Applying for College

 Whether you’re working towards your diploma or working on getting your GED, you may be considering the next step. That step could be a university, community college, or technical school. Whatever secondary school you are considering, you will need to fill out an application.

Your Future Career

There is one question you have probably been asked multiple times in your life, maybe even since kindergarten. That question is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You might’ve started out with “firefighter” or “singer” or “professional sports player” when you were little. Maybe that hasn’t changed, but maybe it has. Maybe you are unsure of what you want to be when you grow up. That’s okay! Your interests can change over time. Skills you did not know you had can develop.  If you are unsure of what you want your future career to be, try Career Search or a Career Aptitude Test. Using those links, you can narrow down career options based on your skills, your interests, and your personality. They can help you find a career that’s right for you. There are several other helpful quizzes online to help guide you through the career-choosing process.

Choosing a School

No matter if you know what you will study or not, you should start looking at schools by the end of your junior year. If you haven’t, don’t sweat it! Depending on the school, you will usually have until May 1st to enroll in the fall semester of your school. There are many things to take into consideration when looking for a school. Those things are: location, cost, majors offered, admission requirements, scholarships offered, and general interest. All those things should be reasonable and doable. You can find most of this information on the schools’ official websites. Here are a few examples of admission pages for colleges in Lincoln and Omaha:

If you have a general idea of what you want to do but are not one-hundred percent sold, you can apply to a university/community college and work on something called your “generals”. Your generals are basic classes every student must take and pass before they are able to advance to upper-level courses. These courses are usually refresher courses about things you may have covered in high school. Most of these classes can be completed during your first and second year of school.

Filling Out the Application

After finding schools that interest you and meet your criteria, it’s time to start filling out the application. You don’t have to choose just one school to apply to—in fact, it is smart to apply to a few! The Federal Student Aid Website under the “Application Tips” heading is a great reference to see the do’s and don’ts of applying. It also gives information on The Common Application which can be used to apply to several schools without going through the headache of filling out multiple applications. You can search for which colleges accept the Common Application on that site.  You can also sit down with your guidance counselor for more advice on when/how to apply. (**NOTE: See bottom of page if you have a juvenile record!)

What About Cost? 

Cost is the biggest stressor—and sometimes setback—when it comes to college. With college tuition rising, it seems impossible! You might be a bit nervous about hearing words like, “student debt” and “loans” and “repayment”. It is scary! But, there are more resources out there to help you than you think.

  • Scholarships are extremely important! Check with your guidance counselor to see if you school or community are offering any scholarships and APPLY! Scholarship applications, like college applications, can be a bit boring and repetitive. However, they are worth it in the long run. Some like to think of scholarships as “free money” since you are not required to pay back businesses/organizations for scholarships.
  • Grants are another version of “free money” for college students. Your grants can be determined after you fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or your FAFSA. The Student Aid website walks you through the steps of how to fill out your FAFSA, some helpful tips when applying, and what happens after you apply.
  • Loans—there’s the scary word everyone dreads. Loans are also determined through your FAFSA. Simply put, a loan is money you borrow and gradually pay back with interest. (For more information, visit:
  • Federal Work Study is another option to help you afford school. Work Study is a part-time job offered to students, usually on or near University Campus. Work study jobs are usually very flexible with your class schedule, since they are aware that school comes first. These are especially convenient when you do not have time to get a job outside of school or you do not have reliable transportation to get to/from a job. Some work study jobs can fit in with your career/major of interest. For example, if you are studying chemistry, you could look for a job as a chemistry lab assistant. (For more information, visit:


What If I Have a Juvenile Record…Will This Keep Me from Going to School? 

The Student Aid website offers a few resources for those with a juvenile record or those confined in adult correctional facilities. The link to those resources can be found here.

The Common Application for college may ask: Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Unfortunately, you must answer “yes” unless your record is sealed. If your record is sealed, you should answer “no” to that question. This is an important reason to make sure your record is sealed! If you have any questions about record sealing and Common Application, or if you would like to check if your record is sealed, contact the Juvenile Reentry Project at or call (402) 487-7005

Good luck with your academic future!

Juvenile Reentry Flyer

This project was supported by Grant No. 2017-CZ-BX-0021 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.  Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. 


Legal Aid of Nebraska

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