College & Career
Planning for college is less stressful if you know what you need to do. The General College Planning Resources section includes sites that list other helpful checklists and guides for different grade levels. For example, starting as early as middle school, you can be thinking about what careers you might like to go into. You can take some of the quizzes on the career sites listed in the Career Search section to learn what careers fit best with your interests and strengths.
Once you have some career ideas in mind, you can search for colleges, narrowing your search to just those schools that have majors relevant to your career choices—the College Search section lists several sites that can help you do this.
It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’ll pay for college. In fact, states offer 529 plans to parents so that they can save up for their child’s higher education. You can use sites in the Scholarships and Financial Aid section to find scholarships you could win. If they’re not available to you until your senior year, that gives you time to meet more qualifications. Community service, for example, is required for some scholarships, and you can rack up the hours working a weekly volunteer shift somewhere important to you. Learning about scholarships you might be able to get during your freshman year means that you can work toward those qualifications.
There is also a selection of scholarships available to students graduating from Fox Valley schools available from the Community Foundation, which you’ll find in the Local & State Scholarships and Financial Aid section below. The competition is much narrower for these awards than for national ones, so it’s good to know about them.
You can learn about other funding options as well—you can go to college if you really want to no matter what, but know that the more loans you take to pay for college, the longer you’ll be paying for your education—you could be paying for years afterward. There are other options, including merit-based grants (like those available from the State of Wisconsin), need-based work study programs (where you work on campus while going to school), and others. Higher education is a popular political battleground topic, too, so keep your ears out for news on changes to the federal government’s offerings of financial support for students.
Of course, finances aren’t the only hurdle to hop between here and getting into college—you’ll have to get in before they ask for your tuition payment. In the fall of your junior year, you should take the PSAT/NMSQT, which will not only give you practice taking these tests under accurate conditions, but will also give you the opportunity to qualify for the National Merit Scholar program. You can also take the ACT and SAT, and there are free resources to prepare you for all of them, as well as AP exams, the ACCUPLACER, and more listed in the Exam Information & Preparation section. Taking tests as a junior ensures you’ll have time to retake any in case you need to try for a better score—just be sure your test is at least 2-3 months before any college application deadlines.
And speaking of college applications, there are a resources out there to answer any questions you have, in addition to providing assistance with that application essay, and we’ve linked a few in the Application and Admission Process section.
If you need help with any of this, there are some folks you can visit without leaving your school who would love to assist you in getting into college.
- Big Future (For profit) Created by College Board, Big Future provides tools for you to start planning for college, whether you’re in middle or high school. It includes information on career searching, college searching, financial aid, applying to colleges, and more.
- KnowHow2Go (Non-profit) Offers college prep checklists and timelines for students at each grade level leading up to college.
- Federal Student Aid (Government) While most useful for its federal aid information, this US Department of Education site also provides links to career and college planning resources, middle and high school student checklists and timelines, and more.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook (Government) This resource provides multiple ways for you to search for potential careers--by category, fastest growing, highest paying, education level required, and more, but I know you’ll be looking at the highest paying first.
- My Next Move (Non-profit) Sponsored and funded by the Department of Labor, My Next Move provides career exploration options for you, whether you don't know what you want to do or you think you do.
- Health Occupations (Government) The National Institutes of Health Medline Plus listing of careers in health professions, for those of you who enjoy biology class and helping others.
- Career One Stop (Government) Career tools include a career exploration guide, links to career resources, and the ability to search for educational opportunities by occupation and location—so you can browse a list of careers and choose a state or region to study in and get a list of schools you should research further.
- O*NET Online (Non-Profit) Another career search/browse tool, very similar to My Next Move, created and sponsored by the same agencies, but aimed at adults. You can handle it, if you need another option.
- College Navigator (Government) Created by the US Dept. of Education, College Navigator is a highly customizable search that can narrow your results to just those schools most interesting or appropriate for you. No account necessary, but you can mark schools as favorites to compare or download.
- Princeton Review (For profit) They want to sell you test preparation services, but you can browse their excellent college lists for free (after setting up an account). The school search tool lets you filter schools by location, size, majors, placement on Princeton Review Best lists, and more.
- Cappex (For profit) A social network for students and colleges, you create an account at Cappex, find schools and scholarships that match you, and communicate with potential colleges.
