How to Go to College as a Single Mother

Single mothers need every advantage they can get. Not only are you supporting your family on one income, you’re also the “go-to-gal” for all your children’s needs, including their need to spend time with you.

With all those demands, it can seem hopeless to fit continuing education into the picture. The good news is that there’s lots of help out there to make getting a degree or certificate possible, no matter what your situation. America’s specialty schools, community colleges, colleges and universities have had long experience meeting the changing needs of a diverse population, and single mothers rank near the top of that list.

It will still be a struggle, because nobody can make it easy, but the pay-off can be enormous. Having a certificate or degree can boost your earning power by thousands. Higher-paying jobs typically offer more flexibility, which means not only will you be earning more, you’ll have more control over your time. The benefits of investing in further education far outweigh the costs. This is especially true when you consider that, at most, you’ll probably spend no more than 5 years gaining a degree…but you’ll have the rest of your life to reap the benefits.

Fortunately, there are a host of ways to get money, from online sweepstake giveaways such as the Scholarship for Moms to federal financial aid programs offered by the government!

Degrees And Places To Get Them

Continuing education has become such a necessity for so many different people over the years that the terminology has become a little confusing. Here’s a quick, common-sense way to sort through the various options:

single mother college


  • Certificates: These are basically certificates of completion, showing that you have learned a particular skill or are knowledgeable about a small area of a larger subject. These can be very valuable, especially in the tech world. They are not necessarily “low-prestige”, just because they are the quickest, shortest type of degree. They can be highly rewarded, depending on the industry or skill.
  • Associate Degree: This will typically represent the first two years’ worth of a 4-year course of study. It may be offered in many contexts, from community colleges to private universities.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: Received after completing the full undergraduate course of study, usually three or four years at a college or university.
  • Advanced Degree: Graduate degrees such as Master’s, Doctoral, Advanced Study, etc.


  • School: of course you went to primary and secondary school; but there are schools beyond that level as well. Schools tend to grant certificates and Associate degrees. Think of a School of Cosmetology, or a Vocational/Technical (Voc-Tech) School.
  • College and University: Historically, these have been different institutions, but today they are essentially the same thing. (In case you’re interested in the history, a College was meant to have an educational focus and awarded undergraduate degrees, while a University might contain several colleges, and could accept students for advanced study.)
  • Community College: a College that offers 2-year programs and certificates. They will generally have most of the same subjects as a regular college, but abbreviate some of the courses that are not critical components of the area of interest.

Get Your GED

Of course, if you haven’t yet obtained your diploma for high school, you’ll have to pass the GED (General Educational Development, also known by other names such as General Equivalency Diploma) test before you can apply to any higher educational institution. There are exceptions, but the general rule is that having a GED (if you do not already have your high school diploma) will make the process run more smoothly.

This test shows that you have mastered the skills high school was meant to teach, and are prepared for the more demanding work you’ll find in higher education. That sounds scary, but it’s not—if you were able to handle high school, you’ll do fine in any college. The only thing that makes it more demanding is that YOU are responsible for succeeding—not your teachers, or your parents, or your older brother. The topics and homework are not especially difficult for people who have completed high school or have a GED. It just takes discipline and strong motivation. And what could be more motivating than knowing you’ll be qualified for a higher-paying job for the rest of your life?

Preparing For The GED

education for single moms

Look in a local library or bookstore for one of the following popular GED preparation guides:

  • McGraw-Hill’s GED
  • Complete GED Preparation by Steck-Vaughn
  • Kaplan GED by Simon & Schuster
  • Petersen’s Master The GED

Find A GED Test Center

Get Started!

Now that you’ve got your high-school diploma or GED, you should be armed with SAT scores that let colleges know how well you’ve done.  You just have to decide how to go about choosing what type of school you want to go to, and make applications to your choices.

The important things you’ll want to find out about any schools you’re considering are:

  • What will your financial aid package look like?
  • What kind of schedule will you be able to construct?
  • Given that schedule, how long will it take to earn your certificate or degree?

Any school, college or university you contact will be able to help you map out your financial aid picture. This is most easily done in person, so the best way to go about it is:

  • Contact the schools’ Financial Aid office and ask them to send a catalog. The catalog will have all kinds of information, including courses and classes. (This will be fun to browse while you’re waiting to hear about financial aid.) But most importantly, it will list the information the college needs from you to estimate financial aid. Once you’ve prepared this information, make at least one copy, because any other school you apply to will need the same basic information.
  • Assemble the required information and send or bring it in.
  • Once they’ve contacted you with a determination, make an appointment to see a Financial Aid representative if you have any questions or confusion about the aid amount, and how much money you’ll owe when your degree is complete. Many people are surprised to find that their “aid” is actually a loan that must be repaid, so be very sure you understand the types of aid in your package before committing to anything.

Of course, some schools may allow you to do all of this online, but it’s still a good idea to talk to someone in person to make sure you understanding everything completely. Besides, you’ll get a good feel for the character of the school and its staff.

