Going Back to School as a Single Mom

Dena Landon

By Dena Landon | Sep 20th, 2023

I was seven months into a bad divorce. I’d started a new job just three months ago – not ideal, but my former employer had declared bankruptcy shortly after I’d left. On top of that I was adjusting to an odd sixty percent custody schedule that often ended up being more due to how often my ex traveled for work. When I posted on Facebook – I’m going back to school for my MBA! – my friends were simultaneously positive and skeptical. Are you sure about this? Don’t you have enough on your plate? If you need to drop out in a few months I won’t judge you, one person told me. I’ve always been a contrary person and those doubts made me even more determined to succeed.

Because I worked for an online university one of the perks offered at my new job was an education. I could go to school for my Master’s degree in Business Administration for free. Better yet, they offered a fully accredited program called FlexPath. Within a twelve week timeframe I could set my own deadlines to complete my assessments. If the course was easy, based on my work experience, it took me as little as two weeks to complete. (That would be my accounting course). If it was harder and outside my realm of experience, such as operations or project planning, I could take the full twelve weeks to get it done. Given this flexibility, I decided to go for it.

Courage is like a muscle in that the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows.

Much like when I left my ex-husband, I took a leap of faith into the unknown. Courage is like a muscle in that the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows. The scary step of filing for divorce grew into the strength to fight for custody, to start a new job at a less than ideal time in my divorce proceedings, and to go back to school.

Single moms are often stereotyped and underestimated. Sometimes we even doubt ourselves. After all, everywhere we turn we’re told that we can’t do it. Ex-husbands may have spent years tearing down our self-esteem and confidence. As we struggle to adjust to the life changes that divorce brings adding one more thing to the mix may feel like too much. It won’t be easy but it’s not too much – promise.

It takes discipline. It may mean hauling out the laptop and working on your homework while your child works on his. Or watching lectures on the back porch while he runs through the sprinkler. And it may go slowly – one class at a time. It may take creativity – cramming in two-week intensives when he’s on vacation with his dad, or bringing reading materials to the beach while he builds a sand castle. As a single mom you’ve got all those skills already. Promise.

We’re also more than capable of evaluating the benefits of an education to our lives and our children’s lives. Education, as expensive as it can be, is still the best path in the United States to upward mobility and financial stability. Unemployment rates decline sharply between individuals with just a high school diploma (4.1% unemployed) to those with a college degree (2.2% unemployed) and keep going down the higher the level of education attained. Weekly earnings jump from $730/week to $1,198/week. The likelihood of being unemployed is less, you make more money and you’re less likely to be living in poverty with a college degree – a single mom considering going back to school can look at this list of benefits and see how they’d directly improve her life.

My diploma arrived in the mail a little less than two years after starting my program. When I pulled it out of the envelope and set it on my dining room buffet I told my five-year-old son what it symbolized. “Remember all those classes I was taking? Well, I’m done! This is my degree.” It was a concrete, powerful way to demonstrate to him the power of education. And when I found a new job six months later with a healthy raise and opportunities for advancement you’d better believe that I told him that one of the reasons I’d been able to get that job was because I now had my MBA.

The opportunity to get my degree for free was an incredible perk, obviously not available to many. However, Worthy is doing their part to make it a little easier on the divorced, single mom by offering the Worthy Women’s Professional Studies Scholarship. Offering scholarships in the amount of $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 the scholarship seeks to help women who’ve enrolled in school and are working to better their lives and pursue their passions. To apply just pick one of the three topics – worth women, purpose, and empowerment – and submit a 300-500 word essay on that topic. Consider it practice for your first school assignment.

Dena Landon

Dena Landon

Dena Landon's bylines have appeared in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Salon and more. The proud mom of a boy, she specializes in parenting and divorce.


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