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College Talk Blog

If you have accepted your admission offer...you are not done yet. Not reading and acting on email can lead to the cancellation of your admission acceptance.

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The Competitiveness Incline

Posted on February 17, 2020 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (0)
As a college consultant for over a decade, I have been waiting for the promised decline in admission competitiveness due to predicted changes in population patterns. Specifically, the prediction was that admission will become less challenging at more competitive colleges when the predicted decline in teenaged population occurs.

What researchers did not take into account is the college-going rate increase. Once upon a time, a minority of students went to college while most others took other opportunities. Now, we live in a time when most teens expect to attend college.

In addition to the increase in the college going rate, the other factors likely to keep the competition high at traditionally competitive colleges include the growth in educational opportunities in k-12 for ambitious families and the increase in private opportunities to enhance student competitiveness.

Other factors that could affect college admission patterns include political shifts that will affect who will apply and be offered admission to which colleges. For example, how would the idea of free college affect admissions at public colleges? Would forgiveness of parent student loan debt result in a change in where the children of parents with student loan debt apply? What will be the impact of an increase in students attending college outside the US? How will shifts in the job market in relation to technology affect the desire for a college education? Will the popularity and cost savings of online college opportunities at prestigious colleges reduce the desire for a residential college education? Will the movement to obtain as much as two years of college credit in high school eliminate the freshman year? One thing is for certain, change is coming to our notion of higher education.


Turtle Syndrome

Posted on August 20, 2018 at 9:01 AM Comments comments (102)
Don't look now but your senior could be growing an outer shell. It is not unusual for high school seniors to avoid working on college planning and applications much like a frightened turtle withdraws into its shell. 

Seniors can panic when they see college coming at them. Some of them tell me it seems to soon to be working on applications. Others say, they just can't get started. While students make those statements, their dads sometimes say: "Hey, it's just an application, what's the big deal?" The big deal is that your son or daughter can get paralyzed at the thought of jumping from high school to college. To some students this feels like jumping off a cliff without a parachute.

Take a step back and think of what a BIG DEAL college represents to you and your teen. If your son or daughter is a rising senior, they have already spent their last summer at home as a k-12 student. Their next summer will be right after graduation from high school and full of college preparation activity. But they have to get in first and that is the second shock to their system, they may be conflicted about where to go and what to study and why college should be considered as one of their post high options. 

High school seniors need family support to navigate college tasks. Parents need to be involved because they are the underwriters of the cost of this activity. Where your teen applies will dramatically affect your cost. Residential college costs 19k to 75k per year and parents should weigh in with their child on the realities of their decisions to avoid high debt levels for students and parents later. 

Some parents tell me they plan to let their kids borrow to cover college costs. News Flash: your rising college freshman can only borrow $5500 in student loan money from the government. The rest that is not covered by scholarships and grants will be covered by parents.


Prestige Kills

Posted on August 13, 2018 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (11)
There are over 5,000 colleges in the United States.  Like other products on the market, consumers are most familiar with the most pricey or otherwise notable institutions. I like to call them the shiney colleges because they distract families from considering other amazing options.

Families who push their children toward the most difficult colleges to enter sometimes kill something precious; the input of their teen. It is easy to get caught up in the prestige of a college as a student and as a parent. It is natural that students and parents like to announce that they are considering colleges that are prestigous.

Another casualty of college prestige can be the relationship between student and parent. This is an unfortunate situation any time but most unfortunate during the last year the student will live at home.

What size college does your kid wear?

Posted on September 4, 2017 at 10:16 PM Comments comments (111)
Working with a wide variety of types of students, I've noticed that each student seems to have a college size that fits best. Some are comfortable and energized at large universities while others feel lonely and invisible in a large school. Other students are more comfortable and academically successful at moderate or small-size colleges where everyone knows everyone on campus and classes are small enough to get to know instructors. By size, I am not referring to acreage but rather the size of the student body.

The same phenomenon can be observed in school size. There are large, medium and small public and private high schools. Parents move their children from one type of school to another at times to get the best environment for learning. I've seen parents move their child from a small private high school to a large public high school assuming the child will get a superior education at a larger school.That same parent sometimes moves his child back to the smaller school because a large school did not fit well or provide a superior education.

The importance of school size for high schools and colleges has less to do with academic quality and more to do with student to teacher ratios and social environment. There are advantages to different school sizes as they relate to individual student needs and readiness. College is not a one-size fits all proposition. Students and their families have the luxury of choice for the type of environment in which the student will thrive and graduate on time.



Pulling all the pieces together

Posted on July 20, 2017 at 9:08 PM Comments comments (99)
Getting into college is sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, except that not all the pieces are in the box. Students and their families are expected to find them. And to make matters more interesting, students and parents hear great advice from people who have gone through the process, myths about processes and programs from people who know what used to be true and sometimes they just wonder what they don't know that they need to know to make the right choice.

The best way to approach the college process is to write down goals before beginning the process. Think about the class size that will work best for academic success. Consider how far from home is most comfortable and what price point is affordable. Conduct research to determine which colleges offer the desired major and, of those, which have the best track record for employment and salary level.
Other considerations are campus safety record, extracurriculars offered, living conditions on campus (including guaranteed housing on campus) and academic program experiences and quality.

