The most famous Dad in the land may have gone back to campus life, but is it as much fun studying when you are footloose and childfree, as when you are in a stable relationship and have a young baby? Prince William may have found it hard-going to get back in time from Cambridge for his wife's birthday, but is he making it home for George's bathtime too?
Ask any parent and he or she will tell you that juggling any sort of work commitment and being there for their family is a daily balancing act. The same goes for student life. With the unique challenges that this can bring - deadlines, exam pressure, social opportunities and a low income - we look at some tips that can help all student parents make the most of their time learning.
A fellow Cambridge University graduate, I had the mixed pleasure of studying while a first-time parent, completing my PhD at Cambridge University as a mother of a young babe also called George! Here are my five tips to keep balance in your life while progressing your studies:
1. Set your long term goals: whether you are studying for a professional qualification, an undergraduate degree or are embarking on refreshing or updating your skillset, remember that earning a qualification is advancing your own and your family's opportunities for the future. With that long term goal in mind, consider how you are going to balance all the opportunities that come from studying. For example, student social life isn't all about partying but will also help you to create a network in your profession or amongst like minded people. Consider each invitation or suggested trip to the pub as an opportunity to advance your professional aims whilst still studying. And for that, you'll need to agree babysitting duties with your partner or look for a quality babysitter locally.
2. Plan your budget: as a student you will have less money and fewer opportunities to earn money consistently during your studies. Try, as much as you can, to save beforehand, and once you are a student cut your spending to a minimum (clothes shopping for grown ups and new gadgets are out this year!). Don't forget to look at financing options on your university website or on helpful student parent websites (try http://www.studentparents.org/). Many advice sites counsel taking up your full student loan allocations, and to research any bursaries available at your place of study. Don't forget that those on low incomes studying can access some Government help with childcare costs.
3. Plan your year: research how your course develops during the year, what the major deadlines or work placements are, and then what the usual post-study work opportunities are. That will allow you to assess and plan for the best childcare options throughout the year. Don't forget to take into account any travel time, or longer periods of study time. Balance all of this with family time. Don't forget that you may be able to take on extra work that is helpful to your future career plans, and which can earn you money during the academic year. Furthermore, ahead of enrolling you may need to confirm and pay a deposit for most settings-based childcare such as childminders or nurseries. You can search for local childminders on Care.com ahead of time. Make sure that when you plan your academic year, you also build in time to revise and to review work, and to attend additional development courses.
4. Integrating student life and family life: don't forget that like all work, studying is a job. For your daily 9 to 5, establish set times when you are studying so that your children know when you are available to be with them - generally children respond to routine. It is also helpful for your partner to know that certain times of the week are just for your family life, while (for example) your Monday to Friday is for studying. If you are a single parent, stick to your timetable and schedule in some very important down time as well, such as getting to the gym as part of your lunch break while in college.
5. The final countdown: in the last weeks of your academic year or when those all important deadlines come up, call in favours from extended family and friends. If you have individual study time and pre school children, consider changing your location to be nearer your support network. If practical, move nearer to your family or even take an extended "holiday" with your children at Grandma and Grandpa's while you complete an assignment. The extra pairs of hands for childcare, cooking and general moral support can be invaluable. If you are using paid childcare, make sure that you book in extra hours towards any deadlines so that you are able to take full advantage of the help that you have.
Don't forget - this is all a temporary and intense period in your life which you will reap the rewards for during your professional career. Despite the financial and other challenges, it is well worth it in the long run!