College…It’s Not Just an Experience

Not so long ago college was not only a place to continue a youth’s education, it was a time for growth, maturity and to simply experience and enjoy life with a little more freedom. The rising costs of college coupled with the challenging economic times has, for most, completely changed the emphasis on what is most important about sending a child to college.

Job security and economic independence are what families are now looking for from their tuition dollars. Mom and Dad are simply hoping that their kids can obtain education and/or training that will allow them to obtain a job that will provide them an income and standard of living that justifies the expense of college.

Because of these changes the college selection process needs to change also, and so does the approach that Mom and Dad take to pay for college.  It boils down to an investment decision. In other words, the school and major selection are components of the “return” that one will receive on their tuition dollars.

School selection should take into account the percentage of students that graduate, the percentage of students that graduate within 4 years, the placement ratio of graduates into jobs of their field, and the net cost of college after factoring in financial aid and scholarships. Certainly, a proper fit for the student based on size, distance from home and geographical location are all also very important non-financial components that should be included.

Career or major selection should  be a good fit for the student’s “hard wiring” or said another way, what suits his/her personality. Future job outlook and earning potential for a prospective career should also be taken into account.  Considering these factors will increase the likelihood of providing the student a future that they are looking for.

School costs should be weighed against income potential from the desired education from that institution. Furthermore, consideration should be given as to whether or not the prestige of the school that one may be paying a premium for is justified based on the income potential. For example, a private school that has an annual cost of $50,000 per year that will likely provide a student a similar job opportunity from a public school that costs $25,000 might not be a wise financial decision.

Mom and Dad need to also determine how much of their income and how many of their assets they can pledge toward college before it impacts their own financial future. Once that determination has been made the residual costs of college will likely be financed by the student through loans.   Parents should make sure that their student completely understands the financial impact of taking on student loans. Based on the horrendous state of the student loan industry it is quite clear that individuals are obligating themselves to debts that they will have no ability to pay back without serious impact on their future.

College is big business and should be approached that way. All parents want their students to enjoy their college years however the emphasis needs to be on preparing for economic success after college.

Isn’t the Basic Point of College to Graduate?

Originally posted by DIY College Rankings by our favorite blogger Michelle Kretzschmar.  Click here for full article.

I don’t know why, but whenever I bring up comparing graduation rates when considering colleges, I get a fairly hostile reaction–at least in online forums. It’s almost as if I suggested using a school’s football rankings as a way to pick the school. So what is wrong with looking at college graduation rates?

The most common response is that the college graduation rates are simply a reflection of the quality of the students and have nothing to do with the college. Therefore, I’m not being fair to the school if I focus on graduation rates.

Compare Colleges with Similar Students

I get the feeling that these critics are thinking I’m comparing the Harvard graduation rate with the graduation rate of the state university’s local campus. No, I’m interested in comparing apples to apples so I would compare the local campus of State U to another campus in another city and Harvard to other Ivy League Schools.

Just as a FYI, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Harvard’s four-year graduation rate was 86%, Princeton’s 90%, Yale 87%, and Stanford 76% (and yes, I know Stanford isn’t part of the Ivy League).

Take Into Consideration Type of Degrees

Reciting these statistics would inevitably lead to the second most common argument against comparing college graduation rates, some schools have a higher percentage of students in a degree that often takes more than four years to complete, such as engineering. Okay, so then compare it to other schools with a similar percentage of engineering grads. Engineering degrees represented 19% of Stanford’s undergraduate degrees compared to 4% of Harvard’s and 26% of Princeton’s. Princeton’s graduation rate is higher than Stanford’s even with more engineering graduates.

Graduation rates are becoming more prominent in college rankings. Both the Washington Monthly College Rankings and US News College Rankings include a predicted graduation rate based on factors such as the number of students with Pell Grants. According to US News, Harvard “overperformed” its expected graduation rate by one percentage points but Stanford underperformed by one percentage point.

Essentially, US News is saying that schools are doing equally well given their student characteristics. The fact is that the Stanford freshman class had lower test scores and a higher percentage of Hispanic students when compared to Harvard. So are we comparing apples to apples yet?

