A lot goes into selecting the right college. It can feel overwhelming, like a journey of a thousand miles.  But hey, you’re a resilient traveler, so step by step you can do this! To help in your decision process, here are some tips to consider as you decide which college to attend, and some questions to help you think through these concepts.split in the road

Academics. Skills. Desired Outcomes.

The root question is this: what school is going to give you the training and the connections you need for your desired future? Wow, that’s a heavy thought. It is also a powerful thought. Spend time researching the major, program of study, or training pathway that best aligns with your interests, the way that you’re wired, and how you view the world. Does that mean a four-year university, a community college, or a trade program is best for you? Acknowledge what feels right to you. College Profiles from EducationQuest can help you get started.

What if I don’t end up liking my college or major?

If something doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped, you can always change course. That’s life; we learn, we adjust. The major you declare as an incoming freshman might change as you progress through college. You can always transfer to another college. It’s also perfectly fine to start out as Undeclared. These things take time to get right. However, it helps to learn about the different options out there. Utilize online resources such as CollegeBoard’s BigFuture, or for a Nebraska-specific occupational resource, look at h3.ne.gov . Keep in mind that these online resources will not answer all your career/major questions, but they will equip you with the insight you need to make those informed decisions. Does the college and the program you’re considering have a solid reputation in preparing their students for future success?

Seek out the facts.

When you’re comparing different college options, don’t be afraid to reach out to admissions representatives from those schools. They welcome any questions you may have, whether you’re early in your process, or a soon-to-graduate high school senior. Also, don’t overlook the many virtual resources colleges now have, including their own websites and video content, such as virtual tours.  Do you have any lingering doubts or questions about the colleges you’re considering, and if so, who can you call (yes, on the phone!) to find answers?

How much is this going to cost me?

When it comes to cost, learn to read the price tag. Look for the cost of tuition for the school year, the required books & supplies, the housing cost (on-campus or off-campus), and your own personal & transportation expenses. Reach out to EducationQuest for an overview of how and when to apply for scholarships and the FAFSA. During the spring of senior year of high school, each college you’ve applied to will generate a financial aid award letter, that lists how much financial aid you have access to at that college. Compare the award letter to the total cost of the school year. Do the numbers show that your costs are covered, or is there a significant gap that still needs to be covered? Will you need to take out loans? Will your parents need to take out a PLUS loan?

The decision is yours.

Talk with your counselors, mentors, teachers and friends.  Discuss these topics with your parents and family. Take a deep breath, and then make your decision. This is your journey. Own it. These moments may seem scary right now, but you’ll look back on this process warmly, as it is a step forward on that journey to a happy and productive future for yourself. Best of luck, traveler!

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