At some point during final exams this month, some families slowly began to realize that this is the last time their rising senior will return to high school in the fall. Eventually, the weight of that realization sinks in and then comes panic. What is going to happen after graduation next year? Do they need to get a job or go to college? Which jobs are they prepared for or which college should they choose, and what should they major in? What are they even interested in?
These are questions I like to ask in eighth or ninth grade but that time has passed for rising seniors. One thing that families in this situation can take to heart is that they didn’t wait until the student was into the fall semester of senior year before taking action. All the “panic” questions need to be addressed before sound decisions can be made concerning colleges and majors. A few things to take into consideration is what the family can afford, the preferred career, GPA, test scores, class rank and the major most suitable for the career in mind. Once this information has been gathered, possible college options will not be hard to find. The research portion of the process can then begin.
If there is a need to conserve money, the distance from home may be restricted to a certain area. The family may also want to target colleges that meet a high percentage of financial need. If the grades and test scores are high, merit-based aid should also be high on the list of college characteristics. Don’t get overwhelmed by the process; remember that a good safety net in most situations is the community college. Just do your homework about where the credit you earn can be transfer.
Once decisions have been made on some (hopefully all) of these areas, work can begin on the application file. The application is only one part of the file that colleges require. Don’t be surprised if an essay is required along with letters of recommendation. It is also a good idea to have a resume handy – if only to give to the people writing your letters of recommendation. The more competitive the college, the more they are likely they will require additional materials to complete your application file. Be sure to triple check anything being sent to the college and then try to relax. You have plenty of time if you get going now