Are We There Yet?

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Commencement.   noun.  1. A beginning or start: “at the commencement of training”.

Really?  My parents just spent $80,000.  I have 20,000 of loan debt.

Well, Caitlin…yes.

You guided me to do this, you know. 

Yes.  I know.

I’m addicted to Ramen Soup and I’ve gained 20 pounds.  Just to get back to the beginning?



Not ‘back’.  You never were at the beginning.

Four years ago, your longest trip from home was Des Moines, you thought MC Escher was a rapper from the early 90’s, you had never worked a day (paid or otherwise) in your profession of choice, had only spoken for an hour with anyone from that profession, had never met Dr. Jones or Professor DeAngelo, nor built your professional network, and your most marketable diploma was from high school.  And you had never met Hank.

But, is that worth all that money?  I mean, other than Hank.

Oh, I can quote you the “college graduates earn a million dollars more than high school graduates” statistic.  And that’s the simplest argument.  But how can I put a price on your Spring Break experience in Haiti…

Or the Spring Break in Cancun?

I already mentioned Hank.

Oh, yeah…

Or the internship with Linkedin?  Or the connections you’ve made with your sisters at Tri Delta?  You have friends – and references – for life.  Or the lectures and conversations with Dr. Jones and Professor DeAngelo?  Or the trip to the MOMA?

You learned how to write a business plan, develop an actual thesis, paint, do laundry, slide a lunch tray down a hill in the snow and argue your case in a persuasive, articulate, proper manner.  You learned not to leave the flame unattended when making Ramen Soup or it will spill over. (at least when it’s on high)

You engaged in conversations, in and out of the classroom that shaped who you are, what you do, how you do it and what you value and treasure.   And you gained all that in the most amazing lab ever created – the American College campus.

So, didn’t that get me somewhere?

Yes, to the beginning.  It gave you a road map, comfortable shoes, the ability to spot danger and the phone numbers of people to call in an emergency.

And the total retail value on all of those gifts is priceless.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at

College Counseling for the Rest of Us TV: The Pilot.


Well, it may not be Spielberg.

But I give you our inaugural, initial, collector’s edition episode of College Counseling for the Rest of Us TV.

Please feel free to visit, view, like and comment.  Thanks!  Here’s the link to our first episode: CCR TV1

I look forward to finding what opportunities video provides us in terms of College Counseling for the Rest of Us, what information we can provide, what schools we can visit and what people we can meet.  As always, please know that I welcome and encourage your feedback.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.   And now on YouTube at

The Tao of U.


“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”

On that note, let’s see how our friends – Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin – are proceeding with their college search planning.  Shall we?

Ashley – “After taking the Backman/Dykstra test prep formula, and a summer course in Latin, I was able to increase my SAT reading score by 70 points.  I have re-calculated my chance for admission at each institution, as well as my expected scholarship and grant awards from each of my safety and target schools.  How about you, Justin?”

Justin – “I think most schools are probably alright.  That’s what I think.  But some are more right than others.”

Brad – “I think schools are too elite.  I don’t expect to get into any of my first choices.  Why do test scores matter so much?  It’s just not fair.”

Caitlin -“Did you know that the word ‘college’ comes from the Latin word for “one chosen to work with one another”?  The opportunities, Justin, for someone with your academic record might be somewhat limited.  But, I do believe there is opportunity to find others who would have similar…”

Brad – “I think you’re just setting Justin up for failure.  He and I should be realistic about our opportunities.”

Justin – “I’ve always had an interest in animals.  I would go to the zoo and draw pictures of them for hours.  And, as I got older, I started taking cell phone shots and posting them on my Facebook and MySpace pages.”

Ashley – “But, Justin, what are you going to do with that?  You don’t have the grades or test scores to go pre-vet.”

Caitlin – “The Veterinary field actually has suffered as a profession due to the economic downturn.”

