Graduate Programs for Success Division Share Tips for Navigating College and Career Milestones
By Tanya Baynham, MHS Vice President of Graduate Programs for Success Division
Ready or not, high school seniors are getting closer to one of the most exciting milestones—graduation! Between selecting a career path, college acceptances, reviewing financial aid award packages, and other decisions, there is a lot to process. Many of our Milton Hershey School graduates are the first in their families to attend college, so our Graduate Programs for Success (GPS) team works tirelessly to ensure our students are supported and feel prepared for anything that comes their way.
Consider these tips to make the most of this busy and exciting time:
Consider Stacking Credentials
After receiving the acceptance letters, compare the postsecondary institutions and consider which make stacking credentials seamless. For example, many programs, particularly those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, help students obtain a well-paying job with a certification. If desired, they can then continue their education in that field by obtaining an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree. This flexibility is invaluable to many students, especially those who don’t want to start their education at the bachelor’s degree level.
Analyze Financial Aid Packages
Colleges will start sending out financial aid packages in February. Carefully evaluate how long the institutional grants/scholarships will be provided and what the criteria is for maintaining them during the college experience, such as a minimum GPA requirement. Be sure to compare the overall cost of attendance and the grant/scholarship amounts when making the decision. It might feel good to get a scholarship, but at the end of the day it’s the bottom line that needs attention.
Evaluate Support Services
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of social safety nets, particularly for students from under-resourced communities. Look for colleges which invest time and money into mental health, tutoring, and disability services. If you are a first-generation college student, look for schools which offer programs, such as TRIO services, that will help students navigate the ins and outs of college.
Plan Summer and Break Employment
Attending college as a full-time student is a full-time job. If financially feasible, we highly recommend students not work more than 10-20 hours a week while attending college. Summer, winter, and spring breaks are a great time to work and save money so students can focus on their education while in school. Now is the time to earn the credentials which will help maximize lifetime earnings in the future.
Track Important Deadlines
Colleges communicate with students through email and online college portals. It is important to check email weekly so important deadlines are not missed. We recommend setting a weekly reminder on your cell phone if this isn’t already a habit.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t control everything. Seniors should stay disciplined while enjoying the last few months of their high school journey. Cherish the moments and the relationships that have motivated you along the way!