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Before You Hit Submit: A College Readiness Guide

While going to college can be a financially rewarding and personally enriching investment, it's also a big decision. Before you hit submit on your college application, there is some important work you need to do in order to be successful. After all, the goal is greater than just going to college. It's about finishing too. Check out my tips on getting ready for college and be more likely to not only start classes but graduate on time. 

Tip 1: Ready your Support System

Support systems are crucial to every successful college student. Pull together people you value and that value you from all corners of your life (spouse, friends, family, coworkers, etc.). Tell them of your plans to go to college and ask them to help you stay on track with this dream. Accountability is important, and your support system must hold you accountable in a positive way. In most cases, you'll need more than emotional support. If so, you need to communicate those needs to your support system. For example, it might mean a sit-down with your family to let them know that you'll need quiet time for studying, or that you classes might mean missing certain family and personal commitments. College is a sacrifice, but it's worth it! Don't get discouraged. 

Tip 2: Clean the toxic waste

You have to rid yourself of the people and things holding you back or find healthy ways to manage the negative influence these toxic relationships can have on your life. If you can clean up the toxic waste in your life, you can enter into the stresses of higher education without the crippling weight of excess baggage. No, you may not be able to ditch that unsupportive uncle, but having a better mindset about their behavior towards your goals will work wonders. Prove those negative people wrong. Imagine that look of sickness on their faces as you parade your diploma around. Let your haters be your motivators!

If this sounds easier said than done, don't worry. Sometimes you need to bring in the professionals. Contact a counselor or therapist and discuss strategies on healing yourself and managing the toxicity. There are some great strategies and techniques to make yourself emotionally and mentally ready for college, and a little couch time never hurt anyone. There are even apps for your phone that can connect you to anonymous therapists. Talk it out on your terms and in a place where you feel the most comfortable. 

Tip 3: Identify the "rocks in your road"

We all have "rocks in the road" that can make going to college challenging if we don't identify them and find solutions. Use your support system as well as some self-reflection to find out what obstacles might stand in the way of you completing your college degree. Once you have these identified, you can work to find solutions throughout the admissions process. Colleges have staff devoted to helping you jump your hurdles, and can connect you with resources. Everyone has hurdles! Don't keep them to yourself. There are solutions to many of the common barriers non-traditional students face. Identifying "rocks in the road" early, and coming up with a plan of action to overcome them is a winning strategy on the road to completing your college education. 

Tip 4: Do your taxes

Financial aid, including many scholarships and government grants, are based on tax information. If you haven't filed, you'll want to get on that. As a student, you'll want to get taxes filed early so you can use that data for your FAFSA, or Free Application for Student Aid. In my years of experience working with college students, taxes can be an unintended barrier of entry for many simply because they didn't know the importance of taxes when it comes to financial aid. 

Tip 5: When in doubt, check it out

If you have questions, concerns or are just not sure where to go next, stop by your college's admissions office and visit with an admissions counselor or recruiter. Admissions requirements may differ based on your program and method of learning (on campus, in-seat, hybrid, etc.). An admissions counselor will be able to tell you what you need to get started as well as provide more information about the program you want to pursue. Discuss any barriers you might have to enrollment or completion of your degree, as these professionals are trained to help. Bring your most valued members of your support system with you! They may have questions or concerns that you didn't think about. 

Can't make it to campus? Don't worry. Many schools do phone or virtual admissions appointments. Columbia College has launched a brand new contact center designed to make access to an admissions professional easier than ever. Just them a call at (877) 999-9876. You'll be connected to a member of the admissions team who will guide you through all aspects of the admissions process. Think of them as the self-driving car of admissions departments. 

Going to college is a big step, but with the right prep, it'll be easier than you think to earn the college degree of your dreams. 

Related content:

Proving Them Wrong

Finding Success as a Non-Traditional Student 

Earning College Credit for What You Already Know

Communication, Higher Education, Columbia College, Family, Change

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