Well, would you look at that??

It is that time of year where applications are being filled out, essays are being completed, and major decisions are being made. You are barely an adult, and all of a sudden, you have to ‘adult up’ to make this huge decision on the person you want to be for the rest of your life. This may seem overwhelming, but this is also the most exciting time of your life, and you don’t want the stress of it all to get you down.

You’re a cheerleader: you’ve worked hard to get where you are, maintained those grades all through grade school, done the community service and volunteer work–you’ve got this! It is just like any competition or game day; it’s now time to put your hair up high, and apply!

When looking to apply for school, you first need to decide which colleges you want to apply to. This may seem like the logical first step, but you might want to consider other things that go along with the 'which' and the 'where'. For example, how far from home would you want to move? Out-of-state tuition can be astronomically high, so staying close to home might be a better option. Plus, you get the added bonus of free rent and food by staying at home! Staying close to home has its advantages, and can be convenient if you have obligations to your family that make it so you are unable to move out-of-state. Or, you can get the college experience without truly leaving behind your comfort zone by traveling too far away. Local schools might be a better option if all of that sounds up your alley. If you have wanderlust, however, and really want to start anew, looking at schools out-of-state is a great opportunity for you. Money aside, another main thing on your college prep checklist when considering out-of-state schools is the weather. Personally, I am a born-and-raised San Diego girl, so I don’t do snow. Ask yourself: is extreme weather a deal-breaker? Or, are seasons something that would fuel you forward as you branch into adulthood?

Now that you know if you are staying close to home or moving out-of-state, you should consider what you want to do in college or where you want to be when you graduate. You don’t want to go to a really great school that does not offer the programs or classes you want; you equally don’t want to waste your time and money applying to somewhere like MIT (which is known for technology) if you want to go to school to be a doctor. Do some research, and find out the programs that your life path requires. From there, only consider schools that specialize in the programs you need. If you are still unsure of your career plan, look at schools that have well-rounded academic programs, so that you can declare your major as a 2 or 3
rd year student once you’ve dipped your toes into everything.

As a cheerleader, you may be interested in cheering in college, so looking at schools that offer cheer programs is something you would want to consider. If you did not get a scholarship to some glamorous four-year college for cheer, don’t stress–some of the smaller schools have great cheer programs, too! Unfortunately, those smaller schools don’t always have the extra resources to send out scouts; this may require same additional effort on your part to pursue the scouts at those schools. You will need to get into contact with them, and send them practice and competition videos to get yourself out there. By doing so, you’re opening your own doors to affordable education!

Are you a social butterfly, or are you easily distracted? When choosing a school, you need to remember that academics come first. If you are someone who will be easily distracted by social events, a school with a reputation for being a ‘party school’ may not be the best option for your academic success. There are plenty of opportunities to go Greek or join social clubs at even the most academic of colleges! You also want to consider your health and safety once your parents aren’t around: some college students cannot handle the freedom and get out of control fast. You know yourself best, so ask yourself: is this school going to be more of a distraction? Or, will you be able to prioritize your time there?

Lastly, I don’t agree that money should be a factor when looking for a good college, but it does need to be addressed. Money can be a burden when looking into a school for most families. It’s no secret that college tuition is expensive. And, out-of-state tuition is even more expensive! What’s more, you have to not only think about tuition, but the additional expenses that come along with your freshman year: meal plans, room and board, books, parking passes, and additional fees that add up quickly! Unfortunately, this could deter you from attending your dream school. Luckily, there are a ton of grants, scholarships, and student loans that you can apply for. One of the easiest ways to cut down the cost of college is going to a community college for your general education, and then transferring to a four-year university to complete your degree. There are also many online colleges that can accommodate a work schedule, if you need time to get on your feet financially once you are away from home. No matter where you end up your first couple of years, working through college–either full-time or part-time–is always a smart thing to do.

However you go about it, you, as a cheerleader, have worked very hard to get where you are. It’s time to reflect on all of your accomplishments thus far! Any college would be lucky to have you as a student! Soon enough, as the acceptance letters start rolling in, you will have an entirely new challenge of which school to commit to! Congratulations to all the soon-to-be high school grads and college-bound seniors!

What else needs to be considered when choosing between colleges? What colleges and universities do you have your eye on? Share your story in the comments!