As a college guy and the parent of a Class of 2017 kid, I can assure you, from both perspectives, that we’re doing it all wrong.
Kids – and parents – pick colleges for the dumbest reasons:
Great “rah rah” sports teams (“They went deep in my March Madness bracket!”)
Feelings (“When we got there, she just knew!” Or, “We got out of the car, but got right back in. He said that he just wasn’t feeling it.”)
Rank (“Great school! US News rated them top 200 most selective liberal arts colleges in states that start with “N” and have a horse for a mascot!”)
They know other people who attend or have attended (‘My second cousin twice removed’s former babysitter goes there, and SHE ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT! That means I will too. Duh.”)
(Fill in your own dumb reason here. Better yet, send it to me, I’ll publish the best ones! 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you ignore each of the foregoing. However, I urge you to look past rah rah, feel, rank and so forth.
Here’s how we “Backwards Plan” into the college process. Disclaimer – this is not an advertisement, namely because this approach is right only for 25% of the families I meet, give or take.
Focus on the 40, not 4. Forget college for a few moments, even though it should be an incredible four years (hopefully only four) of your kids’ lives. Incredible, but not the best four, because that would be sad (you know those guys our age or older still talking about how great college was, or the guys who manage to work into every conversation that they went to Harvard. Toe curler!) Instead, get to know yourself, i.e. how you’re “wired,” and what that means for your potential place(s) in the world. There a bunch of free or inexpensive online assessments to chose from.
Narrow those places in the world to ones where you can actually make a living and get off mom and dad’s payroll! It’s incredibly easy to major in something that will be as attractive to an employer as backstage tickets to “An Evening With Carrot Top.” Marine Biology? Architecture? Women’s Studies? (Bracing self for hate mail.)
Back into a set of colleges that are reputable in the two or three (hopefully) overlapping areas that match your wiring and are reasonably lucrative. It’s OK to change majors, 80% of kids do. It’s not OK to change majors and have to spend an extra year or two acquiring enough credits to graduate. You’ll spend an extra $40-60K per year, and you’ll delay entry into the workforce, which opportunity cost could be $50K per year. It adds up, Sparky!
Learn the rules of the game and do what it takes to get into your top colleges! Understand that it’s more marketing than meritocracy. Yes, of course, grades and standardized test scores are important. But they might factor roughly 60% of the admissions decision, according to long-time Princeton University Admissions Committee Member Don Betterton. To get into a top school, you must realize that you are in business for yourself and must answer the “Why should we pick you” unspoken question on every admissions officer’s lips.
Get discounts! The average tuition discount in 2015 was 48.6%. When they (The National Association Of Collegiate Business Officers) release 2016’s numbers, I betcha that the discount will be larger, because it grows each year. The point is that paying full price for college is not an obligation, it’s a choice. If you’re strategic and think about ROI (return on investment), instead of mascots and “feel” only, your results will be a heckuva lot better than families who surrender the process over to their hormonal 16-17 year olds and “wing it.”
Two local events this week to help you discover how to get in – and pay “wholesale” prices for the best colleges in the US of A. Please, pretty please forward to any and all fellow parents who could use this info!
Free workshop – Tuesday, 4/25, 7pm at the Roslyn Public Library (13 seats left)
A free community workshop for stressed out parents of high school juniors who want to 10x their kids’ chances of getting into their “Dream Colleges” and learn how to qualify for “yuge” tuition discounts. Learn “loopholes” and “landmines” on the financial aid forms, how to negotiate with colleges, more.
Open House – Saturday, 4/29, 10am -12pm in our NEW Woodmere location (25 seats max)
This event is a “meet and greet” for parents interested in our college advising, financial aid & scholarships and/or ACT/SAT tutoring services. Our star tutor, Marissa, Pearl and I will be there to INFORMALLY answer questions and play “let’s make a deal!” Special incentives to be offered.
– Andy “Tough Love” Lockwood