Continuing Education After High School

What Are Your Child's Options After High School?

After high school, there are many education options for your child in Texas and across the US. These may include a four-year college or university, a two-year college (often known as a community college or junior college), a trade school, or the US military.
Every post-high school opportunity has long-term benefits and admission requirements; read below to learn more about each one.

Consider Your Options

There are many factors you and your child should consider when deciding these options. It may be helpful to sit down as a family and discuss the options that your child has and consider the following questions:
• What are your child’s interests and passions?
• What skills does your child have, and what skills does your child want to gain?
• What career goals does he or she have?
• Will he or she need flexibility in their schedule?
• Has he or she chosen a career path?
• What can you and your child afford?
Once you and your child have decided which route is best to take, you can begin researching that option to narrow down your school/program choices.

Choosing a Higher Education Program

If you and your child have decided to continue their education at 4 or 2-year college, the following actions
• Affordability – The cost of your child attending the school after reading the financial aid package, scholarship awards, and future burden of any student loans – It’s very dangerous to take out a loan that exceeds one year of salary in the career field.
• Career Alignment – Whether the program matches your child’s career and future goals. Does the school have the programs or courses my child wants to study and have a career in? Is there a similar degree program at another school that has more affordable tuition?
• School Culture – The school environment including factors such as the sizes of classes, what support services are offered on campus, the demographic makeup of the campus, and location of the campus? This is especially important for students who are the first in their families to go to college. Looking at things like involvement in campus activities, opportunities to live on campus, finding a mentor and getting involved in programs can create a better overall college experience.

Finding the Right Fit

1. Create a list of potential schools: When your child is a junior in high school, develop a list together of possible colleges and universities your child may want to apply to in the fall of their senior year. When creating your list of potential schools, be sure to include safety schools, match schools, and reach schools.
Safety Schools – Your child’s school grades and test scores are above the school’s average for incoming freshman, and you believe he or she will most likely be accepted.
Match Schools –Your child’s school grades and test scores are within the range of the school’s average incoming freshman.
• Reach Schools – Your child’s school grades and test scores may be below the school’s average incoming freshman, and your child may or may not be accepted but there is still potential.
2. Visit schools: Another helpful thing to do is visit schools your child is interested in. Visiting a campus can be extremely helpful and can give you and your child a better understanding of the school’s environment and culture. If you are unable to visit a school in person, there are a few online resources that can help:
• Video tours of colleges: youniversitytv.com/category/college/
• College scorecard:  collegescorecard.ed.gov/
3. Apply to schools: You should begin helping your child apply for higher education programs in the fall of their senior year. To make sure you don’t miss deadlines, check the schools’ websites to make sure you and your child know the dates everything is due. To make sure your child has the best options, they might apply to two safety, two match, and two reach schools. The more options your child has the better when trying to determine which school is the best fit.
Most higher education programs require some application. Submission of an online application, standardized test scores, high school grades, essays, and information about activities outside of school is common. If you are applying to a 4-year university in Texas, you can apply at applytexas.org. To apply for schools in other states, check out commonapp.org or visit the school’s specific website.
4. Consider options and make a decision: If your child is accepted to a school, he or she will receive acceptance letters and financial aid packages. At that time your child will need to decide which school is the best fit.

Financial Aid Resources

The cost of attending a college or university may seem overwhelming. Expenses such as tuition, dorm fees, food, books, supplies, or other fees can add up. However, many financial aid options can make higher education more affordable. Financial Aid is available through state and federal governments, nonprofits, and private organizations.

FEDERAL STUDENT AID

Federal Student Aid is made available through the Federal Student Aid Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. FAFSA is a form that you complete each year to determine what your family can reasonably contribute to your child’s college expenses and what federal financial aid your child is eligible for. FAFSA applications are accepted starting in October before each academic year. It is best to apply as soon as possible.
When filling out a FAFSA form you will need:
• A FAFSA application, available online at fafsa.ed.gov/
• Your family’s financial information including balances of savings and checking accounts and information from tax forms.
• Your most recent income tax return. If you haven’t done your taxes at the time of applying, it’s okay to estimate the amounts, but it is better to file your taxes first.
Before your child’s senior year of high school, he or she can use the FAFSA4caster to get a sense of how much federal aid may be available when he or she applies. Visit studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/estimate for more information.
Check with your child’s school counselor’s office for information regarding assistance with completing the FAFSA. There are often workshops or organizations in your area that can help you complete the FAFSA on time. A student applying for FAFSA must be a permanent resident or citizen of the US. However, if you do not have official documentation, you can apply for TASFA (see below).

TEXAS FINANCIAL AID

The Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) is very similar to the FAFSA but is only for students who have established Texas residency. This is a good option for students who may be undocumented. Any financial aid given to you through the TASFA can be used at Texas colleges and universities. For more information regarding this form, visit bit.ly/1SuwAC0.

SCHOLARSHIPS

In addition to applying for financial aid packages, your child can apply for scholarship opportunities to help with the costs of college. There are lots of scholarships available to students, and each scholarship has different requirements. While several scholarships are based on academics and high test scores, there are also many scholarships based on non-academic qualities such as interests, volunteering, skills, etc. Here is a helpful resource as you determine potential scholarships: bigfuture.collegeboard.org/ scholarship-search.

TYPES OF FINANCIAL AID

After you apply for financial aid using FAFSA and TAFSA, you will receive a financial aid package from each school that your child has been accepted to. Each school may offer different types and combinations of financial aid including grants, loans, scholarships, or a work-study option. Below is a brief description of each of these financial resources:
Understanding financial aid packages can be confusing. Every college and university has a financial aid office. If you have questions, it is best for you to contact them to understand your options better.

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