College Planning and Teen Parents: How to Help

Make sure teen parents at your school make it to college instead of becoming another statistic.

Counselors face a unique type of challenge when working with teen parents. While these students face real obstacles, it’s still possible for teen parents to graduate and continue their education at the college level. Counselors are fortunate to have a number of resources and strategies at their disposal to help teen parents succeed. Check out some of the best ways to help teen parents plan for college

Make sure teen parents know about all the options available to them.

Teen Parent Statistics

Teen pregnancy is a leading cause of school dropout among female students. In fact, teen parents are one of the most at-risk groups of students when it comes to giving up on college. Below are some alarming statistics from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:

  • Less than two percent of teen mothers attain a college degree by the age of 30.
  • Thirty percent of teen girls cited pregnancy or parenthood as a reason for dropping out of high school.
  • About 51 percent of teen moms have a high school diploma (compared to 89 percent of those who didn’t give birth as a teenager).

Becoming a parent as a teen creates serious risks for a student’s educational future. Fortunately, counselors can step in to help these students stay on track as they navigate parenthood at a young age.

Develop Individual Plans

Each teen parent will face unique challenges as she deals with pregnancy, birth and childcare. In addition, these students will also have their own personal goals and interests that will inform their choices over the next several years. Counselors need to sit down with teen parents to address these obstacles and goals in order to create an individual plan. The National Career Development Association suggests that this plan include the following:

  • Identification of barriers: It’s important to recognize the challenges ahead in order to effectively address them.
  • Realistic goals: Teen parents need to understand the restrictions that they may face while still keeping education- and career-related goals in mind.
  • Realistic time lines: A teen parent may have to adjust their time line for attending college in order to accommodate their child’s birth or childcare availability.
  • Funding and community support resources: Counselors should search for community resources for teen parents and help these students create a realistic budget and work plan.
  • An effective resume: Teen parents can improve their chances of success by creating an impressive resume for potential employers and college applications.

Apply to the Right Colleges

A traditional college environment involving long hours on campus and living in student dorms isn’t suited to most teen parents. Counselors can help teen parents succeed by offering more practical college options. To start, counselors can look for colleges with the following amenities and features:

  • Child care: Schools like Centralia College remove one of the largest barriers to education for teen parents by offering childcare to enrolled students.
  • Proximity: Teen parents often need to stay close to a support system of friends and family, so nearby colleges are a good option in many cases.
  • Housing options: Look for colleges with affordable housing nearby. Another option is on-campus housing for parents or families, which students may be able to afford with the help of student loans.
  • Alternative class times or degree programs: Teen parents may need to work in order to support their family while going to school. Colleges with evening and weekend classes or self-paced degree programs may be a good fit.
  • Distance education: Students who can’t find a suitable college or university nearby may find success through an online degree program.

Make sure students know about all the options available to them. Students who previously planned to attend a traditional college or university may need extra guidance in finding the appropriate schools to which they should apply.

Create Prevention Strategies

At a fundamental level, counselors can help students before teen pregnancy even becomes an issue by implementing prevention strategies. This can be especially helpful for counselors who work within a school or school system where teen pregnancy is more common. The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy offers the following tips for reducing the number of teen pregnancies among your students:

  • Spread Awareness: Learn about health education laws in your state and your school’s practices. Advocating for contraception instruction is a great way to inform students about pregnancy risk and prevention.
  • Reach out: Certain factors can increase the risk of early pregnancy, including having a parent who became a mom or dad as a teen, drug or alcohol use, sexual abuse, and involvement in the juvenile justice or foster care system.
  • Motivate students: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reports that students with plans to attend college have a lower risk of teen pregnancy. Additionally, students who are more involved in their school are less likely to get pregnant.
  • Involve parents: Students who are close to their parents are more likely to delay having sex and to use birth control if they do have sex.

Teen parents, especially teen moms, often fall through the cracks when it comes to getting a college degree. Make sure the teenage parents at your school see that college is still a real possibility by providing adequate assistance and guidance throughout their high school career.

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