Experts offer advice for high school seniors

Tips for how to navigate the next chapter

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As the 2016-17 school year progresses, many high school seniors are faced with what may be overwhelming questions:

What are your plans for after high school?

What colleges are you applying to?

What will you study?

Research shows that continuing on to college has its benefits. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials who graduate from college earn more money than those who don't. College-educated millennials — a term used to describe people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — also have lower unemployment and poverty rates and they are more satisfied with their jobs, Pew reports.

There are other routes after high school — entering the workforce, joining the military, taking a gap year — but for those considering college, education experts say now is the time to start thinking about applications.

Below, experts, parents and students weigh in on making a plan for after high school, whether it includes attending college or not.

Online resources

Barb Cousins is president of the Douglas County Association for Gifted and Talented — a group of parents, educators and community leaders that supports the needs of gifted and advanced learners in the school district.

Her daughter, a gifted senior at Rock Canyon High School, has worked with a college coach for a couple of years — a resource that isn't attainable for all students, she said.

“That's normally not a feasible thing to do, in terms of time and money,” Cousins said.

Almost two months ago, Cousins started working at College Choice Today, an online platform to help students map out their best choice in education and career for a one-time fee of $295. Her education values aligned with the company's, she said.

Rick Cochran, CEO of College Choice Today, said that includes helping students find the right path.

“Instead of educating these kids, let me help kids figure out what they are going to do with their lives,” he said. “They have a couple of choices — sit on the couch, get a job or go to school.”

Cochran started College Choice Today — headquartered in Waco, Texas — about a year ago. To use the platform, a student is asked to register and pay the fee. He or she then takes a 20-30 minute online assessment and the website generates a report with the best colleges, areas of study, careers and funding options for the student. Every student is also assigned a personal coach.

“Coaches are individuals that are professionally trained, have gone through school and have advanced degrees,” Cochran said. “They work with the parent and the student to personalize a solution for them.”

Cochran said through his business, he hopes to get students excited about their futures.

“We believe that education is the pathway to success,” he said.

Advice from college experts

If college is in the plans, education experts say now is the time to start applying.

“Our seniors are in the middle of the application process,” said Linda August, counselor at SkyView Academy, a college preparatory school in Highlands Ranch that serves grades preschool through high school. “We encourage them to keep applying.”

She added that students should apply to all of the schools they could potentially want to attend.

“Don't let finances stop you,” she said. “You can apply for financial aid.”

Sarah Seeborg, admissions counselor of Portland State University in Oregon, attended a college fair in late September for juniors and seniors at SkyView Academy.

Her advice:

“Apply early. And pay attention to deadlines.”

Jon Ail, high school principal of SkyView Academy, said it's never too early to start thinking about college — some students start contemplating life after high school as freshmen, others as juniors.

He encourages his senior students to keep their options open when applying to schools.

“Don't get keyed up on one school,” he said. “You don't have to have your whole life figured out to a T — it's OK to discover things along the way.”

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