Adult Learner

Going back to school as a single mom: Firsthand advice and resources

Advice to a single mom going back to school from real students.

There are many reasons for going back to school as a single mom. Maybe you’re motivated to make a career transition that will help you better provide for your family. Or perhaps you’re finally ready to finish the educational path you had to take a detour from years ago.

Regardless of your motivation, you’re ready to invest in yourself and set a positive example for your children. You know it’s not going to be easy, but you’re up for the challenge.

At UMass Global, we’re experts in supporting and empowering busy students. The proof is in the numbers:

  • The average age of our students is 36
  • Nearly 90 percent of our students work while completing their programs
  • 56 percent of our graduates are parents

We understand that as a single mom going back to school, you have many competing priorities. It won’t be easy to fit education into your already busy schedule, but it can be done. Keep reading to hear the inspirational stories and advice of other mothers who have overcome similar obstacles to attain their education goals.

Single moms reveal their reasons for going back to school

The first step in finding success as a single mom going back to school is to know that you’re not alone. This is especially true when enrolling at a school like UMass Global, which provides exceptional support and flexibility.

We connected with three impressive alumni who decided going back to school as a single mom was definitely worth it. Hear their reasons for finishing college and their advice for other super moms following in their footsteps.

1.     To achieve their goals and follow their passions

Sometimes, motherhood — or parenting/caregiving in general — can become such a demanding part of your daily life that your own goals and aspirations take a backseat. Going back to finish college is a big decision that parents take seriously, especially if they are the sole provider for their family. According to an Institute of Women's Policy Research report, more than 1 in 5 college students are also raising kids while enrolled. About half of these parents have a child (or children) under the age of six.

For alumna Yajaira Vargas, obtaining her social work degree while also carrying out her duties as a single mother and service member was difficult but important to her. She got creative when it came to studying and training, spending many nights putting her son to bed by reading her college textbooks out loud. She shares:


As a mother, I wanted to be a living example of how important it is to follow your passion.

Vargas graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work in 2020 and is currently working towards a master's degree at UMass Global. She advises other single parents who may be considering starting college again to take the leap of faith.

“You must be fearless to pursue what sets your soul on fire,” she says. “Never stop aiming for a higher education that will give you and your family an opportunity to succeed.”

2. To set an example for their children

Parents are their kids’ first and most impactful teachers. It comes as no surprise that many mothers are motivated to earn their degrees because they want to model the importance of education. Research shows that children whose parents have a degree are more likely to attend college themselves.

Anna Munoz credits her child and her students as her motivation for going back to college. She was already working full-time as a teacher when her son was born with cerebral palsy. She recalls the frustration of trying to navigate the insurance and education systems. “I just needed to know more so that I could help my boy and my students,” she says.

Munoz enrolled in a master's degree and focused much of her studies on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Through many late nights and weekends spent researching, writing papers and speaking with her professors, she became an expert in educational law and administrative services. Munoz graduated in 2019.

used all that information to get more services and therapies for my son,” she shares proudly. “UMass Global taught me the skills I needed to be an advocate for my son’s rights, how to be a highly skilled teacher and administrator and how to be an activist for higher education in my community.”

3. To secure a stable future for their families

Pursuing higher education can open up a world of employment opportunities. Generally speaking, a college degree can qualify you for more positions and increase your earning potential. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the average compensation rate for bachelor’s degree holders is 64 percent higher than that of a high school graduate.

Andrea Martinez became a mother in 2012. She was motivated to pursue a teaching license so she could provide for her son. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, she was disappointed to realize a California teaching credential would require additional courses, student teaching hours and state testing.

“My biggest fear was not being able to finish the credential because I was my son’s only provider, and if I quit my job, I would not be able to survive,” she recalls. “When I found UMass Global, it was like the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Martinez was able to take online courses, all while raising her family and working as a kindergarten instructional aid. She graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching in 2020 and is now a full-time teacher working directly with students and their families.


I’m able to advocate for mothers who feel confused and unheard all because I was given the opportunity and flexibility to continue with my education.

She acknowledges that the path wasn’t always easy, but she stayed the course and persevered in order to succeed for her son. Martinez encourages others to focus on the end goal. “To all those mothers who are doing this by themselves or are struggling, don’t give up. There is always a way out, there is help. You can do this!” 

Resources for single moms going back to school

Just like these inspiring moms, you have the motivation and determination to earn a degree that can change the course of your family’s future. Don’t let financial restraints keep you from achieving that dream.

Trying to estimate college tuition and navigate financial aid can be stressful, especially if it’s been a while since you were last in college. Consider the following financial resources that can help you fund your education.

College grants for single moms

Grants are financial gifts that don’t need to be paid back, so putting some effort into finding and applying for them might be well worth your time.

Here are a few options to get you started:

Pell Grants: The Federal Pell Grant is a good source of financial assistance for single parents. Aid packages are calculated based on demonstrated need, and single parenthood is highly weighted, giving these individuals an advantage. You’ll need to apply for FAFSA in order to qualify.

State Grants: Many states also offer their own education grants for at-need students and single parents. Students are encouraged to check their local state standards and regulations for regional opportunities for the best results.

Some state programs like California's CalGrant actually take each applicant's family status into consideration. Washington State's Opportunity Pathways Program offers scholarships and grants to students based on financial need, and it is also tailored to applicants that study in state shortage areas such as math, science and healthcare.

TEACH Grants: The TEACH Grant Program provides grants of up to $4,000 a year to students who are completing or plan to complete coursework needed to begin a career in teaching. You can apply to this program if you teach in a high-needs field at an elementary, middle or secondary school (or a service agency for low-income families) for at least four years.

College scholarships for single moms

Finding support from private foundations can be another great way to help finance your education. These organizations typically base their awards not only on demonstrated need but also on achievement-oriented conditions. There are several private foundations that work primarily with women or single moms specifically.

Here's a starter list:

  • Soroptimist Live Your Dream Awards: This scholarship assists women who provide the primary source of financial support for their families by giving them the resources they need to improve their education, skills and employment prospects.
  • Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund: This award supports single parents and is made for adult students over the age of 35.
  • American Association of University Women: AAUW generally awards scholarships to women pursuing careers in nontraditional fields. Online students nationwide may explore options through this organization, with regional chapters offering different scholarships.
  • Helping Hands for Single Moms: This scholarship is specifically for college students who are low-income single mothers and live in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area.

This is just a small sampling of the many private scholarships available for single moms going back to school. Be sure to scout out local opportunities as well. As with any large investment, it’s wise to do plenty of research and explore all kinds of funding options.

Finding the best colleges for single moms

Schools that are tailored to nontraditional students are often the best fit for parents going back to college to finish their degrees. UMass Global has a longstanding history of providing accessible online education, making it a great choice for busy students.

Curious about what else you should be looking for in a quality institution? Check out our article “The adult learner’s guide to choosing a college.”

Become a Student

Have questions about enrollment, degree programs, financial aid, or next steps?

Further your education with a few questions

Student Type
Please enter your zip code to proceed.
Please enter a valid zip code to proceed.
Please select a degree type
Please select your area of interest
Please select a program type
Please select a session
Please enter your name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your email to proceed
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your phone number to proceed.
Please enter a valid phone number.

By submitting this form, I agree that UMass Global may contact me about educational services by voice, pre-recorded message and/or text message using automated technology, at the phone number provided, including wireless numbers. I understand that my consent is not required to attend University of Massachusetts Global. Privacy Policy