11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 4

Are you coming back for part 4, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, scroll down to find the first 3 of this series.

Keep moving. You don't have as much time as you may be thinking. Between now August 2020, when applications open for the Class of 2021, you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is also tied to your good work now.

Here are the topics, and in reverse order.
5. Where are you going to apply?
4. Have I visited every college I am applying to?
3. What are my academic qualifications?
2. What will I major in?
1. What do I see as my future career?

At any college, ask anyone in admissions and they will tell you, "Don't come here if you haven't visited first."

That may seem to be an odd statement for someone whose job it is to enroll students in their college. However, hard experience and many tears inform the wisdom of the advice. Remember, college is the place you will live and work nine months per year, for four years. You'd better love the place!

Campus visits are not complicated, but they are important. First of all, do you, the student, feel at home when you set foot on campus? That is a matter of taste and preference. Some people like modern; some traditional; some open spaces and some an urban jungle. Your tastes, what makes you happy is key.

Second, is the school too far from home for weekends; or too close for comfort? Again, it's your judgment that matters.

Third, is the school too big, too small, or (as Goldilocks found with baby bear's bed) just right.

Fourth, what do students do for fun? When they are not in class? On weekends? Find out and think about how those things line up with your ideas of fun.

Finally, it's a good idea to go to the building where you will be taking most of the classes of your proposed Major. Meet the professors who will be teaching you. Check out the classrooms where you will spend many hours over four years. Watcha think?

It's okay to visit every campus under serious consideration once. It's better to visit your top three twice; and your top two three times. You're about to spend A LOT of money, and invest forty-eight months of your life on a college campus. Be sure.

 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 3

Are you coming back for part 3, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, scroll down to find Blog 1 and Blog 2 of this series.

Keep moving. You don't have as much time as you may be thinking. Between now August 2020, when applications open for the Class of 2021, you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is also tied to your good work now.

Here are the topics, and in reverse order.
5. Where are you going to apply?
4. Have I visited every college I am applying to?
3. What are my academic qualifications?
2. What will I major in?
1. What do I see as my future career?

Do you play sports? Video games? Anything competitive?      

There is a competitive aspect to college. Not every student in every class will earn an A. Not everyone will earn a C. The difference between a C and an A is determined, in part, by how well the entire class is assimilating the subject matter.

Really good teachers (the kind we all want) feel out the academic ability of the class and adjust their teaching.

  • Is the class getting it, and catching on? Accelerate the curriculum.
  • Is the class giving you that deer-in-the-headlights look? Slow down. Take more time to explain each concept.
  • Tests and grades are based on what has been presented.

I was a soccer referee for many years. I worked just about the entire spread of players' abilities from recreation matches for children, to college and professional players. The child who is the
star of the recreation program team might well sit the bench, or even not make a premier level, youth team. There are college athletes who, although good, will not make the cut in a professional team tryout.


Applying the analogy to colleges, there is a difference between the academic rigor of a school like the University of California at Berkley and California State University at Chico. A student who will find his comfort level at one may not feel pushed enough at the other. Turn it around, and a good fit at one may well struggle to keep up at the other.

Look at a college's most recently published, First Year Cohort. What are the SAT/ACT score ranges? What is the average GPA of the incoming class; average Class Rank?

Another tactic is call the university you are considering. Ask about academic rigor. Tell them you are determining where to apply based, in part, on that criteria. They will pick up the conversation from there.

Come back next week for answers to questions 4 and 5 above.
 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 2

I'm in 11th Grade what else should I be doing now for college admissions and financial aid?

Are you coming back for part 2, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, here is a synopsis of the previous Blog. But, please, after you read this, find the Dec 2-7 Blog and read it.

Keep moving. You don't have as much time as you may be thinking. Between now August 2020, when applications open for the Class of 2021, you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is also tied to your good work now. Figure out what is a great career fit. Four years of college will be fun and rewarding if you graduate and land a great job.

Here are the topics, and in reverse order.
5. Where are you going to apply?
4. Have I visited every college I am applying to?
3. What are my academic qualifications?
2. What will I major in?
1. What do I see as my future career?

Once you identify well-suited career choices, address the question of what to major in to be best prepared for that future. Some choices are obvious plan to be an electrical engineer? Major in EE. Some choices are less obvious. Many students pick generic such as business major; psychology major; sociology major.


They are generic until you have a specific career track for which that degree prepares you.

