College Planning Made Easy

In today's remote environment, set yourself up for success.

It’s no secret that planning for college is different this year and, perhaps, for the foreseeable future. Still, you can be your own champion during these uncertain times.

As the world continues to do its part to flatten the curve of COVID-19, college and university personnel have transitioned their services into remote or alternative models. This includes remote college courses and extracurricular activities, along with virtual campus tours and events. 

While virtual services offer a chance for students to comfortably explore and research their college options remotely, there are opportunities to safely tour a campus in person – even in your own hometown! A 2019 survey from the University of California-Los Angeles found that more than half of the 97,000 polled students indicated that a campus visit was a “very important” factor in choosing their school. 

I couldn't agree more! 

As an admissions counselor at Stark County’s only public university, students are often pleasantly surprised by the glimpse of student life and campus facilities that exist here, down the road from where they grew up. This is their Hometown University, where they can fully complete their bachelor’s degree at a fraction of the cost.

Whether it is done virtually or in person, college planning doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience – if you begin now. 

Here’s an easy way to help you prioritize your own college planning to-do’s while meeting all of the important deadlines: 

Financial Aid: Apply beginning Oct. 1. No matter what type of college you’re planning to attend, it is highly encouraged you take the time to complete a FAFSA. After all, it is a determining factor for aid of all types, including grants, loans and even scholarships. The amount of aid awarded depends upon financial need, the cost to attend your chosen university and more. It’s free to complete, so why not?

Choices: Narrow down your college choices by Halloween. Start today by searching the internet for any college or university that may pique your interest. I encourage you to create a list of the top five to 10 things that are most important to you. These values could include a university that is close to home, affordable, offers incredible degree programs and student involvement opportunities. Then, check out a virtual or in-person campus tour, speak to an admissions counselor and/or navigate the university’s website. Doing so will help you narrow down your choices and identify your true fit.

Admission: Apply online by Thanksgiving. Admissions applications for prospective students are generally due at that time, unless the desired college has an open enrollment policy. I always tell students that submitting an admissions application is a fail-safe plan. It’s not until a student enrolls (upon acceptance) and has a class schedule that they are committed to said college or university. 

Scholarships: Apply by Presidents Day. The earlier you submit an admissions application, the sooner you’ll find out whether you are eligible for merit-based or first-year scholarships. But don’t stop there! You can also apply for national and local scholarships. Check with your high school, county, city, your parent/guardians, or your employer to discover if opportunities exist and when scholarship applications are due. If it’s only going to take, at most, an hour of your day to submit a scholarship essay to increase your chances for free money to cover some — if not all — of the cost of your education then it’s worth your time!

Registration: May begin around St. Patrick’s Day. If you followed these steps, you should have received a decision letter about your admission status. If you were accepted at an institution, generally class registration for your first college semester will begin around the springtime. The respective institution will be in touch about your full enrollment.

That’s it! All of this can easily be done in the comfort of your own home.

And as a friendly reminder, you do not have to do this alone. Your guidance counselor, your family and even folks at the college or university you’re considering, are there to help you through every step. And, of course, my virtual door is always open. 

You’ve got this!

Cindy Deng is an admissions counselor at Kent State University at Stark. You can reach her at or 330-244-3238.

POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 5:21pm
UPDATED: Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 5:23pm
Cindy Deng, Admissions Counselor