WARNING: College Ahead!


On Friday, December 9, Mr. Chiakulas hosted a showing of “Saved by the Bell” near the gathering stair. In the episode, the show’s characters had to choose their colleges.

It’s the moment each one of us has been waiting for since August; the late spring air and light wind blows against your face as you sit and wait for your name to be called to walk down the aisle to receive a piece of paper that sums up the last four years of your life. But then what? Where does your life go from this point on? College? Work force? If so, how do you get there and what can you do to help make the process easier? There are so many questions that must be answered before you walk down to get your diploma. Mr. Christopher Chiakulas, college counselor here at Round Lake High School, has some helpful tips that can help guide seniors into making the right decision for their future.

Your first question probably is, “What colleges do I apply to?” Chiakulas talks about the five Ps of choosing colleges—person, people, place, program, and price.“These factors will be different for each person,” Chiakulas said.  “Just because a college may be a popular school that many people apply to, it doesn’t mean it’s the right school for all students.” Here’s a short list of what each of the five Ps are and what they mean:


  • Person – You need to first take yourself into consideration. What kind of student are you? Would you benefit from being close to home? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do the classes and programs offered seem to adhere to your learning style?
  • People – What is the biggest demographic at the school? Will you fit int? Or are do you want to explore different types of people and cultures?
  • Place – Where is the school located? How big is it? Remember, a bigger school means bigger class sizes and less one-on-one time with professors.
  • Program – Have you decided on a major? If so, make sure your school offers a program for that major.
  • Price – This is one of the most obvious factors in selecting a college. Yes, it might be your dream school, but can you afford the tuition―and is the tuition worth it? It might be the best school ever, but no school is worth going into massive amounts of debt for.

Chiakulas says it’s important to keep your options open when applying for college.“ A good amount would be between 5 and 8 colleges,” he said.  This is a perfect scale so that you can give yourself a chance at getting into schools, but also not overwhelm yourself with filling out a million applications.. You want to make sure you get the applications for your chosen colleges in before their deadlines. Meeting these deadlines is crucial if you miss application deadlines, you can miss out on opportunities like getting into honors programs or selective majors, and even getting into the school period.

According to the College Board, the average tuition of a private institution (plus some added fees) for the 2015-2016 school year was $32,405, while tuition to an in-state, public institution  school comes around $9,410.

Now those are some big numbers, and you’re going to want as much help financially as you can get. To get scholarships, you have to look for them, but Chiakulas also keeps an eye out for interested students.Chiakulas said, “Not every scholarship is based on grades or test scores, so students’ shouldn’t automatically think they’ll never win one.” A ton of scholarships have essay requirements and usually the winner of the scholarship has written the best essay they received. You can frequently check in with Chiakulas about new scholarships and grants to earn money for school.

Something that is beyond important in order to pay for college is completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA gives students the opportunity to receive free money for college. There are two types of grants: the Pell Grant and the MAP grant, which is strictly for students attending an Illinois school. Chiakulas said, “Many colleges use the results from the FAFSA to determine if the student qualifies for any free money from the school itself based on need.” So not only do you have the possibility of getting free money from the federal government, but you can get additional money from the schools themselves just by submitting your FAFSA. Chiakulas said that FAFSA can save students and parents thousands of dollars in fees and tuition.

Maybe money is tight right now, or you like smaller learning environments, or still need the comforts of home. If that’s the case, taking the next step into a four-year university might seem a little daunting.  Chiakulas recommends that students try out a a community college. “This allows students to transition into college at often a lower cost, while still living at home,” he said.  “If their plan is to transfer to a four-year school, they should definitely be working with an advisor at the community college to make sure they are taking the right courses.” Chiakulas strongly cautions students against taking a gap year. He says that it makes it harder for students to get back into the swing of things, and he recommends students taking one to two classes a semester at the least to still continue their education and prepare them for the transfer to a four-year university.

For seniors here at RLHS, the pressure is kicking in to make a decision on how we will continue our education. Chiakulas and the counselors truly want the best for all seniors in our future and want to see us become successful young adults. Mr. Chiakulas says, “A college education is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.” He reminds students that a college degree can open up so many more doors, rather than not having one at all.