  • Which specific courses, as a college junior and senior should, you take within that major?
  • Will you need to master's degree? a PhD?
  • Do you want to go to school that long?
  • Will the potential income justify the probable costs of Bachelor's + Master's degrees + PhD?
Next and this is really big does the college or university offer that major? If so, how many students do they graduate with that degree? For example, if a college has a total graduating class of 3,000 (in all majors), and your proposed major only accounts for 10 of those 3,000, is that really a program you want to invest in for 4 years, at somewhere around $80,000 - $100,000 (or more)?

Check out the college's website. Call the admission office. Gather the information.

Stay tuned for answers to questions 3,4,5 above.

If you would like our one-to-one, personal, highly tailored coaching, please tap the "Contact Us" tab at the top of this page, or "Schedule an Appointment" upper right corner on our Homepage. There is no cost and no obligation. We'll enjoy talking with you.

 

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing for admissions and financial aid?

I'm in 11th Grade what should I be doing now for college admissions and financial aid?


The first answer is, "Keep moving." What I mean is, you don't have as much time as you may be thinking. College applications are not on your radar until next August. True. However, between now and then you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is tied closely to five topics.

Here are the topics, and in reverse order.
5. Where are you going to apply?
4. Have I visited every college I am applying to?
3. What are my academic qualifications?
2. What will I major in?
1. What do I see as my future career?

The most important question to answer, now, is "What career?" (Purchase my book here.)  Going to college without an outcome in focus is a HUGE mistake. Across America, for students attending a public university at in-state, resident rates, the annual, actual costs will exceed $20,000.00. At that price, how much time can you afford to meander through five or six years to a degree? Yet, that is the mistake the majority of college students in the USA make.

My students invest in a really good career assessment. It points them in the direction of what they are suited to do (aptitude), but more importantly, what they will enjoy doing for 40 years, more or less.

For example, I am good at taking and transcribing the minutes of meetings. But I do not enjoy it very much. I am willing to do it, but if given a choice, I'd rather not. Another example is I have had students who were science scholars. A medical career might be a logical choice, right? Many of them, however, freak out at the sight of blood. So maybe something else!

Do whatever it takes to figure out what you will love doing after college, and what is required by way of academic preparation to do that. What are the prospects for earning a living in that career? Is that job market expanding or shrinking? Check out www.BLS.gov. That's the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Great website, and updated regularly.

Check back next week for continued discussion of questions 2,3,4 and 5, or call us today.
 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as Financial Aid.

Four-Year Myth -- What You Can Do Now

Complete College America's white paper The Four Year Myth proposes its solution to the problem of college students taking 5, or 6, or more years to complete an undergraduate degree. CCA calls it "Guided Pathways to Success" (pp. 14-19).

Their's is an impressive solution to a problem that must be solved; and the sooner the better. However, CCA's solution is systemic. It requires system-wide changes in states, universities and colleges.

That will be nice . . . when it happens. In the meantime, you've got a kid in high school. What can be done for your student?

It would take a book to detail everything Succeed Where It Counts does (and such a book is in the publisher's hands, right now). But even through a book, it is an impossible challenge to address every variable. Your student is a unique human being. Your student deserves a tailored fit. Your financial future also benefits.

In outline form, here's what SWIC addresses with each family:

  1. AFFORDABILITY: what is a realistic budget, annually, for you to pay for college? Components include ways to reduce spending, student employment, and dollars currently being transferred away unknowingly and unnecessarily that can be recouped.
  2. INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT: we use the Birkman Career Assessment to help every student begin to visualize what a career might look like.
  3. CAREER COURSE-SETTING: we use Candid Career, job-shadowing and other opportunities to help a student capture a clear and accurate picture of what a particular career involves on a day-to-day basis.
  4. ACADEMIC RIGOR: we encourage students to evaluate their own ability to do college level work, and to compete in rigorous, academic environments. Their high school transcripts are a key indicator.
  5. COLLEGE SELECTION: we lead students through a process of narrowing down, from many dozens to a manageable group of a dozen or so colleges, for finer scrutiny.
  6. CAMPUS VISITS: are essential, time consuming and costly ( parents' PTO, travel, overnight lodging, food). That process begins online, and on the telephone to minimize costs.
  7. FINANCIAL AID: (free+self-help+loans) we work with parents and develop their plan. It sets parameters for what may be possible for scholarships and grants-in-aid ("free" money) from the colleges; for students' employment during college (self-help); and for the Direct Student Loan program. We discourage borrowing by either student or parents beyond the Direct Student Loan limits.
  8. CONSUMER PURCHASE: (value + price) at the end of it all, the decision is a family choice and a personal choice. The least expensive is not always the best, and the best is not always the most expensive. College is a consumer purchase. That means price and value are factors to weigh when making the decision.
Contact Suceed Where It Counts today for a no-cost and no-obligation consultation. Click on the "Home" tab, and then on the red button at the upper right corner of the Home page.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

The Four-Year Myth -- why are students not graduating in 4 years?

