Op/Ed By Jessica Lewis, ROC the Future Communications Specialist –
Graduating from high school and earning a high school diploma is extremely important. It marks a significant transition in one’s life. It is a milestone that begins the transition for a young person into adulthood. And while we know the benefits of graduating high school and going to college, we often overlook the importance of a strong support system to help guide students through the transition from high school to post-secondary success.
Speaking from my own experiences as a first-generation college student, I can attest to the challenges experienced along the way. There were social challenges from my peer group, and academic demands that were met with a hectic schedule filled with sports practice, games, and a part-time job. But one thing that helped me persevere was a strong support system. I vividly recall my senior year in high school, completing college applications by the November deadline. When January rolled around I knew that it was time for my mother to complete the FAFSA application. By the time Rochester thawed out and spring came around I received my college acceptance letter, mailed off my commitment agreement and eagerly awaited freshman orientation. Throughout the process I had supportive teachers, counselors, parents and extended family who made sure I was supported along the way.
I was recently invited to speak to juniors and seniors at All City High School and all of these memories came back to me as I prepared to speak them. Their bright faces reminded me that it was not too long ago that I was in their seat. It was not too long ago that I had the same concerns as they expressed about the college admission process and financing their education. To this day, I still owe a significant amount of student loan debt but, what I was able to share with students at All City High School, is three key things to keep in mind:
1. Stay the course. When things get hard, as they sometimes will, stay the course and remember there’s a goal ahead that you are striving to achieve. Never lose sight of that goal and remain focused on the overall objective – graduating from high school and pursing post-secondary education.
2. Keep an open mind. When it comes to college, focus on your passion so that you don’t lose interest in your program and coursework. Some students change majors two and three times while in college. While there’s nothing wrong with exploring your interests, changing majors can be costly and add time to your college stay. Choose a major that interests you and has job potential.
3. If your parents fall below a certain income level, a good portion of your college costs are likely to be covered. Don’t rule out schools simply because of costs. Find out what types of financial packages are offered and apply for scholarships. If you’re a graduating senior, go to one of the remaining FAFSA Fest events hosted by the Rochester Education Foundation, which leads ROC the Future’s College Access CAN, to get free help applying for financial aid.
• Sat., Jan, 13, 2018, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at East High School, 1801 E. Main St.
• Tues. Feb. 13, 2018, 5 to 7 p.m. at REOC, 161 Chestnut St.
• Sat. March 3, 2018, noon to 2 p.m. at MCC Downtown Campus, 321 State St.
Obtaining a college degree or trade certificate is the gateway to financial freedom. Don’t let fears or unanswered questions prevent you from accessing financial freedom in the future. Schedule an appointment with your counselor and take action for your future today.
ROC the Future is an alliance of leading Rochester-area institutions and community partners that promotes alignment and focuses community resources to improve the academic achievement of Rochester’s children. More at www.rocthefuture.org.