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Life Beyond High School

Types of post-high school education

These are generally colleges that have a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. However, although some technical colleges offer academic courses and programs, not all technical colleges offer two-year programs that lead to an associate of arts or science degree. Technical colleges may be private or public. Junior colleges and community colleges that offer many technical courses are often called “technical colleges.”

Local example: Texas State Technical College

Sometimes referred to as Junior College, These are public, two-year colleges. They mostly serve people from nearby communities and offer academic courses, technical courses, and continuing education courses.

Local Example: Austin Community College

  • Often referred to as college or university
  • Offer bachelor’s degrees (referred to as a four-year degree)
  • Some also offer graduate degrees. These can be master’s, doctorate, professional degrees (JD (law) MD (medicine)). These can only be completed once a bachelor’s degree is completed.

List of Texas Public Schools

List of Texas Private Schools

How do I pay for post-high school education?

Cost of attendance (COA) is the average cost to attend the college/university for the gall and spring (it does not include taking courses in the summer). It is required by low for the cost of attendance to be posted on the website of the institution. A variety of expenses are used to calculate the cost of attendance

  • Tuition: cost of the instruction, or the cost of attending classes. Different schools calculate this amount in different ways. Some might calculate tuition based on the number of hours (courses) you take each semester. The more classes the higher the cost. Some schools have a standard cost for each semester no matter how many classes you take (this is calculated for full-time students, meaning taking a minimum of 12 hours). Some colleges/universities also charge different tuition prices for different majors.
  • Fees: Can include library, campus transportation, student government, athletics, lab (if you are taking a lab course)
  • Housing: schools will calculate this on if you live on campus (typically a dorm), off campus, or with parents
  • Books/Supplies: this is the average cost of buying the books you need for courses. Unlike in high school, you have to buy your books
  • Travel: the cost to and from campus

**The cost of attendance will change each year. Tuition usually goes up each year so the amount you pay for tuition your first year will not be the same as your fourth year. 

Like scholarships, grants are considered a gift and do not have to be repaid. Grants are usually need-based. In order for the government and schools to determine a student’s level of need, a student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You will often here it refereed to as the FAFSA. You can complete the FAFSA during your senior year of high school. Even if you think you will not qualify for a grant, it is beneficial to complete the FAFSA because some institutions will use it to award their own grants. You must complete the FAFSA each year you are planning to be in a college/university. Often once you submit your FAFSA it will be flagged for verification. This is nothing out of the norm and only means more information is needed from you. It is critical you complete all aspects including verification if you want to eligible for need-based aid.

The main grant awarded based on the FAFSA is the Federal Pell Grant. Pell Grants are awarded only to students with exceptional financial need. Pell Grants continue to be awarded each year if your financial need continues to be the same. It is important to note that although the Pell Grant is awarded money, it does have to be paid back in certain circumstances:

  • You withdraw early from the program from which the grant was given
  • Your enrollment status changes (going from full-time to part-time)
  • You receive a considerable amount of outside scholarships that reduces your need

If you are not able to complete the FAFSA because of your citizenship status, you can complete the Texas Application for Student Financial Aid (TASFA) if you are a Texas resident.


Scholarships are a gift and do not need to be repaid. There are many available from a wide-range of places. Some institutions offer merit-scholarships. These scholarships are based on meeting a certain academic criteria, they might also include an achievement of a special talent (such as music). Some institutions do offer scholarships based on financial need (for more on financial need, click on the tab above titled grants). A few helpful reminders about scholarships:

  • Make sure the offer is legitimate. If it comes from a weird source or agency make sure to check it out. Do not give out personal information unless you know it is a credible scholarship.
  • Find out if the scholarship is a one time award or if it can be renewed each year. If it is one time, you will not receive it for the remaining years of education and this could put you in a financial bind. Also, some universities offer merit scholarships, but only to be renewed for four years even if  it takes you longer than four years to graduate.
  • Understand what is required to keep the scholarship.
  • To find more information on scholarships you can talk to your school counselor.
  • The federal government provides some insight
  • ChamberofCommerce.org has a guide on the best college schoalrships. 
  • Be aware of scholarship scams

If you complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  you may be offered federal loans as part of your financial offer from an institution. Loans are money you borrow and have to pay back with interest. It is critical to understand who is making the loan and the terms of repaying the loan. The most common loans:

  • Federal Loans: William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program
    • Direct Subsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need to help cover the costs of higher education at a college or career school. You are not responsible for the interest on the loans while you are in school (as long as you maintain at least half-time status) or for the first six months after you leave school.
    • Direct Unsubsidized Loans are loans made to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, but eligibility is not based on financial need. You are responsible for the interest of the loan starting from the day you receive the loan. If you choose not to pay the interest while you are in school, your interest will accrue (accumulate) and be capitalized (that is, your interest will be added to the principal amount of your loan).
    • Direct PLUS Loans are loans made to graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. Eligibility is not based on financial need, but a credit check is required. Borrowers who have an adverse credit history must meet additional requirements to qualify.
  • Private Loans: it is important to exhaust all options for financial aid before considering a private loan. Private loans have many conditions and terms including very good credit. In addition, the interest rates on private loans are typically higher than federal loans. 

The chance for a student to get an athletic scholarship is not as likely as you might think. There are three different divisons at the NCAA level:

  • D1 – what we mostly think of when we discuss sports in college. This would include places like UT and A&M. These schools can be fully funded (maximum amount of scholarships allowed by the NCAA). Only a few sports give full scholarships (for example football and basketball). The rest of the sports give partial scholarships, with some scholarships being very small.
  • D2 – schools that give some scholarships but not at the level as D1
  • D3 – no athletic scholarships

There are a few divisions of sports at colleges and universities that are not part of the NCAA.

  • NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) – partial scholarships offered
  • NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) – partial scholarships offered

To learn more about the chances of getting a scholarship for the main sports, click on the graphic below. 

Common questions about post-high school education

What is the different between a public and private school?

The big different between public and private institutions is the way in which they are funded. Most public colleges and universities were founded and are funded by state governments. Private colleges do not receive public funds from state legislatures. While public universities tend to have lower tuition costs, it is important to not let “sticker shock” stop you from looking into private institutions. Many offer sizable scholarships automatic with enrollment. 

What is the different between an in-state and out-of-state school?

If an institution is public often the cost is higher for an out-of -state school because you pay more for being an out of state student. This would be referred to as out of state tuition. If the institution is private, the cost is often the same if you live in or out-of-state. 

List of all colleges/universities in the United States

What is the difference between a non-profit and a for-profit school?

Non-profit institutions are public or private schools with the one goal of offering an education. They are operated by a board of directors and do not get paid. These institutions do not seek to make a profit. 

For-profit schools are a businesses offering the product of an education. These institutions provide financial returns to their investors. 

What does it mean if a school is accredited?

The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality. Accreditors, which are private educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an accreditor’s evaluation and that meet an accreditor’s criteria are then “accredited.”

Can I get a degree online?

Absolutely! Many colleges and universities offer online programs for students. It is important to know not all online programs are equal. By choosing an accredited online program, you can make sure the curriculum and institution have been evaluated. You can find list of accredited online colleges in Texas.