Why You Should Build an Online Portfolio in College

In the modern workforce, almost every job features an online component, either for branding purposes or as a part of their business operations. This is also true during the hiring process. Gone are the days where you can just walk into a company to meet the manager in person and hand-deliver a resume. In an increasingly digitized and automated world, it’s important to stand out. Many hopeful workers are building their own personal online portfolios to do just that, and they’re starting in college.

A bearded man smiling towards the camera showing off his computer with his portfolio on display.While some careers already require workers to curate a portfolio, it‘s something all students looking for internships or about to graduate should consider. A digital portfolio is a perfect addition to your resume, allowing you to show what makes you unique while also controlling your digital narrative. A digital portfolio helps you create the narrative in a positive way. It showcases what you’re capable of and highlights work that you’re the most proud of producing.

Online portfolios aren’t just for creative careers. They can be useful for just about any career field, from teachers to construction workers. A link to your portfolio in your resume allows hiring managers to become familiar with your work easily before an interview. Here are three things to consider while building an online portfolio:

1. Show off your skills

A student in the library working on her computer and taking notes of something.The benefit to a portfolio is that it can be both universal in scope and incredibly specific for an audience. Not every job is going to require the same thing, so your portfolio should highlight all of your skills. Think of your portfolio as an extension of your resume, as well as a trophy case of your best work. Portfolios are great for showing, not telling. Photos, short descriptions, and organized sections are perfect for highlighting the things that show how well you do each skill. Remember to keep it neat, as visual as possible, and easy to navigate for potential employers.

2. Build off your resume and define your narrative

Employers are not looking for descriptions of the previous job you had, they want concrete evidence of what you can contribute. Portfolios can be the perfect exclamation point to your resume by offering several examples of what skills you possess. The best examples of what you can do come from college assignments and even activities that you’ve been involved in. Did you help coordinate an event? Did you participate in a big project? Did you have an assignment that you aced? These papers or projects show off your ability to understand instructions and perform desired tasks, the keys to a great worker. A resume highlights your accomplishments in school, at a job, or internship. Use your portfolio to give better context to those highlights. 

A student working on her computer, building a resume.Portfolios are also a great way to market yourself. A portfolio can help build that narrative by offering extended contact information or access that can show how you operate in the professional world. Copying your LinkedIn URL or a dedicated Instagram page to your work can help show your ability to be professional even when outside of the work environment and linking to your online portfolio from your LinkedIn account will give potential employers further insight into your talents.

3. Be Creative

An online portfolio is meant to help show people who you are and how talented you are. Do not be afraid of making it unique. There are plenty of free online platforms that will assist in creating a website. Even free to use sites can allow for customization to really let your creativity shine. A great resume catches an employer’s eye quickly by showing what makes you unique. Let your portfolio do the same by demonstrating your personality in the professional space. 

A student working on the computer building his portfolio.It’s always important to stand out in a shifting work landscape. The best way to do that is highlighting what makes you successful. Be proud of those accomplishments! They tell the story of who you are as a person and a worker. Employers want to get to know both sides of you.

If you need some examples of what an online portfolio looks like, do some research. A simple online search will show you a variety of portfolios and ways you can create a portfolio that’s as unique as you are. 

Partners in Prevention Helps Missouri Students through Mental Health Struggles

Here’s a daunting statistic about Missouri’s college students and mental health: one in four college students in the state have had suicidal thoughts in the past year. Upon hearing that, parents may turn a blind eye and say, “Yeah, but that’s not my kid.”

But the fact of the matter is, it could very well be your kid, which is why it is vital for college campuses to have easy access to the diverse mental health resources students need.

Enter Missouri’s Partners in Prevention Program, founded more than 20 years ago as an organization that addressed the negative consequences of alcohol use in college students. Today, Partners in Prevention has transformed into a coalition of 24 colleges and universities across the state that are dedicated to addressing healthier and safer campus environments. Partners in Prevention is funded by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety and Traffic Division. With grants, Partners in Prevention provides campuses technical assistance to analyze the current landscape and determine what each campus needs for its students. No campus is the same.

Joan Masters is the project director for Partners in Prevention and has been with the organization since its inception. “The issues students are facing on campus are very complex,” she says, “and they are experiencing trauma and serious mental health struggles (which could have come forth pre-college) that could lead to suicide.” 

