In the beginning of All the Difference we see South Side Chicago with its street shootings and arrests of predominantly young black youth. Watch the following video clip to view the challenging urban environment in which Robert and Krishaun live and to hear their determination to beat the odds. Krishaun asks himself whether he is scared. "Yeah. I know that the future can be disturbed or can be messed up by one wrong decision that I make."
In the next clip, we see Robert and Krishaun in their charter high school, affirming, "We are the young men of Urban Prep." Watch Robert and Krishaun reciting the Urban Prep creed with their schoolmates. The creed tells us the school's expectations for behavior, attitudes, and success.
Graduation from high school is a major achievement, but Tim King, principal and founder of Urban Prep, sets a higher expectation for the graduating class: to send him invitations to their college graduations. At the graduation ceremony, Robert's and Krishaun's family members comment on what it means to them and how they feel about the moment.
HANDS-ON PROBLEM-SOLVING ACTIVITY
Why is college important to you? Think about it on your own. Talk to a friend, parent, adviser, or mentor about your thoughts and plans. Make a commitment to yourself.
- List personal dreams and how college might help you to fulfill them.
- List obstacles to those dreams including financial barriers to attending college (and how you might overcome them).
- Choose a buddy who will help you to stay on track in your pursuit of a college education...and then keep it real. Talk regularly to your buddy, ideally someone in college or someone also hoping to go to college. Make a pledge that you'll both succeed.
Now that you have a commitment to go to college, focus on three decisions you need to make to gain admission to a college: decide on which college to attend, how to get there (including financially), and how to prepare to manage your expectations once you are in college. These can make all the difference in the college experience.
What have you done that your family members boast about? What are some of the things they expect from you? Do you agree with their goals for you? You may have higher or lower expectations for yourself. The main thing is for you to be comfortable with whatever the expectations are that you are planning to act upon. Talk to your parents, a teacher, or a mentor about what you expect from yourself and feel others expect from you. If your expectations match theirs, or if you understand and agree with their expectations, you will find less conflict along the way.
Robert has set himself expectations to succeed in college and go on to medical school. We follow him as he arrives at Lake Forest College, which has given him "a lot of money: an in-state scholarship, a leadership scholarship, and an academic scholarship." Robert is assiduous and tenacious. He asserts, "There's no stopping me." He plans to make his family proud. Watch the video and listen to what Robert wants to achieve in college.
SUPPORTIVE FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
High school graduation has significance for families, fulfills their expectations, and leads to new expectations. It is a huge achievement and a stepping stone to more. Krishaun's family celebrates at his graduation trunk party. His Aunt Victoria comments that the majority of young men coming from Krishaun's background don't "escape." She talks about Krishaun's wise choices and excellent school. His mother expresses her pride about how far her son has come. His cousin believes that Krishaun will succeed and "give back to his community."
In the previous clip, Krishaun's three elementary school teachers express concern that "we are constantly losing our young black men." Do you believe it is tougher to achieve your goals than it might be for women or students of other races or ethnicities? What are the family and community supports Robert and Krishaun have, e.g., family, school, place of worship, mentors, and advisers? How have these supports proven helpful so far, and how have they made all the difference in their lives? Think about your own support system. Do you feel you have the tools to fulfill your own expectations and those of others about you? Who are the people you can count on to support your goal to attend and finish college?
Ask your parents, mentors, or advisers what tools they have used to achieve their own goals. Will these tools and supports also help you to succeed? What have people said to you that made an impression? For example, here is what Robert says he learned from his first wrestling coach, Mr. Price:
One aspect about planning for and going to college is that families need to let go. You need to help prepare them through your actions and words. Your good behavior starting now — in high school — will show them you can be trusted to take care of yourself as a more independent person in college. What are some actions you can take that will assure your family that you are college ready?
- Start with open communications with family members — so they know where you are and what you are doing.
- Share your questions and concerns and involve them in your decision making. This builds their confidence and helps you avoid conflicts.
- Show them a new list of responsibilities you're committed to doing, beginning right now. This will help to convince them you can be trusted to take on the independence of college life.
