Tag Archives: higher education

Applying for college. Applying for a job?

We have acknowledged applying for college can be a stressful pursuit, sometimes.

And the potential for stress can often be heightened if prospective students pile on worry and concern for landing a job after college graduation.

But just as we pointed out in our post last week stress doesn’t have to creep into the college application process if students go about the process methodically.

Boston Globe writers Clayton Christensen and Michelle Weise report in the May 11th issue 50% of recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.

Dr. Christensen reports in the same piece that 96% of  chief academic officers at universities believe they are doing a good job of preparing students for jobs.

But only 11% of employers believe colleges and universities are graduating students with the skills necessary to succeed in today’s competitive work environment.

I know what you are thinking if you are a prospective college student: “I am not even in college so why should I think about getting a job after I graduate?”

What you may be missing is getting into college and getting a job upon graduation are very much related to each other.

It is reasonable to assume one of the reasons you want to go to college is to help you get a job after graduation; a job that will allow you to live reasonably well. But if you wait until your senior year in college or don’t investigate the career counseling services of the colleges still on your list, you are decreasing your chances of getting a good job after you leave college.

The New College GuideLike last week, I am suggesting that you pick up your copy of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the questions related to career counseling services and jobs after graduation.

Let’s do this together.

Review the following questions:

  • Question 37 –  Who Can help Me Find a Job?
  • Question 38 –  What About Employment after Graduation?

Be sure you have a clear understanding from each of the schools still on your college application list of when the school begins advising students about career options and what each school does to help graduates secure jobs.  And you want to know the kind of jobs the graduates secured.

This is your life and your future. Take charge of it.  Ask the right questions.  Now let’s go for an ice cream.

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!

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.

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.

What is a College Financial Aid Package?

You know your child is headed for college and you also know your family is going to need financial aid to pay for your child’s education.

You are certainly not alone. In the last two posts, we covered facts you need to know about college financial aid and explained the all-important FAFSA.

college graduationOnce your family has filed a FAFSA and the EFC has been calculated, the staff of the financial aid office will determine what financial aid you are eligible to receive.

The official form letter you receive will list the type and amount of the aid you will receive.  That includes funding from:

 

  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Employment
  • Federal Aid
  • State Aid
  • Institutional Aid
  • Outside organization or private funding sources.

Examples of What Your Financial Aid Package Will Include:

Grant Programs

  • The largest federal grant program is the Pell Grant Program. Awards range from $600 to $5,500.
  • Most colleges and universities, especially private schools, have their own grant programs and awards are usually based on outstanding high school grades.  Individual states also sponsor grant programs.  Check your state’s website for further information.

Loan Programs

  • One popular federal loan program is the Perkins Loan Program. The current interest rate is 5% and the maximum amount is $5,500 per year.
  • Stafford loans are federally subsidized loans and have an interest rate of 3.4%.
  • Freshmen can receive $3,500, sophomores $4,500 and juniors and seniors $5,500 to meet their educational expenses.
  • Parent Loans to Undergraduate Students (PLUS) allow parents to borrow up to the total cost of education minus any financial aid awarded.  The interest rate is 7.9%.

Work Programs

  • The federal Work-Study program allows students to work part-time usually on-campus.
  • Many colleges and universities sponsor their own employment programs.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide: How to Get It, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Compare all of your estimated financial aid awards before you apply.
  • Be honest and accurate in completing all of your financial aid forms.
  • Calculate your estimated loan bill with an estimate of what your first year salary is likely to be.  I recommend allocating 15% of your first year’s salary to meeting your loan bill.
  • Make employment an essential part of your financial aid plan.
  • Financial aid counselors can exercise professional judgment to increase your award if you can make a good case.

The Gap Year: an option prior to college

It’s become known as, “Gap Year,” and it’s a rapidly growing trend among graduating high school seniors in the U.S. prior to entering college.

For an increasing number of graduating high school seniors, a Gap Year may be a viable option.

What should you do if, after graduating from high school, you feel you are not quite ready to enroll in college?  Maybe you have no idea what you want to study or maybe you want to serve in a local or national service community project?

Maybe you have been accepted to your first-choice school but you want to defer for a year?  Is there an option?  There is and it is called taking a Gap Year.

Gap YearTaking a year off before beginning university studies is fairly typical in many parts of the world and is generally followed by students in the United Kingdom.

When I was working in Downtown Boston I often observed, in the early morning, students in red jackets doing calisthenics. They were members of City Yeara Boston-based organization that allowed students to work for one year in community-based projects. The students earned money and gained valuable work experience.

AmeriCorps allows high school graduates to do the same while helping the country to meet its health, environmental and educational needs.

Graduates of AmeriCorps and City Year, receive financial aid that can be applied to meet their future college costs.

There are hundreds of Gap Year programs for you to investigate either at the local or national level.

What should you do if you think you may want to take a year “off” before beginning your college studies?

  • Have a clear idea of why you want to do this and some idea of how you would like to spend the year between high school and college.
  • Discuss with your parents.  Everyone needs to sign off on this.
  • Find out if the school(s) who accepted you will defer admission for a year.  Get the answer in writing.
  • Please know there is nothing wrong or peculiar about taking a Gap Year.  But you need to know why and have a plan.