Doing the Impossible with College Planning

When it comes to college planning, time is of the essence. 

At my inbox appeared a telephone consultation reservation for July 27. No idea who the person was, and when we talked I thought, "Oh my; there's no way!"

Here are the details (with fictitious names):

  • Melissa, the mom, was desperate. Her daughter was a rising, high school senior. They had done no planning -- none! Melissa began to cry. My heart broke and, against my better judgment, I told her I would help them.

  • April, the daughter, got on the phone with me. I laid it out for her. I was honest, even blunt. If she wanted me to help, we would have to get done in about 10 weeks what I do with most students over the course of a year, or even longer.

  • April has amazed me! We have a weekly call, about 45 minutes duration. I satisfy myself that she thoroughly understands the assignment to be completed before our next conversation, and the call ends. I have done nothing for her that she cannot do herself. With all of my students, I am the coach, they are the players. 

  • At each phone call she is totally prepared, and her work is done well. She has accomplished about six months' work, in less than a month.

Thank you April! Not only have you demonstrated your readiness for college, your maturity as a young woman (18th birthday in January) and your determination to achieve your goals; but you have also shown me your pluck and capabilities, which certainly are not unique to you. 

No longer will I lower my expectations for my students. I will expect their best, knowing it is within them to do good work, on time.

If your student is a senior in high school and you have yet to begin the college planning process, don't waste a single minute. Work strategically and diligently, not allowing any time to slip through your fingers. As April has demonstrated, if your student is willing to do the leg work, great things can be accomplished in a short amount of time. 

At Succeed Where It Counts, we recommend to begin the college planning process during your student's sophomore year of high school. If that sounds too early to you, over a decade of experience tells you it isn't. You want time on your side so you and your student can learn, think and make wise decisions with time to spare. 

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Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning.

College Campus Culture and You

Campus culture is an important aspect of finding the right college. You want to be happy and comfortable at the college you choose. Four years is a long time to be unhappy and uncomfortable. The question, then, is what is campus culture and how do I identify it?

Colleges have unique personalities, just as do you and I. And, like us, colleges have general characteristics that make them similar. For example, human beings have similar, physical attributes. We can pick out a human being standing in a herd of cows. Colleges are plainly distinct from other educational institutions. You know when you are on a college campus, as contrasted with a public secondary school. It is not the obvious attributes we need to consider.

Less obvious, and actually more important, are those characteristics of colleges that make them different from each other. That is the campus culture you want to identify and evaluate. Campus visits, during the school year, if at all possible, are the primary method of evaluation.

Do you like what you see? Walk around the quad as classes change. Visit the student union and the cafeteria. Can you see yourself hanging out with those young adults?

Be brave and talk with some students. Ask them what they like, and don't like about the college. Ask them what surprised them their first year. One absolutely wonderful quality about college students is their willingness to talk, and their candor. When you identify yourself as a high school student, I expect you will find those young people to be very friendly and open.

Look around at posters, as well as notices of meetings and events. What is happening on campus? What is being pushed to the front of students' attention? If you are on a tour with a student ambassador, ask that person about things that the college frowns upon. Ask what gets students in trouble with the administration. Ask what the predominant, weekend activities are throughout the year.

Talk with an admissions counselor. Ask them about official conduct codes, dress codes, social codes. Ask about campus safety. Ask about students' rights, and if there is a published statement of student rights. Of course, those may be uncomfortable conversations, but you will be glad to find out before you enroll and pay thousands of dollars to attend.

Here's an example of why you want to have the conversations recommended in this blog. Matt Damon, famous actor, is in the news for doing something that would get many college students in big trouble; maybe even dismissed from school. Here's the story: Matt Damon Gets Schooled. What if you used that same slur at college? What would happen to you? Nothing happened to Matt, really. How about a college kid using that same, admitted, insult?

Campus culture matters from what is obvious to everyone to what is hidden from most, until it is too late. Figure it out before you enroll, and even before you apply.

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Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning.

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