Saturday, August 1, 2015

Your College, Your Future

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By: Allison B.

            High School can be a difficult time for any teen. There are so many new things that you have to learn, and people you have to get along with, that it can be really stressful. But possibly the most dreaded year is Junior year. Everyone is taking some of the toughest classes; ACTs and SATs are being nervously prepared for, and we’re all just under A LOT of stress. Because at this stage of Junior or Senior year, there’s that one thing lingering in the backs of our minds, “Oh no! I have to start thinking about college! What do I do?” Preparing for college can be a very difficult for a lot of teens. Whether you think “But my GPA’s not good enough to get into……” or “But……is just so expensive” or even “Things are too competitive these days. I’ll never get into the college I want,” that’s where you can take a deep breath and calm down, because college isn’t all about those things. College entrance isn’t just based on grades and scores. It has to fit you. Before the college can choose you, YOU have to choose the college! And there are a few things you’ll want to consider first.
·       Make sure the college is a good fit for you by researching about the school you’re interested in online
·       Check to see if the college offers your major or has a lot of major options if you are undecided
·       Schedule a group or private college tour to see for yourself what the college campus, location, people, and buildings are like
·       Make sure you like the college’s atmosphere
            Since Junior year is the year you should really start to think about your college options, a good way to start is to make a list of everything you want in your college. Cambridge High School Counselor and former Girl Scout Kellen Kuglar says that “when choosing a college, you need to find the one that’s the best fit for you, considering everything from academics, to campus size and location, to student life.” Take the time to research your college to see if it has the kinds of things you might want it to have. Here are some really good websites to help get you started: 
I know it’s a hard thing to think about, and many of us have no idea what we want to do, but another important thing to consider is academics and major. Don’t apply to a liberal arts school if you really want to become an engineer. 2015 graduate of Northview High School and former Girl Scout Lindsey Moon, now a freshman at Georgia College & State University, said, “One of the reasons I chose Georgia College and State University was because of my major. I want to major in Early Childhood Education, so I had to choose a college that offered that as a major.” And it’s totally normal to not know what you want to do in life yet. Kuglar reminds us “when looking for a college, you should choose one with lots of options if you are undecided. That way when you pick your major, you won’t necessarily have to transfer.” And you can always go to a college that has something you’re really passionate about, like music or a sport, where you can turn it into a major if you want.
Now after you’ve thought about what your college should offer, one of the most important things to do is go on college tours, in-state as well as out-of-state. Spring Break of Junior year is a good time to do it, though college tours can fill up quickly and get pretty crowded at this time, so it’s good to start even earlier. Don’t forget that a college tour doesn’t just have to be a group tour. If you know your major, or at least what you’re passionate about, you can call the office of that major department or college and ask for a private tour. It’s good to get a tour from a student AND an adult if possible to get both perspectives. And when you go, be sure to eat in a student cafeteria, take a look at the dorms, tour the buildings with the majors that interest you most, and ride the bus. College tours allow you to see so many great and important things within the college. Kuglar says “a lot of students make the mistake of not visiting colleges, causing them to miss out on the chance to really dig deeper into the feel and layout of the college.” This is where you’ll actually see what student life is all about, get a feel for the size of the campus and population, and, possibly most importantly, be able to experience the college atmosphere. When I took a tour of the University of Georgia, it was a lot of fun to eat in the cafeteria and learn my way around the campus on the bus. I also enjoyed getting to see for myself how nice the students were and how friendly the atmosphere felt.
The college atmosphere, campus, and academics have to fit what you want, not what everyone else says is great. Gail Polizzi, the Atlanta Area Representative for Purdue University and a former Girl Scout leader, says “The most common mistake students make when choosing a college is going to a college because their friends are going there, or choosing to go or not go to a certain college based upon what they've heard about it, rather than visiting it and experiencing the atmosphere for themselves.” It’s important to feel welcomed and that you’d actually enjoy going there. Don’t feel pressed to go somewhere just because a tour guide talks about how “truly fantastic” the college is, or that “it would be so much better if you went here!” GCSU Freshman Lindsey Moon says “I chose Georgia College because it felt like home. When I stepped on the campus, I immediately felt a sense of home and acceptance.” When you get a feeling like this from a college campus, it can be so much more powerful than just what you hear other people say they might have felt, or what the Internet claims. If you feel right about the college you tour, you may want to consider applying if everything you’ve looked for in the college adds up.
Once you’ve done all your tours and have taken all your major tests, Senior year has probably rolled around. And don’t get scared if you’re behind! It’s totally fine to find a college you truly would want to attend last minute. But when filling out your applications, don’t forget this: you probably want to consider backups. If you apply to a backup college, they’re not going to turn you away just because it’s not your first pick. Backups are backups for a reason. They are places where you wouldn’t mind going. They live up to the things you’ve been looking for, but maybe don’t have one or two things, or as good of something, as your first few college choices. Polizzi says “students may not choose reach schools to apply to because of the fear of not getting into them. They also make the mistake of not applying to colleges that they can fall back upon in case they don't get into their reach schools.” So it’s important to apply to a wide range of schools, with some being easier to get into and some being a lot more challenging.

Looking for the right college can be a long and stressful process, but once you find the ones that fit your needs and emotions most, you’re set! All that’s left to do after applying to the colleges you want is to say “yes” to the one you want to go to most, once you’ve been accepted into it. And no need to fear! Colleges don’t base every little thing on grades. Polizzi reminds us that “there are far more factors that are considered than just strict GPA or SAT/ACT scores when colleges are looking at the applications.” Being well-rounded and a leader in the community are just two of things they consider. With essays, grades, and resumes, colleges really try to dig deep into you and your personality. Because remember: You are not a number, grade, nor score. You are neither a denial nor a waitlist. And you are certainly not “unworthy” or “unsmart”. You are YOU! This is your choice, your college, YOUR FUTURE! And sometimes knowing where to start can be the hardest part, so hopefully you’ve found something in this you hadn’t thought about before. Because when it comes to college, the real choice is up to you!

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