Young Latina Voices Column
What’s a girl to do when figuring out the whole college thing? There are so many things to take into consideration. The last few years of high school is hard enough with the stress of finals and getting strong ACT and SAT scores. Then factor in the current state of the economy—yikes!
Here are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about which colleges to apply to:
This is important because you don’t want to be in a city, state or college environment that you do not enjoy. Ask yourself where you would like to spend the next four years. If you wish you could study abroad, many schools offer programs that allow you to spend one semester or a full year in another country. What this means is that they will pay for you or for a small cost you can travel to another country and do all of your studies just as you would here in the United States on your colleges campus. Usually, you can study abroad in your second or third year of college. This is a great way to learn a new language and culture, and meet new friends.
2. COLLEGE CAMPUS LIFE
College life will offer the opportunity to join organizations and sororities that target people that share the same interests as you. This is something that you will definitely want to take part in, not only because it will offer the opportunity to make new friends that will accompany you as you do the things you enjoy doing together (such as serving your community), but those same people may also be part of your professional network for the rest of your life. Check out what types of clubs, organizations, sports and extracurricular activities your college choices offer their students. You can also find out college students have to say about their campus life by checking out COLLEGE BOARD, where you can search the name of the college you are interested in, and find out more about their activities on campus. You can also visit the college website.
3. FINANCIAL AID
There are many forms of financial aid that can help you finance your college career. It is very possible that you may not want to have a job while balancing your school work and other activities; therefore, being informed about other financial resources and how to access them is a necessity. One site I would strongly recommend is the DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Federal Student Aid. There is also a website called ZINCH, which matches students to scholarships. If you are of of Latino descent, African-American, Indian American or a first generation college student, there are many scholarships out there specifically to help you go to college. After all, the reason you are choosing the college pathway is so you don’t have to wait tables your entire life!
4. PERSONAL FIT
How you fit in with the rest of the student body and the environment is important. There are private universities and public universities. Some private schools are religion based so you can be with other people that have the same belief system that you do. There are also same sex colleges if you want to go to school with all girls and not have that “distraction” of the opposite sex. You may prefer to be in a small college or a large university. Ask yourself where do you see yourself feeling most comfortable, before you make your college list. The best way to figure out if a college feels right is by visiting the college, going on a tour, sitting in a class and talking to other students. Remember, you’re going to be there for four years…make sure it is the right place for you.
5. APPLICATION PROCESS
The application process can vary from institution to institution. It can often be a long, daunting process. It will require a lot of information that you may not know or you may not understand, so it is important to reach out to others that are much more familiar with the process. Reach out to a school guidance counselor, a family member or even a friend that has been through the process. Don’t allow the not knowing what to do be the reason you don’t send in that application. Realize that applying to colleges is a long process. You should start as early as possible in your senior year. In fact, you should start working on your college personal essay the summer before your senior year. Start thinking about what you may want to write about. Another thing you can do is familiarize yourself with the applications forms. Most schools now accept one universal application called the COMMON APPLICATION. You will need to fill out this application and a secondary application from the college itself. The earlier you start this process, the less stress you will experience.
What other things are you considering when thinking about which colleges to apply to?