Tag Archives: college

Applying for College: Stressed Out or Calm?

We should be honest: applying for college can become a stressful preoccupation.

Just relax, take a few deep breaths.

For those of you entering your senior year in high school – and your parents – you may be feeling the pressure of having to make a decision, filling out the applications. You perception is that time is running out.

You have an appointment with your high school guidance counselor the second week in September and you are tired of all the “road trips” and facts and figures.  Conversations at dinnertime focuses on costs and how your family can/will pay for college.

There was a wonderful article written by Doug Belkin, an educational writer for The Wall Street Journal on May 7th.  The article, Elite Colleges Don’t Buy Happiness, reported on a poll conducted by Gallup of 30,000 college graduates in 50 schools. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter so much where you study but what is important is what you study.

Earlier research by Stacy Dale, an economist at Mathematica, revealed that students accepted into elite schools but enrolling in less selective schools earned as much money as their elite counterparts.

So take a deep breath a re-read that sentence.  Do you really want the pressure of applying only to schools that admit less that 5% of all those that apply?  Is that you?  Maybe it is.  But maybe it isn’t.  Only you can decide.

The New College GuidePick up a copy (again) of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the following questions:

  • Question 1  –   School Location and Size
  • Question 2 –    Type of School
  • Question 3 –    Do I Know What I Want to Study?
  • Question 7 –    Who Will Teach Me?
  • Question 10 – How Many Freshmen Become Sophomores?
  • Question 11 – How Long Will It Take Me to Graduate?

Then take a break. That’s enough for today.

Today review the following questions:

  • Question 18  – How Safe Are the Schools on My List?
  • Question 22 –  Will I Fit In?
  • Question 25 –  Can I Afford This School?
  • Question 27 –  What Kind of Financial Aid Is Available?
  • Question 31 –  Does Everyone Get Financial Aid?
  • Question 34 –  How Do I Know If I Am Borrowing Too Much?

That’s enough for day 2.

By the time you review and write down the answers to these questions for all of the schools you are considering, some clear “winners” will emerge.

Remember:

  • You can be admitted to a school of your choice and your choice may not be a “designer” school or one even rated in a college guide book.
  • You want to know before you apply, that you can afford this school.
  • You have a plan to manage your debt.

Next week I will write about employment and jobs after graduation.

Relax.

 

College statistics you should know

Numbers often give us the big picture of challenges facing us and college statistics give us a picture of the state of higher education today.

I don’t know if you read The New York Times, but if you do not, you will want to read the following statistics listed by David Brooks on May 5, 2014:

  • 1974 – 77% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 2013 –  57% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 1976 –  50% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 2006 –  69% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 1966 –  42% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 2005 –  75% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 1966 –  86% of college students reported going to college to develop a philosophy of life. In 2013, the percentage was less than 50%.
  • 1985 – 18% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 2013 – 33% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know why you want to go to college?
  • Is a good job after graduation, doing meaningful work and earning a decent salary, important to you?

The New College Guide

If you read and follow the principles in The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will enroll in your first choice school.

You cannot fail!

Who Will Teach Me at College?

College GuideIt doesn’t not occur to most college-bound students to ask the simple questions, “who will teach me at college?”

Nearly everyone assumes – certainly a reasonable assumption – the teachers at college will be fully tenured, college professors. Or, at least, graduate students on their way to becoming college professors.

But we can no longer make that assumption.

If you have read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get  a Job, you will know that one of the questions you should ask before you apply to any college or university is who teaches first year students.  Are the instructors full-time, tenured faculty, or are they adjunct teachers or graduate assistants?

According to a recent report, the majority of professors are now adjuncts, teaching part-time in several schools.  They are often given little advance notice of what course they will be teaching. They may not even have an office or office hours, making it difficult for a first year student to get advice outside of the classroom.

There are many excellent adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants. But I do not believe that they are the best instructors for first-year students.

Schools that use adjuncts do so to save money. The interests of the students, in my opinion, are secondary to the monetary benefit of using part-time instructors.  Adjunct faculty cannot provide the same kind of educational experience and academic advising provided by a full-time professor.

I believe the classroom professor is the most important factor in student success, especially in the first year.

The best schools in the country put their best teachers in first-year classrooms.  Be certain you know who teaches first-year courses before turning in your application.

Questions About College Admissions, Part 2

We began our post last week discussing some questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

I mentioned our friends, Sydney and Tom Hale. They 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 from them,  I will answer a few of those questions. Other questions and answers appear, as I mentioned, in the post published June 26.

Pre-registration and Registration Processes

  • Sydney was almost a senior in college before she finally felt comfortable navigating the pre-registration and registration processes.  As a result, she often did not get the classes she needed and wanted.

Takeaway:  After you read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will know, before enrolling, what you need to do to successfully register for all of your college courses.

Applying to College

  • Tom was an excellent student but did not really think about applying to college until late in his junior year.  He wished he had spent more time in high school preparing for college.

Takeaway:  Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Joband you will learn exactly what you need to do to get into the best school for you and your family and when you need to begin the process.

