Tuesday 23 June 2009

Advice to the College-Bound

If you're starting your college search now, you're about to be subject to a whirlwind of information, deadlines, propaganda, and emotions. Don't lose your head.

When you visit schools, they're going to: 1. show you the campus 2. talk about dining, housing, classes, extra curriculars, and study abroad 3. mention big name bands and celebrities that visit campus (these will include third eye blind and John Stewart... always.) 4. ask you to ask yourself if you can "imagine" yourself there.

Some schools will tell you that your task is to find the school that fits your personality. This is completely false. As you will find out, probably around April, is that you're actually looking for a school that fits your career ambitions and your checkbook.

I would suggest looking at all sorts of schools - small and large, near and far, private and public. You might initially think you need a small school because your high school was small... this isn't always the case. Personally, I think going a few hours away is a good idea - you'll be isolated enough to not hang on to your old life, and you'll make new friends while learning a new area.

While the social atmosphere is important, know that wherever you go, there are bound to be people that you'll get along with. This is especially true at a large school. Obviously, if you're into partying, you shouldn't be going to a quiet christian school, and if you're really into nature and the environment you probably shouldn't be headed off to an urban campus. Just don't read into everything too much, because chances are you could make yourself happy at almost any school.

Sometime in the spring of your junior year, the FAFSA will give you this lovely little number of how much money you are able to pay per year for college. It will probably make you sick. Almost every college you apply to will then give you enough financial aid to meet that exact number. "Financial aid" will consist of scholarships, grants, and LOANS which you probably shouldn't really count. You'll then do the math and figure out how much debt you'll have at each college you're looking at (and there will be debt).

Then you decide what school is worth what amount of debt.

I would advise everybody to apply to a SUNY (or state school, if you're not from NYS). That's what I landed on, it's a good education for a good price. Of course, that's just me; it's different for everybody. Just take comfort in the idea that whever you end up, you'll make friends, and you'll meet people with interests like yours. If you don't, you can transfer. While it's a big decision... it won't make or break your entire life. Probably.


Jim Mignano said...

Oh Mollz, you're too confident that there will be debt when you're done with school. I personally plan on being debt free after school, as Joe was :)

Molly Kate said...

Normal people have debt!

Being debt free only happens on three conditions:

1. You go to a state school (and debtlessness is not gaurenteed here)
2. You get enough financial aid/scholarships to cover it.
3. You work enough during your time in college to pay off any debt you maybe have otherwise accumulated.

Joe went to a state school and I'm guessing got some scholarships. He also works very hard, as do you.

I am going to be in debt, because if take the amount of money that I/my parents have to cover in four years, and you subtract how much we are actually going to pay during those four years, the difference is not zero.

Talking about this makes me angry, James. We all know you work 50 hours a week and have a shitload of money. Not everyone is like that!

Joe said...

What an awesome post. LeRoy should make this a mandatory read for those entering their junior years (and their parents)!

Molly Kate said...

Thank you Joe!