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.

 

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.

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.

Grim Student Debt Statistics – Historic Levels

Student debt is now at a historic high in the United States.

Last month the Wall Street Journal reported the following grim student debt statistics:

  • Student loan debt was $364 billion in 2004 and over $1 trillion in 2013.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that as of the fourth quarter of 2012 only about 40% of student borrowers were paying down their loans.
  • 17% of all loans were delinquent, defined as 90 days past due.
  • 14% of borrowers who were not officially delinquent had the same balance as the previous quarter.
  • 30% had increases in their balances.
  • More students are attending college and taking out bigger loans and a weak job market has impacted student re-payment.

There are ways to graduate with manageable debt but you must take the necessary steps before you turn in a single college application.

College GuideI devote many pages in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job to avoid graduating with a student loan bill that will impact your life after graduation.

Read the book and don’t become a negative statistic.

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.