College and Careers
Whether deciding what college to choose, what major to select, or what career to pursue, the more information you have, the better the decision you will make. While guidance counselors and parents can certainly help in your decision process, knowing more about yourself is critical to making a decision that will work for you.
The more you know and understand about yourself, the more guided and confident you will feel about making plans and decisions for the rest of high school, in choosing college majors and training programs, and for career choices as well. As you prepare to choose a college, knowing more about yourself will help you find a campus based more on your interests and goals, rather than the name of the college.
Clubs & Activities
Participating in clubs and activities is an important way to discover and grow in your interests. Involvement in your school and community exposes you to opportunities you may not know exist and allows you to benefit from contribution to academic and social environments.
In your first years of high school, explore and commit time and effort to those activities that capture your interest. It might be a combination of a club, sport and student government, or it might be a single driving passion that takes you through your years at ACHS. By the time you are a senior, it's likely that this involvement will help you decide what you care about and value. The choices you make about extra-curricular activities contribute to self-discovery of qualities you may possess.
ACHS has a wide variety of clubs and activities that you can join. If you want to start a new club, please see the Assistant Principal for Athletics and Activities in the Main Office area.
Incorporating service into your life is incredibly rewarding and can become a positive, life-changing experience. As you consider volunteer options, look for opportunities that fit your interests and skills. Summer is a wonderful time to begin volunteering when you might have more free time on your hands. You can be deeply involved in a one-time event or you can commit to a couple of hours each week. There are great benefits to volunteering and sharing your time and talent with others.
- Commerce City - Volunteer
- Adams County Volunteer Program
- Volunteen Nation
Internships are a terrific way to get experience and “get a feel” for a particular subject or line of work that you have a passion or interest in. You can learn a lot about a field, and gain valuable real world experience by working along side experienced professionals as mentors. Doing an internship can demonstrate to a college that you are actively pursing your interests and have experience in the workplace.
Although some internships are paid positions, you may need to accept minimal compensation or an unpaid position to gain experiences that allow for exposure to real work environments in an field of your choice, confirmation of your interest, and a chance to work with a mentor.
- Discover Internships
- Big Future (by the College Board)
- Cogito - Connecting Young Thinkers Around the World
Summer introduces a wide variety of opportunities for students. In addition to volunteering, jobs, and internships, a student can use the time to pursue a wide variety of established summer programs or camps that provide enrichment in specific areas of interest. These activities may include intensive learning in a university environment, or service and adventure programs in the country or abroad. Though these programs provide excellent enrichment for you, be certain that you are honoring your passion for a specific academic or personal interest, not your passion for admission to a particular college.
College & Alternatives
Choosing a college:
With over 2000 colleges in the United States and many others abroad, choosing a campus can be overwhelming, but if you will take the time to answer each of the following questions, the resulting list of campuses will reflect your goals, needs, and interests, instead of being reduced to a search for a renowned “name” or even a campus that is convenient but may not have the offerings and learning environment that will be a good fit for you. These questions will help you define your college search by showing you what is most important to YOU.
To help you answer these questions, there are many resources available, including websites (both Naviance and T.E.R.C. can help!), reference books in the College/Career Center, college rep visits, college fairs, opportunities to visit campuses, and advice from counselors, family, and friends. Take advantage of these resources and come often to the Counseling Office/College/Career Center for help. Refer to the self-discovery work you did in your Naviance profile, your interests and career options.
- What are you looking for in a college experience? Which campuses would be a good match for you?
- What do you think you might want to study in college? What are some possible college majors? How difficult will it be to apply and be admitted?
- What is the cost? (Tuition, Room and Board, Books and Fees, Transportation)
- Where is the campus located? What is important to you about the location of your college?
- What is the enrollment size of the campus/program? What class environment is best for the way you learn? What is most important to you about the size of the campus?
- What other features and activities are important/ vital to you personally? What else, besides academics, does your college have to have in order for you to be interested in applying?
- What are colleges looking for as they select students? Will you be the right match for them?
Alternatives to College: Military, Vocational Training, Employment
There are many alternatives to going to college. Some students delay college for a year while others choose to attend vocational schools or community colleges, or choose to enlist in the military. See Peterson's overview article on alternatives. Some examples of college alternatives are Gap Year, Military, Vocational Training and Certificate Programs, and Employment. These examples are explained in more detail below.
- Is a Military Career Right for You?
One of the many post-secondary choices is a career in the armed services. There are five branches of the U.S. Military: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Each of the military branches involves the armed defense of our country and requires a specified period of commitment.
