I alluded in my last post about hiring an independent academic advisor to help you navigate a path through selecting the right classes. Before that I posted about financial aid. I talked about taking responsibility for knowing what college costs and how you are going to pay for it. It struck me that you may be asking "ok, I need to look at all of these things but how do I do it?". More importantly (this may be parents talking) "how do I put it all together so it makes sense?".That's where an independent advisor comes in. I'll give you an example of the value of this in my own story.
I only applied to one college. I briefly looked at the brochures other colleges sent to my house but that was the extent of my search. I made two trips to visit schools. One with a friend to a school I hadn't thought of much and knew fairly quickly that I wasn't interested in. The other I visited with my then girlfriend who knew someone going there. We visited for a day in a car with 5 other random people (pretty sure someone was riding on a lap now that I think about it) and drove 3 hours there and back the same day. The campus was beautiful and so was the drive. I had good grades and extra curricular activities so I was bound to get in (it just made sense).
Turns out I did get in. I barely looked at the financial aid statement because I knew my family didn't have any money (so they have to give lots of aid right?). I went up to take a placement exam (maybe there was two) and ended up missing them entirely because I didn't account for the time zone change. I ended up registering for classes the next day after a campus tour with my parents and other freshman. I was the last one to leave the giant computer lab because I had to have the perfect schedule. I had heard in one of those college seminars they make you go to in high school that class schedule (including a discussion of nap timeframes, seriously) was critical to success in college.
Freshman year goes by fast but uneventful. I recall spending long hours at the end of the year waiting in line for the best housing option with my new found friends. I spent a lot of time preparing for finals and did well. It's what I didn't do that sealed my demise. I neglected to follow up on my financial aid and a key scholarship was canceled. My mom then informed me that she was not able to take out another 401k loan to cover our expected family contribution. I was convinced it was over. Telling my new roommates that I wasn't going to be there after all was mortifying. They ended up getting a new roommate in a "housing lottery". I'm still friends with my former roommates but the "lottery replacement" ended up being a disaster that I still hear about.
When I moved back home the light switch flipped in my mind. I knew it was my fault. I blew it big time because I was stupid and didn't pay attention. I didn't even know what I did wrong at the time but I knew it was me. I resolved to never let that happen ever again. I spent the next year in community college plotting my return. I planned every class. I only took courses that would transfer back to my school and that satisfied requirements for my major. I worked full time during school and two full time jobs over the summer. I ended up coming back to the 4-year school where I started and never looked back. I graduated in four years, went on to graduate school for a Masters (on full tuition waiver) and have been successfully working in my major career field for 8 years. What's better? I've had the privilege to teach the course that changed my life as a freshman for the last year and a half at a local community college. I'm humbled by it honestly.
Here's the point. I've been through the ups and downs of the entire process. I've gotten aid, gone broke, made money, been an academic success/failure and seen others do the same. I've been fortunate to get back into the field through teaching and I see people struggling the way I did. I can help. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's have a conversation about how I can help you.