Hey there! I’m writing today to update a letter that I wrote to you a number of years ago. I had just graduated high school and wanted to give some key advice to new high school seniors about getting into college.
It’s okay if you don’t remember it
Now that I have much, much, more experience in life, and professionally and personally in the college world, I can offer a lot more. So if you are reading this as a high school senior or someone who is looking for a job I’m reaching out to you. If you know someone who fits into either of those categories, pass it along. Because there are the questions you should ask yourself when you’re looking getting into college. But a disclaimer before we start…
We’re treating college like a job search.
Why? Because there are a lot of similar elements in both areas. In fact, you can use these tips in a job search as well! Consider this the multi-tool advice column you’ve been searching for. (And free!) Without further ado, let’s kick this off.
ARE YOU QUALIFIED?
There are a lot of great options for colleges out there. Some colleges offer great programs for your major, some offer great athletics facilities, and some offer chocolate fountains every other Tuesday! (Citation Needed). The one thing that they all share is they have their own set of qualifications for people who are applying. It is your responsibility to know them.
Yes, the college has to make sure that its searchable on the website or in communications, but you need to find out for yourself. And if this information is not on the website for whatever reason (most likely stolen by Carmen Sandiego), call in and find out what the qualifications are. This is critical, because your time is precious. It’s senior year, so there’s a lot to get done. Similarly, if you’re applying for jobs, you have to budget your time carefully.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t apply if you don’t believe you could get in based on their qualifications. There will always be “reach schools” and “dream jobs”. But if you’re going to take the time to apply, you shouldn’t go in unaware. This will also help you be realistic about what letters you may get back. There is, after all, a big difference between getting a “No, Thank You” and knowing why and getting a, “Not right now” for no apparent reason.
CAN YOU AFFORD THIS?
(Disclaimer: This will be the scariest section)
Have you ever seen this happen: You’re at the grocery store. A person is all lined up, they’ve swiped their groceries, everything is completely bagged. They hand over their card…and it’s declined. Again and again. They try a different card, but it doesn’t work either. You begin to feel a little uncomfortable. They get frustrated or even teary. Eventually, the person accepts what they can or walks away, empty-handed.
This could happen.
You’ve been accepted into your dream school or have the perfect job, but the expenses associated with it are too high. Whether it be an expensive area to move to or an expensive residence hall on campus, you’re stuck behind dollar signs. So you too may have to walk away empty-handed.
Unless you do some homework.
There are tons of financial aid programs, grants and scholarships that can help out. Go look to see what’s available. And start now. Seriously. Stop reading and go look, then come back.
Great! Good to see you again. As you may have realized, college is expensive. Each institution has to pay a maintenance staff, electric bills and those professor people that help get you that degree. Those costs alone are a small fortune to maintain and are virtually unavoidable…but they can be paid for by outside sources. Look at everything that is available out there, because it’s a whole lot. Ultimately, affordability is a lot like the qualifications I talked about. Sure, you can shoot for more expensive job or college option, but at least be realistic about it from the beginning.*
*Also, call someone in admissions/financial aid if you have questions! They know stuff!
DO YOU HAVE A BACKUP?
In my ideal world, I pump out an award winning-novel, shocking yet poignant new play and big blockbuster screenplay in alternating weeks while directing shows at a reputable theater company. Until then, I have a blog.
As I keep saying, the purpose of this question is not to hold you back. Apply to every dream school you want. The key here, is multiple. I’ve seen many, many instances where a person waits for a job opportunity to open up and then apply. To only that one. The level of disappointment in a person if that one option falls through is another very tough thing to watch. Yes, you may focused on one main target. And that’s great! But having options? Oh, that’s better than great. That’s Robert Downey Jr. Levels of greatness there. Remember, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. In fact, why are you putting eggs in a basket in the first place? There are cartons.
ARE YOU DISTRACTED BY LOVE?
For the record, this is not about maintaining relationships in college. If you want my advice then that, I’ll be more than willing to tackle that, because it can be a huge, hulk-sized beast.
But I digress.
The love I mention here can be love for any aspect of the college/job. Do you love that program they have with those crazy incentives? Do you love the sports team or team aspect? Do you love the way the quad catches the sunlight? Each love is equally valid. The important thing is that the love for one aspect does not overrule everything else. Don’t ignore the school’s yearly cost just for an awesome major program. Don’t ignore the miserable work environment just for a chance to work in your favorite career field. Yes, everyone will have their negatives and positives. But if their worst aspect far exceeds their best aspect, you need to reconsider.
For example, I’ll give you what I think one of the worst sentences in the English language. “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve at my best.” If a person says this to you, slowly back away. Keep your eyes on them, you don’t know what their worst is. You get the phrase is trying to say. If you love somebody or something, you have to accept all of who they are. But don’t trap yourself into thinking that whatever they have to offer is worth enduring unpredictable and terrible hardships. Hey, maybe this did turn into a relationship advice thing.
ARE YOU READY?
Now that you’ve asked the essential questions, are you ready to begin? Not gonna lie, it’s hard. There’s going to be a lot of info to comb through and a lot of tough choices to make. You’re going to have to put yourself out there one way or another. But if you know what you want and it comes at a price you’re willing to pay, then go for it! Just stay realistic. It’s been said that every dream begun as a reality that had yet to occur.
Are you ready to begin?