Below are some links that might be helpful while you’re searching for schools that offer the degrees you need.


Distance Learning


Community College Finder


Four year colleges

Job/Career outlooks, listings of state universities by various criteria


Technical/Vocational Colleges


Scholarships and Grants

Sometimes the financial aid you’ll receive through your selected college will not cover enough of your expenses (tuition, books, etc.) to make college affordable. There are many scholarships and grants that can help you close that gap. Here are just a few that are especially tailored to single mothers. You can find lots more by searching online.


Other Money for College Options

Scholarships for Moms and Scholarships from Working Adults

You might also look at an online sweepstake giveaway such as the Scholarship for Moms and the Scholarships for Working Adults. These type of programs work as a sweepstake giveaway — you apply and get entered into a draw to win money which you can use towards school.

Freelance Online

You can also make money to pay for school by working as a freelancer writing articles for websites. There are a number of sites out there that let you do this, the biggest of such being Resources for Jobs

This is a “one-stop shop” for government services, so you’ll find lots of other links to government programs and services. But there are financial aid sources beyond the ones that your college or university might be familiar with, so it’s worth checking out.

College Scholarships for Single Parents

Many single parents experience a financially challenging life. The responsibilities a single parent has can make it difficult in making ends meet. College is a fantastic way to improve income – which ultimately can improve the quality of your lifestyle. But, with many single parents already facing a tough time financially speaking, college isn’t an option for some. In fact, many single parents are not aware of the help that is out there. College scholarships for single parents are a fantastic way of providing financial aid, to get you back into school. There are various different scholarships that can, and will help you to improve your life.

  • Raise the Nation

Raise the Nation is one of the best single parent scholarship programs available. If you are a single mother who is in need of money to go to college, or if you have been denied funding from various different other scholarship programs, then Raise the Nation should be priority.

  • The Assistance League

The Assistance League offer excellent scholarship programs for single parents. They deal primarily with community based programs that will help you pay for your tuition. They have a full website that includes resources, and details on programs in specific states.

  • Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is probably one of the most popular college scholarships for single parents. With an extremely high acceptance rate, the Federal Pell Grant can offer up to $5,350 for educational purposes. To apply, you’ll need to visit your financial aid officer after having completed a FAFSA online.

  • Women’s Opportunity Awards –

The Women’s Opportunity Awards is a major program by Soroptimist. They assist 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. They distribute over $1 million in cash awards at various different employment prospects each year. They offer fantastic support, and give tremendous advice about how to get back into school.

  • The Jeannette Rankin Foundation

The Jeannette Rankin Foundation, JRF for short, provides scholarships for women who are 35 and older and are part of the low income bracket. Over 97% of JRF scholars in the last 3 years have graduated, or are still in school. They offer exceptional college scholarships for single parents, yet are very specific as to who they invite – if you are determined, positive and understand your future goals, including having a lot of passion for what you want to achieve, you are guaranteed a place there!

Above is just a small handful of institutions that offer college scholarships for single parents. It’s important that you never give up searching and applying for financial aid – college could be the one big thing that changes your life completely, for the better.

Scholarships for Single Parents

Most single parents may believe that due to their circumstances a chance to better their own life has passed them by. If you gave up on further education because you suddenly became a single parent, please rethink your situation. Scholarships for single parents were created specifically to help single parents make their dreams possible.
Going back to school and completing your higher education, will allow you to receive the associated benefits. Becoming better qualified makes you a better candidate for a higher salary. Universities are aware of the financial strains single parents are subject to and that is why there are so many scholarships for single parents.

If you are willing to put in the time and effort to apply for these scholarships for single parents, this article should show you some of the help available to you. Not all agencies will embrace you with open arms, so be persistent and always keep your future and your children’s future in mind when faced with multiple rejections. Keep your chin up and try somewhere else, as there are plenty of funds to help everyone.

Scholarships for single parents are usually reserved for students with a proven high level of intelligence and academic achievement as well as for those with very low incomes. It can sometimes be harder for a single parent to qualify for a college scholarship. However, that does not mean you won’t have a chance. Try to focus on the things that make you a better candidate than another applicant and incorporate these traits into your essay. Make yourself stand out as a responsible candidate who is committed to furthering your education. Choose your university and enquire as to what documentation you need to provide to show proof of eligibility.

The application process can be difficult and frustrating. College scholarships also require a lot of documented proof of your qualifications. Do not let this bring you down, keep going. Usually the staff members of the financial departments charged with aiding you with the application process for scholarships for single parents will tip you off that you are wasting your time before it gets too out of hand.

Due to your status, a Federal Pell Grant is one of the many scholarships for single parents that can help you cover your tuition fees. These grants are reserved for people in the low income area and usually offer less funding than a full college scholarship. However, there are programs that complement the Pell grant to help you cover other costs related to going to school such as daycare for your child. Ask the agency staff for further information and help so you can receive targeted guidance to the best programs for you.

Being a single parent does not mean your life is over and scholarships for single parents could very well be your path to a fruitful and successful future.