by LAURA GUEGUEN
Help is here for students and parents who are seeking to find the answers to all of those hard-to-answer questions: Where should I go to college? When should I apply? How are we going to afford this?
There are multiple answers and a ton of information is out there. It can certainly become overwhelming for adults, and especially for our students who are planning for their futures. The college admissions process is time-consuming, a bit confusing, and requires a great deal of organization and motivation. As a college and career counselor, I answer a lot of questions about this process, and I have realized there are a great many ‘myths’ about college. I put my efforts into giving students and parents the right information and getting them in touch with the right people that have it. Here are a few examples of the myths that are out there.
Scholarships are the best way to fund your education. Scholarships are fantastic and I want my students to receive as many as possible. The reality is, there is not always a scholarship for everyone. Roughly two out of 30 freshmen will receive a scholarship, and 75 percent of all scholarships out there are based on merit (Scholarships 101). So, those grades certainly matter! The number one response to how people think they will pay for college is, scholarships. Truthfully, families cannot always count on scholarships as a final solution to funding the costs of higher education.
The tuition price in the brochure is what everyone pays. Tuition prices can be very misleading, and they always should be broken down into several categories, such as cost of attendance (tuition for classes), room and board, textbooks, travel, and other costs. Students can often cut costs in areas that are subjective – like personal expenses – but the cost of tuition is not a number that can be manipulated. Room and board can vary based on the living situation (which dorm, number of roommates, etc.). Families should ask specific questions about these expenses when visiting colleges.
As long as I make the deadline, I will be fine. I can’t tell you how many admissions people that I have met that say, ‘Do not wait until that last minute’. Colleges are changing deadlines and making them earlier and earlier every year, and this is not the time to procrastinate. Colleges just seem to be more flexible with admission criteria when they still have open spots for students. This has been my observation. Don’t wait to apply for test scores. Don’t wait to apply for a transcript. Submit whatever you can as early as possible and then sit back and wait for the rest to happen.
Essays are not important and no one will read them. Admission offices require a writing sample for a reason, and I typically hear them say, ‘Please don’t bore me!’ Make them laugh. Make it interesting. Show your character and don’t get hung up on being ‘wordy’ or making it grammatically perfect. It should be well written but interesting – if it puts you to sleep to write it, it will probably do the same for the reader! Use it as an opportunity to really shine.
Many overwhelmed students I meet with simply need help developing a plan of attack. Identify a list of universities (three or four is a good start) that are within reach based on admission criteria. A simple, yet powerful piece of advice is to complete one thing at a time and do them correctly; ask questions, pick up the phone and inquire when you don’t know the answer, and be conscientious. What you do today affects what you will be doing tomorrow, and that will always be on the horizon! Helpful resources for families can be found on the Hays High School website and the “College & Career” tab is updated weekly.