High school students have to decide not only where to go to college, but whether to go

Keeping with our college theme over the last day, here is some practical advice for high school students from Carol Barash, author of  “Write Out Loud” and founder and CEO of Story2.

By Carol Barash

The college landscape is shifting rapidly, with families asking which colleges are best and which are worth the cost. Here are some questions to help you decide what school you should attend, and how college fits in your larger work and life plan.

As college acceptances and rejections arrive, students need to think about their options.

As college acceptances and rejections arrive, students need to think about their options.

What if you are admitted to the colleges you want? If you’re choosing between colleges, ask yourself:

Am I ready for college? For most students college is a big change. Classes are interspersed throughout the day. There are many long-term projects. And you only get the help you need if you ask for it. You’ll need to do your own laundry, manage your own money, diet and sleep. Begin fostering the habits of mind – including self-awareness, self-discipline and persistence – to succeed in college.

Do I have a viable plan to pay and stay in college? Many students stumble in the large, lecture-style gateway courses that they encounter freshman year, wasting precious scholarships – and time – landing on their feet. Talk with a financial aid officer at the college you’re planning to attend. Ask them the real, all-in cost of college, how long students really need to finish, and what are the common pitfalls you need to avoid to finish in four years.

What do I need to start strong and do my best? Maybe in high school you’ve had extra time on tests, or prefer essay questions to multiple-choice. Perhaps you struggle with writing, and have relied on a writing tutor in high school. Or maybe you learn best through practical experience. Be honest about what you need to succeed, and choose a college with programs and services that fit your learning style.

What if you don’t get into the colleges you want? Then you want to think about:

Is college what I need next? With many large companies – including Ernst & Young and Google – rethinking the college requirement for entry-level jobs, you may not need college to get a jumpstart on a solid career. Maybe, instead of college, you want to get a job and save money for college later. Look for companies like Starbucks with management training programs for long-term professional success. Some will pay for all or part of college.

If yes, what are my other choices? Make sure to check out all your local college options. You may be able to start in the summer or winter, instead of fall. There may be an adult learning program that provides access to similar courses and is more flexible. Or, if your grades were so-so in high school, you can often fill the gaps at a community college, and then apply to transfer to a four-year college. Be strategic; think about what you want to gain from college, not just which specific college.

If not college, what does the next chapter look like? If you feel burnt out from high school, a bit anxious and confused, you’ll find many year-long service learning and experiential learning programs – such as Global Citizen Year or Uncollege – and many offer scholarships. Sometimes you can use Pell Grants to learn coding, or for other career-track courses. Consider all your options for courses, career and community learning before making your final choice.

You also want to ask how college fits with your career and life plan. If you are graduating from high school this year, you will switch jobs at least five times, and most of the jobs you’ll have don’t even exist yet! Here are three things you should think through with that uncertain future in mind:

•You can’t count on college to get you your first job: With the exceptions of accounting and computer science, there are very few college majors that lead straight into a first job. So what do you need to do – in addition to your courses – to be prepared for the world of work? Include internships, work-study, and experiential learning in your overall learning mix to be ready to jump into your first job.

•Use college to prepare for 21st-century careers: College is still, for the most part, organized around subject matter. In college they’re called “majors.” The Internet calls this “content,” and since it’s so readily available it’s not as valuable as it once was. Future jobs will go not to people who know content, but to people who can assess and communicate the value of content. Whatever else you study in college, upgrade your written and spoken communication skills and learn to analyze data (statistics).

•Educational debt is dangerous: As the cost of college has risen dramatically over the past 20 years, families have taken on more and more debt. Do whatever you can to avoid student loans, especially ones with high interest.

There is an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans, and God laughs.” While it’s important to plan and make the best decisions you can, there is an element of surprise and discovery in education. Remember to stay open to what you are learning not only from your classes, but also from your friends and your community – and be willing to create new opportunities when the old paradigms no longer work for you.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
eulb
eulb

"... whether to go." 

