Getting my acceptance letter to college was the best feeling I’ve ever had. I felt like it was my first step towards success. Because I lived in the projects, getting accepted to college was a huge change in my life, my way out to pursue a better future.
If you think you can’t go to college because you live in the ‘hood” or go to an “under-performing school” or you’re not on the honor roll, you’re wrong. You just have to want it badly enough to do all the things that need to get done in order to apply. There are so many schools out there that there is one for everyone, especially if you’re open to traveling away from your neighborhood, city or state. And you don’t even gotta be an A student. Here, I’m gonna tell you all the things you gotta do to find the right colleges, apply, and get accepted. Just follow the steps below and click here for a great college prep calendar. It can seem overwhelming at first but just take it one step at a time.
Step 1. Find Some Colleges – In your junior year or sooner, start researching the different schools or colleges you might be interested in. Peterson’s Guide to Colleges (http://www.petersons.com/) really helped me to learn about the different colleges out there. When you do your research you can also find out average GPAs (grade point average) and SAT/ACT (college admission tests) scores of the students who got into a certain school so that you can see your chances of getting in. But, don’t get all sad if the average GPA or SAT of students who get in is higher than yours. The average means there were a lot of people who got into that school who had scores lower than the average. Also, don’t even worry about how expensive a college is. We’ll talk about Financial Aid in the last step.
Step 2. Take the SAT or ACT – In order to apply to most colleges you will need to take one of these tests. My advice is to take the PSAT, the Preliminary SAT, in your junior year so that you have a chance to practice and see how you do. Then take the SAT in the summer before or the Fall of your senior year. In between, do a little prep, especially if your GPA isn’t the best. Take an SAT preparatory class, do practice exams that available online, or get a prep book from the library at your school. The SAT is important but don’t freak out about it – just do the best you can. These tests are just one of the things admissions counselors look at when you apply, so if you aren’t good at tests then just make sure that you get involved in school activities or after-school programs and do the best you can to keep your grades up. Oh and if you are concerned about fees for the tests, there are waivers which you can request so don’t have to pay for them.
Step 3. Fill Out Your Applications! – Applications are due in the Fall or Winter of your senior year of high school. You can get most applications on-line so download them early and start filling them out way before the deadline. The applications ask for a bunch of information about yourself and even what major you want pursue. Fill in everything as completely as possible, but it’s okay if you don’t know your major yet. Some applications require personal statements to see what kind of person you are and your goals. Spend a lot of time writing this statement and get feed-back from teachers or a mentor and revise more than once before you submit it. Apply to as many colleges as you can. You already wrote your personal statement so get a lot of use out of it. The colleges offer fee waivers too, so don’t let the application fees stop you. Once you submit your application you will wait until the Spring for a response, unless you apply early decision. So just be chill and think positive.
Step 4. Financial Aid! – While you are waiting for responses from the colleges you have to fill out the FAFSA online if you need help paying tuition. The FAFSA is the financial aid application that every college uses. In order to get any kind of financial id including grants, loans, and scholarships you have to fill out this form. I was able to get grants from the State and a Pell grant from the government. The financial aid I received allowed me to pay my tuition, my dorm housing, my meal plan, and have a little bit left for some living expenses. In order to fill out your FAFSA you need to have all your parents’ tax information and personal information as well. And if you need more information about how to pay for school – go here for great tips! And go here for help on finding scholarships and grants you might be eligible for.
There are great websites that guide you through each these steps and much more such as the ones provided by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund or The College Board. Even though I list a lot of resources here on how to apply for college, one of the most important things to do is visit your school guidance counselor or ask an adult who can help you through the process.
The applications for college and your financial aid application are a project that you will be working on your entire senior year. But it’s not hard and you’ll still have time for all the senior year fun, I promise. So be on top of your applications and submit your FAFSA on time. After you get accepted the school, will guide you through their own process. Suerte and good luck, people!