me to win a $10,000 scholarship? What I discovered is that the qualities they look for are relevant to working moms like me. Some of the things they look for:
- Whether you're working now, how long you've been with your current employer, and your employment history
- Did you attend any college? If so, what classes did you complete?
- Your high school background and any achievements, including extracurricular activities such as sports you participated in
- Your current financial situation
How I applied
First, request information on availability of scholarships and the schools and degree programs that are participating. The resource that I used was Scholarships for Moms, it's a good site with a lot of information - and I think that for a limited time they are giving away a set of $10,000 scholarships. You can search and browse the programs and schools they offer, there were a few hundred so plenty of options. I had always been interested in Human Resources, and there were a number of HR programs that I qualified for. You choose the programs you want and apply to those, and from there it takes a few weeks to receive a response. I was declined by three schools, but was ecstatic when I received a note from DeVry's saying I had been accepted to their Human Resources Management Concentration program! I sent in more details to apply - and was enrolled within two weeks.
(Click to check if Scholarships for Moms is still running their $10K scholarship giveaway)
My schedule now
While I must honestly say that my daily schedule is even more demanding than before, with night time studying and less free time on the weekends, I have such a daily feeling of empowerment, knowing that my future is now in my hands. It's all so worth it to put in the extra work, knowing that I can get a position in HR management and start moving up that career path - something that I love. Plus, I love to learn, and it's fun to find out more new things each day about how company operations work and how to find and evaluate great people for an organization. Look at me, talking like a HR pro already :)
My advice for working moms
While it may seem daunting to go back to school - all I can say is that you need to trust yourself and your abilities. You can do it - there are thousands, if not millions of working moms out there who are thinking the same things are you - about how to get out of a dead-end job, or how to earn more to provide for our kids, or how to pursue that career we dreamed about but gave up on as life threw more and more challenges at us. We live in a tough and competitive world, and we need the education to prepare us to succeed. The most important thing to me, is to hear my little Kevin say "Mom, I'm so proud of you!"
Here are some other programs to check out with different financial aid programs
- AT&T Labs Fellowship Programs provide grants to women and minorities who are interested in technology or who have a background in IT
- The Microsoft Scholarship Program has a wide range of grant programs - and has many which directly benefit women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Applicants must currently be enrolled in a 4-year degree program with a focus in IT, computer science, or similar fields.
- McDonald's offers the RMHC (Ronald McDonald House Charities) National Scholarship Program which is mostly based on financial need as well as the availability of grants within your geographic area.
- The Target All-Around Scholarship is a program for current undergraduates or if you are close to your high school graduation. Target's program is geared towards people who are heavily involved in their community and/or have participated in extracurricular activities designed around community service, such as Key Club or Kiwanis. You must also have a high GPA to qualify.
- Wal-Mart also offers a range of scholarship and grant programs. Their Associate Scholarship is designed for current Wal-Mart employees only and is primarily awarded based on financial need. The Sam Walton Community Scholarship is targeted at people who live in communities near a Sam's Club or Wal-Mart store, and this one is available to non-employees. You'll need to have a high school diploma or GED to apply.
- Scholarships for Moms: Information on scholarship programs for working, single, and stay-at-home moms. You can apply for an information packet which gives you lists of participating schools and scholarship options. Apply directly for scholarship programs on the site.