Last week someone asked me what is the most important thing someone needs to know if they are considering going to college or university?
Believe it or not, my answer was “apply early.”
Don’t wait until the last minute to make this decision and expect to start school a month later.
Unfortunately, this is happening to some young adults right now who realize maybe they don’t want to continue with that summer job into the fall after all, and now they would rather be going to school.
They apply to the college in mid-August (or much later in some cases), and lo and behold, even if we can process their application—which means they get all their documentation to us such as their high school transcript—many of our first-year courses are full and they might not be able to register in all the classes they need.
This is especially true for students wanting to attend the Okanagan College Kelowna campus.
This forces some students to travel to our Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm campuses because this is where we have some spaces left.
It also has some students opting to enroll in distance education courses, which for some works out quite well if they have family and work commitments.
Another big problem with waiting until the last minute is the ability to secure student loan funding.
Currently, Student Aid BC is busy processing applications submitted in late July and early August.
Students who apply late usually don’t find out whether they have funding until well into the school year.
Many colleges and universities will allow students with valid student loan applications to pay their fees once their loan is processed and they receive their money.
If a student hasn’t applied for the funding and hasn’t paid, these students will most likely be removed from their courses for non-payment.
You can apply for a student loan well into the fall term. Although this date may seem late, it is there to help students who start school and then realize they may need a loan after all to be able to get some funding. One of the risks in waiting to apply for a student loan until shortly before or after school starts is that you may find out well into the school year that your application has been denied.
In other words, you don’t qualify for a student loan.
What do you do now?
You are in the middle of your first semester of a four-semester program and you don’t have enough money to keep going.
You’ve already invested in books, one semester of fees, as well as the time and effort you put into your courses.
Now you don’t have enough money to move onto the next term.
This is what I would call the worst case scenario for most students; something that could have been avoided if the student had applied early.
So even if it’s September and classes have just started, my advice is to begin thinking about applying early if you know—or even think—you have a date with post-secondary education next fall.
Okanagan College will open applications on Nov. 1 for the September 2012 fall intake. Don’t wait until the last minute unless you understand the implications and are willing to accept them.
Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.