Going from high school to college can be a daunting transition and unfortunately, there are a lot of things that students need to know (yet often don't) in order to make the transition successfully.
Below I have put together some information that I wish I had available to me as I was in high school preparing for the transition to college, as well as information that I wish I had in college. Most of the information and advice in this article is applicable for going beyond college, as well as for other areas of life.
One of the first things to keep in mind is the importance of process.
As you go through high school, transition into college or your field of choice, or just through life, everything is a process. You do not have to do it in one day, all the problems do not have to be solved at once, and the decisions do not have to be made right away. Things come together and it is really best to take it one day at a time.
That being said, it is important to ask questions, seek answers, and to make decisions accordingly.
There are certain questions that are important to always be asking and finding answers to.
What do I want from life? Where am going? What is important to me and what am I committed to? What am I willing to give of myself or sacrifice to get there? Will what I am doing now get me to where I want to go or be?
The answers to these questions can change, but finding answers to these questions can guide you as to how to proceed in school and in life.
Asking questions and finding answers is also important in school. Very few people are good at everything and we generally each come with our own strengths and weaknesses. If you are having trouble or if you are struggling with a certain subject, work at it. Write your questions down and get help in your troubled areas. Do this again and again for whatever you have trouble with. This skill set is important for both high school and college, and will help you to do well in school.
Being smart and doing well in school is not only a matter of intelligence, it is a matter of how you work and address trouble spots in order to do well. Doing this will also help you to stay on top of your classes and to earn good grades. Grades are important when applying to college and scholarships. Try to keep as high of grade point average as possible, and if you are able to take advantage of and commit to honors and Advanced Placement courses, do so.
Remember the importance of respect.
Respect is important for all aspects of our lives and it includes school. Be respectful to yourself, to others, to your school, and to your teachers. Not only is it an important character trait and important in interaction, but it is also important down the line.
Remember that no one is an island.
We all affect each other and do not get far without each other’s help.
Your parents, grandparents, guardians, whoever—someone has helped you to get to where you are today and someone has helped you to become the person you are today.
This system does not stop. It continues on through high school, college, career, and so forth.
It is important to form respectful, professional, and interpersonal relationships with people. Do your best in school. Ask questions. Put time, effort, and quality into your schoolwork. Volunteer. Be involved. Your teachers should know who you are, what kind of work you produce, and how you tackle challenges or trouble areas. The work you submit for school, what you are involved in, and the way you behave and present yourself is a reflection of you. To apply to colleges, scholarships, and other professional programs you have to have people on your side who can speak to your character, work ethic, interests, commitment, and present potential and future potential.
I applied to a lot of scholarships in high school and I would not have been able to do so, had I not had teachers who could speak and write to the qualities they saw in me. Continued support from your support systems (parents, grandparents, guardians, friends, mentors, and so forth) is important as you go through life and through school. Always remember to be grateful always take the time to thank those who have helped you in all areas of your life.
It is also important to remember the importance of community and extra-curricular activities.
In addition to getting good grades and having good relationships with teachers and professionals, community involvement and extra-curricular activities are important. College admissions and scholarship committees like to see that you are involved in and care about something other than yourself, and it is expected that you be involved in your community in some way. Extra-curricular activities are important because they show that you have interests and that you are involved, committed, and well-rounded.
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If you are not able to be involved in your community and volunteer, or to be involved in extra-curricular activities due to life constraints or health or home circumstances, be prepared to explain why in college and scholarship applications that request these activities or information.
You do not have to do everything, but you should be doing as best as you can and as much as you can within your circumstances while maintaining good grades.
Another thing that is important is adversity and overcoming it.
I just mentioned a few of the constraints that I had in high school which leads me into adversity.
Very few people have perfect lives and people with perfect lives have nothing to write about.
It is ok to have challenges. It is ok to come from a less-than-perfect background or have less-than-perfect circumstances. It is ok to be Hispanic, or a woman, or the first in your family to go to college. It is ok to have little-to-no financial resources or to have life experiences that have tried and challenged you.
What is important for scholarship and college applications, and for life in general, is overcoming challenges and how you overcame these challenges.
These are things that reflect on your character and that colleges and scholarship committees often want to know about. These are also things that help you go forward.
Applying for scholarships
College is expensive and seeing the numbers can be scary, especially when your family does not have those kinds of resources for school; which makes finding scholarships helpful and necessary. The different scholarships I obtained help me to pay tuition, fees, and books.
Finding scholarships is mostly done online now so it is important to have or get access to a computer and internet. This can be done through a personal computer, the public library, or school. I did not have a computer or printer in high school so I got to know the computer teacher and asked if I could use the computers and printer. The computer teacher let me use the computers and printers and I would come in early on school days and through my lunch break to use the computers to look for scholarships, print and submit scholarship applications, and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
When using public computers, be careful of what information you submit and leave behind. Many scholarships ask for identifying and personal information that should not be left unattended or on public computers. Also, applying for scholarships should NEVER cost you money. Any website or individual that offers scholarships for a cost is a SCAM or should be avoided. Individuals who offer help in finding scholarships for a fee are not doing anything for you that you cannot do yourself.
A couple of good places to look for scholarships online are fastweb.com, scholarshipexperts.com, cappex.com, and outlawstudent.com. Also keep an eye out for local scholarships, scholarships geared specifically for certain target groups (such as ethnic groups, minorities, etc.), or scholarships offered through employers (such as McDonald's, Burger King, etc). Looking locally also helps to find scholarships that you might not come across otherwise. There are also scholarships for creative things like making a prom dress out of duct tape.
There are a lot of scholarships out there but there are also a lot of students who need money, so you should be going after scholarships with a vengeance.
Also when applying for scholarships, make sure that you turn in a complete and quality application. Be aware of deadlines, give yourself enough time to have it completed, give your recommenders enough time to write you letters of recommendation, and give yourself enough time to find another recommender if necessary. Ask your teacher, boss, or volunteer supervisor if they can write you a strong letter of recommendation and only ask for letters of recommendation from people who have gotten to know you and can speak to your strengths, character, work ethic, goals, and potential. If the person you asked says no, do not be discouraged. Thank them for their honesty and look elsewhere. You need strong letters of recommendation; nothing weak or in-between.
I have covered a lot of information and it is overwhelming at first and at times afterward, but I go back to emphasizing the fact that everything is a process and one step leads to another. It always does, but you have to start walking first.
If you never start walking and working on this, one step cannot lead to another.
To touch base on everything once more:
- Ask questions, seek answers, and make decisions accordingly.
- Get help when you need it and early.
- Be respectful.
- Remember that you needed others to get to where you are today and you will need others to get to where you need to go.
- Be grateful and always take the time to thank those who have helped you in all areas of your life.
- Be involved in the community and genuinely care about things other than yourself.
- Adversity and overcoming it is an asset. Do not be ashamed or held back by your challenges. Overcome them and be able to use them as strengths in your life and in your applications to scholarships and colleges.
- Look for scholarships early and often.
- Send quality, complete, and on-time scholarship, college, and job applications and apply to as many as possible in this way.
- Ask for letters of recommendation only from those who can speak to your strengths, character and potential, and give your recommenders as much notice as possible.
And last but not least, keep going and keep at it! There will be bumps along the way but do not let those hold you back.
You can definitely do it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.