Guide: how college works

By Hadi Khamsi, Guest Contributor

So as we seniors prepare to begin a new chapter in our lives, it is really important to plan ahead and be on top of your game with college application deadlines approaching fast. Here is a little guide going over the basics, from finding colleges to funding your degree.

Finding Colleges: With over 5,300 universities/colleges in the United States, it may be a little overwhelming deciding which ones to apply to. To begin, you should come up with the answers to these three basic questions:

  1. Do you want to stay in-state or go out-of-state?
  2. Do you want to dorm/apartment or commute to campus?
  3. What do you want to study (it is okay if you do not know the answer to this question yet! You have two more years to decide this for certain!)?

After figuring out the answers to the questions above, schedule an appointment with your school counselor to discuss possible options, use the College Board’s College-Finder, or sign-up for visits to prospective colleges (on the colleges’ websites). Keep in mind your GPA from freshman-junior year and your SAT score, as these can affect admissions (but do not be discouraged: there are other ways to demonstrate your academic potential!).Applying to Colleges: Next, you want to actually apply. Many colleges use CommonApp, but some also have application portals directly on their website. There are three main deadlines to keep in mind here:

  1. Early Decision: If you are accepted into the college, you will be REQUIRED to go there and cannot apply to any other colleges.
  2. Early Action (DO THIS ONE): You will be considered for placement before others and have a slightly greater chance of being accepted. Some schools may even offer more scholarship for early action applicants!
  3. Regular Admission: Nothing wrong with being a regular applicant. This one has nothing special about it. The deadline for regular admissions is usually a lot further into the future than early action/decision is and gives you more time to decide which colleges you want to apply to. (Personally, I recommend to get your applications in before the early action deadlines, which are coming up soon!)

Funding for College: College can be funded in four main ways. First, you want to fill out the FAFSA, and as early as possible so that you have the best chances to receive financial aid. Second, you can apply for scholarships through websites like FastWebCappexCollegeBoard, and Scholarships. Third, is to take on a loan. However, be aware, as you may regret this decision in the future. Lastly, you can work now and while in college to earn/pay as you go. This one is a bit tougher to pull off, but can definitely be an option for you!So what if you still cannot afford to attend a 4-year university even with all the financial aid and scholarships? You can always attend a 2-year community college such as College of DuPageElgin Community College, or Harper College. After your two years of General Education, you can transfer to a 4-year university/college to finish your bachelor’s degree.Questions: I probably sound like a morning-announcement right now, but let a counselor know (or even let me know in-person; I would be glad to help if I can) if you have any questions!Best of luck to you all. I hope you all achieve your dreams and evolve into the best versions of yourselves!