Making decisions about college can be stressful. As a high school senior you are constantly being asked “So… what’s your plan after high school? Where are you going? What are you studying?” or having 873486287+ deadlines thrown at your face on when applications are due for colleges, FAFSA, Dream Act, SAT/ACT registration, SAT/ACT test dates, and so much more on top of trying to figure out what colleges to apply to and in general trying to finish off the school year strong. You are living in a time where you are not yet an adult (even if you are of age) but you have to make adult-like decisions that affect where you’ll be during the next two to four years after your high school career. The hardest decision though, is what colleges to apply to.
With 5,300 colleges in the United States, it can be quite difficult on what colleges to apply to. Although I had gone through the application process two years ago, I can vividly remember how stressful I was at looking at all the community colleges, Cal State, UC, and private schools within California to make a decision on what school to apply to. For me, there truly was no other option besides continuing my education after high school, so I knew that the decision I made would have to be a smart one because it was the only option available. During this time, I just like many others, had to make adult-like decisions about life when I had no clue on what being an adult was like. Because of this, I had to take a step back and think about what I wanted in a college, and what I could do within it. From this reflection, I had broken it down into three categories:
- THINK ABOUT YOUR MAJOR
Now this can be difficult because if you were like me, a student who genuinely had no Idea on what area to study or what kind of career I wanted to pursue. Contrary though, if you reflect on what you enjoy doing most, or what profession seems great to look into, or what major has the fastest growing job need by the time graduation comes along, then this won’t be as hard. For me, at least at that time, I felt like psychology was my path to go to because I wanted to learn more on why people do what they do, what process do they go through in order to do it, and what motives do they have on it. I knew I wanted to help people, because that was my ultimate goal, I simply did not know how; I also knew that my natural ability to lead people was what made me happy, it was something I simply never hesitated on doing. Because of my interest in psychology, but a confirmed goal of helping people and my love for leading, I had to look at all possible majors. Anything and everything from business to psychology to nursing to politics, I looked into it all. After creating a list of majors that I believed would best suit my career needs, I began to search schools that had all majors within the school in case I were to change my mind, and I looked into colleges that were specifically known for a specific program. From being able to create an idea on what I wanted to do in the future and what I could possibly pursue, my list of colleges were set.
- KNOW WHAT SETTING YOU WANT
The first step was getting to know what career path I wanted after college and what areas I found interest in to narrow down my college search, after came knowing what I wanted in a college. This included the academic and social aspect of my higher education because of course, if the resources I believed were needed were not available, it may have been a struggle to complete.
Academically. I knew that I was a learner who needed to be in a smaller classroom setting so that I could pay attention and feel comfortable asking questions to my professor instead of being another face in the crowd filled with 50+ students and I knew that I didn’t want to be too scared of raising my hand thinking that my peers would see me as the “dumb one” in the classroom. I also knew that I needed a campus that would have enough resources for me to succeed in my career, outside of a diploma. To me, this was seen as something like internships, work study positions related to my major, partnerships with businesses or organizations, and other areas such as a writing center, tutoring, or health offices to help get my foot in the door and continue to succeed.
Socially. I knew that I needed a campus that had organizations dedicated to helping students succeed or overall have a great experience. This raged anywhere from organizations that represented my culture and many others like Latin America, Black Student Association, Pacific Islanders, and so many more, to a campus that was dedicated to bringing students with common backgrounds together to make connections, such as first generation college students, or a campus that was connected with its community.
From knowing what class size/ school size I wanted, to what resources I needed to succeed, to what organizations and partnerships I needed, it helped narrow down my results on what college would be best for me.
Personally. This category varies, but it can include any small detail like the area the campus is located in (rural/urban- ex: close to the beach), how far away from home it is, whats around it (night life), dorm availability, and so much more.
- FINANCIAL AID/ SCHOLARSHIPS
The last area that I looked into to helped narrow down my college search the average cost for tuition. Endlessly I heard “money should not be the reason why you do no go to college” and I agree, but as a first-generation college student to parents who are in the low-income category, and as a daughter who sees how hard her parents work to maintain everything we have, I knew I wanted to do my best in paying for college on my own. Not having enough money to pay for college definitely worried me. Because of this worry, I looked heavily on what scholarships and financial aid were available throughout each school.
The biggest form of aid that I had received was from FAFSA and California Grants, but others may receive aid from The Dream Act if they are not a U.S. citizen. From FAFSA, I was able to receive aid from the government, as well as work study, and others from Cal Grant and Pell Grant. These are all forms of financial aid, but we can’t forget about scholarships. Scholarships are genuinely amazing because there are millions of scholarships available, ranging from academics to athletics, to Merritt, to ethnicity, to uniqueness (ex: left-handed). Scholarships are available in most colleges, it is a matter of seeing what they offer there. Scholarships do not end there though- there are hundreds of online scholarship applications to apply to, as well as local scholarships being given away from the community.
Paying for college is extremely stressful, and many thoughts come into one’s mind on how to pay for college, but it is a matter of looking for those resources that make that stress go away just a small amount.
It’s so strange to think that I will be graduating from Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelors of Arts in Business Management when not too long ago I was sitting on blue benches in a cafeteria during lunch counting down the days for me to receive my high school diploma. Even then, I had no idea how to answer all the questions that were being asked on what I would do next or where I would continue my studies, but I never considered APU as my destination because it was too close to home. I had decided to look into APU because it had checked off all of my other areas: majors, partnerships, internships, resources, environment, financial and scholarships. I had made the decision that I would give APU a chance, and after reflecting on what I wanted in a college, I was able to see that this campus would be a great fit. Because of these three categories, and from my personal reflection of what I wanted and needed, I am able to share my experience with you. No matter what college/university you attend, know that there is a calling. You are being called into that institution to become brighter, fulfill dreams, and hopefully create change.