…continuing the Milestone Step

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

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

continuing our road trip…

February 18th, 2016

Remember, this is a tour of “extraordinary” colleges; therefore different pedagogical methods may not be for you. That is okay, enjoy the trip, the ride will be educational. But for those students who fit the profile, the education one receives is rock solid (no pun intended).

Now, let’s hop into our rented Nissan e-NV200 Electric van and head across New Hampshire to my favorite state of the Union, Vermont. Nestled up in the Northwest corner overlooking gorgeous Lake Champlain is Champlain College. The city of Burlington is the home of two other colleges. One is the most expensive public university in the country, U of Vermont and the other is St Michaels College.

We are here to visit Champlain. Founded in 1878 it now has 2,396 “happy to be here” students. It has come into the 21st century with a strong endowment and financially prepared to offer innovative and pragmatic courses of study based on its’ “Upside-Down Curriculum” that are very much designed for the graduate to be highly employable in many fields upon graduation. In fact, 98% of them are employed in careers related to their majors within two years.

Watch the many videos that the communications majors have produced. Here are some students.  As more than a few students will say, “You will work hard in your courses, but you will take away so much more than you ever expected. The professors will not let you slip through the cracks, and you will learn more about yourself and the world around you in even the most academic of classes.”

Now we have to take to the air and fly from Burlington to Charlotte, North Carolina. We then drive to High Point, North Carolina to a university, founded in 1924, that would never have been included on this list of “extraordinary” colleges before 2005.
It was in 2005 that the High Point University trustees asked, encouraged, cajoled, begged and finally convinced Dr. Nido Quebin to become its’ President. What he has done in the last 10 years is incredible. Read and view the many interviews he has had since he took over. “Took over” are the wrong words. He has inspired faculty and students alike to be the best they can be. His style of positive leadership sparkles when he speaks. The focus is on the student and I marvel at his ability to bring all the academic departments together with a common mission.

At this time, the school is not that well known outside of the Southeast, but that is about to change. It is definitely worth a strong look regardless of your prospective major…there is something for everyone.

Of the many videos, be sure to set aside one hour to watch this one:  ENTREPRENEURSHIP ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

Our next stop is Pennsylvania. We are going to visit Grove City College 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. This is a very competitive liberal arts college with particularly strong pre-medicine, engineering and business programs. So, what is so extraordinary about that? You ask.

When parents ask me, “Why is college so expensive and why have costs, risen, on average, 2 to 3 times faster than inflation since the 1970’s?”, I point to Grove City College for the answer.

In 1972 the newly created Department of Education during the Carter administration, advocated for strong legislation that would make colleges, who wished to use any kind of Federal Aid in their financial aid packages, to meet complex gender equity requirements on their campuses. It was called Title IX. Over the years, the cost of complying with those rules has brought about ever increasing administrative costs.

Grove City keeping with its’ independent conservative principles cried “foul”! They did not want the education they provided to the undergrads be compromised by having to be encumbered with additional expenses that had nothing to do with education. Of over 4000 colleges, Grove City was the lone cry for sanity and critical thinking in the world of higher education.

However, they had to go all the way to the Supreme Court in 1984 to maintain their independence from Federal control. The landmark case is truly one for the history books! Watch the video in its’ entirety above. They have since been able to keep costs under control. The COA in 2015/16 is less than $27,000/year. The college is debt free and self-funds programs to provide both need based and merit scholarships to those who qualify. They do all this without paying their professors any less than comparable colleges, having students sleep in bunk houses, eat canned tuna or limit its’ athletic programs to co-ed croquet and ultimate Frisbee competitions.

Founded in 1876 it is a very traditional Presbyterian college and church attendance is required. But that may not be a bad thing. Do you agree?

beck-PamelaWhoops! What time is it? We better get to the airport, our flight leaves for San Francisco in two hours. The last college on our tour has made the list in large part because of its’ President, Dr. Pamela Eibeck, Ph.D. The University of the Pacific had been a very good medium size undergrad school for decades but when she took the helm at the same time her son become a college freshman at Santa Clara, refreshing changes rejuvenated the campus that, like many others, had become a bit stagnant. (“Fun Fact” Read about why her son was disappointed his mom got the job.)

When I tell promising students in the Northeast about this college called the University of the Pacific their eyes light up! “Wow, I have heard so much about the great surfing out there.” I don’t tell them right away that the Stockton campus is two hours drive to some of the best surfing anywhere in California…Santa Cruz. I want them first to think about why they are going to college…for the academics…right?

U of Pacific images (5)    Speaking of academics, you will not be disappointed at UOP. Because Dr. Eibeck was Dean of Engineering at a Texas University before coming to UOP, that department is tops but her academic; analytic and leadership skills have strengthened all academic departments. Like Dr. Quebin of High Point University, she has inspired the entire faculty and student body to work as a team and do the best they can for themselves and for each other.

