Family support key to student success

06/05/2011  |  Johanna Altland

Making the decision to go back to school is a huge commitment, but once you take that step, getting the support of your family is one of the most important things that you can do. Research shows that family support is one of the key factors in the success of a working adult student. Conversely, regardless of a student’s goals and aspirations, they are more likely to drop out of college if they do not receive the necessary support from their family.

Here are some things that you and your family can do to ensure that you succeed in your goal to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree:

What You Can Do?

Set Expectations

Before classes start, get together as a family to discuss the coming changes and how family life will be impacted. One of the biggest changes will be the investment of time. Whether taking courses in a traditional classroom or online, there is a lot of time spent studying and learning both in and out of the classroom. According to some studies, a student can invest as much as 10-20 hours of studying per course each week.

Create Family Time

In order to lessen the impact of school on your family, set aside blocks of designated family time. Pick at least one day or evening each week, where your books and school responsibilities are put aside for a few hours, so you can spend quality time with your loved one and your children. While your family may be 100 percent supportive of your goals, it is human nature to feel neglected or pushed aside at times. Quality time, spent together as a family, will help minimize these feelings.

Involve Your Family

Getting your family involved in your education will let them know that you are accomplishing something meaningful. Discuss interesting facts that you learn during dinner or during car trips. Study alongside your children while they complete their homework. Not only will they learn the importance of education, but you’ll get to spend time with them and get some work done as well.

What Your Family Can Do?

Be Patient and Understanding

If your loved one has to stay after class or spend extra time studying for an exam, don’t complain. He/she isn’t any happier about the situation. Instead, treasure the quality time that you get to spend together and keep in mind that your loved one is earning a degree, not just to get a diploma, but to make a difference for your family.

Minimize Distractions

It is very easy for a student to get distracted while studying. To show your support of their educational pursuits, minimize unnecessary distractions and worries. One rule of thumb to follow while your significant other is studying is this – unless it is an emergency, like the sink is overflowing or your child gets seriously injured, don’t disturb them. Keep a notebook handy and when you think of things that you want to talk about or questions that you have, jot them down, and then set aside some quiet time at the end of the day to talk about the items on your list.

Be Encouraging and Proud

Going back to school is hard for working adult students, and, at times, they will get discouraged. It is important that you and your children are there to listen, encourage and build them up, so they can successfully achieve their goals. Make a big deal out of their accomplishments and be proud that your loved one is working toward a degree.

Returning to school as a working adult student while meeting the needs of your family isn’t easy; however, with hard work and commitment from both you and your family, it can be done.

Johanna Altland currently serves at the Director of Communications at Grantham University. She has several years experience in the higher education industry and has written extensively about distance education, issues in higher education, and the educational options available to military service members.
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