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Parent Student

What are my Postsecondary Options?

Vania Silva

Masters Student, School Counseling, San Diego State University

The big questions many high school students are tired of hearing are “where are you going to college?” and “what is next, after high school?” For some, it may seem that there is only one option, whether that is a four year university which we are told is our best option or community college which may appear to be the only affordable option. The truth is that there are many post secondary options including four year colleges (in person and online), community colleges (to complete general ed requirements then transfer or for a certificate program), vocational training, and apprenticeships. So for those who are unsure of what is next or unclear about your options, we will touch on each of these options.

  1. Attend a four year college/university.
    • In person attendance at a four year college. At a four year university the goal is to obtain your bachelor’s degree in four years, though this can depend on a variety of factors. At a four year college you will complete your general education requirements, as well as courses in a certain major. After obtaining your bachelors you can go into the workforce or continue your education (i.e. law school, medical school, and a variety of other Master’s and Doctoral programs). For those who want to enter the workforce after graduation, you can enter the specific career field in which you obtained your degree (example, if you obtained a Bachelor’s in Biology, finding a career as a Molecular Biology Research Associate). It is possible to also enter into a career field that is not in line with your degree, some positions have the educational requirement of a bachelor’s degree, regardless of major.
    • Online degree program. You can receive your bachelor’s degree by attending online classes. Various online programs also allow for more flexibility and taking breaks, so students can work part or full time while completing your degree. Though students do lose out on the social aspects of in person attendance, such as living on-campus, joining extracurricular activities, attending on campus events, and meeting with peers and faculty in person. Online degree programs may also be eligible for financial aid, as long as you meet requirements (relevant article). It is also important to make sure that it is an accredited institution, to ensure your degree is recognized by potential employers or future graduate programs.
  2. Attend a community college.
    • You can go to community college first in order to complete your general education courses, then transfer over to a four year university to complete and obtain your bachelors. A big pro to this option is the cost, as community colleges are more affordable. Other’s might be that you can stay close to home, explore your options in terms of areas of study at a lower cost than at a four year college, flexibility, etc. A con to community college can be the difficulty in staying on a two year time path, due to a variety of reasons such as difficulty in obtaining pre-req courses, confusing transfer requirements, unable to attend full-time due to work or family obligations, etc. If you are interested in this route it would be important to communicate with your academic advisor & the transfer center at your community college to ensure that you are on track and eligible for transfer. Here are additional tips to transferring successfully.
    • Community colleges also have certification programs for those interested in a short term program that prepares students for specific fields, such as bookkeeping, child development, computer information systems, IT technician, fire academy, medical assisting, welding, etc. In these certification programs, you will take only the courses required to enter that field. This is also eligible for financial aid through FAFSA.
  3. Attend a vocational training program. Vocational training prepares students for employment in a specific field. You will end the program with a certificate and the skills necessary to begin your career in that field, without having to take additional general education courses. These can take anywhere from a couple of months to 2 years, typically. Vocational schools can train you in truck driving, welding, cosmetology, phlebotomy, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc. Some vocational training programs are also eligible for financial aid through FAFSA.
  4. Find an apprenticeship. If you are interested in getting into the workforce and learn by doing while on the job, an apprenticeship might work for you. Jobs like masonry, carpentry, drywall, HVAC, machinist, and more can be obtained through apprenticeship. You can find apprenticeship programs in your area here. It is important to look into these opportunities and make sure that they are currently accepting applicants and you meet educational and other prerequisites (such as HSD/GED, possible classes you may have to take, entrance exams, having a driver’s license, etc.). It is also important to note that you may also have to take some classes while doing on-the-job work, pay may start off as low as minimum wage, and they can also last anywhere from one to six years.

The important thing to remember is that there are multiple paths and options for everyone. While in high school and even after, for those re-evaluating their previous choices, look into each of these options and see which will best help you reach your goals. If personal and social growth aspects are important to you in a post secondary option, in person attendance at a four year or community college might be the best option. If you prefer to focus on your career and finish quickly, a vocational program might be best. If you want to start working in your career field and learn on the job, apprenticeships are a good option. Whichever path you choose, make sure it is informed and will lead you down your right path.

