Figuring out where you want to go and how you’re going to get there is stressful and can induce several mental breakdowns. To save you all from that trouble, I’ve generously decided to compile everything I know into this post.
You need to figure out where you want to go. There are several things you need to consider when deciding what university you’d like to attend. There’s cost, size, location, student life, etc.
- Cost: Private universities are considerably more expensive that public ones, but they also have more scholarships to give since they’re so rich. A 4-year education can total up to $100,000 at a public college; a private one is easily double that. Going to school isn’t cheap, so take note of how much it costs and the projected increase for the year you will attend. Ask your parents if they plan to contribute as well.
- Size: Some college have around 8,000 students; others have 45,000. Consider how many people you want to shove past in the lunch line every day.
- Location: Is it in the middle of nowhere? Is it right in the middle of a major city? Will you be stuck in traffic for 3 hours just to get to the Walmart down the street or will you be trailing a tractor and six horses? Does the area have a considerably high rate of murder?
- Student Life: You may find yourself wanting to do something outside of your required classes. Look into what sort of organizations you might be interested in and what sort of entertainment is around the area.
- Major: If you’re not sure what you want to study, just be sure that you pick schools that have all of your interests.
You should pick a dream school, a realistic school, and a safety. You may even want to have several of each, just in case. Here’s where you apply:
- Apply Texas: This is the website for most Texas schools. Once you complete up to page 6, you can copy what you have onto applications for other schools. This saves you the trouble of entering your personal information over and over, but be sure to always double check.
- Common Application: This is for out of state schools and some private schools in Texas, like Baylor and Rice. It’s pretty much the same process.
- Transcript: This is a document with all your grades throughout high school. It contains your rank and GPA. You can pick this up from the counseling center.
- SAT/ACT scores: These must be sent directly from the testing company. Indicate which schools you’d like to receive your scores before you take the test so you don’t have to pay. Plan to start taking these tests your junior year so you can improve if you need to.
- Recommendations: Some colleges don’t want any; others do. If yours do, make sure to notify your teachers ahead of time so they have time to write you a good recommendation.
- Fee: The application fee varies, if there’s even one at all. Some school also accept fee waivers from SAT and ACT, or they have a separate fee waiver request form.
Here’s some application lingo I couldn’t coherently fit into any of those sections:
- Early Decision: This is binding. Should you get accepted, you are required to attend this school.
- Early Action: This is non-binding. Should you get accepted, you have until the regular decision deadline to accept or deny their offer.
- Superscore: Not all schools do this. Basically, they take the best scores from sections of your tests and combine them to create a composite score. For example, say you got a 550 on your math and writing SAT sections on your first try. This means you got a 1100 composite score. Say you take it again, and this time, you score a 700 on math (woo!) and 400 on reading (boo). This totals to 1100, again. A superscore would take your new 700 on math and your old 550 on reading to make a 1250 total!
- Grant: Money you don’t have to pay back.
- Scholarship: Money you also don’t have to pay back, but these are usually merit-based.
- Loans: You do have to pay back this money by the agreed amount of time.
- Merit-based: Based on things like grades and extracurricular achievement.
After you apply, you may start to wonder: how am I going to pay for the ever-increasing cost of college? Here’s some tips:
- FAFSA: This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s government money. Award amounts are determined by financial need. You should apply October of your senior year. Don’t wait until the deadline to apply; money doesn’t wait around. This can be filled out online.
- TASFA: This is the Texas Application for State Financial Aid. This is for non-citizens who are Texas residents. This has to be done on paper.
- Outside scholarships: There’s tons of scholarships out there. There’s some big-name ones like Gates Scholarships and Coca Cola that give you a full-ride, and smaller local ones that have smaller award amounts. Take anything you can get. If it’s $500, then that’s $500 you didn’t have before. You can sign up for scholarship search engines like unigo.com and collegegreenlight.com to help you locate them. Be sure to also check the scholarship wall in the counseling center.
- Family: Look into how much your parents plan to contribute or if they maybe have a savings account for you. If it’s not much, have a graduation party. It’s the perfect opportunity to have a fundraiser under the guise of celebration.