Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Community and Technical Colleges are a viable option?

When I think about the traits I really like in people.. being a straight shooter (someone who tells it like they see it) is one trait I admire.  It is more than simply speaking your mind, its more speaking what you think but thinking before you speak.  Making an argument with solid data and also offering up viable solutions.

One such guy is Mike Rowe from the popular show "Dirty Jobs" and more recently his new show on CNN, "Somebody's Got To Do It."  He's a straight shooter.  I've watched this video before and then happened to watch it again.   I found it even more interesting the second time.  Being a good parent means that we push our kids to be more or do more in life.  That is one of our jobs as parents, but it s a big job!  Teaching those skills and abilities to help our offspring become better.  My Dad's vision for his kids was simple, he wanted his kids to have it better than he did!  Which in my view is a noble pursuit.  Something I often think about for my own kids.  I jokingly share with my kids that they can be anything they want to be after medical school or law school.  I too want to be able to say that my kids are a success because they achieved a professional status in life.  There is nothing wrong with that thought process.. right?      

When I see young people struggling in todays world because support from their parents to pursue a college education is limited or even non existent, I am troubled.  I've even experienced it where parents who come at it with a different viewpoint, they only want their kids to have it as good as they have had it. Not directing them or even pushing them to be more.  This mentality can limit a young persons aspirations and motivation for a better life.  There are probably some really good reasons, both culturally and economically for this engrained thought but this mentality does impress limits on young people.

But this bring up the question, does not going to to college impede success in life?  If I didn't go to college, what limits would I be putting on my future success?  Can I be better off than my parents were?  Is that notion still possible?

Before you can decide on going to college you really need to define what success means to you.  What does success look and feel like to you? Is it the ability for your parents to brag about you to neighbors about how important you are or how well you are doing financially?  I know we want our parents to be proud of us because we grew up believing in that notion.  The reality is you need to define what success means to you because this decision is really about you.



In my career, I have worked with many college students from all walks of life. Many of those college  students defined success as making money, making a lot of money. OK.. then I would ask..how do you plan to make it?  Few had plans like starring on American Idol but most did not.  The funny thing is that I used to give an opening assignment to my classes,  I would ask them to write a two page paper on where they see themselves in 10 years.  Describe in detail your house, your job, your car, your family.. everything you see.  I read those papers and found that that about 80% of my college students did not make money the priority.  Their vision was not to get rich but to find good work, make a good living and have their own family.  They wrote of having a nice house and doing things they love to do.  Making money was important but not the most important thing to them.  Living a good life was the message I received from these students.

Going to college is still a great way to learn new skills and grow as a person.  But if you don't know what you want to do then I suggest that Community Colleges and Tech Schools are a great place to start exploring what you like and what has potential for you to make a career.  It is an opportunity to learn about areas that interest you and then learn how to apply what you learned to make an income. Community and Technical Colleges are designed for you to get skills and get to work or get the foundations and transfer to a 4 year college or university.  For a student just coming out of High School, you need those hard skills you get in the classroom to get the job you want and the soft skills like communication and teamwork to keep the job.  All are offered by your local Community and Technical College and at a reasonable rate.

Now Moms and Dads, please keep reading.  It may be a hard pill for parents to swallow but the key idea for parents is to remember that you should help your kids to be the best they can be.. at whatever they choose to do.  If my son or daughter told me that they want to be a plumber, then I will help them become the best plumber they could be.  When your child selects a career path that may not have a great demand for in the future be engaged with them and talk about what other opportunities are available and how their skills they learned may be transferable given their educational pursuits and attainment.  

I hope you enjoy the video and you gain something from it.  I certainly did.



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dreaming big about going pro!


I am all about dreaming big but here is the reality of those that will go pro in sports:

Based on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s own research from last year, a high school athlete’s odds of making the big leagues are minuscule.

High School Athletes who Play Professionally:

Men’s basketball: 0.03 percent
Women’s basketball: 0.02 percent
Football: 0.08 percent
Baseball: 0.51 percent
Men’s ice hockey: 0.10 percent
Men’s soccer: 0.03 percent

(http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Resources/Research/Probability+of+Going+Pro)

The reality is that there is a very low chance that a high school athlete will go pro.  However, you may have the opportunity to use your athletic talent to get a college education.

Talk to your coach about what opportunities exist for you to go to college.  There are plenty of open enrollment types of colleges (2 year and 4 year) that have sports teams that offer scholarships to players.  

Looking forward to seeing you on campus!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Grad School on the cheap!

After amassing $32,000 in student loan debt to obtain a college degree, Ken Ilgunas found a very tight job market for an English / History major.  But he didn't give up and certainly was not going to live with Student Loan debt.  

I admire the guy for taking such an extreme course to further his education.  I'm not sure I could have done it.. maybe with a small RV.

Here's his story from the Yahoo Finance web page.       

Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt

By the time Ken Ilgunas was wrapping up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo in 2005, he had no idea what kind of debt hole he'd dug himself into.

He had majored in the least marketable fields of study possible — English and History — and had zero job prospects after getting turned down for no fewer than 25 paid internships.

"That was a wake-up call," he told Business Insider. "I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour. I was just getting kind of frantic."

Back then, student loans had yet to become the front page news they are today. Ilgunas could have simply deferred his loans or declared forbearance. He also could have asked his parents (who were more than willing to help) for a leg up. He could have thrown up his hands and gone to grad school until the job market bounced back.

Instead, he moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime. And when he enrolled at Duke University for graduate school later, he lived out of his van to be sure he wouldn't have to take out loans again.

"I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I didn't even know what interest was when I was 17," he said. "I just think that's awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives."

In his book, "
Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom," Ken chronicles his journey out of debt.

He was kind enough to share his story with us this week.

He knew exactly where to go for work. Ken had spent a couple months working at a remote Alaskan truck stop the summer before graduating. So he called up his old contacts and landed a job there as a local tour guide, cook, and basically whatever the locals needed.

"The day after I graduated, I was on a flight to Alaska and pretty much started work right away," he said. "As ignorant as I was, I did know that if I didn't deal with my loans, I'd have to deal with accumulated interest or delinquency or default. I wanted to pay it off as fast as humanly possible."

It was a brilliant move for a 20-something needing to pay down debt in a hurry. "It's 250 miles from the nearest store, room and board were included, and there wasn't any cell service," he said. "You can amaze yourself with how much you can save when you reduce your cost of living. Almost every dollar I made went toward my student loans."


Click here to read the rest of Ken's Story

I'll see you on campus...

How to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

 
I came across a series of videos from the U.S. Department of Education recently that are aimed at assisting parents and students with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid commonly refered to as FASFA.  The videos are short, approximately 3 minutes each, but full of good information.  
 
Types of Federal Aid
 
 
 
Overview of FASFA
 
 
 
 How to fill out the FASFA?
 
 
 
What happens next after filling out the FASFA?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Water Cooler Chat with the Finacial Aid Staff

A quick Q&A with the Financial Aid Office at a college near you! 



In my Higher Education career, I’ve heard all too often complaints about the dreaded financial aid office.  Things take too long, they lost my paperwork or I have to provide more paper work, are just some of those complaints.  But don’t give up hope.  Not to defend the office but your typical financial aid office staff will sift through tons of Federal regulations and rules as each student is evaluated for awards.  At some larger schools, that is a lot of students to evaluate.    

Your best bet as a student is to treat them with courtesy, be persistent and ask questions if you have them.  The Financial Aid office staff is there to help you find funding to attend the institution.  This is not the place to go get money to buy a car or a big screen TV.  Use the funding wisely and don’t take more than you need.  When you examine your financial aid package, think twice about whether or not you need that student loan.  Also, I recommend you keep copies of everything you are asked to send in.  You just never know if and when things get lost. 

I had the opportunity to talk with a current Financial Aid Staff member by the name of Tammie P. and this is what she shared with me.         

As the Spring semester winds down and college students are getting ready to leave campus, what things should they do before they leave campus?

Students should come into the Financial Aid office and fill out the 2013-2014 FAFSA application.  Many times there are additional forms needed for verification before Federal Aid can be paid for the next Semester.  Being proactive with this process reduces the risk of starting the semester without your Financial Aid.

Now, what are the forms that need to be filled out again?

Each year prior to starting the Fall semester, students need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) this allows student to receive aid for the upcoming year.  It is free to fill out. www.fasfa.ed.gov

What happens if my parents earn a lot of money?  Should I even apply for Financial Aid?

Yes, the FAFSA is a central application that not only awards grants based off a family’s need but also serves as a tool to awards loans.  Just because you may not qualify for a Pell Grant does not mean you will not qualify for some type of Federal Aid.  Also the application takes many variables into consideration, for instance your parents may earn a lot of money but they may be supporting a large family or have more than one child in college they are supporting.  Sometimes the financial office will use the students FASFA information for elegibility purposes to award private scholarships with certain criteria.  It is worth the time to apply.

Now for a returning student, are their scholarships I can apply for to be used this upcoming year?

Scholarship application deadlines at most colleges have passed for this upcoming Fall.  It is always a good idea to talk with the Department Head of the area you are Majoring in and ask about possible funding from their specific Department.  Students should check the Financial Aid & Scholarships website and apply for the next year so they do not miss out on that opportunity in upcoming years.

Does it make sense to check-in with the Financial Aid office over the summer?

It is a good idea to contact the Financial Aid office after your final grades for the Semester have posted if your GPA is lower than a 2.0 or you have received any failing grades.  This could affect your ability to receive aid the following semester without going through the Academic Warning process.  The Federal government wants you to be successful in college if they are giving you funding.  That means getting at least a 2.0.  But they also understand that things happen and a system is in place for students to appeal to continue getting Federal funding even after a bad semester.  But, just like in Baseball, three strikes and you are out at most institutions. 