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Parent School Counselor Student

Where Should I Apply as a BIPOC?

By Venus Israni

Ph.D. Candidate in Higher Education, Boston College

“Which colleges should I apply to?” College counselors across the country guide students through this important question every year. Counselors discuss important aspects such as affordability, location, and institutional selectivity as they help students navigate college selection. However, there are other critical considerations for students who are racially underrepresented in higher education. 

Historically many predominantly-white higher education institutions limited or altogether excluded access to students of color, instead focusing on educating and meeting the needs of affluent white males. Many of these institutions maintain the same practices, traditions, and environments that have resulted in unsupportive environments and negative outcomes for students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or Persons of Color (BIPOC). Numerous studies show that Black and Latinx students regularly have their academic abilities questioned, are tokenized in class, and face various levels of racism from peers and faculty. Further, Anti-Asian racism and hate crimes have escalated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic which has further alienated these students. Perhaps now more than ever, we must help high school students to make more informed decisions on where to apply to college. 

Below, I’ve noted some steps that students can take as they start to look at colleges.

  • Reach out to the student affairs office to ask for a list of affinity groups or cultural organizations that are active. Are there different activities or resources that students might want to tap into? 
  • Look at the multicultural/diversity office website(s). What kinds of support (e.g., academic, personal, financial, social) are available? Try to contact a staff member to learn about what the office’s role is in supporting students who experience challenges on campus. Also ask for the breakdown of staff, faculty, and students by race, ethnicity, and gender  (look closely at the department you’re interested in)
  • Ask to be connected with students whom you identify with to determine what it’s like to be in different spaces on campus (social gatherings, labs, in class, experiences with faculty and within departments) and what support mechanisms exist
  • Check out the institution’s student conduct website to see how bias-related incidents and hate crimes can be reported and to learn about the overall procedure. What are the different steps involved? What support mechanisms are available to victims? How do they ensure your confidentiality? 
  • Contact the career services and/or alumni office to learn about the career outcomes for underrepresented students, including salary and placement information
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Higher Ed K-12 Parent School Counselor Student

Tapping Into Transition and Bridge Programs to Address Summer and COVID Melt

Kathy Chau Rohn

Doctoral Student, Educational Leadership & Higher Education, Boston College

The transition to college is fraught with challenges, particularly for students who have been underrepresented and marginalized in higher education. Far too many students who plan to attend college do not matriculate or do not persist. Lack of support or knowledge, problems with financial aid, and insufficient academic preparation could all contribute to this summer melt phenomenon. College transition and support programs, however, can potentially mitigate some of these issues during a pandemic that has severely affected postsecondary enrollment for students attending high minority and high poverty schools.

There are a wide range of transition and support programs. Some are mandatory while others are optional. Some programs are free and some are not. They exist at two-year and four-year colleges, can be of varying lengths and intensity, can serve specific student populations, and can have different goals. Of these, summer bridge programs in particular have gained momentum and have the potential to address issues related to summer and COVID melt. Held during the summer before a student’s first year of college, summer bridge programs support students in their transition from high school to college. They provide the opportunity for students to explore available resources at their college, acclimate to their new environment, form relationships with peers, faculty, and staff, develop self-efficacy, and build essential academic skills.

High school counselors can and should discuss these programs with their students when guiding them through the college selection process. On the other side of the desk, higher education professionals can and should reach out to, and build relationships with students and high school counselors to encourage participation. In 2020, many summer bridge programs moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic, making them potentially more accessible to students.

While there does not appear to be a comprehensive list of summer bridge programs in the United States, students can use the following search phrases to find out if the colleges they are interested in or have been accepted to have a program that fits their needs and interests as they transition to college. 

  • “Summer bridge program” and “(insert college name)”
  • “Transition program” and “(insert college name)”
  • “Summer transition program” and “(insert college name)”
  • Or, many public school systems have a web page dedicated to college transition programs offered across their campuses 

For students who have attended a summer bridge program, particularly during the summer of 2020, what was your experience like? For those who run summer bridge programs, what did you learn when adapting them to a virtual format? What advice do you have for other institutions running programs this summer? College Counseling Now would love to hear more about your perspectives and experiences!

