A welcome reality check on the subject of student loans

"It is not uncommon to read stories about college students who say, “I woke up one day and realized I had $50,000 in outstanding student loans and had no idea how I got there.”  And yet nobody would accept at face value someone stating, “I woke up one day driving a Mercedes and had no idea how I was $50,000 in debt.”  

Finally, some straight talk on the subject of student debt from Donald E. Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, via Valerie Strauss' The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post -- Is the $1 trillion student loan debt really a crisis? Right now, thousands of families are considering financial aid offers -- most of which include loans. Heller cuts through the media madness surrounding student debt with a look at the facts of the situation, the value of a college degree, and what the future will hold. It's a welcome reality check in the face of the hyperbole from the headlines to the White House hyperbole. If you and your family are looking at a financial aid award which requires some indebtedness, don't miss this! You can see the entire column here

Seniors: It's Time to Say "Thank you!"

Now that you have your letters in hand and your decision made, take the time to inform all the people in your life who had a hand in your admission process about that decision. That includes the teachers who wrote recommendations, the high school college counselor who loaned you her College Board Handbook, the guidance counselor who advised you to take AP calculus, the English teacher who proofread your essays, the coach who wrote a letter to the athletic department, and the faculty advisor for the newspaper who encouraged you to write an editorial about the stress of applying to college. Let them know where you have decided to enroll and thank them for all they did to help you get there.

You can stop by their classroom or office to let them know in person, but a personal, hand-written thank you note is the most powerful and meaningful way to show your appreciation, according to Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy -- and we agree! "Like many counselors, I have a folder full of them in my desk," he told us, "on rougher days, it's where we go to remember why we do this rewarding work in the college application trenches with you!"

Oh, and don’t forget a big thank-you for the people who have helped you get to this point for the last eighteen years . . . your parents.

 

A Window into the Psyche of Rising Seniors

Last year, we asked psychologist Michael Thompson, author of The Pressured Child, to weigh in on what parents can do to constructively advise -- and motivate -- their junior students as they begin the application process. Good advice never goes out of style -- and Thompson is the best -- so we wanted to run these posts again for all of those out there who are wondering what to expect when your child applies to college. Please read on to learn how to avoid jumping at the bait of your teenager's negativity and how not to unwittingly crash into a seventeen-year-old psyche, as well as what Monty Python has to do with any of this!

Listen, Listen, Listen: Practical Advice from Psychologist Michael Thompson on Motivating Juniors to Focus on College

Run away! Run away! Michael Thompson on Monty Python and Motivating 11th Graders to Focus on College

Juniors: It's a Myth that some Summer Programs Can Enhance Your Chances of Admission

As you look ahead to how you will spend your summer, we have some advice for you about leadership training or enrichment programs and on-campus academic programs. It is a myth that some of these programs can especially enhance your chances of getting into college.

Leadership training and enrichment programs— for example, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council or the National Young Leaders Conference— position themselves so that when the “invitation” arrives in the mail, students might think they have been specially selected to participate. But even if there are baseline GPA requirements and teachers are required to nominate students, these programs are not selective and have a hefty price tag of thousands of dollars. Undertake such an activity only if it aligns with your interests and is something you’d do even if colleges were never to learn about it. Participation will usually not be a plus factor in an admission decision.

College and Life: Is it about the finish line or the road you take to get there?

Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy, is back with us today with an excellent discussion of "outcomes" -- a meme in the media and a subject on the minds of some students, parents, educators and other interested parties. Read on to see why becoming "dis-oriented" from outcomes may provide the happiest ending. 

 

I’ve noticed the term “outcomes-oriented” being used a lot lately. It’s apparently a desirable quality, describing my LinkedIn contacts on their profiles, applicants I encounter on hiring committees, professional services in marketing emails that land in my inbox. When you consider it, “outcomes-oriented” is an interesting pairing of words. It suggests a constant headlong bearing toward a projected future, radar locked on a defined finish line and a specific expectation of what should await there. It feels antsy and impatient. Let’s get to the outcome, people! Who cares how? Full speed ahead!

