Spring Into Action

March 20th, 2014


We are told that March 20th is the first day of spring. Can you smell the flowers yet?  Our students in California, particularly the ones who have never experienced snow beyond Big Bear or Yosemite may not understand why we live in New England. For myself, I love the history of the region and the beauty each season offers. Experiencing the changing seasons is like living in four places without moving. There is always something to look forward to and seeing things with a fresh perspective.

Speaking of looking forward, many highs school seniors are waiting to hear from the colleges to which they applied. If they have followed the steps we have laid out for them, they will hopefully get the news they are hoping for and will decide by May 1 which college they will attend. But if they are put on the dreaded waitlist at their first choice colleges they will need to adjust and consider their options.

Meanwhile, current juniors and sophomores should be looking at the steps they need to be taking if they too have college aspirations. One is to take advantage of college visits while students are still on campus and attending college fairs that will be at cities around the country starting in May and continuing through the fall of the year.   Yale Campus in Springtime

If you are a client with whom we have not had a winter/spring review as of yet, call us today to arrange a good time for your update review. If you are just beginning the process of preparing a realistic college list and would like some suggestions. Call us for a “get acquainted” no obligation consultation; plan on 75’ for that conversation. It does not matter where you live. We are presently working with students in Shanghai, China and Stuttgart, Germany.





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.


Crossing the Gap ~ Preparing for the transition

January 20th, 2014

Bridging the GapIn the post WW II era of the early 50’s there were approximately 3 million college students; now there are 20 million. A college degree which used to be seen as a luxury, something which would, in a lifetime, enrich and enlighten….is now seen as a ticket to a bigger paycheck. Colleges, supported by the College Board and politicians in the District of Columbia, continue to say that a Bachelor degree is worth over 1.3 million dollars more in earnings than a high school diploma. Look at the report published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Work Force.

Students walking in winter  But now we hear that the undergraduate degree is not enough and that an increasing number of graduates are unemployed or underemployed. If that is true, why is it true? 

  1. Are employers raising the proverbial bar for advancement or even entry level jobs within the organization?
  2. Is it because colleges are graduating students with little more knowledge or critical thinking skills than they had in high school ?
  3. Or is it because college graduates are not prepared to enter the work force because they have had little or no substantive work experience while they were college students?

Many would blame the “economy”.  Yes, we hear a lot in the news about jobs being scarce because of the “great recession”. But we are not told why. I suggest it is because our Keynesian economic system, based on fiat currency and debt, has been subtlety used to manipulate trends of “booms and bust” in the economy since 1913 and was accelerated in 1971 when the dollar was taken off the gold standard. Currently, there is statistical evidence that the graduating college and high school class of 2013 continue to face dim job prospects. It is one of the symptoms of the excess borrowing and inflationary spending.

Despite that reality check, there is good news for the undergraduates here. :)

Internship opps Newly minted college graduates (and parents) have made significant down payments on their futures in terms of both time and money, and they typically have a considerable burden of debt right out of the gate. If that graduate did not investigate the career services department beginning in the freshman year (preferably when they were still in high school) he or she may have missed getting the internship or co-op experience needed to optimize employment prospects.

If you are an undergraduate now or thinking about going to college, look around your community. Is there something you see that is being done (legally) :) by someone that not only looks interesting but enjoyable and …dare I say fun? Though you may not be able to tell at first, are they earning an income that supports their life style?

Take an honest assessment of your natural strengths and innate characteristics. (If you have done that work with me already, return to the computer where you have made it a favorite.) Research that work that looks like fun and learn what it will take to do it. By the way, did you know that the best definition of “work” is NOT in the dictionary? Here it is.

Work (wurk) n ‘something you do when you would rather be doing something else’

Is that a Utopian ideal? Not necessarily.

       If you are a whiz in math or science that does not mean you should be an engineer, mathematician or doctor. Your peers, relatives and teachers may say so, and they may be right. But I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of adults I know who are now self-employed with time freedom to spend doing things they never dreamed they could do and spend time with their families all while writing their own paycheck. The work they are doing may even be unrelated to what their college major was. Learn from the learning curve of adults and college students like these who have walked the path ahead of you and changed their destinies…by focusing on doing, not wishing.

     If you cannot find your dream job why not create one! As a matter of fact, forget about a job for a moment. After all, did you know that  JOB is an acronym for “Just Over Broke”. Jim Rohn, the late great business philosopher  and mentor for millions of successful entrepreneurs said, “Formal education can help make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune.”  

       He was a master with words and ‘walked the talk’ by doing. We ALL have the ability to change, but as Jim Rohn said in another memorable quote, If you really want to do something, you will find a way; if you don’t you will find an excuse.”   If you would like some help or simply assurance that you are on the right track, give us a call. No more excuses. :)

Eric Goodhart ~ (978) 820-1295


Early College Decisions

December 30th, 2013

deferredAt the end of December, many students who applied to college Early Decision or Early Action are finding that they’ve been neither accepted nor rejected, but deferred. If you find yourself in this limbo, here are some guidelines for how to proceed.