Justin – “Oh…:

Brad – “I just don’t see how my parents can afford to send me to college.”

Justin – “I like the people I met at HAWCC.  And they have programs in art, photography and animal science.”

Ashley – “Hundred Acre…” (she said, aghast)

Caitlin – “Many fine leaders have come from HAWCC.  Such as…”

Brad – “I probably should fill out my application to HAWCC, too.”

And they debated the merits of HAWCC, Test prep and 529 plans,  from page 32, right through to page 51.

Ashley – “How many applications have you submitted, Justin?”

From his long pause and his averted eyes, she knew the answer.

Justin –  (Defensively) “”You know, one of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.  At least, I read that somewhere.”

Mr. Szarek?

Yes, Justin?

What do you think?

Justin, what I think is this. One day, you will no longer need College Counseling for the Rest of Us.  And, one day, you will graduate from Hundred Acre Wood Community College, and – from there – you may even go on to Heffalumps University.  But, there is something – through all of your adventures – that I hope you never forget.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR. 

“Lots of people talk to animals,” said Pooh.
“Not that many listen though.”
“That’s the problem.”

Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.
— Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

NOTE: Winnie the Pooh and the Tao of Pooh are not mine, I don’t own them, and I used and paraphrased quotes and ideas from both the wonderful “Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff and from the original Winnie the Pooh books and films.  All credit belongs to A.A. Milne and Mr. Hoff, and all rights belong to Disney, Dutton, Penguin and whoever owns such rights.

The Average American College Student


Pick an article about students looking at college.  Any article.

Pick an article about students enrolled in college.  Almost any article.

Look at the client list of almost every college counselor/planner/consultant in the nation.  Almost every counselor.

You must conclude that the average American College Student attends a 4 year institution, starts college at 18, finishes at 22, and probably lives on campus.

And if you read an article about college admissions, it would be fair to assume that most students attend the same 15 or so schools that are always quoted and mentioned in articles about admission trends – Harvard, USC, The George Washington University, Stanford, MIT, Princeton among a few others.

I certainly encourage you to keep reading.  But stop believing what you read.

The Average American College Student (as opposed to your “typical” American College Student – that creature does not exist) attends Harvard, but also attends the University of Phoenix, Truman State, Goldey-Beacom College, Delta State, Union County College and about 3994 other colleges.  He is far more likely to be attending a public institution (77%) than a private 4 year college (12.7%).  Even among the usual suspects (ages 15-23) the percentages are almost as dramatic (76% vs. 15.3%).

She is most likely to be a female (55%).

He is quite likely to not be within the “traditional” ages of 18-21.  8.2 million college students are, but over 11 million are not.  Over a quarter of all college students are part-time students and over 600,000 have a disability.

In fact, more than 1 million college students are older than me.

No way, Mr. Szarek!

Way, Brad.  Way.

The Average American College Student has a job.  In fact, about a quarter of all college students work full-time.

The Average American College Student will not graduate from the program he is currently enrolled in.  At least not within 6 years.

The Average American College Student is not who you think, doesn’t go to the school you are thinking of, is not taking the amount of courses you think she is taking and is not finishing when you think he is finishing.  If she is finishing at all.

The American college community is as diverse as the nation it represents.  The students are not “one size fits all” and neither are their academic programs, modes of delivery, methods of learning, financial situations or choices of college.

This is the greatest strength of the American College Community.  And its greatest challenge.   As you look at schools for your child or yourself, understand that there is a place for you in that community.  And don’t cheat off someone else’s paper – because the right college for that person may not be the right college for you.

Just saying…

NOTE: Data used for this blog post come almost entirely from two sources: 1) the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, October 2009.  Release Date: February 2011 and 2) The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, as presented by the Chronicle of Higher Education in their December 2010 article, “Who Are the Undergraduates?”

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at, call or text me at 908-403-3819, join me on Facebook on “College Counseling for the Rest of Usand join me on Twitter at @MichaelCCR.