Archive for the ‘5. Undergraduate’ Category

Is Getting Into College Easier?

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Is Getting Into College Easier?

          You may have read or heard about how the number of applications have spiked at so-called prestigious colleges around the country. That triggers fear in many households with college bound students. Fear is an often-used emotion to control the actions of people as to what to do (or not do) going forward. Some observers of the college selection process  say it is actually easier to get into colleges (even the more competitive ones) than in previous years. Really?

      They say that many students do not realize that getting into a good college today is a lot easier, and will become even more so in the coming years. That is the case, according to the Hechinger Report. The writers of the report say it is important to let go of the “fear” mindset because they claim it is one of the reasons why students do not bother to apply to more competitive colleges. Instead, they settle for lower quality schools, when they could have been accepted to much better institutions.

Actually, that is not the case with the students we have been guiding over the last 25 years. They are very much focused on the most competitive colleges, often too much so. When their college list begins to take shape, they are often doing it the wrong way…from the top down, rather than the bottom up.

If the reader has college aspirations, you must first think about what is college for and why it is the logical next step for YOU? Though it may become easier to get accepted to college, the same due diligence in finding the colleges best qualified to help you reach your goals is just as important as always. Therefore, even though many colleges and universities may not be that selective, don’t neglect taking the steps that will help you determine if the college to which you apply is qualified to help you reach your goals.

By the way, don’t fall for the well-meaning but misinformed guidance of colleges and some counselors that tell you “Don’t worry about what you want to major in or do for a career. You will have plenty of time to figure that out in college”. If you believe that, read this now.

Yes, it may be easier to get into college in the coming years as there will fewer high school graduates until 2023. We are already seeing college Enrollment Managers conceive ways to not only “fill seats” but with the most revenue/per seat. Many colleges and universities will be increasing their marketing efforts to attract these students. Families might get to finally have (dare I say) the negotiating power. That’s because these institutions compete with each other when it comes to the record number of applicants. You may already have seen how colleges encourage everyone to apply without regard to their qualifications. The more applications they get, the more they can reject, thus moving up in the rankings.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center‘s said that there’s actually going to be more colleges looking for students, so getting into college is not something students should be worried about. But what I say is, they should be worried about how they are going to pay for it. For that and other answers to your questions, call us.

Millionaire Next Door

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

A college education has long been viewed as a ticket to a better quality of life. Though it is truly a milestone decision in a young person’s life it does not necessarily mean that a particular college decision will have the highest rate of return in achieving life goals. Unfortunately, some students do not think clearly about this decision, buying the brand name college and taking on large amounts of debt.

For students who don’t want to have daunting repayment obligations, without a solid income opportunity consider this:

  1. Know the average amount of debt that students carry at each of your potential colleges. Check out college-insight.org for such information.
  2. Complete a money-saving “Dry Run” before you even have a final list of colleges in mind.
  3. Discuss with counselors and advisors what majors to consider and understand how your natural strengths and innate characteristics fit related careers.
  4. Earn and save money during college. Many bright students are earning over $1000/month part-time while in college without sacrificing their academic responsibilities. Call Eric and he will show you how they are doing it. 

“Excessive student debt, often made without an explicit decision on its impact on future life choices, not only restricts traditional career choices but the basic ability of young people to take risks – requiring them to defer their dreams,” says Robert Shireman, executive director for the nonprofit Project on Student Debt.

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average 2016 graduate carried $25,250 in loans. (Not to mention what the parents have borrowed.) The big galoot above says to the young graduate, “Yo! I am your new roommate…for the next thirty years.”

Astrid Neilson, a 23-year-old who graduated from the University of Virginia, assumed a huge financial burden to attend a public university as an out-of-state student. Her life is definitely impacted by the $90,000 college debt from the college. (Some of that were signature loans from a relative.) “I really want to go to law school, but can’t unless I get a scholarship.” Possible, but not likely.

Neilson did not consider future income before assuming her loans, although she anticipated always working in the nonprofit or public sector. Her choices confirm a recent survey by student-loan provider Sallie Mae that post-graduate income was not a factor for an incredible 70 %  of students and parents in determining how much to borrow to finance a college degree. (Can you say “Dry Run”?)

The Millionaire Next DoorSo after the glossy college brochures arrive in the mail and the visits to leafy college campuses are over, students need to ask themselves: Can I afford this school without excessive borrowing? If money saved falls short, consider living at home for two years, get the necessary pre-requisites out of the way at a community college and transfer to your state or private university. Be smart now and financially independent later.

