Tips for Parents Wanting to Go Back to School


Whether you are looking to change careers or are a stay a home parent wanting to pursue a degree, the thought of going back to school can seem daunting.

We talked with Dr. Olivia Holt, Registered Nurse, mother of two, and the Dean of Nursing for Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, who knows firsthand how challenging this process can be. She offered tips on how to decide if going back to school is the right choice for you, how to juggle the added responsibilities of studying while also being a parent, and shares encouraging advice on how to get through the challenging times.

Changing careers and/or going back to school can be a tough decision for busy parents. How can they know if it’s the best time to pursue it?

The best time to change careers or go back to school is when you know you have time to commit to being successful. For me, it was when my kids were old enough to be in school all day, and I knew I had the support of friends and family. I wanted to go back to school for a long time, but I waited for the time to be right. I am so glad I waited because I know I would not have been successful if I had tried to do it before it was right for my family.

That said, the timing will never be perfect. You have to make sacrifices, no matter when you return to school. A strong support system will ease the burden.

What steps should a parent take if they are ready to go back to school and/or change careers?

Do your research! Knowing how much time is expected in your new program of study is essential. No one wants to go back to school only to find out that they don’t have the time or support they need to succeed. Understand the expectations and find out if others in a similar situation have gone through the program. As someone who returned to school as a mother, I know how important it is to find a school that offers resources and truly understands your needs.

What advice would you give to a stay-at-home mom who never completed college and is thinking about enrolling in classes but feeling overwhelmed by the idea of it?

Anyone who has ever been a stay-at-home mom knows it is not an easy job. As a mom, you are responsible for the well-being and safety of little ones with little or no breaks. You are on duty 24/7. You can accomplish anything if you can do the job of a stay-at-home mom.

Find people who support you and encourage you. I tell my students to remember why they want to be a nurse and write it down on paper. When you start to get overwhelmed or discouraged, look at your piece of paper. I call it my “why statement.”

What are some ways that parents can juggle all of the responsibilities of kids, while also trying to focus on their schoolwork and hold down a job?

Organization and time management are vital. You need to schedule blocks of time to study and complete coursework. You may have to be creative. I used to do coursework and assignments before the kids woke up and after they went to bed. I would read chapters from my nursing school text while my kids played at the park or during their baseball games.

What are some study tips for parents to efficiently manage their time and study/complete assignments with little time to devote to it?

You have to be strict with your schedule. If you want to be successful in your studies and coursework, you must devote time. I find many of my student study at the same time their children are doing their homework. It’s easy to get distracted by competing responsibilities. But remember, you are serving as a role model for your kids.

Your children are always watching you. I tried to instill the importance of hard work in my kids. It’s important to teach them that it’s never too late to learn and pursue your dreams! I am so proud of my sons. One currently serves in the Navy, and the other is a nursing student.

Nursing is becoming one of the most popular career paths for reigniting a new profession. Why might this be a good career path for parents to consider?

Nursing isn’t for everyone, but if you love to help others and want to have a career where you know you make a difference every day, it is a great career choice. As a mom or parent, you already possess many essential skills to be a good nurse. We assess our children when they are hurt or sick, give medications, ensure they eat right, get enough rest, and exercise.

For me, nursing was the best career decision I could have made. It is not just a job to me. Being a nurse is who I am. I know that wherever I go, I am always needed. With nursing, you don’t have to change careers to change jobs. It’s been a natural evolution for me to go into nursing education. I love watching my students, many who are parents, join the nursing profession and go on to do great things!

Dr. Olivia Holt (DNP, MSN, BSN) is the Dean of Nursing for Arizona College of Nursing, Tucson, AZ, campus. Dr. Holt also works part-time as an emergency room nurse and is the mother of two sons. Arizona College of Nursing offers a three-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at 12 campuses across eight states and is designed to prepare students for a career as a Registered Nurse (RN).