Transitioning to student family life can be stressful. Whether you are a new student parent, or are (re-)entering post-secondary studies while caring for a family, you will be undoubtedly juggling multiple hats, duties, and deadlines.
The Family Care Office (FCO) is here to help! We’ve compiled some tips to help you and your family transition smoothly into this new stage of life.
- Talk to a Family Care Office Advisor in advance of starting your studies. Review the “Students” section of our website and find discussion points and contact information on the FCO website.
- Sign up for a peer mentor from the Family Care Office! Our mentors are students with family responsibilities just like you. They can meet you on your schedule and provide invaluable advice and support. Check out our mentorship sign-up page for more details.
- Make a calendar of all your application deadlines and your family’s important dates prior to classes starting. This could include:
- UTSU’s health insurance opt-out period
- UTGSU’s health insurance opt-out period
- Opting In to important Student Life Fees, including the Family Care Office!
- Your Course Drop Dates
- Your children’s PD days and/or Holidays
- Tentative Exam Schedule postings from the Faculty of Arts & Science or School of Graduate Studies
- OSAP deadlines
- Look into on-campus family housing or housing as close to school as possible. This will help to eliminate transportation costs and commuting time. Two of the campus locations (UTM and UTSG) have on-campus student family housing options. Many units are available on short notice, so call and ask about waitlists! You should also take advantage of Housing Services at U of T, which includes off-campus housing search tools, individual appointments and more.
- Research and secure reliable child care options prior to starting your first week of classes. You should also ensure that you know what child care grants are available to you as well as any subsidies that your family could be eligible for.
- Have your finances in order and plan your budget for the year as best you can. As a U of T student you also have access to financial counsellors through your faculty, college, or at Enrolment Services, so take advantage of this service! If you are in need of some extra money, the Career Learning Network (CLNx) is an online database that compiles on- and off-campus job postings across U of T’s three campuses. Current U of T students/student spouses may want to consider becoming a casual, paid babysitter for the FCO’s Babysitter Bulletin Board.
- Assess your time management skills and organize your class and tutorial schedules. Make sure to clarify any issues that you find! With family responsibilities, multi-tasking is often a key to successful navigation of school and work Scheduling apps are a fantastic way to stay on top of assignment due dates and to log your class schedules and family responsibilities.
- Speak with your professors about their attendance and submission policies if you’re comfortable doing so. Some instructors are more willing to discuss deadline revisions if they know ahead of time about your family care responsibilities. Also, find out your professors’ rules for taking kids to class – some may permit this in an emergency, so consider asking your professor in advance.
- As soon as you arrive, begin to develop an on-campus support network.
Some great resources on campus include:
- Your registrar or faculty
- Counselling services
- The writing centres
- The Academic Success Centre (UTSG), the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre (UTM) and the Academic Advising & Career Centre at UTSC.
- Indigenous student services at First Nation House (UTSG), UTM, and UTSC
- And, of course, the supports available at the FCO!
- Find a spot on campus where you’re able to do good, concentrated work. With family and school responsibilities, it’s likely you’ll want to maximize available study time. If you are looking for family friendly places, be sure to register for a free access fob to the Robarts Library Family Study Space – a secure, child-friendly, sound-proofed room in the Robarts stacks. For times when you are studying solo or without your dependents, be sure to check out these quiet study spaces.
- It’s often inevitable that you’ll miss a few classes each term, so you should make a buddy in each of your courses who’ll share notes with you for classes you’ve missed. Another option is sending a mass email to the class asking if anyone is willing to supply their notes for the lessons you were away for or anticipate missing. Often a Facebook page is created for individual classes, so do investigate to see if your courses have any.
It’s always worth challenging yourself so long as it’s within reason; make sure you don’t over-extend yourself! Try to be realistic with what you’re able to take on at a time, even if it means reducing your course load or taking an online class.
Also, do your best to schedule a bit of ‘me time’ each week. Self-care is essential. Taking time for yourself each week will help you feel more grounded, which in turn can help you better care for yourself and your family!
Check out former Family Care Office blogger Malinda Gray’s story of transitioning to student family life at the University of Toronto! With candid wit, she shares her trials and tribulations in four mini-stories:
- First semester first 3 weeks
- First semester weeks 4-6
- First semester weeks 7-9
- First semester completion weeks 10-12
Written by Gabriele Simmons and updated by Emily Pritchard.