Column: When To Prepare For College

by Kinzie Click

What do you want to be when you grow up?

The future, and planning for it, can be very stressful when you don’t know what path to take to achieve your future goals.

Should I go to college? What college should I apply to? Where do I look for information about colleges? What’s the best path for me? Who can I go to for advice?

Ever since kindergarten, when my school would have us dress up like what we wanted to be when I grew up, those questions have lingered. As I finish up middle school, I wonder is it too early to start actually planning for college? Or am I too late to get on the college track?

“Middle and high school students are encouraged to begin thinking about and planning for their future as early as possible,” Brianna Strickler, Epic’s College Applications and Scholarship counselor, said.

Strickler’s job is to help prepare students for college within Epic’s College and Career Readiness department. That planning starts as early as middle school and really gets going when you enter high school.

At Epic, when you enter high school you will be assigned both a Graduation Support Specialist (GSS) and a College and Career Advisor (CCA). The GSS will work with your teacher to make sure you are taking the courses needed, while a CCA will help you with your Individual Career Academic Plan (ICAP) and post-secondary planning.

Whether you are preparing for college or a career some of the general steps are the same.

The planning starts with prioritizing your high school courses and maintaining a good grade point average, or GPA. Some classes may be a better fit if you are planning to go to college, and some courses may be better suited for a career-oriented student.

Strickler said students can prepare themselves for success in their future by taking some simple steps right now. Those steps could be things like checking your emails daily, making sure to complete your coursework on time, setting academic goals for yourself and finding a school routine that fits your schedule.

Epic also offers tutoring services and Advanced Placement courses. You can also enroll in Career Tech programs or take concurrent courses which allow you to earn college credit in high school.

Beyond academics, Strickler said building out your resume can start in middle school. Extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities and community service projects all look good to future employers or on college applications.

Even though Epic is a largely virtual school, there are ways to stand out and get that extracurricular involvement. Good grades can earn you a spot within the National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society.

Students can also be a part of Epic’s Student Council. The Student Council helps plan in-person activities where students are able to meet and connect with other students. These events can range from Epic game nights to the prom.

Even writing for this magazine, or taking part in any of the visual journalism courses offered by the Epic News Network, can help boost your profile.

“By going the extra mile, you’re setting yourself apart from other students,” Strickler said.

The College and Career Readiness department also hosts monthly Zoom meetings called “Find Your Future Fridays,” where you can learn about many different careers.

Both middle schoolers and high schoolers are able to take college tours. Eighth graders can attend career tech college and individual tours while high school students are able to take both Epic- scheduled and individual college tours.

College and career tours are a good way to see campuses and learn more about what the college or career tech has to offer based on your interests.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when you’re asked those dreaded “what do you want to be” questions is, be yourself.

“Please note, there are many pathways in addition to college, and it is not a one-size-fits-all for every student,” Strickler said.

No matter what your future goals are in life, there are always answers to the questions you have; you just have to ask.

Above: This Epic cap and gown await a graduating student at the Tulsa VLC office (Karma Reed/ENN).

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