Thank you for traveling this far with me. By the way, please send me an email if you have an extraordinary college that deserves to be highlighted. I know there are more than the 15 I have discussed on this Blog. I will be including some Canadian and Universities around the globe in future installments. (By the way, what did you think of the European College in my second essay?) 🙂

If you have a high school student with college aspirations or simply needs some guidance even if college is NOT the next step, give me a call @ (978) 820-1295. Smart College Planning begins with a complimentary “get acquainted” 75′ conversation.

 

Understanding College Websites

January 18th, 2016

 It was inevitable. Computer technology is here to stay. I remember in 1994, when one of my students said “Mr. Goodhart, you should get on the Internet, there is a lot of great information about colleges on it.” This revelation may come as a surprise to our current crop of students who were born after 1999. They never had the ‘pleasure’ of working a slide rule in their advanced math classes.

But after a few years I saw a need to help students understand college websites. They were spending an inordinate amount of time on the site, but coming away with little substantive knowledge about the college. Therefore, I designed an efficient AAA method to do one’s due diligence. When done properly the student should know the important aspects of each college’s particular offerings and ethos. I like to hear students say that it was almost a déjà vu experience once they arrived at the college…for the first time.

The winter is a good time to plan ahead for college visits. Spring is the best time for juniors to visit a few colleges while classes are still in session. That is, after applying the AAA method. I will never forget one college admissions officer describe her experience.
She drove her daughter 357 miles to tour Lehigh University. The young scholar would not even get out of the car! “Why not?” asked the seasoned admissions officer (aka mom).  “I am not going to a college where I have to hike up a mountain every day!”

No exaggeration. Now you know. Even college admissions officers have kids. Plus, they too can be tripped up occasionally by poor planning. The AAA method will provide the answers (even to questions not asked) ahead of time and smooth your journey. Go ahead and download it to your desktop now.

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

December 10th, 2015

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

 NetPriceVsStickerPrice     One of the many acronyms that college bound students encounter is COA or cost of attendance. It constantly amazes me when media only talks about “tuition costs” when they run stories about colleges. What they should do is include the fees, room and board and personal expenses to that figure. That will often bring the COA up another $18,000 or more.

Private colleges that use federal money in their financial aid packages are generally running about $55,000 to $65,000 per year “soup to nuts”. With the exception of about 50 so-called elite colleges, most offer merit money to highly qualified students or meet the criteria for those scholarships. Admittedly, a good 30% of private colleges and out of state publics simply offer “tuition discounts” in the guise of scholarships simply to get students to commit.

Having said that, I have had many students graduate in four years form fine private colleges at less cost than they would have paid at an Ivy League college or state university where the latter would be offering only student loans. For many middle income families state schools often create the largest financial burden to a family despite the lowest published cost.

In addition, due to the ever increasing strategy of financial aid leveraging and preferential packaging, an applicant’s academic profile will greatly effect how much grant or scholarship aid he or she will get. While not used by all colleges, these practices will negatively impact the aid a student who is in the lower quartile of the applicant pool. That is why I place a great deal of emphasis on researching the current class profile or ‘common data set’ to measure where the student may fit in that demographic.

Education-Savings

In other words, if two colleges have similar costs of attendance, a student may be offered entirely different financial aid packages should one of the colleges be using leveraged analysis or preferential packaging. Unless, you do a money saving “Dry Run” with us or someone else who is familiar with the financial aid practices at many colleges, you will seldom know which college is offering the best value from a financial standpoint. Even now with the required “College Cost Calculator” on college websites, you still won’t know the true bottom line cost of that college until one week following the student’s acceptance.

The differences outlined above can be as large as $15,000 a year or more.  These differences are often masked by sticker price. That is why we encourage all families to include a realistic money-saving “Dry Run” step in their college planning. If you have not done that yet, then what are you waiting for? Do not repeat the experience that this parent had.

Is Your Student Typical?

October 15th, 2015

The majority of college bound students do it the wrong way…is your student in the majority? Fall is college application time for seniors. The Class of 2016 is one of the largest most competitive high school class in American history. High school seniors around the country are applying to their “Dream Schools”.

Every year the following scenarios are played out by countless ambitious students everywhere.

SCENARIO ONE: The first is when a student falls in love with a single college but his   academic profile is in the lower 50% of the applicant pool. It could be a college that historically has less than a 10% acceptance rate or as “high” as 40%. He applies in one of the early application programs (ED, ED 1, ED 2, SCEA or EA) thinking he will have a better chance of admittance. It is his “dream school” and, while he may grudgingly add a few more colleges to a list to satisfy a nervous parent, he never really looks beyond that “dream school”. Until, of course, the rejection letter arrives in December. Because his focus and enthusiasm was wrapped up in his dream school, he did not pay much attention to the requirements of his other colleges. Some of which had January regular application (RA) deadlines, none of which he is prepared to meet.

