By: Marcia Y. Cantarella PhD
Author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle
and Get Your Degree Guide
Getting through college successfully may actually depend on you being at the right school in the first place. The College Board, the preeminent organization connecting students to colleges, lists nearly four thousand accredited colleges and universities. The choices are vast and should be made based on who you are and what is right for you (not on what your parents did or didn’t do, or what your friends are doing).
What schools might best suit your circumstances?
You may fall into one of several categories and there are schools for you regardless of which category you fit in. Please see below to find out which college might best suit you:
When you were in high school, you loved learning and being part of a community. Then you may be an excellent student who will qualify for many choices of small liberal arts or large research universities. Your grades and/or test scores will reflect your intellectual curiosity, aptitude and drive.
In high school, you were bored or otherwise not achieving at the level you could.
You may need to prove yourself. Starting at a two year college or a college that is not a top tier school may be a good idea to start, but look for one where you can then prove what you can do (maybe strengthening skills along the way) and then move on to a four year school, a higher tier or an honors program where you are. It can be a good thing to be the big fish in the small pond too.
You may be older than the traditional student and have family and home responsibilities to manage. Then you have to look at a school that is not only local but has flexible hours and days, offering classes evenings and weekends and online. Just be careful to find one that is accredited, has a solid reputation and good support systems.
You learn best by doing and are practical in your interests or you have a specific career focus. You may want a technical college or one that specializes in your areas of strength whether in theater or auto mechanics. Just be sure again that it is accredited, and that you get your share of courses that teach you skills in writing, research, critical thinking and all the other skills associated with both a liberal arts degree and ultimately the leadership roles you may want later on.
You feel you can’t afford to go to college. If you are dedicated and really want to go, the funds can generally be found. You may have to be both persistent and creative, but you can do it. First, for U.S. citizens, there are federal funds available?usually in the form of Pell grants, student loans, work-study programs, deferred tuition programs (such as AmeriCorps), or outright scholarships tied to specific areas. Taking out credit union loans is a good strategy, if you need to borrow money. State funds vary by state?Wisconsin, for instance, offers the Wisconsin Tuition Grant Program (WTG). Private donors, clubs, and fraternal organizations also offer funds, and some may be available to those without green cards or who are not yet naturalized citizens. College scholarship funds can be merit based or need based, the latter requiring applicants to supply financial information including a copy of your tax return. Some employers offer tuition support if the schooling relates to the job.
For more on this topic Marcia Cantarella’s book, I CAN Finish College available at www.icanfinishcollege.com in softcover or ebook or on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com in softcover.
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The best strategy --and the one that also helps get funds--is to major in what you love and will do really well in. Your grades reflect your potential and you are still getting the basic skills (critical thinking, writing, research, problem-solving) regardless of major. But the high GPA gets attention and you have a better time along the way. Your life's path will change as you grow and circumstances change. The skills will stick with you throughout. See Chapter 4 of my book for more on this. Marcia Cantarella
Fill out as many scholarships as you can its is always worth it to try. I have received many scholarships for college you just have to take the time to fill them out. Good Luck!
I went to school on a pell grant and it still did not cover everything. I was never the best student either, but you can't get a good paying job without a college degree, and how do you honestly know what you want to do with your life at 18? I got a general studies degree and am working as an executive assistant. It pays well and required a degree, no matter what it was. I am a big believer in taking time to really know what you want to do in life, instead of wasting federal funds, or your parents dough on just getting through school.