In spite of the risks and requirements involved in joining the military, there are many benefits. The most important of these are the opportunities for career training. Others include steady income, health care, and tuition assistance for continuing your education.
- Basic requirements for joining the military:
You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien.
You must be at least 17 years old (17-year old applicants require parental consent).
You must (with very few exceptions) have a high school diploma.
You must pass a physical medical exam.
You must pass the ASVAB test (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery - see T.E.R.C. for more info and practise tests).
Vocational Training and Certificate ProgramsIs a four year university just not the right choice? Perhaps a trade school or a vocational program at a community college is a better match. A number of well-paid and rewarding careers are attained through vocational certificate programs. Forbes magazine published an article in June 2012 summarizing a report by the McKinsey Global Institute and several books discussing college alternatives. Following is an excerpt from this article:
“A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute that while low-skill jobs are on the decline, by 2020 employers around the globe will need an estimated 45 million more mid-level workers who have a high school education and vocational training. Meanwhile, a highly cited study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education last year concluded that in the U.S. “we place far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college. ”According to the report, 30% of the 47 million new jobs expected to be created in the U.S. by 2018 will only require an associate’s degree or a certificate.”
You may view the entire article online: Jobs that don't require a Bachelors Degree.
There is also a great resource: 300 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree in which researcher Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., pinpoints jobs that require an associate’s degree or less and offer high earnings, thousands of annual job openings and strong projected growth, using the latest data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those that ranked in the top 20 were concentrated in health care, construction, skilled labor, and sales.
- Vocational Information Center
- Colorado Private Trade Schools
- Colorado Community College Program
- Certificate Programs and Career Training Schools
For students who are interested in immediately entering the workforce after high school, there are several local online resources:
College applications can require a minimum of information and be completed in less than an hour, and others are so complex that they take days and weeks of careful strategy, wording, accumulation of documents, and supplemental materials. Some colleges have their own applications and others use the Common Application. Some ask for letters of recommendation and others use only grade point averages and test scores. Some require varying choices of SAT and ACT tests and others require portfolios and auditions. Some are due in October and others can be submitted late in the spring of the senior year.
This page provides a step-by-step summary of the college application process but it is very important that you attend the College Nights and college meetings.
We encourage you to begin these steps before your senior year and we recommend that you use the Eagle College Application Checklist template (see Step 1 below) to keep track of each step in the application process.
- Make a list of colleges where you intend to apply (in your Naviance/Family Connection account), and create a checklist for your "to do" items.
Go to the website for each college and look for “Undergraduate Admissions” to find the list of requirements for, and the type of application, they use. Fill out the applications (they tend to all require similar info, so it gets easier as you apply)
For most colleges, you will need to REGISTER, or set up your own ACCOUNT on their website in order to find their application information and communicate with them.
- Are there minimum requirements for the amount of courses that must be completed in high school? (Language Arts, Math, World Languages, Science, Social Studies, Fine Arts, etc.) Do their specific programs, such as Engineering, Business, Nursing, Graphic Arts, and Architecture, require additional math, science, or art classes in high school?
- What are the application DEADLINE dates for Regular Decision, Early Action, or Early Decision? Colleges with a Regular deadline wait to accept students until all of the applications are sent in; usually on January 1, January, 15, or early February. Both require submission of application materials by an early date (often November 1) and deliver admissions decisions about mid-December. A student can be admitted, rejected, or deferred. A deferred decision means that the student's application is considered again with the regular-admissions pool and can allow a student to send in additional information during that time period.
- Are standardized test scores required, including SAT, SAT Subject Tests ACT, or ACT with Writing?
- Are transcripts and letters of recommendation required or recommended? Request them from your teachers and counselors.
- Does the college require an interview with you, or with someone who lives in our area who graduated from that college? (This is required by very few colleges.)
- Which financial aid forms are required and when are they due? FAFSA? CSS Profile (College Scholarship Services) - This form is submitted to some 300 private colleges and universities along with the FAFSA when seeking financial aid from these institutions. Participating colleges and universities indicate whether they require this form. This is the link to the CSS Profile website. Important note: Some questionable companies charge a fee to help you complete the CSS profile. This is not necessary.
- What is the application fee and how do you pay it, or can I get a fee waiver from a counselor?