1. Don’t Panic ~ Most likely, if you’ve been deferred your credentials are in the ballpark for getting accepted. If they weren’t, you’d be rejected. However, your application wasn’t so far above average that the college wanted to give up a spot in the entering class until they could compare you to the full applicant pool. The percentages vary from college to college, but many students do get accepted after being deferred.

     2. Find Out Why You Were Deferred ~  Unless the college asks you not to do so, give the admissions office a call and try to find out why you were deferred. Be polite and positive when making this call. Try to convey your enthusiasm for the college, and see if there were particular weaknesses in your application that you might be able to address. Some early applicants are deferred because they did not show enough interest in the college prior to submitting the application. Could this be you?

3. Update Your Information ~ Chances are the college will ask for your midyear grades. If you were deferred because of a marginal GPA, the college will want to see that your grades are on an upward trend. Also, think about other information that might be worth sending:

  • New and improved SAT or ACT scores
  • A new leadership position in a group or team
  • A new honor or award

4waitlist_FAQ. Send a New Letter of Recommendation ~ Is there someone who knows you well who can really promote you effectively? If so, an additional letter of recommendation might be a good idea. However, make sure the college allows extra letters. Ideally, this letter should talk about the specific personal qualities that make you an ideal match for the particular college that has deferred you. A generic letter won’t be nearly as effective as a letter that explains why you are a good match for your first-choice college.

5. Send Supplemental Materials ~ Many applications, including the Common Application, provide the opportunity for sending in supplemental materials. You don’t want to overwhelm the admissions office, but you should feel free to send in writing or other materials that will show the full breadth of what you can contribute to the campus community.

6. Be Polite ~ As you try to get out of deferral limbo, you’re likely to correspond with the admissions office several times. Try to keep your frustration, disappointment and anger in check. Be polite. Be positive. Admissions officers are remarkably busy this time of year, and their time is limited. Thank them for any time they give you. Also, make sure your correspondence doesn’t become pesky or harassing.

7. Have a Back-Up ~ While many deferred students do get accepted during regular admissions, many do not. You should do all you can to get into your top choice school, but you should also be realistic. Make sure you have applied to a range of reach, match and safety colleges so that you will have other options should you get a rejection letter from your first choice.

If you have been deferred but have new information to present to the college, you’ll want to write a letter presenting the updates.

College Rankings

July 20th, 2013

cropped-colleges1.jpgThe popularity of the US News & World Report’s annual College Issue has spawned numerous copycats, each trying to offer its own spin on how it rates colleges. It’s all about selling magazines. The more they move off the newsstand, the higher the advertising rates they can charge.

It’s more about the money than the value of the content. What does it really mean when you read about six year graduation rates, the average financial aid a student receives, the reported professor student ratio, and average loan burden upon graduation and SAT scores?

It is interesting, more and more colleges are either eschewing such assessments or not returning the self-reported questionnaires sent to them by the publications. But when a college is recognized as in the “top 10” or “Best of” in a particular category they are not shy about emblazoning that recognition proudly across their website.

And yes, I am one of those that buy those magazines. I buy them because you are, and I want to be ready for your questions when you ask…  

“Why do you recommend the 41st ranked University of the South @ Sewanee for Carolyn instead of the well known 18th ranked Colgate University?”

I appreciate such questions.  More often than not, the answer has to do with a combination of factors. The academic profile of the student and learning style, how a student expresses interest in different majors (however vague they may be early on), financial parameters of the parents, campus ethos and the nature of the academic and career advising.

All of which we take into account when suggesting the ‘starter list’ of fifteen colleges for a junior.  I invite you to arrange a FREE “get acquainted” conversation with us. We work with students all over the world thanks to the Internet. Please click here for more information.

Searching for that Perfect College?

June 20th, 2013

      kenyon2The perfect college doesn’t exist. Almost any college, whether it’s an Ivy or a local community college, can be the foundation for productive and enjoyable college years. Every student’s experience has its ups and downs. Your parents may know what I mean. With colleges putting so much effort into diversification in recent years, few students fit the cookie cutter images that proliferate in college view books.

Like with most things in life, college is what you make of it. If you are determined to study hard and find your social niche, you will probably be happy no matter what school you attend. However, that does not mean you can just throw darts at a map listing all colleges coast to coast. But it always fun to put a pin into our office wall maps when a student matriculates to a college he or she never knew existed until they went through the process I describe below. With hundreds of colleges to choose from, there will be some that fit better than others. But I have found that many students start the process without paying much attention to the purpose of going to college in the first place.

