Summer is just around the corner and for some of you school as you know it will be over for good. Congratulation senors! You have nearly achieved a goal that has consumed the bulk of your young lives. You will be heading off to universities, service academies, missions trips, jobs, or maybe your parents sofa. Either way, life as you know it is going to change. For those of you headed off to post secondary educations, there are three things to be aware of.
#1 - Your major is not in stone! You may change your mind about what you want to study or which career you want to aim for. That is okay. It will not ruin your life, set back your education, void your financial aid offer, or any of the other horrible things you have no doubt heard from well meaning adults.
Changing majors is normal. How could you possibly know what major or career is right for you before you have even had an introduction to those majors or careers? Going out and getting informed then reassessing your situation based on that information is exactly what you should do throughout your life. In the case of college planning, the key is to not take a lot of major-specific courses at colleges before you are certain that is your path. In this way, you may manage to graduate before you run out of hours or your parent's money.
#2 - Financial aid is an ongoing job! You already know that college is expensive. Frankly, it is so expensive that you do not even possess a reference for that level of obligation. Only much later in life will you look back and realize the true strain that college debt can be for a student, or more likely, his family. But it is very likely that before you graduation, you will begin to evolve a painful understanding of the need for some type of non-loan financial aid. When that awareness occurs, the situation may look dire, even hopeless. It usually is not.
There is money for college even for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The key to getting that money is being willing to continually educate yourself about the options. Primary aid may be mostly off of the table but a student will good grades or an excellent work ethic can find plenty of institutional, departmental, or third party aid to assist a tight budget. As soon as you see a deficit arising, put your resources cap on, do your research then start sending emails and making phone calls.
#3 - Quitting is an option but not usually a good one. When things seem so bad that you feel the only option is to give up, it usually means that you are at odds with the people around you who are trying to support you but maybe they are not doing it in a way that feels helpful to you. These people are not always right but they are almost always more right than the dorm buddy or classmate who may even take pleasure in rehashing your pain. Resist falling into the "Us vs. Them" trap. Parents, teachers, counselors, and other well meaning adults are still your best resource. Don't be too quick to walk away. Take help in what ever form it comes. You will be proud of yourself later.