Story Sharing: Ask someone you are close to and/or admire to share a personal story about how they managed the expectations (positive or negative) of others. Perhaps they have a story about the challenges of planning for higher education or an unexpected career and the choices they made. Discuss who has made all the difference in helping them make good choices that led to their success.
THE POWER OF EXAMPLES
Watch this video of Krishaun talking about people in his life who have inspired him. He talks about his uncle who "taught him to be a man" and lets him know "what he's going to school for." About his tutor, MarQo Patton, at Fisk University, Krishaun says, "I really look up to him. He's been through some of the same things I've been through." He describes him as "having a bright future" and says he [Krishaun] wants "to get to where he [MarQo] is."
Find stories of others who have succeeded despite challenging odds or who have defied low expectations. Some may be in your family or community such as a relative, faith leader, or coach. Some may be public figures who have met their own challenges along the way. A starting place for stories is the wonderful documentary Black List: Volume 1 that was directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell. This 92-minute documentary, which premiered on HBO in 2008, uses the personal stories of accomplished African Americans in fields as varied as business, entertainment, literature, sports, and the media to comment on the social, political, and economic progress black Americans have made in the past 50 years. It won the 2009 NAACP Spirit Award for Best Documentary.
Make or bookmark a list of films or stories that you can view or read when you need inspiration. (Hint: see the homework assignment below.)
Here is what we know about the benefits of college:
- You are more secure economically. Those with college degrees in the last recession were more likely to be employed, stay employed when others were being laid off, and had higher wages.
- On average, a college graduate makes about $300,000 more in a lifetime of working compared to someone with only a high school diploma.
- You are likely to be happier. Those who are economically more stable (not wealthy necessarily, just comfortable) are living with less stress and have more time for better relationships.
- You are likely to be healthier. The life span for those with college degrees is longer than for those without.
Why might the benefits just described be true? Do they help you to think about the kind of life you might have after finishing college?
Dr. Sheila Peters at Fisk University describes other benefits of attending college. For example, she says that college provides the intangibles of being able to engage in small talk in an intellectual way. You know how to dress for an interview and you have a good resume. In addition, while you are waiting for that job interview, you can talk with the administrative assistant about more than the weather. You might even know something about the paintings hanging on the wall. You are more comfortable because, as a college graduate, you are used to that kind of conversation, and that's powerful.
What college offers is a set of key skills and relationships that go well beyond what students gain in high school. In many high schools you are mainly learning by rote, may have little homework compared to what you will be expected to do in college, and rarely are expected to take what you learn into broader contexts.
In college you will be asked to manage assignments on your own time, interpret information, engage in research, write extensively expressing your own views supported by evidence and logic, work with professors, collaborate with other students to complete assignments, and become self-determined. These are also valuable workplace skills. Employers look for solid communications skills, the ability to think logically, draw conclusions based on evidence, participate well with others, and work independently. College will offer opportunities to build these skills through class work, public speaking programs, or classes, and other resources. It is more demanding and likely to be completely different from what you might imagine as a high school student.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLLEGE
That is why it is so important to know enough about yourself to be able to make good choices about which schools to attend. Similarly you need to be thoughtful about choosing colleges based on YOUR strengths, interests, aptitudes, and learning styles, as well as geography, income, and the availability of financial assistance.What factors are you thinking about in making college choices — geography, cost, academic major, reputation, size, and friends? Make a list of what is important and put it in your priority order.
A college event or fair at your high school is one of many tools, including The Fiske Guides, Princeton Review, books, and college websites that can help you explore the many types of schools that may interest you. Urban Prep's college event was described as an opportunity for the school's "best and brightest students" to meet deans and admissions officers from colleges and universities around the country. This was the students' opportunity to talk to representatives, find out what they looked for in applicants, ask questions, and gain a sense of what school might be a good fit for them. Later we see Krishaun at Fisk. Watch this video to see what happened at the event as well as what Krishaun thought about his choice of Fisk.