Involvement in College Life

  • Sydney urges readers of my book to never follow one’s boyfriend/girlfriend or best friend to a particular school.  She also urges college students to get involved as early as possible in the life of the school and to think twice about living off-campus as that can be a very isolating experience.

Takeaway:  I think Sydney’s advice is valuable.  The experiences you have outside the classroom will affect your entire college life.

Don’t discount the quality of community colleges

Once considered a “stepchild” of higher education, many community colleges are now innovators and well deserving of the title.

Half of all current college students attend a community college.

Federal and state funding for community colleges has increased over the past several years and a great deal is being done at the community college level to match majors with workforce needs.

I recommend, especially if finances are a major issue for you, taking a serious look at enrolling in a two year school first and then transferring to a four-year college or university.

This will save you the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a more expensive school while still allowing you to graduate with a degree from that four year school.  Most community college students live at home so that saves you the cost of residence hall expenses.  And most community college students work and do not borrow to meet living expenses.

If you decide to go the community college route, do the same investigation that you would do if you planned on attending a four year school.

  •  Find out the successful transfer rate of the community college, the schools students transfer into, the percentage of students who stay for two years, the most popular majors, and the average debt.
  •  Find out how many of the students with an associate’s degree get a job at graduation.
  • Be certain that your future career interests can be met by the curriculum.

I have a colleague who recently told me that he put all three of his children through college and graduate school with a cumulative debt of $90,000.  And all three first attended a community college!

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.

How to Get a Job at Google

Maybe Google values skills you learn in college,  not necessarily the college degree itself.

I know anyone reading this blog knows Google but perhaps you may not have considered what is required to work for the tech giant.

In an article published on April 19, 2014,  New York Times writer Thomas Friedman shares some of his conversation with Mr. Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of all hiring at Google.  (They hire about 100 new people each week.)

Mr. Bock stresses the importance of creating value with what you know.  He cautions that having a college degree does not guarantee that you will have the skills or traits to do any job.

The first thing Google looks for in a new hire is general cognitive ability or the ability to learn new things and solve problems.  Having the ability to understand and apply information is essential.  A solid liberal arts education will help.

The New College GuideIn compiling your resume, Mr. Bock recommends framing your strengths by demonstrating that what you have accomplished will create value.  Be explicit about the thought process behind why you did something.

College is a huge investment of time and money and you should think long and hard about what you are getting in return. Make sure, Mr. Bock recommends, that you are learning the skills that will be valued in today’s workplace.

In my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out & Get a Job, I talk about skills college students should develop in college and how to find colleges or universities that will help you develop those skills.

Updates: The New College Guide

Update: 4/8/2014
The New College Guide is now also available in a Spanish Edition. Subscribe to our eNews to get newest updates!

How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job

100 Questions to Ask About  College

by Marguerite J. Dennis

The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job is a different kind of college admission and financial aid book because it offers the reader information to consider before college admission, to financing college with manageable debt, to graduating in four years and getting a job after graduation.

Purchase Marguerite’s book here.

Dedicated to:

Future college students and their parents, high school guidance counselors and international agents

With the hope that some of the questions in this book will help you to select the best college for you and for your family and will help you to better guide the students you counsel.

Early Reviews

“If you read only one book on college admission and financing, read this one. This is the only book on the subject that takes the reader beyond admission, to graduation and getting a job after college” — Marie C. Devins, Editor/Publisher, Talbots Student-Planning Book

“The author has captured the best questions a student and their parents should ask during the important search for college. This is a good planning guide for any student or family member who wants to know the lay of the land before they start their college journey.”  –Dr. James McCoy, Vice President for Enrollment Management, University of New Haven

 “I believe this book asks many questions I never would have considered. After reading it I realize that college is not just for the wealthy, fortunate or upper class. This book is the key to my future.” — Andy Dubsky, High School Sophomore 

Get Employment Statistics!

Few colleges and universities readily distribute the employment statistics of recent graduates for a simple reason: they do not have this information.  

That will not do for anyone reading this blog.

In the March 17th issue of the Wall Street Journal,   Melissa Korn, a writer for the paper, raises the issue of employment at graduation and reinforces my belief that colleges and universities should do more to help students find suitable employment at graduation.

college graduationMs. Korn writes about College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge.  This partnership can give students employment information in several states, including Texas, Virginia and Florida.

They created a website to make this information available to interested families.

Don’t forget to stop by the alumni office if you cannot get employment information from the admission or career counseling offices.  Alumni can be a useful source of information on internships or even offer entry level jobs to recent graduates.

Be your own advocate.

 

Marguerite talks college admissions with St. Joseph’s College television

Marguerite Dennis explains to St. Joseph’s College Telecare TV network Transforming Communities how to demystify college admissions.

The show, hosted by Theresa LaRocca-Meyer, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Joseph’s, and Gigi Lamens, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, will be replayed several times on St. Joseph’s Telecare cable network.

The interview is part of Marguerite’s book tour for The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out and Get a Job. And, through the good graces of St. Joseph’s and Telecare Television, we have the full interview here (feel free to share it with your friends):