13th Grade

9 Comments

Ashley, when you finish high school, where are you going?

Well, my family will probably take me to Applebees…

No, I mean…let me re-phrase my question.  What will you be doing the year AFTER high school?

I don’t understand.  I’ve got 4000 pieces of college mail on my floor.  Remember, all that paper that you spill on your video and at your workshops.  I’m going to College, Mr. Szarek.  Isn’t that why my Mom hired you?

You have choices.

What do you mean?

I mean that the best advice that I can give you is to not go to 13th grade.

You mean not go to college?

No, I mean not to go to 13th grade.  Don’t just go to college for the sake of going to college.  Don’t go to college because it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do.

I will – in all likelihood – strongly suggest that you go to college.  You are a bright young woman who would benefit from the opportunities provided in college.

What other options do I have? 

Let me list the various options for someone who is about to graduate high school.

  • College – 4 year model.  Again, this is probably your best option.  Despite the cost, it provides professional and personal growth opportunities that are unrivaled.  But it is not for everyone.
  • College – 2 year edition.  A perfectly legitimate option for those who have struggled in high school or want to utilize the most cost-effective collegiate option.  And the opportunities to transfer most or all of your community college  credits have grown enormously in the past decade or so.
  • College – professional/trade schools.  While some for-profit schools are to be avoided, most offer practical experience in a tough job market.  However, you’re spending private school tuition for credits that generally won’t transfer.
  • Gap Year/ Post-Graduate Year – If planned out properly, and – again – done with conscious thought – an additional year to mature via a meaningful Gap Year experience or an additional academic year can help you be a much better student and educational consumer at 19 than you would have been at 18.
  • Job.  – Whether it be working ‘for the man’ or growing a business you started in high school, there are certainly reasons when a job can provide better immediate benefits than going straight to college.
  • Apprenticeship.  Military? – Apprenticeships may seem old-fashioned, but there are still opportunities to be an apprentice in professions that are under-subscribed and can provide employment security.  And, of course, the military might be an option for some, as well.
  • Glorious Mosaic. – Maybe the most intriguing opportunity post-high school is the ability to mix and match the above choices.  Go to school full-time and continue your lawn care business part-time.  Or visa versa.  Take community college courses in the summer and winter while attending a 4-year college during the Fall and Spring.  Start your own business online while attending classes.

The bottom line is that this is, ultimately, NOT about college, but about your life and your future.  Your last day at College is called Commencement for a reason.  College is the greatest resource to help you move on to your future.  But it is only a resource, not a substitute for, nor a guarantee regarding, that future.

Every young adult should choose wisely.  All of the bullet points above are legitimate options.  Make conscious decisions to move forward with your life, as best meets your needs.  But, Ashley, while I definitely think your best option is College, do not just go to 13th grade because it is the number after 12th grade.

So, go to College, but by choice, not just ’cause.

Absolutely.  And, by the way – Applebees?

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 Is What Brings Us Together Today

14 Comments

I stole today’s title from one of my all-time favorite movies.  The Princess Bride – as it does for so many other things in life – offers some wonderful advice for those who will be entering college this Fall. (and if you don’t know the reference, please check out the link at the end of the post!)

That dream within a dream.  Never forget how special your College years can be – part insulating and part liberating and totally unique.

Have fun storming the castle.  Enjoy!

Have you the ring?  Never forget to finish and actually pick up your diploma.  The experience may be the thing, but employers will want to know that you have ‘the wing’.

Man and wife.  Man and wife.  College and student should be partners in this marriage.  Give and take liberally.

As you wish.  Follow the rules, but always maintain your own persona.

You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.  College is not apprenticeship.  Learn at your own pace, experiment in your own way.

Let me ‘splain.  No, there is no time.  Let me sum up.  While you should travel at your own pace, sometimes course demands may force certain concessions.  Manage your time well.  And take good notes.  And sometimes you may need to borrow notes from a guy named Cliff…

Have you been chasing me your whole life only to fail now?  I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.  How marvelous.  Finish what you started.  Whether you are proving someone wrong or proving someone right, finish.  Even if you need a mantra to stay on course…

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.  Prepare to die.  Persevere.

