Project Opportunity: Access to Washington's Colleges'

“It has always been my dream to become a teacher that is able to give students hope, confidence, and the ability to challenge themselves and to never give up.”

— Cassandra Turner
Saint Martin's University


Frequently Asked Questions

Should I consider college?

You should certainly consider some sort of further education after high school. Your high school education has given you a good foundation, but if you want more choices in your future, you may need more education. You'll increase your understanding of our world and meet people from different backgrounds. It is an excellent opportunity to become more independent, develop leadership skills, and increase your potential. You'll have more control over your future.

Your high school counselor or career center can give you great advice on options after high school. Start talking to them early, and they will guide you to the best resources for your situation. Introduce yourself to the career center and counseling office the next time that you are at school.

Does it matter whether I go to college?

The more education you get, the greater flexibility you'll have in the future. The average income in our country is directly related to the level of education of the individual. In high school you learned a great deal of material.In college you'll be challenged to put that to use.

But college can do more than prepare you for a career. It can prepare you for life. It can prepare you for whatever comes your way.

A liberal arts college will help you communicate, work with other people, adapt to change, think critically, and solve problems. It makes you more open and flexible and more interested in the world around you — and more interesting to be around.

Does it matter what college I go to?

You will be most successful at the college that fits you. “Fit” is different for every person. It has to do with the size, location, level of involvement, and the personality of college you're looking for. The only way you'll know is if you visit several campuses. Are there students like you? Who have the same academic goals? Who like to do the same type of activities? Don't forget to find ways to challenge yourself in this new environment.

How do I pick the right college?

The important thing to realize is that there are many choices out there and it will take time to find your best “fit”. So start early and explore your options! You'll want to narrow the field in order to have a more manageable group to investigate further. This requires you to do a little soul searching and ask yourself what you really want out of college. Websites and guidebooks are good sources of information. Some things you'll want to consider include: size, location, education quality, majors offered, college personality (they each have one), and the amount of involvement you'll want in extracurricular activities.

How can I afford college?

Don't start by looking at the sticker price. Find the colleges that are good fits for you. Then explore the financial aid process. Financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships are available at most colleges. At many private colleges most students receive some sort of aid, often making the out of pocket costs lower than less expensive colleges. Keep your options open. Every student, regardless of income, should apply for financial aid.

Consider the amount of time it will take to complete your degree. Time is money, particularly when you are paying tuition and housing. In fact, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) reports that most students, including low-income and minority students, are as likely if not more likely to earn a degree in four years from a private college as they would in six years from a public institution.

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Should I go to a small school or a large school?

The size of the college or university can impact the experience that you have, but it depends on what style of community you thrive in. Both large and small schools have advantages, and the table below can give perspective on which might be better for you.

Small School Large School
Strong, tight-knit community. Opportunities to get involved in campus and community. Easier to get 'lost in the crowd,' but there more people to interact with.
Smaller class size. Most have less than 30 students. This gives plenty of interaction with your professor and classmates. Large schools may to have larger classes. Some introductory classes may have a hundred or more students.
Small colleges offer a wide variety of specific majors, but also emphasize a well-rounded liberal arts education. If you are interested in studying a very specialized field, you may find that a large university has the specific program for you.
At a small school, you are likely to study with the same professor more than once. This gives an opportunity to know them better — and they you. They'll pay attention to your growth and challenge you fro where you are. With many introductory courses taught by graduate students, it may be more difficult to work with the same instructors throughout your studies at a larger school.

Does it matter whether I live at home or in a dorm?

College is an excellent opportunity to gain additional independence. Sometimes that can be hard to do if you're living with your parents. Think about whether you can take more responsibility for your actions if you're at home. Some students need to move to another town to fully exercise the independence they desire. If the college you've found as a good fit is in your home town, you should still consider living in the dorm. It is sometimes hard to take full responsibility for yourself living at home. If you and your parents can agree that you should take full responsibility for yourself, it may be an option to consider.

When should I pick a major?

For most majors you don't need to know until the middle of your sophomore year.

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You shouldn't feel pressured to do it before you get to college. Take some time to explore your options as you fulfill your general education requirements. Many students go to college with a very clear view of what they want to major in, only to find an area they love that they'd never considered.

What if my parents college goals are different from mine?

Family dynamics are not our area of expertise, and the college search can raise a number of touchy issues that you may not have considered: finances, location, legacy, and family history are just a few points that families may face.

Have an honest conversation. Learn where your college goals overlap and where they differ, and then agree to have multiple options. Even though you and your parents may have some differences of opinion, make sure that you apply to multiple schools.

After acceptance letters arrive, make a few campus visits with your parents if you are able. Don't make a final decision until you have carefully analyzed financial aid packages. And it is your job to persuade and present evidence to your parents about which school would be the best choice for you. College is a significant investment of money and time; make sure that you are choosing the college that fits best.

Who should I contact if I have more questions?

We just touched on a few of the frequently asked questions, but we know that there are hundreds more. Explore the ProjectOpportunity .net site, as we have extensive information on all aspects of the college search, application, and admissions process. If you are a high school student, start here. If you are already in college, start here. The sitemap indexes our topics, or use the navigation links on the left.

The career center and counseling office at your school can also assist you in the college search and application process. They can give you advice that is tailored to your particular needs.

If you're interested in a particular colleges now, you should contact them directly. The staff in the admissions and financial aid offices will be very helpful, even if you don't end up attending there. By contacting the college, you will also be informed of any upcoming events for prospective students and get a head start on the admissions process.

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Funded in part by a grant from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation
published by Independent Colleges of Washington