According to Partners in Prevention, 47 percent of Missouri college students report having suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives; 25 percent report having suicidal thoughts in the past year, with 2.1 percent attempting suicide. Fifty-eight percent of students who report having suicidal thoughts or who attempted suicide in the past year have not sought assistance. Students are also experiencing sexual violence on campus and are witnessing perpetrated acts of violence, but they don’t necessarily have the tools and knowledge yet to intervene in those situations.

“What we know is that on every campus, there are students experiencing trauma and struggling with mental health,” says Joan. “They are self-medicating with substances that are either illegal or not prescribed by their doctor, which is not solving their problems.”

For parents, it is so important to prioritize kids’ mental health just as you would physical health, and normalize seeking out help. Parents must look out for and care about all aspects of their child’s mental health in order to properly address suicide prevention. This includes whether or not their child is interacting with substances, if they are caring for their bodies, and if they know how to access and ask for services before they get to college. Joan encourages parents to equip their child with tools such as the ability to recognize if something is physically or mentally not right with their body, when to reach out and get help, how to resist self-medicating, and how to advocate for themselves.

“With these tools, if they are truly at the point of suicidal thoughts or actions, they will know to ask for help before suicide occurs,” says Joan.

What else can parents do to be present and willing to help? Partners in Prevention provides guidance on how to create three critical conversations with their college students about alcohol use, mental health and drugs. Conversations, not lectures, are key to finding out how they feel.

“If you have an 18-year-old going off to college in a few months, and you’ve never spoken to them about mental health, it’s never too late,” Joan reinforces. “Talk about your expectations and what you hope for them. Most importantly, when you talk about why their mental health is important, you aren’t just preparing them for college, but you are preparing them to be an adult. We do not want them to have low knowledge or high stigma around mental health, leading them to not practice those important life skills in college and fail.”

“College is an incredibly supportive environment, and attending college and living in the community is a protective factor against suicide,” Joan continues. “The more we increase those protective factors, and increase our child’s knowledge and willingness to receive help, the more likely kids will gain skills to successfully navigate through life.”

Over Joan’s two-decade career at Partners in Prevention, a lot has changed. She says less students are using alcohol, instead choosing to live a sober lifestyle, regardless of age. More students are coming to campuses appropriately medicated. However, marijuana use has risen over the past decade, with students believing cannabis is a cure for something and not understanding how it affects them. There are also more students than ever who have experienced sexual trauma, and they are coming to campus needing treatment for bigger issues than college counselors can address. With all of these very complex issues, students are finding it difficult to navigate through, which makes it increasingly important for parents to cultivate a safe space for their child to understand their mental health and to get help.

“Normalize mental health services and talk to your kids about what they are feeling and what they are thinking about, and ask if they need assistance with mental health care,” Joan says. “Create an ‘In this house, we seek therapy’ environment to take down the stigmas.”

If you find that your child is really struggling, let them know that it is OK to say that they need a time out and to consider taking a semester off to work on their mental health, de-stress, and get better. After all, they are what always matters.

Missouri’s Partners in Prevention program is the go-to resource for college campuses in Missouri. To access resources such as brochures, recommended readings, fact sheets and the program’s blog, visit www.mopip.org. Partners in Prevention also helps lead “Ask. Listen. Refer.” a statewide online suicide prevention training program created for campuses throughout Missouri. To get started, take the 20-minute survey at www.asklistenrefer.org.

Suicide Prevention for College Students

College represents so much to a student — the opportunity to start a fresh chapter in their lives and work toward their professional and personal goals. But it also represents a significant shift in lifestyle and habits; it is a period of transitions and lots of change. While some students can weather through the difficult times, there is no doubt these challenges have the potential to become too much.

A supportive group console a woman who is facing away from the camera, she looks distraught.The New York Times took a look at the pressure college students put on themselves and found that students who excelled in high school expect to do the same in college. While this is a common aspiration, it can cause them struggle. Students may worry about larger class sizes, more challenging curriculum, deadlines and difficulty managing time, as well as finances, student loans, and keeping up with extracurricular activities or a job. Combined, this can have profound effects on mental health… and in the worst-case scenario, can lead to the possibility of suicidal thoughts.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-43 in the U.S. This daunting statistic leads to so many other questions too. NAMI states, “A 2018 study found that at any time within the last 12 months, 41% of students felt so depressed that it was difficult to function and 62% felt overwhelming anxiety.” It is also estimated that one in five college students has a substance use disorder. 

