Episode 27: Colleges in the Great Lakes Region—Part I

We are continuing our series on looking at colleges outside your comfort zone by taking a virtual tour of public colleges and universities in the Great Lakes region. Complete show notes for today’s episode, including links to all of the colleges mentioned, can be found at http://usacollegechat.org/27.

In our last episode, we said that we were going to take you on a virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. As we start our tour this week, we are going to spotlight public colleges. We are going to talk about four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region right away. If your child is headed to a public two-year college, just save this information until it might be time for your child to transfer to a four-year college later on.

Again, we want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. While we do not promise to name a lot of great colleges in every state, we do promise to name a lot of great colleges.

And as we said last week, if you have a college you would like us to talk about on the air, please email us or call us and tell us what it is and why it is great, and we will certainly consider it. Let us also say again that no college has asked us to name it and that no college has paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices.

To be sure, some of the colleges we will name will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admissions test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and extracurricular activities and outside-of-school experiences is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be appropriate.

One general note about the location of college campuses: It used to be that most colleges had a single campus. Then, large public universities looked to serve more and more students as the college-going rate increased in the last century. We started to see branch campuses of these large public universities—a couple and then five or seven or more—as supply rose to meet demand. Now, private universities and colleges have started to open more locations, too—probably in an effort to attract students who do not want to commute to or live on the main campus. All this opening of branches and locations has made talking about colleges a bit complicated. When we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution.

And one general note about enrollment figures: While we tried hard to pull enrollment figures from college websites in order to give you an idea of how large or how small our spotlighted colleges are, we believe that the figures are not necessarily comparable from college to college. For example, sometimes colleges include part-time students, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes you can’t tell whether they do or don’t. So, use the enrollment figures we are giving as just an approximation of the actual campus enrollment. These figures are certainly good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child. In other words, it doesn’t really matter if a university has 19,000 undergraduate students or 25,000 undergraduate students; it is still a huge school.

1. The Great Lakes Region

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s covering four to 12 states. So let’s get started with the five states that make up the Bureau’s Great Lakes region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

For those of you who are listening in our home state of New York, I am guessing that the Great Lakes region sounds far away, except perhaps for Ohio, which we can think of as right across New Jersey and/or Pennsylvania from us. For those of you who are listening in the South or Southwest or on the West Coast, I am guessing that all these states seem far removed from where you thought you might send your child. But there are a lot of great colleges and universities in the Great Lakes region, so let’s begin.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

One notable category of higher education institutions in these five states is the flagship public state university. Each of the Great Lakes states has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and I would argue that at least a couple of them are, in fact, great schools. While these universities have smaller branch campuses in other locations in their states, it is the main location—that is, the flagship of each state’s public system—that we will talk about here because that is the campus that is best known and likely most respected both in the state and outside the state.

If you want to apply to one of these campuses from out of state, your child will need good to excellent high school grades and good to excellent college admission test scores, with some being a bit harder to get into than others. Just remember, the best and the brightest high school students who live in these states really want to go to their flagship state university. Why? Because these schools are relatively inexpensive (because they are public), academically respectable, well regarded across the state and across the country, super-competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for lots of their high school classmates. They are the place to be, if you live in that state. That attitude might be hard for those of us who live in New York State to understand, because we do not have the same kind of famous flagship campus that draws a large percentage of our state’s best high school graduates. The State University of New York (SUNY) operates more like individual colleges located around the state rather than one main campus with branches of it around the state, as in the Great Lakes region. SUNY does not have one big flagship campus that the majority of New York high school students are dying to go to.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Great Lakes region? They are the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Indiana University Bloomington, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and The Ohio State University in Columbus. While these universities are located in different kinds of settings—from medium-sized college towns to state capitals (and let me tell you that Madison has one of the prettiest state capitol buildings you are ever going to find)—and while some have colder weather than others (like Michigan and Wisconsin—believe me, I know), they also have a lot in common.

For example, they are huge. The average number of undergraduates enrolled at the flagship campuses in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois is almost 30,000, with a total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment averaging almost 45,000, Ohio State is bigger still, with about 45,000 undergraduates and a total enrollment of about 58,000 students. While some of these campuses brag about the relatively small class size of many of their classes and the kind of personalized attention they give their students, you can be sure that a shy student could easily get lost in the shuffle of a very large campus and in what will surely be some large lecture halls, with lots of students trying to get the professors’ attention.

Within each flagship university, there are from 11 to 19 different undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—arts and sciences, education, engineering, business, agriculture and life sciences, nursing, law, medicine, veterinary medicine, architecture, and more—including, at Indiana, the famous Jacobs School of Music. These universities offer from about 135 to almost 250 undergraduate majors—truly something for every student, almost no matter what the student is interested in.

As befits any huge university, each one has hundreds and hundreds of student clubs and organizations and more than 20 men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). They are all part of the Big Ten athletic conference, so you can be sure that students go to football and basketball games and root for the home team. This is all part of the college life and proud traditions at these universities.

Each of these five flagship universities is well enough known and highly enough regarded to attract students from virtually every state in the U.S. and from typically more than 100 foreign countries. Interestingly enough, New York and California are among the top states outside the Great Lakes region that send students to these schools every year, so they aren’t secrets—at least not to parents and guidance counselors who are well versed in college options outside their home states.

All of these public universities would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but would still cost less than most private colleges—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, they are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S. There is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university. So this might be the time to consider one.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these five Great Lakes states, there are also other public universities—not branches of the flagship campus, but other universities in their own right, some of which are also quite well known.

One of the best-known of these—and perhaps the best in many respects—is Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, just outside Michigan’s capital. It is actually larger than most of the flagship campuses we just discussed—with about 39,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate and professional students. Like the flagship campuses, it draws students from all states and more than 100 foreign countries, has more than 15 colleges, offers about 160 undergraduate majors, and is a member of the Big Ten. The state of Michigan is one clear example of a state where the two largest public universities—the University of Michigan and Michigan State University—are virtually equal in their fame and appeal.

Another example of a state where the two largest public universities are virtually equal in their fame and appeal is the state of Indiana, which has both Indiana University Bloomington and the Purdue University public system, with its main campus in West Lafayette. Note that Purdue is a public university, even though the name does not sound like it (it was named after a very large donor, John Purdue, in 1869). Another member of the Big Ten, Purdue enrolls about 30,000 undergraduates at the main campus (plus about 9,000 graduate and professional students)—maybe just a bit smaller than IU Bloomington. Given Purdue’s good national reputation, it draws students globally; barely over half of Purdue undergraduates are actually Indiana residents. Purdue offers 10 undergraduate and graduate schools, with over 100 majors for undergraduates; it has a very highly ranked College of Engineering and some highly ranked business majors.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last weekend, we had a nice chat with Amanda Wulle, the Assistant Director of Admissions (NYC Regional Representative) at Purdue, who did a quick audio pitch for her alma mater for NYCollegeChat. Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.

Several smaller (but still quite large, by anybody’s standard) public choices are Wayne State University in the city of Detroit, Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and Kent State University in Ohio (with its main campus in Kent). Each of these public universities has about 20,000 undergraduate students and from 5,000 to 10,000 graduate and professional students at its main campus. They offer from 10 to 13 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges, including a well-known medical school at Wayne State and a College of Aviation at Western Michigan (which you just don’t see every day). Interestingly, the vast majority of students at each university come from within its home state. That could mean that an application from a student in a far away state would be especially attractive. And I couldn’t mention Western Michigan without a fond word for one of its longtime, now retired, education professors and an amazing colleague, Daniel Stufflebeam. Dan was one of the great innovators in the field of educational evaluation for decades (actually since his groundbreaking work at Ohio State).

