Thinking About College? 4 Tips for Getting Started

Guest Author: Dr. Becky Timmons

Thinking about attending college, but not sure where to start? Here are some tips to guide your thoughts.....


 1. Why do you want to go or return to college? Finding the right program to help you reach your career goals is key. Look at several careers to determine what you are interested in studying and then go to different college's websites to see if the program is offered. Will it be a four-year or two-year degree? How many courses/semesters will it take to get that degree? Not every school offers every program.  Find a school that gets you excited to pursue the degree.


2. How will you juggle your school and your kids' schools and activities? Think through what the next four years of your life will look like. When will you have time to attend face-to-face courses? Will you take online courses? Do you have access to a computer and Internet for college work? Do you have family or friend support to help with the children when they are sick or you need to attend class? When will be your assigned time to study (before the kids get up in the morning? after they go to bed at night? during the day while they are at school?) Knowing your own expectations and limitations will help you to plan your educational success.


3. How will you pay for tuition, books, and fees? The first thing to complete is the FAFSA. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the application that any student must complete to qualify for any type of federal financial aid. The FAFSA may be completed online at for FREE! To complete the FAFSA, you will need:

•    Your Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number

•    W-2s from the appropriate year, if you worked in that year and

•    Tax information for the appropriate year, if you filed taxes for that year OR

•    You can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool

•    Your individual FSA ID

•    A personal email address

In addition to federal aid, there are other types of tuition assistance available to you - military tuition assistance, state scholarships, college scholarships, and grants. Just a reminder, student loans must be paid back. Most scholarships and grants do not. Look at the college where you intend to apply and look at their financial aid packages. Also, each college's website will have a tuition and fee rates page, as well as a cost to attend school. Most schools have a payment plan. Set a budget for your finances. Don't overlook hidden costs, such as commuting or child-care costs. Know how much money you will need to complete your educational goal.

Interested in the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship? Learn More


4. Now that you have decided on your career goals, defined your expectations, and budgeted for schooling, how do you apply? All colleges have online applications that you can complete.  Also, contact the admissions or registrar's office of the college. They will be able to guide you through the process either online or in person. Pay close attention to the admissions documents needed and the application deadlines. If you miss a deadline or forget to submit materials, admission into the college, as well as your graduation from the program, could be delayed. Remember that colleges want you to be successful and will help you get everything submitted. Check your email often. This is the way they will communicate with you as you are starting your educational journey.

For other helpful resources and college planning tools, click here.


Now take a deep breath---you can do this!

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