Mental Health America of California says many forms of mental illness first emerge during the college years, often coinciding with young adults’ first time living away from home. In fact, more than one in three college students have reported that they have been “so depressed that it was difficult to function.”

Mental Health America of California goes even further in their findings about college students and mental health. According to the 2016 Annual Report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health’s (CCMH), there was a 5% increase in college enrollment, nationwide, accompanied by 30% increase in demand for mental health services, between 2010 and 2016. And of those students in treatment at college counseling centers, approximately:

  • One in two have received psychological services in the past five years
  • One in 10 have been psychiatrically hospitalized before
  • One in four report engaging in self-injurious behavior, such as cutting
  • One in three have seriously considered suicidth

What Families, Students, and Colleges Can Do

A woman comforting her friend with a hug.Suicides are preventable. Improving mental health and trauma literacy is a critical step in decreasing suicides and recognizing the warning signs to get people the help they need as early as possible. Students, parents and family, and colleges and community organizations can make a commitment to enhance their mental health literacy by using any of the following resources provided in Missouri.

Training programs like Mental Health First Aid Missouri, Missouri Suicide Prevention Network, Missouri Ask, Listen, Refer or Missouri Department of Mental Health Trauma Informed Care E-Learning Course are available to the public and can be taken by anyone with access to internet.

NAMI outlines these actions that can be taken by students, parents and family members, and colleges to lower the risk of suicide: 

  • Address concerns as soon as possible. Depression and teenage angst look similar, but if you think something is indeed wrong, be up front with your child about it — this will increase the likelihood of early recognition and diagnosis of an issue and improve treatment outcomes.
  • Encourage your child to talk about their mental health challenges with a counselor, family member or trusted adult. Fear of overreaction is a reason why some students may not feel comfortable speaking to parents. Be supportive and receptive to these discussions and how they can help get treatment.
  • If students have a pre-existing mental health condition, help create a college transition plan that outlines treatment continuity.
  • Parents and family members should be in contact with the campus counseling center if HIPAA and FERPA waivers are obtained from the student.
  • Drive home the importance of self-care and where to go on campus for emotional and academic support. Connect with fellow parents on college parent portals, Facebook groups and other online forums to discuss ways to get involved and advocate for resources and programming that address student mental health.
  • Discuss stories in news and media to have preventative conversations with your child about mental health, overdose or suicide deaths. They probably have thoughts, opinions and concerns they would share with you if asked. You may learn more about your child’s own mental health or substance use in the process.
  • Make a commitment to learn about mental health literacy to have a better understanding of what to look for and how to talk about mental health, suicide and substance use.
  • Students should be aware of and know how to recognize signs of mental health issues in order to help their fellow classmates or get help themselves. Help could include practicing self-care and being supportive to friends and classmates.
  • Talk, talk, talk! Students are more likely to talk with another student about their distress rather than with an older adult. Students should utilize on-campus student mental health resources and advocate for support and programming on campus.
  • Improve your mental health and trauma literacy by taking courses to learn more about mental health, suicide and trauma recovery. Resources may be available on campus, through the campus course catalog or through online resources.
  • Identify students who are at risk for mental health illness, alcohol abuse and drug use problems. Colleges should provide assistance to support the transition from high school to college.
  • Support social connections on campus that are aimed at promoting inclusivity between students who feel disconnected or isolated and students who are traditionally marginalized or at higher risk.
  • Foster an environment that makes it easy and comfortable for students to ask for help. There should be easy access to mental health resources and support.
  • Providing on-campus access to substance abuse and mental health services is vital.
  • Create an institutional response to student suicide, death or emergency. Crisis management procedures, such as access to emergency services or local and national crisis resources, should always be in place.
  • Support education around vital life skills, such as how social- emotional and physical wellness can impact academic success.
  • Provide training opportunities for faculty and staff to learn more about mental health, suicide prevention and trauma sensitive schools.