HANDS-ON PROBLEM-SOLVING ACTIVITY: STUDENT LEARNING STYLES
A key to college success and managing expectations is self-knowledge and the assurance that students are in the right schools that fit their learning styles and interests. Self-awareness can make time spent doing research on potential schools, attending college fairs, and visiting schools more effective and productive.
Read the scenarios below. Find yourself in these types of students and consider the various options following high school. What sounds like the best fit for you? How else might you describe your goals and learning style? What led you to make the choice(s) you made?
Loves Learning.You love learning and being part of a community in which others do too. That is the first clue that you are college material. You may not have admitted your love to others for fear of being considered geeky, but if in your mind you reveled in the ideas exchanged in your classes, then college could feel as if you're in a big candy store. You will be among many others who feel the way you do, and you'll have access to faculty who can feed your desire to learn and engage in new ideas. Either a small or mid-sized liberal arts college or a large university setting could be right for you.
Under Challenged.You were bored and not achieving at the level everyone else thought you could. Did teachers and others tell you all the time how smart you were even when they said you weren't fulfilling your potential? Were you among those who found school easy? Maybe you did not like school because it was not challenging enough. You may want to look into a school that is not top-tier, but that has an honors program you can join as you show what you can do.
Don't Need College (Now).Your path may lead to being an artist or creative person who has to follow a passion unbound by pedagogy. You don't want to wait to do what you love and don't see that college is going to help you. You are a dancer, an artist, a filmmaker, a carpenter, and a fashion designer. You just want to start work. Perhaps you think you'll take some courses along the way, but don't need college full time, at least not now. But you may be a good fit for a school that specializes in your area of interest like New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, for example. Even people with creative interests need income and college degrees to get jobs; fortunately they can find jobs and schools that nourish their creativity.
Hands-On Learner.You learn best by doing and are practical in your interests. Did you prefer the courses demanding the most practical approaches or that allowed you to work with your hands? Was taking action more important than reading or doing research in the library? You may be a student for whom a traditional college is not the right choice. Colleges that are clearly vocational in their focus and teach hands-on skills that can be used right away in defined workplaces are sometimes classified as technical colleges. Look at technical schools or community colleges. If looking at a for-profit school be sure it is accredited; do an Internet search to find out its reputation and identify any red flags.
Adrift.You are not yet sure whether college is right for you, or more important, if you are ready for college. Do you feel pushed to go to school, but not quite focused enough to settle down to a course of study? Are you feeling that you don't have a sense of purpose? Are you looking for a purpose? While everyone else seems so assured about college goals, you want to enjoy other experiences before you take the plunge. You may have been derailed by a traumatic event. Your grades may not be great, and you wonder if you are worthy of the investment. You just feel wobbly about your situation. Again a community college will allow you to remediate needed skills as well as give you a chance to get your footing in a college setting and take the process step by step.
Less-than-Dazzling Record.Are your grades not what they should be? Maybe you had a rough patch along the way. Perhaps your friends did not value education and you let yourself be pulled along with them, to the detriment of your grades. Maybe your grades are uneven: you are great in English, but terrible at math, and it shows in your grade point average (GPA) and college test scores such as the SAT or ACT. But you know you want to go to college. An excellent option for you may also be a community college or a school that is not top-tier. Once you are on more solid ground with a good track record you can think about transferring to a school more suited to your goals.
Clear Career Path.You have always known what you want to be when you grow up. Have you always known you want to be a doctor, lawyer, executive, nurse, scientist, or teacher? All of these professions require a college degree and even an advanced degree. If you are clearly focused on and passionate about such a life path, then not only do you need college, but most likely you need one that will support that goal in particular. Look for colleges or universities with strong support programs (not majors) for pre-law or pre-med, for example, or research opportunities in the sciences or accelerated teaching certificates.
No Resources.You feel you cannot afford to go to college. You want to go, but you and your family have no money for school. No one in your family has attended college, so it seems too difficult and out of reach for you. You may have family obligations already and cannot see how this can work for you. Financial aid is available, but you must do the work to find what is available.