Make Sure You Understand the Limitations of Comparing College Graduation Rates

Look, I know there are all kinds of problems in calculating and comparing college graduation rates. Since transfer rates are difficult to include, if they are included at all, community colleges are especially vulnerable to unfair evaluations based on their graduation rates.

Then there is the issue of how well prepared the students are who enter the school. It’s not really fair to compare a community college that pretty much takes any student no matter how many remediation classes he has to take with a college that has minimum testing score requirements.

But knowing these limitations, why wouldn’t you use this information in making your decision?

Graduation Rates Are Important

I’m not saying graduation rates should be the only consideration in selecting a college. For many students, there is no such thing as choosing a college, they go where they can afford to or what is immediately available in their area.

Of course, you shouldn’t compare a local commuter school with a nationally ranked Liberal Arts College. But if you are considering more than one college with some hefty price tags, wouldn’t you want to know what the odds are of graduating in four years?

To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, let’s pick on my home state of Texas for a while. According to the IPEDS data in the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet, there were a total of 15 schools with an estimated median SAT between 1000 and 1099. The eight private schools had four-year graduation rates that vary from 19% to 45%. The six public universities reporting graduation rates, varied between 11% and 29%. Should you pay private tuition at a school that has a 19% graduation rate when you could probably get into the state school that has a 29% graduation rate?

The following chart shows the graduation rate for 18 colleges and universities in Texas with an average estimated SAT score of 1100 or higher. Five schools with an average SAT score between 1100 and 1110 had graduation rates ranging from 26% to 54%. Given the cost of higher education, don’t you think you should know why the differences exist?

These differences are more pronounced when you look at institutions across the nation. According to IPEDS, there are 26 colleges with at least 500 undergraduates and an estimated average SAT score between 1300 and 1350. The four-year graduation rate for these schools vary from 40% to 91%.

I think it’s reasonable to compare public school schools five-year graduation rates with private schools four-year graduation rates since the cost of public schools is significantly lower and can justify an extra year to finish a degree.

Don’t Just Look for Difference But Why There Are Differences

This group of colleges also includes a perfect example of the potential role of engineering on graduation rates. The Stevens Institute of Technology awards 62% of its degrees in engineering. Its four-year graduation rate is 40% but its five-year graduation rate is 78%. But then there’s the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology that awards 80% of its degrees in Engineering and has a four-year graduation rate of 57% and a five-year rate of 71%.

Does the difference in graduation rates between the two schools automatically make Rose-Hulman the preferred school if you want to graduate in four years? Not at all. There are enough differences between the schools in the areas of average net price, endowment per student, percentage of freshman receiving Pell Grants, and the student’s racial/ethnic composition to require anyone interested in the schools to look more closely at both schools.

Looking at this information is a way of identifying trade-offs. You’re willing to attend a school with a lower graduation rate because it offers the program you’re interested in or they’re providing you with a scholarship. There are lots of good reasons to attend schools with lower graduation rates. What constitutes good will vary from person to person so while the difference in graduation rates might be justifiable to one person, there may not be any mitigating circumstances for another.

Ultimately, if this information is available, why wouldn’t you want to know it?

Employers Want to Hire College Athletes

Article published on October 2, 2017, by Fred Bastie,  Click here for full article.


Article published on October 2nd, by Fred Bastie,  Click here for full article.

The life lessons learned from athletic competition are many, and apparently they pay big dividends.  For most college athletes, the ultimate goal is to make a living playing the game they love.  If that plan doesn’t work out, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Lately, there have been a number of studies indicating that the vast majority of businesses want to hire college athletes.  Most employers associate college athletes with the traits they are looking for in prospective employees.  They want hard-working leaders that put the team first and are goal-oriented.  In fact, a large number of CEOs either played high school or college sports and they would prefer to hire a student-athlete, rather than a non-student-athlete.

Prospective employers are looking for employees who go the extra mile.  Participating in college sports is viewed similarly to other extracurricular activities such as being involved in student government, volunteering for charitable organizations, or even working part time. Balancing the hours of practice and games while going to college is difficult, and it is an indication of a student’s work ethic.  It can be argued that sports has a direct correlation to higher incomes, promotions, and better jobs.  There is no question that the leadership skills, development of teamwork, time management, and determination of many athletes surely help prepare them for the working world.