SCENARIO TWO: This is more common. As above, the student may have what I call “brand name paralysis” and builds a list solely of “BNP schools.” These are schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley and Pomona where the acceptance rate is so ridiculously low that no matter how good your grades and test scores are, getting in is never a sure bet. Unfortunately, like the “dream school” students, they too are often disappointed. Likely they have been told by parents, teachers, or a guidance counselor that they are excellent prospects for these schools because they are so unique and special. So, they never really look seriously beyond those “lottery schools”…until, of course, the rejection letters start coming in the mail in the spring.

Because of the huge increase in student applications, some of the top students are even being rejected by their “safety” schools .”  (Colleges do not want to be thought of as “safeties”, so they are sending a message basically saying we want you only if you want us.) Talk about humble pie!

These two scenarios illustrate why I believe that college planning should start with an honest; realistic self-assessment. This means taking a critical look at the student’s academic statistics, interests, learning style and personality.

Obviously financial issues are important too. You can learn how to minimize student (and parent) debt here.

In other words, begin the college search by identifying several schools where the student has a good bet of acceptance and – more importantly – where he/she would be happy to spend a few years. These are the schools where the student’s academic profile places him or her in the top 25% of the accepted student pool. Once students genuinely appreciate (if not love) at least one safety school, they can safely move on to more selective schools and, yes, even some of the aforementioned “most competitive” colleges.

How to Ensure That College is a Good Investment

September 2nd, 2015

All I have left is this tshirtAs the high school Class of 2015 becomes the Class of 2019 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 criteria: 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.

What! Me Worry?

August 2nd, 2015

Dear Class of 2017,

One of the most popular humor magazines when I was in high school was MAD magazine. Are you familiar with it? Staring out on each issue’s cover was the silly looking young man above. He was Alfred E. Neuman with his perpetual gapped tooth grin and his now universally known exclamation “What! Me worry?” It was a timeless teenage sentiment. Can you identify with that? If you have just completed your sophomore year, congratulations, you are now a high school junior ~ the largest; most competitive college bound class in American history! Do not worry.

But do pay attention. You may now be in the same place I was “way back when”. Perhaps you are fifteen or sixteen years old with vague college aspirations? You may not have any specific reason to go to college other than “it is the expected thing to do, and/or everyone else is doing it.” Well, not everyone is planning on college and some of your classmates will probably not go to college. That is, not a four year liberal arts college. They may want to get technical training education or some sort of certification, however.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have You Heard About Our “Dry Run”?

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.

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

May 19th, 2015

 NetPriceVsStickerPrice     One of the many acronyms that college bound students encounter is COA or cost of attendance. It constantly amazes me when media only talks about “tuition costs” when they run stories about colleges. What they should do is include the fees, room and board and personal expenses to that figure. That will often bring the COA up another $18,000 or more.

Private colleges that use federal money in their financial aid packages are generally running about $55,000 to $65,000 per year “soup to nuts”. With the exception of about 50 so-called elite colleges, most offer merit money to highly qualified students or meet the criteria for those scholarships. Admittedly, a good 30% of private colleges and out of state publics simply offer “tuition discounts” in the guise of scholarships simply to get students to commit.

Having said that, I have had many students graduate in four years form fine private colleges at less cost than they would have paid at an Ivy League college or state university where the latter would be offering only student loans. For many middle income families state schools often create the largest financial burden to a family despite the lowest published cost.

In addition, due to the ever increasing strategy of financial aid leveraging and preferential packaging, an applicant’s academic profile will greatly effect how much grant or scholarship aid he or she will get. While not used by all colleges, these practices will negatively impact the aid a student who is in the lower quartile of the applicant pool. That is why I place a great deal of emphasis on researching the current class profile or ‘common data set’ to measure where the student may fit in that demographic.

Education-Savings

      In other words, if two colleges have similar costs of attendance, a student may be offered entirely different financial aid packages should one of the colleges be using leveraged analysis or preferential packaging. Unless, you do a money saving “Dry Run” with us or someone else who is familiar with the financial aid practices at many colleges, you will seldom know which college is offering the best value from a financial standpoint. Even now with the required “College Cost Calculator” on college websites, you still won’t know the true bottom line cost of that college until one week following the student’s acceptance.

     The differences outlined above can be as large as $15,000 a year or more.  These differences are often masked by sticker price. That is why we encourage all families to include a realistic money-saving “Dry Run” step in their college planning. If you have not done that yet, then what are you waiting for? Do not repeat the experience that this parent had.