“Don’t Wait—Graduate!” Ensign, July 1994, 71–72
When my husband, Bruce, and I had been married ten years, we felt it was important for him to go back to college and complete a degree he had begun soon after our first child was born. So after a lot of thought and planning, he applied and was accepted to college. We sold our home and moved into an apartment. Four and a half years later, our six children, Bruce’s parents, and I watched as Bruce walked across the platform and received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.
During those college years and in the years since, people have often told us, “I would sure like to go back to school, but it seems impossible.” We have found that although it requires a lot of planning and sacrifice, going back to school while rearing a family is possible. Here are a few things we discovered that might help others who may be considering returning to college.
Visit the college or university you would like to attend before applying for admission. Look for a Latter-day Saint institute program for students in the area.
See what types of housing are available for your family. If you have a large family, it may be difficult to obtain campus housing because large units are scarce and waiting lists are usually long. You may want to live in the community away from the hustle and bustle of campus.
Before choosing a major, talk to a career development counselor to determine if there is a demand for people trained in your area of interest. Ask questions about available job opportunities, salary ranges, and working conditions.
Financing an education is often of great concern to young students, and even more so to students with families to support. We tried to limit our educational debt by exploring sources of money available to students.
We looked into such options as guaranteed government student loans that can be obtained at a low interest rate, the repayment of which is deferred until after graduation; grants, which are based on financial need and do not have to be repaid; and scholarships. Ask the college financial aid office for applications and information on these and other financial assistance programs.
Always pay tithes and offerings. Our family received many blessings as a result of our paying tithing while Bruce was in school. I vividly remember writing out a tithing check one afternoon and realizing that in so doing we would not have any food money for the coming week. That very day we received a letter enclosing a rebate check for an energy conservation tax credit we had earned for insulating our home three years earlier.
Be sure to have medical insurance. Major medical expenses can financially ruin a family for years. Shop around for coverage suited to your needs and your budget. Many universities offer health insurance policies, but such policies are often designed for single students, not families. Carefully check to make certain such policies will adequately cover your family.
We learned our medical insurance lesson the hard way. After ten years of being medically insured and having no major accidents or illnesses, we felt confident in going without insurance for the duration of Bruce’s schooling. But within a nine-month period, our young son needed surgery, our sixth child was delivered by emergency Caesarean section, and our daughter had to have her appendix removed. Thankfully, we had relatives who helped us out until we were able to cover our medical costs ourselves.
Be creative. Find ways to be self-sufficient and to bring in a little extra income. Bruce worked part-time throughout his years of schooling, and I tended children in our home so I could supplement our income while caring for our six children. We learned to get by with and appreciate what we had. The children still talk about the wheat flake cereal I made from our food storage.
Although we faced many challenges as a family while Bruce was earning his degree, we have no regrets. Our family grew very close during those years. We learned together, we sacrificed for each other, and we grew to love and appreciate each other more than ever before.—Deborah Carr Evans, Mohave Valley, Arizona