Ask Dianna: Class Selection and Course Loads

Hi Dianna,

I have been thinking about going back to college but with two kids I am worried it will be too much for me. Do you have any suggestions or advice on what classes to take to get my feet wet, and how many units to take my first semester?


Soon-to-be College Mommy

Hello Soon-to-be College Mommy!

This is such a great question and you are actually the second person to e-mail this concern. Here is my advice:

Being a student and a mom is hard work; however that doesn’t mean you can’t handle it! You just have to make sure you do not overload yourself to the point where you are making major sacrifices with your kids, yourself or your course work. It may seem impossible, but it really isn’t!

As far as which classes to take, here are a few things to consider:

1)      If you have tested in to remedial (below college level) English or math, I recommend tackling those so that you are able to meet the writing and math requirements for most college-level classes.

2)      What are your interests? Are you exploring different options as far as major or career choices? If you have something in mind, try to take the “intro” class for whatever the subject is. For example, a child development class usually titled “development through the lifespan” or something similar is not only an intro class for child development majors, but is also a general education class on many campuses. As a parent yourself you may find this class very interesting and also very useful in terms of parenting.

3)      After those two options, I recommend looking at the general education requirement list and researching a few classes that “sound” interesting. In this piece of advice I will add in that you should sign up to meet with a counselor. Nontraditional students are becoming more and more common on college campuses so they will understand your concerns and be able to point you in the right direction.

As far as unit loads for new college moms here is my advice:

1)      Take one class. You have either never attended college or are returning to college. It is a major change in your life that will consume your time. For example, a 3 unit class requires 6 hours of study time per week. It is a small number but if you are in a class that you aren’t quite in to, the study time could need to increase to 9 hours a week.

2)      If you are a responsible person with the ability to manage your time well, try an online class first. Pretty much every college has online classes and while my first class wasn’t online, my first class after I had left school for a few years was. I felt that doing the online class gave me a feel for reading my books, writing papers and seeing my results.

3)      Don’t like the idea of taking just one? OK, take two classes – one in English or math and then one that interests you. That way you are tackling the tough stuff AND learning something that you will enjoy. After the first semester if you feel you could have taken on another, try out 9 units (usually 3 classes)…and then see how that goes.

Of course I can’t tell you not to go full-time, but as a mother of three and a full-time student I will tell you that I think “easing” myself in to the college experience really made a difference. And remember that it doesn’t matter if you aren’t going through college as quickly as the students around you (many of whom do not have children) – it only matters that you are learning and making progress!

Best of luck and congratulations on making the decision to go to college!


(If you have a question for me, please feel free to send me a message by clicking on “Ask Dianna” at the top of the blog page!)

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