Returning Student.You may be older than the traditional student and have family and home responsibilities to manage. Perhaps, long ago, you felt that you were not ready for or did not need college, or now you're dead-ended in a career and need to develop new skills. You may be a veteran. You are part of a large and growing group for whom increasing resources are available. More than likely you are in the category of adult learner. You're over 25. Your time is precious. At some point you realize that to progress in your work or to move to a more lucrative field, you need a college degree or specialized training. You may need to start with a GED® that will allow you to apply to college even without a traditional high school diploma. Community colleges are a good resource for you and cater to your needs both in flexibility and in course offerings that are job specific. They offer either an Associate's Degree or Certificate programs for specific job skills. Some offer GED programs to help you make that transition and many schools have special programs for veterans.
Which college is right for you? Take a look at the Sidebar on College Degrees to find out more about the kinds of college degrees that are available — Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, and beyond. What degree matches your job seeking and career goals — and what can you afford? Put this information together with what you have already learned about yourself from figuring out what student learning style best describes you. Now you're ready to start thinking about what colleges might work best for you. Think broadly. Make an initial list of colleges to look into.
Give yourself enough time while you are in high school to find the schools that interest you and that seem to fit your learning style and goals. Here is a list of key activities you can also do in high school to help you get into the college of your choice:
- Be sure you have great grades. This will be especially true your last two years, but it all counts in the end. Ask for extra help from teachers if you need it. (Do this in college too; it is what teachers are paid to do!)
- READ. Read volumes of books, magazines, news articles — whatever interests you. Doing so will build your vocabulary skills for the SAT/ACT tests. You will also become a better writer and be more prepared for interviews.
- Engage in the right activities — not to the detriment of your schoolwork or health but enough to show that you are a leader, innovator, and caring person through projects you do for your high school or in your place of worship or community. Find clubs or opportunities to learn more about your planned career. All of these help you to gain experiences that you can use in personal statements and interviews.
- Have a part-time job. This shows how responsible you are and helps you save money for college.
- Build relationships with adults in high school and in your jobs and activities so they will be happy to write those glowing letters of recommendation you will need.
- Find a program through your school or public library that will prepare you for the SAT/ACT tests. You'll discover "tricks of the trade" to help you do well on standardized tests.
These are very similar to the skills and activities you will use in college to search for a job and be launched on your career. Get into the habit now.
Types of degrees or programs to consider as you look ahead to schooling after high school graduation.
- An Associate's degree (AA) requires two years of work for a degree in general studies or one specialized in a profession, such as Business Information Systems or Health Care Management.
- A certificate program does not grant a degree nor have the rigorous expectations of a degree-granting program, but certifies that the student has taken course work leading to a level of proficiency in a stated area.
- A Bachelor's degree commonly requires four years of study or the equivalent in credits. It may be a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or a BS (Bachelor of Science), depending on the concentration and offerings of the college.
- A Master's degree (MA) is a graduate degree earned after a BA/BS and may be a year or two, or the equivalent in credits, depending on the program. It is a specialization or concentration in a particular subject or field. For example, an MBA is a Master in Business Administration, an MFA is a Master of Fine Arts, an MSW is a Master in Social Work, and an MPA is a Master of Public Administration. One can also earn an MA in history or biology or math. An MA is usually required before or as part of earning the doctorate, with variations from school to school.
- A Doctorate is considered a "terminal degree," meaning it is the highest degree you can earn in the field of your choosing. A doctoral degree can be general such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.); or specific such as a JD, Juris Doctor (law degree); an MD, Doctor of Medicine, or an Ed.D., Doctor of Education.
As you prepare to write the all-important college essays to the schools you've chosen, think about how you see yourself. What are your goals? What have you achieved academically, socially, in sports, and in serving the community? This is one of the places where all those things you have been doing while in high school become important. What obstacles have you overcome? Write these down. Make it comprehensive and then you can select the ideas that work for individual colleges.
Your essay needs to be personal and compelling. Expect to write several drafts that should be reviewed by people who know you as well as those who are excellent writers. It has to be your own voice and work. What are the anecdotes in your life that best describe who you are and how you came to be that way? No one can or should write it for you. It is YOUR story after all — about what has made all the difference in YOUR life.