Armed with goals, families can evaluate college options much more clearly. For example, if a college costs $55,000 per year and does not have a reputation for being generous with scholarships, it is not a good choice for a family looking to keep costs at $20,000 per year. Similarly, if graduates tend not to get employment in their field, that is another red flag.

Approach the college process like a consumer and outcomes will be more in sync with goals for costs and outcomes.

Just what are you paying for?

Posted on July 10, 2017 at 9:42 PM Comments comments (15)
Buy what you need in a college for a price reasonable for your circumstances



Don't fall into the trap created by thinking that people who are successful in a career had to spend big bucks on college. College choice IS important to student success but not in the way people often think. Prestige (which often means higher cost) does not guarantee a student anything except bragging rights. It is great to choose a college in part for prestige if that is important to a student and parents but they better also want:
  • affordability via actual cost or generosity with scholarships
  • a reputation for providing students with needed support
  • professional advising and counseling for student academic success
  • great career planning services
  • awesome instruction and learning opportunities
  • programs that match student skills and interests
  • a good match between the current skill level of the student and academic requirements
  • great outcome statistics for graduates of the college and degree program
  • a secure campus with a low crime rate
  • a low student drop-out rate
  • a high graduation rate
  • internship opportunities
  • safe, reasonably priced study abroad options
  • excellent leadership at the college 
  • facilities appropriate to instruction and student needs
  • job placement services that rock!
There are over 4,000 colleges in the US and great options in other countries. There are also colleges near just about anywhere in the US. There is a way to obtain a quality education at an affordable price with a great outcome for families who shop for college just like they shop for everything else.



Is your teen looking for Club Ed?

Posted on July 6, 2017 at 11:02 PM Comments comments (1)
Is there an impasse at your house about college choices and where your future college freshman is in thinking about applying and about majors? Then your family is NORMAL. Parents and rising seniors often have periods where talking about college choices and process is difficult. Parents want the best fit for their teen and to be able to afford the cost. Students want a wide variety of things including:
awesome dorms
great sports teams
good food
amazing fitness center
coolness factor
a place where my current peers will not be
far enough from home
Other things on student college shopping lists include prestige, where my friends are going and a where I can play my sport

Notice that cost and major are not listed above. Those are often the last two things on a student "must have" list about colleges. They see cost as a parent issue or believe the loan program will give them as much as they need (nope-they are limited to $5500 freshman year). They often think most colleges offer all majors (also not true). 

One helpful exercise is to have your teen make a college chart with majors, costs, locations and "other reasons I want to go there" on it as they make a very important decision. The chart will help in family discussions about which college is the best option.

College Choice is Where You Save Big Bucks

Posted on June 22, 2017 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (79)
Talking to students and parents initially about college choice often involves a discussion about the relationship between college choice and cost. Most are unaware that the colleges where they choose to apply will differ greatly in how much scholarship money will be offered to them. 

There is an inverse relationship between college prestige and scholarships. The more prestigious the college, the less likely the college offers large merit awards. The most prestigious colleges often award most money based on need. It is also often true that a college that is considered less prestigious or at least less popular is more likely to offer money to students whose GPA and test scores are higher than average for that college.

When you son or daughter opts for Most Popular U, they are often also opting to pay more. It is important for parents to share information on how much they are prepared to give or borrow toward college tuition early in the college process so that the student can apply to colleges accordingly.

How difficult do you want the freshman year to be?

Posted on June 19, 2017 at 10:54 PM Comments comments (12)
I like to ask students how difficult they would like their freshman year of college to be. This question has helped students who are looking at colleges by prestige only.
It has usually not occurred to them that if they should get in to the highly selective colleges on their list that the work will be commensurate with the average GPA of the admitted class. So a college where the average admitted freshman had a 4.0 GPA in high school will be a little more brisk in terms of workload difficulty than a college with a more diverse student body. Not everyone is ready for that.

Readiness is important in college planning. Students should choose colleges at least partly in relation to their current level of academic development. They should also realize that although they may not be ready to compete at Stanford today, they may be ready to do that later when their skill level has actualized.


You Matter

Posted on June 10, 2017 at 9:39 AM Comments comments (26)
You matter. Did you know that? Too many students and parents think they are just anonymous members of a herd trying to get into college. But you are not like everyone else. Nobody is. We are all distinctly different with a wide variety of gifts to offer the world. College is one of the special places we can choose to allow ourselves to grow into our gifts and later contribute them to the world. 

Just like you, colleges are also distinctly different. There is a college for everyone. I am not just saying that. I know, it sounds cliche'. But...like people, each college has a different personality, offers different opportunities and serves different types of people. The mission, if you want to choose college as a place to grow into your gifts, is to match your gifts, needs, desires and budget to colleges that are the perfect growth medium for you.

My mission is to help families make the best match possible. My advice to parents and students in the process is not to assume things about colleges. For example, did you know that an in-state, public college might not be the most economical option for you? It makes sense that these colleges should be the least expensive but I have found that is not always the case. Do you think community college will be easier than a four year college? Think again. Community colleges are getting students ready for four year colleges and work hard to make sure students are ready for the junior year of a university. They are not easier. They may offer smaller classes and lower tuition, but easy classes are not part of the deal. Do you worry that a condition such as dyslexia, ADD, processing delays or Autism are a barrier to going to college? Relax. Not only do colleges offer support services to students with learning differences, some colleges are dedicated to students who learn differently.

See, I told you there is a college for everyone :)