College Prep @ your library

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Libraries throughout the country offer teens a variety of resources to guide them along the college preparation track.
By Steve Zalusky

It may be the most important decision of a young person's life. Choosing the right college can pave the way to lifelong success. But it is a daunting task that involves navigating a blizzard of paperwork.

Help, however, is available at the local library to make the process less painful. One program in North Carolina is easing the journey to higher education.

Each January, the Onslow County (N.C.) Public Library hosts “College Options @ your library,” a program targeting college-bound high-schoolers.

The library works in tandem with the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC), a free service of the State of North Carolina that helps students plan, apply and pay for college.

The workshops, held at the main library and two branch locations, are aimed at high school seniors and their families. A regional representative of the CFNC lays out the basics of financial aid and explains the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

They also provide information about grant programs, college loans and techniques for researching scholarships. Information about career opportunities and grants is made available for both in-state and out-of-state college applicants.

The library’s communications coordinator, Marie-José Solomua, said, “It works with just about everything and reminds people of all the free resources available at your library.”

Solomua said she works with the superintendent of schools and area high school principals to get the word out. While the program is mainly attended by seniors and their families, students as young as sophomores are welcome to attend and learn about getting a jump start on academic scholarships. Participants are also encouraged to use the library’s computer lab to get started on submitting their forms at the close of a session.

Tamara Eatmon, who will be attending college in two years, said the program has been very helpful. And she said the library is particularly helpful in offering free workshops and resources for both parents and students preparing for college.

Amanda Velasquez said the program has helped her get specialized help with FAFSA, which stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.This form determines  their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell grants, and work-study programs).

She said the program is needed "to help students and parents get accurate information" and has been a gateway to knowledge of good websites and search tools.

She said the "unlimited resources" provided by the library has been valuable in preparing for college.

Libraries throughout the country offer teens a variety of resources to guide them along the college preparation track.

The Hastings (Neb.) Public Library's website offers a smorgasbord of resources it calls "Life After High School."

And the King County (Wash.) Library System has sponsored a "College Series for Teens" that included such workshops as "Scholarship Secrets: Finding, Choosing and Applying for Scholarships" and "College Options: Find the Right Fit for You!" It has also offered SAT Prep classes.

Visit your local library to see how they can help in planning for your college education.


Recommended Resources

I’m Going to College—Not You! Surviving the College Search with Your Child
Jennifer Delahunty (editor) 2010
As a parent and dean of admissions at Kenyon College, Delahunty has witnessed the stress of the college search and admissions process from the inside and the outside. She offers a collection of essays from both perspectives. Parents recall the process as the “last dance of parenting” because of the implication that where a child goes to college is somehow a reflection on the parent. Admissions professionals, with a far broader perspective, offer calm and solid advice on how to help without taking over the process and how to find the best fit for the student. . — Excerpt of review first published by Vanessa Bush July, 2010 (Booklist).

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
Zac Bissonnette 2010
In keeping with the new frugality, this college guide, written by a senior attending the University of Massachusetts, offers practical advice on how to pay for college without taking out loans. Decidedly old school in approach, Bissonnette advocates that students should bear the brunt of paying for their educations by working while in college and during breaks. He also suggests that attending community college for two years before transferring to a four-year college or university would go a long way toward cutting costs.  He makes good points about how debt from student loans often prevents recent grads from starting families or buying homes. Although the strictly dollars-and-cents approach to higher education may not sit well with some parents, this is a timely guide to a decision that has important financial ramifications.— Review first published by Joanne Wilkinson September 1, 2010 (Booklist).

FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid
Claims to be one of the most comprehensive financial aid sites on the web.

Peterson's Directories
This site that contains information on programs for kindergarten through graduate school. Includes helpful information on financing education, studying abroad and distance learning.

Fast Web
n initiative of, Fast Web claims to search 1.3 million scholarships worth over $3 billion,
Lists online education programs and information on how to find accredited institutions.

Study Guide Zone
Free resources for students or anyone who wants to improve their score on  standardized tests.

Photo:  BdwayDiva1 from US (Graduation Girl)


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