Access to Education

Picking a university. Negotiating the college application process. Looking for scholarships. And, finally, paying tuition.

It can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re the first person in your family to go to college.

Ohio State can help. Read on for some advice on how students can prepare for college—both academically and financially.

Start getting ready early in high school:

  • Take the hard classes: Algebra I as soon as possible, Algebra II before you graduate, and the highest sciences offered.
  • Take the ACT and SAT tests junior year. (Fee waivers are available—if you can’t pay the test fees, ask your guidance counselor for help.)
  • Visit some colleges to decide where you want to apply. Then narrow the field by talking to faculty (ask them questions!), going to a class or two, and spending a night on campus.
  • Send out those applications. Apply to a safe school you know you’ll get into; a dream school you’d ideally attend; and one or more schools that fall in between.

Look for scholarships:

  • First and foremost, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which yields a whopping 97 percent of tuition help. (Each February, financial experts throughout the nation offer free help filling out the form at College Goal Sunday. Check out collegegoalsundayusa.org for locations.)
  • Look for scholarships offered at your place of work; your parents’ offices; your church, synagogue, or mosque; and clubs.
  • Seek your high school guidance counselor’s help. 
  • Use your web savvy to your advantage. Sites such as fastweb.com hook students up with individual donors looking to help fund educations. When you’re looking for a site, pick one that’s free, that promises never to sell your personal information and that will contact you directly when a scholarship for which you’re eligible becomes available.

Avoid common mistakes:

  • Don’t wait to be admitted to a college to apply for financial aid. Many students make this mistake and miss deadlines.
  • Don’t be afraid to apply for financial aid because you might be offered loans—you’re not forced to take anything offered to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a job during school. Students who work a moderate amount (12 to 15 hours each week) do better in school than their unemployed peers—and work-study opportunities can link students with employers who can link them with academic resources such as tutoring and are flexible around exam time. Moderation is key, though: Students who work full-time while taking a full load of classes are the worst off.