Here are five reasons why employers are interested in hiring college athletes:

College athletes are goal oriented

Most college athletes started playing their sport at the age of four or five.  They have been competing their entire life.  They know how to set goals and they work hard to achieve them.  Most athletes talented enough to play in college have set goals every year, every season and every game.  Being goal oriented is a mindset and is a trait employers look for in prospective employees.  College athletes generally know how to ignore distractions and focus on the task at hand.

College athletes are hard workers and good time managers

Zig Ziglar once said, “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”  Every college athlete learns this lesson, the hard way.  Let’s be honest; playing college sports is like having a job while you are going to school. It is a commitment. You have to be disciplined, work hard and manage your time or you won’t make the grades necessary to stay eligible.  Student athletes have many responsibilities including attending class, homework, strength training, conditioning, practice, travel and games.  In addition, they have to find the time to eat and occasionally catch Sports Center.  Any student that can pull all that off and maintain a good GPA has to be an excellent candidate for employment.

College athletes are self-confident

The dictionary definition of self-confident is “trusting in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment”.  Most athletes develop this trait early on and to be honest some athletes take it too far.  However, a self-confident, mature student-athlete who isn’t arrogant or overbearing can be a great find for an employer.

College athletes are good teammates

Good teammates make good employees.  The ability to work with others toward a common goal as a team is the definition of a good teammate.  It is also a great attribute for an employee.  Part of being a good teammate includes being coachable, respectful and having the attitude that the goals of the team are more important than the goals of the individual.  Most college coaches will drive this point home with all their athletes.

College athletes know when to be a follower and when to take control of a situation.  By the time they graduate from college, most have been a member of a team for 16 to 18 years and being a good teammate has become a habit.

 College athletes tend to be leaders

Right or wrong, in today’s society athletes tend to be looked at as leaders.  14 of the last 19 United States Presidents participated in college athletics.  To be a good leader you have to be confident, resilient, a strong communicator and willing to put the team’s goals ahead of your own.  Many athletes tend to have those traits and they most likely know how to be a leader.  Employers want to hire employees that have the potential to become leaders in their company.

There is no better place to learn the skills of selflessness and leadership than on the playing field or court.  Certainly you don’t have to be an athlete to be successful in life.  Ask Donald Trump!  But, if you have the talent and desire to play your sport in college then I would encourage you to pursue your dream!  There are many benefits.


The Importance of Completing the FAFSA

The magic date of October 1st is fast approaching.  The cost of sending a student to college is undeniably stunning for most families. Not only is there the cost of tuition, but you also have room and board, books and supplies, student activity fees, health insurance, lab fees, transportation and personal expenses. It goes without saying that, for most families, these expenses will cause a crimp in the monthly household cash flow.

Unfortunately, some students feel like they shouldn’t bother filling out a FAFSA because of some common myths. These include:

  • “I (or my parents) make too much money, so I won’t qualify for aid.”
  • “Only students with good grades get financial aid.”
  • “The form is too hard to fill out.”

However, these concerns are usually unfounded.

If you have not set aside time to complete the FAFSA, I encourage you to make it a priority. Some people think that they have to wait until they have completed their taxes, but this is not true.   FAFSA now looks at prior, prior year.  Waiting can actually result in an insufficient financial aid package, or worse, no financial aid at all. Some families are taking a laid back approach to the FAFSA because they are convinced that they make too much money and therefore, make the false assumption that they won’t qualify. Hopefully no one is waiting for their letter of admission to a college before they start the financial aid process. The truth is that even if you don’t qualify, the FAFSA is a good form to have on record. There are a number of reasons for completing the simple online form:

  • It may make you eligible for a low interest loan
  • It may be required by some institutional merit based scholarships
  • It may be that your fortunes change through the year and having the form on file can help make a difficult time a little easier

Since federal money is disbursed as the applications are approved, it is to your benefit to submit the form as soon as possible. The FAFSA form needs to be accurate so it is best to complete the

FAFSA online, which identifies mistakes and allows you to correct them. Your financial package can be delayed by inaccuracies, which in turn can affect the amount of your financial aid award.

