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Whether you’re a high school student taking classes at home, or a parent now working from home, utilize this time to talk about college. This conversation can feel intimidating at first, so I recommend breaking the college conversation apart, bit by bit. Here’s a set of topics to focus on, to help you (the student) on your college journey.Family in kitchen.

Program of study

It’s the same question students have answered since first grade: “What do you want to be when you grow up”? First, take a deep breath and acknowledge that you do not have to have every single step mapped out. That will come with time and experience. If you’re unsure what you want to study, think about what type of career interest you. Something in the health world, or the business world, perhaps the education world? The arts? You can explore different career paths through different online resources, at least to get the conversation started.

Check out BigFuture from CollegeBoard, and Reality Check from EducationQuest.  These tools will not answer the question for you, but it will help you narrow down your list of prospective programs. Once you have a clear idea of what area you want to study, reach out to a professional in that field and see if they’d be willing to have a phone call or video chat, so you can ask them questions about their career path. Contact your school counselor if you need help finding a professional in your community.

College Options

Once you have a rough idea of what you want to study, create a list of prospective schools to attend. Perhaps you’re interested in a trade program, or specialized licensure program; you can start looking for the trade schools or community colleges that offer those types of programs. If you’re thinking you’d like a four-year degree pathway, begin visiting college websites. Many colleges are now unveiling virtual tours, where you can see the campus and communicate with a representative of that program to learn more about what they offer. This is an important step in the college process. Once you’re able to, look into setting up an official campus visit to that school. Use College Profiles to begin identifying schools that align with your interest.

Talk Finances

One of the first steps on the financial side of this process is to have a conversation as a family about paying for college. Discuss the amount of money, if any, that parents are willing/able to help you with for college expenses. Perhaps parents have a college savings plan, like a NEST 529? Or perhaps the financial situation is tough right now, and parents are not able to help with money for tuition, but they are able to help with books or housing. To aid in this conversation, you can begin researching the costs of the colleges you’re interested in attending. One tool that is helpful in planning for college expenses, as well as help you plan for what your FAFSA results are going to be, is the College Funding Estimator from EducationQuest. Check it out! Also, feel free to call the nearest EducationQuest office, we’d be happy to help you start these conversations!

Position yourself for Scholarships

It’s never too early to start learning about what goes into a successful scholarship process. Remember, scholarships are sources of money that you need to apply for, and if you are selected, that is money to help you pay for school! Scholarships are awarded based on academics, involvement, volunteering, and other criteria. The first step is to see what all is out there that is truly relevant to you. One good resource to get you started is ScholarshipQuest, where you create your profile, based on your information as a student, and then it will compile a list of scholarship opportunities that match something from your profile. It does the searching for you! However, you still need to apply.

In Conclusion

All of these steps are conversation starters, but they won’t by any means answer all your questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your school counselor, or to EducationQuest, to learn more about this process, as well as hear different perspectives that may prove helpful to you as you start making decisions. Junior year of high school is when you should actively be wrapping up your planning and prepping, as senior year of high school is when you actively apply for admission, for financial aid, and for scholarships.

Good luck and let us know how we can help!