Postgraduate student parent diaries – Week 1 – My first week, finance and childcare!

Wow, it’s been a minute since my last post! SOOOOO whilst I am back doing my MA in Career Guidance and Development at University, I thought it would be a good feature on the blog to share my experience via a regular feature called Postgraduate Student Parent Diaries. I’m hoping I can share my experiences, what went well and what didn’t. I am planning on writing some helpful posts separately, like time management as a student parent and all things finance etc. this feature is just going to be a document of my time doing my MA as a student parent!

My first lectures

So University life looks a world away from when I did my Undergraduate study because of Covid-19!!!

I only got my timetable finalised last week and was actually surprised to see that all my teaching would be completed face to face, so I actually physically get to go into University, two afternoons a week. This has posed a bit of a problem childcare wise though, Arthur and Maisie haven’t been to childcare since lockdown and we are now having to re-register them. Maisie was able to start this week, she only needs collecting from school, but Arthur cannot start until November. So we called upon Grandparents this week to help with the childcare. My Mum had Arthur on my first day and then James’ parents came to watch him for the second. Going forward we are just going to have to play it by ear and see who is available when, James is still only working part time so he is also available for some of it.

My first day went well. I headed to the Library first, I was surprised to see it looked exactly the same and instantaneously had flashbacks to my undergrad days of being sat in there until the early hours. It made me smile because James and I met on our course at University and would often be in there at the same time before we were actually together, working away. I took a few books out using the list I had made the night before and was proud that I remembered how to find them.

Then I headed for my first lecture – Developing Professional Practice: Organisational Culture and Professional Practice. I found the building ok without having to ask for help as I do have some knowledge of the University layout (but there have been a few additions since my time!!!) The room felt weird, with individual desks spread out to accommodate social distancing and I got the feeling this would be a completely different experience of university than I was used to. Everyone is required to wear a mask, unless exempt. My lecturer was wearing a face shield and discussion was limited.

Mentimeter was used for us to submit any discussion points we had, which is an app where you enter a code given by the lecturer, then you can type your thoughts and you can submit them to the board, this is a far cry from the discussions we were able to have in my Sociology classes. The module seems really interesting and we learned about what our assignments will be.

The second day in for The Guidance Network module was a slightly smaller group but the same set up. I was in the same building and my Father in-law gave me a lift in. I really enjoyed this seminar and the assignment is going to be a really interesting one. I think alot of reading on this one will link to reading and theory I have learned before in my sociology degree so I am excited to get started.

Assignments so far

So up until Christmas I am doing two modules with a further two starting after Christmas. I will also have to start thinking about my dissertation soon as I will have that to complete as well, I have some ideas but at the moment I am completely new to the Career Guidance sector so I will need to think about how my ideas link in. So far I have three deadlines in November, January and February so I think that is quite manageable. I have started to think about the assignments already and set up my google drive to save further reading to print when I am in the Library.

Once Arthur starts nursery, I will have some free time to do some quiet work. Since both my lectures are 12.30 until 15.30, I will have more time to go and work quietly in the Library on those two days that I am in, before and after my lectures if needed. I can also work from home as I can access books and journals online and we have print facilities too from when we were home schooling over lockdown.

Universal Credit, childcare costs and the Masters Loan

So to fund my Masters degree, I applied for a Masters loan from Student Finance England. This means I will get a loan of £11,222 split into three payments over the year of my course, like the undergrad loan it is paid back once you earn over a certain amount, more info on that here. However, the difference between this and an undergraduate loan is that there is no separate tuition fee element, this is all you get and you have to pay the fees to your University directly out of this. I get a 10% alumni discount and have arranged to pay my fees with my university directly.

James and I do receive Universal Credit, as I haven’t been working since April but because he works full time and we have a child under 5, I do not have to commit to work search. I was worried that my loan would significantly impact our income as I had read horror stories. I contacted Universal credit when the change occurred and this is what I was told. So, only 30% of the Masters loan is counted as income because of payment of fees etc. This 30% is then split up evenly over the amount of assessment periods in the length of your course. They then minus £110 each month and what is left will be counted as income and deducted from our award. This is just for MASTERS loans though, Undergraduate loans are calculated differently.

I am unsure if we can get any help towards the cost of childcare because I am not classed as working on the new Universal Credit system. No one is able to tell me how this works with full time study. All I know is I am not eligible to claim the Childcare Grant because I am in receipt of the Masters loan so this will be something we will have to just play by ear when we get our first bills. I am determined not to let it stop me completing it so times may be hard for a year, but it’s not like we can do much with Covid anyway!!!!

Overall after my first week, I am really excited, not much talk about parenting this week but going forward it’s going to be really important that I plan and manage my time effectively. I went back to complete my third year of my Undergraduate study when Maisie was only 3 months old, so I think if I can do that, doing my MA with a toddler should be a breeze! It feels realy good to be doing something that I have wanted to do for a long time and for me doing this is about starting my career in something I am interested in rather than just working to live. I want to do this so that my children can have the best life possible, so even though I know it might be a struggle juggling everything, I have so much support from James and my friends and family.

The Postgraduate Student Parent Diaries will be a weekly thing on my blog, talking about the trials and tribulations of postgraduate study as a student parent, make sure you come back each week for my latest installment!

 

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