Just a reminder – if you are applying to a private college, check to be sure whether they require the CSS/Profile and/or their own institutional forms. If so, do those forms immediately. Colleges start accepting these forms in the fall. Unlike federal funds that are dispensed by a strict formula, private institutions are able to decide their own formula for how they will disburse the funds they have at their disposal. Each college will use the institutional methodology as they see fit. That is why financial aid packages can differ greatly from one college to next.

After your FAFSA is processed, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that will summarize the information you completed on the form, and see your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount that a family in your situation should be able to contribute towards a college education.

In summary, The FAFSA is one of THE most important steps in obtaining financial aid, as it is the basis for determining a student’s eligibility for scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans.  The good news is that it is now simpler than ever…. so it’s time to get started!

Learn How to Differentiate Your College Application

Article in US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT By Caroline Duda, Contributor |Sept. 12, 2017, CLICK HERE to View Full Article

The college application process can be daunting for even the most prepared of students, and it has only grown more competitive. For instance, in 2016, Harvard University received more than 39,000 applications but accepted just a little more than 2,000.

Students with moderate engagement in extracurricular activities and an average GPA might worry that their application will get lost in the shuffle – and might also wonder how they can stand out.

  • Determine your approach: Most students hope that their applications will stand out so that they can secure an acceptance letter to college. However, it is important to determine how you will approach your applications based on your underlying motivations and goals.

For example, Ginger Stanciel, a sophomore at Kent State University in Ohio, was passionate about fashion but felt it was crucial “to come across as a well-rounded art student.” She hoped to highlight her interests and strengths both in art and fashion and outside of it. Why? “The schools I was applying to specifically wanted well-rounded students to encourage a diverse art environment,” she said via email.

Motivations for wanting to stand out in college applications can vary by student. Katrina Wheelan, a freshman at Williams College in Massachusetts, tried her best to avoid doing anything specifically for her applications.

“I did what I wanted to do, not what I thought I should do for getting into college,” she said via email. This mentality helped her focus on selecting experiences that were true to her interests and her personal and career development.

As you begin to build your college application, consider your goals and how they align with the selection criteria at your top schools. Are you hoping to demonstrate your growth from a low-C’s student to a member of the honor roll, or are you hoping to cast light on your passions? Once you outline goals and motivations, review your high school “highs,” and decide which you will highlight.

  • Highlight your activities: No one activity is guaranteed to secure you a college acceptance letter. Instead, the key lies in linking your activities to your goals.

For example, Bryce Dellamano, a sophomore at Southern Illinois University— Edwardsville, let his passions speak loud and clear. “I volunteered after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a place called Homework Help and Hoops Tutoring. Basically, I helped tutor kids after classes on various subjects and then played games with them to reward their hard work,” he said via email. Dellamano thought this helped make his application stand out because it combined his enjoyment of sports with community service.

Sophomore at Indiana University—Bloomington Alexis Miller believes that simple participation in extracurriculars is not enough, though. “The more I poured over the many (essay) prompts, the more I realized that although the people who would be reading my essays had surely seen thousands of applications with similar activities, like National Honors Society or club volleyball, it was the unique experiences and lessons I learned that would distinguish my application,” she said via email.

Miller grounded her application with “a foundation in the connections I made with the people I was aiding.” She believes these relationships that she built during high school – both with organizations and people – made her application more personal and memorable.

Stanciel likewise devoted time and energy to extracurriculars, which included two internships and starting a ski club at her high school, and believes it is critical to learn how to properly discuss your activities on your application.

She realized this while reading the first prompts and writing her initial essays, which required a certain degree of storytelling. “One of my applications had a prompt asking about a strong childhood memory. I chose to include a memory that would touch on my strong sense of family, my love for travel and my appreciation for hard work.” Within that response, she called attention to travel experiences with her family.

Stanciel advises students to be creative and eloquent and try to “interpret these experiences, and use them to show growth and why you are a good candidate.” She encourages telling a story with your essays, “not just because it makes it more interesting and stands out for admissions officers to read, but because your life is a story.”