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Parent Student

Types of Financial Aid

Vania Silva

Master’s Student, School Counseling, San Diego State University

What are Grants? A grant is money from the federal government that does NOT have to be repaid as long as you meet all obligations. Examples of when you may have to pay back a grant are: you drop out before 60% of the semester is over, you go from full-time to part-time during that year, or you receive the TEACH grant (provided to future teachers) but do not complete your service obligation.

What are Loans? A loan in money that you borrow, and MUST be paid back with interest. This means that you will pay back the full amount you borrow, plus a percentage of your remaining balance. 

For example, if you borrow $2,000 and there is 5% annual interest. After a year, your total amount owed would be: the $2,000 you borrowed + $100 (because 5% of $2,000 is $100). The $100 in this example is the interest. If you do not make any payments towards the loan, the next year you will owe $2,100 + $105 (because 5% of $2,100 is $105).

The types of loans you may be offered include:

Subsidized Loans- these are for students who are considered financially “in need” using FAFSA calculations. With subsidized loans, the federal government pays your interest as long as you are in school at least part-time, for the first six months after you leave school, and/or during a period of deferment (meaning postponing payment which you have to discuss with the loaning agency). 

This means that if you borrow $2,000 (as long as you meet the requirements above) the federal government will pay the interest, and you will still owe only the $2,000 you borrowed. 

Direct Unsubsidized Loans- these are available to students and not based on financial need. With unsubsidized loans, you are responsible for paying the interest at all times, including while still in school.  

Tips: If you are taking out loans, find out if they are subsidized/unsubsidized and what the interest rate is. Also, make sure that you make payments as recommended or more if possible, otherwise you may end up paying much more than you expected. 

Here is a helpful video on “Responsible Borrowing” from Federal Student Aid:

What is Work Study? Federal Work-study is money made available to your college to employ you part-time. As a student, you must seek out and apply to work study jobs on campus. You will be paid for the hours you work, but cannot exceed the amount awarded to you (unless your college can pay your wage after you have used all of your work-study funds). Typical work study on campus jobs are: tutors, library assistants, fitness center positions, computer lab/IT, research assistants, tour guides, department assistants, and many others. 

What are Scholarships? A scholarship is free money that may be offered to you by your college or outside sources. You may be eligible based on your financial need, grades/test scores, talent or athletics, or area of study. You should contact your college’s financial aid office and ask if they have scholarships available and how to apply. You can also apply to local scholarships meant for students in your area and from your high school; ask your high school counselor about scholarships. You can also find scholarships online, though they may require you to fill out applications and have varying deadlines. Companies like Dell, Coca Cola, Burger King, and many others have large scholarships you can apply to, though be sure to read the eligibility requirements. Make sure that you are eligible, keep deadlines in mind, and ensure your application is complete before submitting. You can also search for scholarships depending on your identities (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, first generation, undocumented, etc.), college attending, and area of study. Even, if you are not eligible for federal financial aid, you may be eligible for outside scholarships. It is good practice to start researching scholarships early (beginning of your junior year), since there are various scholarships you can apply to beginning the summer between your junior and senior year. Warning: there should be no cost to submit a scholarship application; if there is, it is most likely a scam. 

Categories
Parent Student

Financial Aid: What is it? How to apply?

Vania Silva

Masters Student, School Counseling, San Diego State University

What is Financial Aid? 

Financial aid is money meant to help students pay for college. Financial aid can come from various sources: federal government, state government, your college, or private sources. In order to see if you are eligible for federal financial aid, students must complete the official FAFSA application. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is free to fill out and submit. Eligibility requirements for federal financial aid can be found here. FAFSA deadlines can be found here, but also make sure to ask your college for their deadlines to submit the FAFSA.The information and documents needed when filling out the FAFSA are listed here. You will then send the FAFSA to all colleges you applied to. They will use your FAFSA information to calculate the type of aid you are eligible for and how much you are eligible for- this will come to you as your financial aid award letter. This is also a yearly process, you will have to complete the FAFSA every year to continue to receive financial aid. 

