Crush It (To the HS Class of 2013)

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Dear HS Class of 2013:

You are not defined by your major, your SAT, your ACT, nor what schools accepted or did not accept you.

You are not defined by what school you chose.

You are defined by what you do when you get to college. And beyond.

Crush it.

-Michael, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, CCR

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 on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/CCRMichael?feature=mhee.

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Made In America

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There is a product that is as American made as any.

The raw product is American.

The hands that mold into a finished product are American.

The sales force that promotes it is American. Even the telemarketing personnel are American.

The product is made on-site, in America.

People from other countries come here to the buy the product.

It is hand-crafted, made to order, with each individual unit a limited edition.

It is American Higher Education.  “Quality craftsmanship since 1636.”

Not cheap.  In any sense of the word.  Including price tag.

Are there ways to cut costs? Is there some level of mismanagement with some suppliers?

Sure, but I would venture a guess that it’s no worse, and – in fact – may be less than in most industries.

In other words, higher education is expensive.  It costs tens of thousands of dollars to provide one year of education – whether you pay for it, Uncle Sam, Uncle Christie or Capitol One pays for it.  Even if the College gives you a 40% discount off the sticker price (which is the norm, by the way).

Yeah, but some of that money is going to a new dorm or laptops for each student or a new fitness center that looks like Curves and Golds Gym all rolled into one.  And I heard one college is even giving out SmartPhones to each freshman. 

Absolutely.  And they could stop doing that and it would certainly lower tuition and room and board.  But – if they don’t build it, will we still come?  I’d hate to work for the college that hedges that bet.  The consumer demanded and the supplier responded.

Better management in higher education might also save a few dollars.  Figure a $50,000 school might become a $48.000 school.  But, it’s not the problem nor is it a magic solution.  It still would be $48000.

Reduce costs?  Sure, eliminate a career services staff member or an athletic team.  Don’t build that new dining facility.  Cut back on landscaping.  Let average class size grow from 15 to 30.  Let G.A.’s and adjuncts replace full-time faculty.

Are there salaries that are out-of-control?  Sure, a few athletic coaches and a few Presidents.  Not many others.  However, I think a comparison to areas of commerce would be quite revealing.  There aren’t too many Jamie Dimons in higher education.

But I can’t afford $48,000.  It’s not fair.

It’s not always fair.  Trust me, as a Met, Jet and Net fan, I’ve used that phrase quite a bit in my lifetime.

Thanks to 40% tuition discounts and Uncle Sam and Uncle Christie, most “$48,000” schools will actually be much less.  But even if the cost of College A is out of your reach, there’s still College B that will offer a do-able package and State U., which will offer a subsidized tuition rate and Community College, which will offer an even more subsidized rate.

All for a product that is American made, offered in limited editions and respected worldwide.

Folks like me can help you through the process, offer advice and maybe even save you a dime or two.  But there’s no magic here.

There. Is. No. Magic. Here.  Except in the finished product, when you become your very own collector’s edition.

Not every college and not every financial aid package is affordable.  Some roads may be closed.  Some roads may have a toll that is beyond your means (Kinda like the Verrazano Bridge).  But many – far more than you realize – will be welcoming, passable and affordable.  And worth traveling.

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.

13th Grade

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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.

10 Random Thoughts About the College Search

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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

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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.

On College and Applying

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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.

First Generation Perspectives

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Something a little out of the ordinary blog posts:

I was asked to be the featured guest on the 2nd episode of #AdmissionsLive on the higheredlive.com network.  I had the pleasure of engaging in a great conversation about how College Admissions professionals can best serve 1st generation students and families.

After finally getting the courage – and time – to watch myself, I have to say that I think it represents my thoughts fairly accurately.  It is 44 minutes, but I think there’s some good dialogue in there.  So, thank you to higheredlive.com and Ashley Hennigan and (drum roll please):

Here is the direct link to “First Generation Perspectives”.  Enjoy!

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