Seeking Help

Make sure your child knows that help is just a call or text away. Mental health support and crisis intervention are always available with the 988 Crisis Line or Crisis Text Line. Just text MO SAFE” or HOME” to 741-741 from anywhere in the U.S. to speak with a trained crisis counselor via a secure online platform. Through texting, the counselor can help talk through issues, including financial-related stress. The Crisis Text Line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

HappierU also has many resources to help. Visit the Show Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program’s YouTube page or short videos providing tips, advice and exercises anyone can do to manage and reduce stress, promote positive personal growth, and help you live a happier life using science-based methods.

How to Support Your Child During Their Time in College

Having a strong support system is crucial for college students. Over four years, they have to deal with the pressure of keeping up with tougher curriculum and forming new study habits, all the while balancing new friendships and maintaining old ones, joining new organizations and activities, staying in touch with family, and possibly working at a new job. Nonetheless, it is exhausting. All the more reason they should have an army of support behind them to cope with stress, anxiety and depression.

Young depressed asian woman hug her friend for encouragement.Family members, close friends, classmates, professors, teaching assistants, counselors and advisors all provide help and resources in their own way, making the college transition and overall experience much smoother and easier for students. Parents, however, may have the biggest supporter role of all. From early on in the college decision-making process, parents should serve as a guiding light for their child as they make decisions that could affect the next four years of their lives. Which college is best for them, and how do you know? What kind of financial aid do they need? Are they applying for scholarships, grants and loans?

Once a student heads off to college, these questions could shift to ones about mental health concerns and what kind of support parents should provide their kids while they are going to school.

The statistics around college students and mental health are alarming. According to a 2021 Healthy Minds Network study of college student mental health, 34 percent of respondents had anxiety disorder and 41 percent reported depression. Furthermore, a study from Boston University found that from 2013 to 2021, rates of depression among college students increased by 135% and rates of anxiety increased by 110 percent. The pressure college students face daily is real, and some are struggling to keep up. Parents should be aware and alert of changes in their child’s attitude and behaviors, which can inform just how much support the child may need at a given moment.

Facing Challenges Head-On

With rising concerns around college and mental health, how can you be supportive of your college student without being overbearing? When is the best time to approach them and offer your help? What do you do if they don’t want to listen to you or take your advice? These are all great questions to ask yourself if you find that your child is facing a challenging time on campus. Marcia Morris, M.D., writes for the National Alliance on Mental Illness that you should remember the five T’s: Tell, Test, Teach, Talk, Take Action.

  • Low angle portrait of teenage African-American student sitting on floor in their room and studyingTell your child that they can come to you with any problem. Some children may fear what you may say in response to their issue, or feel like they are burdening you with their problems. Remind them that you are always there for them and are always ready to lend an ear to listen.
  • Test their academic health by checking their end-of-semester grades. Students who are doing poorly and failing in school may be suffering from anxiety or depression, and unfortunately, they may think they are on their own in figuring out their school problems. Work to stay abreast of their academic standing throughout the semester, and encourage them to use on-campus resources and seek guidance from their advisors and counselors.
  • Teach them how to recognize depression and anxiety. Remember those stats referenced earlier in this post? One in 3 students have reported having an anxiety disorder, and 4 in 10 have reported depression. Teach your child to identify warning signs such as excessive worrying, overuse of substances like drugs or alcohol, inability to carry out daily activities, and thoughts of suicide. Anxiety and depression are treatable conditions. Your child has the ability to recognize how they are doing.
  • Whether they give off stress or not, Talk with them frequently through phone calls, texts, or video calls. Or better yet, pay them a visit at their school, especially if you know they have been feeling down. (It is also important to plan a weekend visit at least once during the first semester of their freshman year.)
  • Finally, Take Action if your child is experiencing severe symptoms of mental illness, such as suicidal thoughts. Help them find treatment immediately and guide them to stay actively involved in their treatment. If you have an immediate cause for concern about their safety, contact campus police and mental health services.

Other Ways You Can Help

Close up of African-American psychologist taking notes on clipboard in therapy session for childrenSarah Curzi, PhD encourages the creation of a “mental health plan” that encourages parents and children to be open to conversations about mental health struggles and concerns, in an effort to destigmatize them. In an article for Collegiate Parent, Curzi says to share contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as well as the community mental health resources available at school such as counseling or psychological services, or student health primary care providers. Make sure students understand their student health insurance plan, and what a copay is and what in-network versus out-of-network means. Some may not seek help because of costs, so let them know of what is available to them, including free or sliding scale clinics. Help them identify ways to build community and maintain social contact around them. Most of all, always be available.

