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Off to College: What to Know When Mapping Your Future

For most high school students, junior year is considered to be a pivotal time in their youth. This stage causes extreme anxiety for some due to its importance in the college planning process. Most youngsters are aware that what they do in their 11th grade has an effect on their college life, but they don’t know how to exactly plan for it.

In this article, you will learn what you should be doing in order to properly plan for college. Reaching your college goals will be much easier if you are organized and well-equipped with the necessary information.

When to Start Preparing for Higher Education

Parents often ask when their child should start planning for college. In some ways, the answer actually depends on your status. According to Forbes magazine, only 9% of students who come from low-income families finish a bachelor’s degree.

This statistic is an increase of a mere 3% points since 1970. Meanwhile, the completion rates for wealthy students rose to a staggering amount, from 40% to 77% during the same period. The sad part is the college completion gap is getting wider than ever.

Since your junior year serves as your last full year of school before you go on and apply to college, it is the most important year in the process of college planning. The grades you have in your junior year will be the last grades college admissions will see before they make final decisions.

Taking the First Step

All good college planning efforts begin by helping students explore their interests. They are encouraged to think about where they truly excel. By highlighting the strengths first, students are able to establish high decisions and critically think about where they can improve. Know your strengths first before diving deep into the college application process.

Cost of College Education

Sometimes it helps to look at the data if you’re considering college cost. The amount needed to enter college continues to rise every year, so let’s take a look at the current average cost of higher education.

According to the College Board, below is the average cost of college including room and board, tuition, and other fees for the 2017-2018 school year.

College Type Average College Cost: Tuition + Room & Board
Public Two-Year $11,970
Public Four-Year (In-State) $20,770
Public Four-Year (Out-of-State) $36,420
Private Four-Year (Not-for-Profit) $46,950

How to Finance Your College Education

Paying for college might be difficult for young people who belong to the lower-income bracket. Don’t let the expensive cost discourage you from applying to the school of your choice, though. Colleges and universities provide financial aid for those who need it. There is also more than $130 billion in federal aid readily available to college students.

Aside from relying on student aid, you also have the option of taking out a student loan or checking if you have 529 plans when applying to schools. These financing methods are also available for graduate school.

529 Plan

A 529 plan is a college savings plan that provides both tax and financial aid benefits. In addition to college costs, 529 plans may be used to save and invest for k-12 tuition. You can select from two kinds of 529 plans: prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans. Creating a college planning timeline is not difficult with this financing method because at least one 529 plan is available in almost every state. There’s also a different type of 529 plan that’s being operated by private educational institutions.

Entering College Through the Common Application

The Common Application – often referred to as the Common App – is possibly the most seamless way to handle your college application process. Founded 35 years ago, this membership organization gives you access to over 800 colleges and universities across the globe. It is an advanced college application that allows college students to apply to multiple schools at once.

Career Planning

Going through an extensive college search is one thing, but choosing a career to pursue is a different story. Your high school counselor can help you plan for your future in multiple ways. For instance, your school’s counseling office may organize career fairs, introduce career coaches to guide incoming college freshmen, and conduct tests that show every student’s interests and strengths.

The Homestretch

Your senior year is the time when you need to finalize your college selection list and go over application deadlines. After finishing requirements, you have to come up with a completion agenda and strategic plan. You also have to continue a standardized test strategy, before finally submitting an application to the college of your dreams.