Winter Break is over, or ending, and it's time to come back to the real world. You know, the one where you have about a million forms to fill out that will ultimately decide your future for the next four years? Yeah, no pressure.
But wait! Don't freak out; I'm here to help! Here are some tips as to what you should be doing to prepare yourself for life after high school. If You're Not Going to College:
Life might be pretty easy for you right now...unless you don't have any plans yet. If you already know what you're doing after high school, congrats! You don't have to fill out 27 tons of financial aid paperwork, and about 95% of the rest of your graduating class is dying of jealousy.
But if you don't have plans (besides just not going to college), here are a few suggestions: look into trade schools. They're usually only one or two year programs, and you can often get decently paying jobs right out of training. And if that's not what you want, consider the military. Even if you don't want a military career, it's a good option for getting on-the-job training, which means you can get paid for the same education some of your college-bound classmates are paying to get. Score!
If You're Going to Community College:
Don't make the mistake of thinking you get it easy just because you're not leaving home. You still need to:
- Complete FAFSA as soon as you can! Bug your parents to get their taxes done so you can get your financial aid processed as soon as possible. Even community colleges usually require this.
- Make sure you know what courses you need to take while you're at community college. If you're just going for a two-year program, meet with the registrar to have a basic idea of what's ahead of you. If you're going to eventually transfer to a four-year school, make sure you're talking to registrars at both: which courses will be transferable? Are their any basic courses from the four-year school you can knock out?
If You're Going to A Four-Year College/University:
You're probably getting your acceptance letters in, which means...Welcome to Financial Aid Hell! It'll plague you for the next four years, but it's worth it. We promise.
- Complete FAFSA! Either get your parents to finish their taxes early, or process your FAFSA with estimates for the year (you'll have to correct any mistakes later). Make sure you add all the schools you're considering to FAFSA; even if you're almost completely sure where you want to go, it's still a good idea to have this info on file for multiple schools.
- Contact your schools' financial aid service. Make sure you fill out any additional paperwork your college(s) might have (some schools have their own forms).
- Search for additional scholarships. Unless you're filthy rich, you're probably going to need help paying for college. Make sure you're keeping an eye on those deadlines, and submit your applications as soon as you can. (And double-check that your application was received; there's nothing worse than finding out on the day the scholarship is due that your application was lost in the mail and you have to re-do the whole thing. Trust us.) If you don't know where to look for scholarships, try checking out Fastweb or talking to a guidance counselor.
- If your high school or area has a financial aid night, attend it. They might have tips you didn't think about or access to scholarships you haven't heard of.
- Visit the schools you've been accepted to. If you're having trouble deciding between schools, getting a feel for each (even if you've already visited before) will help you make a decision. And if you know where you're going, visiting will help make sure you're going to feel at home.
- Have your mid-year transcripts sent to the schools you're considering as soon as the semester is over. Even if the school doesn't require it, it's good information to have on file.
Senior year can be stressful, but remember to have fun:
- See if your class is planning a senior trip. They can be a great way to have a last hurrah and forget about college-planning for a while.
- Think about a senior prank. One that's totally legal and won't get you in major trouble, of course!
- Start thinking about your senior prom! If you're not going, think about having an anti-party. If you are going, nothing beats stress like a little dress-shopping!
Got any questions or advice about your senior year? Let us know!