The college process can feel intimidating and you may have numerous questions like what classes should you take? What should your application essay be about? How will you pay for college? Or is a college tour necessary if all the info is available online?
Every student who has gone to college before you have had these similar questions and many more. So trust me when I say you are not alone. Just like your peers before you, you will in turn figure it all out. A great way to tackle the college process is to have a timeline to navigate you through the college application period. There are many lists available online but you can also consult your guidance counselor, mentor, parents, and teachers for help.
I’d like to share with you some tidbits on how to navigate a few major obstacles you may or may not face during the application process. I was once an incoming freshman like many of you are and was so anxious during this period of preparing for college. Looking back, I realized it was a refining process and one that helped shaped me to where I am today. Read on for a few insider tidbits I wish I knew during the college application process.
You don’t have to know your major freshman year
Relax! You don’t have to know your college major when you start applying to colleges. If you are one of the few lucky ones that do, more power to ya! For those who are struggling with which major to check off during the application process, Fear not. Many, including myself, have been where you are and have managed to figure it out and you will too.
It is a huge decision and that’s why it shouldn’t be made lightly or in haste. It may take some time to figure out exactly what field and career you want for yourself in the future. So feel confident checking the box labeled undeclared if that’s where you are at. Trust the college process; It’s a marathon and not a sprint.
Be wise when it comes to finances $$$
Part of the college process is figuring out exactly how you are going to pay for your education. Seeking help from your high school guidance counselor is a great place to start. You hopefully have already been building a relationship with them throughout your high school career. So they are a great and safe place to turn to and share your needs for financial assistance for college.
Also, your parents are a great source of wisdom and aid during the college process. They may have been saving money aside for you to use since birth or have knowledge about how to go about paying for college. Talk with them and come up with a plan. You’re going to need them more than you know.
Everyone’s situation is different so you must pull all the resources you have together and create a plan that’s unique to you. Don’t be so quick to sign up for loans that will rack up debt quickly. Payment plans, grants, and scholarships are good avenues to explore before seeking a loan through a bank.
Community college is okay too
Attending a community college is a great investment and shouldn’t be looked down upon. At a community college, the prices are relatively cheaper than attending a 4-year university especially since you will be saving on things like room & board and a meal plan that is usually mandatory for freshmen at a 4- year college.
If you are unsure of what major to study, attending a community college might be the right move for you to figure out exactly what you want to do without having to pay expensive fees. Or even if you were rejected from your dream school another option is to attain your associate’s degree at a local community college and reapply as a transfer to your first-choice school. You can use that 2-year gap to not only earn a degree but also focus on strengthening your application to become a more desirable candidate. There are many incentives to taking the community college route so don’t dismiss it just because it’s not the ideal road. What matters more is where you end up; everything else is just part of the process.
Don’t fall for the big-name schools
Havard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, and other Ivy League schools are not just the backdrops of typical American college movies like Animal House, Good Will Hunting, or even Legally Blonde. They are prestigious universities that are known for their rigorous course work and highly competitive admission process. Not everyone can get into an Ivy League college and that’s just a fact. Harvard alone in 2017 had an acceptance rate of just 5.4 % of applicants admitted to the university.
I’m not trying to discourage anyone who wants to go to an Ivy League school. By all means, apply away if that’s what you want. I just hope that you won’t measure your worth and value against being accepted into an Ivy League school. That if you don’t get in that means you are a failure because you’re not. The college process is about finding the right school for you and not the other way around. So a big school or a little one, it doesn’t matter. Just don’t fall for a name, find the one that’s right for you and you’ll be happier because of it.
Plan A Tour Before Committing
Touring a prospective college is a big step all incoming freshman should do before accepting an offer to any university. You need to walk around, explore the school grounds and picture if you can see yourself there. Four years is a long time to be in one place. Unlike your adolescent years, you are are in charge and get to pick the place you want to go to school. So book a tour and explore your prospective college. While on it, don’t be afraid to ask your tour guide lots of questions. They have insider knowledge that will help you with making a final decision.
Yes, you can transfer at a later time if you made the wrong decision. However, that comes with a lot of headaches within itself. Trust me, I transferred twice in my collegiate career and it was a fight to try and get my credits to transfer over to the universities. I ended up having to forfeit some credits and that resulted in not graduating on time as well as racking up lots of debt. So learn from my mistakes and make sure that you love the place before accepting it.