Coming to the end of your high school career is a massive shift in any young person’s life. It marks the end of one era and the start of a whole new chapter where so much can and will change. It can feel exciting and terrifying all at once, and there are likely a million questions running through your head. Nothing is going to change the fact that this experience is a daunting one, but there are a few things you can do and think about that will help you feel a little more and in control of what lies ahead of you.
Jumping straight from high school to college with no real plans or direction is a recipe for disaster. A lot of college students drop out because they realise a little too late that the qualification they chose on a whim doesn’t really match up with what they want out of their lives in the long term. Not knowing what you want to do after high school is okay and totally normal – you’re still young and you have a lot to figure out. However, making the right decision here is important.
A lot of great schools, like Waterford High School, for example, offer college counselling to assist you in figuring out what you want to study after high school. If your school doesn’t offer a programme like this, there are plenty of external and private companies that can help make sure you make the right decision for your undergraduate years. Some will even help you out with college placement and applications to help you in getting into the perfect school for your own needs.
If after counselling you’re still not 100% sure about what you see yourself doing, talk to your parents, guardians and educators about taking a gap year to figure out where your passions lie. You may feel like you would be falling behind your classmates and peers, but taking a year off to discover your talents and goals in life is a far better use of your time than failing or dropping out at undergraduate level because you’re unhappy, struggling or have changed your mind.
Choosing which college you’d ideally like to go to is another big decision that will hugely impact your life for the next few years. If you know what you’d like to study and have a dream school in mind, that would likely be your first choice. However, if you’re playing around with a few ideas, you’ll need to think about a few things like what the school has to offer in terms of education but also sport, culture, campus life, residence and more.
You’ll also want to keep in mind where you’d like to live. If your family is your biggest support system, you might like to consider a college in your home town so you can remain living at home a few years longer. Deciding between living at home and living in a campus residence will also have a major impact on finances, so be sure to discuss these factors openly with your parents or guardians. On the flip side, if you’d like a taste of independence in your undergraduate years, a college in a town further away can give you that experience and provide the opportunity to learn plenty about yourself and how to function in the world around you.
Another element to the financial side of education is whether or not you plan on getting a job after high school. Working while in college can be a great learning experience. It teaches you a high level of responsibility and also gives you the opportunity to learn how to work smartly with your own hard-earned money.
However, it’s important to have your priorities set straight. As a full-time college student, your academics should come first. Having a stressful and time-consuming job on the side can be draining, take away from your study time and negatively impact your mental health if it’s too demanding on you and your time. If you want to work, make sure to be familiar with your class schedule and how demanding school is on your time before applying for jobs.
If your finances require you to work, you might want to consider applying for colleges that allow for part-time study, which will give you more freedom to balance your academics, your job and your personal life as well.
Another important question to ask yourself is whether or not you are personally ready for college. Even if you’re clear on exactly what you want to study, the college experience comes with a bucket of challenges that you’ll need to be academically and mentally prepared for.
If you found yourself struggling with academics in high school, you might want to consider taking some remedial classes to freshen up and make sure you’re prepared for what’s ahead. On top of this, college professors are often less hands-on than your high school teachers needed to be. Classes are typically far bigger and you may find yourself becoming something of a number at school. It will be up to you to manage your own schedule and speak up when you feel like you need help.
On top of your academic and potential work obligations, you’ll also need to keep in mind that college life, especially when studying away from home, comes with a lot of responsibilities. You’ll need to be mature enough to start taking care of yourself and managing your own time and schedule.
The college experience can be one of growth, excitement and some of the best years of your life. Taking care to prepare yourself and make the right decisions for you, will help make the experience all the better and easier to navigate. Being prepared will give you the confidence you’ll need to make a massive success out of your tertiary education, so prepare what you can and trust yourself going forward.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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