🗣 Finding Our Student Voice 🗣 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding Student Life
As I completed my daily ritual of bringing the mail into the household, I began to notice an influx in the envelopes addressed to me from various colleges and universities. Similarly, my inbox...
was flooded with emails from “office of admissions” and newsletters about standardized testing. The realization dawned on me; it was time to start thinking about college.
Secondary education and life after high school had always been a distant worry, something for me to think about when I was older. Although we had completed a multitude of “career plans” and projects about college, I never really accepted the fact that I was going to have to make these decisions. It’s a very stress-inducing topic for me, especially since I don’t have any solid aspirations or thoughts about where I want to go or what I want to do. Simply even brainstorming or listing off options I was interested in always presented a challenge for me. I was stuck in the mindset that I would have to follow through with whatever I put down on the paper or be labeled a failure. I know this may seem silly for a sophomore or freshman to be taking the matter so urgently, but this subject has always weighed heavily in the back of my mind. I didn’t want to be stuck in something that I hate or am not proficient at, pushing through with great effort to accomplish something I don’t really care for. That fear further propelled my doubts about my abilities and aspirations, making me more lost than before. I set myself up for unattainable standards that would ultimately lead to failure, which is not the best start to a project that doesn’t even affect my final decision.
How do you begin to even overcome these pervasive doubts? Unfortunately, they may very well persist throughout your college career and even further into your adulthood, but they need not be so overwhelming. Firstly, I believe that you should start by narrowing down your interests and aspirations. Participate in as many clubs as you can; doing something you could have never seen yourself enjoying could lead to a lifelong hobby or career. Join your school’s robotics team; go debate on the mock trial team; go learn how to play the piano. The sky’s the limit, especially when you’re in high school, and this is the perfect time to discover what makes you passionate. Even if you don’t plan to pursue any of these fields, extracurricular activities still cultivate life skills that you’ll use in unexpected situations.Additionally, after-school programs provide opportunities to meet new people and add a new dimension to your high school life. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t even have to be exceptionally skilled in your club to enjoy it or get something out of it. Furthermore, you can even earn scholarships or discounts on your tuition for these programs, which leads us to our next topic: paying for college.
For those of us who are not in the wealthier range of society or do not have guaranteed scholarships, the mere thought of college tuition can bring about new waves of anxiety. Just looking at the average price for a year of education at each school would deter me from even considering applying. Although I still struggle with these doubts, several strategies can be implemented to combat student debt. Always consider all of your scholarship opportunities; there are always more available than you think. Most colleges offer bursaries based on economic status, GPA, and testing scores, which you will most likely qualify for at least once or twice. For example, the University of Huntsville Alabama provides a $17,700 scholarship to out-of-state students with a GPA of 3.5+ and either an SAT score of 1310-1440 or an ACT score of 28-31. Even before starting the college application process, there are options curated to specific interests. The Carson Scholars program hosts an annual writing competition that allows students to display their vocational abilities with the chance of earning a scholarship and recognition of talent. Working part-time jobs or internships, if time allows, also provides real-life experience and additional income. Applying and qualifying for bursaries or including job experience also adds extra bulk to your qualifications and awards, making you a more viable candidate to a variety of schools.
If you feel reasonably confident about the last two steps, how do you find your dream college? Although the “perfect college” may remain only a fantasy for some students, you should be able to find one that you like and want to spend the next 4+ years of your life at. In determining where you want to pursue your degree, it’s important first to figure out what you value the most. Consider questions such as: “Do I want a big or small campus?”, “Is having a ton of local restaurants and shops accessible important to me?”, “Do I want to stay close to home?”. Narrowing down your “wants” and “needs” through simple yes and no queries can significantly lower the seemingly overwhelming number of choices available to you. Finding and filling out college lists, like this one, can also bring factors you may have never considered to light.
You should always visit campuses, if able to, as they provide a firsthand experience of the environment you’ll spend the next stage of your life in. However, if you do so, come prepared beforehand; research the different buildings and surrounding areas to familiarize yourself with the campus. It can also be helpful to book student-led tours to learn from a new perspective and access inside information that may not be available on the website or brochures. This summer, my family and I made an impromptu trip to Georgia Tech on our way home from Florida. We wandered the campus for about 30 minutes before deciding to get back on the road. Although it was nice to see what the campus looked like, I had no idea where anything was or what I was looking at. Although there were signs on the outside of buildings, I had no idea if they pertained to my intended major or if they were even in use anymore. In conclusion, I wandered the campus without gaining a better understanding of the area or the facilities open to me, ending in a pretty useless visit. It’s always better to be prepared because you can gain more from the situation, which can apply to most aspects of life.
It’s completely normal and understandable when beginning and undergoing the college preparation process. You’re initiating the next chapter of your life, which for many could be far away from home or pursuing a major that continuously challenges you. Just make sure you aren’t forcing yourself to endure too much stress; your school counselors, teachers, parents, and older siblings are there for you to seek advice from and will not let you undergo the process by yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help; that’s what they’re there for. Although making definitive decisions about your college career may seem scary, just know they’re not permanent. You can always switch majors and careers, even after you graduate. You don’t have to be stuck in something you hate because you have the freedom to change your fate.
Additionally, a college education is not a prerequisite for success. If you know that you want to pursue a career that doesn’t require a degree, there’s no reason for you to go to a university. Don’t let yourself be pressured into something you know won’t benefit you because it’s your own life. Similarly, you can always take a gap year, work, or travel abroad before attending college. Your education is not a linear path and is made to follow your interests and passions, not anyone else’s. Make sure that you’re choosing the best course of action for you throughout this process, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a fantastic and successful experience.