Tag Archives: college students

Questions we wished we asked about college admissions

College GuideWe all have questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

Not long ago I met with friends Sydney and Tom Hale. They had just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard,  I will answer in this space, over the next two blogs, the questions the Hales wished they had asked.

Transfer Credits

  • After Tom was awarded an associate’s degree, he applied to transfer to a four year college and assumed all of his credits would transfer.  No mention of transfer credits was included in his acceptance package.  After numerous phone calls, Tom learned only three courses would transfer.  He never enrolled in the four year college.

Takeaway:  Be sure you have a clear understanding of how many of your college credits will transfer before you send in a deposit.

Application Acceptance

  • Sydney was one of the few female pilots in her state at the age of 17.  Her high school guidance counselor never suggested her aviation skills, particularly at such a young age, could be a “hook” when applying to colleges.  Sydney did not enroll in her first choice school but transferred after six months.

Takeaway:  Be sure you and your guidance counselor agree on the best way to position your application for acceptance.

Financial Aid

  • When applying to college, Tom never applied for financial aid because he thought his family made too much money to qualify for assistance.

Takeaway:  Regardless of your family’s income, always apply for financial aid. You may qualify for institutional aid, not based on income.

Primer on College Reference Guides

There is no shortage of very good college reference guides to help students and families work through college selection.

I am happy to recommend several – and most have online components to make your research even easier.

I encourage you to visit and study:

  • College Navigator. This site is sponsored by the Department of Education and contains a database of thousands of colleges and universities. The schools are listed by location, program and degree offerings.
  • The University of Texas at Austin  Web U.S. Higher Education. This site provides links to the home pages of four year colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
  • Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities ((AJCU).  This site is sponsored by Jesuit colleges and will give you information on all Jesuit schools.
  • Hillel International. This is the official site of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
  • Women’s Colleges. This site will give you information on women’s colleges in the U.S.
  • Black Excel. This site provides information for African American students
  • NCAA.  This website provides useful information for anyone interested in varsity athletics at schools who are members of the NCAA.
  • FAFSA.  This is the federal site for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If you are applying for need-based aid, you will need to visit this site.
  • FAFSA.  This site allows families to get estimates of their expected family contribution.
  • Fastweb.  This site provides information on scholarships as well as expected family contribution calculator.
  • Finaid.  This is a general purpose site with lots of information about financial aid.
  • Federal Student Aid.  This is a comprehensive government site with information in both English and Spanish.

Please take the time to review any and all of the information on these sites.  It can only help you narrow your choices and find the best school for you.

College housing can make or break your first year

Once you’ve been accepted to college, the next big decision is college housing.

Where you decide to live can either help you succeed in the first semester of your college career, or it can contribute to you wanting to transfer to another school.

There are many options for you to consider if you decide to live on campus, including:

  • Single-sex residence halls – no members of the opposite sex
  • Substance-free residence halls – no alcohol or drugs are permitted
  • Honors housing – Some colleges and universities house their honors students together
  • Special-interest residence halls – certain majors may be grouped together.  Some schools assign international students to the same residence halls, but I don’t recommend this.  I think it would be better for an international student to have the experience of living with an American student.

Most colleges and universities have single rooms, double rooms and suite-like configuration of rooms where several students live in a group setting.

Don’t count on getting a single room.  Few schools can offer that option.  Doubles and suites are more common. Find out if your school will let you “negotiate” who you want to live with and be certain to find out what you can do if your housing situation becomes intolerable.  What options do you have?

If for some reason, your financial situation changes, and you need to commute from home to campus, know how to petition to be released from your housing contract.

I can’t stress enough the importance of a good housing situation. There are so many changes and new experiences in the first semester. You need to be able to come back to a comfortable space that you can call “home.”

Make the most out of your college campus visits

College Guide Most prospective college students and their parents want to make college campus visits before deciding to apply.

And that is good strategy, a right of passage in many ways.

The guidelines in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job shows you how to narrow your choices so that you are not travelling all over the country to visit several schools.

One of my daughters visited 23 college campuses and enrolled in the first one she visited!  There is no need for you to do that.  Read the book and narrow your choices to perhaps ten schools. You may have more or less, but use ten as a benchmark.

When you visit a school try to spend more than the time allotted by the admission office. If you can, arrange to spend a night is a residence hall.  If you can, arrange to sit in on one first year class and one upper level class. Try, if you can, to meet with a professor in your major (if you have one).

Read bulletin boards and pick up a copy of the college newspaper. Forget about being shy and talk to students in the cafeteria, in the library, wherever you can.

Make sure you stop by the registrar’s office and get a copy of the catalog.  Don’t forget to meet someone in the financial aid office.  Pick up forms if they are available. Stop by the career counseling center and speak with someone about what career counseling you can expect from your first year through your senior year.

Be your own investigator and advocate.

Some college behavior still protected by privacy

In these days when it seems nothing is private,  college students still have a right of privacy in some matters.

You should be aware of two federal laws which protect your privacy:

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health, Information, Portability, and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  • FERPA laws prevent colleges and universities from releasing information about academic or disciplinary matters to anyone, including parents, without the consent of the student.
  • HIPAA prevents health care providers from releasing information to anyone, including parents, about a student’s health record.

Colleges and universities are allowed to give out public information that is available online.  Some schools will provide information, especially if drugs or alcohol are involved.  But each school has its own published set of rules and you and your parents should be aware of the guidelines before you enroll on campus.

Many parents are annoyed that even though they are paying the bill, they don’t have access to their child’s academic or health records.

