As the year is drawing to a close for RBHS seniors, their high school careers are ending, and many have already decided what course to take in their post-high school careers. However, while many seniors are finished searching for their future, juniors have only just begun a long road ahead in obtaining a potential post-secondary education.
Despite the usual route many RBHS students take, junior counselor Leslie Kersha explains how this search process for a college, university, or technical school, should have started years before junior year.
“I think [the college search] is something that should be started even sooner than junior year, and I think it’s a good idea for, as early as freshman and sophomores to be doing research,” Kersha said. “There’s a lot of colleges, and a lot of options out there, and honestly I don’t think you could start too soon, but I definitely think you can wait until too late.”
At RBHS, Kersha explains that the counselors really hit hard on the college search junior year because students are expected to go into their senior year actually having a list of three to five colleges that they know they want to apply to. If students wait until their senior year to try to figure colleges out, they have senior year classes and application processes, which involve writing essays and getting letters of recommendation, according to Kersha.
Aside from the excessive workload that students will face if they put off the college search until senior year, junior counselor Jordan Alexander describes various other factors that could affect the college selection process if put off until the last minute.
“College preparation is a process, not an event,” Alexander said. “So definitely, students should be engaging in certain aspects of the college planning process during their junior year. Developing an awareness of your skills and interests actually begins several years earlier. The rationale for engaging in college planning as a junior is that there are deadlines for college admission.”
In order to avoid starting too late, and the negative implications including limited exploration, excessive pressure, and a feeling of rushing through the various tasks as deadlines approach, both Kersha and Alexander provide essential advice necessary to making the college search as smooth of a process as possible.
Step 1: Have a good idea of all the colleges out there
“We have college representatives here on our campus, all the time, and so we keep a list of that on our guidance website. And honestly, it’s a resource that’s way underutilized. I’ll see a college rep here, and they’re maybe talking to one or two students, which makes me kind of sad, because that’s a perfect opportunity for students to get initial information. I mean I always think a student should visit the college they are considering seriously, they need to get on a campus and go, but sometimes with that initial conversation, they can kind of decide this isn’t the place for me, so they don’t waste their time or money actually going.” -Leslie Kersha
“Throughout the year, many Missouri colleges, and others, send college recruiters to RBHS to meet and inform students about their academics, housing, and social and athletic opportunities at their schools. These informal visits can help students decide which schools they may want to further research or visit. Other strategies include matching your career interests with majors at different schools. Students can also begin by deciding if they wish to attend public vs. private, small vs. medium vs. large schools, or look at geographical location to begin their search. There are a number of ways to search through college websites as well, such as through www.collegeboard.com.” -Dr. Jordan Alexander
Step 2: Find out more about the college you wish to attend
“Obviously, you want to know what the admissions requirements are, so you can see if it’s a place that you would be admitted. And once again, it’s better to do this earlier rather than later because if as a freshman or sophomore, you know what the college requires, you can make sure over the next few years, that you try to meet those admissions requirements. Obviously, financial aid information is always a big deal. Size of the school is another thing, whether or not the student wants to go to a large university where they’re around thousands of people versus a very small private school, where maybe there’s only one or two thousand people on campus, and trying to figure all that out. What demographic, as far as do they want to stay in Missouri, and if so, do they want to be in a smaller town, or a larger town, or does it matter? Or do they want to get out of the state?” -Leslie Kersha
“There are a number of factors to consider when looking for a good college match. Some important factors to consider are majors that are consistent with your desired career area,having GPA and ACT scores that are consistent with the college requirements or averages, talking with faculty and current students to get an impression of the learning atmosphere and general satisfaction of students presently enrolled, meeting with financial aid representative to determine estimates of parent share and scholarship and loan amounts.” -Dr. Jordan Alexander
Step 3: Keep an open mind throughout the process
“Starting early, in my opinion, does not lead to being stuck with one certain college. If you think you know where you want to attend, do some research into that school and visit. Then look at a few other options and visit those if you can. What you think you know about a school might change once you do some research. On a personal note, I thought I wanted to attend a large state school. But when I visited that school and then a smaller, private school, I found the smaller school was a much better fit for me. The visit made all the difference. Keeping an open-mind also means that your search might look different that your friends. You will certainly make new friends wherever you end up, so remember that your best fit should be an individual process of gathering information, talking with parents and other trusted adults, and organizing your information so that you can make the best decision for your future.” -Dr. Jordan Alexander
By Manal Salim