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Choosing a college can be as hard as choosing to go

As the beginning of senior year looms closer with every passing day, up-and-coming senior students have to start asking themselves “What college do I want to attend?”

This process is one that requires great deliberation, consideration and concentration, and should not be thought of lightly. These students must decide their futures in the coming year.

As guidance counselor for Demopolis High School, Debbie Nichols is also a senior advisor, and is instrumental in aiding students in figuring out their college decisions and preparing to take that big step into a larger world.

Nichols feels that students should begin these preparations as early as their freshman year, making certain they keep their grades in good shape, continuing this for all four years if possible.

In their sophomore year, students should begin taking college entrance tests, like the ACT or SAT, starting with perhaps a lower score, but gaining experience to improve that score on later exams.

“Colleges will accept your highest score, so if you do not test well, it is to your advantage to start a little earlier and work up to that needed score,” said Nichols.

This testing process should continue until the student is satisfied with his or her score, or until the score plateaus and ceases to improve.

A student’s junior year is a good time to begin applying for scholarships and cultivating relationships with community service organizations and clubs to become eligible for more scholarships.

This time is good for this because it enables students to finish their applications ahead of other applicants, giving them a better chance of receiving scholarship funds.

During a student’s senior year, he should begin finalizing college choices, rounding them down to three, four or five, getting recommendation letters and references picked out and taking care, sorting out any final scholarship opportunities available to them and beginning to develop a possible thesis for their future, an essay about their career goals to be used in applying for colleges.

The first thing a student should ask when applying to colleges is whether or not the particular school fits them. What they want to do? Who they want to be? Where do they see themselves four or five years into the future?

“In selecting a college, a student should make a list of priorities about what is important to them as they look for a college such as location (in state, out of state, close to home, etc.), the size of the school, what the college offers academically (what programs and majors),” Nichols said.

When asked about things students should not look for in colleges, Nichols emphasized that “students should not apply just because their friends do. Again, it should be the right ‘fit’ for each student, and not just because a group of friends are going there.”

Soon-to-be senior Annie Jones is a good example of the student Nichols describes. She has been preparing for the medical field since her early days of high school, and has already narrowed her college choices to either the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa or the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and has already begun applying for scholarships.

When asked how she decided, Jones replied, “It’s where my profession is. It’s one of the few schools in the region that provides the resources my major requires.”

When deciding on one’s college, a student must consider all of these things, but must also take time to think about not only the educational side and the social enrichment that will begin in those years, shaping who that student is going to be for the rest of his life.

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