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Episode 35: A Graduate’s Guide to Finding Success After High School

The road to success after high school can look very different for individual students, depending on their goals and aspirations. On this episode of the Supercast, school counselors talk about the most important things parents and teens need to be doing now before graduates leave the nest to face a new world on their own. We share advice for college-bound students and others pursuing future careers, especially during a pandemic.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It's that time of year when seniors are graduating from high school and hitting the road to find future success. It's often an anxious time for parents who wonder if their teens are prepared for the road ahead, especially during a pandemic. Today, we're joined by two school counselors. Secondary Counseling Specialist, Stacee Worthen and Herriman High School Counselor, Jeffrey Cox are here to tell us what parents and students should be doing now as their post high school journey begins. This is an extraordinary circumstance we find ourselves in with the school closure, and we're just looking for some advice and ideas for parents on how to prepare students for that next step. And it's an extraordinary circumstance, like I said, because kids went to school one day and that night found out they weren't coming back and their next school experience is going to be college. So it's a big leap and I'm excited to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Counselors:
Thank you.

Superintendent:
So Stacee, start off and tell us a little bit, what should parents and seniors be thinking about now, if college is the next step for them? And of course there are lots of great next steps, but if college is the next step, what should they be thinking about and planning for right now?

Stacee:
So right now parents and students should be planning and working with their college advisor. They should already be working to build their schedule for fall. They also are probably on hold because they have to complete an orientation process. Now with this new situation, our new reality, that orientation is going to look different. So they need to make sure that they're in contact with their college advisor so that they understand that new admission process so that their classes are taken off hold because they've completed their orientation and they should also be finalizing their FAFSA, making sure that they have completed the FAFSA, that the FAFSA has sent information to their school that they're attending. Double-check financial aid with their financial aid advisor to make sure that everything is ready to go, that they understand whether or not they want to accept their student loans or their Pell Grants. Making sure that that whole process has been completed properly. And then housing, they need to consider housing. Where are they going to live? Have they already figured that out? Have they put their deposits down, just making sure that everything is finalized and that they're making sure they're checking those boxes to make their transition to university or college smoother.

Superintendent:
If someone is behind, everyone has had a big impact on their lives from school dismissal. Lots of family circumstances have changed. Let's say that someone was hoping to go to college in the fall, but didn't get things taken care of yet. They haven't applied. Is there still a chance for them to make that happen?

Stacee:
Of course. I mean, the biggest thing is if you haven't done anything yet, make sure you start today. Maybe your hope was to go to a big university. That was one of your dreams that maybe that maybe not is the reality. Now, you know, you can always go to an amazing school like SLCC or Snow College, or the schools kind of have more of the open enrollments to grade there. And then when the time comes, potentially transfer to bigger university, if that was your dream to go to the BYU and Utah and Utah States. So definitely, if there hasn't been anything done yet, once again, reach out to your high school counselor and say, Hey, here's my hope. Here's what I'm wanting to do. How can we make that happen? We're still actively involved with every one of our seniors, so if there's something that a high school counselor can do for you, definitely reach out to them so we can get you pointed in the right direction.

Jeffrey:
I echo those sentiments. Because you know, a lot of times that application process can be a little overwhelming, especially if you're a first-generation college student or your parents, like you know, they don't speak English. There's a lot of different situations, but you know, an application to SLCC takes 10 minutes. And if you're on a Zoom call with your school counselor, you can share your screen and they can walk you through that application process. The FAFSA application process can be a little bit overwhelming as well. But you know, that's what we're here for. We want them to be successful. It's never too late. It's never too late to go to college or university. It's never too late to actually reach out to your school counselor and say, Hey, I didn't think about this. And now that I'm here, I'm thinking about it. What can we do? What are some things that we can actually do to get me to college? And absolutely we can do it. We've been there, done that. We're happy to help. We love kids. We want them to move forward and transition to university or college and have the best experience possible.