Evan Lewis, Krishaun's Urban Prep adviser, talks to him about writing the essay for his college application. He says the essay has to "communicate who you are now, who you were then, and who you want to be in the future — and what is the evolution of Krishaun." They discuss Krishaun's past when he believed fighting was his lifestyle. Lewis advises Krishaun that every day he is fighting a battle that will determine whether or not he is able to live the life he envisions for himself. He advises Krishaun to be committed to his dream of success.
Advice on doing the all-important college essay. By Zaragoza Guerra, college admissions consultant on College Coach.
It's mid-July, and I'm sure most soon-to-be seniors are enjoying a much needed respite from school work, term papers, and standardized testing. But the halcyon days of summer, unfortunately, will eventually come to an end. It's not a bad idea to get started on the main Common Application Essay — get it out of the way before it has to compete for your attention against tests, papers, extracurricular activities, and any supplemental application essay questions, most of which get published August 1st.
Where does one even begin when tackling the Common App essay? Is there anything in particular that colleges want to see? Let's start with the first essay prompt:
Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
Holy background-or-story-so-central-to-their-identity Batman! Do you have to have lived Bruce Wayne's life, with its dramatic highs and lows, to answer this question? Absolutely not! Here's your guide for breaking down this prompt:
- Know your audience. Remember, this essay is going to be read by an academic community's gatekeeper, someone wanting to know how well you'd fit in at his school. When narrowing down your topic or choosing your story, think about how it relates to you as a scholar, a leader, someone who overcomes obstacles, a person with a particular talent, or a person who interacts with the community.
- Highlight key words. Don't let the words "background" or "story" distract you. The key word here is "identity" — yours, to be exact. This prompt is all about letting your reader know about you, how you see yourself, what informs your actions. The background and story here are important, yes, but only insomuch as they are a jumping off point from which to get to the heart of your essay: you.
- Illustrate your story. You can tell someone until you are blue in the face that you're funny, but until s/he laughs at one of your jokes, s/he'll have a hard time believing you. Don't just tell your reader you are such and such. Show it through your anecdotes! Has your identity manifested itself in some way, through actions or drive? If so, show your reader.
- State your goals. Imagine you are Superman. Well, Superman is Superman because he has a purpose; otherwise, he'd be just another strong man with a cape. While his story is unique — how many other kids from Kansas can say they fell to earth in a meteor shower? — It is the story's impact on Superman's outlook and mission that is so compelling. Let your reader know how you see things, what contributions you've already made in the world, and what you're hoping to do in the future. Be careful not to sound haughty or pretentious.
- Avoid wrestling with inner demons. Your personal statement is not a diary entry or reality show, and a college admissions committee is not your therapist. Don't cloud an admission officer's mind with doubts about your ability to handle the pressures of college or its social environs. Focus on your strengths!
Zeroing in on a story that screams "you" from among a lifetime of stories might seem daunting, but don't let the challenge scare you away from choosing this essay prompt. If you remember your target audience and their interest in hearing your story, you'll be better able to hone your topic into a successful personal statement — one that focuses on how your identity will help you make strong academic or social contributions to your prospective college. If your story is a bumpy one, you need to demonstrate how you have overcome adversity, learned lessons, and matured. (From 5 Tips for Showcasing Your Identity on the Common App Essay.)
Now that you're thinking about your own essay, you may want to see some examples of successful essays that helped students to enter top-notch schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and others. You can also find examples of essays for the Common Application. Visit College Admissions Essays.
HANDS-ON PROBLEM-SOLVING ACTIVITY:
Money is often the scariest aspect of planning for college. You should prepare a personal budget now while you are in high school that allows some savings for college. Notice that a budget forces you to make difficult choices — college fund or new sneakers or a special hairdo. Keep a notebook on spending for two weeks. At the end of two weeks see how prudent you have been and how well you are able to fit your spending to your budget. What strategies can you use to manage your spending? Choose a budget buddy. Both of you should set a savings goal for something you want and for your college fund. See who does the best and encourage or remind one another of your goals.
