When Good Tests Go Bad

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Have you all seen the stories about the SAT cheating scandal?

Caitlin: ACT, too.  About 20 kids, at least, in Long Island.  And there are others that that they can’t prosecute because of the statute of limitations.

Who’s the victim?

Huh?

Who do you think suffers when something like this happens?

Justin: What do you mean?   I’m the victim – and Ashley, Caitlin and Brad.  All of us.  This kid gets a score he didn’t earn.  He might get into a school he doesn’t belong in.  And steal a space from someone – maybe MY SPOT!

Which means he might get into a school he’s not academically qualified for.  Which increases his chance of dropping out.  Or, at best, just having a miserable college experience.  And beyond.  But, we don’t even know that the score would be higher than what the student would have gotten.  And – if it is – we don’t know that it would change any admissions decisions.

And he PAID for this.  He paid for something that will either have no effect or place him in a school at which he’s more likely to fail.  Plus, he’s run the risk of a criminal record, ridicule and embarrassment.

Ashley: You’re making it sound like the kid who paid for this is the victim.

Absolutely I am.  Of course, he volunteered to be.  He paid for someone to impersonate him because he didn’t think he was good enough.  He paid for someone to be him because he didn’t respect himself enough to play his own role in life.

But he – and everyone else involved in this nonsense – also showed that they have absolutely NO IDEA how college admissions works.  By paying someone to increase his scores, he may have DECREASED his chance of admission.

Brad: Huh?

When I reviewed candidates and I saw an SAT or ACT score that seemed out-of-line with the grades and HS curriculum, it raised a red flag that otherwise wasn’t there.  It suggests someone not working to their potential.  It suggests trouble.  A “B” student with an average (non-honors) college prep curriculum and a 1050 Reading and Math score on the SAT or 23 on the ACT makes sense.  The same student with a 1400 on the SAT Reading+Math or 32 on the ACT can raise questions – what’s going on here, why hasn’t he performed up to his ability?

Caitlin: The SAT and ACT are just one part of a bigger picture.

Ashley: And they should help tell the story of who you are, not add a chapter that makes no sense.

Brad: Or you might end up at a school that isn’t right for you.

Justin: And your enrollment there might last as long there as a Kardashian marriage.

You’ve been waiting a long time to throw that line in, haven’t you, Justin?

Justin: Hey, I’m not the one writing this blog…

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.

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The Gap Decade

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There has been quite a bit of talk recently about the “gap year” – when a high school graduate waits a year before starting college.  There are programs specifically designed for those utilizing a gap year, and opinions galore about who should utilize a gap year, how they should utilize it and how colleges view such experiences.

This blog has nothing to do with any of that.  (Well, almost nothing.)

I’m writing this to connect with those who did not go to college at 18.  Or started and then stopped.

I need to tell you something.

It’s time.

  • The ‘gap’ (pun intended) between the earnings and opportunities between college graduates and non-college grads has never been wider.  And it will grow.  Despite criticisms of the job and earnings opportunities for college grads, it’s better than the alternative.
  • The acceptance of adult students has never been greater.  You used to be the icing on the cake.  You are now the cake.  MOST students in this country are non-traditional.  Now, “non-traditional” includes some factors other than age (part-time student, parent of a child, full-time worker) but it still – mostly – represents the adult student market.  40 IS the new 20.
  • You will (probably) succeed.  There is some data that contradicts this, but I can tell you that while I often saw adults have to leave a program due to life’s twists and turns, I rarely saw an adult leave because of academic issues.  There is something to say about the quality of education provided by the School of Hard Knocks.
  • The resources and support have never been greater.  The expansion of Community College programming, the increase in Scholarships for Adults,  the increased acknowledgement of Life Experience in terms of College Credit, the increase in accepted transfer credit, the development of Colleges designed specifically for Adult Students (Thomas Edison State College would be one such example here in New Jersey) and the new GI Bill are just some of the resources that were either much smaller ‘back in the day’ or did not exist.  All of these things are there because of you – to help you succeed in obtaining a college degree.  It is time.

I said that this post had ‘almost’ nothing to do with the gap year.  I said ‘almost’ because I do think there are two important connections between the Gap Year and the Gap Decade (or Gap Score, as it were).  The first is that these gaps allow a person to mature – to ‘grow up’ as it were.

The second, related point is that these gaps allow a person to have a better sense of what academic program best suits their needs/wants/goals/strengths.  While the ‘What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” question can prove elusive even when you are 48, 68 or 88, the added time allows for more meaningful thought being given to the question.

You may not know the destination, but at least you have a better sense of how you want to map out the journey.

So, while you may have been enjoying this Gap Decade (or two) that you have taken, it is time.  Welcome back and watch out for the Freshman 15!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.

College: The Ultimate Networking Group

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2031: Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin walk into a restaurant.  Picture Rt. 1 and your theme restaurant of choice.  Let’s listen in…

ASHLEY: “Hey, Justin, I still can’t believe you got lost in the parking lot on our way to LBI.”

JUSTIN: “Yeah, well, let’s discuss how your inability to cook popcorn ended up with three fire trucks coming to campus.”

BRAD: “I think Ashley did that just to meet the firemen.”

ASHLEY: “Shut up, Brad.”   BRAD: “Yes, Dear.”

CAITLIN: “Yeah, I can’t believe that you guys got married.  At least for a couple of years…”

ASHLEY: “Yeah, well…somehow our business kept going, even after the divorce.”

JUSTIN: “Caitlin, thanks for helping me out when I was looking for a new job last year.  I have to give her props.  We hadn’t spoken for 10 years.  I had been out of a job for over a year and I saw her name on Linkedin.  HR for a big company in my area of expertise.  Well, my major, anyway.  Call her up.  Boom.  45 minute conversation.  3 interviews later.  A contributing member of society again.”

BRAD: “Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”

ASHLEY: “Well, thank YOU, Justin, for introducing us to your friend who does web design.  Probably saved us a couple of thousand bucks and our new site looks fantastic!”

JUSTIN: “No problem.  I worked part-time for him while I was looking for a permanent job.  I used to take classes with him at HU.”

BRAD: “We have an intern from HU.  Working out really well.  And her Dad is a VP for a company we’ve been trying to get into for years.  So, maybe…”

CAITLIN: “I have a new hire from HU.  She’s great.  Actually took a class with Prof. Jones.”

BRAD: “He’s still there?  He must be, like, Mr. Szarek’s age…”

ASHLEY: Hey, I wonder what happened to Mr. Szarek?

JUSTIN: My bet is that he’s writing a blog about us.

MR. SZAREK: College.  It provides friends, partners and business connections for a lifetime.  It spans the globe.  Some of your fellow alumni will be with you for your entire life, others will pass through, some you will never meet but will help you strictly because of your common bond.  It provides direct access to other networking organizations, such as fraternal organizations – both social and professional.

The networking benefits of higher education are – curiously – maybe the only regard in which higher education is under-promoted and undervalued, but remember this – College is the greatest networking group you can join.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to email me at info@cc4therestofus.com, 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 http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.