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10 Top Career Training Programs

When it comes to getting a secure, well-paying job, it’s not always necessary to get a college degree first.

Some students may choose a career training program to learn the necessary skills for a specific job, often more quickly and for less money than a four-year college degree. These programs may also be referred to as career certificate programs, usually certifying the students to work in a particular role once the course is completed.

These programs can be completed after college, but many are designed to train people who haven’t attended college. Recent high school graduates or those who have attained their GED can often attend career training programs and get started on their careers after receiving their certificate.

Why Do People Choose Career Training Programs?

Two big factors in choosing to go through a career training program before or instead of going to college are time and money.

Career training programs typically can be completed in less time than it generally takes to complete an undergraduate degree. Some programs can be completed in as little as four months, a staggering difference from the four years it might take to earn a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to being shorter term, they’re also less expensive. On average, a career certificate program may cost around $100 per credit. The average cost of in-state tuition at a public two-year institution is $3,412, and at a public four-year institution the in-state tuition averages $9,308.

At Minnesota State University, certificate programs consist of nine to 30 credits, which can be completed in one year or less of full-time study. If these programs cost the average $100 per credit, they would cost between $900 and $3,000. This is fairly affordable compared to the cost of tuition at either a two-year or a four-year institution.

Another reason some people choose a career training program is that they need to, or would like to, start earning money relatively soon after graduating high school.

A career training program could be a more direct route to employment than getting an associate or bachelor’s degree for people who are sure about their career path. This could also be a beneficial route for students who want to save money to attend college later in life.

Choosing a Program

The most important thing to look for when choosing a career training program, whether it’s in-person or an online career training program, is accreditation. Accreditation verifies that an institution is meeting a certain level of quality. Usually, a certificate will need to come from an accredited institution for it to be considered legitimate.

Accreditation is done by private agencies, and most programs or institutions will list accreditations on their website.

The most up-to-date accreditation information can be found in the database of postsecondary institutions and programs compiled by the US Department of Education or with the specific accrediting agency’s website.

Once it’s clear that the potential programs are accredited, students can begin to narrow down which one will be best for them. This will be a highly personal choice, but there are a few factors worthy of attention, including cost, course length, and type of instruction (online vs. in-person).

Job search assistance—which might include resume writing workshops, job fairs, or interview prep—is another element that may help set students up for success.

Top Paying Jobs For Certificate Holders

In addition to career training programs having the potential to save students time and money, people want to know that they’ll be able to make a good living with those jobs.

Right now, these are the highest paying jobs for those opting to go through a career training program:

1. Web Designer

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income for a web designer is $73,760, with the educational requirements ranging from a high school diploma to a bachelor’s degree. This job is growing faster than average, so it has a promising future.

2. Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants make, on average, $51,740 per year. The required education for an entry-level job as a paralegal is a certificate or an associate degree. This job is also growing at a rate much faster than average, showing great potential for a long-term career.

3. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar panel installation is a growing field with decent pay and a lot of projected growth for the future. The median annual pay is $44,890, with only a high school degree or a certificate required to begin working.

4. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Training to become a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse typically takes only one year of full-time study, and the median annual salary is $47,480. This job is growing faster than average and is in a field that will certainly always exist. This could be a good choice for someone who wants to be in the medical field without the time and financial commitment it takes to become a doctor.

5. Medical Records Technician

Working as a medical records technician usually only requires a certificate, and sometimes an associate degree. This job has a median annual pay of $42,630 and the potential to work from home.

6. Pharmacy Technician

The median pay for a pharmacy technician is $33,950 per year. This job is growing at an average rate and typically requires on-the-job training or a formal training program, most of which last one year. Some longer pharmacy tech training programs culminate in an associate degree.

7. Computer Support Specialist

The role of a computer support specialist can vary widely, which means the educational requirements may, also. Some jobs in this field may require a bachelor’s degree, but others may only require an associate degree or a certificate. The median annual pay for a computer support specialist is $54,760, and the field is growing faster than average.

8. Phlebotomists

Professional certification, which can be gained after completing a phlebotomy training program, is the credential generally preferred by employers. This job has a median annual pay of $35,510 and it’s growing much faster than average.

9. Medical Assistants

Medical assistants have a median annual pay of $34,800, and the job only requires a certificate or on-the-job training. This job is growing much faster than average.

10. Wind Turbine Technician

The median pay for this job is $52,910 per year and the only education required is a training certificate through a technical program. This job is growing at a rate much faster than average, which could make it a great choice for students who are ready to start their career shortly after graduating high school.

Paying for a Career Training Program

Just because career training programs are typically less expensive than college doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to pay for. Some programs last longer than others and will still end up costing a fair chunk of money.

One way to pay for a career training program is to save the amount of money needed before starting it. If the program is short or has a lower cost per unit, it may be possible to simply save up the necessary amount before beginning the course of study.

The program cost may be available on the school’s website or by calling the school. Paying in full with cash means no debt to worry about.

Another potential way to pay for a career training program is to apply for federal student financial aid, which may be available to students enrolled in eligible degree or certificate programs and who meet other eligibility requirements. Completing the Free Application for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ® is the first step to applying for federal student financial aid. After submitting the FAFSA®, students will find out if they’re eligible for federal student aid, which could include federal student loans and/or work-study.

Students who aren’t eligible for federal financial aid or students who can’t cover tuition costs without financial aid may want to look for scholarships. There may be fewer scholarships available for certificate programs than there are for degree programs, but they’re out there!

The best place to start looking for scholarships is with the school the student is attending. Some schools set up their own scholarships. Alternatively, students can search for scholarships offered by professional organizations in their related fields.

A private student loan may be another option to cover the cost of a career training program. Loan terms will vary from lender to lender, and applicants are encouraged to understand the terms of the loan before accepting one. Students should exhaust all federal student aid options before considering private student loans.

The Takeaway

Students can be under a lot of pressure to go right into a four-year college or university after graduating high school, but career training programs provide an alternative that can also set students up for success, typically in less time and for less money.

Learn more about private student loans at SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Pros & Cons of Joining Greek Life

When college freshmen step foot on campus, they may go to an activity fair and see members of sororities and fraternities encouraging recruits to join. They might want to know that becoming part of Greek life can have its upsides and downsides.

Whether or not students decide to let their Greek flag fly depends on their personality, their specific situation, and their goals while they are in school. Some may find Greek life incredibly enriching, and others could decide it’s a waste of their time.

By learning what Greek life is all about, students can add that decision to their freshman checklist for the new year.

What Is Greek Life in College?

Greek life is made up of communities of students who live together, volunteer for different organizations, pursue networking opportunities, and much more. The communities consist of sororities for women and fraternities for men.

Sororities and fraternities may have various objectives, but overall they exist so that students can make meaningful connections with one another, develop leadership skills, and give back.

More than 10% of college students are members of sororities and fraternities, and these societies have 10 million-plus alumni members, according to StateUniversity.com.

Students who are interested in becoming members must apply and then go through an initiation process. Once accepted, they will live with their sorority or fraternity, usually in a house on campus, and participate in activities like sports, dances, parties, and community service opportunities.

Sorority and fraternity names consist of two or three Greek letters, like Phi Kappa Theta, Sigma Pi, or Delta Zeta, a nod to the first U.S. Greek letter society, Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary as a literary, debating, and social club.

Many students only know about sororities and fraternities from pop culture references like “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Animal House,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Old School,” which depict a perennial party.

While that is certainly true in some instances—and fraternities have come under fire for their alcohol use and hazing rituals—Greek life can be much more meaningful and beneficial than these portrayals.

Upsides of Greek Life

It isn’t all shenanigans and keggers, and maybe not even a drop in some frats and sororities. Here are some perks.

Friends

When new students first get to college, they may not know where to turn to make connections. If they become part of a sorority or fraternity, they could make many new friends right away, bond with them through different activities and social events, and remain friends for life.

Networking Opportunities

Students will also have the chance to network with their new peers. When they’re searching for internships or jobs, these connections can prove to be highly valuable.

Plus, if a job hunter lists their sorority or fraternity on a resume and a recruiter is a Greek life alumnus, that could open up a conversation and make a candidate stand out.

Possibly Cheaper Housing

Living in college dorms can be incredibly pricey. The price of room and board at public schools approaches $9,000 on average, and tops $10,000 at private schools, according to MyCollegeGuide.org.

If students are sharing a house with many members of a sorority or fraternity, they could save money.

They may also save money by having access to a full kitchen, where they can make meals instead of purchasing a meal plan or eating at restaurants all the time.

Development of Leadership Skills

Sororities and fraternities need leaders who will come up with ideas for activities, pilot volunteering efforts, and recruit members.

If members step up and decide they want to become leaders, then they are taking on new responsibilities and developing crucial skills that will be valuable when they graduate from college and start to look for jobs.

Volunteering Opportunities

Fraternities and sororities are focused on philanthropy.

Students can participate in different volunteer projects with their fellow Greek life members and contribute to making the world a better place.

Not to mention, this will look good on a resume because it shows that a student is passionate about certain causes and wants to do their part to improve the lives of others.

Potential Downsides of Greek Life

Like a toga, Greek life isn’t a good look for everyone. Here are some possible cons.

Cost

Joining a fraternity or sorority could cost thousands of dollars , and monthly dues can range from $20 to more than $200.

Local and national chapter fees are not always covered in the regular monthly dues.

And if fraternities or sororities get into trouble, members could be fined as well.

Reputation

Fraternities and sororities have gotten a bad rap from movies and TV.

Worse, students have died in hazing accidents throughout the years, leading colleges to take administrative action against fraternities especially.

Some fraternities and sororities do emphasize parties and drinking, which is all fun and games until someone begins to flunk out, becomes addicted, is involved in an assault, or is injured.

It’s best, of course, to socialize responsibly and always make academic studies the priority.

Time Commitment

Because Greek life involves so many events, and members are expected to participate, joining a sorority or fraternity means a huge time commitment.

Spending too much time on Greek life activities and not enough on studying or working at internships could have a negative impact on a student’s future.

Determining Whether or Not to Join Greek Life

Joining a fraternity or a sorority can be a great decision, especially for freshmen who may not know anyone on campus. If they are a part of Greek life, then they will stay busy, make friends, network, and contribute.

On the flipside, if they are in a campus family that is constantly throwing parties and not interested in enriching members’ lives in a meaningful way, then joining wouldn’t be a good idea.

If students don’t have the money to join or are scrambling to pay for college in general, then that’s another issue.

A private student loan can fill the gaps in the cost of attendance. Interest rates, repayment plans, and fees vary by lender. It’s best to shop around and compare.

The Takeaway

A sorority or fraternity can provide camaraderie and enduring connections, and enhance a call for service and leadership. It can also be time consuming, expensive, and distracting. Greek life isn’t for everyone, but some will find it a life-changing college choice.

Look into a no-fee private student loan from SoFi.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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What Is College Like?

Whether you’re leaving home for the first time or enrolling in your local community college, you might have a lot of misconceptions about the college experience.

For students who are looking to prepare for college and asking that key question—what is college really like?—keep reading to learn about some of the myths and realities and how to fund higher-education dreams.

Common College Myths

Pop culture has altered how we view the quintessential college experience, and though some of these myths are rooted in some level of truth, many don’t hold up nowadays.

College myths can stoke anxiety for incoming students. So let’s look for truths.

Myth 1: Most Students Graduate in 4 Years

Although traditionally students head to college for a “four-year degree,” many of them take more than four years to graduate. In reality, only about 41% of first-time college students (attending full time) earn a bachelor’s degree within four years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Sixty percent of students take six years to graduate, the center reports.

There are lots of legitimate reasons it can take students more than four years to graduate. Some may change their major and need extra classes to meet their new major requirements. Others may take on a minor or a double major that requires extra classes. Adventurous students might take time to study abroad, which could potentially slow their progress.

Others may decide to transfer schools or might have to work to pay their way through school, which could lead to finishing required classes at a slower pace.

A student may simply need more time to master the coursework. Taking your time to make sure you get the most value from your education and accomplish everything you want matters more than following a strict timeline.

Myth 2: Your Major Will Determine Your Career Path

Some students know exactly what career path they want to take and choose a major accordingly. Others may need more time to discover their passions and interests.

There is a misconception that you have to major in a subject that relates to your career path. Many degrees teach skills that can transfer to a variety of fields.

Philosophy and history degrees can teach perspective. English literature degrees can enhance the art of critical thinking. Majoring in graphic design may lead to a career in marketing.

The bottom line is, if you focus on the skills you learn while earning your degree more than the specific subject matter, you can apply those skills to many different career paths.

Myth 3: You Have to Live on Campus to Have the Full Experience

Here’s a fun fact for students who are debating whether or not they have to live on campus to get the full college experience: Only 22% of university students live in on-campus dormitories . Living on campus can be convenient, but can also be expensive and a big step for students fresh out of high school.

Even if students don’t live on campus, they will still have access to on-campus resources and perks such as clubs, events, libraries, and gyms.

Choosing to live on campus is a personal decision and needs to be one made based on a student’s particular financial, social, and educational needs.

Myth 4: No One Transfers From Community College

Thirty percent of community college students end up transferring to a four-year school, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Attending community college has multiple benefits worth considering. Students can receive a high-quality education for a fraction of the price by taking their general education classes at a community college. Taking these classes at a cheaper tuition price can give students more time and leeway to experiment with subject matter they are interested in.

For those who have their hearts set on prestigious universities, it can be easier to transfer to one of those schools from community college than it is to be accepted straight out of high school.

Some community colleges have deals with local universities that can guarantee admission to your dream school if you meet certain qualifications. It’s known as a transfer admission guarantee, or TAG.

In California, six University of California campuses offer guaranteed admission to students from all California community colleges who have completed at least 30 semester UC-transferable units.

And in Florida, state community college graduates with an associate degree are guaranteed admission to one of the 11 state universities (except to limited access programs, which call for additional admission requirements).

Major College Realities

If you’re looking for a dose of reality before you start college, consider these tidbits. Knowledge is power, after all, so it can’t hurt to know what to expect.

Reality 1: Anyone Can Get Help Paying for School

Let’s start with some good news. Almost any student can find help paying for college, no matter what their financial background is.

While students from more privileged economic backgrounds may qualify for less federal student aid such as grants, both colleges and private businesses offer a variety of merit-based scholarships and grants that students can apply for.

It’s worth considering all of your aid options before you foot your entire college bill by yourself.

Reality 2: Follow Your Passions

You’ve heard it from your teachers, you’ve heard it from your parents, and chances are you’ve heard it from countless other adults who like to reminisce about the good ol’ days: Your time spent in college will be some of the best years of your life.

College is a unique time when young adults can follow their passions. Even if you choose a major that doesn’t align with all of your interests, there are many elective classes you can take and clubs you can join that will help you foster your passions.

Learn Portuguese, take a class in 3D printing, hit the stage for some dramatic arts, or simply explore the library archives. Take advantage of this special time in your life to learn more about what interests you.

Reality 3: You Can Change Your Mind

You’ve known your whole life that you want to be a doctor. Or a lawyer. Or a beekeeper. Or so you thought. One of the many joys of college is that you have the time and space to learn and grow.

You may discover after two years of being a psychology major that the statistics classes you had to take were more interesting than your clinical psychology classes.

It’s never too late to switch majors (that extra year of sticking around campus will be worth it) or start interning in a new career field.

Some students may find that the college they chose while they were still in high school isn’t a good fit. Guess what? You can transfer to a new school if you wish. You can change your mind about what you want to study and what career path you want to take, too.

Reality 4: Partying Can Take a Toll

For some, college parties are a rite of passage. For others, they are stressful and distracting. If the party lifestyle is something you’re not interested in or is something you know you’ll get swept up in, it’s OK to stay home on a Friday night.

Focusing on your studies is why you’re at college, so don’t let peer pressure or societal expectations make you feel bad for prioritizing that.

Another Reality: Financing College

As mentioned, students can apply for scholarships and grants to help pay for their college education. But if a student needs a little more help in the funding department to supplement their college savings, grants or scholarships, chances are either they or their parents will consider student loans.

Students can apply for federal and private student loans. Federal student loans often have lower interest rates than private student loans do and don’t have to be paid back until a student graduates or leaves school.

Private student loan lenders may require the borrower to begin paying back the loans before graduation day. That said, private student loans can help with college costs that federal student loans may not completely cover.

If students consider private student loans, they should research each lender and review the terms and rates offered.

SoFi offers private student loans with a quick and easy application process and with no fees.

Students should exhaust federal grant and loan options before considering private student loans. But if they do need further help paying some of the many costs associated with college, they might do well to look into a private student loan with SoFi.

Learn more about SoFi private student loans today.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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Importance of Junior Year of High School

College application deadlines can seem to pop up faster than social media trends. But, preparing for college, inevitably, takes time.

Plenty of students prefer to get ready as early as their junior year of high school—in an effort to strengthen their eventual college applications (and make the process more manageable).

