Archive for January, 2010

Another “Age Old Question”

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Another “Age Old Question”

If you are a current college student, are you always being asked, “What is your major?”

If you have one, why did you pick that one?  Does the question annoy you because you feel that you are going to have to explain your decision? Perhaps you are not even sure why, thus making you feel more uncomfortable.

I completely understand if you are. But if you have already completed our insightful self-assessment and still are not comfortable with your academic direction, return to that online link now. It is resource to access all during your college years. (Call me if it has been misplaced.) One of things that we help students with while they are still in high school is to identify their innate characteristics. That is, what are their natural strengths and weaknesses that make up their core personality?

Personalities, (barring some chemical changes in the body) pretty much remain the same throughout our lifetime. Interests, aptitudes and attitudes change. So, why not understand and appreciate who you are and explore the possibilities that stem from there?

Our educational system is set up to take us from secondary school, where we are supposed to get a solid grounding in the basic academic subjects, and then on to college where we get to pick the courses we want.  Assuming college is necessary, however, are you in college to learn what you want, or are you there to learn what someone else wants? Whether it is a well-meaning parent or prospective employer in a field that you are told, “pays well”?

Recent Stanford University graduate, Scott Keys, has shared what I believe to be a very helpful insight relating his observations and recommendations. Hopefully, you are getting the kind of advice from your college advisors as to choosing a major that is personal to you and not “cookie cutter”.

As he says, choosing a major is an important decision and “students are right to seek outside counsel when figuring out what they want to study”. Give us a call or contact us at the right, if you want to explore the possibilities. It all starts with a FREE “get acquainted” conversation.

Stop Asking Me My Major

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Stop Asking Me My Major 

By Scott Keyes 

One of my best friends from high school, Andrew, changed majors during his first semester at college. He and I had been fascinated by politics for years, sharing every news story we could find and participating in the Internet activism that was exploding into a new political force. Even though he was still passionate about politics, that was no longer enough. “I have to get practical,” he messaged me one day, “think about getting a job after graduation. I mean, it’s like my mom keeps asking me: What can you do with a degree in political science anyway?” 

I heard the same question from my friend Jesse when students across campus were agonizing about which major was right for them. He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to study, but every time a field sparked his interest, his father would pepper him with questions about what jobs were available for people in that discipline. Before long, Jesse’s dad had convinced him that the only way he could get a job and be successful after college was to major in pre-med. 

My friends’ experiences were not atypical. 

Choosing a major is one of the most difficult things students face in college. There are two main factors that most students consider when making this decision. First is their desire to study what interests them. Second is the fear that a particular major will render them penniless after graduation and result in that dreaded postcollege possibility: moving back in with their parents. 

All too often, the concern about a major’s practical prospects are pushed upon students by well-intentioned parents. If our goal is to cultivate students who are happy and successful, both in college as well as in the job market, I have this piece of advice for parents: Stop asking, “What can you do with a degree in (fill in the blank)?” You’re doing your children no favors by asking them to focus on the job prospects of different academic disciplines, rather than studying what interests them. 

It is my experience, both through picking a major myself and witnessing many others endure the process, that there are three reasons why parents (and everyone else) should be encouraging students to focus on what they enjoy studying most, rather than questioning what jobs are supposedly available for different academic concentrations. 


Step One in the College Process

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Contrary to what you may have been told, the purpose of college is not necessarily “to get a good job”. Though that is the most common answer I get from a student I ask this question, it is not often the result. But the odds can be increased if certain steps are taken before the student enrolls in college.

Through a series of conversations and assessments, we try to identify what a “good job” is for the individual. What a “good job” is for one person is an awful job for another.  If college is indeed the next step after high school, then how does one’s future academic concentration (or major) prepare one for that good job?

History tells us that the average student changes majors more than twice during college years. How does one narrow the myriad of choices down to one…or two?

Many less competitive colleges are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of providing the kind of academic advising that are more matched to the individual student. They realize that with the cost of college not getting any cheaper, if they are to stay in business the curriculum needs to be more relevant than ever before.

Most parents plan for their children to follow a four-year course of study. Changing majors and spending more time in school will quickly drain college savings and contribute to debt. That is why we recommend all students take some time to do some serious self-reflection while they are still in high school.

“Yea, right!” I hear you say. “To get my son to sit down do some “self-reflection” is like telling our Shih Tzu puppy to sit still when someone comes to the door.”

Yes, it is a challenge; but one worth taking on. For more information on how to identify not only appropriate colleges, but academic concentrations as well, give us a call.

Making College ‘Relevant’

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Making College ‘Relevant’



Thomas College, a liberal arts school in Maine, advertises itself as Home of the Guaranteed Job! Students who can’t find work in their fields within six months of graduation can come back to take classes free, or have the college pay their student loans for a year.

The University of Louisiana, Lafayette, is eliminating its philosophy major, while Michigan State University is doing away with American studies and classics, after years of declining enrollments in those majors.

And in a class called “The English Major in the Workplace,” at the University of Texas, Austin, students read “Death of a Salesman” but also learn to network, write a résumé and come off well in an interview.

Even before they arrive on campus, students — and their parents — are increasingly focused on what comes after college. What is the return on investment, especially as the cost of that investment keeps rising? How will that major translate into a job?