The Common Application
The Common App website requires students to register and choose a password to work on the application. Then, when students enter their college choices onto the Naviance section (Colleges Tab) on the ACHS This electronic format has been designed to combine questions from many college applications into one universal document that can be sent to any college that is a member of the Common App organization. Out of 2000 four-year colleges in the United States, over 500 now use the Common App. website, they identify their Common App account so that transcripts, our school profile, counselor letters of recommendation, and teacher letters of recommendation can be sent electronically by Naviance to their Common App colleges. Information requested on the Common App includes identifying information like name, address, date of birth, test scores, grade point average, etc. and also subjective information such as essays, descriptions about clubs and activities, and the inclusion of recommendation letters. In addition, each college may require a supplement with additional questions as well.
Before you start, check the Common App Training Resources to view introductory guidelines for filling out and submitting the Common Application. Scroll down to Recommender/Counselor Information to view the Guide to the Application pdf (a list documents and information you will need to fill out the Common Application) and First Look (a PowerPoint presentation of the step-by-step application process).
The Common Application website has very detailed information about the various parts of the application, downloadable forms, and an online demo in the section of frequently asked questions.
- Common Application Problems
Many seniors are experiencing extensive delays and connection problems related to their Common App accounts. We want to reassure you that this is being experienced by students universally and there are a number of problems that the Common App administrators are trying to solve.
Read about current Common App Known Issues and Progress Updates. Scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe to regular notifications of updates or check the link regularly until your issues are resolved. You can also check the Common App facebook page for updates.
If your technical questions are not answered in the above link, contact the Common App Help Center (click on the "Ask a Question" tab).
There also several helpful articles that have been written about these problems, including:
Online Application Woes Make Students Anxious and Put Colleges Behind Schedule, NY Times, 10/12/13.
8 Tips for Improving the Common Application Experience, Examiner.com, 10/8/13.
Note that Common App submission is a 3 step process:
1. Review a copy of your common application for the college you are ready to submit.Always check your Dashboard for confirmation of your submission status.
2. Pay the application fee (unless you have a waiver). You are not finished!
3. Sign the affirmation and complete the submission.
Paying for College
How much does college cost? What are some options for helping me pay for college? Here you can explore the range of prices of various types of colleges. Also, learn about some tips and funding strategies to give you options for funding your college education. You’ll also find links for various sources for paying for college.
There are many sources of financial assistance available to help pay for college, as well as strategies for reducing costs. Here we review the different types of financial aid, forms everyone should fill out, strategies for reducing costs, and a comprehensive list of scholarship opportunities.
The total cost of attending college includes:
Tuition & fees
Books & supplies
Room & board
These costs can vary widely, depending on whether an institution is a community college or a public or private college or university.
In general, community colleges will be the least expensive option, however they may only offer two-year degrees. The cost of attending a public university will depend on whether the student qualifies for “in-state” residency (less expensive due to state funding subsidies for eligible residents) or is considered “out-of-state” (can be significantly more expensive than “in-state” costs). Private colleges and universities are generally the most expensive options, however, these institutions may be able to offer the most competitive financial aid packages for students. Additionally, some very strong but less known colleges may be considered a better financial value than many highly selective institutions, because these schools (both public and private) work hard to attract the best students to strengthen their academic profiles. Some students that might not otherwise qualify for financial aid may obtain merit scholarships. Another option for holding down the cost of a competitive college experience is to apply for an honors program at a larger campus that has a lower tuition. It is important for students to research and consider the total cost of college as one important factor in their college search process.
Use a Net Price Calculator to Estimate College Costs at a Particular School
The student should gather information on what particular schools cost to attend. Net Price Calculators are available on a college or university’s website, usually on the Admissions/Financial Aid page. They allow prospective students to enter information about themselves to find out what students similar to them paid to attend the institution the previous year, after taking grants and scholarships into account. Colleges also typically list their rates for tuition and room and board on their Admissions/Financial Aid webpage.
Apply to At Least One Financial Safety School (FSS), Often a Colorado Public College or University
A Financial Safety School is one that the student would be able to afford with little or no financial aid, one at which the student is almost certain to be accepted, and one that the student is willing to attend.
A Colorado in-state public four year college or university is often a good Financial Safety School, since in-state resident tuition is usually lower than tuition at a private college or university or out of state, non-resident, tuition at a public college or university in another state. The student can also reduce college costs by living at home and/or by avoiding the travel expenses inherent in attending an out-of-state school.
Register for the Colorado College Opportunity Fund (COF)
The student should register for the Colorado College Opportunity Fund (COF). The COF is a fund created by the Colorado Legislature to provide a stipend for resident undergraduate students attending participating public Colorado colleges or universities. There is no income qualification and the student is not required to be a full time student. The stipend is paid on a per credit hour basis for up to 145 credit hours. The student must apply in order to obtain the COF stipend, which is paid directly to the college or university.