- Fox Valley College Prep (For profit) is a local group that hosts a spring college fair at Xavier High School where you can meet and speak with representative from schools. Also, sells ACT prep.
- Wisconsin Education Fairs (Non-profit) puts on college fairs around the state in the fall and spring. Their site lists dates and locations, as well as participating colleges and organizations. It's free, but registration is required at gotocollegefairs.com.
- FAFSA (Government) The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a must-submit item for any college student or student-to-be as it will define your federal aid eligibility and influence your state and college aid eligibility. Submitting sooner is better than later as some federal aid programs are available first-come, first-served—you can submit the FAFSA January 1.
- FAFSA4Caster (Government) For planners-ahead out there, the FAFSA4Caster can help to estimate the amount of federal aid eligibility—remember, state and college aid can depend on FAFSA data, so you'll want to submit a FAFSA no matter what this estimate is.
- Federal Student Aid (Government) This US Department of Education resource provides information on the variety of federal aid available to students, including grants, loans, work study programs, and more.
- Fastweb (For profit) Allows you to create a profile cataloging everything from your gender and ethnicity to your hobbies and interests in order to match you up with relevant scholarships. You still have to apply for the scholarships, but the search process for state and national scholarships is simplified.
- CareerOneStop's Scholarship Search (Government) Provided by the US Department of Labor, this is not the most user-friendly scholarship database, but diligent searchers may find useful information.
- State of Wisconsin Higher Education Aids Board (Government) This site provides information on aid available from the State of Wisconsin, including grants, scholarships, loans, and tuition reciprocity with other states.
- Community Foundation of the Fox Valley (Non-profit) Scholarships from the Community Foundation are available to students pursuing a variety of higher education interests who graduate from area schools. It's highly likely that they have a scholarship that fits you.
- American Association of University Women, Appleton Branch Scholarship (Non-profit) You may have to search the site for current information, but the 2012 scholarship requirements state that applicants must be women who have graduated from a Greater Fox Cities Area high school and are currently enrolled in college. You must be a junior or senior undergraduate, or a graduate student and maintain a high scholastic record at the college level.
- College Goal Wisconsin (Non-profit) Not a scholarship, but an event at which students and families can receive free assistance completing their FAFSAs from financial aid professionals and volunteers. This is usually hosted on a weekend in February at the Fox Valley Technical College.
- Learn-a-Test (Library resource) Free test preparation for the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and AP exams funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, including instructional modules for each test section and practice tests. You will need your library card to create an account.
- Number2.com (For profit) Found via TestPrepWI.org, this site offers free ACT and SAT preparation, and gives supporters (parents, teachers, counselors) the ability to monitor your progress and coach you along.
- Official PSAT site (For profit) The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test) can get you into consideration for a National Merit Scholarship if you score well, and there are free resources available to help you prepare, like Learn-a-Test. This test is offered at high schools in the fall to Juniors for a fee. It's also good practice for the timed test environment of both the SAT and ACT.
- PSAT/NMSQT prep books and ebooks available from InfoSoup libraries
- Official ACT site (For profit) The go-to site for info on ACT test dates and locations, online registration, fees, and more. They provide a free question of the day, sample test, and printable test prep booklet, but also sell their own ACT Online Prep program.
- ACT prep books and ebooks available from InfoSoup libraries
- Official SAT site (For profit) The go-to site for info on SAT test dates and locations, online registration, fees, and more. There are also free sample questions, questions of the day, and a practice test, in addition resources they sell.
- SAT prep books and ebooks available from InfoSoup libraries
- Official ACCUPLACER site (For profit) includes basic information about the tests, sample questions, and fee-based prep resources.
- ACCUPLACER prep books available from InfoSoup libraries
- Official Advanced Placement Exam site (For profit) Includes test dates and fees, practice tests organized by AP class, and other AP information.
- AP Exam prep books and ebooks available from InfoSoup libraries
- Books on college admission available from InfoSoup libraries
- The College Board's Big Future (For profit) has a section on applying, as does the US Dept. of Education's Federal Student Aid site
- Learn-a-Test (Library resource) includes a section on college admission essay writing.
Need more help? Go get it!
Your high school guidance counselor is paid to do many things for you, including providing career and higher education assistance. Whether you go to East, North, West, Xavier, or Fox Valley Lutheran, there’s a guidance team ready to answer your questions.
Send a Question or Comment to Appleton Public Library.