The pressure on institutions to answer those questions is prompting changes from the admissions office to the career center. But even as they rush to prove their relevance, colleges and universities worry that students are specializing too early, that they are so focused on picking the perfect major that they do not allow time for self-discovery, much less late blooming.

“The phrase drives me crazy — ‘What are you going to do with your degree?’ — but I see increasing concerns about that,” says Katharine Brooks, director of the liberal arts career center at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of “You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career.” “Particularly as money gets tighter, people are going to demand more accountability from majors and departments.”

Consider the change captured in the annual survey by the University of California, Los Angeles, of more than 400,000 incoming freshmen. In 1971, 37 percent responded that it was essential or very important to be “very well-off financially,” while 73 percent said the same about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” In 2009, the values were nearly reversed: 78 percent identified wealth as a goal, while 48 percent were after a meaningful philosophy.

The shift in attitudes is reflected in a shifting curriculum. Nationally, business has been the most popular major for the last 15 years. Campuses also report a boom in public health fields, and many institutions are building up environmental science and just about anything prefixed with “bio.” Reflecting the new economic and global realities, they are adding or expanding majors in Chinese and Arabic. The University of Michigan has seen a 38 percent increase in students enrolling in Asian language courses since 2002, while French has dropped by 5 percent.


Thinking About the Ivy League?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


Here is the reason why one particularly talented student chose Yale. WARNING! If you do not have a sense of humor or appreciate “out of the box” creative thinking by college students,  avoid watching this video. 

Where is the Money?

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Borrowers Beware


Recently I have been asked to help recent college graduates who are faced with enormous student debt. In some instances, they have had taken co-signer loans while in college. Those lenders like Sallie Mae were offering them in incredible amounts over the last 10 years. The rules varied as to when (and if) the creditworthy cosigner would be released from the obligation.

In 90% of the cases that will never happen and the lenders know that.

This article is about the misinformation and complex terms in college lending. Unfortunately, Congress over the years has been heavily influenced by the lending companies (now being bailed out by taxpayer money) and the colleges themselves.

None of them have the student’s long-term best interest as a priority. That is a shame. To get a quick understanding of the problem listen to this.

At Programs for Education, we have options ambitious students can take advantage of to pay off their debt faster. If you know of any student facing enormous debt now or in the future, give us a call.  Many families are paying for college from cash flow alone with this program.

In addition. all current students can learn about the various loan forgiveness and debt relief programs for graduates entering certain fields of employment. In the meantime, if a student is considering future college costs, now is the time to do a “Dry Run” to see how much they may have to borrow, if at all.

Student Loan Scam

Friday, January 8th, 2010



Not everyone would willingly choose to become the public face of the debt-ridden. Alan Collinge didn’t exactly choose to do so, defaulting on $38,000 in student loans only after a series of missteps and strokes of misfortune, but he has embraced his situation with gusto, founding to advocate for distressed borrowers and now writing a book, The Student Loan Scam (Beacon Press).

Collinge’s tactics have at times been controversial — he has been criticized for personally attacking student loan lobbyists, for instance — but with the Obama administration putting the student loan programs front and center in its higher education agenda, the industry he writes about and his views are likely to remain relevant. In an e-mail interview, Collinge discussed his personal experiences and his assertion that none of the policy changes currently being debated will make a difference for borrowers without reform of federal bankruptcy laws.

Q. Can you give our readers the 1-minute version of how you ended up getting into such a jam with student loans? How much of your situation evolved because of your own (potentially flawed) decisions, and how much because of the unfair practices or policies or rules by other parties?


Don’t Wait – It May Be Too Late!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

It used to be January, but now it can be as early as October of the senior year when thousands of families will be filing the FAFSA, Profile and/or Institutional financial aid forms. Many will be waiting for several months before they know if any of the colleges their child has applied to will  be affordable. Even if college is more than five years away, a ‘heart attack prevention’ “Dry Run” exercise is always a smart idea; even for those parents who believe that “money is no object”. The parent’s cry for help below is not unusual. However, it can be avoided when someone who is familiar with the individual college financial aid methods used by a wide range of colleges, gives you a realistic view of your family’s future Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A projection that is based on the often complex methodologies colleges use to determine “need”.

The earlier – the better

Please read this exchange carefully between a disappointed parent and a US News expert:


   “My son has recently been accepted to his first choice college, Lehigh University. They have provided him with loans and grants that equal approximately $26,000. The COA is $62,400 a year. My wife and I do not have available funds to make up the difference. What methods can be suggested to give my son the opportunity to attend this school? In high school he has maintained a high academic level, ranking 27/499.


   “I hope you have been successful in exploring your financing options. If you haven’t already considered it, a private (non-federal student loan is another option. Many lenders offer non-federal student loans, in which the parent acts as the co-signer. Look for features such as a co-signer release once the student establishes a good repayment record, or reduced interest rates for automatic payments from a bank account. Ask Lehigh if they have any recommendations.

   Best wishes to you.

   Verna Hazen, U.S. News Expert


How much is free advice worth? In this case . . . not much. Too little, too late is my first thought; what is yours? Why didn’t he find out that this would be his probable outcome earlier?