I don’t know what I want to study.
That’s ok! The options might seem overwhelming right now, but it’s very common for students to start college without having a declared major. No matter what you eventually choose, there are typically required classes in math, English, and science that you must take during your freshman year. At many colleges and universities, you aren’t required to declare a major before your sophomore year.
It’s not unusual for students to change their major at some point in their career. It’s a good idea to take a few classes in the subject you think you’d like to pursue early on. That way, if you decide you’d like to study something else, you still have time to change your path and finish on time.
If you’re not sure what majors are available, start by doing a little research at one of Idaho’s state colleges and universities to see what kinds of degree programs are available. Each college and university offers dozens, if not hundreds of degree programs you can choose from, and their admissions officers can talk to you specifically about how their degrees are tied to career prospects.
I haven't done any planning! Where do I start?
Good news—you’ve come to the right place! Be sure to check out the steps you should be taking at each grade level. If you feel like you’re a little behind, consider back-tracking and reviewing the steps you could have taken last year, or the year before. Be sure to talk to your family, school counselor, or a teacher about what you have decided and ask for their help in bringing you up to speed.
It’s never too late, even if you have to take a little break between high school and college for planning purposes!
I am not sure if I can afford it.
College is an investment in your future. Idaho’s state colleges and universities provide an economical choice, when compared with other schools in our region. You need to factor in the costs of tuition and fees, books and supplies, housing and food, and any other living expenses you might incur. To compare these costs at Idaho’s colleges and universities, take a look at this grid and then share and discuss the information with your family.
There are also a number of ways you can finance your education. Many students use a combination of financial aid offers from the college or university they select, federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans, family contributions, and part-time work to pay for their schooling and associated living expenses. Learn more about the different ways you can pay for school.
I don't think I've got the grades to go.
Colleges and universities look at a variety of factors to determine whether to accept a student. Grades are just one indicator, though they are an important one. To attend one of the state-supported colleges and universities in Idaho, you need to have a minimum 2.0 GPA, or a C average, in high school. If your GPA is at or near this level, you’ll want to study hard for the standardized tests (SAT or ACT) and aim for a high score. You can also improve your competitiveness by increasing your extracurricular activities. As examples, you can volunteer at your church or in your community, take on a part-time job or internship, or find other ways to get real-world experience.
If your GPA and test scores are at the lower end of the spectrum, you may be admitted on “provisional” status. That status is different for each college and university, but it generally means you will need to take certain classes in your freshman and sophomore years and earn a minimum GPA to keep your place at the school. Your school counselor and admissions officers at the school will be able to help you determine whether your academic performance in high school will be adequate to gain acceptance.
Where should I go?
Where to go to college is a personal decision that should be based on your goals, your financial resources, and your personality. To start, think about the things you want in an ideal college (e.g. location, living options, student activities, degree programs offered, community amenities, costs). Make a list of these things and revisit it often as you research your options.
Every college and university has a website and will have a page for prospective students. Start by picking five to seven schools to review. Look at their websites to get a sense of the degrees and majors offered, the housing options, campus life, and costs. Talk to your friends, family, counselors, and teachers and see what they know about the schools you’re considering. When you’ve narrowed it down a bit, consider visiting your top three to really get a feel for what life and school would be like at each.
It doesn't seem that important right now.
It’s never too early to start thinking about who you want to become and how you want to get there. Deciding what you want to do after high school is a big deal, so give yourself ample time to think through the options. If you want to go to college, starting the process early will make it easier to save money, think about what you’d like to study, focus on keeping your grades up, study for standardized tests, and select the school you really want to attend. As they say, time flies. Graduation will be here before you know it.
There are lots of opportunities to get more training after high school, whether it’s college, a certificate program, an apprenticeship, or the military. Choosing one of these options directly out of high school will pay major dividends in the long run. You’ll earn much more over the course of your working life than those without a degree or post-secondary credential, you’ll gain skills that will help you advance your career, and studies show that you’ll be happier, too.
I need to talk to a real person.
There are lots of people you can turn to for help as you’re planning your future. It’s always a good idea to enlist help from your family. Even if they didn’t go to college, your parents, aunts and uncles, and even grandparents have life experiences that can help guide your decisions. From a more practical standpoint, your school counselor can help connect you with information about opportunities after high school and help you take the next steps to achieve your goals. If you’re looking towards college, admissions officers can guide you to the answers you need about their school and about your potential future there. We’ve got their office phone numbers listed in the Next Steps Idaho Schools Directory.
Ultimately, we’re planning to add a chat feature to this Next Steps website, so you can chat directly with someone who can answer your questions.
What if I don't want to go to college?
If you don’t think college is for you, consider the other training options available to you after high school. You can learn a trade or attend a vocational school or certificate program that will help you get a good paying job. These programs are often aimed at training for careers where you’ll most likely work with your hands, like the construction trades, lineman school, or medical para-professional.
The military is also a place you can learn valuable skills, grow in a rewarding career, and enjoy the camaraderie of working on a tight-knit team. Depending on how long you serve, you can also earn money to pay for college later on, if you choose to go after your military service is complete.
You may choose to go directly to work to get some real-world experience and save money for training later on. Research shows that delaying post-high school education makes it less likely that you’ll return to it later, however.
What do I need to do before I meet with my counselor?
The most important thing you can do before meeting with your counselor is to think seriously about your future. Think about who you want to become as an adult, whether or not you have a career in mind, and how you might want to get to your goal. If you can go to the counselor’s office with some potential outcomes in mind, your counselor will have a much easier time helping you map out a strategy to get there. For more specifics about getting the most out of such a meeting, consider these important questions first.