The COF also provides one-half of the per credit hour stipend to low-income, resident undergraduate students who attend participating Colorado private colleges and universities. There is, however, a need element to this provision of the COF. The student must have completed a FAFSA and be eligible for a federal Pell Grant.
All students who are Colorado residents should register for the COF, even if they are fairly certain they will attend college out of state. Registration is quick and easy. Being registered for the COF is useful if the student should later transfer to or decide to take a summer course at a participating Colorado college or university. A student can register for the COF if he or she is at least 13 years old.
Apply for Financial Aid
Some need-based aid is funded by the federal government. Some need based aid is funded by certain private schools. Some very competitive schools with large endowments guarantee that they will meet 100% of a student’s Demonstrated Financial Need. Some elite schools offer only need-based aid and do not offer merit based scholarships. Many other schools offer only a limited pool of need-based aid and award it on a first come, first served basis, so it is important for students to apply early for financial aid.
Merit-based financial aid is determined by a student’s academic merit, special talents, occupational goals, service record or other specific attributes. Many colleges and universities offer merit-based scholarships. The student should look for these scholarship opportunities on the Admissions/Financial Aid webpage of the schools to which he is applying. It is a good idea to apply early for these scholarships. Often to qualify for merit aid from a school, the student must apply for admission by a priority deadline, which is before the general admissions deadline. Students should check the Admissions/Financial Aid webpage of the schools to which they are applying very carefully.
There are also many private scholarships funded by civic groups, professional associations and parent’s employers that a student can apply for and use to attend any accredited college or university.
In addition to Naviance and TERC scholarship search engines, students can also research scholarships by signing up on search engines, such as:
- Big Future (by College Board)
- Peterson's Scholarship search engine
- Student Scholarships
Note - Some merit based scholarships include a component of financial need and may require the student to file a FAFSA. Whether merit or need based, or both, scholarships do not need to be repaid.
Another note - Receiving scholarships from organizations other than the government and your school can effect your financial aid package. Read more.
People take out loans to afford things they can’t afford at present, such as houses and educations. When considering loans, it is important to realize that many purchases are both investments and consumption decisions. In considering a house, certain features of a house determine whether or not it is a good financial investment. Other features may be purely enjoyable. It is prudent to understand what portion of a loan is going towards a financially sound investment and what portion is going towards life style aesthetics.Weighing the future financial obligation relative to the life style/consumption portion of the purchase can be a worthwhile exercise. In considering college educations, ideally one considers the purchase in the same way. Borrowing for your education is an investment in your “human capital” (i.e. your skills, knowledge and credentials) and this often is a sound investment – but there are limits. Paying for the experience of being on a beautiful campus for four years is a consumption choice. The future financial burden is worth considering ahead of time.
Unlike most other forms of debt, student loans are extremely hard to get rid of if you find that you can’t afford to pay them off. Bankruptcy is almost never an option. For a list of ten daunting statements about student debt, read this shocking article. Some of the statements in this article may seem wholly unbelievable. The possible ramifications of debt that are suggested in this article are worth researching.
Debt Free U is the account of how one student made it through a four year university education without taking on loans. Zac Bissonnette, the author, believes that it is possible for everyone. Worth a read.
Student loans may indeed be the appropriate solution for some people. Here are some resources for learning more about student loans:
- estudentloan.com for learning about and comparing student loans
- US Department of Education
- Finaid.org offers information about savings, loans, and calculators
- Student Debt Crisis.org
Co-operative education programs at universities have students spend part of their time in the classroom and part of their time working in a corporation or lab doing closely supervised, paid work related to their field of study. The earnings from participating in a co-op program can play an important role in off-setting the cost of one’s education. Students in co-operative programs often graduate with four or more semesters of real-world work experience. This work experience can be very valuable in helping recent graduates to find jobs, too.
This article in Forbes discusses co-op programs. Here is US News’ list of the top ten co-op programs. College websites, for these ten schools as well as other colleges that offer co-op programs, will further detail the programs. Furthermore, some companies, such as IBM, offer information about attaining co-op positions...A simple Google search of "Interns and co-op opportunities" brings a whole lot more...
Tax credits may offer significant financial help. Please read about tax credits offered by the federal government at irs.gov. The two types of credits offered are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.
Another tax benefit that some people qualify for is the Student Loan Interest Deduction. Read about that at irs.gov.