Going to college is a big step, especially if you’re the first in your family to do so. Expectations are high and the stress of navigating the process can be daunting. If you don’t have a support group and you’re going at it alone, fear not. I will be your personal cheerleader. With my pompoms in the air I shout, “You can do it!”
Step 1 – Apply
Obvious, I know, but be sure to apply to more than one college. Do your research and get in where you fit in. Not every college is for everybody. When considering a college ask yourself these questions:
- Does this college offer the academic program and extracurricular activities what I want?
- Does classroom size matter to me?
- Do I like the college culture?
- Can I afford this college?
Don’t sell yourself short; put your applications out there and see what schools bite, but make sure your application is complete. If an essay is required, be sure to revise and edit before submitting it for consideration. No one likes a sloppy essay.
Step 2 – Funding
How do you plan to pay for college? Do you have a savings in place or do you plan to borrow money for college? If your family can fund your college education that is great news for you, but if not, you may want to apply for federal assistance. Ask yourself these questions:
- How much do I really need?
- If I take out loans, can my future career provide enough income to repay these loans and keep food on the table?
If you’re approved for a loan, you don’t have to accept every cent offered to you. Remember, college is a means to a profitable financial future.
How can you find out about potential income?
Bureau or Labor Statistics
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Federal Student Aid
Step 3 – Know your resources
The most effective way to navigate the process is to identify and utilize resources available to you. There is no need to wander around the process and get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. Seek the help of a high school guidance counselor or an admissions counselor at your chosen college or university. Search for resources in your community. See if non-profit organizations in your community offer services that assist with filing for financial aid or locating scholarships for students. Search for college fairs offered in your community.
“What Not to Do When Applying to College” by Keith Sinzinger and Rett Fisher.