Going to college is the first BIG step you will take to enter the
world after high school. In all probability, you will move away from home and be left to your own devices, making your own decisions and determining your own future path in life. You're leaving the nest and will have to start taking care of yourself.
There are two major, stressful concerns for high school students graduating with college on their radar. First, where is the best school for me to get the education I need and secondly, how much is it going to cost?
There are no magic answers. You need to do your research. Some students go to the same school their parents attended; this is called a legacy. Some students want to go to a private school because there are less distractions. Some students like the multitudes of other students around so they choose a public school. With careful thought, you design your own experience.
Colleges and universities are located in big cities as well as in rural areas. Some are liberal arts schools and some are specialized. Some have high graduation rates and some have challenging curriculum. Some have rigid class schedules and some are on-line. Many colleges and universities are faith-based and some are open to all religions and cultures.
Not all colleges offer the same curriculum, meaning you get a different education at each school. Going to college for the sake of going to college is not a good idea. College is expensive and knowing what you want to study when you get there will help you use that money wisely.
So where do I start?
1. Plan your career in high school and take the right foundation classes so you know what to expect when you get to the post-secondary (college) education level.
2. Research the schools that offer the study/major you want. Look at the classes they offer. Do they offer different degrees in your field? Are they 2 year degree schools? 4 year degree schools? Do they offer Master and Doctorate degrees? (click here for Indiana colleges & universities)
3. Talk to people. Parents, relatives, teachers, people already in business, students who are in college now, students who have just graduated... What did they do to get to and through college?
4. Do everything you can in high school to make it easier to get into college. Get the best GPA (grades) you can get. Take the ACT, PSAT, SAT and Work Keys. Get a technology or medical certification. Learn how to take good notes. Prioritize your life so you're doing the important stuff instead of wasting time with things you won't use in college or your life after college. Align yourself with the teachers who can help you after high school. Prepare yourself for life-long learning!
5. Find scholarships to help pay the way. Don't count on your counselor, parent or teacher to find them for you. Get on the internet and look for them. The earlier you start, the better chances you have to have others pay for your college.
6. Don't rely on mom and dad to plan your college or pay your way. College is a real financial burden and since they're already taking care of the family and you, don't count on their coming up with $15-$40,000 a year. It is unrealistic, and to most families, impossible.
7. Visit the colleges you like. MHS offers college-visit days so you can go and check out the campus yourself.
8. Read articles about the colleges you like. Find out what their strengths and weaknesses are.
9. When it's time to apply, take advantage of College Go! week and submit your application when some schools may waive the fee. Otherwise, you'll pay for each college application you send in.
10. When the colleges visit MHS, cut your lunch short and go talk to the representatives. They have first hand knowledge.
11. Go to the College Fairs and College Financial nights. The more you immerse yourself in this culture, the easier it gets to understand.
12. When it comes time to file the FAFSA, do it as quickly as possible. The money given out is first come, first served.
13. When you've narrowed your choices down to 2 or 3, prioritize your choices and make a backup plan.
Remember, where there's a will,
there's a way!