December 30, 2018 By Becky Nail
College OPTIONS Inc. began more than 15 years ago, with a mission to make college and career information and opportunities more accessible for North State students and their families. Located in downtown Redding at 1321 Butte Street, Suite 101, College OPTIONS continues to expand its free services to parents and students through a combination of private and public education grants. The program has been able to help thousands of students, from kindergarten to adulthood, prepare for and achieve their dream of higher education.
Financial aid information is a critical component of the services provided by College OPTIONS. Brad Williams, director of financial aid services, presented workshops at almost every North State high school throughout last fall, helping students and parents gain awareness of the financial resources available to help pay for college. Additionally, North State students and families are invited to make an appointment with an advisor at the College OPTIONS Center in Redding. In the office, students can receive free help with completing the FAFSA and writing essays for scholarships and admission applications. Advising assistance can even be provided via phone appointments for outlying area residents.
Speaking of the impact of College OPTIONS’ services, college student Deontrey Fuller states, “College OPTIONS has been extremely helpful to my family and me since I started the college process. From high school to junior college, to a four-year university, they have guided me and given my family and me all the possible information we could want or need to know. And they were always so kind and willing to meet with me. I couldn’t be more grateful for College OPTIONS.”
Direct advising for students and families regarding college and career opportunities has always been at the heart of the work of College OPTIONS. Advisors serve almost every local middle school and high school in Shasta, Trinity, Tehama, Siskiyou and Modoc Counties. Advisors work weekly with students, school staff and families to provide college and career information and assistance. The team also works with school personnel to coordinate college campus visits and visits to various career facilities.
With financial and personnel support from school districts and local colleges, College OPTIONS hosts and participates in several major events that reach multiple parents and students. “8th Grade Days”, organized by and held at Shasta College, gives eighth-grade students the opportunity to learn about and engage with several programs offered at Shasta College. “College Quest,” an annual college fair held at Simpson University in September, brings more than 60 colleges and universities, military organizations and trade schools together under one roof for one evening, reaching more than 1,200 students and parents each year. “KinderCollege Day” held in May brings 1,200 kindergarten students to Simpson University in Redding to engage with more than 50 presenters who bring hands-on presentations regarding many careers.
To provide parents with the same information that students are receiving at their high school, College OPTIONS seeks to engage with parents in innovative ways. Several high schools have parent advisory committees that help College OPTIONS advisors reach out to parents to offer valuable information and deadlines. At several larger high schools, parents are contacted through a two-way texting program that allows them to ask direct questions and receive immediate answers. This texting is often followed up with appointments in the College OPTIONS Center.
The most recent addition to College OPTIONS is a comprehensive career exploration component that walks a student through a complete career exploration process. Students begin with a career assessment and work through an eight-step process that includes job shadowing, searching for and completing a college admissions application, applying for financial aid and understanding a financial aid award letter. The goal of the career exploration component is to provide a service that will save students and parents time and money as they navigate the college and career process.
All of College OPTIONS’ services are free to students and their families wishing to make an appointment, either in the Center in Redding or via a phone appointment. Many useful links for parents and students can be found on the College OPTIONS website at http://www.collegeoptions.org.