As we said earlier, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

How students get around the campus and the town/city
How “livable” the college town/city is and how much of a plus that is for students
How ethnically and racially diverse these campuses are and how that might affect your child’s admission chances

Check out the higher education institutions and programs we mention by visiting our show notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/27

Connect with us through…
Commenting on the show notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/27
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nycollegechat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Calling us at (516) 900-NYCC to record a question on our NYCollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live on our podcast
Emailing us at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

We are continuing our series on looking at colleges outside your comfort zone by taking a virtual tour of public colleges and universities in the Great Lakes region.

Colleges in the Great Lakes Region—Part I on NYCollegeChat podcast

In our last episode, we said that we were going to take you on a virtual tour of colleges across the U.S. to try to stretch your thinking about colleges that might be attractive to your child. As we start our tour this week, we are going to spotlight public colleges. We are going to talk about four-year colleges only, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region right away. If your child is headed to a public two-year college, just save this information until it might be time for your child to transfer to a four-year college later on.

Again, we want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. While we do not promise to name a lot of great colleges in every state, we do promise to name a lot of great colleges.

And as we said last week, if you have a college you would like us to talk about on the air, please email us or call us and tell us what it is and why it is great, and we will certainly consider it. Let us also say again that no college has asked us to name it and that no college has paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices.

To be sure, some of the colleges we will name will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admissions test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and extracurricular activities and outside-of-school experiences is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be appropriate.

One general note about the location of college campuses: It used to be that most colleges had a single campus. Then, large public universities looked to serve more and more students as the college-going rate increased in the last century. We started to see branch campuses of these large public universities—a couple and then five or seven or more—as supply rose to meet demand. Now, private universities and colleges have started to open more locations, too—probably in an effort to attract students who do not want to commute to or live on the main campus. All this opening of branches and locations has made talking about colleges a bit complicated. When we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution.

And one general note about enrollment figures: While we tried hard to pull enrollment figures from college websites in order to give you an idea of how large or how small our spotlighted colleges are, we believe that the figures are not necessarily comparable from college to college. For example, sometimes colleges include part-time students, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes you can’t tell whether they do or don’t. So, use the enrollment figures we are giving as just an approximation of the actual campus enrollment. These figures are certainly good enough to help you understand whether the student body is the right size for your child. In other words, it doesn’t really matter if a university has 19,000 undergraduate students or 25,000 undergraduate students; it is still a huge school.

1. The Great Lakes Region

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce) has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s covering four to 12 states. So let’s get started with the five states that make up the Bureau’s Great Lakes region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

For those of you who are listening in our home state of New York, I am guessing that the Great Lakes region sounds far away, except perhaps for Ohio, which we can think of as right across New Jersey and/or Pennsylvania from us. For those of you who are listening in the South or Southwest or on the West Coast, I am guessing that all these states seem far removed from where you thought you might send your child. But there are a lot of great colleges and universities in the Great Lakes region, so let’s begin.

2. Flagship Public State Universities

One notable category of higher education institutions in these five states is the flagship public state university. Each of the Great Lakes states has one, though some are better known nationally than others. They are all good schools, and I would argue that at least a couple of them are, in fact, great schools. While these universities have smaller branch campuses in other locations in their states, it is the main location—that is, the flagship of each state’s public system—that we will talk about here because that is the campus that is best known and likely most respected both in the state and outside the state.

If you want to apply to one of these campuses from out of state, your child will need good to excellent high school grades and good to excellent college admission test scores, with some being a bit harder to get into than others. Just remember, the best and the brightest high school students who live in these states really want to go to their flagship state university. Why? Because these schools are relatively inexpensive (because they are public), academically respectable, well regarded across the state and across the country, super-competitive in sports arenas, chocked full of student clubs and activities, within driving distance of home, and a social hub for lots of their high school classmates. They are the place to be, if you live in that state. That attitude might be hard for those of us who live in New York State to understand, because we do not have the same kind of famous flagship campus that draws a large percentage of our state’s best high school graduates. The State University of New York (SUNY) operates more like individual colleges located around the state rather than one main campus with branches of it around the state, as in the Great Lakes region. SUNY does not have one big flagship campus that the majority of New York high school students are dying to go to.

So, what are these flagship campuses in the Great Lakes region? They are the University of Michigan at Ann ArborUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison, Indiana University Bloomington, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and The Ohio State University in Columbus. While these universities are located in different kinds of settings—from medium-sized college towns to state capitals (and let me tell you that Madison has one of the prettiest state capitol buildings you are ever going to find)—and while some have colder weather than others (like Michigan and Wisconsin—believe me, I know), they also have a lot in common.

For example, they are huge. The average number of undergraduates enrolled at the flagship campuses in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois is almost 30,000, with a total undergraduate, graduate, and professional student enrollment averaging almost 45,000, Ohio State is bigger still, with about 45,000 undergraduates and a total enrollment of about 58,000 students. While some of these campuses brag about the relatively small class size of many of their classes and the kind of personalized attention they give their students, you can be sure that a shy student could easily get lost in the shuffle of a very large campus and in what will surely be some large lecture halls, with lots of students trying to get the professors’ attention.

Within each flagship university, there are from 11 to 19 different undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges—arts and sciences, education, engineering, business, agriculture and life sciences, nursing, law, medicine, veterinary medicine, architecture, and more—including, at Indiana, the famous Jacobs School of Music. These universities offer from about 135 to almost 250 undergraduate majors—truly something for every student, almost no matter what the student is interested in.

As befits any huge university, each one has hundreds and hundreds of student clubs and organizations and more than 20 men’s and women’s varsity sports teams (plus club sports and intramurals). They are all part of the Big Ten athletic conference, so you can be sure that students go to football and basketball games and root for the home team. This is all part of the college life and proud traditions at these universities.

Each of these five flagship universities is well enough known and highly enough regarded to attract students from virtually every state in the U.S. and from typically more than 100 foreign countries. Interestingly enough, New York and California are among the top states outside the Great Lakes region that send students to these schools every year, so they aren’t secrets—at least not to parents and guidance counselors who are well versed in college options outside their home states.

All of these public universities would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but would still cost less than most private colleges—that is, before any financial aid package is figured in. More important, they are better academically and more widely recognized than many private colleges in the U.S. There is no prestige in attending a private college that is not as good as a great public university. So this might be the time to consider one.

3. Other Public State Universities

In these five Great Lakes states, there are also other public universities—not branches of the flagship campus, but other universities in their own right, some of which are also quite well known.

One of the best-known of these—and perhaps the best in many respects—is Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, just outside Michigan’s capital. It is actually larger than most of the flagship campuses we just discussed—with about 39,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate and professional students. Like the flagship campuses, it draws students from all states and more than 100 foreign countries, has more than 15 colleges, offers about 160 undergraduate majors, and is a member of the Big Ten. The state of Michigan is one clear example of a state where the two largest public universities—the University of Michigan and Michigan State University—are virtually equal in their fame and appeal.

Another example of a state where the two largest public universities are virtually equal in their fame and appeal is the state of Indiana, which has both Indiana University Bloomington and the Purdue University public system, with its main campus in West Lafayette. Note that Purdue is a public university, even though the name does not sound like it (it was named after a very large donor, John Purdue, in 1869). Another member of the Big Ten, Purdue enrolls about 30,000 undergraduates at the main campus (plus about 9,000 graduate and professional students)—maybe just a bit smaller than IU Bloomington. Given Purdue’s good national reputation, it draws students globally; barely over half of Purdue undergraduates are actually Indiana residents. Purdue offers 10 undergraduate and graduate schools, with over 100 majors for undergraduates; it has a very highly ranked College of Engineering and some highly ranked business majors.