Superintendent:
Well, that's really important too, for me to emphasize 10 minute application to SLCC. And like Jeff said, start today. If you had plans and you haven't followed through, don't give up, dive in, get the help of a school counselor. That's why they're here. And you can get a lot done a lot faster than you might think. Can the two of you tell us a little bit more about FAFSA for those who may not be familiar with what that involves. As you said, it can be complicated. Can you just give us a basic rundown of, of what that means and what it means for families?

Counselor:
So the first is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And essentially, it's a way for families to put in their information. There's some financial information that goes into it as well. They get a score and that goes off to the university or college that they're interested in and they see how much money they could potentially be eligible for. Every college will be a little bit different on what they offer. But almost every college wants you to fill out the FAFSA so they know kind of what you're eligible for, what they need to step in at that point, to help provide as well. So that FAFSA document, it's kind of the initial document help you know how much money could you earn in Pell Grants, or if you have to take out loans, what that looks like for you, and that kind of helps get that process started as far as what your financial situation is going to look like when I'm entering college and what is going to be provided for me, and what do I have to make up myself and kind of get that process going

Superintendent:
Who should fill out a FAFSA application?

Counselor:
Every student should fill out a FAFSA because there are a lot of factors that go into it. You know, it's kind of a misconception that if you know parents may make a lot of money that there's no reason to file the FAFSA form, but like I said, almost every college expects you to and wants you to, just so they kind of know  what you're eligible for. Here's kind of where we need to step in to give you X amount of dollars to make it work here in our university as well.

Counselor:
Yeah. A lot of times they look at the FAFSA completion and they they're aware of scholarships that they don't generally put out there. And so as they're looking at your FAFSA scores, they might see, okay, the family does make quite a bit, but this is a really good solid student. And so they might be able to offer a different scholarship or be aware of a scholarship that they can help contribute so that the student does not have to pay as much or to help that family with the student's financial situation. So it's really important to fill out the FAFSA. It does take 20 - 30 minutes and it could be somewhat overwhelming. Once again, reach out to your school counselor. We've done those multiple times. We're happy to help, or we can also help you reach out to Utah Higher Ed. And they have people that can help support you as well.

Superintendent:
What are the deadlines for submitting a FAFSA application?

Counselor:
So FAFSA opened up October 1st of 2019, but you can continue to fill that out up until, even if you decide to go spring semester to university or college, you can still fill that out and complete the FAFSA.

Superintendent:
In other words, you should fill it out if you haven't, regardless of whether you're going to college in the fall or later.

Counselor:
Absolutely.

Superintendent:
So what is the timeline for the year to come?  You know, this is in plenty of time for everything to be planned during the senior year. What should parents be thinking of that way?

Counselor:
October is definitely the time to get started. You know, a lot of times we go into the classrooms with our juniors who are like seniors next year. And we talk about upcoming dates they have, so we'll give them papers where they get information on the FAFSA form. They get information about deadlines for each university and just give them the information that you're going to need if you're looking to go to college for this current school year. And a lot of those will start in October. I know this year, BYU and Utah or Utah university of Utah, November 1st was their deadline, which is extremely early from what it has been in the past. So students need to get on and fill out the common app, which can be a timely process and get all that in by November 1st to meet priority deadlines. So October is definitely time to get it started. Kind of like Stacee said, it's not the deadline. October 1st is when it releases. If you fill it out later, that's fine. But the sooner you can get all that information in and get stuff going on, the better it's going to work out for you.

Counselor:
So if folks don't have things filled out yet, there's still time you can apply to SLCC. You can still fill out the FAFSA form. You still want to be in contact with your high school counselor about possible scholarships. And some deadlines have been pushed to June 1st. But if you're looking ahead to being a senior in high school next year, you want to think about September and October as the ideal dates that you're looking to apply so that you can meet those early deadlines and have everything lined up in plenty of time.

