Archive for April, 2012

“Houston…We Have A Problem.”

Friday, April 20th, 2012

That cryptic phrase was the actual message sent by Astronaut, Jack Swigert on April 13, 1970 to NASA Mission Control in Houston, Texas. As you will see here, it was a definitely a problem. The rocket was over 200,000 miles from earth and heading toward the moon when an huge explosion occurred on board. The process by which the rocket was turned around using brilliant engineering tactical skills resulting in a successful return back to planet Earth was miraculous.

The question is: Does America have the brainpower today to meet such challenges?

Now that I have your attention, let’s consider the problem. The immediate problem we have has to do with the lowering of academic standards in our schools (and colleges) over the last 40 years. What kind of preparation do high school students get for college or for life in general, for that matter?

More and more American colleges have incoming freshman that are flat out not prepared for college level work. Even professor’s at the most competitive Ivy League schools see the diminishing writing, reading and critical thinking skills their students have. Why is that?

For an in-depth answer to that question, you can read the insightful, exhaustive and extensive research by Charlotte Iserbyt. Her tome, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America is where to start.

There are a myriad of good solutions to the problem. But like most things, it will need a consensus that there is a problem and an interest in the solutions. A teacher’s ability to teach is obviously important. But teaching a classroom of diverse personalities is not easy.  It takes a special person who has the passion and ability to teach and inspire effectively. As I talk with high school students I learn that their interest in various subjects often depends upon the teacher’s ability to engage and motivate them.  It may not even be a subject they had an interest in before taking the class. Are you a student? Is that true?    

Another challenge that principals and superintendents have is that school systems are required to meet the state and federal rules and regulations of the Departments of Education. Ms Iserbyt does an excellent job of pointing out the problems there.  Do you think that government may have overreached and put both the teachers and students at an extreme disadvantage?

Parents should learn if the curriculum being taught is what the student needs to learn. Is it time to abolish the Federal Department of Education and return education planning to the states, and more importantly the school districts? Can we rely on the states to bring accountability home where it belongs?

Nevertheless, in the final analysis, isn’t learning a life long activity? As Saint Augustine once wrote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.” Think about how you can leave the world better than you found it when you arrived.

The Changing Landscape

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

The relationship between the financial aid and admissions offices has changed over the years. Only a few colleges are still NOT “need sensitive” and are genuinely need blind when making their admissions decisions.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of college bound high school students, those are private schools that are extremely competitive such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. There are about 50 colleges that still have enough cash in their budgets to fill a student’s need 100%.

Of course, the definition of “need” is the individual school’s (not your) interpretation of “need”. That is why we recommend every family complete a money-saving “Dry Run” years before a student even applies to a college. It is not necessary to have a final, or even preliminary list to do this exercise.

One of the first questions families used to ask when looking at a college was, “What are our chances for acceptance?” (That was always an interesting way to ask it because one would think that the parent was also applying.) With the ever increasing cost of colleges that use government loans and grants to fill their aid packages, more parents are concerned about the cost and the first questions include “Can I afford it?”

While admissions officers are well versed in SAT-score and GPA requirements for their institutions, it is now crucial that they know how to answer questions about eligibility for financial aid and merit scholarships. Although many admissions deans say they have always worked in close collaboration with their financial-aid offices, such efforts are becoming more critical as colleges tweak their aid policies and packaging to attract accepted students.

student financial aid Various surveys and my conversations with admissions officers reveal that monetary issues weigh heavily on their minds. That concern is not shared with prospective students during the college tour. When asked which activities were most time-consuming, admissions officers ranked “communicating with other campus offices,” particularly the financial-aid office, the highest, with 70 percent reporting that they spend a “high” or “very high” amount of time on that activity. More than a dozen admissions deans interviewed by The Chronicle of Higher Education affirmed that statistic, saying they were in daily contact with their financial-aid colleagues.

To ensure that both admissions staffers and financial-aid professionals have the same understanding of their college’s enrollment goals, many institutions have enlisted enrollment managers to oversee both offices and act as a liaison between the two. At smaller colleges, where adding more staff members might not be feasible, it has become more common for the role of admissions dean and financial-aid director

As we enter the second half of the school year and high school sophomores, juniors and some seniors schedule April visits, find out a prospective colleges financial aid methodologies. In fact, ask us for the “7 Questions to ask Financial Aid Administrators”. This will smooth the way to that conversation. Having a congenial Q & A with the FAO now, could “pay off” in the end. Remember, most financial aid officers have your best interests in mind, but they are also subject to the school’s policies. We can help you learn what they are beforehand. Call us today.