Fortunately, that can be easily rectified with some self-assessment by the student.  In other words, you start the process with a careful look at yourself, not with a list of colleges. It is your own honest assessment of your academic profile, interests, learning style and natural strengths that is central to finding a “good fit” college.

Most students start their lists, not only by listing well known schools, but the most competitive first. It is a faulty strategy. Before you start poring over view books and catalogs from colleges, you want to examine yourself as a person and as a student. Such an appraisal will yield data about yourself that will allow you to move forward with confidence.

Empty College Campus

So, once that is all done you can consider other things, like location, total enrollment, male – female ratio and athletics. Do you want a college within easy driving distance to home or across the country? Many students feel both callings at one time and another. Going to a college in the same state can still provide the independence and freedom students crave if they don’t commute.  If you do not plan to be going home often, however, beware of the “suitcase” school, where the majority of students are locals who split the campus on the weekends.

However, if you are willing to go over 300 miles from home, your pool of prospective schools will grow significantly, not to mention chances of admission may be enhanced as well. That is, if you show some genuine measure of demonstrated interest.

By the way, do NOT dismiss a college without doing your AAA due diligence simply because it has fewer students than your high school. In college you will likely have peers from all over the country and many countries, unlike your little community of students whom you have known most of your life. It is a big world and your journey has just begun. No better place to do it than within a community where you can learn from both professors as well as fellow undergrads that come from different parts of the globe. Each of you can share ideas and experiences that will be mutually beneficial.

Sticker Prices Hide the REAL Cost of College

May 19th, 2013

 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.


      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.


The Countdown to National Deposit Day ~

April 26th, 2013

hourglassMay 1 is the day by which all college bound seniors must decide where to enroll in the fall of 2014. Making the final decision may not be easy unless you have done certain things in the year or two prior to spring of the senior year. In any case, most students are usually presented with at least two positive options.

So, how does one go about making an effective ‘no regrets’ decision…a decision that allows the entire family to win? The following five steps are a guide. Think about these even if you will not need to make such a decision now because you are not yet a senior or parent of one.

The overall goal 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.   siblings 2

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 $3500 to the COA. 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.

Do not expect colleges to “negotiate” with you. That word does not exist in the financial aid lexicon. However, if you have special circumstances that were not fully explained to the financial office in the form of a letter after you filed your FAFSA and Profile, you may appeal or request a review now.  If you are a client of ours we probably have already discussed the merits of an appeal.

You can call and ask the college what their specific guidelines and procedures are in handling such appeals. In any case, prepare to write a letter explaining the change in circumstances. (For steps 2 ~ 5 click here.)

Are You a Procrastinator?

March 20th, 2013

If you are, you may put off reading this. That would be your first mistake. To all you college bound seniors, 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.

What is College For?

February 20th, 2013

As we enter the second semester of the academic year, millions of high school students are anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters. Some have heard already from those colleges. The students who applied in a college’s ED, EA or rolling admissions program. But the most competitive colleges will not make their final decisions until late March for the RA pool of applications.

Other than those students who were accepted in December in an ED program, all other students will have until May 1 to make their final decisions. Before that deadline it is the colleges that will be nervous. That is, who will say “Yes, I am accepting your acceptance” back to them! In the college ratings game made popular by US News & Reports, the higher the yield the higher the ranking.

Yes, it is an exciting time. But let’s step back a minute and consider this. What is college for anyway? Is it REALLY worth the expense? Colleges will tell you it is an investment. But in financial jargon an “investment” is made in anticipation of an outcome greater than the time or money put into it.  Is that what the outcome is in the majority of cases?

In May of 2011, the Pew Research Center released surveys that indicate that 57% of Americans feel that universities in the US fail to provide good value for the money spent. College has always been expensive but in the last 21 years I have seen an escalation of costs that are way out of proportion with income, with one significant exception. Parents view college price tags with a wary eye, as they should. According to the survey only 35% of the American adult public said colleges were doing a “good” job in terms of providing value to students; 42% said “only fair” and 15% said “poor”.  In the same survey, however, 84% of recent college graduates said college had been a good investment; only 7% said it had not been.

Why the disparity in belief? Is that because young people don’t want to admit the four years plus they spent in college was money (more often a parent’s money) not well spent?  What I sense some of them saying is that the benefits they received are intangible, immeasurable and not connected to what a particular degree ‘got’ them.

Hopefully, as teenagers mature through their twenties they develop a fair amount of critically thinking and social networking skills. They will benefit greatly from learning as much, if not more, outside the classroom as in it. That is why I put a great deal of emphasis on understanding the nature and depth of academic and career advising at each college they are considering. The student who is pro-active in pursuing internships as an undergraduate often has an advantage amongst his peers following graduation.

Call us at Programs for Education for a complimentary ‘get acquainted’ conversation. Learn how you and your children can get the best return on investment from their college experience.