I wonder if he’s using the same wind we’re using.  Judge yourself only by your own standards; this is your race and your canvas.  Only.

Mostly dead.  Finals week.  But, as in the movie, you will survive.

An Immunity to Iocane Powder.  Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly helps.

When I was your age, television was called books.  Times change.  Be flexible.  Be willing to adapt.

You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.  Respect other opinions and always be willing to look at things from different points of view.

Get some rest.  If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.  You only feel immortal at 18.  You’re not.  Remember to sleep enough, eat more than Ramen Noodles and Doritos and walk, run and play a few times a week.

No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley. 
Be conscious that you are creating your own ‘brand’.   College is usually the first big step in building your resume – be aware of how you are doing that.

You just wiggled your finger.  That’s wonderful.  Don’t forget to treasure your achievements – big and small.

So, I clearly can’t choose the cup in front of me.  Think through – but don’t over think – your choices.

Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work.  But I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it.  I’m swamped. 
Again, College is about time management in ways you haven’t experienced before.  Don’t forget to keep track, prioritize and finish.

I am not left-handed, either.  Ride with the surprises.  And give a few of your own.

Get used to disappointment.  But don’t let it define you.

A kissing book. –  Well, yeah.  It’s College.

Your ears you’ll keep.  And I’ll tell you why.  Always remember to listen.

So, enjoy the next four years.  And make sure you finish in four years!  I mean it.

Anybody want a peanut?

Here’s a clip from the Marriage scene from The Princess Bride.

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.

10 Random Thoughts About the College Search

12 Comments

1) Dear Parents of HS Juniors…I wish you knew now what you will know a year from now.

2) IMPORTANT: When a College Admissions Representative refers to an SAT score, they are usually referring to your READING + MATH sub-score. NOT your Reading + Math + Writing score.   I’ve seen too many schools and families talking about two different things.  To the detriment of the student.

3) Every action taken in Junior Year (and in the summer) saves two actions in the Senior Year.  M.Szarek, 2012.

4) Adult students need and deserve as much guidance in the college search as traditional students.

5) Too often, students take ALL or NONE of their Direct loan eligibility.  Often, SOME would have been their best choice.

6) What IS the right price for a year’s worth of higher education?

7) If they don’t want you, you don’t want them.

8) Of the 4000 colleges in this country, there are 17.9 ‘perfect’ schools for your son or daughter.   Okay, I made that up.  But, I bet I’m right.

9) See it with your own eyes.  Visit. Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit.  Visit. Visit.

10) If a picture paints a thousand words, how does that fit into the Common Application Essay requirement?

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.

Shenanigans

7 Comments

I call shenanigans.

I just saw an article that listed the ‘average cost of a wedding in New Jersey’.  It was broken out into separate categories such as transportation, catering hall, jewelry, honeymoon, etc. and each category was presented in a range.  When you added them all up, the total ranges were from $50,399 to $78,284.  So, the average is $64,342.

I searched for average undergraduate college costs in New Jersey.  I found the CNN Money site.  It listed individual schools.  So, I selected 6 that I thought represented a bit of a cross-section and weren’t too cheap.  Subjective, I know, but I wasn’t about to do all of the work that I thought CNN Money should have done for me.  Anyway, the average four year costs for Kean, Princeton, Rutgers, Seton Hall, William Paterson University and Monmouth University comes out to $98,250, after aid.

That comes out to $67 a day vs. $64,342 a day.

Let’s compare:

4 years vs. 1 night ( plus honeymoon).

50% completion rate for each.

Approximately 3000 meals vs. 1 big one (and a great buffet on the cruise)

4 years of usually stimulating conversation, research and professional development vs. a nervous speech from a buzzed best man

4 years of interacting with your best friends without parental involvement vs. 1 night of interacting with your best friends engulfed in parental involvement.

4 years of planning, preparing, developing your future vs. 1 night of celebrating your future.

