As the year comes to a close, you are almost finished with your high school career. How does it feel? Exciting? Terrifying? If you’re not sure what your next move is, don’t worry, this article will help!
For many students, the hardest part of the process is picking a major. Coming in as a freshman “undecided” is a lot less scary than people make it out to be. Every person needs general education credits to achieve a degree. If you know that you want a degree, but are still not sure in what specifically, the “undecided” plan was created for you! There’s nothing wrong with taking some courses you know you will need while you figure it out.
On the flip side, there are ways to discern what careers you may be interested in. For example, what are you good at? For me, I have always been a quick learner, especially when it came to music. I also have always been very interested in music. If you can look at the skills you already possess, the things you like to do, and find something that falls into both categories, it may be easier to pick a major that you would be interested in. It also may help to listen to other people around you. What do your family and friends see as your positive skills and characteristics? Maybe you are very observant, or you like to discuss issues in the world. You might be an incredibly good listener, or you may love to sort and organize things. All of these skills can be indicators of a career that would be both fun and beneficial for you.
After you decide on a major, you can start looking at colleges. I started with deciding whether I wanted to go to a public or private school. Knowing that I wanted to study worship and music, it was pretty easy for me to decide on a private school.
Next, think about the location. Would you prefer to live at home while you pursue your degree? Do you want to stay in-state? If you’re looking at a public school, it may be cheaper to stay in-state. However, if you’re looking at a private school, you may get scholarships for being out-of-state. Ultimately, it comes down to what you want. Once you decide about the location, you can begin looking at specific colleges. It may help to pick a state or location, and if you would prefer to start your degree at a community college or if you’d prefer a comprehensive university that offers bachelor’s, graduate and advanced degrees.
Once you find a few colleges or universities that you’re interested in, it’s time to start applying. I applied to three different schools, but I have heard of students applying for up to 10 colleges! Think about how many schools you’re interested in, and how many applications you’re willing to pay for. Most applications cost between $50 and $80, but some schools waive the fee for students with a high GPA.
After you narrow down your list of top choices, you’ll also want to consider visiting the campus. I highly encourage visiting the school, if possible, before you apply. This may help you narrow down some options. You may not like the size of the school once you get on campus, it may be larger or smaller than you prefer. If you visit a campus in person, you may be able to get a vibe for the school that you otherwise would not have felt by simply looking at the perfect pictures on the website. You’ll have the opportunity to see the classrooms, eat the cafeteria food, visit some professors, look at the dorms, and anything else else that you’re concerned about in person instead of asking questions over an email.
Once you’ve applied to your top college choices, it’s time to start thinking about financial aid and scholarships. After you are accepted to a school, you can apply for Federal Student Aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an application each student is encouraged to fill out every year. This form will allow the government to determine your eligibility for government loans and grants. You can find the application here.
I highly encourage filling this form out with your legal guardian, because there will be questions on the application that you may need their help answering, such as tax information. Trevecca also has an article discussing the changes the government made to the application this year. You can find that here.
Another crucial step to college is applying for scholarships, and you can begin that process right now. You can find general scholarships or specific ones based on your major, location, GPA, community service, extra-curricular activities, and more! Be sure to ask the financial aid office at the colleges you’re considering about any scholarships you might be eligible for.I know that college can be scary, and you have to make a lot of big decisions, but it’s not impossible, and you are totally capable. Start with these things right now and begin discussing finances and future plans with your parents. It might seem like a lot, but if you got through four years of grueling high school, you can do this, too.