College: To Go or Not to Go?
Is college really worth it?
It was a regular summer day in Austin, TX. I was sitting at home in the living room, pondering my senior year of high school, when my mom stepped into the room.
“Do you think you’re ready for college?” She asked me. I glanced down at the Common App website open on my laptop in front of me as the same question began to race through my mind.
There were two options for me: to go to college or not. There were lots of pros and cons to each option, and I wanted to make sure that I was pursuing what really fueled me. College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that many people believe is one of the best things that they have ever done. That said, it can also be incredibly expensive. I knew that if I chose to go to college, I would be spending a lot of time applying for my FAFSA, scholarships, and working an on-campus job in order to pay for my housing, books, and tuition. If I chose not to attend college (or at least not right away), however, there were still lots of great options for me. I could start out working to save up right away, and I could stay at home and spend more time with my family. But I was daunted by the fear that I would be ‘falling behind’ compared to my friends and classmates, and I was feeling the pressure that college life was the way to go. At the end of the day, I knew it wasn’t all black and white.
As I sat on the couch, my laptop screen still glowing in my face, I came up with three questions to ask myself before making my final choice:
- What do I want to study?
- What steps would I have to take before applying?
- Can I handle college?
Let’s go through those questions together:
What do I want to study?
In high school, I was in DECA, an international organization for future leaders and entrepreneurs. It was here that I realized I was gravitating toward the different events and competitions that were related to marketing, so I knew that marketing might be a good field for me to pursue. Most entry-level marketing jobs require a bachelor’s degree, as the undergraduate curriculum introduces students to the essential skills and software that would be difficult to teach outside of a classroom environment. Fortunately, my high school had a job-shadowing program that allowed high schoolers to spend a day with a professional in the community. Because of that program, I got to spend a day at a local advertising agency, learn about its job requirements, and see if I might be interested in it.
Clubs and real-world job shadowing are great outlets for exploration. Without DECA, I might not have known that marketing would be an interest of mine. If you’re unsure of what to study, you might have some great clubs or resources at your high school that could help you understand your interests.
What steps would I have to take?
Once I had an idea of what I might be interested in, I then had to figure out what my next steps even were! I began to answer this question by calling my school and setting up an appointment with my guidance counselor. My counselor ended up being one of my greatest resources throughout the college application process, as she pointed me to some scholarships as well as some websites on which I could look for colleges that might suit my needs. She also taught me how to register for important entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT, but I also took into consideration colleges that were “test-optional.” To help my chances of getting into the schools that did require these scores, I began preparing weeks in advance by reading my school’s bulletin and asking friends and teachers for recommendations about how and where I could prepare for my tests.
There are a lot of steps to take before you actually submit your college application. Thankfully, your school counselor has plenty of resources and knowledge about the entire process. Meet with them so that you know where to turn and how to plan.
Can I handle college?
This was probably the biggest question of all for me. Taking the dive into college life would be one of the biggest changes I would ever experience, so I had to think about what challenges I would face and what great experiences I could gain. Writing down what is motivating you to choose whether to go to college can be a really helpful way to sort out all of the questions that might be rushing through your mind. When you get your thoughts out on paper, you might realize you have a better idea of what you want from college and how you might make the best of your time there.
While resources such as Colleges of Distinction are the best way to learn about your options for college, it might take a lot of “you time” to figure out what the next steps in your college journey are. Making the decision to go to college may be one of the biggest choices you’ve made up until this point in your life, take some time to talk to your loved ones, talk to yourself, and talk to your guidance counselor to help you make a decision. And if you decide that college is right for you, we are here to support you all the way through and to the day you sign your acceptance letter. Ready to learn more? Check out Part II of this series here.