Call or Text for Crisis Support

One of the best ways to support your child is to remind them that help is just a call or text away. Mental health support and crisis intervention are always available with the 988 Crisis Line or Crisis Text Linefrom anywhere in the U.S. to speak with a trained crisis counselor via a secure online platform. Through texting, the counselor can help talk through issues, including financial-related stress. 988 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When Does the Brain Reach Maturity? It’s Later than You Think

Life is full of milestones. Many are based on age: getting your driver’s license at 16, voting for the first time at 18, and being able to purchase alcohol at 21. With all these big events, you may think that your teen or twenty-something is officially a grown-up and ready for anything. Their brain, however, isn’t.

Dr. Angeline Stanislaus is the Chief Medical Officer for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. She says that, while it may seem like an 18, 20, or 22-year-old is able to make adult decisions, they are not developmentally ready just yet. This is because the brain’s frontal lobe, especially the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully mature until around age 25.

The development of the pre-frontal cortex of the frontal lobe allows us to process the pros and cons of a decision before it is made. “It lets us to do things most animals cannot,” explains Dr. Stanislaus. “Decision making, logical thinking, reasoning — all of those things happen because of the frontal lobe.”

a young student smiling and holding a model of the human brain.

The prefrontal cortex is associated with planning and problem-solving. MIT’s Young Adult Development Project explains that it connects all parts of the brain. “The prefrontal cortex communicates more fully and effectively with other parts of the brain, including those that are particularly associated with emotion and impulses, so that all areas of the brain can be better involved in planning and problem-solving.”

So, what does this mean for young adults? And why is it important for students, parents, and teachers to understand brain growth and development?

Think about the brain’s development under the umbrella of what kinds of decisions typically face teens and young adults. For example, with an under-developed brain, they may be more inclined to speed without thinking of the consequences, such as getting a ticket or causing an accident when they are driving in a hurry. If they are out with friends and presented with alcohol or drugs, they may not think about the short-term and long-term consequences of this behavior – what it means to fail a drug test at work, develop an addiction, or the legal consequences of substance use.     

The Role of Parents

While time is necessary for optimal brain development, there are things parents can do to help their child until their brain reaches full maturity. A story about young adult brain development by Today.com encourages parents to help their child maintain independence by taking responsibility for themselves in school and at work. If they ask for your advice in solving a problem, don’t solve it for them; instead, get them to build their own problem-solving skills by asking what they think they should do or if there is another way to handle the issue. Encourage them to reach out to an advisor on campus if they need additional help.

There are ways parents can help train the brain much earlier. Encourage your child to find a job, which can build decision-making skills and allow young adults to thrive in different situations. Your child can become better at money management and understand the consequences of their actions.

Staying Involved and Engaged

smiling father hugging happy teen son while he doing homeworkIt is important to create a level of excitement for kids at a young age, whether it’s through a job, hobby, sports or another healthy activity. Otherwise, the young mind tends to gravitate towards unhealthy ways of achieving enjoyment, such as risk-taking behaviors. 

“Because the prefrontal cortex is not developed, kids are not thinking about the consequences of their actions because they are just enjoying the experience,” explains Dr. Stanislaus. She says that for 14 and 15-year-olds, it is critical for parents and schools to foster productive, positive experiences for them, such as sports or other healthy communal activities. Kids who are more involved in such activities and have more structure to their day are less likely to do drugs and engage in risky behaviors, compared to kids who do not have structure to their day.

With the development of the prefrontal cortex happening through the mid-twenties, it’s not difficult to see that, as college students grow older, their behaviors change. “With freshmen and sophomores, they are more focused on having a good time and don’t think much about the consequences. Getting to all their classes and keeping good grades are not often a priority for them,” says Dr. Stanislaus. But by the time they are seniors, they have different behaviors, and are more focused on their careers. That behavior continues through their twenties as they plan for their future. They are much more responsible, looking more closely at their career paths, and determining life goals.