  • Avoid overcompensating: All four of these college students agreed that it was possible for students to make their college applications stand out too much. Miller, for instance, cautioned against writing essays that aren’t genuine, like “an inflated and overly decorated essay.”

Stanciel added, “Remember that your application is supposed to be a reflection of who you are, not just a puff piece.” While an unusual experience can certainly distinguish your application, one with no connection to your academic or extracurricular interests and goals may draw the wrong kind of attention.

And be careful not to overload your application or resume. Dellamano cautioned, “It might get cluttered and/or bore the person reading it. Keep it concise and to the point.”

Finally, Wheelan offers a philosophy that she followed to build an authentic and engaging college application. “I feel like it’s cliché to say ‘be yourself,’ but the key is to live your life as if college didn’t exist,” she said.

As you begin the process of applying to college, prioritize your passions – your personality and applications will then stand out.

It’s FAFSA Time

The ever so time-consuming process of filling out your FAFSA may seem horrifying, but following some of our time-tested tips and tricks will help you get through the application process. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your ticket to federal student aid, including scholarships, grants and student loans.

Completing the FAFSA is a question-by-question guide to the FAFSA. It offers help, hints, and definitions in case you get stuck on any of the questions.

Here are some of our tips to filling out the ever so important FAFSA form:

Create a FSA ID

You and your child should get FSA IDs. A FSA ID is a username and password that you’ll be using to sign the FAFSA. You and your child each need your own FSA ID—and you each need to create your own for privacy purposes and because the information is easier to remember if you create your own. (Note: Only one of a student’s parents needs to sign the student’s FAFSA, so only one parent needs an FSA ID.)

Gather The Stuff You’ll Need Before Filling Out The FAFSA

Some things you will need are:  your Social Security number; driver’s license; W-2 forms federal income tax returns for the prior, prior (2016 for 2018 FAFSA) year along with your spouse’s, if married; student’s federal income tax returns for the prior, prior year; current bank statements; and alien registration or permanent residence card for non-U.S. citizens. If applicable, you will also need business and investment mortgage information, business and farm records, and stock, bond and other investment records.

Apply Early: October 1

Fill out and submit your FAFSA on October 1 or as soon after as possible, no matter how far away the actual deadline. Some college and federal aid, particularly grants and scholarships, is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so filing your FAFSA early ensures that you will receive the maximum amount of financial aid.

Check and Double Check Your Answers

Errors and omissions slow things down when it comes to the FAFSA, making you miss out on some or all of your financial aid. You want to double-check every piece of info you put down. Even things as simple as an address that’s incorrect can greatly slow things down.  Make sure that both you and the student SIGN the FAFSA!

Put Everything In Your Name, Not The Student’s Name

Having extra cash laying around in your bank account is not a good thing before filling out the FAFSA.  Consider making purchases such as books, computers and other things you’ll need for college and to get a jump start on bill payments for the next few months, or even the entire year. You want to have as little cash on hand as possible when filing.  Spend the money on things you would have to spend it on in the future anyways, such as bills, equipment, etc.

Don’t Earn Too Much Income

Not only should you minimize your income, if possible, during the base year, watch your student’s income earnings, as earning too much money can reduce the amount of financial aid you receive.  (BASE YEAR is now “PRIOR, PRIOR” year, which means that for the 2018 Graduates, the FAFSA will look at 2016 income.) The first $2,440 in income that your child makes is exempt, but wages beyond that amount will be assessed at a rate of 50 percent. This means that you lose 50 cents in financial aid eligibility for every dollar your student earns beyond $2,440.

Talk With One of Our College Planners About Configuring Your EFC

College Planners are great at helping you position money and assets to greatly reduce your EFC.  Our college planners won’t even bill you or take you on as a client, if they can’t save you well more than their fee.  It’s a huge win for the family.  At minimum, call one to see if they could shave money off your tuition responsibility for a free consult.  Our office number is 904-625-0299.

How college admissions has turned into something akin to ‘The Hunger Games’.

