By the end of the week, local high school students must decide where to spend their next four years, and for many the decision is coming down to money.
Saturday is the deadline for students to send commitments to prospective colleges, said Kay Holleman, head of counseling at Gainesville High School.
“May 1 is national,” Holleman said. “If you do not tell them ... by May 1 you could lose your spot.”
Kathy Oxford, professional school counselor at North Hall High School, said the state’s Hope Scholarship has convinced many to go to school in state. The scholarship pays full tuition for students with a 3.0 GPA or higher who attend one of Georgia’s public colleges or universities Oxford said North Hall’s valedictorian this year decided to take advantage of Hope and attend the University of Georgia.
A full ride is the only way some students will be able to attend college this year, Oxford said.
“Without the Hope Scholarship, I don’t know where we would be,” she said.
Oxford said she also has more students going to Georgia Tech this year than in the past and many others going to UGA, Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University.
Leigh Cumiskey, a guidance counselor at East Hall High School, said she too has a large percentage of students deciding to stay close to home for college.
Many are heading to nearby NGCSU in Dahlonega and Gainesville State in Oakwood because of their proximity.
“A lot of families have lost their jobs,” Cumiskey said. “If you’re Hope eligible, a lot of kids are looking at Gainesville (State) because they don’t have to live on campus. They can commute.”
Some students also receive generous scholarships to private colleges and out-of-state schools.
Holleman said students lucky enough to have a number of scholarship options are left with a tough choice. One Gainesville High School student is choosing between eight colleges, Holleman said.
“Most have visited the schools and they know which ones they are narrowing it down to,” she said.
Holleman said she helps students think through the many facets of college life to help them make the right choice. Academic programs, distance from home and class size are all important factors.
Some want a more intimate learning environment that provides interaction with professors, Holleman said. Others look for more extracurricular opportunities.
“A lot of them want the football or fraternities and sororities that go with the bigger schools,” she added.
Chestatee High School senior Connor Timpone is contemplating many of those issues before sending her confirmation to one of the four schools she is considering — Georgia Tech, UGA, NGCSU and Appalachian State University.
She is interested in going to a school farther away from home, but is also concerned about the cost associated with going to an out-of-state school.
Right now she is leaning toward UGA, but she hasn’t decided for sure.
“It’s very stressful to say the least,” Timpone said. “But it’ll all work out.”