Counselor:
Absolutely. And I think a common misconception with parents is that they think they have a lot of time during that senior year to talk to their senior and talk to them about where it is that they want to go. Now is the time to talk to your juniors and start that conversation. Where do you think that you would like to attend college? Would you like to go on a tour? Let's go look at the campus. Let's schedule a tour at University of Utah, Utah State, BYU, because once you step on that campus, your student really starts to get a feel for, is this a really good fit for me? And then also start talking about what are some ideas for what you want to be like. What degree do you want to start pursuing?

If you want to be a surgeon and you want to go to BYU, that's really not going to work out for you because they don't offer that program. And so it's really good for you to start having those discussions, scheduling college tours, and really seeing, as of October, we're going to start working with deadlines and filling out those admissions. And Jeff is right. The common application is a little bit time consuming and you really want to represent yourself as well as you can to those colleges and universities. And also start thinking about who you've asked for letters of recommendation, because that takes a little time as well. And so you want to make sure you're giving those people a little bit of a heads up so that they can start thinking about what they would write and who you would ask. There are specific teachers and counselors that are inundated in the month of November for letters of recommendation. It would be nice to be asked in September.

Superintendent:
They can ask right now, if you're listening to the Supercast, that you'd like a letter of recommendation. Shoot your counselor an email right now.

Counselor:
Absolutely. Because we do get a lot of last minute and you never know what those people are doing, what's going on in their lives. And so you want to give them enough time to really do you justice and write really good letters

Superintendent:
Stay with us. When we come back, find out if there are changes to the college application process due to the pandemic.

Break:
Do you want to know what's going on in Jordan School District? Get updates on the latest information that could impact you and your child, or just find an uplifting story about the good things at the school throughout the district, check out our website at http://www.jordandistrict.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Let's connect at Jordan District.

Superintendent:
Welcome back. We're here again with Secondary Counseling Specialist, Stacee Worthen, and Herriman High School Counselor, Jeffrey Cox, with some advice for students and parents as graduates try to navigate the road after high school, especially for those headed to college. During the pandemic, I've heard that some universities across the country are delaying their start dates or their planning on online courses for fall semester. They've changed their orientation. Are you aware of changes that are occurring at in-state schools?

Counselor:
I'm not aware of any at this current time. I'm sure they will be releasing soon if there are going to be changes. But as I've heard, everything's kind of on a wait-and-see. All the deadlines and normal dates where you'd go back and make a change, with the orientations, they may alter how they do that. But I think for each college, they want to keep things as normal as possible if they can. And as things change on a daily basis, I think they've kind of held off a little bit to make any big announcements. But I'm sure they will be coming up here in the short-term so keep an eye on University of Utah. They're generally at the forefront of making changes. And I do know that my daughter is seeing that more and more on the classes that she was registering for in fall semester.

Counselor:
We're looking to be online. And so if I were you, I would absolutely reach out to your admissions counselor. One mistake that I made with my daughter when she went to UVU was that we didn't understand that they put a hold on. You are not able to register for your classes until you've attended orientation. And she waited until middle of summer to sign up for an orientation. So she had a hard time finding classes. So make sure that you sign up early for those orientation opportunities. The earlier you can do those the better so that they don't put holds on your classes. You can actually register for classes and get the classes that you really want, and the schedule that you want. I would assume that they're going to be more online options at colleges and universities as we're trying to transition back. But once again, I would contact your college admissions advisor immediately.

Superintendent:
You mentioned taking a tour. And I found personally that my oldest son really benefited from touring, Utah State. He had imagined he wanted to go there. His grandpa went there and when he went up there and visited. it just kind of fit. He could tell that's where he wanted to be. Do you find that's what happens? And how would parents arrange for a visit to a camp?

Counselor:
I think college tours are huge for the students to see themselves there. Can they see themselves there for the next four years? They're going to go up, see the campus and kind of see what it all entails. And it's either going to feel like home or it's not, you know. If you want to take a tour on your own, you just have to reach out to the college and they have tours all the time. Like I said, things might change with what we're in right now, but some of the high schools will set up tours as well. So it just kinda depends on where you want to go. And you can either set up yourself through the college or the high schools, maybe taking a tour to them as well.