When we attended the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s college fair in New York City last weekend, we had a nice chat with Amanda Wulle, the Assistant Director of Admissions (NYC Regional Representative) at Purdue, who did a quick audio pitch for her alma mater for NYCollegeChat. Be sure to listen to it in our recorded episode.

Several smaller (but still quite large, by anybody’s standard) public choices are Wayne State University in the city of Detroit, Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, and Kent State University in Ohio (with its main campus in Kent). Each of these public universities has about 20,000 undergraduate students and from 5,000 to 10,000 graduate and professional students at its main campus. They offer from 10 to 13 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges, including a well-known medical school at Wayne State and a College of Aviation at Western Michigan (which you just don’t see every day). Interestingly, the vast majority of students at each university come from within its home state. That could mean that an application from a student in a far away state would be especially attractive. And I couldn’t mention Western Michigan without a fond word for one of its longtime, now retired, education professors and an amazing colleague, Daniel Stufflebeam. Dan was one of the great innovators in the field of educational evaluation for decades (actually since his groundbreaking work at Ohio State).

As we said earlier, all of these public universities (and there are even more in these states than those we mentioned here) would cost an out-of-state student more than a public university in his or her own state, but less than most private colleges. So, consider looking at public universities beyond just the flagship university.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • How students get around the campus and the town/city
  • How “livable” the college town/city is and how much of a plus that is for students
  • How ethnically and racially diverse these campuses are and how that might affect your child’s admission chances

Check out these higher education institutions and programs we mention…

In New York State

Outside of New York State

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

Visiting the New York National College Fair

This week, Regina and Marie will be visiting the New York National College Fair on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York City. Join them! For more information about the fair, including travel directions, tips for attending the fair, a list of schools attending, and more, visit the New York National College Fair website. We’ll be back next week with a regularly scheduled episode. You can find links to to the event in the show notes for this mini episode at http://usacollegechat.org/collegefair

Connect with us through…
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NYCollegeChat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Calling us at (516) 900-NYCC to record a question on our NYCollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live in our podcast
Emailing us at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

This week, Regina and Marie will be visiting the New York National College Fair on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York City. Join them! For more information about the fair, including travel directions, tips for attending the fair, a list of schools attending, and more, visit the New York National College Fair website. We’ll be back next week with a regularly scheduled episode.

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

Episode 26: Why Look at Colleges Outside Your Comfort Zone

In our last episode, we talked about why high school guidance counselors are not enough of a help to you and your child in your college search, and we speculated that one reason such a high percentage of students attend college in their home state is because guidance counselors do not have the time or background or information or inclination to help them look any farther away. A new report that just came out (March, 2015) has added some support for our argument.

The report is called A National Look at the High School Counseling Office. It was produced by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), using data from 2009 to 2012. Here are some notable findings (as reported by Caralee Adams in Education Week, March 26, 2015):

Just over half of guidance counselors said that their high school counseling department spends less than 20 percent of its time on college readiness, selection, and applications. So, let’s call that a day a week by each of however many guidance counselors your child’s high school has. Now think about how many juniors and seniors need college-going help, and you can quickly see that there is just not enough time to go around.

(By the way, the American School Counselor Association recommends a student load of 250 students per guidance counselor, but most states, on the average, do not come close to that. Even if you had the recommended number of students per counselor in your school, how hard do you think it would be for one person to advise that many students on college searches and college decision making?)

Just over 60 percent of high school juniors and just about half of parents of high school juniors met with a guidance counselor to discuss college and other post-high-school options. It is not possible to tell whether these pitifully low numbers are because guidance counselors do not have time to have such meetings or because students and parents do not think counselors can help them or because students and parents do not think they need any help. Actually, another approximately 15 percent of students and parents did hire a counselor outside of school to help them; so they, at least, felt that they needed help. Given what these private counselors cost, it is my guess that an even higher percentage of low-income high school juniors and their parents from inner-city schools could not have or did not access the help of guidance counselors when applying to colleges.

And finally, here is something I have known for a long time, something that has been confirmed by studies my own nonprofit organization has done over the years. Who is the main influence on students as they choose a college? The answer we get is always parents. According to the NACAC report, about 40 percent of students named parents, while just about 5 percent named either a guidance counselor or a privately hired counselor. Some people might say that parents are so influential because they are paying the bill, and I am sure that there is some truth to that. However, it was clear to us in the high school we worked with in Brooklyn that parents’ own feelings were a force to be reckoned with for their children—that is, parents’ feelings about colleges they had attended, or colleges a family member had attended, or colleges that were well-known because they were close by, or colleges they simply thought they knew something about (even when it was not true). If parents are the most influential and counselors are hardly influential at all, it is even more important that parents do what they need to do to get the right information for their children. Of course, we are hoping that NYCollegeChat is part of how you are getting that information. But get it, you must.

Past episodes you may want to listen to before talking to your child about college options are:

Episode 24: Having the Money Talk
Episode 9: What Are Some of the Decisive Factors in Putting Colleges on Your List?
Episode 10: What Are Some More of the Decisive Factors in Putting Colleges on Your List?

In our last episode, we also talked about getting you outside your geographic comfort zone—to look at colleges outside your hometown and, really, outside your home state. I know that is going to be hard for New Yorkers, who are proud of their state and believe that there are plenty of good options right here—and indeed there are a lot of good options right here. And I know that is going to be hard for our listeners from other states, too, because many of you feel that there are plenty of good options where you live as well—and you are probably right.
1. Good Reasons To Go Away

However, let’s talk for a minute about two key reasons you should consider going outside of your home state. Both reasons are based on the fact that most colleges seek geographic diversity in their freshman class; in other words, most colleges want to attract and admit students from across the U.S.—and even from foreign countries—so that the college has an interesting and stimulating variety of students and so that the college can advertise that it has students from a large number of states and foreign countries for the prestige value of that statement. I just read a post on LinkedIn from my own alma mater, Cornell University, which said this:

Cornell’s newly admitted class of freshmen is the most diverse and international in its 150-year history, with prospective undergraduates representing 100 nations from around the world, based on citizenship.

Because colleges want that geographic diversity in their freshman class, your child is more likely to be accepted at a selective college farther away from home than at the same sort of college close to home. For example, if you live in New York, your child probably has a better chance of getting into the top public university in Colorado than the top public university in New York because public colleges in Colorado are interested in attracting good students from New York and from other states in the East to balance out all of the good Colorado students who want to enroll.

Furthermore, as one college admissions officer wrote in an article recently, if there are two students looking for a scholarship and only one can be given, is it more likely that the scholarship will be given to the student next door or the student from far away? To the one from far away, she said—because of the desire for geographic diversity we just discussed.

Now it is certainly true that there are some flagship public universities that are cutting back on admitting students from outside their states because budget issues are forcing them to make sure that their own residents are well taken care of with the state taxpayers’ money. This is true for political reasons even though out-of-state students bring more money with them. So you will need to do a little research on specific public universities before throwing your child’s hat into those rings.

But the summary of our advice is still this: Look outside your home state for colleges that might hold more opportunity for your child than those at home do.

For more information about visiting out-of-state colleges, listen to Episode 12: To Visit Or Not To Visit?
2. Geographic Regions of the U.S. and Colleges on Our Virtual Tour

We had to decide how to divide up the U.S. to take you on our planned virtual tour of colleges you never thought about. We looked at a number of ways agencies and organizations have divided up the U.S. before deciding to use the regions used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce), which is responsible for producing an array of economic statistics for comparing parts of the country. The Bureau has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s comprising from four to 12 states. We are planning to do an episode for each region—though we will see how that goes once we get started.

