Don’t Think College is an Option for You? Think Again!

options other than college

Flickr user Melinda Huntley

Many high school students dream of college, and for some, that dream may seem unobtainable. There could be a number of factors that serve as obstacles that make students look at options other than college: financial need, poor grades, lack of examples, etc.

College degrees are more important now than they’ve ever been before. 66% of existent jobs in the US require a degree of some kind, and that number is likely to increase. But if you’re looking for options other than college for whatever reason, we urge you to look again. Look harder for options, and do plenty of research–because a college education is critical.

Let’s go through a number of obstacles and highlight some of the resources and options available to overcome that challenge and get you to college!

Financial Need

The first thing that often comes to mind during the college search is cost. College is not only more expensive than ever, but it also sees students graduating with the most college debt. The class of 2016 had an average of over $37,000 per student. Yikes. Those stats are enough to make anyone have second thoughts, right?

But what if we told you that Stanford–yes, that Stanford–might just be the most affordable college in California? Or that going to an Ivy League school might actually be cheaper than attending an in-state college? Hard to believe, I know, but the fact of the matter is that many families mistake the “sticker price” with the “net price.” The sticker price is the posted cost of attending a college. Let’s say the cost of attendance at XYZ University is $64,000 per year. That price tag might make you cross XYZ University off your list–you might not even bother to apply. But that sticker price, the $64,000 doesn’t take financial aid into consideration. After federal financial aid, scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid are taken into account, that price tag might look a LOT more manageable.

The reason that Stanford is arguably the most affordable college in California is because of the financial aid it offers to its students. This isn’t true only for Stanford, of course. In fact, most financial aid is awarded by the universities themselves. Looking at the sticker price can be intimidating. But what if instead of paying the full $64,000 for XYZ University, you only paid $22,000? Thanks to scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid great chunks of cost can be shaved off of that scary sticker price.

Long story short, college may be far more affordable than you previously thought. College Raptor’s free net price calculator and matching tool can help you compare a school’s sticker price to your personalized potential net price.

Bad Grades

Grades and test scores are often used as markers for determining whether or not a student gets into a college. If a student didn’t perform so well on the ACT / SAT, or perhaps they had a C average, or a low GPA, they might think that their chances of getting into a school are slim to none. While lower grades will present a challenge, it’s still possible to be accepted into a college with them.

One strategy is to explain why a student earned bad grades within the application essay. The essay is a great tool to let college admissions officers get to know the real you–not just numbers and scores on a page. In the essay, own up to any mistakes or give reasons as to why your grades slipped or weren’t as high as you hoped. Some students have dyslexia. Others have a rocky home life. Some just don’t test well but are hard workers and enjoy learning. The key thing here is to not make excuses, but rather take responsibility for your actions while offering an explanation.

Another way is to seek out recommendation letters from teachers and counselors. An outside account of a student and their efforts can be more telling than any test score, GPA, or class rank.

Some students with lower grades start out taking classes at a community college before transferring to a larger 4-year institution. Community colleges are typically easier to get into. Additionally, attending a 2-year before moving up to a 4-year can save money as well.

Striving for good grades is incredibly important, but don’t count college entirely out if you have lower scores.

First-Generation College Students

If you’re the first person in your family to go to college, it can be as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. First-gen students are a little like explorers, forging the path to college without previous examples to follow. If your parents didn’t attend college, being the first can be somewhat intimidating.

But there are many resources to help out first-gen students. The best of which is the high school counselor. Counselors have the resources, know-how, and experience of helping students of all backgrounds and interests get to college. Talk with them for options and next steps.

Whatever the reason may be that keeps you from thinking about college, reconsider. There are options, ways over obstacles, and resources available to help you get to college regardless of background, grades, finances, or situation.

College Raptor is one such resource. Not only can it show you your net prices and financial aid opportunities at schools around the country, but you can use it to be matched to the colleges fit for you based on a number of criteria and check out your acceptance odds as well!

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