Q & A

Why should I go to college?  Because an education pays.  The skill requirement for many occupations continues to increase and to qualify for these positions a college degree is now required.  Many companies determine promotions and compensation on both education and experience.  Look at different jobs in the newspaper and on job boards.  Find the jobs that require just a high school diploma and also those that require a college degree.  Read the job descriptions, opportunities for advancement, and salary projections.  Where do you see yourself?  Make an informed decision about your future career choices so you can set your educational goals.  Learn to earn.  Over your work lifetime, the average college graduate will earn a million dollars more than a non college graduate. 

Why is the college process so confusing?  The most difficult concept to understand in the college process is that there is not just one right answer, perfect website, or resource for any question that you may ask.  Instead, there are options, choices that only you can make based on what is best for your situation.  To understand the college process, you must understand all of your options.  Every student, high school, financial situation and college is different.  These differences dramatically change the high school to college journey for each individual student.  Because of these differences, the college process often becomes overwhelming and confusing.  Start early, take it one step at a time, and have fun exploring all of your options.

How much time does the college application process take?  That depends on how many questions you can answer about your future.  If you already know where you want to go to college, what you want to study, what your prerequisites are, and have secured all the money that you need, then it will take you less time than those that can't answer these questions.  How much time does it take the average person to pick out a cell phone, a car, a home?  These are all very personal choices and there is no one option that fits everyone.  The more time you spend understanding your options and determining your needs, whether it's a phone, car, home, or college, the happier you will be with the end result.  

I'm only in 7th grade, can I start this process now?  Whether you realize it or not, you have already started the process.  Choices that you are making in school today like classes, extra curricular activities, volunteering, and part-time jobs will influence your choices later in high school and those choices will influence your college decisions and scholarship opportunities.  The more time that you actively spend pre-planning for college, understanding your options, the better your chances are that you will be happy with your final decision.  Besides a home, a college education is the largest investment most families will ever make.  Make an informed decision.   

I haven't done anything to prepare for college, where do I start?    Register online at any scholarship search site, like www.fastweb.com, to start receiving scholarship information.  Download any college application, www.allaboutcollege.com, and look at the information requested.  The earlier you understand what colleges expect of you, the easier it is to plan everything that you need 'to do'.  Understand the process so you can decide how to fit all of the 'to do's' into your schedule.

 I'm not sure where I want to go to college, how do I decide?  Figure out what you want to know about college.  Ask older students why they picked specific colleges and you will naturally come up with more questions.  Spend time at the bookstore and online researching campuses.  Fill out an online profile to narrow down colleges that you might be interested in exploring.  www.review.com  The more you learn about each college, the easier it will be to determine what college best suites your needs.

I don't know what major to pick, how do I choose?  There are free online tests. www.allthetests.com or www.careerkey.org/english/  Look through career books and job boards.  www.bls.gov/oco/  Talk to neighbors, friends' parents, and people you run into in your daily life about what they enjoy about their jobs, people love to talk about themselves.  Work backwards from a job you think you might like, to picking a major that will feed into that job.  www.jobweb.com/resources/profile.asp What are your interests?  If you don't know, ask your friends, teachers, relatives, what they think your good at.  Have you  volunteered in that area yet?  Start tying jobs out by volunteering.  Try a new volunteer experience each semester, or one at Christmas and another in the summer. You don't have to write down every volunteer job you try, only log the ones you enjoy.  Eventually you will find a job, or certain things about a job, that fits.

If I wait till my junior year will I still have time to get ready for college?  That depends on the student and where they want to go to college.  Most students will still have time to get ready for college but their choices could be limited.  Your GPA, high school course selection, and scholarship opportunities may be hard to change by this time.   You may have already missed important deadlines and opportunities because you did not understand the whole process and what your options were.  If you know what 'to do' and when 'to do' it ahead of time, you will have more options. 


Even though you can't fill out your FAFSA form until January of your senior year,  your ability to qualify for aid is determined by your finances from January of your junior year to December of your senior year.


It is important to start looking for money to pay for college early.  The more money you need to find for college, the earlier you should start looking.  You can start applying for contests, awards and scholarships as early as 7th grade.



Additional websites to visit are listed in Countdown to College: 21 'To Do' Lists for High School.  For your convenience you can find "Countdown to College" on Amazon through this web site, at your local bookstore or at any public library. www.worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/ow/afef71c27393242fa19afeb4da09e526.html