SAM loves students


There will be many people along the way who want to help you (your teachers, guidance counselors, family members, neighbors, coaches, pastors), but the most important person on your path toward college is YOU. It is up to YOU to stay on top of your academics and to explore your goals for the future.

One of the best things you can do for your future is to ask questions. Not sure where to go for answers? If SAM doesn’t have the answer, your teachers and guidance counselors most likely will (or can send you to the folks who do).

Here are three discussions we recommend having each school year:

  1. Ask one of your favorite teachers if you can meet during lunch or after school. This is an opportunity to ask someone who knows you about what he/she might see as your strengths. This could be an opportunity to ask about career options, opportunities to learn more about things that interest you, ways to gain experiences that will help you explore your interests, and classes you should take to help prepare you for your specific goals.
  2. Request a meeting with your guidance counselor. (Go to the guidance office; they can tell you who "your" counselor is.)
  3. Talk to family friends and community members about their educational experiences and how they gained the skills and knowledge they needed for their current employment. This could give you an idea of the various ways people approach education and give you real-life examples of how education leads to jobs.

Middle School

In middle school, you will start exploring "clusters of study" with your guidance counselors and teachers. These 16 broad categories of career fields have their own coursework associated with them designed to help you better understand you chosen field of interest. The clusters of study are:

  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing, Sales and Service
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
  • A/V Technology and Communications
  • Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Business, Management and Administration
  • Education and Training
  • Finance
  • Government and Public Administration
  • Health Science

High School

Students who do not begin high school academically prepared are much more likely than their peers to fall off the path toward graduation. And if students do not attend school regularly and/or fail too many freshman-level courses, they are unlikely to catch up to their peers, often leading them to drop out of school

-Jerald, C. (2006). Identifying Potential Dropouts: Key Lessons for Building an Early Warning Data System: A Dual Agenda of High Standards and High Graduation Rates. DC: Achieve, Inc.

Hopefully, by the time you reach high school, you have established a relationship with your guidance counselor, you are maintaining good grades, you are gaining experiences outside the classroom that build your interests and skills, and you are starting to explore college and career options.

One of the best ways to explore college options by talking with your teachers and guidance counselors, parents, community members who have attended college, and by conducing online searchers. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, do what you can to visit each in person.
Some things to remember:

  • Don’t limit your options. Explore various types of schools before you narrow your choices: two-year, four-year, public, private, rural, urban, residential, or commuter. 
  • Take an official campus tour. These are usually given by current college students and can offer you a valuable perspective of the campus. 
  • Ask questions. You should know facts about a school such as its accreditation status, retention rates, graduation requirements, job placement rates, career services, average class size, student diversity, and of course, costs.
  • Research your financial aid options for each school you plan to apply to. 
  • Don't try to do it all alone. Figuring out what you want to do in your future is a huge task. Ask for help!

College Selection

When thinking about which college is right for you, you have several things to consider:

Two-year or four-year? (You can always start at a two-year and transfer.)
Public or private?
Rural or urban setting?
Big or small student body?
Research institution or liberal arts?

As you start to investigate schools, you can find much of what you need to know about a school from its website, but don’t underestimate how important it is to visit the school and see the campus (and the campus life) for yourself.

Don’t be too narrow in your selections at first. You might find that you’ll want to apply to six or more schools while you think through what you want. Consider applying to a school that is a stretch for you plus a school that is a “safety” choice to help round out your applications.

When considering colleges, talk to as many people as possible. For example:

Talk to Your Guidance Counselor. Take advantage of your guidance counselors’ expertise. Here are the questions to get that first conversation started:

  • “Here are the schools I’m considering. Do you think they are good matches for me?”
  • “Are there any other colleges you would recommend for me based on my grades and interests?”
  • “When do you need to know the list of colleges I’d like to apply to?”

Talk to your family. Make sure and your parents are on the same page about the big issues, like how the tuition will be paid and the distance from home. Talk to them intelligently about what you are looking for in a college and show your parents that you’re taking this decision seriously.

Talk to current students. If you don’t know any students who currently attend the school you’re considering, use the campus tour as an opportunity to ask the student tour guide what he/she thinks. They are great people to ask about:

  • Clubs and organizations
  • Concerts and events
  • Advice for getting settled on campus
  • The best places to live, study, eat, hang out
  • On-campus jobs
  • Athletics

Remember: We have 7 colleges and universities right here in Spartanburg County.

Career Selection

Choosing a career while you’re in school can be tough, but by figuring out what you enjoy and what skills and abilities you have, you'll get a better idea of what careers you’ll find satisfying. That can help you figure out which colleges and which majors might be right for you.
Your middle school guidance counselors will help you create an Individual Graduation Plan (IGP) that uses 16 broad career clusters to help you figure out your path toward your education and career goals. These plans include general graduation requirements, coursework, and out-of-classroom learning opportunities related to the chosen cluster of study. They also help you align high school courses with college entrance requirements. 

Tips to prepare

Before you arrive at the college fair, be sure to review the list of colleges who will be in attendance and identify ones you want to visit.

Make a good first impression. Don’t wear tattered clothes or t-shirts with inappropriate messages.

Create a professional-sounding email account, something like Use this email for all your college-related connections to convey a positive impression and to keep your emails organized.
Make self-stick labels with your legal name, mailing address, email address, year of graduation, and intended area of study to put on inquiry cards (so you don’t have to write the same info over and over).