What an exciting team this must be for you as you hear from universities and colleges about acceptance! For some the news is great; you got into the schools of your choice but now have the daunting task of deciding what school to begin your collegiate career. This is a big decision that needs to be given thoughtful consideration and I’ll highlight later on in this blog some steps you can take to make the decision process more manageable. Next, there are those students who got into several of the schools they applied to but unfortunately not your top two or three schools. This is a tough pill to swallow but do not lose hope because there may be a way for you to still get to your top school, however it may not be the original way you planned. And lastly, we have the student who applied to just one school (which I truly hope is not the case for any of you), and sadly didn’t get in. No matter what scenario applies to you, the million dollar question is, “What’s next?”
First, I need to tell you that the three scenarios described above have been experienced by many, many people who had aspirations of going to college just like you! In fact, you know some of them. They’re your parents, brothers, sisters, mentors; the list goes on and on. My goal by the end of this blog will be to provide you students with tips I hope you will find useful no matter what category you fall in. The end result I want to help you understand is there is no obstacle or roadblock that you cannot overcome. We all experience setbacks in our life, whether it be personal, professional, etc. What truly matters is the steps we take to overcome the wrench that is thrown in our plans and if we can learn something from it.
So let’s focus on the student who only applied to one school and didn’t get in. Again, I hope this is not the case for any of you, but just in case, let’s see what options this student has because they do have some. So you didn’t get into the one school you applied to for whatever reason; does that mean you can’t still attend college, absolutely NOT! What this means is now instead of going directly into a four-year institution, you want to start applying to local community colleges so you can at least be taking classes by the time the fall semester rolls around. There are many students who choose to start their post high school graduate career at a community college for a number of reasons. Some reasons include financial restraints, a need to improve upon a grade point average, etc. Whatever the case may be, the good news is starting off at a community college will enable students to still get a sense of what life is like after high school and they definitely help prepare students to be even more successful once they are ready to transfer to a four-year college or university. The moral of this story is even if things did not go as planned; don’t give up on going to college. If there is a will, there is a way and you still have options.
The next two scenarios are related in many ways. Students who applied to several schools but didn’t get into their top choice and students who got into all the schools they applied have a very similar decision-making process with only a few caveats. Both students in my opinion need to consider these top five things when making the decision about which schools’ offer to accept:
- How much financial aid is the school offering in your award letter(a few things to keep in mind are how much funding is made up of grants and scholarships, and how much are they offering in the form of loans which include Stafford Subsidized and Unsubsidized, Parent Plus Loans, etc. You want to attend a school that is giving you more money that YOU don’t have to pay back!)
- How close to home is the school you want to attend(I know many of you feel like you want to go out-of-state to get away and start your adulthood and that’s fine, but refer back to bullet #1. If you decide to go out of state for college not only do your tuition and living expenses increase exponentially but you also have to think about the costs you will incur coming home during semester breaks. Gas prices do not appear to be getting any lower so fuel costs will definitely be something you will have to factor into the equation.
- Does the school you want to attend have the exact major you want and do you have a backup plan if you decide you want to change majors(I entered college as a Mechanical Engineering major and the school I attended, UMBC, had a wonderful program. By the third week in my first year of college, I already wanted to change my major. Luckily for me I was able to utilize on-campus resources to find a new major (I went to the Career Services Department and took a personality test that helped pinpoint where my interests lie and what major would most fit my personality)
- Are the school and your academic program accredited by a reputable agency(The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality? Accrediting agencies, which are private educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency (US Department of Education,(2011): http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/).
- Last and most importantly, can you see yourself attending this school for the next 4-5 years of your life(This is a simple but complex question. Many students choose universities for the wrong reasons including popularity for partying, collegiate sports reputation, etc. You want to make sure you a choosing a school that is the right fit for you. While there is an opportunity to transfer if you find a school is not what you expected but the process can be very cumbersome especially when it comes to transferring credits, which could extend your undergraduate career if you’re changing majors or the school will not accept some of the credits from the college you want to transfer from.)
I believe there are many more questions you can up with to help you in your decision-making process, but I believe these five definitely cover some of the most important ones you must consider.
To sum it all up, I believe this is the time where excitement is just beginning for you. You are so close to the end of high school, you can see the stage in the distance that you will walk across to accept your diploma. Getting into college is no easy feat especially these days so I want to applaud those of you taking the steps to continue your education whether it be at a four-year institution, community college, and although I didn’t touch upon it much, trade schools such as Lincoln Technical Institute and The Culinary Institute of America are other options students have to explore to pursue education beyond high school. If you don’t remember anything else I’ve written today, remember this; what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. There will be obstacles and challenges you are faced with that you have never experienced before, but you are capable enough to overcome them. Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.
So until the next time, stay blessed and best of luck on your decision-making journey!
Bridget Akintunde, MHA
FGCB Retention Committee