Maureen Biology


Mr. Szarek?

Yes, Justin.

I wondered if you could talk to my friend, Maureen.


Maureen has volunteered at an animal shelter for the past 2 years.  She worked at a local zoo this past summer.  She loves animals.  She makes these incredible sketches and takes great photographs of them.  She has a butterfly video on YouTube that is really cool – over 1000 views.

Wow, Maureen, that’s more views than any of my College Counseling for the Rest of Us videos.

Uh, that’s more than all of your videos put together, Mr. Szarek.

Thanks, Justin.  So, how can I help you, Maureen?

Well – since I love animals – I’m going to major in Biology, so that I can become a veterinarian.


But I hate biology, and I was wondering if you knew any schools that, well, didn’t have too much science for someone like me. 

Uh, Maureen, you love animals…


You hate biology?


What do you love about animals?

What they do, their colors, their shapes, their sizes – just how different they are.  I love taking care of them.  I love how they look and how I can show that, either through the camera lens or by drawing them.  But I don’t like scientific formulas and I don’t want to have to operate on them or give them shots.

So, uh…why are you majoring in biology?

Well, because that’s what people who like animals major in.

They can, but it’s not the law.

Uh, what else could I major in?

How about Wildlife Management, Bioresource Management, Photography, Entrepreneurship, Wildlife and Forestry Conservation, Animal Management, Animal Behavior, Equine Studies or Zoo Animal Technology?

For what it’s worth, if you want to continue your work in animal photography, here is a comment from National Geographic’s FAQs – “National Geographic photographers have college degrees in a variety of disciplines. Most did not major in photography, but all took photo courses. The most common majors have been journalism, anthropology, sociology or psychology, fine arts, and sciences.” (LINK)

I didn’t realize college offered so many choices.  But, I think my Mom wants me to go Pre-Vet, too, because it’s practical and something like “wildlife animal photography management” is way out there.

Being the worst veterinarian is a lot less practical than being the best wildlife animal photographer.

Yeah, I guess so.  So, no surgery, no shots?  

Only if your subject comes after you.

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 Shrinking Middle Class

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Let me start with a disclaimer.

This is not an article about people, families or households.

This is about Colleges.  And it’s a story about how the college planning landscape of 2011 is so much different than 1991.  And how that is a bad thing.

But, it’s also a story of possible hope and opportunity.

Once upon a time, thousands of colleges came in an incredible range of shapes and sizes.  They covered the land with quads and football fields and commuter parking lots.  In fact, they still do, but many people have forgotten that.  Because…

The evil national rankings came in and changed everything.  Soon, College Viewbooks sounded like Casey Kasem – “up a big four notches this year to #7 among midwestern liberal arts colleges, it’s…”

Around the same time, Colleges realized they could advertise.  Like real companies.  And the land was covered with billboards and buses and radio spots (oh my) that all praised the best of all worlds, a tradition of excellence and a personal yet big, cutting-edge yet traditional college experience.

The rich got richer.  The cheap got richer.  The ‘average’ school that had educated so many (and still does, by the way) struggled to keep their name in the conversation.  Most adapted.  They grew their adult programs, then their graduate programs.  They increased their aid packages.  They developed some key niches.  Some merged.  Some went co-ed.

But most of them held it together, knowing that most people understood the value of a college education (value both measurable and immeasurable).  As long as the economy held up, they’d be okay.

(Cue the ominous music)

In the past few years, both the perceived value of higher education and the economy have taken a beating.  I am not qualified to discuss the latter, but I think I am regarding the former.  And it wouldn’t fit into a blog post.  But – short and sweet – take a look at the unemployment numbers for college grads and non-grads.  Look at the average salaries of college grads and non-college grads.    And understand that the argument that college grads are not making enough money after graduation is mostly a failure of business, not higher education and the greatest irony in the world is that business folks now want to show how higher education can be “fixed”.  (I feel better now.  Stepping off soapbox…)

Meanwhile, thousands of good colleges, with qualified faculty and quality resources, struggle to keep their names in the conversation in a world where national magazine rankings (even from magazines that don’t exist anymore), large advertising budgets, deep pockets and brand recognition matter.  And I think the story of how much they struggle has yet to be fully shared.

I offer two rays of hope to those schools and a suggestion to my readers and clients.

Ray of Hope #1:  We live in a world where ‘viral’ can come from anywhere or anyone.  Without deep pockets, without prior status.  And the 3900 colleges that live in the shadow of the 100 or so that grab so much of our attention can be heard.  And seen.  And read.  And considered.  I hope those colleges realize the amazing opportunity that is available to them and capitalize to the fullest.  (So far, I’m not seeing it, but there’s still plenty of time.)

Ray of Hope #2:  Viral can go both ways.  Students at those 3900 colleges have a chance to scream about their future alma mater.  Alums can do so, too.  And future students can ‘discover’ the next great indie college – the Plain White T’s or OK Go or Pomplamoose of the Higher Ed industry, as it were.

Suggestion: When you get a moment, check out a school whose name you vaguely recall or even have never heard of.  Look at their website or drive through their campus.  And check out one of their YouTube videos.  I guarantee you this – you will be pleasantly surprised at how much College of Never Heard of It and University of Vaguely Familiar have to offer.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll help create the next viral sensation.

And if College Counseling for the Rest of Us can do anything to help save and grow the Middle Class of Higher Education, please know that we – I – will.

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