Tech and Young Minds

Girl gamer sits in profile with her phone in her hands.Today.com reinforces that while young adults are capable of making decisions, “They must work harder than mature adults to stay focused, make responsible choices and avoid risky behaviors. 24/7 access to technology via smart phones and the Internet can impact developing minds. “The developing brain is often overwhelmed by information overload. And while the brain is still developing, this can lead teens and young adults to appear unfocused, not goal-oriented, and to engage in risky behaviors.”

Dr. Stanislaus points out that social media consumption can have a negative effect on kids. Those who spend more time on social media have a higher risk of anxiety and depression. This is because they are always seeking likes and comments for social approval and validation, and the fear of missing out makes them feel insecure.

Social media also lessens face-to-face interaction and the good feelings that comes with it. Dr. Stanislaus stresses how vital it is for teens and young adults to socialize in person. “Human beings need engagement and interaction,” she says. “With social interaction from working in school or on projects with partners, there is a joy that is created, and they need that joy. Social media cuts away time in engaging in social activities that can bring happiness.”

The Takeaways

The most important thing parents should do, says Dr. Stanislaus, is to support their young adult as their brain develops. Kids are going to make mistakes — even when they are well into their twenties. Give them freedom, but help them understand the consequences of that freedom, while reinforcing positive behaviors. Show them ways to work through problems. If they do cross the line, talk through what happened and allow them to face the consequences within a safe structure. Allow mistakes to be made, but help your child learn from them.

Three Major Steps after Decision Day

Hey Seniors! Congratulations on a job well done!

It’s time to celebrate — and then think about what’s next! Don’t lose focus, there are a few major steps you need to accomplish before you’re ready to attend college this fall. For those who have not made a decision yet, there is still time!

Most schools, especially community colleges, have a rolling admissions policy. This means that they are constantly accepting students up to the beginning of classes in August. Here is some information that will be helpful:

1. Finalize all scholarships / financial aid

Two people staring at the screen of a laptop.

There are different ways to pay for school and most students have multiple sources to do so. Make sure your college has all your information so you are all set for the beginning of your semester, especially if you plan to take summer courses. Each student will be sent a document that considers all forms of your financial aid, including grants and loans from filing the FAFSA, institutional  scholarships, and private scholarships you have applied for separately. By confirming with the financial aid office at your chosen college, you will be able to confirm what your true total for school is. If you have questions don’t be afraid to ask your financial aid experts on campus!

For students who still haven’t decided, there is still time. The most important thing for you to do is file the FAFSA. Every year there are billions of dollars that go unclaimed by students that could earn financial aid but missed out because they did not file the FAFSA. If you have not applied to schools there is a chance you will still qualify for automatic scholarships they provide for academics. If there is a school you are interest in, reach out to their admissions office and they will fill you in on the steps you need to take. Find free help completing your FAFSA this summer at one of several events throughout Missouri.

2. Register for your Orientation

Students Walking down a Campus Hallway

After graduation, your college orientation will be the biggest day before you begin classes. You and thousands of fellow 

students will flood campus during the summer to get your plans finalized. Most orientations include meeting faculty in your major, setting up your course schedule, and confirming your housing. Orientation day offers you a chance to meet fellow freshmen for the first time and it is designed to be fun! Make sure you check out your school’s website and select an orientation date that works for you and your parents.

If you are still not decided, use this time to go on a college visit. A lot can change between the start and end of your senior year, so going to a campus with new perspective is vital.

3. Celebrate your Success!

A group of graduates celebrating their success.

The final months of senior year were like a whirlwind with spring sports ending, taking finals, and graduating. Take time to celebrate yourself! You are about to take part in one of the biggest changes of your life. That is something to be excited about. The more you can appreciate what it took to get to campus, the more invested you will be in your success while there.

For those who haven’t decided yet, don’t get down on yourself! All paths are not the same. In fact, most people go through ups and downs including changing majors or even schools. Remember that you have accomplished just as much by graduating high school and that your future is bright! Do not be afraid to ask for help while figuring out what’s next.

MyScholarshipCentral: Scholarships for Current College Students

three students sitting on a bench.