What is an award letter?

Award letter example:

The award letter arrives around the time of your acceptance letter. It shows the Estimated Cost of Attendance for one year at your college. This is an estimate of how much one year at your college will cost taking into consideration various expenses such as tuition & fees, room & board, books and supplies, travel costs, and miscellaneous items. It then breaks down the type of aid you will receive that year. In terms of aid, you may find loans, grants, scholarships, and federal work study. Aid is divided by semester or trimester, depending on which system calendar your school follows. Once you accept a college, you must go through and accept or decline aid. You can accept or decline each type of aid individually. The types of aid you may want to decline, if you are able, are loans since this is money that must be paid back with interest. 

Reasons why you may want to decline aid: 

  • If you have received outside scholarships (scholarships not listed on the financial aid award letter) to cover expenses 
  • You have a college savings account or financial support from family with which you are able to cover your expenses
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CBO Counselor Educator Higher Ed K-12 Parent School Counselor Student Uncategorized

What is College Counseling Now?

By Laura Owen & Venus Israni

Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University & Doctoral Candidate, Boston College, Higher Education

Never has it been more evident that our postsecondary pipeline and advising systems need a major overhaul. Students and adults have long noted that the support they desire falls woefully short, leaving too many without the guidance they deserve and need. School counselors are licensed, trained and prepared to serve all students, yet they are consistently bereft of the resources necessary to meet the competing demands of their job. Magnified by an all consuming pandemic with emerging and competing areas of need (COVID-19, mental health, racial injustice and postsecondary planning), we can no longer continue to ignore this shortfall without being accomplices in maintaining this system that perpetuates inequitable postsecondary opportunities.

The past year has amplified the isolation so many of us have felt. None more so than graduate students who struggle under normal conditions to remain connected due to the nature of their programs and excessive time demands. 

Success at the doctoral level isn’t easy to come by with roughly half of students leaving their programs before graduation. Minoritized doctoral students are especially vulnerable. Managing several expectations and projects simultaneously is the norm we operate within, often without the institutional support we are in dire need of. In light of the events of this last year, I ask myself what will happen to us now and in the future, given that we are and have been overlooked in higher education? The seemingly endless bad news on so many different fronts has been crippling to say the least. The small moments I used to share with my peers (of color) on campus, which notably included processing hard realities seems so far away. I have noticed more and more instances where I struggle to catch my breath due to the sheer volume of all that has been transpiring. I have been trying to push myself forward while also coming to grips with a political system and nation that has continued to fall apart. I’ve lied awake worrying simultaneously about protecting my aging parents from COVID-19 and how I will get enough participants for my dissertation study. We matter and we need support.

Venus Israni, Doctoral Candidate, Boston College, Higher Education

K-12 students face similar concerns, attempting virtual, face-to-face and hybrid formats of school while also providing day care for younger siblings whose parents are working at essential jobs. School counselors are meeting with heartbroken students whose loved ones have contracted COVID-19 and, in some cases, passed on. Counselors are listening to the concerns of racially marginalized and isolated students who are just plain “done with everything” and have checked out. They are addressing the mental health concerns of parents and staff while doing everything in their power to ensure that the individualized needs of every student on their caseload are met. They are overseeing food distribution, helping with homelessness and collaborating with community partners to address an increasing set of needs. While the ground underneath them seems to shift every five minutes, school counselors are working with students who face increased academic struggles in the face of this new model of learning.

Under any other circumstances, each area of need would require 100% of a school counselor’s time, but that is not possible given the urgency and serious challenges that students and families are facing. All of these students’ needs must be addressed.  We cannot possibly recover from the damage this pandemic has inflicted without a thoughtfully designed plan to revise our comprehensive advising structures and policies.

Students and parents need responsive and informed guidance that is adaptable to the daily disruptions and competing challenges from this pandemic. They need College Counseling Now.

