It still seems not that long ago when I graduated from high school. I attended one of the most rigorous schools in California, one of the top students in my class, and my teachers were extremely proud of me. They had the top ranking students stand on the stage as they went down the row and announced the schools that we would be attending. Some prestigious schools were announced as our destinations: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Brown University, UCLA, and so on.
However, at that rehearsal I shocked everyone as I revealed a simple fact: I was not going to college. No one could understand how I could just walk away from education. The answer was not that complicated, though, as I was the poorest student of my classmates as well, which had severely held me back. I had no car or even a license, couldn’t afford to prepare for or even take the SAT tests, let alone pay the application fees for colleges, no family who had experienced college to give me advice or even financially help me get through everything.
The only way I could get through life after high school was to start working. I did not step foot on college grounds until I had worked enough and had come into contact with people who wanted to help me succeed and gave me advice on how to get through the college experience. I know my story does not match every experience, but this information about college admissions was golden to me and is just as valuable to anyone who wants to continue going to school.
Deciding On A Major
There are endless possibilities in the current era, and with that means that there are an extremely high number of degrees and majors that one can work towards. Some schools have quite a breadth of courses and others that specialize in something specific, whether it be art or architecture or even video games. Starting college means that you should have some idea of what you want to do.
If you are 100% sure that you know what you want to do, look into a school that specializes in that area. However, if you are not entirely sure and want the safety of being able to change to a different field with ease, then try looking into a school with more degrees and departments. However, notice that the importance here is not on picking the right school, but on the right major. Any school can be a perfect opportunity for their students, and some students who have reached too high have gotten discouraged and plummeted, despite their talent and ambition.
The school itself is a tool to what you want to do, and so having a major in mind is crucial. Some don’t exactly know what major they want to pursue, and that is fine, as some schools allows undecided or undeclared majors in, but some schools will require a major to be already declared. Also, consider where majors lie on the practicality-passionate scales. Many majors are precious in the contemporary world, such as medicine and technology-related degrees, which would be regarded as practical, but some people might not be passionate about it and won’t succeed just because it feels toilsome.
On the other hand, there are also many majors that are extremely enjoyable for individuals to study, such as philosophy and the performing arts, which would instill a sense of passion, but the world might not find those practical and won’t have a high demand for jobs in those areas. Ideally, you want a major that has both in it, but if, for some reason that is not possible, it is up to personal evaluation whether a practical or passionate degree path is more important to you.
One of the important issues to consider in going back to college is the idea of taking the SAT and ACT tests. These are the tests that assess your readiness for a university level of education, and so most, if not all, schools look at an applicant’s score and compare it to their standard. A more prestigious university will have a higher testing standard while a newer university might have a lower one, and so when selecting a college, your test scores could help narrow your options. Let’s say, however, that a person goes into either of these tests and does poorly on them, but still really wants to go back to school for higher education.
There are two options for a situation like this: the quick and slow routes. The quick way requires purchasing books or classes or any multitude of materials that will help with studying for the SAT and ACT tests before paying for another test. While this requires a lot of money in the immediate time, spread out as many times as you take the test, this is an excellent path for those who are dead set on going to a university level school right away.
The slow route, going to community college and taking enough classes, actually eliminates the SAT or ACT requirements altogether and allow you to transfer to a university. Not only that, but some of the classes will be cheaper at a community college than at a university, and you could even get an Associates degree under your belt, or a Bachelors at some colleges now. The biggest downside to some would just be the time factor as this will take years to get to a university, and perhaps they feel like they would not get the greatest immediate education, which is a situational complaint. Either route is efficient for getting into a university, and so it ultimately comes down to how far do you want to go and how long are you willing to wait.
The most important step in going to school is applying for it. If you are planning on going to a community college, then the application process is simple, as it usually just requires filling out a registration form and completing some assessment testing. For a university, however, the process can be a bit more complicated. Applications might require fees, or letters of recommendation, or a transcript, or any number of items.
Depending on the major you’ve decided upon, you might be required to give an interview or audition, or submit a portfolio of your work, or even write an essay for evaluation. Each school has its standards, and so the wisest path is first to decide what field you want to pursue, next what schools you would consider, and then look through the website and find all the requirements of attendance. Compose a checklist with the deadlines of all of the different steps that you need to complete by a certain time in order to be considered as a potential student, and then make sure you will be able to complete each item in time.
The last piece of advice about college applications is this: think shotgun, not sniper rifle. One of the deadliest choices is to limit yourself to one option, because if it does not work out there is nothing to do but wait, whether it be a quarter, a semester, or even an entire year before trying again. Instead, apply to as many schools as feasibly possible, as you increase the odds that at least one school will accept you. More than likely several schools can take you, and you’ll have the ability to choose where you would rather go. However, it is understandable if you are in a situation where you cannot just pick up and move your life right away to a brand new city, or even a brand new state. If there is a university that is nearby then takes the opportunity to go there, but otherwise community college might be the safest option for the time being.
Unlike high school, US colleges have a cost for students. It does not matter if it is a community college or an Ivy League university; there is a price to pay. These costs can be directly related to education, such as tuition and books, but can also include external factors such as transportation and living expenses. Moreover, with the current conservative wave overtaking America once again, these costs of education do not seem to be diminishing anytime soon. With this in mind, financial aid is vital in leading up to college. With the colleges you are applying to in mind, there are two ways to handle the issue.
The first is applying for the scholarships and grants that are offered through the school. Even a community college has money donated simply to award to new and returning students alike, giving them an opportunity to continue their education. Some of these do not even get granted because people do not take advantage of them, so it would be wise to begin searching through the college’s website or catalog and see what opportunities are there. The other path to financial aide is called FAFSA.
This is the government-run financial aid institution that makes sure that college students can pay for higher education. All that is needed is to go to their website and fill out a series of web page forms for free and then wait to see what you are rewarded. It is important to note that this should not be done after a college has accepted you, but either before or during applications. FAFSA will send the school your information, and each school will have a personalized financial aide awarded to you if you decide to attend. Waiting will make it harder to receive aid and take longer to receive whatever is eventually granted.
The college admissions process can seem daunting at first, but when one considers the importance of having a college education in the contemporary world, it is a necessary first step. There is no shame in waiting to start. There is no shame in going back to school or transitioning right away. There will always be a challenge with whatever circumstances arises, but I sincerely hope the advice I’ve lived and am living right now will be helpful in pointing individuals in the right direction.