While many scholarships are only offered to high school students planning to attend college, there are a lot of opportunities designed specifically for current college students to complete their degree. There can be a lot of uncertainties when you go to college. One of the biggest is often money. Even if you no longer live on campus, college can be expensive and you might have a new bill that needs to be paid. Don’t lose heart because you are not out of luck! MyScholarshipCentral is an amazing site that compiles all available awards and gives descriptions about who may qualify. It is a very user-friendly site where you can filter scholarships to your specifications (gender, race, major, etc.). Here are three examples of scholarships you should look out for:

Purdy Emerging Leaders Scholarship

A student leader looking at the cameraThis scholarship is tailored to students in leadership roles on campus and is a renewable scholarship that can cover up to $5,000. It is available to current college sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Students with good academic standing and a 2.5 GPA or higher are eligible to apply. This scholarship requires three additional things; a list of activities and leadership positions (not from high school), a reference from a current advisor/professor, and a short answer on what being a leader means to you. By sending all of that information, as well as your EFC and school’s award letter, you are eligible to apply. This scholarship is open until May 31, 2022, and winners will be notified by June or July.

Morton A. Mitchell Scholarship

Many scholarships on this site are aimed at specific majors. This is an example of one, as this scholarship is aimed at students planning on working in the field of ecology or wildlife conservation. Students with majors in science hoping to explore this career field can earn this $4,000 renewable scholarship. Students in these major fields with at least a 2.0 GPA are encouraged to apply and fill out the questionnaire which asks for information about activities that you are involved in, as well as why you are interested in wetlands or ecology and conservation. This application is due April 15, 2022.

Zonta Club of St. Louis - Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship

A girl in a hijab takes notes in a large classroom.

Similar to the previous scholarship, this $1,000 scholarship is targeting students in a subject area. Business is the focus area of this scholarship. In addition to that, this award is specifically for women in the St. Louis area because the organization is based there. This scholarship is targeted at upperclassmen, either college juniors, seniors or students enrolled in a master’s program. Outside of the general information, applicants must fill out a 500-word essay describing their professional goals and how the award would help them accomplish those goals. This scholarship is due by May 1, 2022.

Just like applying for scholarships as a high school senior, there are plenty of general and incredibly specific options that are available to you as a current college student. The key is to be persistent and look at the various scholarships that you might qualify for. The good news is that MyScholarshipCentral is a valuable resource in that process. By creating your account, you are completing one major part of the process. Be aware of deadlines and try to be as prepared as possible so you give yourself the best opportunity to qualify. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your financial aid office for more information as well!

5 Ways to Maximize your College Visit

Visiting a college campus can be a major deciding factor when choosing where you want to go to school. Each place is unique and finding out what you like about the environment is important. But don’t stress too much about it, we’ve got you covered! Here are five things to consider before, during, and after visiting a college campus.

1. Choose the way you'll visit

A campus tour guide giving high school students a tour of the college campus.

There are many ways to tour a college campus. You can set up your own private tour, go on a class trip with your school, attend a large themed visit day, even just show up and walk around by yourself! The key is to determine what is right for you. If you have a general interest but do not know much about the school, consider going on a trip with your school where you get a basic tour of campus and breakdown of what they offer. If you or your parents have questions about a school, then a private solo visit might be right for you. If you want to see what the campus atmosphere will be like at its best, a weekend visit or time when the school is celebrating homecoming or other events may be a perfect choice.

Wanting to attend a school that’s pretty far away but cannot make it in person? Try checking out a school via a virtual tour. Virtual tours can take you through various buildings on campus while providing information about different degree programs offered. A virtual tour can help you decide if you’re really interested, and then it may be beneficial to schedule an in-person tour just to be sure.  

2. Consider meeting Faculty

A student talking to a faculty member in Student Services.

Getting the best education possible is the true purpose of attending college, so you should find out if you can learn there. A good way to do this is to meet some of the professors. When taking a personal visit, many schools will reach out to faculty who are available at the time of your trip to give information about their degree program. 

This includes going over possible courses, chances for internships, and mapping out your schedule early on. If you request it, you can even sit in on a lecture. This is an excellent way to understand what it will be like to go to a college or university, and is something that everyone should try before making a decision. 

3. Bring your parents

A group of people walking up the stairs.

