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Steps to College


Decide on a career field and area of study that will prepare you for it.  Not sure what career you want to pursue?  It’s ok!  You do need to know what you like to do, what you’re good at, and which careers will have openings available.  And, not all career fields require college degrees.  Discuss the needed training with representatives at College + Career Day to learn more about your path to your future job.

Use job market information to guide you to a growing field you will enjoy - contact your career coach for helping navigating this information.


Identify colleges or training programs that offer the needed degrees and/or certifications for your career field.  Some fields, like business, are offered at almost every university, so you have plenty of options.  Some, like engineering, are only offered at certain colleges.  Do your research!  Consider how long you will need to be in school and if you’re ready for the commitment.

You can also contact your career coach for help finding a school that offers your program of study.


Compare your options and consider which schools or programs are best for you.  You should apply to at least 3 colleges or training programs, even if you’re 100% sure on the one you want to attend (especially if they do not charge a fee to apply).  Your second or third choice might offer you a financial aid package that is too good to pass up.  Remember, you're not obligated to attend any school just because you send in an application packet. 

More tips:

  • Many college admissions representatives maintain social media platforms for the college, so reaching out to your desired schools may be as simple as sending a direct message on Instagram or Facebook. 

When you complete your FAFSA for financial aid, be sure to list every single college you could imagine attending.  The school will not be able to offer you a financial aid packet unless you list them on the FAFSA application.


Apply! If the school accepts online applications, find the application portion of the website and get started.  Ask your counselor or career coach if you need help.  Keep in mind that some schools do require an application fee.  If so, you’ll need a form of payment available, usually a credit card, to pay for the fee at the end of the application process.  If you think you qualify for an application fee waiver – talk to your school counselor as they’re the only ones who can issue the waiver for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.  If your school does not accept online applications or you must complete a paper copy to take advantage of a fee waiver, school websites typically have a copy you can download and print.

More tips:

  • Pay attention to deadlines, and do not wait until the last minute to complete your application, especially if you are required to submit additional materials in your packet.

  • Use an email address you check often and phone number where you can be reached

  • Complete all portions of the application before you submit

  • Save the confirmation page of online applications (even if it’s just a screenshot)


What additional pieces of information are required?  Some common items are listed below:

  • Transcripts – See your school counselor for procedures to request a transcript, and be prepared to pay a small fee.

  • Admissions essay or resume – Pay close attention to the guidelines, and seek help in proofreading.

  • SAT or ACT scores – If required, you must send each school your scores through the appropriate testing agency.  Log in to your online testing account, and ensure that your schools are listed as ones who have received your most recent scores.

Recommendation letters – Give your contacts at least 2 weeks notice to write them for you, and don't choose a family member unless that's who the college requests write the letter.


Start the Financial Aid Process

  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  Regardless of how you plan to pay for school, all college applicants need to submit one.  Go to and follow the step-by-step instructions.  See your Career Coach's FAFSA Guide for more help.  The application opens each year on October 1, and grant money is available on a first come, first served basis.

  • If you think you may qualify for scholarships from the school(s) you're interested in attending, seek out the financial aid portion of the website to find out how to apply.   You can contact your counselor or career coach for help.

  • Also look for scholarships through other organizations such as the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, church, civic clubs, or even your parents’ employers.

  • If you’re planning to pay for school using a family member’s GI Bill, you need to visit to determine your next steps. 

  • College financial aid offices are very experienced in how types of funding are applied for their school, so your best resource is to reach out to the college you plan to attend.


Follow Up!  Keep an eye on your email and mailbox to look for your acceptance letter(s).  Keep up with any correspondence from admissions officers through email or phone.  If you have questions or want to confirm your application is complete, you can seek help from the college by calling the admissions office.

Steps to College: List
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