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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

College series: The Plan of Action

I went to community college for 2 yrs on a scholarship before going away to a state university. In moving in I didn't know quite what to expect or what to bring so here I'm going to talk about that and things to think about before making decisions from my own experience.There will be different instalments to this as there are different things I would like to talk about in order that I came across this stuff in my life.
Deciding where to continue my education was a hard decision but I feel like I made the right decision. When I was a senior in high school I was the person who knew where they wanted to go and was just awaiting my acceptance letter. I was overwhelmed by the whole thought. As a matter of fact I only applied to maybe 4 universities and was rejected by 2. I was the greatest in math so I wasn't the prime student they wanted especially since I waited so late to apply. So tip 1.) have some sort of plan early. Truth is waiting until your a senior to start trying to figure things out short changes you out of opportunities. Junior year of high school start taking the ACT and SAT because if you don't do so hot you still have time for retakes for a higher score. No matter what you want to do unless it's a trade you will need a good score on at least 1 of those 2 tests. That's another thing to have at least some clue of, are you going to a trade school/ vocational college for career certification, are you going for a degree at a community college/ university or are you going into the military. You don't have to know specifics at the beginning but at least an idea. 2.) Do research. Be looking into your plan to know what you would need for that, for example if you want to be in the military they have their own test they want you to pass (physical training "PT" & armed services vocational aptitude battery "ASVAB") or a specific college/ university wants higher ACT/ SAT scores than others or they want one over the other. Some universities even require that you take certain classes and pass them with certain grades and if you already have that in mind you have 2nd semester and your senior year to plug those in if you haven't already taken them. 3.) Do the work. Go out and visit schools and talk to people to see if you can see yourself there, pamphlets and flyers can only tell you so much. Dual credit classes are your friend! They will save you time if you're going for the university/ college route. Buckle down to ensure a good GPA. By the end of the year you should have schools in mind that you would attend if you got accepted if that's your plan.
4.) Decision & Application time. Now you're into the beginning of your senior year and you've taken the act/ sat and have gotten a satisfactory score for whatever tests and are signed up for all the necessary classes that are required and are not slacking of because grades still do matter and will for a while. Applying early is the next big thing. Decide on a school based on what is important to you. Some things to consider are finances (tuition, room and board, meal plans, other student fees can get pricey, do they offer lots of scholarships that you're eligible for?), distance, and educational goals (do they offer a program for me and do they offer it as far as I want to go? for example I want to teach elementary so I am in a school with a very accredited education program). Try not to put all of your eggs into one basket, keep your options open. Once accepted apply for institutional scholarships and any local ones through the community before those deadlines approach. Cappex and Fastweb are some good resources for online scholarships.
Ok so to review
1.) have a plan and have it early-break it down starting with what you think you want to do and go from there so it's less overwhelming. Refine as you go, 2.) do your research-look into places of interest and their criteria so you know if you're even qualify. I f you do it early enough you'll still have time to become qualified, 3.) do the work- go on college visits and get in those dual credit classes if you can, 4.) make decisions and apply- you don't even have to decide one yet, just narrow the list down to places you would actually go if you got excepted and start applying. Find and start applying for those local scholarships, they have deadlines that will approach quickly and a lot of them probably want essays and recommendation letters and you want good quality so no rushing. I would advise investing in a 1/2in binder with tabs to organize them by deadline date so you don't miss anything
Some people might think this is a bit late to be doing this stuff but I think it depends on you and what you want to do. I started later than this and still managed to do well but I limited myself and I would like to save others. I hoped this helped, these are things adults probably told me but I didn't listen. Hearing this from someone going through it like this probably would've saved me.