How to pay for college is important for all students. Money will be a key factor in whether you feel you can go to college as well as make it through to graduation. Research and planning are essential. Another factor to consider as you begin to search for the right school — which ones offer the best value for your money. As we've mentioned before, you also need to begin saving money for college yourself.
Students who will be the first in their family to attend college, or whose families do not have a lot of money, may have the least information about the college application process and available resources. If this is you, you may need more time to find the right school and learn what it takes to get in.
Financing college is often a key obstacle to students' achieving a college degree. If students are dedicated and really want to go, the funds can generally be found. Both Robert and Krishaun received financial aid to help them attend college, and both sought help from financial advisers. In this clip, we sit in on Robert's meeting with a financial aid adviser at Lake Forest College. Before he can graduate, Robert must pay a balance of $9,603. The adviser says that Robert already has $40,000 in student loan debt; he is hoping Robert can find other resources to cover the balance. Robert says he has "lots of regrets" about his freshman and sophomore years. He wished he'd had better advice so his loan debt would be lower.
You need to find out about financial aid and talk to financial advisers at schools you are considering. A resource list is provided at the end of this chapter. For U.S. citizens, federal funds are 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 subjects or geography. The most important thing you need to do is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). According to the media, the good news is that more federal funds are being made available to finance higher education. The bad news is that gaining access to that money is complicated by the difficulties in filling out the FAFSA. But, you just have to do it! (Be aware that you are not eligible for federal government support if you are not a U.S. citizen. Some states, but not all, will allow non-U.S. citizens to enroll in public colleges at resident rates.)
To be eligible for federal Pell grants, loans, or even campus-based aid, you must have filled out the FAFSA. In fact, it is a good idea to do so even if you are lucky enough not to need financial aid. Your family's federal tax return for the previous year is required as part of financial aid applications and even for some government sponsored scholarships based on proven financial need. It is a problem for you if your family has not filed income tax returns. Some public colleges will enroll you and even find private funding sources for you, but in most cases you have to be able and willing to submit the FAFSA form. If a crisis such as illness in the family or loss of a job occurs, you must be in the system to appeal for support, even if right now you could pay the whole bill. It is best to work with the financial aid office; the advisers are trained to guide and counsel you on how to obtain aid.
An organization called QuestBridge believes it is important for students from low-income families to receive four-year scholarships to give them assurance they can complete their degrees. It matches up students with a high level of academic achievement in high school with top-tier colleges and universities.
Like all national scholarships, QuestBridge is highly competitive. Look for local scholarship programs that may be available from faith-based organizations, community centers, rotary clubs, and others. Local programs are not always well-advertised, so it is important to ask questions and do some digging to find these financial resources for students.
Local programs like BridgeEdU that provide an onramp to higher education may be affiliated with local colleges. This pilot program in Baltimore, MD was founded by Wes Moore, who is its CEO. It is a unique first-year college program that combines core academic courses, real-world internships, service experiences, and coaching to help students succeed in academics and life. BridgeEdU Scholars have the opportunity to earn 20+ transferrable college credits.
Other local programs like Minds Matter, Rainier Scholars, Bottom Line and Leadership Enterprise for Diverse America (LEDA) help students get into college and succeed once there. And the CUNY system in New York City has begun a much touted program called ASAP to assure student success from community college on.
Taking out credit union loans can be a good strategy. 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. Some employers offer tuition support if the schooling relates to a particular job. State and city public college systems are economical for local students and often truly stellar. What is important is to research the various ways that college costs can be reduced and apply to diverse sources.
STICKER PRICE AND ACTUAL COSTS
Many students and families have misconceptions about college costs. Their first thought is that the price they see is what they will pay. The reality is that just like a new car, this is the sticker price. The final cost may ultimately be far less once financial aid is factored in.
