A College Student’s Guide to Admissions and Financial Aid | Jewelry Insurance

Dustin Lemick



Making the transition from high school to college can be an overwhelming process that involves answering a lot of big questions. What do you want to study in college? What college should you go to? How do you get accepted there? And how are you going to pay for it? It takes a lot of thought and preparation to answer all of those questions, but this is a process that many people have gone through before, so it’s not uncharted territory. All you need to do is find out the steps you need to take and then take them one at a time.

What You Need to Do Before Senior Year

Preparing for college starts as soon as you start high school. In your freshman and sophomore years, you should be taking as many challenging classes as possible and getting good grades in them. This is when you’re building the foundation of a solid transcript that will impression college admissions officials. You should also get involved in extracurricular activities, which can make you a more well-rounded college applicant.

Junior year is when you need to take concrete steps toward college. Start getting an idea of what you want to major in and looking at potential colleges to apply to. Ideally, you should visit each campus so you can explore the facilities and get a better idea of what the atmosphere is like. Junior year is also when you should take the SAT, ACT, or both. Impressive scores on these tests can be an important factor that helps you get into the college of your choice.

In the summer after your junior year or early in the fall, schedule admissions interviews with the colleges you want to apply to. The interview will give you a chance to talk to a member of the admissions staff about yourself, your accomplishments, and why you want to attend their school. You should also take the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the school that you haven’t been able to find answers to yourself.

Choosing Where to Apply

When you’re starting your college search, think about what you want to major in, where you want to go to school, and how big of a school you’d prefer. Some people are at home at a huge university, while others would rather study at a smaller college. Perhaps you want to move across the country, or maybe you’d rather go to college in the same region. You might even want to stay local and commute to class instead of living on campus. Find schools in the area where you want to go to college that offer the major you’re interested in. Then, research your options. Online reviews and discussion groups can be great resources, but if you can, you should also visit each campus in person.

When you’re narrowing down your choices, try not to focus too much on affordability; financial aid can make a big difference, so you don’t want to give up on a school you really like this early in the process just because you don’t think you’ll be able to afford it. However, you should try to be realistic about the schools you might get accepted to. The general rule is that you should end up with a list of less than ten colleges. Most of these should be ones where you have a decent chance of being accepted, based on the information you can find about the grades and test scores of students they usually accept. One or two of these can be “reach” schools, ones that you like that are really selective, meaning that your odds of getting in aren’t as high. And at least one school you apply to should be a “safety” school, somewhere that you’re almost certain to get accepted, so you’ll have a bit of insurance to fall back on.

Putting Together Your Applications

Colleges usually accept applications online, but you’ll need to make sure that all of the required parts are submitted. There’s a basic application form, including things like your name, address, and date of birth. You’ll also need to include a high school transcript, showing all of the classes you’ve taken and the grades you earned. Most colleges also require letters of recommendation; you should request these from teachers, advisors, and/or school counselors who know you and your skills and will enthusiastically recommend that colleges accept you. And you’ll usually also need to write an essay to include with your application. Each college will have its own essay topic(s) that you need to respond to, so you’ll likely need to write a different essay for each one.

Make sure to make a list of the application deadlines for all of the schools you’re applying to to ensure that everything you need to submit is in on time. Applications are usually due in December or January, but you may want to apply earlier than that; the longer you wait, the more likely it is that your dream school will fill up all of its spots before your application is reviewed. Many colleges also offer either early action or early decision. Early action means that if you apply before the early action deadline (typically in November), you’ll get a decision sooner, giving you plenty of time between knowing that you’re accepted and making your final decision on whether to go to that school. Early decision is very much the same, but there’s one key difference: If you’re accepted with early decision, you have to go to that school. This means that you should only apply early decision to one school, and it should be the one you want to go to the most. It can be risky to take this option, as you’ll be obligated to go to that school before you’ve seen how much financial aid you might get.

Applying for Financial Aid

Juggling the numbers to make college affordable can be challenging, but the good news is that most of it comes down to one form: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You’ll need to collect a lot of information before you complete this form, including details about your parents’ finances, but once you submit it, every college you apply to will use it: You don’t have to do a separate form for each school. The FAFSA should be submitted in the fall or winter; colleges will have their own financial aid deadlines, so make sure your FAFSA is done on time to meet them.

While you’re waiting for college acceptances and aid offers to roll in, apply for any private scholarships you can find that you might qualify for. Your high school, local community groups, and national organizations all offer scholarships, and they’re all potentially sources of free money to help cover the cost of your education.

Making Your Decision

Once you know where you’ve been accepted and what they’re offering in terms of financial aid, it’s time to make your choice. Look closely at the aid packages offered: Loans need to be paid back, work-study aid is basically a part-time job on campus, and grants and scholarships are free money that you don’t have to pay back. Examine the numbers to see how affordable each school will be, and think about which schools you’ll be happiest at. This can be a tough decision, and it’s also likely to be an expensive one, so give it some careful thought. Once you’ve picked where to enroll, accept their offer of admission, submit any documents they require to seal the deal, and pat yourself on the back for making it through the process of getting into college.

Dustin Lemick


Dustin Lemick is the Founder and CEO of BriteCo and a third-generation jeweler with over thirteen years of retail jewelry experience. He holds a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and has in-depth knowledge and expertise in appraisal systems, diamond and gemstone markets, retail pricing models, insurance replacement models, and jewelry quotation pricing systems.