It was at the graduation ceremony for my second daughter, when she received a number of academic awards, that my husband and I were first made aware of how smart she was and how successful her college career had been.  I was proud of her, of course, but I admit that I felt annoyed that up to that point, we had not received any formal notification from the school about her grades or progress.

These laws have as many supporters as they do detractors.  I guess I fall into the latter category.  But the laws are the laws.  I urge you and your parents to know what they are so you won’t be either surprised or disappointed.

Beware of Advertising for Credit Cards

A few years ago Sallie Mae conducted a survey of college students and the use of credit cards.

The results may, or may not, surprise you.

  • The overwhelming majority of college students had at least one credit card and about 1/3 paid their tuition using a credit card.
  • The average debt ranged from $1,000 to $7,000. The overwhelming majority of undergraduates indicated they needed more education on managing their money and would have taken a money  management course either in high school or in college if it were offered.

Once you are on campus you will notice a number of signs letting you know that “something” is free if you sign up for a particular credit card.  Please remember that nothing is free.

College GuideMy book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job carefully guides you and your parents about the best ways to meet college expenses.

You know how much of your bills will be met by savings, your borrowing, your parents’ borrowing, your financial aid from the federal and state governments, and the institutional aid from your school.

I urge you throughout the book to work, if you can, to meet your daily living expenses. This pay-as-you-go plan will help you to better manage your time and finances and is a good lesson for later life.

So please don’t be tempted to add some plastic to your wallet.  Credit card debt is one of the things you don’t want to take with you after graduation.

Time Management and College Success

Time management and college success go together like peanut butter and jelly.

One of the biggest adjustments to college is the wise use of time.

Good time management is one the biggest reasons for college success, especially in the first year.  Bad time management skills can railroad your first semester.

College is not like high school where a bell rang to move you from one class to another.  You have an individual schedule and may have hours between classes.  No one will tell you what to do and when. You may have joined a few clubs or organizations. You may have decided to work on-campus. All of these things will force you to make choices about how you spend your time.

During your first week of class, you will be given a list of books to read and papers to write.  You may look at the deadlines and think they are too far away to worry about them.  A few weeks roll by and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving and you go home and realize that you have three papers all due within three weeks.

It is exactly this kind of poor planning that will result in many late nights and compromised grades.

The New College GuideTime Management Suggestions

  • Divide your day or week up to include all of the activities that are an important part of college.  But be certain that first and foremost you are spending the most time on carefully calculating all you need to do in each class to get the grades you want.
  • Meet with your academic advisor and with staff in the counseling or student services department if you are having difficulty completing all of your assignments.  Many school have tutors (free) that can help you navigate the first semester and learn how to properly manage you time to include both academics and social activities.

We can help you with our new book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out & Get a Job.

What are college graduate job skills?

One tends to read quite a bit, these days, about college graduate job skills (or the lack thereof).

Let me be very clear:  I do not believe you should enroll in college just to get a job.  

Neither should your major be a subject in which you have little or no interest only because the job prospects are good. College is much more.  It is a time to explore your interests and discover new talents. It’s a time to make life-long friendships.

The unemployment rate for college graduates was 3.8% last year. (High school graduates had an unemployment re of 7.4 %.)  But in a collaborative report between The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, published in March of 2013, about 50% of 700 employers who participated in the study said they had trouble finding qualified college graduates to fill positions in their company. 

According to the employers in the study, college graduates need to have the following skills:

  • Good written and oral communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to manage multiple priorities
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Ability to collaborate
  • Flexibility
  • Knowing how retrieve and use information in a workplace situation.

College GuideThe New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Be your own advocate.
  • Go through the list of employable skills as you progress from your first to last year.
  • Be certain you are the graduate that future employers need and want.

Important College Enrollment Statistics You Want to Know

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has declined in the U.S. for the past two years.  

In 2011, total higher education enrollment was 20.5 million students. In 2012, the number was 19.9 million, a decline of almost 700,000 students.

Last year the decline in enrollment by region was:

  • -0.3% in the Northeast
  • -0.9% in the South
  • -.0 7% in the West
  • -2.6% in the Midwest

The college enrollment statistics are both bad news and good news.

What do these college enrollment figures mean for you?  

If you have on your list colleges and universities located in the Midwest, you may have a better chance of admission given the decline last year in that region of the country.

The New College GuideThe New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Contact the admission office for each of the schools on your list and ask to get the number of applicants, admitted and enrolled students for the past three years.
  • Also request the average SAT scores and GPAs for the entering class for the past three years.  Do not rely only on guide books. You will get only partial information.
  • Become your own investigator and dig deeper into a school’s enrollment picture.
  • You may be surprised at what you learn.

The college waiting list becoming a grim reality

Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job and Never Find Yourself on a college waiting list.

The news was grim in the Boston Globe’s May 2 edition: The college waiting list has become a reality in today’s application process because more students are applying to more schools.

With students applying to so many schools, admission officers have a harder time estimating how many accepted students will enroll.

“Yield” rates can affect a school’s ranking in national publications and even its bond rating. Wait lists are one way to control both.

Last year, 17.7% of high school students applied to more than eight schools. The average percentage of students accepted off wait lists was 25%. At selective schools the percentage is much lower.

The New College GuideAnd even if you get off your first choice school’s wait list, your chances of receiving financial aid decrease. These are not great odds.

If you read and follow the guidelines of The New College Guide, you will never find yourself on a school’s wait list. You will have done all of the work before you apply to “match” your chances of admission with your college preferences. So read the first 42 questions in The New College Guide and forget about finding your name on a wait list.