These days, everyone has a plan. We have goals and dreams and make plans to achieve them; we work jobs and go to college all so that we can have successful and happy lives. So what do we do when things don’t go according to plan?
An unplanned pregnancy can appear to be at odds with dreams of going to or staying in college, and while that may have been the case several years ago, it’s not the case today. Colleges across the country are beginning to provide more and more resources for pregnant women and couples. Every year, Students for Life of America gives an award to the group that has “excelled in promoting pregnant and parenting resources” and “demonstrate[d] success in pregnant and parenting outreach and advocacy on their college campus.”
This past year, the Pregnant on Campus Group of the Year was from the University of Notre Dame. “No student should ever have to choose between… having a child or having an education,” says the university’s pregnancy resources brochure, and they mean it. At Notre Dame, resources for pregnant students include everything from healthcare assistance to support through a designated advocate from the Office of Student Affairs as well as designated housing options for parenting students.
When a student suspects she may be pregnant, she can take a confidential free pregnancy test either at University Health Services or off-campus at the nearby Women’s Care Center. If the test is positive, there are numerous people available to help her, including dorm hall staff, campus ministry staff, or the 24-hour hotlines from either the University Counseling Center or the Women’s Care Center, which is off-campus. These advocates are available to walk with students through decisions around parenting or putting together an adoption plan for their child. Women can continue to live in their dorms until the birth of the baby, at which time those who are parenting have housing options including living in an off-campus apartment or in graduate student family housing, where other parenting students live. Academic and financial support is also available for pregnant and parenting students to assist them in continuing with their education. All of these resources are available to expectant fathers and couples as well.
Southern Illinois University (SIU) is another campus, like Notre Dame, with excellent support for pregnant and parenting students. Their pregnancy resources website provides a single site to find comprehensive resources, ranging from where to get a free pregnancy test to confidential third-party counseling services.
The Pregnant on Campus Initiative at SIU also has an informational resource guide for pregnant and parenting students. This booklet provides contact information for numerous offices on campus that may need to be contacted, including Housing, Financial Aid, and the Center for Learning Support Services. It also reviews information on non-discrimination based on Title IX and the student-athlete policy. Other campus resources are also reviewed in the resource guide. SIU has diaper decks, breastfeeding support, and even a specific program to assist single parent students. One of the most helpful sections of the guide is a list of grants and private scholarship foundations for women and single parents; these can be used at other colleges as well.
Although many years ago, pregnancy may have required students to delay or diminish their educational dreams and goals, that is no longer the case. Many universities and colleges offer support to pregnant and parenting students, just as they do for students in need due to all different kinds of circumstances. Numerous third-party organizations, such as the approximately 31 pregnancy crisis centers across Illinois, also provide countless resources to students in Illinois.
While there are always going to be surprises in life, unexpected situations don’t have to limit our chances of reaching our goals; a crisis pregnancy may simply take us down a different road in fulfilling our dreams. A pregnancy may be unexpected, but so might be all the incredible support offered to those making the courageous choice for life. So before you doubt your options, check them out!
Samantha is a risk advisory consultant living in the Chicago area. She has a passion for authentic feminism and thoroughly enjoys a good cup of coffee. She is the former president of Notre Dame Right to Life, which is the university’s largest student club.