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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019

Taking the Scary Out of College Prep!

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Tips for smoothing the transition from high school to college

With the new year comes new opportunities to accomplish goals and get organized – especially when it comes to college prep! It’s easy to get swept away in senior parties, class trips, prom and other exciting events. But to avoid having college sneak up on you like an annoying little sibling, here are some tips and advice for high school seniors who might be feeling ill-prepared or anxious.

Submit your FAFSA.

This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – and is crucial to fill it out as soon as its available because it will help you obtain financial help if needed for tuition. The sooner the better! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (www.fafsa.ed.gov) is a required form for every student applying for needbased federal financial aid. You can apply starting in January, although most colleges list deadlines of February. Go ahead and check this off your list!

Don’t panic. Relax.

College is important, but you won’t be doing yourself (or the people who have to live with you!) any favors if you’re too stressed out to function. Prayer, meditation, yoga, deep breathing techniques or various forms of exercise can be beneficial to managing stress and not giving in to the temptation to hide, or worse, procrastinate.

Follow-up on submitted applications.

Ask your school counselor to send your first semester transcripts to the universities you’ve applied to – and don’t be afraid to check in after a few weeks to make sure they actually sent them. It’s a hectic time of year for everyone, so it’s good to follow up. They’ll understand and appreciate your being thorough! After some time, request they send your second-semester transcripts as well. If your grades improved from the

first semester to second, this can help your chances of acceptance or moving you off that dreaded waiting list for your first choice school.

Beware the dreaded senioritis.

Keep your focus and don’t get lazy. Make a list of things that need to be done, with specific deadlines, and plug that information into your phone or smart device. Keep a regular check on it to avoid staying overwhelmed. These small organizational tips go a long way in keeping stress at bay. Also, remember that looking ahead to college doesn’t mean you get to ignore your last semesters of high school. Finish strong!

Start applying for scholarships.

Again, the sooner the better. This is a much less daunting task than you might think – and should be a constant pop-up on your to-do list. You – and your parents – are going to want all the help you can get when it comes to financial aid. Every little bit helps!

Update your resume.

If anything worthwhile happened last fall, update your resume or your personal statements on your applications with those recent experiences. If you were nominated class president, volunteered somewhere new or joined a school club, make sure to write that down for your applications. You’ll want to look as well-rounded as possible.

Don’t compare your journey.

Don’t get hung up on what your friends are doing or if they’re further along on the college-prep path than you. Stay focused on your lane – don’t swerve into theirs. If they receive early acceptances before you, don’t worry. Yours will come! You’re all in this together.

Erin Mullins is one local senior who is ready for college at Ouachita Baptist University – and the much-coveted independence that will come with it. When asked what the most stressful element of the college application process for her was, she adamantly answered, “applying for scholarships.” However, she found a way to cope, buckle down and get it done. “My school counselor and my mom really helped me stay calm and not stress during the process,” Mullins said. “Also, prayer and chocolate work wonders!” For Madeleine Berry, an upcoming graduate of Caddo Magnet High, it was a different kind of stress.

“Finding a reputable college that offered the major I wanted was my biggest struggle,” Berry said. Thankfully, she didn’t have to go it alone. “I’m so grateful for my good friend and future roomie who

is in this with me every step of the way,” Berry said. Berry plans to major in interior design at Louisiana Tech. Now that her plan is in place, she can focus on finishing her senior year. She can’t wait to attend the college classes in which she’s most passionate – and make all this hard work pay off.

Mullins found herself turning to Pinterest boards for inspiration and organizational tips. In today’s online society, there are so many avenues available for students to connect, network and cheer each other on to the end goal. A community is important in helping students realize they’re “normal” and they’re not alone while navigating these lifetime milestones.

– Betsy St. Amant Haddox

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