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Things Your Guidance Counselor Never Told You About College

Jun 19, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

As a high school senior, you enter into college with certain misconceptions—misconceptions that your guidance counselor probably never did anything to dispel. Some things can only be learned with experience, but others it would benefit the average high school senior to know—especially as it pertains to financial decisions that could have an effect on the rest of your life. Here are a few things your guidance counselor probably never told you about college—but that it’s important to know.

Yes, Virginia, loans do matter

Many high school seniors get the same advice when considering cost for colleges: “Don’t worry about the cost of the schools. There’s plenty of financial aid. If you really want to go to a specific college, the financial aid office will help you make it work.”

Well…that’s true, but blithely ignoring college costs can be a big mistake that you won’t start paying for until after you graduate. Many college students wind up relying a great deal on private loans, which can have high interest rates and less-than-optimal terms of payment. And even if you’re lucky enough to get a lot of subsidized Federal aid, you’ll still be carrying a large debt burden when you graduate. That burden could prevent you from doing all kinds of things you might want to do when you graduate—like buy a house, travel, volunteer, or start your own business.

So when you’re looking at colleges, take tuition costs into consideration. Talk to counselors to find out how much scholarship money schools typically give out—this is a good sign that you might get grants and scholarships if you’re accepted.

Your guidance counselor will continue to be a resource after college

School guidance counselors often maintain connections with graduates.  Once you graduate college, they may know someone who’s established themselves in your industry and who may be able to act as your mentor—or even help you get a job. It’s definitely worth it to keep your guidance counselor’s contact information on file.

Reaching Out: Looking For Signs of Interest

You don’t actually have to go to class.  In college, you’re responsible for your projects and tests, but you may be able to get away with skipping class on a regular basis—especially if you have a lot of large lecture-hall classes, and particularly if those classes are televised and made available online.  Unless you’re attending small classes that rely on participation for a grade, you can theoretically pass a class even if you’ve attended very few actual classes.

Your GPA isn’t the most important thing

Your GPA matters in high school—it’s an important yardstick colleges use to judge applicants. But unless you’re planning to go to graduate, medical or law school, your GPA isn’t likely to factor into your life in a major way after you graduate college at all. Most employers don’t ask for it; your experience matters more.

Networking is half the value of college

Many Ivy-league schools list among their benefits the ability to network with other highly ambitious and successful students—people who are likely to be at the top of their industries someday. These will be good people to know. In addition, some of your professors may have industry contacts and knowledge that will prove invaluable in landing your first jobs—or even in launching a career. While in college, cultivate a few mentor-mentee relationships with professors you respect. You never know where those relationships will take you.

After college, your work is only just beginning

It’s such a cliché to suggest that college will be the best years of your life. While they certainly are enjoyable for most students, there are sure to be many joys still to come. However, college is a sheltered time of exploration—and when you graduate, you’ll find there are limits on your life that prevent you from exploring as freely as you could have in college.

As a high school senior, you have a lot of demands on your life—from academic demands to the demands of friends who are likely to separate after the end of the summer. It can be a stressful time, as well as an exciting one. Bear in mind these things about college, and the transition may be a little easier—because you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.




Dr. T (Ph.D.) Over a year ago

I've taught college since 1986 at three different major universities, one technical school, and three online universities, and they have all had attendance requirements. The notion that students don't have to go to class is extraordinarily bad advice. Students who don't come to my class, don't pass my class, and it's never been me that failed the students, but the university itself would drop the student from the course or flunk them automatically.

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