My eldest son took a "gap year" before attending college.  He didn't do anything exciting during that year, but he did hold a job and get a little bit more mature.  When he did enter college the following year, it was still very daunting and something of a social minefield.  He made his share of mistakes, but I feel sure he handled the challenges better than he would have if he had not taken that gap year.

 Guns on campus were not an issue then.  If any of my son's peers brought guns to school (GA Tech), he was never aware of it.  Now that it's a big issue, I would be even more inclined to encourage high school seniors to take a gap year, or maybe 2, before heading to college.  Maybe by then, the issue will be settled and colleges will have adapted to whatever turns out to be the "new normal."


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

There is another option for high school students that should be mentioned: the state's two-year technical colleges within the Technical College System of Georgia, located all over the state. These prepare students for jobs that require technical training, and their graduates usually find jobs that pay well. There are HOPE grants available for students at these technical colleges, and their entrance requirements are lower than for the USG academic colleges/universities. These technical colleges also require basic Core Curriculum courses like the USG institutions, and I think those courses are transferable to the USG schools. (Check to be sure.)


This is a great option for students with a strong mechanical aptitude, and little interest in traditional academics. See: https://tcsp.edu

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

The travesty is the "bill of goods" that has been sold to poor students - that by borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to attend a lower tier college, they'll magically make more money.  


As usual, a well intentioned program (govt backed student lending) has resulting in kids getting addicted to "my school payments" - and signing up for classes just to get more loans.  BTW, I had a young lady tell me exactly that at the food bank where I serve 2 weeks ago.  So if you don't believe it, try getting out of your cocoon.


This is just like the govt backed housing loan crisis, where folks who had no business buying houses were burying themselves in mortgages.  And again, deja vu all over again....our wonder govt will come swooping in to "save the taxpayers" from the debacle that the govt itself created.


Using our kid's tax dollars. 


Gotta love our country.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

College significantly changed the lives of both Barack and Michelle Obama for the better. 


All students of college potential should be able to attend college in order to grow into their full potential.

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

I have two nephews who have opted for the Navy.  We need good folks in the military too.  What's more, once you serve, you can get great tuition benefits to then go to college when you are more mature.  This is a great deal. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@WardinConyers Agree.  When I graduated from high school, I had HAD it with school - going on to college at that time would have meant flunking out.  I joined the army instead.  3 years later I was much better prepared to put forth a good effort and had veteran''s education benefits as well.

Although... military service was much less risky for me than it is for young person today - I am SO OLD ("how old are you?") that when I joined the army we were not at war with anyone anywhere in the world (excluding our cold war with the USSR).  It is a shame that the above has not been true for a couple of decades now...

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

I retired as a professor in a local community college after 13 years of it.  Prior to that, I was in public education 18 years, and two years in a small Methodist junior college.  College is not for everyone, but unfortunately, many high school guidance counselors do not see it that way.  It seems like its college prep, college prep, rah, rah, rah.  Nonsense.  Some folks are just not suited for college.  Some are not prepared, but some don't need it.  Unfortunately, too many school districts focus on college as the goal.  We will always need people to fix things.  I think more emphasis should be shifted to shop and the like.  Besides, the way costs of tuition and fees have skyrocketed, who needs it?  


Clark Howard is right.  If you truly want and need college, consider spending the first two years taking care of your core areas at a accredited state community college from which it is also much easier to transfer almost anywhere.

angelcont
angelcont

@ajc oh that's news! Because it has not happened before, right?

EastAtlanta
EastAtlanta

Too many people in colleges. Many of the community colleges are little more than two more years of high school, filled with the same uninterested students and dull, ill prepared instructors.

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

@EastAtlanta Correct!  I taught in a community college for 13 years after 18 in public education.  It was often like extended high school, and too many kids could not read or write.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@WardinConyers @EastAtlanta 

I don't know how long ago it was that you retired from the "local community college" where you taught. If that was one of the USG two year "access colleges," they've changed within the last five years or so. The Regents began phasing out the Remedial courses, and the Pell grants began covering fewer remedial course hours. Entrance requirements pretty well guarantee now that few admitted "[can] not read or write."  Their function now within the USG system is that they are transfer institutions, preparing students to successfully transfer to the 4-year USG universities.