A diary of a college student: Ellen’s story

“A diary of a college student” is a series where we profile a variety of students to get a glimpse of their day-to-day. Learn from their stories of balancing family, work, and school.


Tell us about yourself

Two-and-a-half years ago my daughter was starting middle school and I started college at the local community college. The last grade I attended in high school was 10th grade, but I wasn’t there long enough to get any credit, so I technically had the education of a 9th grader. I had worked really hard at all of my jobs taking advantage of any training that was available, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I was smart and a hard worker. Still though, that was not enough; I needed a college education if I was ever going to do more than an entry-level customer service job. So, I started with two night classes to see if I had what it would take to be successful in college.

Why did you decide to go back to school?

I had tried to go to school previously, but life always seemed to take over and squash my chances at a college education. This time though I decided that I was not giving up; no matter what obstacles got in my way. I couldn’t stand the thought of my daughter seeing me quit.

How do you balance family life and school life?

The plan was to start off slow with just two classes. I also needed to make sure there were savings in case of any emergencies and that I had a commitment from my family to help me be successful. The last part of the plan sounds obvious, but it’s probably the most important. You need your family’s support when you are studying for exams and doing homework – especially during finals.

Generally speaking, middle school age children are not very understanding about time commitments that do not pertain to themselves. To work through this, we created a schedule that showed when I needed to be studying, working, and/or it was family time. I also made a commitment to be present when it was family time or even just a girl’s night with my daughter. Making a commitment to step away from my work and be present with my family was probably one of the most difficult parts of balancing school and family, but was also one of the most important parts. It took some time to get good at stepping away from my work and really focusing on my family. Kids of any age can see when you are preoccupied with something else, and they can be especially hurt when you are not holding up your end of the bargain when it comes to their time. So, it’s important to really make the effort to be present during family time.

What have you learned from raising a family while in school?

Over the last few years I have tried to find ways to involve my daughter in what I was doing. I explained to her what I was working on or what I had learned that day. I also read my papers out loud to her or had her read my papers out loud to me. I learned to live with my husband and daughter’s idea of clean when school was in session and saved my deep cleaning for when I was on break. I learned to say thank you for my study time and thank you for cleaning up messes and thank you for understanding why I had to miss parent teacher conferences, band concerts, and awards. I treated every one of my daughter’s accomplishments as equal to my own and we celebrated together. There is absolutely no way I could do this without my family to support me, love me, and to remind me I’m smart enough to go to college. It takes a lot of planning, scheduling and commitment, but it can be done as long as you are doing it as a team.


Ellen GriffinAbout the author: Ellen Griffin is a 43 year old mother studying at Rockhurst University as a full-time undergraduate student. She is majoring in English and Psychology.




One thought on “A diary of a college student: Ellen’s story

Leave a Reply