College graduate family photoGoing back to school as an adult learner can be challenging, especially when you are also a parent. For Mother’s Day, we asked Lisa Mueller, our Director of Scholarships at EducationQuest Foundation, about her experience attending college as a mom. We hope that her story will be inspiring to those juggling college and motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day!

Where and when did you go to college?

Right after high school, I obtained an associate degree in business. As an adult learner and mother, I returned to college in 2013-2014 to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in business from Bellevue University.

What ages were your children when you were in school?

My daughter was 8 and my son was 6 when I graduated.

Going to college as a mother can be a difficult decision. What made you decide to do it?

Several things contributed to my decision to return to college for a Bachelor’s degree. I wanted to have the opportunity to advance in my career, and it was a personal goal of mine as well. I knew I had my husband and EducationQuest’s support. I also knew I had limited time before my kids were going to be busier with sports and extracurricular activities that I did not want to miss. Bellevue University was offering an accelerated program where I attended class one night a week from 6:00 to 10:00 pm for 15 months. It was a good fit for me.

What challenges did you face going to college while being a full-time working mom?

Balancing my family life, work, and school was challenging. It took some time to get into a good routine and to stay disciplined and organized. I would use breaks at work to do homework. Mostly though, it was late at night when the house was quiet that I would dedicate to my studies. A lot of coffee was consumed!

What financial resources did you use to pay for school?

I took advantage of my employer’s tuition reimbursement program. I also used some savings and took out a small student loan.

Who and/or what helped you persevere as you earned your degree?

My husband was a huge help. He took on extra chores around the house, and he encouraged me along the way.  My supervisor at EducationQuest also encouraged and supported me. My children were my motivation. They cheered me on along the way.

How did you feel when you graduated?

Proud and relieved! I felt a sense of accomplishment.

How has earning your degree helped you?

It helped me advance in my career. It also provided me with the knowledge and skills to better perform my job.

How do you think your college journey will help your children when they start planning for college?

Between my college journey and working in this industry, my hope is that I can help guide my children and provide them with the information and resources needed to plan and prepare for college.

What advice do you have for other mothers either currently working toward their degree, or considering going back to school?

The hard work is worth it! Ask for help when you need it. Talk with your professors about your circumstances. Your priorities will have to change at times and you will not be able to give 100% to everything every day. That’s okay. Be kind to yourself, focus on the small steps, and celebrate your milestones along the way. Your children will be proud of you!