Students and Parents

Planning for College or Trade School

Students and parents, especially those who haven't been through the process before, have lots of questions.

What about grades?

Grades are important, but they're not the only thing schools look at. The kind of courses you take in high school are important. Lower grades in AP or dual credit courses may carry more weight than A's in regular high school courses: You're showing that you're not afraid to take on a challenge and that you're ready for college work.

If you haven't made your best effort at grades yet, start now. Getting better grades now can show a school that you've started taking your education more seriously.

What about a career?

Lots of high school students have decided on a career, and they end up doing that. Others end up changing their minds, and others don't make a decision until they're out of high school. That means you have time to think of it — and time to change your mind.

Where should I go?

Many things can go into that decision:

  • Whether you want a certificate in a particular trade or a two-year or higher degree.
  • What schools offer the field that interests you.
  • Whether you prefer a large or small school.
  • Whether you prefer a public or private school.
  • How far away you want to be from home.

Talk it over with your parents, counselor, teachers, or other people you trust.

What if the school's expensive?

Don't count it out just for that reason. Financial aid programs can help you with the cost, and many expensive schools have their own financial aid programs (called institutional aid). If the financial aid doesn't make it possible, have a less expensive school to fall back on.

How do I get ready for college?

Talk with your counselor to make sure you're taking the right courses. What those courses are may vary depending on your plans. Many states have a college prep curriculum students must follow to attend public colleges and universities.

What tests do I have to take?

That depends on the school you're planning to attend. Many four-year schools require the ACT or SAT, although that is changing, with more going test-optional each year. Trade schools and community colleges may require other tests. Check with a school's admissions office to find out for sure.

How safe will I be on campus?

Ask for a campus security report, which has data on campus crimes and security policies. The school must give you a copy. Many schools have these reports on their websites.

When should I apply?

If you're a senior, you should apply as soon as you know which schools you're considering.