A wonderful new tool will help you with this process. Called "Get Schooled," it is brought to you by MTV: Find Money For College. Check it out. You will need to sign in; after you do, you can use it all the time. You'll be able to compare what you would pay to attend various colleges based on your family's income. That is really important information. Some schools will be cheaper than you might expect when financial aid is factored in, while others will be more expensive. The site has other tools, too. Write down what you learn
At the same time, families do not often plan for costs that begin to accrue even in the application process while you are still in high school. These can include application fees, a visit to the campus, and doctor visits for a physical exam or any needed shots (measles vaccine is required). Once accepted by a college you may need:
- New clothes depending on the climate in which the school is located
- Bedding and other household items for a dorm room
- Health insurance if the student is not on the parent's plan
- Student fees
- Meal plans
- Books and school supplies
- Required deposit for a dorm room
- Funds for transportation to college
- Laptop computer (to track assignments/time commitments, take notes, conduct research, link to course resources, and prepare class assignments)
- Cell phone
Try to add up the items here and see what you could need over and above tuition for college expenses.
For each item, think about a source of funding for it. Robert mentions, for example, that bus fare to college was the one contribution that his grandmother was able to make for him. This may be why a summer and/or a part-time campus work-study job could be essential. (They also build your resume.)
Understanding various costs, planning wisely, and spending modestly are critical as both Robert and Krishaun discovered. Both young men have money anxieties throughout their college years. Struggles with their grades may even have resulted in the loss of some of their scholarship funds, so be sure and keep your grades strong.
At the end of college, both Robert and Krishaun owed significant amounts of money in student loans. Their financial aid officers, with whom they had good relationships, helped them as much as they could. Without a doubt, the young men could have planned better and been more frugal; Krishaun, for example, could have found more part-time jobs. Working for an AmeriCorps service organization after he graduated from college will help Robert to reduce his loans as well as meet his personal goals.
What stumbling blocks and costs may be particularly difficult for you and your family? Money is one of the hardest things families have to discuss but it is hugely important. Talk with your parents, adviser, a credit counselor, or even a friend who is good with money. Be realistic.
For many, the best option may be a community college. Typically they are publicly funded, meaning subsidized, so expenses are reasonable. They accept students from local high schools and communities and know intimately the strengths and weaknesses of local school systems. They offer remedial courses, often in math and language skills, and offer more support to help students adjust to college culture.
Explore local community colleges, and public and private colleges and universities; include historically black colleges and universities. Keep in mind, however, that private colleges may not offer enough financial aid for some students to be able to attend — as Lake Forest and Fisk did initially for Robert and Krishaun. Look at the resource list at the end of this chapter to find ideas.
Online schools and courses are available. It is important to know how to learn in an online environment; it can be a way to start school or to study when you are working full time. However, you have to be very careful in choosing online schools or courses as not all are of equal quality. You will also miss the opportunity to engage with classmates and faculty in ways that will mimic the kinds of relationships and behaviors you will need for the workplace. You don't even have to get out of your pajamas. And while that sounds great, it does not prepare you to dress for success! Look for accreditation as one clue of quality.
Federal financial aid is given only to schools that meet accreditation standards and students would be wise to focus on these schools. Regional organizations review colleges and universities on a variety of measures, including governance, financial stability, and most important, academic outcomes. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the goal of accreditation is to "assure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable standards of quality." A list of accredited colleges meeting federal standards can be found at the accreditation database.
Now make a new list of schools to consider, given all this new information.
Personal Lifelong Learning: This is a good time to start a personal journal. Journaling can actually be a stress reliever while you are in high school, as well as help you to know yourself better. Choose an online journal or a written journal. You can begin by listing what you have learned so far about readiness for college. What are your personal expectations for yourself? What do you feel others expect from you, and are the two aligned — that is, do your personal goals match the goals your family has for you? Whom do you admire and why? What do you see that you may have to work on, whether a value or a subject matter, or a personal attribute (like patience or time management)? What would be a game plan to do that work? All these things and more can go into your "college preparation journal." Note that successful people report that keeping a journal of some kind is useful as a lifetime skill.
What should you take away from this chapter?
- You have to begin to understand who you are and create your own expectations.
- You should talk to your family about what you want and be sure you are all on the same page together. Build a support team to help you get from high school to college.
- You should have some role models and inspiration to keep you going; a buddy who also wants to go to college can encourage your efforts.
- You should appreciate why college is worth the effort.
