By Maureen Brakke on February 18, 2016

Do you plan to go to college but have NO IDEA how you’re going to get there?

If this is you, here are some things you can start doing right now to help you get in the right mindset to get to college:

  • College is for everyone. Even you. Don’t think of college as JUST a four-year degree or a big campus. is anything from a one-year certificate in event planning or diesel mechanics, a two-year degree in dental hygiene, to a four-year degree in computer science and beyond.
  • Put aside doubts and start believing in yourself. Don’t compare yourself to your friends, siblings, or anyone else. Keep these things in mind if you ever feel discouraged:
    • Different colleges have different admissions standards. In Utah, there IS a college that is right for you.
    • You can take the ACT test multiple times to improve your score. Colleges and universities will use your highest score in determining placement and admissions eligibility.
    • Several colleges have open admissions policies, which mean they will accept all students who apply. A two-year community college may be a great place to get started on your college education.
  • Get college advice. No matter if you’re a freshman or a senior in high school, talk to your school counselor, a teacher, or a trusted mentor about what you want to do after high school. You can also check the student section on StepUpUtah.com if you need additional help.
  • Know how much college costs. Take a few minutes to learn what it costs to study at each Utah institution. This will help you know how much money you’ll need and what you can afford.
    • Know what the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is. This is the application you’ll fill out  when you’re a senior in high school that determines how much financial aid you could get to help pay for college. Learn more about the types of financial aid.
    • Attend a FAFSA Completion Open House your senior year. Utah’s financial aid experts come to your high school (or one close by) to help you file your FAFSA. They typically have a scholarship for you to apply for so it’s a win-win!
      • REMEMBER: You MUST file the FAFSA each year you’re in college.
  • Apply for scholarships. Look for scholarships online, through your school counseling office, your parents’ work, in your community, and at colleges you’re interested in attending. Use the Scholarship Toolkit to get you started.
  • Attend a “You CAN Pay for College” night at your high school or nearby high schools. Go to one of these events each year starting in 8th grade (or earlier) until you’re a high school senior. You’ll learn the different ways to pay for college and you’ll get additional resources. These events typically have a scholarship for you to apply for, so it won’t hurt to go- even if it’s just for the scholarship!

Maureen Brakke is a communications specialist with the Utah System of Higher Education. She also manages StepUpUtah.com, and formerly worked as a financial aid and college prep outreach officer with UHEAA. You can find her on Twitter @BrakM30