Some of the best advice for making choices comes from those who made the decisions for themselves and those who help others decide.
CHOOSING A SCHOOL
How do you sort through all those colorful brochures, flashy websites and mountains of advice everyone is throwing at you? Break. It. Down.
Staying close to home for college has its benefits
There are a few things to consider when choosing how far from home to go to school, including money saved and personal preference.
Yes, commuters can get the full college experience
The key to living at home and commuting to college is understanding that the situation poses two distinct issues, not one.
Here's a timeline for college planning in high school, based largely on a college planning checklist by ACT Inc.:
• Plan challenging high school courses.
• Become familiar with college entrance requirements.
• Join/continue extra curricular activities.
• Research college costs.
• Continue/start saving for college.
• Meet with your college/career counselor at least yearly.
• Continue following advice from freshman year.
• Think about education needed for various careers.
• Visit colleges and talk with college students.
• Write down college comparisons.
• Continue following advice from freshman, sophomore years.
• Take SAT or ACT college entrance exams or both.
• Write an academic resume.
• Consider putting together a portfolio that highlights your skills and talents.
• Research scholarships.
• Find a part-time job, apprenticeship, internship or job shadow in a field that interests you.
• Continuing following previous advice.
• Take SAT or ACT again in the fall if you need to improve your score.
• Write college essays.
• Select colleges and apply on time.
• Start the financial aid application process. Most schools use the FAFSA form (fatfsa.ed.gov) which can be filed beginning Jan. 1. Meet filing deadlines.
• Compare financial aid offers, remembering that grants don't have to be paid back and loans do.
• Visit schools where you are accepted.
• Make a decision by the school's deadline.
• Keep academics up throughout the year because it can affect scholarships and admissions.
Going out of state: No matter the distance, college is a time to grow
Distance away from home can be intimidating, but there are ways to make all new collegians feel at home.
Expand your search to lesser-known colleges
Don't discount the colleges you haven't heard of to find a better fit rather than going where friends are going.
Small college towns can hold big treasures
There's more going on in small college towns than what's seen at first glance.
Off-campus housing requires more responsibility but offers freedom
For many college students, dorms only last for a year or two before the migration into an off-campus housing happens.
Self-discovery is key to selecting a major
Choosing a major should force you to reckon with foundational questions about what you want out of your education.
College is better if you get to know your professors
Students can get to know professors, even in large classes, if they make the effort.
Roommates can become life-long friends ... or nightmares
There's nothing like actually living with different personalities and their pet peeves, habits and routines.
Diversity offers a valuable lesson
The recent court battle over whether colleges should use race as a factor in their admissions decisions raised plenty of discussion and contemplation.
Healthy eating options are important
One student will never forget the words, spoken to him by wise upperclassman Bo, about keeping a fridge stacked with healthy snacks.
Summer as important as semesters in school
Summers offer the opportunity to bolster a resume or save money on tuition by taking college courses at a lower price.
Supplementary education can offer the best lessons
Things learned outside of the classroom can prove to be much more beneficial than the material learned in one.
FINDING YOUR NICHE
College isn't about finding the balance; it's about creating your own
Even though there's no right way to do college, don't be afraid to sacrifice sleep and some test points for lasting memories.
Failures in college can be learning experiences
Sometimes you don't have to be perfect to become the person you are meant to be.
Give friendships time to take shape
Freshmen often enter college with high expectations that are impossible to meet.
Studying abroad can change your outlook on the world
About 4 million postsecondary students from the U.S. and other countries decide to study abroad yearly, compared with about 800,000 in 1975.
Student activism takes a different sort of dedication
Activism can make change even on a campus you already love.
Find positive influences, dream big and don't lose sight of that dream
One more shot, one more drink, try this, or try that. If you know it's not for you, say no.
Stay smart to stay out of trouble
College students have a lot of freedom, but actions can bring consequences.
Small things can stabilize college life
Though the college whirlwind can be exhilarating,it also lacks the stability of high school; make time for refreshing breaks and activities.
AT THE END
The final stretch into the 'real world'
The jump into the real world doesn't start after your graduation ceremony -- it often starts months before when you enter your senior year of college.
First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM