Helping seniors find their futures

Eric Fenstermacker, Reporter

Attention! Attention! Your senior year is almost over. During the most unorthodox era in some of our lives, many teens have hit the most stressful time of their lives. What will I do after high school? What do I want to be? Where do I want to go? So many questions, but not enough answers. At Bellefonte Area High School, seniors are lucky enough to have multiple guidance counselors to help get them on their way.

Guidance Counselor Mr. Shawn Barbrow serves as the Senior Class guidance counselor at BAHS this year. He is very active in helping the students figure out their future plans after high school. Mr. Barbrow sees the struggles and fears that high school seniors experience each year as they make decisions about college.

I would say the most common fears are: picking the right college, picking the right major, concern about whether they will be accepted or not, and concern about how to pay for school.”

Mr. Barbrow has seen many students come and go. Not every student has the financial advantages that others do, so he can offer advice on where to get financial help. 

Students with financial challenges actually have a lot of money sources available to them. They are potentially eligible for the Pell Grant – around $6,300 in free money each year. If they plan to attend a Pennsylvania school, they could also be eligible for the PHEAA grant which is up to $4300 a year in free money,” he said. 

Mr. Barbrow encourages students to complete their FAFSA early so they are eligible for the highest amount of student aid, since these are distributed on a first-come first-served basis. 

“So the earlier you complete your FAFSA and any other financial aid requirements, the more money you could be eligible for. Students should indicate that they are interested in work study. That can provide great income during school. Additionally, students should set aside time each day to apply for scholarships that could help defray the cost of school. I created a website on the school counseling page that lists the ways students could search for scholarships,” he said.

Many students know that senior year is important. Not many know how to prepare for college during their senior year. According to Mr. Barbrow, there are things you can do to help with this.

Take the most rigorous classes you can, develop good study habits, get on an academic routine. It is hard to go from 0 to 60 when you go to school, so developing those good habits now will really help,” he said. 

Students who will be attending college have the opportunity of visiting a school and speaking to a college admissions counselor. With this luxury, students can ask any questions they wish in order to help them pick a school. They might even choose to inquire about the workload that their specific major will present to them.

College is definitely a step up academically. The expectations are higher, the workload is higher and there is an expectation of greater independence in completing all of that. Students should strive to set an academic work schedule and stick to that schedule. College provides some relative anonymity so there aren’t immediate sanctions for lack of work completion.”

However, Mr. Barbrow says that once your GPA takes a severe hit, it can be hard to recover, so it’s best to start off on the right foot.

“It is extremely important to start with good study habits and maintain those all through school,” he said.

Even though the academic aspect will be your top priority, Mr. Barbrow recommends making time for yourself as well.

“When you go to school, that is your home for a few years. it is important to find things there that you enjoy doing and that can be relaxing.”

Some students have already chosen the right school, but now they are asking how to commit and when to commit. 

You typically have until May 1 to make a decision. It is usually best to wait until you have gotten your financial aid package to make a final decision,” Mr. Barbrow said.

No matter what you want to do in life, there is a school for you. Whether you want to be close to home or travel abroad, there is a school for you. Whether you are an athlete or a video game guru, there is a school for you. Mr. Barbrow has proved a lot of help in how to choose that school. Senior year has a lot of question marks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but time does not stop. Seniors, this is your time. This is your choice.