PUBLISHED in THE WASHINGTON POST – MARCH 28, 2016 – By Brennan Barnard, Director of College Counseling at Derryfield School, in NH.  VIEW FULL ARTICLE HERE

“I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only. … I want to die as myself. … I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to … to show the Capitol that they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their games.” — Peeta Mellark, “The Hunger Games”

In 20 years of counseling students, I have witnessed a seismic shift in the approach toward college admission.  As application numbers have increased, so has the collective angst around college admission.  With sinking admission rates, high-stakes testing, rising tuition costs, unmanageable debt and an unhealthy fixation on the handful of most selective schools, we are debilitating the next generation of learners.  The message we inadvertently send: A prestige acceptance is better than a joyful childhood.

In an ideal world, college preparatory education would encourage students who crave knowledge, seek community engagement, desire connection and live their values.  We say we want our children to feel secure, be inspired and take risks with their curiosity.  The reality of “Hunger Games” comes closer to the truth, where students battle to survive in application pools seeming to demand perfection.

How is such a terrifying metaphor even possible?  How did we deteriorate to where the college admission process unwittingly transforms children into warriors who are but shells of their former selves?  There is a cruel paradox.  Learning is a fundamentally collaborative enterprise (as embodied in elementary school), but this system demands that it be competitive, and that is what destroys the authenticity we say we wish from our children.  The apparent victors in this game are the institutions — ever fearful of losing ground to their competitors — driving the competition, and watching as students battle with themselves and others to persevere.

In a race to be the most selective, attract the best students, field the best athletics teams and project a polished image, colleges have lost sight of the best interest of those they wish to serve.  National rankings, alumni giving, and exclusivity cause schools to boast about how few students they accept, and how many valedictorians, class presidents, sports captains and school leaders they attract and often deny.  Marketing materials and information sessions tout the accomplished musicians, volunteers, world travelers and innovators that fill the colleges’ incoming classes.

The message to students is fundamentally Darwinian: Only the fittest survive, rising to the top in a game to endure an application process that focuses on external perfection rather than internal depth.  The cruel logic plays out despite the best intentions of individuals because the system itself is to blame.  The more applicants a school can deny and the more accepted students who enroll, the higher ranked a college is.  By accepting huge percentages of candidates through early plans, encouraging resumes and flawless transcripts, a system prevails where only the fittest survive the most demanding curriculum available with the fullest schedule while being more unique than the classmates fighting next to them.

It becomes a race for who can grab the rarest opportunity fastest and seemingly juggle it all, risking failure — but not such failure that they will show weakness, vulnerability or breakdown.  Frustrated and conflicted, high school counselors and college admission officers are but messengers, gamemakers contractually beholden to the wishes of school boards, trustees, presidents and superintendents who sit at the “Capitol” demanding increased selectivity and prestige in the pursuit of perceived excellence.

Only the most confident and secure students — or perhaps hardened — emerge unscathed, those who despite the pressure and hostile odds, can remain true to their interests, values and sense of self.  I have found that the young men and women who thrive in college are those for whom the college search was one of introspection, exploration and personal development rather than a contest.  The applicants who focus on fit, program and community as they consider higher education are the individuals who truly find happiness. As parents and educators, we must examine ourselves and what we are doing to the childhood of our kids. Is life so grim, so desperate?  Is the future that scary or do we trust that there are many paths to fulfillment, happiness and success?

This is a call to action for students and parents in districts everywhere.  Don’t simply wait for the “tide to turn,” join the rebellion.  Refuse to play the game and allow it to change you.  Don’t become an unrecognizable, packaged “monster.”  College campuses have long been instigators of positive social change, and this moment is no different.  Whether university investment holdings, campus policy issues or racial inequality, it often takes students unifying against the status quo and speaking truth to power to transform established and damaging practices.  This year we have witnessed non-violent student protests effect change at schools as small as Amherst College and as large as the University of Missouri.   To initiate change, students and parents must band together and take a stand, declaring:

We will NOT …

… believe that success in life is dictated by only attending colleges with admission rates in the single digits.

… be recruited athletes as ninth-graders and commit to a university before our voice has changed.

… assume obscene debt and be forced to live in our parents’ basement into our forties.

… fill our teenage schedules with activities allowing zero time for purposeless play.

