Springing into action: Gearing up for the next academic year

It’s that time of year again. The end of spring semester is slowly approaching. Fall registration is upon us and if you’re still on the fence about summer semester at this point, then taking summer classes is probably not happening.

This time also marks the end of many students’ first full year with us at Georgia State — whether freshman or transfer students. Now that we all have a good year under our belts, I think it’s a good time to look forward at how we can be successful in future semesters to come.

First, one of the most pertinent issues facing us college students is how we’re going to pay for college once we’re already here. I know it is beaten into us in high school that we should apply for scholarships, have plenty of extracurriculars and try to land an internship. So what happens when we get to college? Most of us seem to think that the scholarships dry up and that there’s no time for being active on campus.

Don’t let this mindset take control! Scholarships are very much available to anyone all the way through graduate school and some are only open to upperclassmen. If you just put the effort in to seek out the right ones, I guarantee you can grab at least $1,000 per year in scholarships. Just think about how lucrative they are. Say you spend a total of one hour on each scholarship (research, writing essays, filing it out, etc.). If you apply to 10 scholarships and only get one for $1,000, you’ve still essentially made $100 per hour. I don’t know many other college student jobs that offer that kind of wage!

If scholarships aren’t your style, then at least let financial aid help you out. I spoke with one freshman, Claire Lacombe, on how she pays for college. On the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), she said she didn’t fill it out for financial reasons.

“Honestly for how little I’d get, it’s not worth it. I don’t think I qualify for any aid because of my parent’s income,” Lacombe said.

This worries me. It makes me wonder how many other students out there don’t apply for FAFSA just because they don’t think they’ll be awarded any financial aid. You would be surprised at how often you can find some financial aid for your college career just by filling out the form that takes maybe 20 minutes.

For example, you might not qualify for any aid your freshman year, but in two or three years the cost of attendance at Georgia State will most likely rise. Since 2011, when I started here, tuition and fees for 12 credit hours per semester has risen from $3,646 to $4,308 per semester! That’s almost $1,400 more per year I’m paying and the amount of aid I’m awarded has increased proportionally.

The form is designed to help find you any and all financial aid that the government can offer. Not filling out the FAFSA is one rookie mistake you can’t afford to make.

I believe extracurriculars are just as important as scholarships and financial aid. If it isn’t already clear to you now, make sure you understand the gravity of what competition in the workforce means. Unless you graduate with honors and a 4.0 GPA, your degree will more or less be identical to everyone else at Georgia State — or any college for that matter.

What will matter to future employers and what should matter to you is what you did with your time in between classes for four years. Did you have to work your way through college? Not necessarily a bad thing. Employers like to see organizational commitment to companies. Did you find an internship and gain important career-related skills?

That’s a great headstart on your fellow classmates. Did you marathon House of Cards Season 3 in two days or finish the gallon challenge at your local bar? Maybe leave that off the resume. What you do outside of class will, not surprisingly, be a strong indicator of how successful your career search goes after graduation.

So try to remember a few things as we roll into the next few semesters. Always fill out your FAFSA and update it yearly — even if you don’t think it’s worth it. Always look for scholarships even as you approach graduation. Most importantly, have a game plan for what you should be doing when you’re not in class. Do things that will help foster your future career, help you network or just spice up your life a little more.

Besides graduate school, this might be the last four years we’re in an academic environment. We should take advantage of the perks that brings and enjoy it while we can before we get thrown into the “real world!”