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College from Start to Finish

College 101: If this is your first time looking into the subject of college and career, it’s natural to experience some anxiety over the steps and processes.  Before you begin looking into planning for college, finding a career, and/or exploring your post-graduate options, review the below terms to reach a better understanding. They will diminish confusion as you read and research. Also, remember that your FFCS College and Career Counselor is here to help you along the way!

Degree Types
Associate, Bachelor’s,Master’s and Doctoral Degrees

As a college student, the four degree options you need to consider are listed below.  Because many professions require a specific type of degree, it’s helpful to understand the necessary degree type you’ll need to acquire before heading into your chosen career path. The following website is a great place to explore different job opportunities while viewing the necessary requirements that would be needed: My Next Move.

Associate Degree – This is a two-year degree.  Some students complete this degree and then transfer to a four-year university to acquire their bachelor’s degree, while others complete this degree and go straight into their field of work.

Bachelor’s Degree – This is typically a four-year degree, but can occasionally be a 5-year degree. Many careers today require bachelor’s degrees.

Master’s Degree – This is the two-year degree you acquire once you have completed your 4-year bachelor’s degree which becomes 6-7 years total of education. This type of degree is advanced and required for many upper level professions.

Doctoral Degree – This is a four-year degree following the completion of a bachelor’s degree and includes at least 8-10 years of education. Doctoral degrees are necessary for many college professors, clinical social workers, public health administrators, etc.

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Community vs. Four-Year Colleges

A community college is a great way to save money while in the first two years of coursework.  The advantages of attending a community college include the following: saving money on tuition, completing basic coursework that will be required at many 4-year universities, smaller class sizes, open admission with a high school diploma, saving money on living expenses if you have the option to reside at home, flexible class schedules, and more.

A four-year university however, will typically be more research-focused and have a broader variety of classes and utilities available to the students (including sports programs and big events).  If you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher, this is the type of college for you (whether you do your first two years at a community college or not).  Keep in mind that some four-year universities do not offer associate’s degrees, so if your goal is to earn a 2-year associate’s degree, you may want to consider a community college.

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SAT/ACT
Testing

The SAT, also known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and ACT, the American College Test, are admission exams that colleges across the United States utilize to determine your rank among other college applicants. Your skill, academic ability, and critical thinking skills are evaluated and reported to colleges admission representatives by way of these exam scores. A majority of colleges within the United States require either SAT or ACT exam scores when applying to college so it’s important to be well-versed in these aptitude tests.

Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

The SAT was introduced in 1926 as an admission exam to determine whether students were prepared to enter college and perform at a level necessary for success. The test covers writing, critical thinking, reading, and mathematics. There are 10 sections of mostly multiple choice questions. The total score a test taker can earn is between 600 and 1600; the average student will earn a score of 1500. Interested in a top-tier college? You’ll need to shoot for a score closer to 2000. Most state university schools will accept scores of 1400. It is recommended for students to take the SAT in the winter or spring season of their junior year, and again for a 2nd time in the fall season of their senior year.

What are SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject-Specific Tests are offered in different subjects at different times. Students can opt to do a subject test in addition to the regular SAT test. Some colleges ask to see subject-specific test scores, and the college board suggests submitting the scores even if the college doesn’t require them. They do, however, discourage students from spreading themselves too thin, or taking tests that don’t relate to their chosen field of study. Students should choose a specific subject test in their area of gifting if the following statements are true:

  • You have a specific career goal and want to demonstrate proficiency in your chosen field.
  • You were unable to take an AP course, but know you’ll score well in a specific subject.
  • You hope to compensate for a specific weakness in your college application.
  • The college you are applying for requires applicants to show scores for specific majors.

For additional information about subject tests, click HERE.

For a list of colleges that require subject-specific tests (especially for certain majors), click HERE.

For a link to an overview of each SAT subject test, and online practice/study tools, click HERE.

Studying for the SAT

There are lots of great online resources to help you study for the SAT, including free practice tests. Below are some links to help you prepare for these challenging exams. And remember, one of the best ways to be prepared for the SAT and ACT is to continue working diligently in your current high school classes. Statistically, students who take the SAT twice in their upperclassmen years and STUDY in between taking the tests have shown to have the best scores.

