Time is ticking for high school seniors to make plans for after graduation

High school counselors are bustling to make sure all seniors are prepared for after graduation.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:02 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Time is ticking for high school graduates and their plans.

Hundreds of seniors across the Pine Belt will be walking across a stage in a matter of weeks to receive their diplomas.

Although preparing for what’s next typically starts at the beginning of the school year, now school counselors are bustling crossing all the T’s and dotting all I’s before the class of 2022 says its farewells.

“Their questions are just what I want to do when I graduate,” said Kris Arnold. “Do I want to go to college?”

It’s a decision some high school students make early on, like North Forrest High School senior, Seth Steverson.

“I’ve applied to The University of West Alabama, but I think I’m going to stick to PRCC,” said Steverson.

“I plan on attending in the fall semester, and I’m going to go into the nursing program that they offer.”

Some students, however, need a little guidance.

“Since seventh grade, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse because I like helping people, but if it doesn’t go well, I’m just going to do social work,” said senior, Lydia White.

Inside the counselor’s office at North Forrest High School, Arnold keeps busy making sure all seniors have a clear path mapped out after graduation.

“Every student at North Forrest starts out with a traditional diploma,” said Arnold.

Like most schools, Arnold said they hit the ground running in August or early September applying for scholarships and college admissions.

“We do a lot of help with FAFSA, and we do a lot of help with what we use to call the MTAG but it’s the Mississippi Aid for Students,” said Arnold.

A school counselor’s job doesn’t end there.

“A lot of our students have never heard of anything to do with college or anything like that until they get here,” said Arnold. “But, here on campus, those conversations are starting in the seventh grade. We’re talking about the ACT and why the ACT is important.”

“We talk about why GPA is important. You know it’s all about the money.”

Scholarship money, that is.

Arnold said in years past, the school has accumulated up to $3M in scholarships for about 58 graduates if not less.

“We split our seniors up amongst the senior advisors,” Arnold said. “So, all throughout the year North Forrest is partnered with Pearl River (PRCC) and they have what’s called the CTAP grant.”

“So, any student who is in Forrest County gets free tuition based on that grant. It kind of makes up the difference of other scholarships and things they receive. Basically, in September when that application opens up we require all of our students to apply to Pearl River even if they want to go off, that safety net is always there for them.”

Arnold said grants such as the County Tuition Assistance Program and scholarships can be found on some colleges’ websites.

Now is crunch time for some graduates and their plans. Arnold says most students are squared away by September.

Steverson said with help from school staff and incite from his dad, he will always make sure to go after what he’s most passionate about.

“Whenever you’re looking for a career in the future, don’t chase the money,” said Steverson. “Money will come to you later in life. Find something you’re passionate about because if you spend the first couple of months in your career just trying to make money, you’re not going to be happy.”

“Personally, I’ll rather be making minimum wage doing what I love doing rather than making $40 an hour on something that I hate.”

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