As we mentioned in our last episode, we are going to look at some colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some colleges for students with more average grades and admissions test scores. But, because every child’s high school record is its own mix of grades and test scores and leadership positions and extracurricular activities and out-of-school experiences, we are not going to try to tell you as a family which colleges your child is likely to get into. We will tell you that there are a lot of colleges you should consider that you probably haven’t, and you will need to look at your child’s own record against the profile of accepted students to see which ones might be right for you.

We will include both public and private colleges, both large and small colleges, and both liberal arts and technical colleges—that is, a wide variety of colleges so that there will be some, for sure, that might interest your child. However, we are going to focus on four-year colleges, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region right away. Of course, we know that some of those students will eventually go on to four-year colleges after a year or two at the two-year college, so perhaps our information will be helpful to those families in the future.

We want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. They are mostly colleges that we know something about for various reasons, and certainly there are some states that we are more familiar with than others. We do not promise to name great colleges in every state, though I am sure they exist. We do promise to name a lot of great colleges.

If you have a college you would like us to talk about on the air, please email us or call us and tell us what it is and why it is great, and we will certainly consider it. We welcome those calls. Let us also say that no college has asked us to name it and that no college has paid us anything to name it. The choices in the next episodes in this series are ours and ours alone.

Our next episode will begin our virtual college tour with one of the eight regions of the U.S. Please join us.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
Why parents must get information on their own for the college application process
How to visit colleges when you are looking outside your home state
Why you should attend an upcoming national college fair in NYC

Visit the show notes for this episode at http://usacollegechat.org/26 to find links to the higher education institutions and events we mention.

Connect with us through…
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nycollegechat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Leaving us a comment or question at http://usacollegechat.org/26
Calling us at (516) 900-NYCC to record a question on our NYCollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question live in our podcast
Emailing us at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

In our last episode, we talked about why high school guidance counselors are not enough of a help to you and your child in your college search, and we speculated that one reason such a high percentage of students attend college in their home state is because guidance counselors do not have the time or background or information or inclination to help them look any farther away. A new report that just came out (March, 2015) has added some support for our argument.

NYCollegeChat, a weekly podcast for parents brought to you by Policy Studies in Education.  Episode 26 Why Look at Colleges Outside Your Comfort ZoneThe report is called A National Look at the High School Counseling Office. It was produced by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), using data from 2009 to 2012. Here are some notable findings (as reported by Caralee Adams in Education Week, March 26, 2015):

  • Just over half of guidance counselors said that their high school counseling department spends less than 20 percent of its time on college readiness, selection, and applications. So, let’s call that a day a week by each of however many guidance counselors your child’s high school has. Now think about how many juniors and seniors need college-going help, and you can quickly see that there is just not enough time to go around.

(By the way, the American School Counselor Association recommends a student load of 250 students per guidance counselor, but most states, on the average, do not come close to that. Even if you had the recommended number of students per counselor in your school, how hard do you think it would be for one person to advise that many students on college searches and college decision making?)

  • Just over 60 percent of high school juniors and just about half of parents of high school juniors met with a guidance counselor to discuss college and other post-high-school options. It is not possible to tell whether these pitifully low numbers are because guidance counselors do not have time to have such meetings or because students and parents do not think counselors can help them or because students and parents do not think they need any help. Actually, another approximately 15 percent of students and parents did hire a counselor outside of school to help them; so they, at least, felt that they needed help. Given what these private counselors cost, it is my guess that an even higher percentage of low-income high school juniors and their parents from inner-city schools could not have or did not access the help of guidance counselors when applying to colleges.
  • And finally, here is something I have known for a long time, something that has been confirmed by studies my own nonprofit organization has done over the years. Who is the main influence on students as they choose a college? The answer we get is always parents. According to the NACAC report, about 40 percent of students named parents, while just about 5 percent named either a guidance counselor or a privately hired counselor. Some people might say that parents are so influential because they are paying the bill, and I am sure that there is some truth to that. However, it was clear to us in the high school we worked with in Brooklyn that parents’ own feelings were a force to be reckoned with for their children—that is, parents’ feelings about colleges they had attended, or colleges a family member had attended, or colleges that were well-known because they were close by, or colleges they simply thought they knew something about (even when it was not true). If parents are the most influential and counselors are hardly influential at all, it is even more important that parents do what they need to do to get the right information for their children. Of course, we are hoping that NYCollegeChat is part of how you are getting that information. But get it, you must.

Past episodes you may want to listen to before talking to your child about college options are:

In our last episode, we also talked about getting you outside your geographic comfort zone—to look at colleges outside your hometown and, really, outside your home state. I know that is going to be hard for New Yorkers, who are proud of their state and believe that there are plenty of good options right here—and indeed there are a lot of good options right here. And I know that is going to be hard for our listeners from other states, too, because many of you feel that there are plenty of good options where you live as well—and you are probably right.

1. Good Reasons To Go Away

However, let’s talk for a minute about two key reasons you should consider going outside of your home state. Both reasons are based on the fact that most colleges seek geographic diversity in their freshman class; in other words, most colleges want to attract and admit students from across the U.S.—and even from foreign countries—so that the college has an interesting and stimulating variety of students and so that the college can advertise that it has students from a large number of states and foreign countries for the prestige value of that statement. I just read a post on LinkedIn from my own alma mater, Cornell University, which said this:

Cornell’s newly admitted class of freshmen is the most diverse and international in its 150-year history, with prospective undergraduates representing 100 nations from around the world, based on citizenship.

Because colleges want that geographic diversity in their freshman class, your child is more likely to be accepted at a selective college farther away from home than at the same sort of college close to home. For example, if you live in New York, your child probably has a better chance of getting into the top public university in Colorado than the top public university in New York because public colleges in Colorado are interested in attracting good students from New York and from other states in the East to balance out all of the good Colorado students who want to enroll.

Furthermore, as one college admissions officer wrote in an article recently, if there are two students looking for a scholarship and only one can be given, is it more likely that the scholarship will be given to the student next door or the student from far away? To the one from far away, she said—because of the desire for geographic diversity we just discussed.

Now it is certainly true that there are some flagship public universities that are cutting back on admitting students from outside their states because budget issues are forcing them to make sure that their own residents are well taken care of with the state taxpayers’ money. This is true for political reasons even though out-of-state students bring more money with them. So you will need to do a little research on specific public universities before throwing your child’s hat into those rings.

But the summary of our advice is still this: Look outside your home state for colleges that might hold more opportunity for your child than those at home do.

For more information about visiting out-of-state colleges, listen to Episode 12:  To Visit Or Not To Visit?

2. Geographic Regions of the U.S. and Colleges on Our Virtual Tour

We had to decide how to divide up the U.S. to take you on our planned virtual tour of colleges you never thought about. We looked at a number of ways agencies and organizations have divided up the U.S. before deciding to use the regions used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce), which is responsible for producing an array of economic statistics for comparing parts of the country. The Bureau has divided the U.S. into eight regions, with each region’s comprising from four to 12 states. We are planning to do an episode for each region—though we will see how that goes once we get started.

As we mentioned in our last episode, we are going to look at some colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some colleges for students with more average grades and admissions test scores. But, because every child’s high school record is its own mix of grades and test scores and leadership positions and extracurricular activities and out-of-school experiences, we are not going to try to tell you as a family which colleges your child is likely to get into. We will tell you that there are a lot of colleges you should consider that you probably haven’t, and you will need to look at your child’s own record against the profile of accepted students to see which ones might be right for you.

