Archive for March, 2015

Spring Surprises

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

 cropped-college-pinwheel.jpg The Class of 2017 has seen a year of stiff competition similar to recent years. Once again, the elite colleges rejected 95% of their applicants. They all knew the 6% acceptance rates going in but it is still tough to take rejection. And to hear that “everything happens for a reason” is not any consolation for those applicants who were Valedictorians with 2400 SAT scores. In any case, where ever you go, keep college a four year or less experience. The fact is that only 38% of those who enter college this fall will have earned a diploma after four years.

The 60 or so “elite” colleges have over 90% graduation rates in four years. Yes, it can be that (or less) with most other colleges if you have done (and continue to do) your due diligence. Take responsibility for your education and the advising at your college.

But here are some reasons why that percentage is so shockingly low.

  1. ALL four-year colleges are considered. Both public and private from the non-competitive to the most competitive. Often large state universities and less competitive private institutions have weaker or overwhelmed advising staffs.
  2. Students may fall behind on credits earned in their major.
  3. They change majors more than twice; credits are not transferable.
  4. Students drop out for academic or affordability reasons.
  5. Some classes are over enrolled, limited or cutback and students are not able to take the prerequisite courses in their majors in a timely fashion.

When researching each college using the AAA method a student will be better prepared to avoid most of the above scenarios. This includes understanding the data the colleges are required to report on the Common Data Set. If you do not find the CDS on the college website or via the search box, ask admissions for it.

In any case, if the Class of 2017 thought it was competitive getting into college, they will need to consider this. Job prospects for new college graduates are at historic lows, partly caused by financial misfeasance and malfeasance on a global scale. If a recent graduate has some internship or cooperative work experience to show on his or her resume, that will help. But with the economy what it is, the challenges still remain.

The average student loan debt for graduating seniors in 2015 was $28,186. This year, I dare say the average will be at clip_image002least $30,500. Since the 1970’s student loans have increased the cost of college. In fact, that is the primary reason college costs are inordinately high! Need proof? Here it is! We are facing a “student and parent loan bubble” that will dwarf the mortgage and derivative frauds above.

If loans are a burden, parents and students should not hesitate to call us now. We have a sure-fire plan to show you how to become debt free sooner than you think. It makes no sense in starting off with a job that does not give you the ability to pay basic necessities, provide the comforts and lifestyle you want to have and still meet monthly debt obligations.

In the meantime, for newly minted college graduates… get ready for the toughest job you will have. Start by reading this timely New York Times article ~ How to market yourself.

Making Your Final Decision

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

               Countdown to National Deposit Day!

 

     At this time of year many high school seniors have heard from the colleges to which they applied. The most competitive colleges and universities are almost finished reviewing applications from all of the country and the world. For many of them, April 1 is the date they will send out letters to anxiously awaiting seniors.

There will be just one month from then until “National Deposit Day”. May 1 is the day by which all college bound seniors must decide where to enroll in the fall of 2017. Making the final decision may not be easy unless you have done certain things in the year or two prior to spring of this year. In any case, most students are usually presented with at least two positive alternatives from which to choose.

So how does one go about making an effective decision ~ a decision that allows the entire family to win? The following steps are what we advise our students. Think about these even if you will not be facing such a decision for a few years.

The overall goal, I believe, is to integrate the admissions decision with financial considerations. That is particularly important when there is more than one college bound child in the household.

First … Make an objective evaluation of each financial aid award. Determine how much aid the college is awarding in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans. Most colleges do not include adequate amounts in the cost of attendance (COA) to include personal expenses. These are books, supplies, personal sundries, and transportation. If you have done a “Dry Run” with us prior to your student’s application you will see that we often add $4,500 to the direct expenses. The direct expenses are the fixed billable costs, tuition, fees and room and board. You should too.

Keep in mind that college work-study is not a direct credit toward billable costs. Do not include that in your calculations. If there is a loan offer in the award (other than a Stafford or Perkins), do not include that either. Subtract all the other awards from your COA and you will close to knowing what the “real out of pocket cost” is for that college. Do this for each college and make an objective comparison.

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How to Show You Are Interested

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

 

When I was looking at colleges “DI” stood for drill instructor, not demonstrated interest. The DI was someone many kids in my generation had very little interest in knowing. In the myriad of acronyms and abbreviations surrounding the college process today, “DI” refers to the level of interest the applicant demonstrated in a particular college.

The question is, how much importance does the college admissions committee (ad com) place on demonstrated interest. The answer is, not much…some…and very much. In other words, it depends on the college. Emory and American, for instance, will admit it takes the applicant’s level of interest into consideration. Others, like Stanford and MIT, may say it does not matter how much interest you show, they look at all applicants equally. But I suspect they say that to ward off students who want to game the system, as you will learn here. 