- You have to research schools and figure out which ones will support your dreams and goals.
- You have to be prepared to complete the necessary applications — for admission to a college including your personal essay, and the FAFSA form for financial assistance.
- Having a plan to pay for college is critical and you need to do the work to uncover financial aid. You also need to understand your own responsibilities including possibly having a job and saving money; budgeting can help you make smart choices.
Cantarella, Marcia Y., Ph.D. I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide. Naperville, Il: Sourcebooks, 2012. Chapter 1-2. Print.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). U.S. Department of Education., 2015. Web.
Opens the portal for applying for federal financial aid and begins that process.
Edvisors. Edvisors Network, Inc., 2015. Web.
Resources especially for online colleges.
Tisdale, Stacey. The True Cost of Happiness. New York: Wiley., 2009. Print.
Tisdale helps you to plan based on an understanding of your personal money style.
Davis, Samson, George Jenkins, and Romeck Hunt. The Pact. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003. Print.
The importance of camaraderie and shared goals is illustrated in this New York Times bestseller.
Collegeboard. The College Board., 2015. Web.
Information about colleges and the tests needed for admission. An excellent site to learn more about individual colleges, how to pay for it (scholarships, grants, loans) and other college prepping tools.
College Countdown. College Countdown., 2014. Web.
Books and resources on finding, paying for, and surviving college including Fiske Guides and test prep materials.
Peterson's. Peterson's, a Nelnet Company., 2015. Web.
Guides to taking tests and choosing colleges.
StudyNotes. Study Notes, LLC., 2014. Web.
StudyNotes provides learning tools to empower students to learn more effectively, including notes for high school AP courses. StudyNotes is a StartX Company, the nonprofit student start-up accelerator program at Stanford University. The site provides sample college application essays for top-notch colleges and the Common Application.
GED Programs. GEDPrograms.org., 2015. Web.
Find out about GED programs, practice tests, and study guides.
American Academy of Achievement. American Academy of Achievement., 2015. Web.
The HistoryMakers. The HistoryMakers., 2015. Web.
Biographies of black men and women of achievement.
Vohwinkle, Jeremy. "Money and the College Student". About Money. About., 2015. Web.
An article on debt and college students. Contains links to help manage money and stay out of debt.
College, Education, Financial Aid info. U.S. Department of Education., 2015. Web.
College preparation resources and tools.
NPEA — National Partnership for Educational Access. The Steppingstone Foundation., 2015. Web.
Shaevitz, Marjorie. adMission Possible. Naperville, Il: Sourcebooks., 2012. Print.
QuestBridge. QuestBridge., 2015. Web.
General Merit-Based Scholarship (click the image below to view a larger version)
Not on the grid?
Don’t worry! At Lake Forest College, we know that our students are more than just a number. We are searching for interesting, well-rounded students to add to our already diverse community. Your engagement with the College, accomplishments in and out of the classroom, leadership potential, course preparation, and more will be taken into consideration by our holistic review. Don’t hesitate to apply!
Those students who are applying without submitting their ACT or SAT scores must schedule an interview with their admission counselor as soon as possible. We believe that this conversation tells more about a student’s drive and passion for learning than a standardized exam. Students who apply test-optional will be reviewed for scholarship on an individual basis using our holistic review process.
As an institution that is truly diverse in every sense of the word, we at Lake Forest College pride ourselves in our holistic admissions review. Whether you find yourself on the above grid or not, your admissions counselor will review your file for scholarship consideration based on qualities that we know make a successful Forester. Beyond just a GPA or test-score, we are looking for students that want a personalized academic experience, paired with the world-class opportunities that Chicago has to offer.
Fine Art Scholarships
Lake Forest College offers talent-based scholarships in music, studio art, and theater. Scholarships require an application for admission, the scholarship application, and either an audition for music and theater, or portfolio review for studio art. Scholarships are available to both majors and non-majors. Fine arts applications must be submitted by February 15 with auditions scheduled and completed before March 1. Applications, auditions, and portfolios submitted after these deadlines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Students may contact Jonathan Gonzalez (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
Fine Arts Scholarship Form