Single Mom Going Back to School: Financial Tips & Resources for Parents Going to College

Nicolas Cesare  | 

There are few things harder than raising a child on your own as a single parent. Unfortunately, rising college tuition has only made it harder to improve your financial stability, especially when you’re raising kids by yourself. However, this doesn’t mean that single moms are completely without hope when it comes to going back to school. Find out how to pay for college as a single mom with grants, scholarships, loans, and other helpful financial resources.

Financial Aid for Single Moms

Many students receive some amount of financial aid from their parents when it comes to pay for college expenses like tuition, rent, or textbooks. For this reason, they never discover the full breadth of financial aid available to them. However, as a single parent, you may need to call upon the complete extent of this aid in order to make it through college while raising a family at the same time.

When you first look at your financial aid options, you may be overwhelmed about where to begin. When it comes to aid, you should prioritize anything that requires minimal investment, either in time or money This means that grants come first — any aid that you qualify for right out of the gate should not be turned down. After that, work on scholarships, but remember that applying for scholarships often takes time. If you have to write a 2,000 word essay to apply for a $200 scholarship, it might not be worth it. Loans should be the last item on your financial aid list. Loans can be a valuable tool, but no one wants to be drowning in student debt after they graduate.

Grants for Single Moms

Many of the grants available to other students are also available to single moms who are going back to college. Be sure to fill out your FAFSA in order to be considered for these grants, which are essentially free money to help you pay for school.

Pell Grants

Federal Pell Grants are one of the most common forms of financial aid. They are available to students who are working on their first degree. Everyone is eligible for 12 semesters (or six years) worth of Pell Grants over the course of their schooling and you can keep receiving the grant as long as you’re taking a full-time course load at your school.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)

Not all schools participate in the FSEOG program. However, those that do will award this grant based on the level of financial need of their students. Contact your school to find out if they are a member of the FSEOG program and, if they are, fill out your FAFSA to be considered for this grant.

TEACH Grants

Not all student grants are available unconditionally. TEACH Grants are intended to incentivize students to enter the field of teaching after graduation, bolstering the nation’s ranks of teachers with new blood. In order to receive a TEACH Grant, you must be enrolled in courses relevant to a teaching career and go on to teach after you leave school. If you fail to fulfill these requirements, you will be required to pay your grant back as an unsubsidized loan.

Scholarships for Single Moms

Grants are a form of financial aid that you either qualify for or you don’t. Scholarships, on the other hand, are a little more involved. Most importantly, scholarships are often tailored to fit specific needs or recognize and reward high-achieving students.

However, unlike grants, which are offered and managed at the federal level, scholarships are often different from school to school, depending on that school’s financial resources and the interests of their financial aid office. In order to learn what scholarships you might be eligible for as a single mom, contact your school’s financial aid office. Be sure to ask about both scholarships for single parents and general scholarships in your chosen field.

Student Loans for Single Moms

As a single mom, you may be forced to rely on student loans in order to cover both the costs associated with school and the cost of raising a child. However, don’t let the news reports on student loans scare you. As long as you maintain good financial habits after graduation, there’s no reason why you can’t pay off your student loans. Once again, be sure to fill out your FAFSA in order to find out which loans you’re eligible for.

Direct Subsidized Loans

If you take out loans to pay for college, then direct subsidized loans should be on the top of your list. These loans are subsidized by the federal government, meaning that you won’t pay a dime in interest as long as you’re still enrolled full-time in school.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct unsubsidized loans can still be valuable, since they come straight from the federal government. However, try to avoid taking these out as long as you have some subsidized loans left. Unlike subsidized loans, the interest on these loans will continue to accrue while you’re in school, leaving you with more debt in the long run.

Private Student Loans

Not all student loans come from the federal government. There are many student loans available through private lenders like banks. While these private student loans don’t have the same perks as federal loans (perks like student loan rehab in the case of default, they are still a possibility if you’re in search of financial aid.

One thing that makes private student loans stand out is that they can take your credit score into consideration. Single parents have had a lot more time to build their credit score compared to other students, so if you have good credit, you might be pleased with the deal that you get on a private student loan.

Going back to school as a single parent can be a huge step in improving your life and the life of your child. Don’t let the cost of school get in your way. Use financial aid for single parents to help pay for school and improve your family.


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Nick Cesare is a writer from Boise, ID. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing and making avocado toast.

This post was updated January 11, 2018. It was originally published January 14, 2018.