Thinking About College

Labor Day 2018 is past. How did summer fly by so fast? We can’t help you with that one. But we can help you with what lies ahead in thinking about, planning, and applying to college. It’s a lot to think about. It's like having a huge term paper due and no clear instructions. Your friend tells you to do it one way. You've seen chats with other advice. Meanwhile the days are ticking by.

When we were high school students, there was just so much we didn't know about college. Not a good feeling. So this is our response: Fair Opportunity Project⟶or FOP, or Fair Opp. Pulling in as much as we find out there that's solid and straightforward. A to Z.

That’s why we started Fair Opportunity Project. We’re a nonprofit organization, started by students, so that everyone gets the detailed, comprehensive and straightforward information about college that offers a fair opportunity.

Resource Highlight from Fair Opportunity Project

The Fair Opportunity Project website is full of information on the college application process and we’re adding new information regularly. This issue, our focus is Thinking About College:

If you're thinking about whether college is for you, this is the place to start. We go through the benefits of college, why it matters for your future, and the wide range of students who have chosen to attend. If you're thinking about whether college is for you, this is the place to start.

Action step: Check out the website and see what’s there. You can download The Guide, watch any of the learning modules, enjoy the student music video. There’s a lot to explore.  

Fair Opp Faves: Tools We Like

Each issue of this newsletter we’ll highlight one cool tool or resource. Maybe it’s for finding the right college, covering college costs, or staying on top of the application process. We only share tools that we’ve checked out.

College aid? It starts with FAFSA—Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Yes, it is free & you can find it at Living life on your mobile? Now FAFSA works there too. New this fall is the FAFSA mobile app—accessible via a quick download of the myStudentAid app.

Action step: Download the myStudentAid app for your mobile phone.  Set up your profile. Don’t have all the answers? Hit save and come back to it later when you have the financial details it asks for. You don’t need to suffer through it alone⟶we’ll be sharing free resources that can help with that.

When “Aid” Isn’t So Helpful

College costs are on everyone’s minds and all over the media. That doesn’t mean that everything you hear is the whole story.

So with college in the future, how will you pay for it? Here’s some adulting advice. Think and plan now, before that tuition bill comes due.

Not all ways to pay for college are the same. Colleges where you’re accepted will get you all excited and THEN give you their “financial aid award” letters. It’s called a “package” and it will most likely include several different kinds of pots of money—funds. You’ll need to cover the cost of tuition, room, board, books and transportation.

Make sure you know the difference between the different kinds of funds. Go for the ones you don’t need to repay first. You might find more aid than you think! Here’s a list of the most common types of college aid.

Grants: Good to get! This is money for college costs that you don’t need to repay.

Scholarships: Good to get! This is also money for college costs that you don’t need to repay.

Work Study: Good to get, but remember that you need to work the hours in order to receive the money, so you may not actually receive the full amount that has been awarded to you.

Subsidized loans: This is money that you will need to pay back, so only borrow what you really need. A subsidized loan means that you don’t have to repay any of it while you’re at least a half-time college student. That takes some pressure off you.

Unsubsidized loans: This is money that you will need to start paying back as soon as you take out the loan. This should be your last choice for paying for college.

Action step: Do you already have a college in mind? Find their financial aid office webpage and search for “grants” and “scholarships”. Read up and make a list of the ones that might work for you.

Top Ten Reasons We Love Lists

OK, we don’t really have 10. But you’re still reading and that’s because lists hook all of us on the Internet. Colleges love to be on [most] lists. Best Campus Food. Prettiest Campus. Biggest Sport School….U.S. News and World Report. But are these lists more FOMO than what you’re really about? The most important college list is the one you create for yourself. What really matters to YOU in a college? We’ve made a short video about what to consider when you create your own, personal list.

We know, lists are still really tempting. One list we like comes from Washington Monthly. Want to know what colleges give the Best Bang for the Buck? You’ll find that list here, along with other ways to think about what colleges do the most for you, the student, instead of what college is fanciest or most prestigious.

What’s Your Question?

Send us your questions and we’ll respond to them here!

How do I know which college is going to be what I need for my career?” —Lizzie J.

Good question! A good way to approach this is by first thinking about what things you like to do or learn about, and why. There isn’t just one path to a career, but there is just one, unique you. [Insert warm fuzzies here.]

Here are some quick tips that can help guide you.

One. If you already have a strong interest in a particular career or profession, find out what kinds of preparation it requires. For example, if you want to be a nurse, you will want to look for a college that has a nursing program.

Two. More often, you don’t know exactly what you want to do for a career. This is OK! Start with finding a college where you think you fit in—this might be the location, or the size, or the people there. Cue up that “college list”  tip that we just shared above. The path for many careers can include many different majors and experiences. Colleges have career centers, and they can help you find an internship or work experience in a career that you want to learn more about.