Don’t like that option? Then you should read The Millionaire Next Door.

…continuing the Milestone Step

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Some students go to college knowing exactly what they want to do. But most don’t. At large state universities it is not uncommon that over 75% percent of freshmen, even those who have declared a major, say they are uncertainCollege Students in stands about their major, and half will change their minds after they declare, sometimes more than once. That is one big reason that only 37% of students graduate in four years.

Colleges and universities have vested interests in students declaring early. Retention rates for declared students are better, and they are more likely to graduate in four years. But college officials also recognize that deciding on a major can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with the fear that a wrong choice will result in added semesters and tuition. Students no longer have the luxury of stumbling into a major or making mistakes, not that they ever did.

This requires thinking ahead. Teenagers are not expected to know what to do with the rest of their lives at age 18, but with coaching they can cover the bases with prudent planning. Some majors have a curriculum that follows a tight sequence of courses. It’s easier to switch out of engineering than it is to take it up  later in the college career.

The biggest mistake students make is failing to research what’s required of the major, and the profession. Nursing may sound attractive because a student “wants to help people,” but nursing students take the same demanding math and science curriculum as premed students, and the work is often technical and not for every kindhearted soul. It is also a similar track with Physical Therapy.

More niche filling additions to the list obviously reflect marketplace trends and student demand, like culinary science/culinology, digital arts and sports communication. At Montclair State University in New Jersey, which offers 300 majors, minors and concentrations, a new fashion studies major has been hugely popular, thanks to the university’s proximity to Manhattan; with Madison Square Garden and Giants Stadium in sight. It also guides the ambitious undergrad toward internship opportunities in a sports industry and event-planning major within its business school.

Still, it’s difficult to predict the employment market. That is why I will encourage students to think “outside the hqdefaultbox”. In other words if the job doesn’t exist…create one.  Many students choose majors they think will lead to jobs, but four years from now freshmen will be applying for jobs that don’t even exist today.

Most employers are looking for transferable skills…the ability to problem solve, work collaboratively, write and speak clearly and think critically. These can be developed in any liberal arts discipline. It makes no sense to “suffer through a major because you think it will lead to employment.

In the final analysis, wherever a teenager goes and does after high school, which I call “Crossing the Gap…Preparing for the Transition”, where they go does not matter as much as what they do when they got there.

The late great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said this ~“A formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune!”  These two college graduates understood that. You can too! 1 (978) 820-1295

Fifteen Extraordinary Colleges

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

  Five Extraordinary Colleges You’ve Never Heard of…until Now

     In our offices we have large North American maps with the locations of most all the colleges in the U.S. and Canada. It is always fun to place a pin into the map where a student of ours matriculated but never knew existed before meeting with us.

In my first essay of the “Extraordinary Colleges You Never Heard of …until Now” series, Deep Springs College in California was one of those colleges. In mysecond essay it was Shimer College in Chicago, one of the most unique colleges in the U.S., to receive a pin. I hope you read the first two installments above if you haven’t already.

As seniors wait to hear from all their colleges to which they applied it is now time for juniors and sophomores to continue the exploratory process. We are going to begin our next college road trip in the beautiful state of Maine in one of the most sought after vacation spots in the Northeast…Bar Harbor, Maine, the epitome of New England charm.

There, smack dab on the Atlantic Ocean you will find The College of The Atlantic.Eat your hearts out Southern California! The beauty and historic significance of the Maine coast puts the boring sun drenched Pacific beaches and ubiquitous shopping centers to shame. Mount Desert Island was a summer escape for wealthy families looking to get away from the heat of the cities. Today, a little Gilded Age charm still exists. A stone castle built in 1895, now acts as College of the Atlantic’s main administrative building, while other homes have been purchased and renovated into residence halls.

Amazingly, the College’s 350 or so independent, bright, committed and VERY environmentally conscious students consider Acadia National Park as their backyard and personal research laboratory. Ask any one of them what their degree is in and they will tell you “Human Ecology”! I love that! When you understand what it is, maybe you will too.

….Continue reading here

How to Ensure That College is a Good Investment

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

All I have left is this tshirtAs the high school Class of 2016 becomes the Class of 2020 as freshmen in college, the College Board continues to support the belief that earning a college degree now is more important than ever before in the global economy. A typical bachelor’s-degree recipient, they claim, earns 80 percent more than a high school graduate during a 40-year career, more than $500,000 over a lifetime. That financial incentive has resulted in an enrollment surge in the past decade for American colleges and universities.

