Fair warning: This is going to be the longest blog post I've written in a while. I fit a lot of information in this thing, but I'm hoping it will help somebody out. I've bolded some key points to help you find each issue. Also, today's post will be mostly for anyone under twelfth grade, so if you're older than that, I'm sorry. You can skim if you want and remember the stress, but this mostly isn't for you. Actually, be grateful! I'm sure thankful this is all behind me. Anyone 11th grade and under, this is for you!
Believe me when I say that as a senior, it can be incredibly difficult to decide which university you eventually want to attend. Throughout high school, I thought off and on about where I wanted to go, but when the time came to actually decide, the realization that I was choosing where I wanted to spend my future smacked me in the face. This wasn't a casual decision. It wasn't a decision I would have to make sometime in the distant future. This decision was here. Now.
How do you know which university you want to attend? How can you possibly decide something like that a year before you actually go to school? As a senior in high school who has already gone through the process of visiting and applying to universities, let me give you some advice.
Apply to a lot of schools, even schools you wouldn't normally consider. Apply for nine, ten, eleven schools if you need to. You may not be accepted to your first choice school, so you want to have lots of options just in case. Try to apply to a large variety of schools. Apply to a small community college in your city, just in case if something were to happen at home with finances or a medical emergency and you couldn't move out. You want to leave that as an option. Apply for a state school or two and a private school or two. Apply for big and small schools. The more diversity you give yourself, the less stressed out you'll be when it comes time to make a final decision. You don't want to panic when you realize you don't want to go to any of the two or three schools where you applied.
Even if you highly doubt that you'll ever attend one kind of school, check it out anyways. I never thought that I wanted to go to a state school, but that's where I'll be going now. I don't want to attend a private Christian university anymore. Keep your mind and your options entirely open to what might be best for you and what God might want for you.
If you're looking at large state schools especially, apply early. In August, September, October... get your application in so that you'll possibly be one of the first accepted into the school. This will also help shorten the agonizing waiting process. College Board is a great place to compare schools and find out which one is best for you.
Start visiting universities your junior year of high school. Sophomore year is a little early because you won't remember much about the visits by the time you're a senior and you'll have changed a lot in those two years- probably too much to make a decision based on your early visit. So around the middle and end of your junior year, start visiting several universities: big, small, and right in the middle.
Since it's nearing the end of my senior year, I've had to deal a lot with deciding which college I'd like to attend. I'm going to go ahead and share my considerations and decisions from all four of my high school years.
Freshman year, I was concerned about going to a state school. My entire life, I've either been home schooled or attended small private Christian schools. I wanted to go to a small private university as well. I considered Liberty, but that was located all the way in Virginia. I also considered Christ for the Nations and Bethany College of Missions. I finally pulled away from all of those choices. I didn't want to go to a mostly evangelistic school. While I do want missions to always be a part of my life, I'm not sure what I would do with any sort of missions degree.
Sophomore year, I was still worried about attending any kind of big university. I began to think about Eastern University in Pennsylvania, specifically the Campolo School for Social Change, even though much of that program was for graduates only. No schools in my own state of Texas were really standing out to me yet, but of course, my freshman year of college seemed so far away. I wasn't that worried about moving far from my family and loved ones.
Junior year, I began to visit universities for the first time. I visited Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wayland Baptist, but didn't care for either one of those schools. I fell in love with Hardin-Simmons University and Houston Baptist University. Both were small, cozy universities that had many missions opportunities but also seemed to have great education plans. I also began to look at Abilene Christian University and Baylor. ACU seemed like a big school in my eyes and Baylor seemed enormous compared to everything I looked at, but I loved the prestige of going to a larger school.
Senior year, I started out seriously believing I would attend Hardin-Simmons University. Baylor was a lesser option, but I was still considering that school. My dad convinced me to visit Texas A&M and I agreed, not thinking anything would come from it. In my entire four years of high school, I had never been interested in attending a state school. Much to my surprise, I adored A&M and decided I wanted to go there soon after. I ended up applying to Hardin-Simmons, Baylor, and A&M.
Oh, yes... before I end this long blog post, let me talk about scholarships. Be sure to start applying for scholarships early... even during your junior year. If there's a scholarship, apply as soon as you possibly can. Writing essays is incredibly annoying and time-consuming, but it's worth it if it can help save you and/or your family some money. Going to college is expensive.
If your family has financial problems, then FAFSA should help you out a lot. Be sure to apply for that on time. Even if your family doesn't have trouble with finances, you'll still have to apply for FAFSA to attend many universities and to even get academic scholarships at all.
Go to your local Barnes & Noble and get a Scholarship Book like this one. Be sure to get the book from your year or all the scholarships will be outdated. This book will feature just about every scholarship you could possibly get, based on financial need, your major, your ethnicity, your gender, and more.
Academic scholarships can help a lot, so be sure to keep up your grades if you're reading this as an underclassman in high school. They give out a lot of scholarships to kids with high GPAs. Being in the top 10% of your class will help too. If you have an opportunity to join National Honor Society, join. When you graduate, you'll receive a scholarship. If you can make officer, you'll get an even larger scholarship.
That's most of what I have to say about applying for colleges and scholarships. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability. I haven't gone to a university yet. I'm still a senior, finishing out my last year of high school. I'll admit I'm still terrified now and then about whether or not I've made the right decision. But I've been through the process of searching for the right schools and applying, so I know what that's like. I've gone through that already and I'll admit, I'm so glad it's behind me.
If you're in high school and this process is headed your way, get it over with as soon as you can. You don't want to be panicking at the end of your senior year, wondering where on earth God wants you to go for college. More than anything, pray. God does have a plan for you. He knows which university will fit you best. Start praying as early as possible and have everyone around you pray as well.
It's going to be okay.