College 101

COLLEGE PLANNING

Choosing Schools:

  • Your first step in making the decision about which school you wish to attend is to choose a career path, or college "major". This is not a casual decision. The career path you choose will dictate the type of school you attend, and the costs and training time required. It will also impact your earnings once you complete school with a certificate or degree and start a job. Choose wisely. You will most likely change careers during your lifetime, but you will want to make your initial career choice one that will be fulfilling and will also afford you the lifestyle you expect. Once you know what type of job you want, you can find the 2-year, 4-year, or trade school that will offer the training that you require. You will need to know your career interest or college major when completing the admissions forms at schools. CareerCruising.com offers Lockhart High School students an interest inventory to help make career decisions.
  • Step 2 – The school location and size are important. You will want to attend a school where you are comfortable, and can focus on your studies. Some students wish to live close to home, or in a small town. Others want a large campus and big city lifestyle. Find what fits you best. Plan a campus visit to the schools you are considering and be very honest with yourself about what works best for you.
  • Step 3 – Check for admissions processes and deadlines; they vary from school to school. It is usually better to complete your admissions file as early as possible so that the school has time to review it, and you have time to add anything that you may have missed before the admissions deadline. Does the school require college entrance exam scores, SAT or ACT? Many require essays, an application fee, and letters of recommendation. All schools will need an official copy of your high school transcript. If you have taken any college credit courses, such as ACC, you will need to send in a copy of your college transcript also.
  • Step 4 – Take the PSAT test every year in high school that it is offered. It is a great opportunity to experience a college entrance exam. If you score well on the PSAT during your junior year, you may qualify for scholarships! You should schedule to take the SAT and ACT college entrance exams toward the end of your junior year (May or June); if they are required for admissions or scholarships at the schools you wish to attend. This should give you the option to retest in September and October if you want to attempt to raise your scores.
  • Step 5 – Consider the true cost of attendance for each school. How much financial aid might be available to you? Do you have high school dual-credit, AP credit, or articulated credit that may go toward your certificate or degree at the school? These credits can save money toward the total cost of your education. Generally, it is less expensive to attend a public school in Texas, than to attend a school outside of Texas. Make a cost comparison of all schools that interest you, including travel to and from home. You can review Financial Aid offerings on each school’s website. You will absolutely want to complete a FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) or TASFA during October of your senior year. This form will require your parents’ income information as well as your own, and will let you know how much financial aid you are eligible for at each school you wish to attend. Cost may not be the deciding factor when choosing a school, but it deserves serious consideration.

VISITING A COLLEGE CAMPUS

Visiting a college campus while classes are in session is one of the best ways to get an idea of what college life is like on that particular campus. There are two types of college visits that most students make. Colleges and universities usually have specific dates set throughout the year designed specifically for students who are considering that college for attendance. These “college days” should be listed on the individual college web site, and they are great opportunities for students and their parents to have many questions answered as tour various areas of the campus. Some students prefer an individual college tour as their college visit. In this instance, the student sets up a tour with the college on a specific date, and includes a list of what the student and their parent want to know more about and to see.

Whether students choose to tour individually, or on the specified college days there are some things to keep in mind. Be sure to plan adequate time to find the tour starting point on the campus; most schools have a map and directions. Wear comfortable clothing and walking shoes. Check the weather; most college tours include walking outside between buildings. Have an idea of what is most important for the student and parent to see. Some of the areas that are most popular are: Admissions Office, Financial Aid Office, Department relating to the college major the student has chosen, sitting in on a class pertaining to the student’s college major, eating at the cafeteria, touring housing options, and viewing the athletic facilities and student centers which might be available to students.

Some questions the student and parents may ask the campus tour guide or other campus personnel during a college visit:

1) Why did you choose this college?

2) What other schools did you look at?

3) When do students typically declare a major?

4) How easy is it to switch majors?

5) How is the food?

6) Which dorms did you live in; are there dorm tours available?

7) What is it like to live on campus?

8) What do students do for fun?

9) What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about this college?

10) What are the job and graduate school placement rates?

11) What is the freshman to sophomore retention rate?

12) What is the four-year graduation rate?

13) What percent of students have internships?

14) What are some of the top employers or graduates of this college?

15) What is unique about this college?

16) What are the strongest or most popular majors?

17) Where are students from geographically?

18) What do you like about the location of the college?

19) What study abroad and summer programs are available?

Discovering whether or not the college is the right ‘fit’ for the student is essential. Ask the campus guide any additional questions that interest you. Ultimately, the campus tour should engage you and give you a feeling of whether or not you could see yourself as a student at that college. Your first experience at the college just might lead you to your future alma mater.

For more information about visiting a college, see Ms. Suarez in the Career Center.