If you have a high school graduate in your household then this is probably a difficult and emotional time for all of you. These days were supposed to be filled with end of year milestones like prom, senior skip day and lots of graduation parties. While there are still so many ways you can celebrate your high school senior, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next after graduation.
With so much uncertainty around Fall 2020, there are many things you and your high school senior may want to consider about starting college in the fall, and yes, you need to start thinking about them now.
Hopefully, these tips will help you navigate these unchartered waters and help you choose the best course for your teen.
Should you consider online classes?
The California university system has already determined that they will be doing all classes online in the fall. Many other universities are still deciding. There is a strong chance that virtual learning will be a possibility for many incoming freshman for part if not all of their fall semesters.
How will you and your teen feel if this is the only option available in the fall at their selected college? Did your teen struggle when their high school classes went online? Will you and your teen feel like the money being spent for their college education won’t be worth it if they can’t have the on-campus experience and in-person instruction?
These are the questions you both need to be thinking about and discussing now as well as deciding what your back-up plans are going to be. There are options, but many require that you take some actions quickly.
Should you take a gap year?
If your teen wasn’t able to tour colleges because of the pandemic to make a final decision on the best school for them, or they are considering attending a pricey out of state school, waiting to enroll could help save money, headaches and keep your teen from missing out on the campus experience.
Gap years are often used for taking a year off to travel, and that may still be something they can do with that time despite current circumstances. As restrictions ease, travel may become safer again and there might be some great deals.
But even if travel isn’t an option, there are other great ways to take advantage of a gap year. You can use your gap year to learn important life skills before college, conduct an independent study, or take a side job to help pay for college.
What should you do if you are considering a gap year?
If you’re thinking of taking a gap year, the first thing you need to do is get in contact with admissions office of the school you were planning to attend in the fall ASAP. Not all schools even offer this as an option, and those who do often have a limited number they will grant.
Also, if you’ve been awarded a scholarship or financial aid package of any kind, you will also want to talk with the school about whether it will still be applied in the same way if you wait a year to attend. Some schools will grant the gap year, but they won’t guarantee the same financial assistance upon your return.
Should you consider attending college at a local institution then transfer?
First, it is important to be clear about something. This is NOT a gap year. You can’t defer at a more expensive in-state university or an out of state university and then attend community college and expect those credits to transfer. Most colleges that approve a gap year expect you to use it for something other than gaining less expensive college credits somewhere else.
If you are choosing this option, then you would be declining your admission to the school you originally intended to attend in the fall. If you wanted to go to that institution at a later time, then you would be considered a transfer student and need to re-apply.
Now, that isn’t entirely a bad thing. As a transfer, you’re degree will still be from the university you ultimately graduate from and is not diminished by having spent your first year or two somewhere else. Also, perhaps you weren’t actually accepted at your dream school. Now you have a second chance.
This is also a great way to get a more prestigious degree for less money, by spending your first two years of school at a less expensive college or university.
Will your credits transfer?
There are a lot of things to consider when determining where you will attend college. Outside of price, state versus out-of-state is probably the next big one. If you are looking to save some money or get a jump on classes in person, attending a local community college or state school, then transferring might be another good option.
If you are considering this option, you need to speak with both schools to make sure your credits will transfer. Some schools require you to attend for a full year or take a certain number of classes before you transfer. Others will only allow dual enrollment in specific circumstances.
Not knowing what to do right now is totally understandable. Many high school seniors and their parents are confused and overwhelmed. But you do have some control over the situation. Unfortunately though, the sooner you start looking into your choices and taking action, the more choices you are likely to have.
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