College is a big journey for your parents just like it is for you. They will be just as excited and probably have worries similar to yours. It is important to have them involved in the process. While you focus on what it is like to attend the school, your parents will be interested in finding out if it is feasible to attend. College visits spend a portion of their time focusing on the cost and financial aid available to all students and depending on when you visit (ex. Your senior year after filing the FAFSA) you can meet with the financial aid office and discuss what scholarships or aid is available to you.

4. Eat the food

A woman carrying a tray full of food and a glass of orange juice.

As a freshman, you will spend most of your time eating in a dining hall. The sooner you try the food, the better. If you have certain dietary restrictions, finding out what options are available to you is important. Most campus dining halls have vegetarian/vegan options readily available, as well as gluten-free alternatives. 

If the dining hall is unavailable, then consider other options in the campus student union. This area will likely include more popular restaurant options with the convenience of staying on campus. If neither of those options are appetizing, this is a great chance to explore the area and try local restaurants! Talk to your tour guide to get suggestions about the options around town.

5. Ask for free stuff!

a pile of rolled t-shirts, like what you would get from a college visit.Colleges have budgets dedicated to promotion and advertising. Do not feel bashful in asking if they have anything to offer you on your visit. This could be a free shirt or pennant, a discount to the school store, free food in the dining hall, or waiving your application fee if you apply that day. They want you to enjoy your day just as much as you do, so don’t be afraid to see what they can offer.

A college visit will be the best indicator of whether or not that school is right for you. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to decide that big question: do I want to go here? Even if the answer is no, you gain valuable information that you can take to the next college until you find your best fit.

 

Find your Best Fit in Missouri

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

Missouri is home to over 65 colleges and universities that each offer their own unique culture and opportunities. So whether you’re looking for a change of scenery or to stay close to home, there are plenty of options to choose from. Degree program, size, location, distance from home, sports, culture, and student resources are all important things to consider while trying to find the best fit. We’ve highlighted several of these characteristics for you to consider below and a corresponding Missouri school to consider.

Big City vs. Small Town

Do you want to be in the heart of it all or in a small community with a lot of heart?

Big City vs. Small Town

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is nestled just south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City – a well-known area for shopping, events, and art. Kansas City is packed with unique and vibrant neighborhoods and offers pro-sporting events, live concerts, and some of the best BBQ in the country. But if you’re looking to slow it down, consider Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau. This small, historical river community is known for being friendly and having a great downtown area of its own. You can see a show at the annual Lanford Wilson New American Play Festival, or explore the Mississippi River at Cape Rock Park. Also, with St. Louis and Memphis being nearby, there’s always the opportunity to change it up, visit the big city, but come home to a small town.

Big School vs. Small School

Big School Versus Small School

Do you want to get to know all of your peers or do you want to see new faces every day?

Going to a school with a large student population versus a small student population can make a big difference. Missouri State University is one of the state’s largest schools with over 26,000 students. If you’re looking for a fresh start and to make a lot of new friends – this could be the school for you. A larger student population can also offer many benefits including more activities and organizations, more networking and potentially more diversity. However, if you’d rather spend the next several years making lifelong connections, a smaller school like College of the Ozarks is a great option. With a population of under 1,500 – you can expect small class sizes and a tight-knit community.

Two-Year vs. Four-Year vs. Technical School

What degree are you looking for? How much time and money are you prepared to invest?

Two-Year Vs. Four-Year vs. Technical College

The type of school you attend can make a big difference in your college experience, especially in the classroom and in your bank account. Two-year institutions offer certificates and associate degrees, and many students choose these schools to save money in the long run. State Fair Community College in Sedalia is a great example because it offers a wide range of two-year programs while also being one of the most affordable in Missouri. A four-year university offers bachelor’s degrees, which provide both a well-rounded education outside your major and an in-depth coursework in your chosen field. Truman State University in Kirksville is a great option because it offers a variety of excellent programs and top professors while being the number one best value school in the region. Technical schools can be a different experience altogether, offering certificates and associate degrees while giving students affordable hands-on learning and career guidance. State Technical College of Missouri in Linn offers small class sizes, unique career options, and a job placement rate of 99 percent.

There’s plenty to consider when deciding what will fit you best after high school. Missouri offers a lot of options. If you are considering multiple options and you’d like to compare them side-by-side, use the printable Best Fit Worksheet or the College and Degree Search compare option. No matter what you decide, you’ll make it the best fit for you.