Seniors: Please Let ALL the Colleges where You Were Admitted Know Your Plans

Seniors, heads up! It is good form to take yourself out of the running at any college where you have been accepted but know with certainty you will not enroll. That way the college can offer your seat to another student who may want to enroll.

We felt it was worth repeating this plea from Terry Cowdrey, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, issued last year:  

A plea to school counselors: please encourage your students to respond to all of the schools where they were offered admission. College admissions offices are scrambling to determine if we can make offers to students on the wait list and dozens--no, hundreds--of admitted students have not confirmed their plans. We can assume they are going elsewhere but it would certainly be nice to know for sure. And it's just good manners.

So, members of the Class of 2014!, please extend this courtesy to the colleges that took the time to admit you. Think, as well, about your friends on wait lists and how happy and relieved they may feel to know sooner rather than later that they have been admitted from a college's wait list. A simple email will do the job. So, please just do it!

 

Juniors: Time to Ask Teachers for Recommendations!

 

Many colleges require letters of recommendation from the people who know students best in an academic setting -- your high school counselor and teachers.  Letters of recommendation from teachers tell admission officers how students contribute to the academic and intellectual life of their high school.

Now is the time to ask those teachers whom you would like to write for you, especially if you are enjoying a class and connecting with the teacher or planning to apply under an early program. You want to ask teachers who know you well and have taught you recently in a challenging class.

When you ask, keep in mind that writing letters of recommendation is not part of a teacher's normal job duties and you should approach your teachers with a polite considerate request. Here are some pointers:

                *             Ask in person. No emails. A personal request is most thoughtful. Here's a sound bite: "I'm thinking ahead to college applications and wonder if you feel writing a recommendation is something you can do for me."

20/20 Hindsight on Parenting through the College Admission Process

 

Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of one of the blogs we love -- Grown and Flown -- looks back on her experiences guiding three teenagers through the college admission process in her most recent post, The Good, The Bad and the OMG of College Admissions. From road trips and the random nature of college admission to the revelations that occur as we accompany our children on this journey, Mary Dell's look back from the finish line has something for everyone -- great advice for those starting out and the comfort of the 20/20 hindsight of a fellow traveler on the cusp of the next great adventure with her child. 

 

April is the Craziest Month for Seniors and their Families

Jane Kulow, aka Dr. StrangeCollege, is back with advice for seniors and their families as application season nears the finish line of decisions. 

 

April is the craziest month.

T.S. Eliot may have called April the cruelest month, but for high school seniors that label might go to March. After the long autumn months of writing college applications and the cold winter months of awaiting a response (and hoping for the best), March delivers the stark reality of college admission decisions:  yes, no, or would you like to wait for a possible yes later (at very low odds)?

Which brings us to the craziness of April and the decisions seniors and their families face. Even when the student is accepted into his or her favorite school, most families will want to look closely at each of the colleges offering admission.

Closely, and quickly: the May 1 deadline for the student’s decision fast approaches.

Here’s what many senior households may wish to do this month:

Visit the campus

If you haven’t yet visited the campus, now’s the time to take a look, before anyone writes a deposit check. Virtual visits may be great, but they cannot convey the smell of the freshman dorm, the path from one end of campus to another, or the typical style of students at the school.

Or visit again

Sample Questions, More Details on the Redesigned 2016 SAT

The College Board today released some 250 pages of specifications for the redesigned 2016 SAT, including sample questions. According to Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment for the College Board, today's information includes "everything a student needs to know to walk into that test and not be surprised." However, the College Board announcement stressed that all the information about the redesigned test is in draft form, "not a full reflection of what will be tested," and subject to change.

College Admission reported the major changes in the redesign last month -- Big Changes Coming to the SAT in 2016:

·        The essay isn't gone, but it's optional and will be scored separately. Students will be asked to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument. The essay will be scored on the strength of that analysis, as well as writing ability.