College Counseling Now Campaign

The College Counseling Now campaign will address the four intersecting pandemics and more specifically, respond to what many are referring to as COVID-19 melt, where academically-qualified students are choosing not to attend or return to college. We will look at nontraditional pathways that connect students to real opportunities for high-wage, high demand jobs. 

Recognizing that there are many people who work towards helping students navigate their post high school options, the #CollegeCounselingNow campaign will engage and bring together all partners (students, parents, guardians, K-12 educators, higher ed. partners, community based organizations, school counselors, graduate students, counselor educators and researchers) to respond to the clarion call for creative, decisive, and equity focused solutions. 

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CBO Counselor Educator Higher Ed K-12 Parent School Counselor Student

Rethinking College Advising During A Pandemic

By Laura Owen

Executive Director, Center for Equity and Postsecondary Attainment, San Diego State University

Billions of dollars have been spent and countless efforts employed to close college opportunity gaps and while we have witnessed encouraging trends to provide more equitable access, the pandemic is rolling back the clock, wiping out many of the gains that have been made and exposing the systemic educational failures that got us here in the first place. We can sit back and watch the process unfold or we can acknowledge our mistakes and devote our energy to create a new equity centered, antiracist advising and counseling system that more intentionally serves all students.

Current Enrollment Trends

A recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center confirms startling college enrollment declines. While high school graduation rates remained stable for the class of 2020, postsecondary enrollment decreased by 21.7 percent nationally and direct high school to college attendance for students from high poverty schools fell by 32.6 percent versus 16.4 percent for low poverty schools. Students attending high minority schools saw attendance decrease by 26.4 percent, while those enrolled in low minority schools witnessed an 18 percent decline. If that news were not alarming enough, early indicators predict a continued downward enrollment trajectory with even more discernible losses ahead. Common App recently shared college application rates are down by 8 percent for first time applicants and applications from students who are first in their family to attend college and those utilizing fee waivers decreased by 16 percent.

The Challenge Before Us

The events of this past year have only added to the complexities that students face in traversing their educational path, one that has long been riddled with roadblocks and obstacles. While school leaders have worked heroically to respond to the challenges brought on by the novel Covid-19 pandemic, college advising has unsurprisingly taken a back seat due to the many urgent and pressing needs that school staff have been juggling. This has forced students to wait patiently for guidance as shifting deadlines and polices have become the actuality.

Parents have agonized over how to best help their child carve out a viable post high school plan. One friend recently shared that he didn’t want to pay college tuition for his daughter to be two doors down, sitting on her bed and taking classes on her computer all day.  Another wished her son could experience all that college has to offer, including living on campus; so, ultimately, he decided to take a gap year. Other families made decisions to move forward as planned and students enrolled and completed their first semester of college, albeit not as they had expected. 

Students and parents are frustrated and stymied by a quickly changing landscape coupled with misinformation. They are looking to school counselors and college advisors for responsive and informed postsecondary guidance that is malleable to the daily disruptions and competing demands – they need College Counseling Now.

College Counseling Now Campaign

The College Counseling Now campaign will elevate and broadcast what is working. We will identify the mechanisms that influence postsecondary opportunity and expose how each piece, no matter how seemingly big or small, impacts everything else around it. 

As the saying goes, “it takes a village”. The College Counseling Now campaign will bring together students, parents, guardians, K-12 educators, higher education partners, community-based organizations, school counselors, district school counseling directors/supervisors, graduate students, counselor educators and researchers to create a community of practice committed to strengthening postsecondary advising. Together we will respond to the clarion call for creative, decisive, and equity focused college counseling solutions. 

We will:

  • Elevate the voices of parents and students 
  • Identify counseling and advising practices that support equity, antiracism and justice
  • Share lessons learned from summer melt advising interventions
  • Work with higher ed, K-12, community partners and college access organizations to thought partner and brainstorm solutions. 
  • Develop college advising tools, resources, and training 
  • Utilize social media and virtual spaces to hold Twitter chats, conduct Facebook Live events, share Instagram infographics, publish blog posts, and host webinars 

Stay tuned for more information to get involved in the #CollegeCounselingNow campaign. We can do this together!