Whether college is on the horizon or looming a few years down the road, there’s information available to help students who plan to continue their education after high school.
As you start your journey, you should beware of scholarships and college search organizations that offer to help you for a large fee. With so many free resources at your fingertips, you can do what they offer on your own, and save your cash for books.
Many high schools and BOCES offer college information nights to give you a starting point, and your child’s guidance counselor can also offer valuable assistance. Watch your district’s website for information on college-related events, or call to set up a visit to chat with the guidance counselor.
There are many reliable online websites. Collegeboard.com has a ton of resources to help with everything from planning for and finding the right college to paying for your education. Sites such as www.guidancedirect.com and fastweb.com are helpful for college and scholarship searches.
If your child is just starting out on this journey, here’s some information to get them off on the right foot:
Most high school students have figured out their schedule for next year. If you have a general – or even very specific – idea of what you’d like to study, figure out if there are high school classes you’ll need to take to prepare you. Review with your guidance counselor to ensure the schedule you’re taking includes challenging classes. Also, be aware that colleges prefer to see that you’ve completed four years of English, as well as math, science, history and a foreign language.
Learn what you can about colleges, and if possible, visit a few while they’re in session. Sometimes a college that looks great online just doesn’t feel right when you visit in person – and vice versa. Think of some questions to ask current students when you visit. Nextstepu.com has links and articles that can help with that and scores of other college decisions.
Determine what kind of college (public vs. private, 2- vs. 4-year) you’d like to attend so you can assess the best college for your intended major and the estimated cost. Collegeboard.com has a financial calculator that can help you determine what you’ll need financially. And remember – not every student pays full price for college. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities as well as financial aid and student loans available.
Don’t have any idea what you want to be when you grow up? Check out this post on “How to Decide Which Career is Right for You” at www.money.usnews.com. There are also aptitude tests you can take to see what careers would be good for someone with your skills/interests. Ask your guidance counselor to point you in the right direction.
Finding the right college takes time and effort, but it’s never too early to start doing some legwork to make the process go more smoothly.
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