In addition, since 1990, supply and demand and increased Federal Aid loan and grant programs (for the poor) have allowed colleges to continue increasing tuition and fees faster than inflation since 1990. (Grove City College is a prime exception.) This has stretched the budgets of parents with incomes ranging from $100,000 to $350,000 to save even enough to cover one or two years of college costs. In past posts I discussed why college is so expensive.

When the financial bubble burst because of lack of oversight of investment banks in 2008, average college costs in the U.S. consumed some 40 percent of median earnings in the United States, up from less than a quarter of income eight years earlier. baflr23_frank_walts_630Now as students and parents have fallen prey to the student loan scam, debt has surpassed more than $1 trillion, parents are asking what they were getting in return for the high cost of a college degree. While the value of higher education to prepare for a career continues to be the big selling point promoting college, prospective students and their parents are beginning to cast doubt on the return on investment of certain majors and particular colleges.

In response, many colleges, like Lafayette, and High Point University are focusing even more on the outcomes of their students and are putting in place programs to better prepare their undergraduates for the job market. In an extensive survey of college leaders, conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education in the fall of 2014, six in 10 of them reported an increase in discussions about job preparation for their graduates in just the past three years. The survey, completed by some 800 vice presidents, deans and directors at two-year and four year colleges, focused on their attitudes about the value of their degrees, strategies to measure the outcomes of their graduates, and what skills higher education should provide to students.

President Obama used the annual address to announce new higher-education proposals, proposals that did not bring joy to college cropped-money-pic-2.jpg
administrators who wanted more federal dollars for student aid. But on this night, the president was not to announce any new federal investment in higher education. Instead, he said his administration would release a new ‘College Scorecard’ that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criterion: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Now there would be a government tool (and additional layers of costly, redundant bureaucracy) that would turn college into a product to compare in the same way consumers size up cars or televisions in Consumer Reports. The more things that change, the more they stay the same. Everyone wants to protect what they have, particularly if what they have is a cash cow.

Working with students with college aspirations, we show them the value of following steps that will lead to the outcomes they want. One of those steps is helping them discover what they want and another to help them understand the financial ramifications of those decisions.

Success Next xitWhile colleges and universities attempt to redefine their approaches to measuring student outcomes after graduation, we show families how to do their own due diligence in measuring the merits of colleges by asking good questions and applying good old, albeit rare, critical thinking.

It all starts with a complimentary “get acquainted” no obligation conversation with us at (978) 820-1295. Simple postgraduate surveys are not enough for many prospective parents and students to. But there are proven methods to prepare students for the job market and measure their success long after graduation.

Have You Heard About Our “Dry Run”?

Monday, July 27th, 2015

I wish I heard about you sooner.” is not an uncommon response after I explain what we do. “I expected that at least two of the colleges my daughter had her heart set on would give her more financial aid.”  Every year, several families come to us because they heard from someone that we can help them “get more money” from the top choice colleges to which their child has been accepted.

Quite often we can, but once the horse has jumped the fence and headed for the hills it is much harder to do. You do not want to be a parent who realizes too late that the cost of four years of college is not possible without borrowing an amount that resembles the cost of a used Rolls Royce.

No matter how often I talk about the importance of our money saving “heart attack prevention” exercise called the “Dry Run” (step # 3 in the college planning timeline) there are still families that do not take advantage of it. Of course, it is not the end of the world if the student attends a community college for a couple of years. In fact it could be a good strategy in some instances. But more satisfactory outcomes result with planning that includes an early look at the financial options all families have.

Many families go through the college selection process content not to question the colleges’ “we have financial aid” pitch or “our average grant package is $33,000.” Wide eyed impressionable teenagers are told to “just put your application in and then apply for financial aid.” Once you are accepted “we will send you a financial aid package.”

All that students hear (and some parents) is what they want to hear. Reality comes knocking at the door too late for many of them. Though the most frugal and financially savvy parents have saved enough to cover the first year or two, it often does not cover all four…or dare I say, five or six. To do that is very difficult without a steady source of extra income coming into the household. (By the way, we do have a solution for that too. Read the last paragraph here; then give us a call.)

In the meantime, if you have a student still in high school with college aspirations, NOW, not later, is the time to call to complete a “Dry Run”. It does not matter if the college list hasn’t been started yet either. We can suggest appropriate colleges.

Are You a Procrastinator?

