How to Plan for College

Lyndon B. Johnson once said, "We believeā€¦that education is not an expense. We believe it is an investment." Have you encountered an excellent teacher who has truly inspired you to learn? Have you tapped into the implicit joy of discovery? Or experienced the enjoyment of innate curiosity? When have you felt the exhilaration of accomplishing something for which you've worked hard?

It's really true: learning is its own reward. A college education is a wise investment not because of the kind of money you'll someday make (though that is a bonus, as well) but because of the ways it enriches, strengthens and shapes you as an individual.

It's never too early to start planning for college. The truth is, it will be here before you know it, and it won't fall into your lap. But the decisions surrounding college don't have to be stressful and overwhelming. With some intentionality and planning, you can enjoy a smooth transition into the exciting world of higher education! As you look ahead, here are a few basic but vital principles that will guide you as you plan toward college:

  • Don't Limit Your Options. If you're set on attending college someday (or even if you're not entirely sure but are considering it) it's smart to know which high school classes are required by most colleges and universities. For example, some colleges require a minimal of two years of foreign language; others require more. Your school guidance counselor is an expert in this area and will help you map out the classes you'll most likely need. Your school may even have a set "college prep track" to help guide you in choosing your path towards college. It's disappointing, to say that least, to get to your senior year only to discover you overlooked some important credits. A little planning goes a long way in avoiding this! When it comes to the future-aim high! Work diligently for good grades, take concurrent enrollment and AP classes whenever possible to give yourself a jumpstart on your college degree, and add in a few extracurricular activities or sports to make sure you're a well-rounded applicant. These are the assets which make you shine and open doors for acceptance into the college of your choice.
  • Know Thyself. Though not necessary while in high school, it doesn't hurt to have a career in mind, or to at least begin zeroing in on a field of interest. While some students seem to intuitively know their life direction, for many it's a process that takes time and self-reflection. Don't stress if you don't know what you "want to be when you grow up!" There's still plenty of time to figure things out. However, DO invest time in figuring yourself out! There are lots of personality tests available online that can help you in your self-discovery process. You may learn for example, that you thrive best when you're around people. Or that you prefer working alone. Maybe you thrive off of change and new adventure. Or maybe instead, you function best when there is a measure of predictability. These are all clues about what type of future career might best suit you. As you continue to discover your unique wiring, plan to take a few career assessments (usually your guidance counselor will supply these if you ask) and see what jobs surface as a potential match. High school is the perfect time to try out a variety of summer jobs in order to figure out what makes you tick. Do you love working outdoors? Does interacting with children bring you joy? Consider setting up a day to "job shadow" someone in a career field that piques your interest. There is much to be gained from all of these opportunities!
  • Research College Early. Finally, do a little college investigation! If you're interested in attending a faith-based college then our website is a great place to start this process. It's exciting to see how many faith-based colleges exist, and the large number of majors offered. As these schools begin to catch your attention, make a list of possibilities and consider setting up college visits early on so as to get a feel for various campuses. Attend college fairs when possible and visit with older friends or siblings who've graduated from college and see what you can learn from their stories and recommendations. All of this offers perspective about where you're headed and helps give traction to your forward motion as you continue walking, one step at a time, towards that overarching college dream!