For those interested in college, some years of high school carry more weight—especially, the junior year. Colleges often look more closely at grades and achievements from students’ junior years when evaluating who to accept.

After all, that third year in high school is the last full academic calendar a college can view before students apply.

So, approaching junior year with a clear action plan may even give applicants a leg up on admission into their dream college. Compiling a junior year of high school checklist could help students to tackle this vital year with more drive, confidence, and focus.

Here’s an overview of why junior year of high school is so key and some strategies for staying focused while preparing to apply for college.

Why Junior Year is Important

Junior year of high school can be especially impactful for strengthening a student’s college application. It’s the last school year that universities can look at in full before applications are due during senior year.

So, many admissions committees pay particularly close attention to grades and extracurricular activities from the junior year of high school.

The third year of high school can feel overwhelmingly for a few reasons:

•   Class difficulty levels can increase later on in high school
•   Students can begin studying now for the SAT and ACT. (It’s possible to take these exams spring of junior year, affording juniors a chance to retake them during the fall of senior year.)
•   Upper-class students can take on numerous extracurriculars and a part-time job.

Although junior year can strongly impact one’s college admissions chances, it’s not an impossible weight to lift (when planned for).

Entering junior year with a checklist in hand may help students see more success when college acceptance letters are sent out the next year. Here are some helpful things students may want to keep in mind to make more out of this critical year:

Getting Involved in Extracurriculars

To strengthen their college applications, many juniors opt to get more involved with organizations or activities they care deeply about. Being involved in extracurriculars doesn’t have to feel like a chore.

Extracurriculars that might stand out on a college application range from clubs to student council, from athletic endeavors to volunteering. There’s no one-size-fits-all way for students to be engaged in school or in their communities.

Many high schools host a variety of clubs that students can join. Juniors could choose one or two they’re really passionate about, allowing these extracurricular activities to serve as a break from hitting the books (all while still fleshing out their college application profile).

Staying Focused

Another potential way to increase focus is to keep a planner. It seems simple, but in today’s technology-driven age, it’s easy to forget how valuable writing big dates or goals down can be.

With seven dates available to take the SAT, and seven or more different dates available to take the ACT, it’s not hard for busy students to lose track of when to study for and schedule their college admission tests.

Once a test date has been chosen, students can mark it down in their printed planner. It’s then possible for a high school junior to work backwards, planning out practice tests and pencilling in study sessions during the build-up to the testing date.

The simple act of writing things down can make them easier to remember, so some researchers suggest jotting down key dates first in a physical planner before then adding them to a digital device or calendar .

Making a Junior Year Checklist

In addition to writing down important dates, some students may benefit from making a personalized junior year checklist. Some tasks that could be included on such a list are:

•   Studying for major tests, like the SAT or ACT
•   Joining extracurricular clubs or organizations
•   Researching different colleges and universities
•   Getting familiar with the format of college applications

Once a checklist is drafted, students might then make to-do lists under each sub-category. The planner could be used in tandem to help students stay on top of these goals and deadlines.

Designating a Study Space

Creating a dedicated space for studying can also improve a student’s focus during a jam-packed school year. Many high schoolers opt to designate a comfy space at home, where they may then concentrate on their studies. It’s even possible to give this study space a personal touch—decking it out with school supplies, keeping it clutter-free, and decorating it with inspirational photos or personal affects (like, a magnet from one’s dream college).

Creating a dedicated study space, some claim, could both make recalling information easier and studying more effective.

Remembering to Reward Accomplishments

Busy high school juniors might want to remember to reward major accomplishments during this high-stakes year. Once important dates and tasks are mapped out (and scheduled), students could make another list of potential fun rewards to enjoy, once an outlined goal is met. Aced those finals? Binge on on some light TV. Finished the SAT practice exam? Download that new game everyone’s been playing.

It may also be helpful to recall that an overly hectic junior year can increase students’ feelings of stress, possibly making it harder to accomplish big goals. Burnout is likely easier to avoid when students carve time out for regular breaks.

Strengthening that College Application

There’s a multitude of ways for juniors to strengthen their eventual college applications. Choosing which tasks to focus on can be the hard part.

Some juniors add volunteering to their schedules this year. Certain volunteer opportunities have age restrictions, which can make them easier for upperclass students to apply for. Similar to the earlier at-school clubs, many juniors opt to volunteer with non-profit organizations or institutions they’re passionate about.

