Balancing School and Family, Student Life

My First Semester – Weeks 4 to 6 – Part 2

Week 4

So you’re sailing along and things seem to be levelling off after your first three weeks OR you feel like you’re drowning in readings and assignments already! Either way, as a parent, you’ll be preparing for your child’s beginning of year open house at their school. No matter how busy life seems, DO NOT MISS IT! Go just to get a pulse on how your children are settling into their classes. We had just moved here and as far as I noticed my kids were happy. At the open house my oldest child’s teacher pulled me aside to say that my child was crying at recess EVERY DAY.

CC Image "Steps" courtesy of Amanda Tipton on Flickr

CC Image “Steps” courtesy of Amanda Tipton on Flickr

This broke my heart and I felt blindsided by it. My children always came home from school smiling. They were adjusting fine at home, but this obviously wasn’t the whole story – one child was hiding their feelings fro me. Again I’m no Psychology major but my theory is that my child saw how stressed I’d been lately so they didn’t want to be a burden on me. Sweet yes, but as a mother I felt like a failure.Keep in mind that this is not only a lifestyle change for you, it is also a lifestyle change for your children. They might not be used to you being at home at different times or studying all hours of the night. Your education will interrupt your family’s rhythm. Take time to check its pulse and make sure everyone is feeling the love. Luckily, my child and I sat down and talked about how homesick we both were. Tears were shed and I assured them that we would visit family and friends back home, but for at least the next four years, this was our home. The teacher was fantastic and organized a “New Kids Recess Club” and matched new kids in the same grade from other classes. This helped smooth the transition along with regularly making an effort to round up the family for our favourite activities that reminded us all what it was like before I went to school.

Week 5

Finally, OSAP Drops! Ok maybe it dropped earlier but normally it takes nearly a month after the beginning of classes. So by wee.k 5, (unless you applied late), you should probably see multiple deposits in your bank account. It will not be in one big lump sum payment, rather in 3 to 4 different increments and not all on the same day. You may want to check with OSAP in advance how they will be dispersing the funds so you know what to expect. After you pay your tuition, I recommend setting up a budget if you haven’t done so already. If you’re working or your partner is working, sit down together and figure where the money is going or rather where you want the money to go. Are you covering the car payments and rent? Figuring out what your realistic budget is now will help avoid arguments and stress later.

CC Image "Financial Aid Is Still Available" By Washtenawcc

CC Image “Financial Aid Is Still Available” By Washtenawcc

CC Image

I personally have set up multiple savings accounts so that I can see what my money is set aside for. I have one account for the house and that is where I put my portion of the rent payments in from OSAP. This helps my money to last until the next OSAP payment in January. If there is left over money after you’ve budgeted, I would set aside money for unplanned emergencies. A lot of problems can arise while you’re at university. You might drop a laptop. A car may breakdown. Someone breaks a tooth. All these little things can add up and you may be regretting that weekend you spent at Canada’s Wonderland instead of putting some money aside. I learned this from my first year. It seems like a lot of money but over a semester it runs out quick. I also am implementing a cash budget so if I have $200 for groceries I don’t use a debit or credit card. It also helps terrify you when grocery shopping into NOT letting your kids get chocolate covered anything because it is NOT on the list. Running to the ATM to pay for groceries keeps you within budget really well.  I guesstimate what everything is going to cost on the list before I shop and write down actual cost while I shop. No I’m not an accounting major but I am a fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade. If you’re not sure how to budget, visit the library, there are plenty of books that you can borrow that can help you with your finances.

Week 6

With both kids and money now set-up, you’re feeling great. You’ve got this university thing down right? Well guess what? Mid-terms are here! Yes the professors are firing up the scantron machine and you need to have your #2 pencils sharpened. Mid-terms will help you determine if you need to drop a class or not. Now I know no one wants to drop a class but sometimes it’s necessary. When I started U of T it was for Management. I was taking all the required courses including Economics. I even researched and got the “easy” professor. I went to all the tutorials, did my homework, and even looked up extra lessons online. I went to the midterm with my University ID, calculator, mechanical pencils, extra lead, two erasers, and an aura of confidence. I opened up the exam and stared at the problem. I checked the cover to make sure this was the right class. Yep, both my class and professor were on the packet. Everyone else around me was furiously calculating and I didn’t know where to start. This was the first time in my academic career I wanted to put my head down and cry. I took the entire two hours to finish as much as I could. The only bright spot in the entire exam was at the end when another Professor told us to put down our pencils, another person didn’t. The professor repeated himself loudly, the student kept on writing. The professor grabbed the exam and loudly announced they just got a zero. “Well at least I got more than them,” was my only consolation. Mid-terms are there to not deplete all your confidence but to gauge where you are in the course. I thought my math skills were sufficient, I quickly found out they were not. I went to the Registrar’s office and visited my Student Life mentor and changed my major from Management to Anthropology. Be ready for the midterm but be prepared to evaluate your own performance fairly.

To be continued…