Decision Day: Advice for the High School Class of 2021

Naviance Student Success Stories – Blog Series by Tamir Harper

Congratulations to the Class of 2021 on making what is most likely the most important decision of your lives so far! I know the journey to get to this point has been challenging, but I can assure you that your hard work and thoughtful decision will pay off in the coming years. As you prepare for the final weeks of your high school career, I want to share a few words of advice based on my own experiences at that stage just three years ago in Philadelphia, as well as some of my first experiences as a college student.

As you received your various college acceptance letters and financial aid award letters, hopefully you and your family felt you had enough information and resources to advocate for the financial aid you need to make your post-secondary dreams a reality. There are several resources available today to help you appeal to colleges for more financial support that did not exist when I was in my high school senior year, such as Swift Student and TuitionFit.

My family and I actually did challenge my initial financial aid offer — I took advice I was given by my school counselor and asked the university for more money. This was before I was selected for the Frederick Douglass scholarship at American University, but I needed to ensure that I was getting as much money as possible to support me on my journey to become a K-12 educator.

Utilizing that advice to appeal my initial offer helped me get my scholarship and get to where I am today, soon to be entering the final year of my undergraduate career. Several of my high school classmates also benefited from using the scholarship search resources in Naviance to help put themselves in a better position financially as well.

While there are qualms about every postsecondary institution, overall I am glad about my college decision and very “happy to be an Eagle,” as we say here at American University. I continue to be an advocate for issues we face as Black and Brown students, and I am pleased that we continue to make progress in making historically underrepresented students on this campus and others feel a greater sense of belonging. I have had a growing number of leadership opportunities, including now proudly serving as editor-in chief of The Blackprint.

My advice to graduating seniors — rising college freshmen — is to review every piece of information, and to ask your institution to clarify if there are things you need or don’t understand. Stay organized and continue to stay focused. A strategy that I have adopted later in my college career has been to set aside my phone more often than not, turning off notifications, and ‘calendaring’ my time to accomplish the assignments and other tasks that are important to achieving my goals.

I hope these words of advice have been helpful and encouraging to you. Please share this three-part blog series with others in your community, but also — share your big decision with Naviance on social media using #CollegeSigningDay!

About the Author: Tamir Harper is a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar completing his junior year at American University, majoring in public relations strategic communications with a minor in education. Tamir is a Southwest Philadelphia native and a proud product of the School District of Philadelphia. At the age of 17, Tamir co-founded UrbEd Inc., a nonprofit that advocates for a quality and efficient urban education, by working to disband the school-to-prison pipeline, increasing teacher diversity, and improving building conditions. Tamir looks forward to returning to Philadelphia and entering the classroom after graduating from American University. Learn more about Tamir by visiting or via social media @tamirdharper.

Topics college readiness Self Discovery

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