Choosing to go to college can be daunting, but I’ve seen thousands of students realize their dreams.
As Outreach Director for Walla Walla Community College, I encounter students of all ages and experience levels and am honored to help them get to where they want to be.
The following tips are based on the questions I hear most often.
1. The conversation.
Nobody is born knowing how to go to college! Even if you are unsure of what to ask, connect with a teacher, mentor, experienced friend, or someone who works at a college. Anyone, really. What’s important is to start the conversation. Express your interest and let them ask the questions. Answer honestly so they may help you get connected.
These people can form part of your support network.
2. Don’t wait.
It’s never too late and it’s never too early to start thinking about your future.
The right time is now because understanding your options and getting admissions and financial aid processes squared away takes time. The sooner you start working towards your goal, the smoother and less stressful the process will be.
3. College is for everyone.
There are a variety of options in higher education, especially at a community college like WWCC. From completing high school or learning English to getting a certificate or degree, or just taking a fun cooking class, it’s all there for you.
4. Still not sure? Check out career services.
College advisors can help you explore options that match your interests. They can help you understand what you can expect to earn working in the field that interests you. You might be surprised at how quickly a short certificate or associate degree can pay off.
5. College is more affordable than you may think.
Washington gives a lot of financial help to students.
There’s money for almost anyone who wants to take the next step and go to college. For many students, financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back can cover the cost of tuition.
For eligible students who have a gap, WWCC offers Warrior Pledge.
Completing your FAFSA or WASFA and any institutionspecific forms is essential.
Avoid unnecessary debt by tapping all the resources available to you.
Community and Technical Colleges, like Walla Walla Community College, are “real college.”
6. Visit the colleges that interest you.
Websites are a great way to learn about a college’s offerings and admissions processes, but you will get a much better sense of a college’s culture if you schedule a formal campus tour or just pop in for a vibe check.
7. Plan to be busy.
Whether you plan to be a full-time, part-time, in-person or online student, you will need to use your time management skills to balance the demands of life and school. Schedule at least an hour or two outside of class for studying or tutoring for every credit you take. This will ensure you don’t fall behind on your work.
8. Tap all the resources.
Colleges have many resources for students, from academic to mental health support.
Familiarize yourself with what’s available at your institution and don’t be afraid to ask for and access support services. They are designed to help you succeed.
9. Don’t give up.
With dedication and perseverance, you can learn challenging things.
There will always be challenges and frustrations along the way, but if you persist and seek support, you will meet your goals.
10. Enjoy the ride.
Expect to be changed by your experience. If you engage deeply with your learning and take the time to explore opportunities to connect with other students and enjoy college life, you will meet your goals and have a little fun while you’re at it.
• Melissa Rodriguez is outreach director for Walla Walla Community College.