By Joanne Barnard
Whether it’s a two or four-year college, a gap year, or a technical/vocational institute, choosing what to do after high school will be one of the biggest decisions a senior can make.
Spend this month sifting through the plethora of schools and programs in preparation for applying. Consider the following factors when narrowing the field; academic programs offered, cost, location, cost, size, cost, selectivity of admission and campus life.
Was cost mentioned? Although it is only a portion of the decision, affordability and the future financial stability of yourself and your parents are key issues. Conflict arises through misunderstanding, sit down with your parents and determine how much money has been set aside for post secondary expenses - know what your parents can realistically contribute. Think: If you spend their savings, are you prepared to fund their retirement?
There are lots of options - think outside the box. If you have dreams of graduating from a four year college, you do not have to start there - go to a less expensive school your first two years. This will give you the opportunity to save money and see if college is right for you.
Ultimately, the burden of funding your education is on you. You need to weigh the cost against the outcome. Calculate how much you have set aside for your education and how much you can expect to earn during your last year of high school and after. That’s right; get a job and start saving... a lot.
Having a job is great, not only for saving/spending, it is a measure of your character, and enhances an application.
Be cautious if you plan to rely on student loans, explore the ramification of ending school in debt with a degree where potential earnings won’t cover loan payments. A student loan calculator on websites like collegeboard.com can help with this investigation.
Academics And Selectivity
Having a passion can be the biggest filter. Does the school or program accommodate your interest(s)? Are the classes you wish to take available each semester? What is the school’s reputation? Will the school advance you toward graduate school?
How does your profile compare to the admissions criteria?
Size, Location, And Campus Life
A medium to large size school will have enough variety for exploration. If you are comfortable with a small school, like the personal attention, or want to be close to home, college search engines like collegeboard.com and princetonreview.com can sift schools through these filters. Collegeboard.com includes the student body demographics.
Where the school is located (big city or a small town) can affect the campus environment and what there is to do when you are not in class. Also consider the proximity of transportation to the campus; things like airports, bus or train terminals.
What kind of college atmosphere are you looking for? Do you want a commuter or residential campus? What activities (sororities/fraternities, clubs, athletics) are available?
If you haven’t already, go on a campus visit. A lot can be gleaned from walking the paths of colleges and universities. Most tours are run by students who are eager to share their experience with you.
Yes, it is a lot to consider. But, you never know what will emerge until you search.
Next Life 101: November 1
Upcoming topics: college applications, scholarships and financial aid.
College fairs are a great opportunity to research several colleges all in one location. The closest to Lyons/Longmont is at Monarch High School in Louisville on Wednesday, October 9 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Other college fairs you may want to attend:
• Saturday, October 5, 1 to 4 p.m., NACAC2 - Denver College Fair
Colorado Convention Center - Denver.
Register at www.gotomyncf.com.
• Tuesday, October 8, 6 to 8 p.m.,
Northern Colorado-Out of State College Fair (195 colleges)
Poudre High School - Fort Collins
• Wednesday, October 9, 6:30 to 8: 30 p.m., College Fairs of Greater Denver (240+ colleges), Monarch High School - Louisville, collegefairsdenver.org
• Thursday, October 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., College Fairs of Greater Denver (240+ colleges), John F. Kennedy High School - Denver, collegefairsdenver.org
• Saturday, October 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., College Fairs of Greater Denver (240+ colleges), Mountain Vista High School - Highlands Ranch, collegefairsdenver.org
• Thursday, October 17, 6 to 8 p.m., NACAC2 - Performing and Visual Arts Fair, Denver Center for the Performing Arts - Denver, Register at www.gotomyncf.com
2 National Association for College Admission Counseling
Life 101 Parent’s Tips
Below are some tips for how parents can help their high school seniors.
• Offer suggestions on post secondary education
• Search schools at collegeboard.com and share your results
• Share your post secondary experience
• Read over list of college fairs and decide which you will attend with your senior
• Be clear with your high school senior what you can contribute financially
• Only contribute to your child’s education if you have secured your retirement
• Research the national average of student loan debt and its impact on college graduates, share this with your child
• Explain to your child that student loans are not discharged through bankruptcy
• Also, explain that tax refunds and wages can be garnished to cover outstanding student loan debt
• Read Debt Free-U by Zac Bissonnette