Whether you are a traditional student, someone who has tried to attend college but didn’t finish, or someone who is older who has never attended college, there’s never a wrong time to decide on higher education. However, receiving a higher education isn’t always the easiest feat. There are systemic barriers for people of color, financial hurdles for low-income families, and a lack of support for navigating the world of higher education.
In order to get a leg up in their journey towards a college education, students need assistance accessing financial aid, deciding which college and major are right for them, and finding the extra support available for their specific situation. Sometimes, the first step is just finding your inspiration and latching onto the idea that higher education is attainable for you once you know how to acquire the resources to help you get there.
Find Your Inspiration
Attending college is a difficult process. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and a constant mental marathon. For someone who is also juggling family or a job on top of their studies, it can be extremely difficult to get through their higher education.
For that reason, it can be helpful to find your inspiration for attending school and latching onto that when you’re questioning your decision or wondering how to go about attending school. Your inspiration may be a field you’re passionate about, creating a better life for your family, or following in the academic footsteps of someone who inspires you, like Barack Obama. Even someone as successful as Lebron James has talked about going back to recieve a college education in the future.
Be Strategic About Your Major
Because school is so expensive and student loans continue to be a hurdle, finding the right major is an important step. Taking out a mountain of student loans and attending school for years only to graduate and have no prospects is an unfortunate reality for many graduates. Take the time to research the job market surrounding the field you are passionate about.
For instance, nursing is an ever-growing industry that will continue to deal with a shortage of staff for years to come, so it’s a field with a lot of opportunity. Finding the right major within your passion and natural aptitude is an important step in higher education. You might also look into trade schools, community college, or apprenticeship opportunities, depending on your interests. These options often offer plenty of opportunity at a lower cost.
Use Financial Aid Resources
The truth of the matter is that not everyone can afford to go to college without financial help. Low-income students face many barriers when it comes to attending college. However, financial aid can help. If you have any questions about navigating your way through financial aid, be sure you schedule a meeting with your school advisor. They will help you to gather the paperwork you need, let you know about aid you qualify for, and teach you how to fill out your FAFSA.
Talk to your bank about loan options. Know that there are ways to get a student loan without a cosigner, if that is something that is not available to you. Discuss aid options if you have bad credit, if you already have student loans, or if you have low income. These situations won’t necessarily disqualify you from financial aid help, but an advisor or banker will be able to discuss your options with you.
Find Relevant Scholarships
Not only should you focus on resources for financial aid and loans, you should also focus on resources to help you with scholarships and grants. Fastweb, FinAid.org, and your financial aid office all have resources on scholarships and grants. Some require a fee to apply, some require an essay, and others just require an easily completed form in order to apply.
You might look into scholarships for African Americans, single parents, low-income students, non-traditional students, international students, young women, or individuals interested in specific majors. Do your research and talk to your financial aid office to find the scholarships you qualify for. Apply for any that you qualify for in order to get help financing school. There are scholarship opportunities for nearly every kind of student.
Get Extra Help
There are a lot of reasons why higher education might be a hurdle. Thankfully, many colleges have extra ways of helping students with special circumstances. For instance:
- For Veterans: There are programs to encourage veterans to go to graduate school or get extra financial aid. Such programs enable veterans to enter the workforce with the skills necessary to achieve long-term success.
- For Parents: Many schools have on-campus childcare programs as well as night classes. These enable students to fulfill their duties as parents while pursuing an education.
- For the Economically Disadvantaged: There are a plethora of paid internship opportunities or programs that offer laptops to low-income students. Schools may offer extra mental healthcare programs, discounted meal programs, online courses, or free tutoring.
Getting this extra help can make all the difference, so be sure you’re talking to your advisor about any extra programs that may be of help to you in higher education.
Getting a leg up and finding the resources to help you achieve your educational goals can make all the difference. Getting a college education is not a simple feat for everyone, and often the problem is in the lack of access to critical resources. It’s all about discussing your options with a financial aid advisor. Be sure that your field of study has abundant opportunities for you as well. Never underestimate the power of being inspired. Once you’re in school, studying as hard as you can and juggling the responsibilities of a college student, you’ll need that inspiration to ensure your success.
Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn't frantically updating his news feeds, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the beach and read detective novels from the 1930s.