We will include both public and private colleges, both large and small colleges, and both liberal arts and technical colleges—that is, a wide variety of colleges so that there will be some, for sure, that might interest your child. However, we are going to focus on four-year colleges, reasoning that students headed to a public two-year college are highly likely to go to one in their home state and are not, therefore, looking to leave their own geographic region right away. Of course, we know that some of those students will eventually go on to four-year colleges after a year or two at the two-year college, so perhaps our information will be helpful to those families in the future.

We want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. They are mostly colleges that we know something about for various reasons, and certainly there are some states that we are more familiar with than others. We do not promise to name great colleges in every state, though I am sure they exist. We do promise to name a lot of great colleges.

If you have a college you would like us to talk about on the air, please email us or call us and tell us what it is and why it is great, and we will certainly consider it. We welcome those calls. Let us also say that no college has asked us to name it and that no college has paid us anything to name it. The choices in the next episodes in this series are ours and ours alone.

Our next episode will begin our virtual college tour with one of the eight regions of the U.S. Please join us.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Why parents must get information on their own for the college application process
  • How to visit colleges when you are looking outside your home state
  • Why you should attend an upcoming national college fair in NYC

Check out these higher education institutions and events we mention…

In New York State

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

 

Episode 25: Why Guidance Counselors Are Not Enough

This episode is the first in Series 4: Looking at Colleges Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Our fourth series is going to deal with getting you outside your comfort zone of college choices. For many families, that comfort zone is actually a physical, geographic zone. We have talked with many families who would strongly prefer their children to stay near home to go to college—often that means in the same city, sometimes it means within weekend-commuting distance, and it almost always means in the same state. I saw a statistic recently that more than 70 percent of high school graduates go to college in their home state. Wow.

We know that many families are perfectly happy to be part of that group for a variety of reasons, including money concerns, cultural background, safety concerns, and general worries about sending their less-than-perfectly-mature teenagers too far from home. However, we are going to talk about another reason that we think so many students stay in their home states for college, and that is the role of guidance counselors in high schools.

Over the past 40 years, I have spent a lot of time in high schools all over the U.S. and have had a lot of chances to observe students and staff members at work. As an outside consultant, I have worked closely with many of those staff members—teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and others—and I have talked for hours and hours with students and their parents, individually and in groups. I have watched guidance counselors deal with students in serious trouble—especially personal and interpersonal trouble. I have been amazed at what students have to cope with at home and at school and how guidance counselors are called upon to help them cope. That is a full-time job for anyone.

Perhaps that is exactly why a high school guidance counselor cannot help your child enough when it comes to exploring college options—especially options not located close to home. That is not to say there are not some guidance counselors whose high schools have allowed them to specialize in college placement and who have become experts in the world of college and its overwhelming number of opportunities. If your child’s high school has such a guidance counselor, you are lucky indeed. But that is not what is typical, in my experience.

1. Questions To Ask Guidance Counselors

If I were a parent of a high school student now (as I have been in the last decade, three times over) and if I were relying on a guidance counselor—or any other college advisor at the high school—to help my child navigate the world of college options, I would ask that person these three questions:

1) How many colleges have you visited? This sounds like a low hurdle, but I am convinced that many guidance counselors and other college advisors do not have a broad background of visiting and investigating in person a wide variety of colleges—in your home town, in your state, in your region of the U.S., in other regions of the U.S., and abroad. Even though your child might end up going to college in your home state for a variety of reasons, it is not good enough for someone to advise your child on what colleges to consider if that person has not “seen it all”—or, at least a lot of it. Your child’s college advisor should be able to talk about a variety of urban, suburban, and rural college campuses from firsthand impressions of those campuses and then to discuss whether a beautiful campus or a certain geographic location close to or far away from home or a particular type of setting makes any difference to your child.

Based on my own college visits, I might ask someone trying to advise my child these questions: “Have you seen the handsome University of Washington campus or the color of the buildings at Stanford University or Thomas Jefferson’s realized vision for the University of Virginia? Have you been in the freezing cold of the University of Chicago or the sweltering heat of Rice University? Have you been on the University of Pennsylvania’s City-of-Brotherly-Love urban campus or Savannah College of Art and Design’s campus in the prettiest city in the South or the picture-perfect setting on the Thames River of the lower-division campus of Richmond, the American International University in London? Have you seen the grand LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas or the world-class Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University? Have you seen idyllic Kenyon College’s Middle Path in the middle of nowhere or majestic Columbia University in the middle of everything?”

Why do you think that parents who can afford it take their children on the traditional college tour so that they can see the options? Because sometimes place means a lot. If someone has not seen, say, 150 such places—college campuses of all sizes, locations, and settings—I would not want that person advising my child.

2) How many colleges have you studied at or had family and close friends and former students study at? Yes, I know that most people (guidance counselors and other college advisors included) probably studied at only one or two or possibly three colleges, but were they all pretty much the same? Ideally, someone advising my child would have some experience—either firsthand or close secondhand—with the variety of higher education institutions available.

Remember, as we said in earlier episodes, there are the public and private and combination public/private institutions, two-year and four-year institutions, liberal arts and technical schools, big universities and small colleges, single-sex and coeducational schools, faith-based institutions, HBCUs, military service academies, fine arts and engineering and business schools, and more. That is a lot. While no individual can know about each of these types of institutions firsthand as a student, I would want someone advising my college-bound child to know about most of these at least secondhand—that is, by the testimony of thoughtful family members and informed friends and trusted former students who had attended them. If a guidance counselor or other college advisor cannot be an expert in every individual college, he or she should at least be an expert in the types of institutions that are available to my child.

3) How many colleges have you worked at or closely with? Most guidance counselors and other college advisors based in high schools have not also worked at colleges, and that’s a shame. Yes, they were all once students in college, but that view is very different from the view you get as an employee at a college or even as a consultant to a college. You can learn a lot about the operations of a college when you are working backstage, and you can better figure out how those operations impact students.

For example, if a guidance counselor had worked with college support services offices, it would be easier to judge what services might realistically be available for a student with special needs. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with a number of college department chairs, it would be clearer how difficult it might be for a student to change his or her major if that student started down the wrong path. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with college registrars, it would be easier to figure out how to get a student credit for college courses taken while a student was still in high school.

Of course, all colleges are not the same. But a firsthand dose of working at a college can sometimes go a long way toward helping students choose a college that is a good fit.

If your guidance counselor or college advisor does not have good answers to these questions, then get whatever additional help you might need so that your child makes the best college choice possible.

2. Inequity in College Counseling

Recently, I read a powerful article in The Hechinger Report, entitled “Rich School, Poor School,” by Erin Einhorn, and the subtitle of her article tells it all: “How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college.” Ms. Einhorn’s story tells the sad truth that many professional educators know, but would like to forget, and that many parents know instinctively. The sad truth is that there is no equity in college counseling services for U.S. high school students; in other words, a student’s chances of getting into a selective college are clearly improved by attending a great high school—public or private—where dedicated college counselors know how to make the college applications system work for those students. Quite often, those public schools are in relatively wealthy suburban locations.

I worked recently with a couple of students who attended two first-rate high schools in the metropolitan New York City area. One was a famous competitive public high school in New York City, where only the best students are admitted, based on their high school admissions test scores, and where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college; the other was a well-respected, academically rigorous public high school in one of the richest towns on Long Island, where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college. To be honest, I was not impressed with the work of the college counselors in either one. They recommended to my two students mostly colleges in New York State, plus any colleges outside New York State that the students had already discovered for themselves.

Now, the two schools had full-time college counselors, who had access to fancy software that kept track of where students had applied and who, at least, tried to keep students on a schedule that would get college applications done on time. Of course, these students were also supported by the strong college-going culture that is present in such schools—schools where students spend a lot of time talking to each other about the great colleges they are applying to and then the great colleges they got into.

