It happens all at once. One day you’re a high school student responsible for attendance, homework, and practice, and the next day people expect you to know what you’re going to do with your life. It’s a lot of pressure to make some big decisions. So, where do you start?
Choosing the right school
With an almost endless assortment of colleges and universities to choose from, you’re probably already awash in marketing materials and statistics. In the long run, your course of study (your major) will go a long way toward launching your career. But the school you choose is an important factor, and that’s why we strongly recommend that you choose wisely.
- Take college tours, and make the most of those tours. Make appointments with staff who can answer your questions about job placement rates, networking opportunities, and internships. It’s important that you feel comfortable on the campus, but don’t be so blinded by beautiful buildings or landscaping that you forget about the important stuff.
- If you’re completely clueless about what type of school might be right for you, err on the side of a larger school with more comprehensive offerings. If you limit yourself to a school with just a few select majors and are dissatisfied with your choice later, you’ll have limited options.
Take your senior year seriously
We see it all the time- good high school students become less-than-stellar seniors. Don’t make this mistake. Your final year of high school is the single best time for you to shine. It’s when you shore up your GPA, further involve yourself in your extra-curriculars, and get a great recommendation from the supervisor at your part-time job. Don’t waste it, because colleges are certainly going to be concerned about how you spend those last few months, both academically and otherwise.
Map out your financial aid
This is the time to finalize your financial plans, and it’s absolutely imperative that you chart a course that will support your career goals.
- Apply for financial aid to get all of the federal and college aid you are eligible for.
- Take advantage of local scholarships that will support your academic endeavors. Remember that every dollar counts and apply for even small scholarships (often times, those are the most accessible).
- Borrow only what you need to support your course of study, and no more. Check out RISLA's College Loan options.
- Choose student loan products that give you the terms and flexibility that you need.
Ask for help
If you’re unsure about how to proceed with college planning, this is not the time to be shy. Talk to mentors, family members, and professionals about how to proceed with applications, how to choose a major, and how to fund your education. Remember that college is a means to an end: you’re going to school so that you can build a skill set to support a future career. Be open-minded, and remember that this course has been charted by prior generations! You aren’t alone if you’re confused or overwhelmed.
Make some careful choices and take these last few semesters seriously, and you’ll build a strong foundation for whatever career follows.
Get free help with the college planning process at the RISLA College Planning Center.