… let flawed, unintelligible rankings determine our college choice.

… sacrifice creative arts courses and other intriguing electives in pursuit of AP everything.

… allow one test, taken too early on a Saturday morning, define us and crush our dreams.

… apply to 20 schools because the admission office has waived the fee and encouraged us to apply.

… search for an Early Decision school just because it increases our odds of acceptance.

Instead we WILL….

… embrace high school for the experience that it is without making every decision about the impact on college admission.

… challenge ourselves academically and socially and take healthy risks while staying balanced.

… consider a range of colleges and expand our world.

… make mistakes, try, fail and try again.

… contribute to and serve our community because it is a good thing to do and not to build a resume or seek reward.

… acknowledge that our journey is not always linear and that there is more than one path that leads to our goals.

… remain true to our values and live authentic, grounded daily lives.

… sleep, laugh and play.

When It Comes to College, Only Half of America’s High Schoolers Say They Feel Prepared, Survey Finds

By:  Katie Stringer  Click Here is View Full Article

Only half of U.S. students think their high schools have prepared them with the knowledge and skills they need for college, according to recent survey data.

Compiled by the nonprofit YouthTruth, the data reveal an uncertainty among high schoolers in how to become ready for college and careers.

The survey didn’t require students to explain why they felt they way they did — but anonymous comments provide some clues.

“They just want us to have high grades, and that’s what most kids are doing by cheating or studying really hard, not by actually learning something,” one student wrote. “School has taught us that having better grades is better than actually learning something, and that’s not how it should be.”

Another student wished for a bigger push toward college support services:

“I’m actually really upset that my school doesn’t do more to help their students with the scary and confusing process. They haven’t helped me in choosing a major, choosing a school, applying to that school, knowing what I need to do to get into my dream school, how to pay for my school, what I should expect from college life, or even to help me register for scholarships or other things that could help me pay for my university.”

The percentage of students who reported feeling prepared varied slightly across demographics, with 56 percent of Asian students saying they are ready, compared with 53 percent of black, 52 percent of Hispanic, 50 percent of white, and 46 percent of multiracial students. It also varied widely across schools, with the lowest score 11 percent and the highest 78 percent.

Although a majority of students — 84 percent — said they want to go to college, only 68 percent said they expect they will.

And many admitted they weren’t using college prep resources. Only about one-third of students said they use tools like admissions exam preparation or college counseling, though a majority of the students who did use the services found them helpful.

“There’s a clear message that there is a lot of work to be done,” said Jen Vorse Wilka, executive director of YouthTruth.

The surveys were taken between September 2015 and December 2016 by more than 55,000 high school students in 21 states. The students were 29 percent white, 28 percent Hispanic or Latino, 13 percent multiracial, 12.5 percent black, and 3.25 percent Asian.

The data are not nationally representative, as they are collected from schools that pay to participate in YouthTruth programs and surveys.

“It’s a reality check to let us know what our kids really think versus what we think they would say,” said Brian Shumate, superintendent of the Medford School District in Oregon.

Though the data represent the perceptions of high school students who haven’t yet attended college classes, educators said the information is valuable for checking in on how students think their education is progressing.

“We have to trust our students’ perceptions; they are our clients. They know themselves,” said John Boyd, superintendent of the Quincy School District in the state of Washington. “If they’re not feeling prepared for college, we’ve got to make them feel prepared for college.”

There certainly isn’t a shortage of programs districts can choose from for college preparation, said Quincy Assistant Superintendent Nikolas Bergman. That’s why comparing student perception data and college-going rates is helpful when sifting through these offerings. Bergman said he has noticed students reporting that they feel more prepared for college since the district adopted AVID, a program that starts in eighth grade with college-readiness skills and behaviors. (Students gave the district an average YouthTruth preparedness score of 3.47 on a scale of 1 to 5, ranking in the 41st percentile of similarly sized schools.)

“School has taught us that having better grades is better than actually learning something.”

But they’re still experimenting: The district takes students on college tours as early as sixth grade, uses teaching resources designed for high-poverty and migrant populations, and is expanding dual credit courses. “We want to do things that are making a difference,” Bergman said.