It’s just not fair, I thought, reflecting on Ms. Einhorn’s story about the vastly different college counseling services available in a private school and a public school not 20 miles apart in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan. But what is fair? Our wise principal at the Early College public high school we co-founded in Brooklyn had an unusual definition of “fair.” Chris Aguirre used to say, “Fair is not when every student gets the same thing. Fair is when every student gets what he or she needs.” Man, with that definition, low-income students in poor urban neighborhoods should be getting three or four times as much college counseling support as upper-middle-class students in rich suburban high schools and private schools. Everyone knows that it is just the opposite now. The kids who need college counseling least actually get the most. Upper-middle-class kids whose parents and school culture could handily make up for a lack of counseling time and expertise benefit from the most counseling time and expertise.

Marie and I like to think that NYCollegeChat can help make up for that lack of counseling time and expertise—whether your child is in a large urban high school where guidance counselors typically have their hands full or a medium-sized suburban high school where there is a lot of competition for college counseling services or a small rural high school where a guidance counselor might have to wear many hats.

So what we are going to do during this fourth series is take you around the country to different regions and spotlight some colleges you might not have thought about for your child or indeed might not even have known about. We are going to look at some selective colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some not-so-selective colleges for students with just average grades and admissions test scores. We are going to try to take you out of your geographic comfort zone to show you some places that might be more appealing to your child than what is right next door. We are also going to talk about why going away could be a financial plus for you and why going away might actually get your child into a better college than staying at home. So tune in next week.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
The kind of personalized list of colleges your guidance counselor should be providing for your child
What we lost when college field trips were cut out of high school activities
The pluses and minuses of online searches for colleges you might be interested in

Links to all the higher education institutions we mention can be found on the show notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/25

Connect with us through…
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nycollegechat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Commenting on the notes for today’s episode at http://usacollegechat.org/25.
Calling our hotline at (516) 900-NYCC.
Emailing us at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

This episode is the first in Series 4: Looking at Colleges Outside Your Comfort Zone.

Episode 25:  Why Guidance Counselors Are Not Enough on NYCollegeChat

Our fourth series is going to deal with getting you outside your comfort zone of college choices. For many families, that comfort zone is actually a physical, geographic zone. We have talked with many families who would strongly prefer their children to stay near home to go to college—often that means in the same city, sometimes it means within weekend-commuting distance, and it almost always means in the same state. I saw a statistic recently that more than 70 percent of high school graduates go to college in their home state. Wow.

We know that many families are perfectly happy to be part of that group for a variety of reasons, including money concerns, cultural background, safety concerns, and general worries about sending their less-than-perfectly-mature teenagers too far from home. However, we are going to talk about another reason that we think so many students stay in their home states for college, and that is the role of guidance counselors in high schools.

Over the past 40 years, I have spent a lot of time in high schools all over the U.S. and have had a lot of chances to observe students and staff members at work. As an outside consultant, I have worked closely with many of those staff members—teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, and others—and I have talked for hours and hours with students and their parents, individually and in groups. I have watched guidance counselors deal with students in serious trouble—especially personal and interpersonal trouble. I have been amazed at what students have to cope with at home and at school and how guidance counselors are called upon to help them cope. That is a full-time job for anyone.

Perhaps that is exactly why a high school guidance counselor cannot help your child enough when it comes to exploring college options—especially options not located close to home. That is not to say there are not some guidance counselors whose high schools have allowed them to specialize in college placement and who have become experts in the world of college and its overwhelming number of opportunities. If your child’s high school has such a guidance counselor, you are lucky indeed. But that is not what is typical, in my experience.

1. Questions To Ask Guidance Counselors

If I were a parent of a high school student now (as I have been in the last decade, three times over) and if I were relying on a guidance counselor—or any other college advisor at the high school—to help my child navigate the world of college options, I would ask that person these three questions:

1) How many colleges have you visited? This sounds like a low hurdle, but I am convinced that many guidance counselors and other college advisors do not have a broad background of visiting and investigating in person a wide variety of colleges—in your home town, in your state, in your region of the U.S., in other regions of the U.S., and abroad. Even though your child might end up going to college in your home state for a variety of reasons, it is not good enough for someone to advise your child on what colleges to consider if that person has not “seen it all”—or, at least a lot of it. Your child’s college advisor should be able to talk about a variety of urban, suburban, and rural college campuses from firsthand impressions of those campuses and then to discuss whether a beautiful campus or a certain geographic location close to or far away from home or a particular type of setting makes any difference to your child.

Based on my own college visits, I might ask someone trying to advise my child these questions: “Have you seen the handsome University of Washington campus or the color of the buildings at Stanford University or Thomas Jefferson’s realized vision for the University of Virginia? Have you been in the freezing cold of the University of Chicago or the sweltering heat of Rice University? Have you been on the University of Pennsylvania’s City-of-Brotherly-Love urban campus or Savannah College of Art and Design’s campus in the prettiest city in the South or the picture-perfect setting on the Thames River of the lower-division campus of Richmond, the American International University in London? Have you seen the grand LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas or the world-class Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University? Have you seen idyllic Kenyon College’s Middle Path in the middle of nowhere or majestic Columbia University in the middle of everything?”

Why do you think that parents who can afford it take their children on the traditional college tour so that they can see the options? Because sometimes place means a lot. If someone has not seen, say, 150 such places—college campuses of all sizes, locations, and settings—I would not want that person advising my child.

2) How many colleges have you studied at or had family and close friends and former students study at? Yes, I know that most people (guidance counselors and other college advisors included) probably studied at only one or two or possibly three colleges, but were they all pretty much the same? Ideally, someone advising my child would have some experience—either firsthand or close secondhand—with the variety of higher education institutions available.

Remember, as we said in earlier episodes, there are the public and private and combination public/private institutions, two-year and four-year institutions, liberal arts and technical schools, big universities and small colleges, single-sex and coeducational schools, faith-based institutions, HBCUs, military service academies, fine arts and engineering and business schools, and more. That is a lot. While no individual can know about each of these types of institutions firsthand as a student, I would want someone advising my college-bound child to know about most of these at least secondhand—that is, by the testimony of thoughtful family members and informed friends and trusted former students who had attended them. If a guidance counselor or other college advisor cannot be an expert in every individual college, he or she should at least be an expert in the types of institutions that are available to my child.

3) How many colleges have you worked at or closely with? Most guidance counselors and other college advisors based in high schools have not also worked at colleges, and that’s a shame. Yes, they were all once students in college, but that view is very different from the view you get as an employee at a college or even as a consultant to a college. You can learn a lot about the operations of a college when you are working backstage, and you can better figure out how those operations impact students.

For example, if a guidance counselor had worked with college support services offices, it would be easier to judge what services might realistically be available for a student with special needs. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with a number of college department chairs, it would be clearer how difficult it might be for a student to change his or her major if that student started down the wrong path. Or, if a guidance counselor had worked with college registrars, it would be easier to figure out how to get a student credit for college courses taken while a student was still in high school.

Of course, all colleges are not the same. But a firsthand dose of working at a college can sometimes go a long way toward helping students choose a college that is a good fit.

If your guidance counselor or college advisor does not have good answers to these questions, then get whatever additional help you might need so that your child makes the best college choice possible.