$98,250 vs. $64,342.  Or, in other words…

$67 a day vs. $64,342 a day.

So, why does the $67 a day service have to keep defending its value?  Why is it that the fact that we have now invested more in higher education that amazon.com, Carnival Cruise lines and other credit purchases a scandalous fact?  It should be the other way around, no?

Now – just to be clear – I am comparing an undergraduate collegiate education to a wedding reception, NOT to a marriage.  A marriage is priceless, amazing, wonderful – to be treasured always and forever – and the greatest investment that one can make (is Stefanie still looking over my shoulder?)

We all have choices as to how to spend our money – cars, real estate, food, clothes, entertainment AND learning.  If you don’t think 4 years of higher education is worth it to you, within the limits of your budget, that is your decision.  You have every right to it.

But, when you tank up your SUV during the summer, remember that could have bought a day’s worth of higher education with that, with room and board and access to the fitness center.  Cash or credit.

Note 1: This is what you should expect to pay for a wedding in New Jersey, as per Real Simple magazine: http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/weddings/budget/average-wedding-costs-in-new-jersey-00000000006634/index.html

Note 2: This is where I obtained my data for the area colleges.  CNN Money.

Note 3: This is South Park, calling shenanigans.

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.

The Wrongs of Passage

7 Comments

Dear Ashley, Brad, Caitlin and Justin:

It has been a joy to work with you and your families as you have traveled along the college search journey.  In a few months, you will start your college career and I just wanted to share a simple thought with you.

You will meet new people and make new friends.  You will join new groups.

Trust your gut.  Respect yourself.

I had a whole long blog post written about the wrongs of hazing, with artfully crafted metaphors, references to recent events and deep thoughts about the value of life.  But, I think the whole topic is too simple to complicate with unnecessary wordage.  Simply…

Trust your gut.  Respect yourself.

If it seems wrong, sounds wrong, looks wrong, smells wrong…it’s quite likely to be wrong.

Trust your gut.  Respect yourself.

Almost 30 years ago, I listened to a woman describe how her son died and what she was doing to prevent others to suffer her son’s fate.  There are too many other mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, girlfriends and boyfriends who could give similar presentations.  I was proud to be part of the fraternity that sponsored that event.

Bonding with peers is a wonderful thing.  Forcing people to consume large amounts of alcohol, physically and mentally abusing peers, locking ‘friends’ in trunks is not.  The two are not connected and anyone who sells you such information is to be avoided.  Period.

But, I know that you already know that.  Just don’t forget it when the time comes.

Trust your gut.  Respect yourself.

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.

On College and Applying

7 Comments

With apologies to the souls and estates of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, T.S. Eliot – and to Meatloaf.

““April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”  -T.S. Eliot

“March is the cruelest month, teasing hope out of the exhausted parent, mixing scholarships and insufficient funds, stirring dull rejection letters with glossy admission notifications.” – M.J. Szarek

With March 1 turning up next week, most admission decisions have gone out, many scholarship notifications have followed and the first financial aid packages, like crocuses of academe, have started to push through.

And, for many students, there comes the harsh reality that the school you fell in love with doesn’t love you back.  For many families comes the harsh reality that those crocuses might not be as pretty or bountiful as you imagined.

This can be a time when even the most grounded family can turn into the Simpsons.

Therefore, this might be a good time to step back and analyze what you are going through.

DENIAL – The Admissions Committee must have made a mistake; they must have not seen her senior grades. The FAFSA must be wrong or the College read it wrong.  This is somebody’s else’s EFC.  I know it ain’t what this family expects to contribute!

ANGER – How dare they crush my little Justin’s dreams.  Those @#$^#$.  It isn’t fair.  How can a middle class family send their kids to college?

BARGAINING – What if we send every certificate Caitlin has ever gotten since 2nd grade?  Let’s go back to those scholarships for Lithuanians – my great-grandmother once lived in Vilnius.

DEPRESSION – We failed.  If only we had planned better a few years ago.  If only we had pushed Brad to study a little harder in sophomore year.