Counselor:
Yeah, a lot of our high school counselors they actually set up high school tours. I know at Copper Hills, they go usually once or twice a month. I think that they usually hit almost every single university and college in the State of Utah. So you just make sure that you're listening to announcements, that you're talking to your counselors so that you're hearing about those opportunities to tour. Or absolutely call the university or college because they have ambassadors that will meet with you and then they will take you on tours and you can ask them any questions. They'll be honest and open with you about. Even the smallest question or concern that you might have, and they're really fun. The tours are really fun. I'm a firm believer of once you set foot on the right campus, you're going to know this is the place. This is the place that I want to go.

Superintendent:
I think that's true. I think once you visit, you really get a sense for whether that's the place for you and I was an ambassador for Weber State University, back in the 19 hundreds. It was a fun experience for me. And it was rewarding to help students who were considering Weber State, who were new.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, hear about the support systems in place to make your students feel safe in a college setting.

Break:
I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit https://www.jordaneducationfoundation.org , or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
We are here again with Stacee Worthen and Jeffrey Cox to talk about support systems in place at colleges where your kids may be headed. Students are used to a high level of support at the high school level. I know our counselors do a great job of connecting to students and helping them through college applications, what their next step is after high school, or just getting through high school and graduating. I get the sense that there are more resources than ever, including mental health and wellness resources on campus for students. And you mentioned this a few different times. I think the underlying advice is to ask for help, get help. There's going to be help on the college campus as well.

Counselor:
Yes, colleges and universities absolutely are doing everything that they can to put support systems in place. They understand that you're going to need physical support when you have accidents or when you get hurt there's clinics on campus that you can go to. But mental health supports are also put into place now. So they do have access for you to get mental health support as a university student.

Superintendent:
One of you mentioned earlier, common mistakes that students make going into college. Can you tell me about some of the common misconceptions or mistakes and let's dispel those notions?

Counselor:
So one big misconception we talked about earlier is that they're on their own now, right? They're moving away from home, usually from mom and dad, they're moving into their own dorm room and there are supports in place to help them. And, you know, from an academic standpoint, they have academic advisors. They have people that can help you with the money standpoint and the scholarship office. They've got writing centers, they have tutors. And just to know there's a lot of support there helps. And, especially at the colleges, they've got a lot of fun stuff as well. Right? Well, students might think, I'm going to college. I go to class, I go home and study and I go to sleep. I get up and do the next thing the next day. But there's so much to do on the college campus.

So much fun stuff to do. I've been impressed on college tours at the amount of money and time that the colleges had put in to entertain the students, right? There are rock walls. There are student centers with state-of-the-art gyms, and there are prayer rooms, there are video game rooms. There are places where you can go, if you just need to take a break. So just know that when you go to college, this is going to be an amazing time of your life. You're going to get to study something that you love and are passionate about and set you in that next step. Know that it's hard work, but there are people there to support you along the way and help make sure you don't give up. And when it gets hard, reach out for those supports the colleges have in place for you to get you through those tough times, to reset goals, find a degree that gets you into a job that you want, or a profession that you want and the life that you want to live.

Counselor:
Another common misconception is that it's okay not to at least have some kind of an idea of what degree you're looking for. You need to at least have a couple of ideas and look at what that degree entails, because there are a lot of times that you need to take a specific math for a specific degree. And so if you've done your first two years working on generals and you've missed that specific math or those specific classes that are required for you to get into that program, you might end up having to take some additional classes that summer so they can allow you to get into that degree program. You don't have to have a firm decision at this point, but you do want to have kind of an overall general idea of what degree are you looking at and what are some of those classes that might be required for you to get accepted into that degree program.

Superintendent:
Yeah, it's a balance between being open to new ideas, but also having a starting point and a direction that you're at least headed in to begin with. Like you said, there are prerequisites that will sneak up on you otherwise. And a lot of times you can take one class that meets two requirements if you plan things out accordingly. So that makes a lot of sense to me. What advice would you give to parents who want to help their child begin to form ideas about what they'd like to study and what they might ultimately want to get their degree in?

