You have big dreams! You hope of a future that includes completing a college education! Now you find out you are pregnant and all those dreams coming crashing down. It is true, having a baby is a BIG deal and it is life altering! But it does NOT have to be an end to your hopes and dreams of completing college.
It is possible to have a baby and a college education simultaneously! It might take a little more time than you anticipated, but anything worth having requires work – and both a college degree and your baby are worth the effort!
Here are some suggestions to make a college degree with a baby more manageable:
1. Take fewer classes each semester
Take a deep breath and slow down. Instead of attempting to maintain 17 credit hours each semester, take only two or three classes. This will allow you time to adequately prepare for classes and still enjoy your baby. There is no rule that you have to complete a degree in a designated period of time.
I took 20 years to complete my undergraduate degree, having both children and a full-time job. I wouldn’t trade a minute of that time enjoying my children and enjoying my educational journey. Most of you won’t need that much time!
2. Ask for Help
Some of us are blessed to have family nearby who are willing to help. Others are not. Either way, this can work!
Meet other students who have children and take turns providing child care for each other. Find out if your school has any clubs or groups for students who are also parents. You can also ask individuals in your church.
There are lots of folks out there who would love to give you a hand. Be sure not to take advantage of anyone and give ample notice when you need childcare!
3. Talk to your professors
This is not asking for special treatment. When you let the professor know your circumstances ahead of time, say by emailing them before the semester even starts, they are generally more willing to work with you if an emergency situation arises. There may even be some situations where your child can attend class with you. Be sure you have permission first!
4. Financial Aid
Always be sure to complete your FAFSA. It is only by doing this that you may qualify for grants. Grants should always be used before other forms of financial aid, like loans, because grants do not have to be paid back. They are based on your family size and income.
Also, be sure to apply for any local and university/school specific scholarships. Be sure to look early to meet any deadlines for applying.
5. Plan your schedule carefully
Look at the best options for your situation when planning your schedule each semester. Consider things like scheduled nap times, feeding times, and when your childcare provider is available.
6. Consider alternative classes
Most all schools have classes that are outside the norm. Look at online courses or evening classes if that better fits your needs. If the father of the baby is involved and is also a student, schedule classes at alternating times so that one of you is always available to care for your baby.
7. Consider an alternative school
A traditional four-year university might not be your best option. There are lots of smaller schools and colleges that might be better equipped to provide a schedule that fits your unique needs. There may also be other students there in similar situations who can relate to your circumstances. There may even be some smaller schools that provide on-site childcare.
Be sure to consider all of your options!
8. Visit your local Pregnancy Resource Center
There might be more community resources available than you realize. Sometimes there are subsidies for childcare for which you may be qualified. Pregnancy Centers often have knowledge of community resources where they can refer you. They can also sometimes help you with practical resources like diapers, wipes, and baby clothes.
9. Find appropriate housing
Some colleges provide housing options for families in addition to traditional student housing. Or if you can live at home with your parents or other family member, this might be your best option financially.
Just don’t give up!
You CAN have both your baby and meet your educational goals! It just takes some careful planning and might require you to slow down a little.
You have plenty of years ahead of you to enjoy your career. Be sure that during this time you enjoy your baby at the same time your getting the most out of your education!