There are MANY great resources for studying for the SAT:

  • Khan Academy – Students can create an account that will allow them to login and at their leisure prepare for the exam. A few hours each weekend would be significant preparation. Practice that is tailored for your student with instant feedback is provided through their program.

  • Cell Phone Study APP – Through Khan Academy, students can now utilize this helpful and convenient app on their phone to practice anywhere they go.

  • Research also shows that students who continue to expand and develop their vocabulary use do well on SAT exams. Thanks to cell phones and applications, students can do this from anywhere! Click HERE to learn more about the Merriam-Webster App. This is a great resource, but any vocabulary app on your phone will do!

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American College Test (ACT)

The ACT exam, introduced in 1959 by the University of Iowa, covers English, mathematics, reading and science with an optional writing section. The test lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes with an additional 40 minute writing section that is optional. The purpose of the exam is to measure high school readiness for applications while also offering colleges the opportunity to compare the ability of students. College admission representatives will also review extracurricular activities, GPA, letters of recommendation, conduct interviews, etc. It is advantageous for students to take the ACT in the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year. The ACT is offered yearly in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

Find additional information on the ACT HERE.

Studying for the ACT

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Applying to College

  1. First, don’t panic! The application process for college is not as hard as you might think. The important thing is to get started!

  2. Fill out applications for all of the schools you are interested in – there is no perfect number of applications. If you are interested in attending a college, start and complete their application process so you have that opportunity at your disposal later! You will thank yourself in the end when you have options at your fingertips!

  3. Write your admissions essay – CLICK HERE for information.

  4. Gather needed materials (transcripts – HS and college if applicable, letters of recommendation from teachers, church members, volunteer coordinators, community members who know you well).

  5. Prepare for an interview (not all colleges require this step, but it’s better to be prepared).

Transcript Request Form

To request an official copy of your HS transcript, please complete the Transcript Request Form.  Please contact Staci Jones, your College and Career Counselor, with any questions.
It is important to note that the process of receiving and/or sending transcripts to your choice college can take up to 48 hours.

The Common Application

As technology continues to be in the front and center of our world today, more colleges are utilizing an electronic application form called The Common Application to submit the necessary documentation for college admissions. What started out with only 15 universities taking part, has now become an application process that is utilized by over 750 universities and colleges across the world. Be ready for this online shift, because many colleges and universities are joining in.

The Entrance Essay

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Paying for College

Finances can be extremely daunting when considering college. However, in today’s current society, a large focus has been placed on postgraduate education and financial support. What does that mean for you? There is help to get you where you want to go! Research the options and find out what funding is available for your specific and individual situation.


Financial Aid

FAFSA

The Federal Government reserves funds for college students in addition to providing student loans at highly reduced interest rates. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the application process that all students must complete in order to determine if they qualify for federal college funding. Filing for your FAFSA must be completed in October of the year prior to when you plan to attend college. It is essential to file early due to the fact that federal funding is assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Do not wait! FAFSA applications do have to be filed annually to continue to receive support.

Official Government FAFSA Page

 Other Financial Aid Options

  • Official Government Federal Aid Page

  • Grants – government awarded money that DOES NOT need to be paid back

  • Loans – a loan is money you borrow from the government or private organization that DOES need to be paid back
      •  US Department of Education Loan Page

  • Work-Study – a federally funded program that supports students financially through part-time work.

  • Scholarships – there are a wide variety of scholarships available that you can apply for. Recipients of scholarship awards do not need to repay these funds back to the contributor.


Scholarships

The process of searching for scholarships may seem daunting but the best way to be successful is to get started! Determine to set aside large sections of time to research scholarships that will apply to you individually. Here are some tips as you work through your search:

  • Be sure to check for scholarships within the schools you apply to that are specific to your major of interest.

  • Ask community members! Do you know a local business owner who might have a scholarship program within their organization?

  • Check for athletic scholarship opportunities.

  • Get your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents involved! They may know of scholarship opportunities as well!


After that, go through the following websites and search for scholarships that apply to you:

Websites:

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