The College Search for North Carolinians: Exploring Your Options

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The College Search for North Carolinians: Exploring Your Options

A college education is one of the best investments you can make for your future and your family. You might think that college is not for you or that it makes more sense to earn money now. While getting into college can seem overwhelming or it can seem like it is financially out of reach, there are many resources out there to help guide you along and help you find scholarships and ways to pay for your education. Your future IS limitless, but you must be open to exploring all your options.

College can prepare you by teaching you important skills, such as communication and tolerance, and it also can expand your social horizons. By meeting new people from all backgrounds and experiences, you develop a network of contacts that can help you throughout your entire life, both personally and professionally. Of course, a college degree will qualify you for more opportunities and improves your salary. The U.S. Census Bureau has shown that a high school graduate makes an average $33,609 a year, but a college graduate makes $59,635. That’s $1.3 million more over the course a lifetime!

So how to prepare?

  • Plan early: you don’t have to know what you want to do or where you want to go. That is more than OK! Find a mentor. It could be a teacher or a neighbor. It could be the owner of the store where you buy your snacks every week. Ask about what they do and what kind of training or education they needed.
  • Be responsible for your education: pay attention to your grades (GPA) and the type of courses you take to be as ready and competitive for colleges as possible. Does your school offer honors or AP courses? Take them and challenge yourself! Don’t forget to stay on top of deadlines to submit applications.
  • Get informed: go online and take a look at different college websites. Think about what you are looking for. Are you looking for a large school? A smaller community college? A particular major? A vocational training program? Flexibility that allows you to work part-time? Diversity of the student body? Do you want to stay in North Carolina? Call the college admissions office to speak with a current student or administrator to find out more. Visit if you can. The more you know, the more empowered you will be.
  • Take those exams: Not many people like taking the standardized tests, so you’re not alone. But colleges often require them. Find out from the schools in which you are interested what their testing requirements are. State and private colleges often require the SAT or ACT, but many community and technical colleges require placement exams instead. Don’t be nervous about them – there are plenty of books you can take out of the library that can help you practice to get comfortable with test. Don’t forget that the College Board (which administers these exams) offers fee waivers. Don’t forget the deadline to apply to take them.
  • What’s your story?: Not every school requires this, but many require a personal statement or other essay. This is your chance to tell YOUR story that goes beyond your grades and your test scores. Many colleges are looking to build a community and aren’t interested in just numbers. Be honest, be yourself. Answer the question. Spell check. Make sure you give yourself enough to time to have a teacher or someone else read it and offer you comments for feedback.
  • Money, money, money: It’s no secret: college can be expensive. But there are a lot of scholarships out there for college students. Apply for those that you think “fits.” There are many scholarships for minority, underrepresented, and female applicants. There are scholarships for students from certain regions of the state, for first-generation college students, or for students interested in majoring in a particular subject. There are even scholarships for left-handed students! Also, don’t forget that there are lot of federal grants and loan programs for students. To be considered for these, you have to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Read the deadlines so you are sure to get your information in time to be considered.
  • Good resources:
  • College Foundation of North Carolina has wonderful guides and resources to help you along, from a high school planner exploring careers to writing your essay: www.cfnc.org; 1-866-866-CFNC
  • Explore careers:  Occupational Outlook Handbook Online: www.bls.gov/oco/; America’s Career InfoNet: www.acinet.org
  • Financial support: FastWeb: www.fastweb.com; FAFSA: www.fafsa.ed.gov; Scholarships.com: www.scholarships.com

Remember to talk to your school counselor, principal, or teacher. Talk to your family, pastor or other trusted mentor. Talk to them about your plans – they can be incredible resources for you. They can also be wonderful advocates for you as you continue on your journey to reach your fullest potential. Your future is in your hands!

 

 

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