How To College: A Step-by-Step Guide

So you want to go to college, and you don’t know what to do.

One of the first things you need to do is take the ACT. It costs $38 by itself. There are also ACT tips on this page to help you.

“Think about it like, ‘If I can raise my score I can be qualified for more scholarships,’” career explorations teacher Lauren Hackler said. “Think of it as an investment in a discount on your education. It’s the best investment you can make in your future.”

Next, you should decide your major or at least an area you’d like to study. In the PLAN and ACT tests there are 70-question surveys asking things like how you feel about planting trees. If you haven’t taken this test the counselors have one you can take in their office, which helps narrow down your options.

“Choose something that peaks your interest because you’re not just choosing something for a degree, you’re choosing your life,” English teacher Sandra Hurst said. “If you don’t find something that’s interesting to you, you will be miserable.”

Even if you’re still unsure what you’d like to study, the next thing would be figuring out what you want in a college. For example, how far away from home can you stand? How much tuition can you afford? Does the college have your major or area you want to study?

Once you’ve narrowed the number of colleges down, it’s time to start touring.

“It’s kind of like buying a car without doing a test drive. If you don’t go do a college visit, if you don’t actually step foot on the campus before you decide …” Hackler said. “You definitely want to see what it really looks like.”

To set up a tour call the college or email them, and they’ll connect you with the right people. There are both individual and group tour days. Both tend to last all day.

“It’s important that your college be one that fits you,” senior counselor Paula Belcher said. “It’s not all about the letters on the sweatshirt.”

While you’re on campus get to know the admissions representative. These people will come to the school on occasion to discuss the college they represent. They also help pick scholarships.

Not only do you need to apply to the colleges but also for scholarships. A scholarship is money given to you for college. There are local, college specific and generic scholarships, which can be used anywhere. Don’t depend on good grades to get you scholarships.

“At the awards ceremony at the end of year, not just everybody walks away with scholarship money,” Hackler said. “You really have to go after it. Do the scholarships that have essays. Those are the ones that people don’t do the most.”

Once you’ve been accepted to a college, manage your time wisely. Find a good balance between fun and academics.

“Be open to trying new classes; be open to new experiences,” Hackler said. “Don’t get in trouble, but try new things that maybe you didn’t have the opportunity to or you were too shy to try.”

Even if you’re not going to college, you need to do something after graduation, according to Belcher.

“Every student needs to advance beyond high school,” she said. “The jobs you can get with a high school diploma will not pay the bills. You’re going to end up working two or three jobs.”

Whatever you do, don’t give up.

“Stick with it,” Hurst said. “I mean, it will be hard and there will be times when you think you’re not going to be able to make it. And sometimes you might even do things that are kind of stupid, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you hang in there and finish that degree. Above all else finish what you started. No matter how ugly it gets or if you feel like your grades are too low. Don’t worry about it. Just hang in there and finish.”