Arkansas College Application Month: College is for Everyone
What is college? Does going to college strictly mean that you are working toward a bachelor’s degree? NO! While earning a bachelor’s degree and higher are valid educational paths, we cannot forget the other equally valid and valuable routes. Any education you receive after high school is college!
Let’s say that together now. ANY education you receive after high school IS college!
For some Arkansans, college means seeking technical certificates or certificates of proficiency in areas such as welding, computer coding, HVAC, dental hygiene, nursing, or truck driving to enhance their career-related knowledge. Some people will seek an associate degree in early childhood education, culinary arts, criminal justice, or aviation maintenance. Other students may wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a program like wildlife science, sociology, emergency management, or graphic design.
The options for your college journey are endless. No matter your career dreams, it is highly likely that you will find a post-secondary option that will benefit you. The best part? You don’t even have to leave the state! Schools around Arkansas are proud to offer a wide selection of program areas, some of which are even available 100% online.
October is Arkansas College Application Month, and now is the perfect time to start making your plans for the future. Close your eyes and visualize yourself at work in your dream career. What do you see yourself doing? Next, do some research into what it would take for you to reach that goal.
Did you have trouble visualizing a career? Not everyone knows where they want their life to take them after high school, and that’s okay! Some people have had their hearts set on a certain career since they were little, others discover their passion in high school, and some are inspired by later events in their life. The wonderful thing about post-secondary education is the opportunity to learn more about yourself. You will get to experience the subjects that interest you firsthand. You will be exposed to new ideas, people, and experiences. With that knowledge and experience, you can shape your future in any way that you want.
Your school counselors and career coaches are great resources, so be sure to reach out to them for additional assistance. Several schools around Arkansas have signed up to participate in events to help their students apply for college and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Check out this website to see if your school is on the list: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/learning-services/guidance-and-school-counseling/arkansas-college-application-month.
Also, visit the Arkansas Division of Higher Education’s website and check out their list of colleges and universities around the state to see which offer the program(s) you would like to pursue: https://www.adhe.edu/locations.
Steer Clear of the Gap Year
How long after graduating high school or receiving their GED should students wait to begin their post-secondary adventure? Not long at all! ADHE suggests that students plan to start their post-secondary career in the school year immediately after receiving a diploma.
We can probably all agree that the past couple of years have been different, to say the least, and in some cases, extremely stressful. For some high school seniors, the idea of taking a break in the form of a gap year may be at the forefront of their minds. However, there are several reasons for students to steer clear of the gap year.
Some say that gap year means traveling the world and finding adventure. That sounds exciting, but have you considered the expense of those trips? Others argue that students can use a gap year to get a starter job to gain experience and maturity, but that also detours students away from the ability to earn a higher income after receiving a college education.
On top of this, students will lose the momentum they built up during their final years at high school, not to mention the brain drain. A gap year does just that; it puts another year between what a student learned in high school and what they are expected to know in college. We often hear about the dangers of the summer slide, when students risk losing learning progress over the summer if they do not remain engaged in learning. Taking a gap year would basically be the equivalent of four summers in a row! Just imagine the potential learning loss which could occur during that time.
The lack of financial aid a student may have received as a traditional college student, coupled with tuition increases, loss of momentum, and a longer time before earning higher pay, may lead to a student never getting their degree or other post-secondary education. In an article published by Inside Higher Ed, it is suggested that students who do not immediately go to college after high school are 64% less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than those that do. These non-traditional students are also 18% less likely to obtain any college credential than their traditional peers.
We understand. The cost of attending a college or university can seem slightly daunting at first. But that is where financial aid plays a vital role.
One of the first things you should do when looking for financial aid is filling out the FAFSA. Filling out the FAFSA can help knock down financial barriers to gaining a post-secondary education. This form is not only used to determine eligibility for federal grants and loans but is also used to determine eligibility for various financial aids through states or institutions of higher education.
Check out the below list of a few reputable resources you can use to begin your search for financial aid.
- Arkansas Division of Higher Education (YOUniversal): https://scholarships.adhe.edu/
- Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): https://fafsa.ed.gov/
- Colleges/Universities Financial Aid Programs
- Fund My Future: https://asla.info/College-Planning-Services
- Fast Web: https://www.fastweb.com/
- Unigo: https://www.unigo.com/scholarships
Just remember, you should never have to pay for a scholarship search. If you have questions about the legitimacy of a scholarship website, please feel free to contact the ADHE financial aid team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, the Arkansas Student Loan Authority publishes an excellent booklet each year, “How to Pay for College: A Guide for Arkansas Students.” This booklet is filled to the brim with suggestions for locating financial aid and saving for college and provides checklists for students to keep track of their progress. The booklet is available in both English and Spanish: https://asla.info/Request-Materials.
Everyone can benefit from attending college. Whether you plan to pursue a technical, apprenticeship, or certification program, or an associate degree or higher, ANY education you receive after high school IS college!
Remember: You have a purpose. You have a future. You have what it takes. You’re going to do something amazing, and the Arkansas Department of Education is proud to offer you our support.