To possibly stand out more on the college application, it may also be helpful for juniors to find a volunteer opportunity in the field they’re hoping to pursue as a career some day.

For instance, a student interested in medicine, might seek out opportunities in a local hospital (so they could learn firsthand about that working in that environment and evidence their commitment to a given field of study.)

Getting a First Job

Junior year could also be a good time for students to get their first part-time job. Many states allow young people to begin working once they’re 16 years old. If a student can find a job that’s easy to get (and doesn’t distract from academics), work experience can be one more experience to highlight on a college application down the road. Holding a part-time job at a young age might demonstrate skills, such as time-management and personal responsibility.

Moreover, there may also be unique opportunities available to upperclass students at their individual schools. It’s common for special electives or programs to open up to older students— things like, working on the school yearbook, interning for credit, or volunteering on or off site.

Financing College

Earning admission is just one one piece of the going-to-college puzzle. Once accepted, many high schoolers have to wrestle with how to pay for college and the cost of tuition. For parents, saving up for a child’s college years is something they may want to start while their student is much younger.

What are some options for financing college? Some ways to pay for college include need-based grants, merit or affinity scholarships, federal student loans, and private student loans.

Some grants, such as Federal Pell Grants, are disbursed by the US government to those who qualify. Grants, unlike loans, do not typically have to be repaid by the student. Scholarships are frequently merit-based, meaning they’re often awarded based on a student’s academic, athletic or community-based accomplishments.

Many high schools and colleges publish lists of financial aid resources available to eligible undergraduates. These lists are one starting place to begin searching for potential scholarships or grants.

So, it may be worthwhile to check with a guidance counselor or on a college’s official financial aid web page (to see what resources have already been compiled).

Junior year can play a vital role in preparing students to vie for college admission. There’s a lot to keep track of this year—from juggling academics alongside extracurriculars to figuring out how, eventually, to pay for college (once accepted).

Loans are another common way to help pay for college. There are both federal as well as private student loans. Federal loans are offered by the US government to those who qualify. It’s important to note that federal loans can come with certain baked-in benefits (such as forbearance or income-driven repayment options) not always guaranteed by private lenders.

If a student and their parents can’t cover the cost of attendance after exhausting scholarship, grant and federal loan options, some choose to pursue a private student loan, such as SoFi’s private undergraduate loans or parent loans.

SoFi private student loans offer competitive rates and come with no fees—not even overdraft or late fees.

In-school loans with SoFi can make financing college fast, easy and all online. Ready to research how to finance college? Check out SoFi’s Private Student Loans.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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Understanding Lower Division Vs. Upper Division Courses

Declaring a major in college is a big decision, but the choices don’t stop there. Once students know their area of study, then comes the selection of courses. Upper and lower signify beginner and advanced courses in an academic career.

Clearly, students can’t just sign up for classes willy-nilly.

They’ll often need to start at one point before they can progress to another. This is where upper and lower division courses come into play.

Like levels in a video game, students have to start with beginner lessons before they can take on advanced challenges.

Types of Courses Students Can Take

When signing up for their first semester of classes, college students might notice that there are many more offerings than they had in high school.

In addition, core classes are different, and requirements will vary based on a student’s course of study.

While a college student can take everything from astronomy to architecture, here’s how courses are typically designated:

•   Lower division
•   Upper division
•   Major courses
•   Minor courses
•   General education courses

Degree Requirements

Every college major will have different courses, electives, and requirements that are necessary for graduating.

In addition to core requirements, students might need to take general education courses. These courses are required for all students, no matter their area of study. (Some will “CLEP out of” some or all gen ed courses. The College-Level Examination Program® offers 34 exams that cover intro-level college course material. Others might pass AP or International Baccalaureate exams to get college credit.)

Students won’t get to graduate just by taking classes for four years. They’ll need to meet the requirements of the major (and minor, if applicable) they’ve selected.

Each course has a number of credits, and students usually will need to accumulate a number of credits to qualify for their degree.

Degree requirements will vary based on what a student studies, but each will come with a mix of lower division and upper division courses to round out the educational experience.

What Is a Lower Division Course?

Lower division courses are the building blocks of an undergraduate’s major. College beginners might have restrictions in the courses they can enroll in.