ACCEPTANCE – Hey, you know this isn’t a bad school.  He had in his top group all along.  And, by balancing aid, loans, payment plans, his summer job earnings and Aunt Lucy’s generous birthday gift, this might just work out.

While my writing style tends towards humor and a light-hearted tone, these scenarios, experiences and feelings are real.  And there is nothing wrong with them.  The college search is not a simple, straightforward process and is filled with “I wish I knew then what I know now” moments.  It is normal to be confused, concerned and frustrated during the Spring of the College Admission process.

But this is the very moment you should take a deep breath and try not to lose perspective.  And try to make sure your child does not lose perspective.  This is probably the first time they’ve faced a decision with this level of importance.  So, they may actually seem to value your opinion once again – be ready for it.

Remember – for the vast majority of souls – it ends well.  A recent Pew Center report asks Is College Worth It?, and the answer from most graduates is a resounding “yes.” Of survey respondents, 86 percent of college graduates believe their education was a good personal investment. In addition, 88 percent of those with a four-year degree said their education was useful or somewhat useful in preparing for a career.  Think about how many other services, products or investments can claim similar results.

So, keep things in perspective.  Keep your options open.  Monitor your breathing.

And – don’t forget – when all is said and done – your son or daughter can paraphrase the great philosopher Meatloaf and tell 90% of the colleges, “I applied there.  Got accepted there.  But there ain’t no way I’m ever going to enroll there.  Now be sad (don’t be sad) ’cause two out of three ain’t bad…”

Just don’t be surprised if your son or daughter asks who the heck this Meatloaf person is…

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.

Tempus Fuggedaboutit

7 Comments

Today’s HS juniors will retire in 2065.

That, of course, assumes they don’t work past age 70.

So, when an article comes out suggesting that these are the best majors in terms of employment and it bases its findings on data from 2011 (or earlier) – well – that’s pretty funny.

I chose a major in 1982.  Communications.  I wanted to be the next Marv Albert.

That was 30 years ago.  I chose the field of radio and TV in a world that had 10 channels, terrestrial radio, no YouTube and – if there wasn’t such a thing as facial hair –  we wouldn’t have been able to edit sound.  (**If you don’t get the reference, there’s an explanation at the end of this blog post)

But I knew that I liked media.  I liked communicating.

I did it ‘old school’ – 4 years, 1 major, 1 school.  I had a B+ average and graduated with Latin words attached.

I then started a career path that veered from door-to-door environmental canvasser on Long Island to Leukemia Society Program Coordinator (bunny hops and bowl-a-thons) to Social Services Examiner to a phone call on a pay phone at the bar that I lived above on Jericho Turnpike because the phone in my apartment was busted.  Yes, the phone call that changed everything.  I was invited to interview for the position of Admission Counselor at Wagner College.

12.5 plus room and board.

And I found my calling.  But – along the way – I’ve made turns into financial aid and twists into independent counseling and a detour to New Jersey.  And I’ve built a career that had both nothing to do with Communications and everything to do with Communications.

It had nothing to do with Moviolas or tripods or splicing tape or “How Real is Real?” and other communications theory.

But, it had everything to do with Communications because I knew how to write and speak and interact and work with a team.  And I knew deadlines and time management and reading from a script.  And I knew about College.

It’s easy to sit here and type (word process?) these words and recommend what you should do with your time and money.

Your role in this dialogue is much harder.  I understand the trepidation and concern.  Will Brad get a job?  Will Ashley be successful?  Is this the right decision for Caitlin?  Why on earth did Justin pick that career?

That’s why I picked Communications.  Didn’t think there would be any money in English…

But life has its own design.  And the best tools a college can give you are the ability to think, write, speak, play well with others and lead a team.  The two best tools of all may be the ability to adapt.  And the understanding that you will probably have to.

How you use those tools is up to you, regardless of the institution that you choose to attend.

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.

(Spoiler Alert: **Sound editing was done, at least then, by splicing tape via razor blades.)

Older Entries Newer Entries