Any advice for students as they get ready to return for classes in the Fall?

Contact the office to check in at least 2-3 weeks before school starts.  Call or visit.  You do not want to wait and have a problem that needs to be resolved before you get your Financial Aid.  It is important to have everything in line so you receive your aid in time to have all of your books and supplies in order to start the semester out on the right foot.

I went to apply for FAFSA and they tried to charge me for it, is that right?

NO, you should never pay to complete a FAFSA after all it is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The correct website is www.fafsa.ed.gov
 
Well there you have it folks.  Right from the source. 
 
Hope you to see you around campus! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Got the college is over for the year blues?

What you can do to make this summer great?

It seems like we all have had to write at one time or another on the topic: "What I did over my summer vacation?"  If you were asked to write an essay on that topic this coming Fall, what would yours say?  Now is the time to plan your summer activities to get a head start on your future. 

Here are some ideas to make your summer the most productive ever! 

Did you struggle in one of your classes this year and didn't get the grade you expected.  Colleges around the country offer classes during the summer. They are usually 5-6 weeks long, held either 4 or 5 days a week and fairly intense.  But the good thing is that you will only have that one topic to study on and you should get a better grade because all your energy will be focused.  Community colleges have the best rates when it comes to tuition and paying tuition means you can have access to other amenities on campus such as the library, gym, computer labs and summer activities. Visit your local community college and see what they are offering.

Work, work, work!  Get a job or better yet two jobs!  Work as much as you can and save for the upcoming class year.  I have seen too many students show up the day of classes with no money.  I recommend you come to campus with enough money to buy your books so you won't get behind and some spending money for the first couple of weeks.  Start a new business and put what you learned to the test.  Work any job, it’s not always what you earn, it’s what you learn.  An internship in many cases does not always pay very well but you can get valuable work experience in a field that you want to work.  This will give you a definite advantage when you start job searching after graduation.    

If the job market in your hometown is too competitive or just not enough jobs are offered, consider joining the National Guard / Army Reserves and get your basic training and advanced individual training completed over the summer.  Not only will you bank some money that you won't have time to spend but you'll get in great shape, meet new people and gain some valuable experiences and skills that employers love!   

But hold up, all work and no play does not a great summer vacation make!  Summer does mean better weather and you should try to make time for the great outdoors.  Visit a national park and do some hiking.  But first get educated on where to go and what to bring by researching it on-line.  There are a lot of great resources on the web to research the "how to" before you make your way outdoors.   

If you want an advantage for next year, find out what the books will be for your classes coming up and start reading them.  Take some time to read for fun.  Just reading will help you keep or increase your reading skills during the summer months.  For those of you that struggle with picking up a book, find some friends and start a book club.  When you read and discuss a book together, you are more likely to finish and better understand it. 

Your summer adventure is about to start.  Whether it’s great or a bust is up to you!  What will you likely talk about this Fall when you reflect back on how you spent your summer?  Take advantage of the time and make it work for you.  Investing in yourself and managing your summer vacation wisely now will mean more opportunities for you later on!  Hope to see you on campus!   

Get more relevant college advice at www.adviceoncollege.org

 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why live on campus?

I often get asked why should I live on campus?  Well I think there are many reasons...

First of, extensive studies on living on campus indicate that students who live on campus have a higher rate of finishing college and graduating over students who live off campus. Data also suggests that students who live in the residence halls are more involved with extracurricular activities and therefore get more out or going to college.  They experience a higher rate of personal growth, are more connected to the college they are attending and seem to have a higher rate of quality interpersonal relationships (friends) than those that live off campus. Interaction with faculty is also higher for those that live on campus. (The Resident Assistant by Gregory Blimling 2003)

While the data speaks for itself in general, why live on campus in my own words:

1. Convenience: never have to find parking compared to commuter students. 

2. Never cook again. Living on campus, you get a meal plan and you will never have to cook for yourself.  Having a meal plan allows you more time to spend on your academics.  


3. Never worry about your roommate not having the money to pay the rent.


4. Save Money: Your utilities, cable and Internet are almost always included.


5. Easier to get involved in campus life and make a difference.


6. Support: the housing staff is there to help you succeed in college. The staff is trained to help you adjust to college life!


7. Fun: living on campus is a blast. You will know when all the events are happening and you will make friends that much easier!



Sure, the residence halls have rules that all must follow. Alcohol is banned on many campus and this is dictated by the state law at some institutions. Housing policies like visiting hours and quiet hours are there for the benefit of the entire residential community. Just because you like to be loud all the time doesn’t mean your neighbor likes it.
 

Living on campus is just easier. Students can and should focus on education and not living circumstances. Colleges should provide a clean, safe and educational environment that is geared towards your success as a student.

Hope to see you on campus.