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The College Train

Advice on how to get to college.

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My Advice

Your Junior Year

Your junior year of high school is really the best time to do college searching and start some of the college process. Below is a list of things you should be doing.

  • Start touring colleges. Make a list of your top college choices and go visit them (with your parents/guardian). Colleges offer tours everyday of the week and certain Saturdays. It’s important to walk around campus and see if you’re going to like or not.
  • Take the ACT/SAT. With standardize test, practice usually results in a higher grade. The more you take it, the more comfortable you are with it. It may be pricey, but $50 now can save hundreds of dollars in the future.
  • Start researching scholarship you can apply for next. Go to my “Scholarship Hunting” page to see how you do this. Also there are some national scholarship competitions that offer juniors scholarships. If you see one you qualify for and are interested in, apply for it.
  • Start thinking of teachers, coaches, community leaders, family friends, neighbors, etc. that can write letters of recommendation. Scholarships (and some colleges) require at least one letter of recommendation. Make a list of people who you could ask and who would write a GOOD recommendation letter for you. Ask them at the beginning of your senior year and give them a resume or a list of your accomplishments.

Your Senior Year

If you are a senior in high school, here is a list of things you should be doing in order to start college in the fall.

  1. Have a financial talk with your parent(s)/guardian if you haven’t already. Ask your parents if they have a college fund set up for you and how much in there. Ask them if they can or will help you pay for college. Go to fafsa.gov and find out how much financial aid you qualify for using FAFSA4caster.
  2. Apply for your top college choices. Even if you haven’t visit the college yet, go on and apply, so you don’t miss the application deadline. You can visit later.
  3. Retake the ACT/SAT. Unless you have an amazing score and can get into the college you want and the scholarships you want, retake it. It can’t hurt.
  4. Find and apply for scholarship applications. Go to the “Scholarship Hunting” page to see how to find scholarships you can qualify for. Fill out every application that you find.
  5. Apply for the FAFSA. Applications for the FAFSA open February 1. The earlier you apply, the higher your chances are for getting grants and other financial aid. Income taxes are not a requirement to fill out the FAFSA. You and your parents can use a pay stub or last year’s taxes to fill it the application and qualify you for grants in February. Then fill in the correct tax information in April.

“Are there scholarships for old people?”

With online and night classes, it is extremely easy to go back to college for bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees. A few months ago, a mother in her late 30s asked me this question. Since I know there are others who have this same question I thought I would share the answer with everyone.

The proper term for “old people” is non-traditional college student. And like most things that have to do with postsecondary education, the qualifications for a non-traditional students varies from college to college. The qualifications can be age, life experience or a combination of the two. For example, one university may declare a non-traditional college student to be anyone over the age of 25. Another may say a non-traditional student is anyone married before they enroll into the college. While a third college says a non-traditional student is someone who is over 30, married, and have children.

This terminology is very important when looking for scholarships. Yes, there are scholarships for non-traditional students. You can find them the same you find any scholarship- the college’s scholarship office and the internet.

Pro-tip: if you are looking for scholarships online, search for scholarships based on your life experiences and situations. Search scholarships for parents, single parents, divorcees, etc.

To those who want to go to back to school, I wish you good luck and hope you are successful in your endeavors.

AP Classes vs. Dual Enrollment

Want to maximize your time in high school while minimizing your time in college?Consider getting college credit while in high school. You can take advance placement (AP) and/or dual enrollment classes that will give you high school and college credit at the same time.

AP classes are college level classes taught in a high school environment. Students get the high school credit by passing the class like any other class. However, the only way to get the college credit is to scored a 3-5 on the AP test at the end of the year. It does cost money to take the test ($93 as of April 2017). The nice thing about AP classes is you have all school year to prepare for the test. You can also experience a college workload and expectations without being in college. Another bonus to AP classes is that all college and universities accept AP credit.

With dual enrollment classes, you are taking a college class through a college/university (as in you become a part time college student). Dual enrollment classes can solely online, in a classroom environment, or a combination of the two. Passing the class is all that is required to get both your high school and college credit. As for cost…that depends on the school and state. Duel enrollment can range from free to the full cost of a college class. Also, like I mentioned in my Planning to Transfer? article, your college credit from dual enrollment may not transfer to the college/university you want to attend.

Now which option is best for you? To answer that question you need to asked yourself several questions:

  • Are you good with keeping up with deadlines without being reminded?
  • Are you a good test taker?
  • Does the college you want to attend accept credits from the duel enrollment college?
  • Are you and your family willing/able to spend money on college before you are even in college?

Ap classes (1)

 

The Importance of Starting the College Search Early

Before I even started this blog, people have asked me questions about getting scholarships and the college search process in general. I have no problem answering their questions and giving them any advice. My only problem is when they ask me. Parents and students will ask me questions at the beginning or in the middle of the student’s senior year in high school. And though that is when I started the college application and scholarship process, it is much easier if you start earlier than that. I suggest students start searching for colleges his or her junior year. But why start early when everyone else doesn’t?

GIVES YOU MORE TIME TO RESEARCH

Whether you are a high school student that knows exactly what college they want to attend or a student that has no idea if they want to go to college starting the college search early will give you more time to research. Research colleges. Research possible careers. Research scholarships. You have options and you need to know what they are.

YOU CAN MAKE A BETTER DECISION

Deciding where to attend college is the first major decision most students will make. Once you know all your options you can make a better decision. You will make a decision (hopefully) understanding all the benefits and drawbacks to you.

LESS STRESS YOUR SENIOR YEAR

Senior year is filled with so many celebrations, traditions, and parties. No mention your regular school load, any extracurricular activities, and/ or any job you may have. You will be busy. Thus, your college search will take a backseat to more pressing thing like your English paper due tomorrow morning. Starting early will require less work from you your senior year. Your college search your senior year should be a to-do list not a research project.

You want your college search to be marathon not a sprint. Doing a little work here and there, so you is not rushing at the end filling out applications, writing essays, and trying to make a decision.

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