Medford students gave their district a college-preparedness ranking of 3.05, which falls in the 12th percentile of similarly sized schools. This surprised Shumate — but gave him ammunition to advocate for a career-academy model. The program is in its beginning stages: Currently, freshmen in Medford pick a subject pathway, similar to a college major, to take specialized classes that fit their interests.

“We want it to be more like the outside world,” Shumate said.

In 2011–12, 29 percent of students at four-year colleges and 41 percent of those enrolled at two-year schools had to take remedial classes, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2015, only one-third of high school seniors scored at or above proficiency in reading and math on the National Assessment of Student Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card.

A 2011 nationally representative survey conducted for College Board found slightly better perceptions for students who were surveyed one year after graduating from high school. About two-thirds of students said their high schools did a good job of preparing them for college and college-level work, while one-third said their high schools should have done more.




                        Career vs. Major…Which Choice Comes First?

Conventional wisdom suggests the answer to this question is that the choice of major is the most important decision and consequently drives the career choice.  Parents, friends, and some school personnel mistakenly have the student focus on a major.  Consequently, the student is asked repeatedly…”What are you going to major in?”.  Rarely is the student asked, “What do you want to do when you are older?”  The student is encouraged to decide what their major is…everyone wants to know their major…and the student needs to decide the major early because they don’t want to enter college “undecided”.  This forces the student to choose a major for the sake of choosing and ultimately is the reason they change majors so frequently, hence the increase in cost due to a longer stay in college.  The choice of major will also typically direct the student’s career.  What if the student likes the major, but hates most of the most common careers associated with the degree?  It begs the question, shouldn’t the student in fact first attempt to decide what they believe they would like to do when they graduate?  But can the choice of careers also impact college selection?

The college selection process involves many different factors when deciding what school to attend.  Many families believe the decision on what school to attend is based on the competitiveness of the school for the major of choice.  This is not the start…it is really closer to the end of the process.

When determining which school to attend, students should first start with their career choice.  What is it they want to do when they graduate?  Now that could be a tough decision for a high school student.  However, it is important to begin the process of thinking about it and dialing down as close as they can to a decision.  There are many tools and tests available to help students decide what career might best suit them.  For the vast majority of students, there may be a couple of different careers on the list.  Students can ask friends and family members for contacts of those individuals in careers they believe to have an interest in or that the tests indicate would be a good fit.  Contact individuals in these fields and ask them if they will permit someone to shadow them for a day.  It is one of the best ways for a student to see if they will like that particular career.

The sequence of choice is important because far too many students pick a major they “think” they want to study and then find out four to five years later, they don’t know what they can do with it.  How many people are working in a field that has nothing to do with their major?  Maybe they could not find a job (did they check the prospects for the career prior to choosing?) or they did not like the careers associated with the major so they find a different job.  By choosing a career first, a student may find there are two careers they really like that maybe one major is the best fit for.  In this way, students open themselves up to far more opportunities when they graduate.  Upon deciding on the major, now they can pick schools that might be strong in that major if the student wants or is looking for the most competitive school for that degree.  Others may want the school closest to home that offers the chosen major, while still others may want the school where they can get the degree for the lowest cost.

We talk about the three legged stool for college selection…the HEAD, HEART, and HAND.  However, these three factors go into the selection of college after we have decided on the career.  HEAD is the logical side of the stool or making a decision on college based on major or a degree because of its competitiveness or what it provides as opportunity for employment after graduation.  HEART is the passionate side or better known as attending the same college that mom and dad did or most parent’s favorite, where the dreaded boyfriend or girlfriend is attending.  It could also be attending the school because of a football or basketball team…better known as “tailgating” to parents. Finally the last leg of the stool is HAND, or the financial side of the process.  What is the school going to cost out of pocket…cost of attendance, time it takes to graduate, etc. all play a part in the overall out of pocket estimate.

In the end, we want to stress the importance of helping your student determine as accurately as possible what they might like to do for a career.  Career assessment tests are a great way to do this and we believe worth the investment so that your student does not make any mistakes in career choice and consequently the choice of majors.  A mistake in any of these areas can cost you substantially financially.