Continuing your college education during your pregnancy or after your baby is born may seem overwhelming. Here are some ideas to help as you process the idea of how to manage school and a baby with graduation as your finish line.
- Talk to your professors. Prior to the semester starting, or whenever you know about upcoming changes (such as your baby’s delivery), email your professors and let them know your situation. When you approach them with a humble attitude and not expecting special treatment, most professors are willing to work with you outside the classroom to make life a little easier. For example, perhaps you could get extra work to do from home so you wouldn’t have to attend class as often. Depending on the age of your baby, you may be allowed me to bring your baby and sit in the back of the classroom. Your professors are humans too and realize that there are many circumstances that can be challenging when completing your education. Things will go more smoothly if you communicate and let them try to support you academically.
- Carefully plan your schedule. This may be common sense, but try to schedule your classes during nap time, and avoid feeding times if possible. Or plan your classes back to back during certain days so it will be easier to get help with watching your baby. Also, it may be helpful to “baby map” your campus. Most schools were not created with babies in mind. If you have time before your baby is born, explore your campus. See which bathrooms have couches or some privacy where you can nurse, as well as which ones have a changing table. Be sure to figure out the best routes around campus for a stroller- find the closest elevators and the wheelchair ramps to your classes.
- Take “alternative” classes. Online classes are one of the best advancements in education- because they can be done around your schedule! You may also have the possibility of evening or weekend classes. Although you may not be able to complete your core classes for your specific major online, most universities offer general education classes online for the same or less cost as taking a class on campus. This allows you to do your schoolwork when your baby goes down for a nap or when you know you’ll have help with your baby.
- Enlist help. If someone agrees to help you, make sure to give them plenty of notice, and offer to trade babysitting, or even pay if you need someone often. Many people are furthering their education with one or more children, a full time job, etc. When it comes to classes you cannot do online and must attend in person, it can be challenging to think about how to afford a sitter. One of the ways you can get the help you need but also not feel like you are always asking for help is to trade. Maybe you can watch a friend’s kids while they attend class and they watch yours while you attend. Maybe you can clean their house or make them dinner in exchange for babysitting services. There are many things you can do to negate the cost of childcare.
- Take fewer classes. This can be a hard choice, especially if you are trying to finish as quickly as possible. But it is worth it if it lowers your stress level. You may even find that you do better academically than semesters prior to pregnancy or having your child. Graduation may take a little longer than you thought, but the point is you will have finished! Also, keep in mind you need time to focus on your baby! If you are taking a lot of classes, especially if they are demanding, it might become tough to balance baby time, and school time. You want to be able to devote time to both of these important things.
- Grants and Scholarships. One of the greatest advantages of having a child while you are pursuing your higher education is the financial aid you now may be eligible for. You are considered independent of your parents because you have your own dependent. You will be eligible for financial aid that can considerably ease the financial burden of college. You also have the possibility of grants and scholarships. Grants are given to people who fall below a certain income level, which is determined by filling out the FAFSA. If you meet certain qualifications, you may also get grant money to buy the books you need for your classes. Scholarships are also an excellent way to help fund your college experience. Be sure to check with your specific college or department, because often scholarships available through those venues may be easier to get. The applications for these are usually due several months before a semester even begins, so you’ll need to start applying early.
Having a baby while completing your education may give you more determination than ever before. Finishing your college degree is something you will be so proud of and a way to invest in yourself and in your baby’s future. You will appreciate having your degree knowing that when you were tired, or felt like giving up, you continued on! When you have moments of feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone in your life that will encourage you and remind you of your goal to finish. Remember, you are now planning for a future for two- you AND your baby. Options Medical Clinic provides support for new moms, our supportive staff is available to answer your questions. You can do it!