2. Inequity in College Counseling

Recently, I read a powerful article in The Hechinger Report, entitled “Rich School, Poor School,” by Erin Einhorn, and the subtitle of her article tells it all: “How the class divide is widened by gaps in counseling kids for college.” Ms. Einhorn’s story tells the sad truth that many professional educators know, but would like to forget, and that many parents know instinctively. The sad truth is that there is no equity in college counseling services for U.S. high school students; in other words, a student’s chances of getting into a selective college are clearly improved by attending a great high school—public or private—where dedicated college counselors know how to make the college applications system work for those students. Quite often, those public schools are in relatively wealthy suburban locations.

I worked recently with a couple of students who attended two first-rate high schools in the metropolitan New York City area. One was a famous competitive public high school in New York City, where only the best students are admitted, based on their high school admissions test scores, and where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college; the other was a well-respected, academically rigorous public high school in one of the richest towns on Long Island, where I am guessing virtually all graduates go on to college. To be honest, I was not impressed with the work of the college counselors in either one. They recommended to my two students mostly colleges in New York State, plus any colleges outside New York State that the students had already discovered for themselves.

Now, the two schools had full-time college counselors, who had access to fancy software that kept track of where students had applied and who, at least, tried to keep students on a schedule that would get college applications done on time. Of course, these students were also supported by the strong college-going culture that is present in such schools—schools where students spend a lot of time talking to each other about the great colleges they are applying to and then the great colleges they got into.

It’s just not fair, I thought, reflecting on Ms. Einhorn’s story about the vastly different college counseling services available in a private school and a public school not 20 miles apart in Bloomfield Hills and Detroit, Michigan. But what is fair? Our wise principal at the Early College public high school we co-founded in Brooklyn had an unusual definition of “fair.” Chris Aguirre used to say, “Fair is not when every student gets the same thing. Fair is when every student gets what he or she needs.” Man, with that definition, low-income students in poor urban neighborhoods should be getting three or four times as much college counseling support as upper-middle-class students in rich suburban high schools and private schools. Everyone knows that it is just the opposite now. The kids who need college counseling least actually get the most. Upper-middle-class kids whose parents and school culture could handily make up for a lack of counseling time and expertise benefit from the most counseling time and expertise.

Marie and I like to think that NYCollegeChat can help make up for that lack of counseling time and expertise—whether your child is in a large urban high school where guidance counselors typically have their hands full or a medium-sized suburban high school where there is a lot of competition for college counseling services or a small rural high school where a guidance counselor might have to wear many hats.

So what we are going to do during this fourth series is take you around the country to different regions and spotlight some colleges you might not have thought about for your child or indeed might not even have known about. We are going to look at some selective colleges for students with great grades and admissions test scores and some not-so-selective colleges for students with just average grades and admissions test scores. We are going to try to take you out of your geographic comfort zone to show you some places that might be more appealing to your child than what is right next door. We are also going to talk about why going away could be a financial plus for you and why going away might actually get your child into a better college than staying at home. So tune in next week.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • The kind of personalized list of colleges your guidance counselor should be providing for your child
  • What we lost when college field trips were cut out of high school activities
  • The pluses and minuses of online searches for colleges you might be interested in

Check out these higher education institutions we mention…

In New York State

Outside of New York State

 

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…

Episode 24: Having the Money Talk

In this episode, we continue our series on getting ready to apply to college by sharing some approaches to having the money talk about college with your child.

Check out the show notes at http://usacollegechat.org/24 to link to the resources and programs we mention, or to leave a comment on this episode.

We said in an earlier episode that it was important to talk with your child about how much you have to spend on college and about what that might mean for the colleges your child should consider applying to. We are going to make the assumption that most families cannot pay outright for four years at a private college where your child would live in the dorms; for that scenario, you might be looking at a total bill of $160,000 to $240,000 in round numbers—and that figure might get higher every year. But public colleges cost money, too. Just two years at a public community college, where your child would most likely live at home, might come to a total bill of $4,000 to $10,000, depending on where you live—and that figure will likely get higher every few years. So, let’s look at some options for parents.
1. Do Not Borrow Any Money

Some parents simply do not feel comfortable borrowing money. Some object to buying anything “on time” and paying interest on that money until they can pay it all back. Some feel that their past credit history or job history won’t support whatever background checks are made before money can be lent to them by banks or government programs. If you feel this way, that is your business, and no one is really in a position to tell you that it isn’t right.

But if you feel this way and do not have enough money saved or a high enough salary to pay for your child’s college education, then you need to have that discussion as a family—and you need to start looking hard for scholarships that might make up the difference. As we have said in earlier episodes, scholarships are hard to get.

Many times, we have found that parents and students do not accept the fact that scholarships are hard to get. If you have a child who is great in your eyes, but just average in terms of his or her high school GPA and college admissions test scores, then a substantial enough scholarship (or maybe any scholarship at all) is going to be hard to come by—at least at top colleges. You might have some luck with less selective colleges—perhaps especially very small ones—because they might not be as well known and might not get as many applicants. You might also have some luck with less selective, smaller colleges in a state that is far from your home state, because such a college might be interested in diversifying its student body by attracting out-of-state applicants; however, that scenario poses its own problem of running up expenses because your child would have to live on campus rather than at home. Of course, maybe a great scholarship would cover housing expenses, too.

People say that many interesting scholarships exist and go unused for lack of applicants. Such scholarships might, however, have a variety of specific restrictions on their applicants—for example, ethnicity, geography, family background, subject field of future study, extracurricular achievements, and more. These scholarships do undoubtedly exist and may indeed go unused, but you cannot base your decision about where to have your child apply to college on the outside chance of getting one or more of them.

If your child has a great GPA or very high college admissions test scores—or preferably both—then he or she might get a scholarship based solely on the merit of those academic achievements (especially if you cannot afford to send your child to that school without it and you have indicated that on the completed college application). I was counseling a student recently who had very good SAT scores (over 700 on two of three subtests), an outstanding ACT combined score (34), and grades that were good, but not great (he is the kind of kid who has an 88 GPA, but who could have gotten well above 90 if he had cared more, sooner). He applied to a big, well-known, good private university in a state far from home—the kind of place that I thought might look favorably on his application. He was accepted and received a great scholarship of $68,000 over four years. Wow, I thought. The only problem was that the scholarship was just about half of what he needed to go there. How could his parents come up with the rest—without borrowing all of it? So, even a great scholarship that sounds like a lot of money cannot necessarily make it possible for a kid to go to a college that has accepted him.

There is one other way to get money for college if the parents do not want to borrow any: Have the student take out the loans. There are both private sources of loans (like banks) and public sources. We hesitate to say too much about the world of public student loans because it is always the subject of political discussion and could change between when you hear this episode and when you need to use the information. Suffice it to say that the federal government will lend your child some money for each year of college, at a reasonably low rate, through the Federal Direct Loan Program; one type of loan is based on financial need, and one type is not. However, what your child is going to get will be between, say, $5,500 and $7,500 a year. While that would go a long way at many public colleges, it would not go very far at all at any private college. Additional loans from private sources (like banks) would be needed to pay private college tuition, and those might require some sort of co-signing by you.

Somewhat like the federal government, your state government can also be a source of financial help. For example, the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as TAP) will cover most of the tuition expenses at the tuition rate of a New York public college, if your family meets the income eligibility requirements. However, if your family income is too high, your child will not be eligible for TAP funds.

The bottom line here is this: If you as the parent do not feel comfortable borrowing any money for college costs for your child, then the chances are good that your child should look only at or, at least, primarily at public colleges—unless you already have all the money you need to pay for the college of your child’s choice, unless you would feel comfortable having the child take out all of the loans himself or herself (including from private sources, like banks), unless your child has posted an outstanding high school GPA and outstanding college admissions test scores, or unless your child is a recognized outstanding high school athlete who is being recruited by college coaches.
2. Borrow Whatever You Need

This is the opposite of the previous option. Some parents feel that borrowing money—in whatever amount is necessary—to send a child to the best college that accepted him or her is worth it. You might wonder how incurring a huge debt—maybe as much as, say, $200,000—could ever be worth it. But those parents would say that putting a child into the best possible college setting could set that child up for life—whether it is the best academic education the child could have gotten, or the best sports training the child could have gotten, or the best theater group or college newspaper the child could have been part of, or the best circle of friends the child could have landed in (friends who would turn out to be friends for life, have their own successful careers, and be major influences on and supporters of each other for decades to come).