Counselor:
You know, for our current seniors going into college, if you're not quite sure what you're doing or want to do, I think take those general classes that you know you're going to have to have, and then maybe take some other classes that you may be interested in and see what's out there for you. What classes could be ones that you enjoy. One thing I did that I thought was huge was I did some internships in the summertime when I had time to go around. I would be interested in a topic. I would see if I can go put in a few hours with people that did that. I learned really quickly some that I didn't want to do. But it was just a great experience to see, here's what I'm thinking about. Here's what I might want to do. And then doing a few things to see if that was the direction I wanted to go. You might pursue it a little bit, realize it's not for you or decide that it is and keep going. So I think just take those general classes. You know you're going to have to take English 101, English, 202, all those types of classes. But then you'll kind of mix in classes that you may or may not be interested in to see if that's the direction you want to go.

Counselor:
And I would add too, if parents pay attention to this Supercast, what they need to do is encourage their children from ninth grade up to take those classes in the CTE areas because if they're interested in automotive, we have auto classes. That's a free opportunity for you to figure out, yes, I really love working on cars. And so that might be a great career. And if that's the case, then Jordan District has a JATC Diesel Program that you can earn certifications in. And it's a really exciting opportunity. If another student is interested in the medical field, we have those opportunities. You could take those classes, you can earn those certificates in the JATC. And really, now's the time because those are free opportunities for you to figure out, yes, I love this. Or, you know this really isn't what I thought it was going to be.

And if you don't, you're not out any money. You've earned your high school credit. It goes towards graduation. But in college, if this degree isn't something that I want, it costs both time and money. Look at the JATC programs. There are so many new opportunities available for kids in the middle school and high school. Jordan does such a great job of offering so many different classes for students to allow them to get into those career and technical areas, to see if this is going to be a good fit. And if it's a great experience, great, then you can continue to move forward because they do have those opportunities. Or if not, then here's another opportunity for you to try and it's exciting and it's fun. And you might learn some things about yourself that you didn't even know. Maybe you really do want to be a chef and we do have that program available for our students.

Superintendent:
You're right. We have a lot of great CTE classes that can give kids experience in an area. I've interviewed a number of CTE teachers, especially at our academies for the Supercast. And each time they have said, this is a great class for kids who know they want to do this. And it's a great class because sometimes kids realize they don't want anything to do with this as a profession. And it's a valuable lesson to go into the class and say, Hey, I was interested in this. I liked the class, but I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. The earlier you can get experiences in areas where you think you might be interested the better, because then you can adjust your path accordingly. Well, this is great advice, any parting thoughts for parents and students?

Counselor:
I think for our seniors that are going out, we've really enjoyed working with them and we wish them nothing but the best. And in this current time, until they get to college, reach out to your school counselor. Let us know how we can help and support you to that next level. And then to that, our current high schoolers and middle schoolers, use your time to figure out what you enjoy, right? Find your passion, find that topic that you want to be involved with. And then as time goes on and you get to college, you kind of already know what your passion is, whether it's I want to work with people. That's all I knew after I got out of high school, what does that look like? Or I have a very specific skill set I want and learned. Here's what I want to do. So just use this time in high school wisely. Take classes that you may not enjoy because you never know if that's going to lead to something that you enjoy doing. And yes, just enjoy this time at high school and our seniors. We love you. Let us know how we can help you down the road.

Counselor:
One thing that I would say to our parents is just to understand that it's going to be hard for you to let go of your senior as they move and transition into being young adults. And it can be sad and it can be lonely, but just know that they're going to be amazing humans because you did such a good job. You impacted them and you are loving them and supporting them and just enjoy this experience with them and helping them transition. Just love them.

Superintendent:
It's been great talking with you, Stacee Worthen, our Secondary Counselor Specialist and Jeff Cox, Counselor at Herriman High School. Thank you both. Stay healthy and safe out there.

Counselors:
And we sure appreciate the support. Thanks for having us.

Superintendent:
Appreciate it. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

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