“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.
Good parents, in my opinion, want to give their children more opportunities than they received and open more doors than they had opened. Good parents wish to offer their children more in life. That’s what I wish for my child, and that’s why I’m going for my second college degree.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Meagan. I attend Lamar University in Texas, and I am currently eight classes away from attaining my BBA in Human Resource Management. I’m 24 years old with a 5-year-old son. His father and I just celebrated our eight year anniversary in June, but we have never made the decision to tie-the-knot. We still live in separate homes for financial reasons but see each other almost daily depending on our schedules.
I became pregnant with my son my first semester of college while working towards my associate’s degree. I gave birth the week of finals during my Spring semester. I was lucky enough to have the summer with him off and continued a full schedule in the fall. The following December, I walked across the stage with two certificates, one in Entrepreneurship and one in Accounting, along with my AAS in Business Management.
Why did you decide to go back to school?
Though living at home with my mom helped me financially, I am the main financial support for my son. I knew I could not live off my savings from the previous summer’s internship earnings forever, so I was fortunate enough to get a job in town and began saving for our future. After a year of working, I realized that my entry-level position paying $10/hr would not be enough to live the life my son deserved. It was then that I decided to continue with my education if I was to ever open more doors for my family.
How did you pay for your education?
That following fall I was enrolled in fifteen hours of online classes at Lamar while continuing to work forty hours at my job. Each night I concentrated on one or two classes, depending on the assignments, sometimes working four to five hours after leaving work. Though financial aid covered only half of my tuition, I refused all loans and paid out of my own pocket for tuition and books to avoid finding myself in debt. I knew that as difficult as it was at the time, it would be a breath of fresh air by the time I graduated. After the majority of my core classes were complete, I was faced with a difficult decision: had I saved enough money to leave my job? After much thought, I decided that I could afford to leave my job in order to concentrate solely on school and get more time with my son.
What is the hardest part of balancing family life and school life?
I have now attended Lamar University every semester taking between fifteen to eighteen hours each time and holding about a 3.5 GPA with A’s and B’s across my transcript. What began at 37 transfer hours only two years ago is now 122 hours, after electives and pre-req classes, with no debt. The hardest part of balancing a family and school life is that you have to be able to give yourself fully to school and to your family, which leaves little room for “me-time”. I have gone days without eating, and have tried to complete tests and papers while only running on a couple of hours of sleep because my son was up sick. I’ve been stressed to the point that I breakdown and cry. I have felt like no parts of my life receive the attention they deserve and feel a strong guilt. Eventually though, the fog clears. The assignments get caught up. Your classes finally end. You can finally take a break and get some sleep, and when you’re rested, your children are there waiting to play, waiting to welcome you back to the world. Though you feel guilty for missing that time with them, even though you can never get it back, I think about the future. I think about the dream home we’ll one day own. I think about working at a job that I love instead of fearing about working at two that I hate. I know that even though I don’t get to be with my son full-time, one day I can make up for it.
What have you learned from raising a family while in school?
All in all, I’ve learned that raising a family while in school is hard. It’s exhausting…but it’s worth it. I’ve learned that if you’re going to go to school, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself in all honesty if you can do it. You have to fully dedicate yourself to go to class. You have to make sure to turn in your assignments and talk to your teachers if you need help. You have to have faith in yourself even when it feels like you may fail. You have to remember exactly why you are doing this. You have to tell yourself that you’re going to class from 8 am to 7 pm two days a week because you want the best for your child and yourself.
Do you have any advice for other parents who want to go to college?
My advice to parents who want to go to college, if you can afford it in any way, avoid loans. Though it may be impossible for some, if you can put anything down out-of-pocket, do it. For me personally, it gives me more motivation to pass knowing that I paid for myself. Don’t miss class. You may want to lay in bed, but you never know what information you may miss. It was not easy for me to waddle down the hallways at forty weeks pregnant, nor was it easy to stay awake when I had a sick baby and only got one hour of sleep the night before, but it shows more dedication to your teachers if you at least try. Keep an eye on your degree audit and learn who to talk to in case your class schedule has issues. My final piece of advice is to make sure you take some time to yourself even if it’s for an hour. You should be proud. You’re doing something amazing. You’re setting an example for your children, you’re setting a goal for yourself. I went to back for my bachelor’s because I saw what a degree did for my mom’s career. I want my child to see that as well.
About the author: Meagan Garrett is 24 years old and studies at Lamar University as a full-time undergrad student. Her major is Human Resource Management. To know more about Meagan you can check out her LinkedIn profile here!