Monday, April 20th, 2015

If you are, you may put off reading this. That would be your first mistake. To all you college bound students, you will soon be taking a milestone step in your life journey. Hopefully it will be the college of your dreams. Even if it is not, if you have done your research properly, all will work out fine. Thousands of college graduates have learned, in hindsight, that it was meant to be and it wasn’t bad after all.

They quickly learned in the first month of college that a professor’s expectations and assignments given would be nothing like those from teachers in high school, even those AP classes they took that were supposed to prepare them for college level work. Those that got through in four years quickly learned how to get organized and stay focused.

If you were a last minute kind of student in high school, that may have worked. But college is a different world. If it is not, then you may be at the wrong college. Because if you are not challenged, you will not grow intellectually, spiritually or socially. But I digress.

The phrase, “I’ll do it later” is probably the biggest killer of college success. Chances are, you will not get it done later. If you do “wing it” later, it will be sloppy and not your best effort. This causes stress and sets you up for the kind of anxiety that leads to dropping out of college because of low grades and/or illness.

The day planner that your proud grandmother gives you at high school graduation won’t do you any good if you are constantly putting things off. Sometimes students (and adults) put things off because they are intimidated by them. It manifests in the subconscious. You are afraid of failure so you set yourself up for failure. The solution is to simply get started. Break the task into manageable chunks and schedule time for each task.

Maybe it is long blocks of time that you find intimidating or tedious. No problem. You can do anything for 25 minutes. Am I right? Work with NO distractions. Put the electronic gizmos away and out of sight and sound. That includes the ear buds. No, you don’t work better when you listen to “music”. 🙂

Buy a timer and set it for 25 minutes. Focus on the task seriously for that period. As you  begin to see something accomplished, whether it is a writing or reading assignment, you will begin to feel better about it. Dare I say, even inspired to do more. You also will soon realize that by tacking homework when it is assigned is soooo much easier than waiting until the 11th hour.

Still stuck? Another technique you can apply is to blatantly lie to yourself. Tell yourself that you don’t have to do the entire thing. You are just going to read a couple of paragraphs or just draft an outline. What will happen is that you will get some momentum going and realize that you can do more than you first thought.

Reading a few paragraphs becomes finishing the whole chapter. Outlining the paper becomes drafting the first paragraph and so on.

You are not alone, the majority of humans find a reason to put things off that we either don’t deem important or don’t like even if we know it is important. Even administrators at the most selective colleges like Princeton University realize that procrastination needs to be addressed. Look here to see what they have done to help their undergraduates.

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.

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 your self-assessments with us, do not forget they offer withing them 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 May 15, 2018 (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 how you are doing.

Generations

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

beloit prof imagesFifteen years ago two professors at Beloit College in Wisconsin published a list of observations they determined to be characteristic of the entering freshman that would be graduating in 2002.  It went viral soon after that and became a greatly anticipated annual event in certain academic circles. It is funny, it is eye-opening and it is scary!

For instance, if you were born post 1995, having a chat seldom involved talking. Java has never been just a cup of coffee; the US has always imposed economic sanctions against Iran; you never attended a concert in a smoke filled arena and rights of passage had more to do with when you got your own cell phone or Skype account than getting a drivers license or car.millennials 2

The list that will characterize the high school Class of 2014 (that will graduate college in 2018) has not been released yet, but if it will be as terrifying as last years ….YIKES!

What an interesting sociological study of the ever changing generational changes.

As a student of a certain era, I look back and reminisce from time to time. It is fun to do that isn’t it? I know that social scientists have put labels on various populations since the twenties.

In what year were you born? How well do you fit within that period of that time?

  1. 1928 to 1945 ~ The Silent Generation (Some might say the greatest.)
  2. 1946 to 1964 ~ The Baby Boom Generation
  3. 1965 to 1980 ~ Generation X
  4. 1981 to 2002 ~ The Millennial Generation

Now, it may be easy to place yourself into one of those chronologically but if you want to know how you truly fit in a particular generation, I suggest you take the 14 question POP quiz below. 🙂

I took it and found it uncannily accurate. Find out for yourself here.

Presently, all of our students are part of the Millennial Generation and most (but not all) of their parents are Generation X. Holy coffin nails Batman! None of them were alive when JFK was killed. Do they even know what JFK was planning on doing as President? How much have they learned about history in AP History?  I hope more than I think based on the annual survey below.

Are you ready for this?  Of course you are. Let me know what you think you could add to the list.