Editor's note: This article was sponsored by Northeastern University.
These days, university freshmen aren’t just young coeds fresh out of high school. More than 7.5 million students are over the age of 25, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Many of them — nearly a quarter of all U.S. college students — are also parents.
Universities are getting the hint, including one local example.
Based out of Boston, Northeastern University has a regional campus in South Lake Union. The Top-50-ranked school offers flexible education options that blend a mix of on- and off-campus requirements, including evening classes to address the specific needs of working parents and students who need to keep their day jobs.
Ceres Gu is a new mother and recent Northeastern graduate. Aside from what Northeastern taught her about C++ and Java, the master’s graduate in computer science found the culture refreshing. Northeastern accommodated her pregnancy and postpartum experience, she says.
The challenges of parenthood and student life are real, but not insurmountable if you’ve got a support system in place.
Before becoming a parent, Gu spent most days on campus doing homework, chatting with friends and solving coding problems. But after her baby arrived, Gu was only able to show up for classes and tests — and yet she says she never felt ostracized.
“The professors were quite generous about me being a new mom,” Gu says. “They gave me the greatest freedom to choose the quiz times and accepted my absences for some classes.”
Northeastern also provides a room designated for mothers on campus (something my alma mater woefully lacked). “It’s a very private and comfortable place,” says Gu, who used the space to pump and rest.
The challenges of parenthood and student life are real, but not insurmountable if you’ve got a support system in place, she adds. Gu’s main problem? Time.
“Seeking a degree requires a lot of time [between] taking classes, reading, homework and teamwork,” she says. “Make sure there is someone else there to support you.” Gu notes that her husband and extended family made the difference for her.
When Geethanjali Ramesh planned her pregnancy in the midst of earning her Master’s in Project Management at Northeastern, she says the key success factor was being able to take time off from her studies. She was able to take off the 2017 winter semester and part of the spring semester, picking up her studies right where she left off upon her return.
Ramesh says she spoke frequently with her adviser, who was instrumental in making sure she stayed on track to complete her degree. “I was prepared for what to expect.”
More and more, students like Gu and Ramesh with children are successfully navigating higher education by relying on universities that are committed to helping parents achieve their personal and professional goals.
Learn more about Northeastern University at the annual Spring Open House on April 13.