Two more today and next week and that will wrap up my synopsis of Complete College America's white paper The Four Year Myth.

  1. What CCA concluded from the research
  2. How SWIC addresses CCA's solution
Complete College America's white paper did not address the underlying economics causing the explosive rise, over the past 20 years, in the costs of a college education.


They did uncover corollary cost contributors which are, primarily, students taking longer than the presumed amount of time specifically, 4 years to complete an undergraduate degree.
  • Students, overall, take unnecessary, non-degree-related classes. One reason is the schools themselves offer classes that have pop-culture, emotional or intellectual appeal, and are substituted for a degree-necessary class because students want a break from the academic rigor of their majors.
  • Students transfer from one college to another.  CCA's White Paper states that 60% of bachelor's degree recipients transferred colleges and, thereby, lost credits toward graduation.
  • Students need a class that is either full or otherwise unavailable. That may leave them short of credit hours sufficient for scholarship and grant requirements. Therefore, students take classes they do not need simply to generate a credit-hour load for financial aid purposes.
Finally, all of those are directly related to students entering college without a clear direction as to purposes and outcomes. Every first year student must define a major to pursue and, at least, an inaugural vocation for which that major is preparation.
Next blog will specify how SWIC strategically addresses the issue.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

On-Time Graduation is Not Optional



That image is from Complete College America's white paper, "The Four Year Myth."

Colleges report graduation rates as so many percent of a first year cohort completing a course of study within six years. Add $140,000 to what you think (and even financially plan for) are your out-of-pocket costs. Now what's the cost of a college education look like?

And, realistically, the numbers cited do not account for inflation (currently +/- 6% annually at colleges nationwide). Nor do those numbers show the opportunity costs of $140,000 over a working lifetime.

In that same white paper Complete College America exhorts colleges to reform their systems so that students do not wander in the limbo of "discovering themselves."

My blunt advice is, "Get a job or join the military. Discover yourself. Then go to college."  Sorry. I said it is blunt.

There are other pathways. Those take time, effort and, in most cases, a little bit of money. Well worth all of that!

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Four-Year Myth -- Graduation Rates Matter

Look at these graduation-rate numbers:
 
Community Colleges

1- TO 2-YEAR CERTIFICATE
15.9% - ON TIME
 
2-YEAR ASSOCIATE
5.0% - ON TIME

Four-Year Institutions
4-YEAR BACHELOR'S
(NON-FLAGSHIP)
19% - ON TIME

4-YEAR BACHELOR'S
(FLAGSHIP/VERY HIGH RESEARCH)
36% -  ON TIME

That disturbing reality is the report of Complete College America, as of 2015.  I included their Community College statistic for a very important reason. Many parents adopt a position that their student will attend community college and, thereby, reduce the expense of education. That is demonstrably not true, unless the reasons for all of those statistics are addressed -- specifically, intentionally and intelligently.
  • Specifically: statistics apply to everyone in general, and to no one in particular. When I meet with students my perceptions are often significantly different from the descriptions offered by their moms and dads. No surprise, on the one hand; but, on the other hand, the differences I perceive translate into many tens of thousands of dollars in college expenses. It is not some kid going to college. It is YOUR kid!
  • Intentionally: an affordable college education for your student will not happen by accident. Sadly, this anecdote is true:
    • A mom emailed me: "Please tell me how we can get money from FAFSA for our $24,000 college costs." This student was a high school senior. It was March of her senior year, and FAFSA has no money either to lend or to give.
    • My heart breaks, but that family simply waited too long and made too many assumptions about financial aid and affordability.
    • Affordability  -- people ask me when is a good time to start. I say, "When you come home from the doctor with the news you are pregnant." Since most of us are not that well organized, nevertheless, as soon as the thought occurs to you, do not procrastinate. Contact me immediately. Affordability is possible and the more time you give yourself the better off you will be.
  • Intelligently: Affordability also involves the process of college selection. Factors that must be included are
    • Academic/admissions threshold
    • Graduation rates
    • Retention rates
    • Flagship programs
    • Financial aid history.
The troubling statistics do not have to trouble your family, but you will have to act constructively for that to be so. Succeed Where It Counts, Inc. provides every family a complimentary conversation that is, virtually 100% of the time, illuminating. Schedule that conversation today.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