Unless they bring in AP, IB, or college credits, they’ll need to take (and pass) lower division courses in their major before being able to sign up for upper division courses.

In general, here’s what student can expect in lower division classes :

•   Introductory material. Typically, lower division courses teach the building blocks of concepts that students will use more down the line. For example, a biology major might start the course requirements with a lower division Introduction to Biology lecture before moving on to more challenging material.
•   Younger students. Generally, students will find more freshmen and sophomores in their lower division courses.
•   A larger class. Depending on the size of the school, lower division classes are often larger because they may cover a broad swath of material that applies to multiple majors and areas of study. A lower division class might even have more than one section a semester because so many students need to take it.
In these larger lectures, participation might be limited, and attendance might not even count toward a grade.
•   A stricter structure. Students might find that lower division courses vary by the book (or syllabus). Each class, a professor covers exactly what was detailed in the syllabus—nothing more, nothing less.
Similarly, test questions might come straight out of lecture notes or assigned readings. Often this is done to ensure that students know the basics by heart before moving on to more challenging courses in their major.
•   Evaluation by test. Due in part to their larger class sizes and structure, students can often expect multiple-choice tests in lower division courses.

Of course, every college’s policies on classes is different, but for the most part, students can expect to take lower division courses as they begin their academic career.

Lower division courses may be required by a major or minor, or they might be a general education course all students are asked to take.

What Is an Upper Division Course?

If lower division courses are the foundation an education is built on, upper division courses are the structure on top.

Lower division courses sometimes count as prerequisites for upper division classes. That means an undergraduate must take, and pass, a lower division class before enrolling in an upper division course.

Here’s what a student might experience in an upper division course:

•   In-depth curriculum. Upper division classes are a deeper dive into areas of study or more complex topics. Once students master a lower division class, they’ll be challenged with harder concepts in an upper division class. Upper division classes are more likely to have words like “advanced” in the title.
•   Older students. Third- and fourth-year students are more likely to be in these courses, typically because they’ve taken the prerequisites.
•   Smaller classes. Whereas lower division classes may be large lectures, upper division classes start to get smaller, in part because the curriculum is more specialized. The deeper a student gets into a major, the more in-depth classes become.
•   A fluid structure. Upper division courses likely have a syllabus and required reading, but the day-to-day structure of the class may be less lecture-focused. In fact, some classes are seminars where students are encouraged to contribute ideas in a discussion format, often resulting in a participation grade.
•   Varied evaluations. Depending on the class focus, testing may look different than that of a lower division course. Students may be asked to write in-depth research papers or create large presentations to show their learning. If tests are in use, they might rely less on multiple-choice questions.

Since upper division courses include more complex teachings, professors might expect students to show what they’ve learned in a more complex way. That might mean essays to prove an argument, or demonstration of critical thinking skills that don’t rely purely on lecture notes or readings.

Numbering Systems for Division Courses

A simple way to tell if a class is a lower or upper division course is using a school’s numbering system for classes.

Most college courses will have a three- to five-digit number. The number is unique to the course, and can help students know what they’re getting into before they sign up in terms of difficulty.

While numerical systems will change from college to college, they might follow these general formulas:

•   1-199. At UCLA , for example, all undergraduate courses are assigned a number between 1 and 199. Any class with a number between 1 and 99 is a lower division course, and any class with a number between 100 and 199 is an upper division class.
•   100-499. Other schools, like the University of Arizona , might start the numbering higher. All lower division classes are numbered from 100 to 299. Anything 300 to 399 is an upper division course. The University of Massachusetts uses a similar system, where every 100 is a different year of school (100s are for freshmen, 200s for sophomores, etc.)

The numerical system for a college course probably won’t help students compare classes across different universities, but it can be a useful guide in plotting academic schedules within one school and major.

Finding a Way to Pay

Figuring out how to pay for college can feel like an upper division course in and of itself. After figuring out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, applying for scholarships and grants, and trying to qualify for federal student loans, some students might still fall short.

That’s where private student loans can come in. SoFi offers private student loans with flexible repayment options, low fixed or variable rates, and no fees.

Signing up with SoFi will give you complimentary access to career coaching and to Edmit Plus, a tool that estimates financial aid, compares cost of attendance, and notes merit aid and scholarships available.

Apply for a loan online in minutes—and add a co-signer in a few clicks.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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