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.

Reinventing Your University

university studentsReinventing your university may be the only way it can move forward in the 21st Century.

In the book, Reinventing the University – Managing and Financing Higher Educationeach of the 14 contributors emphasize that the successful university of the future will be the one which has the capacity to create new structural paradigms which will direct how it conducts business and how it delivers its educational product.

The newly structured enterprise will be both seamless and transparent in the systems and administrative structures used to deliver services to students.

This week’s message, similar to the one of last week, celebrates those innovative colleges and universities with dynamic leaders who are willing to initiate change in an attempt to make the college experience a better one for those who attend, who teach and who administer.

Over the course of my administrative career, I had the opportunity for a brief period of time, to manage both the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising departments for my university.

The reporting structure was unique and would not work in today’s environment but it did, for a time, reveal that hardened “functional silos” could become more flexible and transparent.

The lack of bureaucracy made it possible to respond quickly to enrollment demands and donor requests. There was a consistent and integrated marketing message from the time of a student’s application to the time after graduation. The internal and external messages were consistent, reinforcing the school’s image among its key constituencies. The systems from student enrollment to alumni involvement were both seamless and transparent.

Consider the similarities between the advancement and enrollment functions:

  • Both are labor intensive and customer service directed
  • Success for both functions is measured in concrete numbers.
  • The image of the institution heavily influences the work of both departments
  • Both are revenue driven
  • Both departments require staff with good analytical, organizational and people-oriented skills
  • Both are subject to the economic realities of the day.

I am not suggesting that this model would or could be adopted by other schools. But I am suggesting that changing administrative responsibilities and reporting structures should be considered.

In 1998, Spencer Johnson wrote, Who Moved My Cheese,The popular bestseller championed the need for change. The author stressed that change involves setting different rules, making the work environment uncertain and unpredictable. How much of what Mr. Johnson wrote 16 years ago would apply to many colleges and universities today?

Looking at the Obama College Rating System

College LibraryLet’s take a look, cut through to some facts, about the proposed Obama Administration college rating system.

Haley Sweetland Edwards, in the April 28 issue of Time magazine, presents the pros and cons of the proposed Department of Education’s new rating system to be rolled out later this year.

It should come as no surprise that the higher education community, which spends more than $1 billion dollars a year on lobbying and employs about 1,500 lobbyists, is opposed to the suggested guidelines. The rating system is based in part on accessibility, affordability and employment after graduation.

Critics maintain that the federal government has no business creating a measure of how well schools perform and they don’t have the necessary tools to accurately compare schools.

But the federal government is already in the higher education business. Every year Congress allocates about $150 billion in federal loans, grants and work-study programs to colleges and universities. That’s about four times more than it spends on K-12 education.

The majority of colleges in the U.S. rely on the federal government for about two-thirds of their revenue. It seems reasonable that with this much of a financial investment, the government should have some say in how their money is spent. Let’s consider a few facts:

  • From 2002 to 2012 college costs increased by 33%. In 2001 student debt was $56 billion
  • By 2011-12, the number was $117.9 billion. In 2001 the student default rate was 5.4%. By 2011, the rate increased to 10%.

These revealing statistics call for some measure of evaluation of the current system of federal allocation of funds.

This is all about change and evaluating a broken business model. The Department of Education will publish a draft version of their plan in the fall and the final version will be available for implementation for the 2015-16 school year. Change is coming.