The 4 Year Myth -- Hidden Costs

$600 million dollars a year in unanticipated, if not unnecessary college education costs due to students transferring from one college to another. According to Complete College America's "The Four Year Myth" 60% of undergraduates transfer at least once prior to completing a four-year-degree track. In so doing they lose credits for courses taken, and extend their length of stay in college by a year or more.

Six hundred million dollars is an eye-opening number, yet it still leaves you thinking about "all those poor people," rather than, "That's me!" Furthermore, there are other, often hidden costs associated with lingering around the ivy-covered walls longer than prescribed.

In a previous blog, The Four Year Myth A True Story (March 20, 2017; scroll to read it), there is cited the costs of two extra years. That includes cost of attending four extra semesters plus income not earned over that same period of time. The dollar figure cited ($220,000) is not theoretical, but actual and is borne by one family for one student for one undergraduate diploma.

Other hidden costs, seldom considered, include the time value of money, also known as opportunity cost. Here are two examples:

  1. Jack and Jill use retirement funds to defray education expenses. They take advantage of the IRS exception permitting a penalty-free withdrawal from their 401k account. But they still owe the tax due on the amount withdrawn. Even that, however, is not the hidden cost to which I allude. Let's assume J&J were earning, without a hiccup, 6% annually as their return on investment in a well-managed retirement fund; and they withdrew $40,000 to cover education costs of $10,000 per year for four years. If J&J are 45 years old, and retire at age 67 they lose 6% compounding growth on $40,000 for 22 years. What does that add up to?  One hundred forty-four thousand, one hundred forty-one dollars and change ($144,141.50). That amount may well equal their entire tax obligation on the full value of their 401k at retirement. Assuming their student is attending at the average cost of $23,000 per year, and assuming it takes only four years to graduate, the college education they are telling everyone cost them $92,000 in fact cost them more than $236,000.
  2. And now the example becomes even more hair-raising. Assume they avoided raiding their retirement fund and, instead, took out a line of credit on their residence (HELOC), paying 6% for the privilege. Let's also assume that, following the four years of college they got that loan repaid in ten years, totaling fourteen years of debt service.  Principle + interest equals $59,219, plus origination fees and other incidental costs. Add that onto the lost, compounding growth they could have gained had they invested $40,000 instead of borrowing it, and the cost of a four-year education approaches $300,000.
My question is, "What else could you do for your student with $300,000?" Until that question is answered it is hard, if not impossible to answer the question, "Four years of college: how much is that worth?"

Granted, there are other virtues beyond the "sheepskin." Many students find their life partner at college, enter into a career path that is fulfilling and remunerative, and develop a network of strong relationships that serve a lifetime.

I advocate, therefore, it's not just price, but value. Determining value takes work that, I believe, most families would do if they knew to do it. You've read this so now you know.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies, Retirement Planning.

The 4 Year Myth -- a true story

I had planned to write more from the Complete College America's white paper, but . . .

yesterday I was on the soccer field with a young man who went off to one of America's top engineering universities after his graduation from a Charlotte Mecklenburg public high school. I asked if he graduated in four years or five. "Six" was his answer. 6 -- six -- twelve semesters -- and this is a bright, responsible, industrious individual (my esteem for him, having known him for eight years or more). Another young man who was with us, and is currently a senior at an area high school, responded, "Yeah, engineering is a five-year degree, I hear."

There's a problem (my opinion) when students enter college with a defined notion that 4 years to a degree is unrealistic. I promise you, the university in question lays out a four year program. Why didn't my friend, therefore, complete his degree in the prescribed four years (eight semesters)?

  1. Uncertainty as to his major upon entering
  2. Required classes that filled up and forced his hand to wait until subsequent semesters
  3. Too many electives
  4. A decision ahead of time that he would not, could not and, therefore, will not finish in four.
The young adult I reference is no slouch. He just bought into the story line that "it doesn't make a difference how long it takes, just so long as you earn your degree."

Here's what it cost him:
Bottom line? $220,000 is what his "Four Year Degree" cost him -- not $80,000 (as advertised).



Posted in College Planning, Wealth Creation Strategies.

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