Regardless of what a school may say, I recommend that all students make an effort to show demonstrated interest and learn as much about their prospective colleges as possible. It all starts with research using the AAA method. Once that is accomplished the student should have a good idea of the appropriateness of each college on his or her list.    Is it a good fit intellectually, compatible with one’s values and, based on the common data set, is it a reach, a 50/50, a safety or in the “snowballs chance in ____” category? Not to mention are they affordable?  If such due diligence still leaves the college on the list then further inquiries need to be made.

Such inquiries may be described as showing “demonstrated interest” and that is fine.  For instance, prospective students should know about the depth and nature of academic internship and career advising. Other good conversation starters are:

  1. Is the faculty 100% invested in the teaching of undergrads and if teaching assistants are used what are their responsibilities? (Universities primarily)
  2. What has been the four-year graduation rate over the last four years, and does it vary with major?
  3. Are certain programs offered in the (your intended major) department going to be expanded or cut back?
  4. I am a student at a high school that does not give grades. Are you familiar with the ________ Schools curriculum? How do you compare my application with someone from a more traditional high school?
  5. What will be the merit scholarship criteria for the “_______” Scholarship next year?

Do this more to learn more about the school’s attitude toward students than with the intent of “buttering up” the regional admissions counselor. Colleges can spot the disingenuous inquiry. Thoughtfully think about the questions before you call (or email) them. Of course, be sure you are not asking questions that are already answered in the “fast facts’ or FAQ sections on the college website.

By the way, too many students are taking their safety schools for granted. Applicants should have some good reasons why they would be fine at their safety too. Carefully research and show interest in them as well. Such fall back colleges have been known to wait-list or reject students whom the adcom has determined would not attend if accepted. No college markets itself as the # 1 “favorite safety school”, so buyers beware. Even state colleges are hard pressed to accept the students they once could because of the overflow of applicants. States are cutting back faculty, programs and other costly expenditures have once taken for granted. In many cases, a top student may be able to go to a private college at much less than a state-supported public.

If you are in the Class of 2018, now is the time to review your college list and make plans for the summer. Some of you will take Subject tests and the ACT this semester, but at the end of June you will be starting the college application and essay writing process, give us a call or email today. We will soon be announcing our college essay-writing program for students throughout the country.

Good News for the Undergraduate

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

     For 25 years I have been encouraging college students to take full advantage of their college’s advising services. (Get your free gift below,) This includes teacher mentoring, internships and the Career Planning Services office. One does not have to look very far to learn that many college graduates are leaving college with student loans and little job prospects much less any related to their chosen major.

     Yes, on the surface it does not bode well for the current undergrad. However, there are steps that both the student and the college can take to brighten that outcome. I was very encouraged recently when I saw the attention given to sophomores at some colleges during the annual ritual of newly minted college freshman saying “good bye” to parents.     

     It is encouraging to see more and more colleges taking their role as advisors more proactively. For instance look at Lafayette College’s website.They are not hesitating to open their books to prospective students with information as to what past graduates have been able to accomplish.

     If you are a recent graduate or parent, and considering to do something new, here are two resources I can confidently recommend. They can work with you wherever you call home. 🙂

    1. Kim Meninger, MBA, a very intuitive Executive Coach and Career Strategist. Take your first step here.

    2. Joanne Meehl Career Services offers terrific tips on her Blog and one on one counseling.

         If you are a college student, how much research into the advising and internship options have you done? If little, start to familiarize yourself with the career services office, even if you are a freshman. By the way, one student who took the matter of interning VERY seriously has turned her experience into a business. Meet Lauren Berger, the InternQueen.

     Once the freshman year has been successfully navigated and you know what is expected academically, it is now time to really get serious and think about why you are in college.

     The passing of Steve Jobs reminded me of his 2005 graduation talk to Stanford graduates. It is without a doubt, one of the finest commencement speeches ever delivered in history! Here are the transcript and video of his life changing message. Think about what he said. For me, it was one of the most insightful and spiritually aware statements of purpose I have ever heard. Let me know what you think?

     Speaking of “insightful” if you have done the self-assessment called “Do What You Are” with us, do not forget that is a rich resource of career descriptions and academic concentrations that are matched up to your individual natural strengths and innate characteristics that will comprise your personality for your lifetime on this planet we call Earth!

     It is literally at your fingertips for years to come. Take advantage of that. If you have not “bookmarked” the link, I will send you the link. In addition, if you have any questions regarding your choice of major, send me an email ~ help@SmartCollegePlanning.org

     Finally, all undergrads (or grads) that complete our undergraduate survey here by July 15, 2017 (in celebration of our 25th Anniversary) my gift to you will be the book The Secret to Getting a Job After College. We look forward to hearing about how you are doing.