In the interest of full disclosure, this is exactly my own personal feeling, and it is exactly what my husband and I did for each of our three children. We borrowed every penny that we needed and did not already have—for three private undergraduate colleges and three private graduate colleges. I would do it all again tomorrow if I had to.

In our case, the federal government made it easy. Our loans were all Direct Parent PLUS Loans, which do require a credit check, which could prove problematic for some borrowers (by the way, if you are not eligible for a parent loan after your credit check, the federal government will actually raise the limit somewhat on what it will lend your child by four or five thousand dollars per year).

To be eligible for all of these federal loans—both student and parent loans—you must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The filling out of the FAFSA is much discussed. Free assistance in how to fill it out is available online, and often high schools and colleges run free workshops for parents about how to fill out the application, which will have to be updated and resubmitted each year your child is in college.

I want to make it very clear that I am not a FAFSA expert. I am so much not a FAFSA expert that I got help from a private company, whose services I paid for each year for each child. The company literally filled out the FAFSA application on the telephone with me every time and made sure that I got it submitted properly. I consider the approximately $100 a year per child that I paid to that company as money well spent. If you look at the FAFSA application and are confident that you understand it, then that’s great. If you look at the FAFSA application and are not confident that you understand it, then get help—free if you can conveniently find it, but paid if you can’t. You don’t want to fool around with completing the FAFSA application. It is the easiest way to borrow money for college at a reasonably low interest rate.

FAFSA applications should be completed ideally in January for the following school year, or as soon thereafter as possible. You will need your tax information from the previous year in order to complete the application, so you might not be able to do it as early as January. My understanding is that at least some money is given out on a first come, first served basis. So be first.

One more note: The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (where CSS stands for College Scholarship Service) is administered by The College Board and is the way to access nonfederal financial aid from almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs. The form can be filled out online and needs to be done only if one of the colleges or scholarship programs your child is applying to requests it. It is easier to do this one after your FAFSA is already completed because you can use the FAFSA to help with this one.
3. Split the Difference: Borrow Some Money, But Not Too Much

Well, there’s always a compromise position, and it is often the wisest. This compromise is that, as parents, you find a way to borrow some money to pay for your child’s college education and, in so doing, you and your child agree to keep those costs under some control so that you don’t have to borrow any more than is absolutely necessary. So what would be some compromise college choices for your child, in likely order of expense to you, from least to most:

Apply only to public colleges, but not limited just to two-year public colleges. In other words, your child would be permitted to apply to four-year public colleges, which are more expensive than two-year colleges and which would always include the flagship state university, which is usually a reasonably good choice.
Apply only to public colleges, but include out-of-state public colleges in that list. While those colleges will be more expensive—really, considerably more expensive —they will still not be as expensive as private colleges. However, opening your child’s search up to out-of-state public colleges will put a lot of great state universities within reach, which might be more highly respected than the flagship state university or other public colleges in your home state.
Add some private colleges to the list, but only if they are at the lower end of the private college price range and only if your child agrees to live at home and commute to the private college. How good this option might be depends entirely on where you live and on how many reasonably priced, good private colleges are nearby. If you live near in or near a great college town like Boston, which is populated with many private colleges, this option could be appealing to your child.

Of course, there are other compromises that we could invent, but you get the idea: Consider borrowing enough to give your child some choice among the best colleges you can afford—whether those are only public two-year colleges, where your child might be able go full time and live on a campus not near your home if you borrowed the money, or indeed private four-year colleges, which would open up the whole world of college to your child if you borrowed the money.

Whatever you decide—to borrow a lot, a little, or nothing at all—make sure your child understands where you stand before he or she gets too far down the track on a college search that you are not comfortable supporting.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…
Federal Pell grants that don’t have to be paid back
The unique perspective of the seven Work Colleges
The complications of divorce when filing financial aid applications

Check out the show notes at http://usacollegechat.org/24 to link to the resources and programs we mention, or to leave a comment on this episode.

Connect with us through…
Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn!
Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat
Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education at http://policystudies.org/parents/
Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help
Following us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NYCollegeChat

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…
Calling us at (516) 900-NYCC to record a question on our NYCollegeChat voicemail if you want us to answer your question in our podcast
Emailing Regina at paul@policystudies.org to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately

In this episode, we continue our series on getting ready to apply to college by sharing some approaches to having the money talk about college with your child.

Having the Money TalkWe said in an earlier episode that it was important to talk with your child about how much you have to spend on college and about what that might mean for the colleges your child should consider applying to. We are going to make the assumption that most families cannot pay outright for four years at a private college where your child would live in the dorms; for that scenario, you might be looking at a total bill of $160,000 to $240,000 in round numbers—and that figure might get higher every year. But public colleges cost money, too. Just two years at a public community college, where your child would most likely live at home, might come to a total bill of $4,000 to $10,000, depending on where you live—and that figure will likely get higher every few years. So, let’s look at some options for parents.

1. Do Not Borrow Any Money

Some parents simply do not feel comfortable borrowing money. Some object to buying anything “on time” and paying interest on that money until they can pay it all back. Some feel that their past credit history or job history won’t support whatever background checks are made before money can be lent to them by banks or government programs. If you feel this way, that is your business, and no one is really in a position to tell you that it isn’t right.

But if you feel this way and do not have enough money saved or a high enough salary to pay for your child’s college education, then you need to have that discussion as a family—and you need to start looking hard for scholarships that might make up the difference. As we have said in earlier episodes, scholarships are hard to get.

Many times, we have found that parents and students do not accept the fact that scholarships are hard to get. If you have a child who is great in your eyes, but just average in terms of his or her high school GPA and college admissions test scores, then a substantial enough scholarship (or maybe any scholarship at all) is going to be hard to come by—at least at top colleges. You might have some luck with less selective colleges—perhaps especially very small ones—because they might not be as well known and might not get as many applicants. You might also have some luck with less selective, smaller colleges in a state that is far from your home state, because such a college might be interested in diversifying its student body by attracting out-of-state applicants; however, that scenario poses its own problem of running up expenses because your child would have to live on campus rather than at home. Of course, maybe a great scholarship would cover housing expenses, too.

People say that many interesting scholarships exist and go unused for lack of applicants. Such scholarships might, however, have a variety of specific restrictions on their applicants—for example, ethnicity, geography, family background, subject field of future study, extracurricular achievements, and more. These scholarships do undoubtedly exist and may indeed go unused, but you cannot base your decision about where to have your child apply to college on the outside chance of getting one or more of them.

If your child has a great GPA or very high college admissions test scores—or preferably both—then he or she might get a scholarship based solely on the merit of those academic achievements (especially if you cannot afford to send your child to that school without it and you have indicated that on the completed college application). I was counseling a student recently who had very good SAT scores (over 700 on two of three subtests), an outstanding ACT combined score (34), and grades that were good, but not great (he is the kind of kid who has an 88 GPA, but who could have gotten well above 90 if he had cared more, sooner). He applied to a big, well-known, good private university in a state far from home—the kind of place that I thought might look favorably on his application. He was accepted and received a great scholarship of $68,000 over four years. Wow, I thought. The only problem was that the scholarship was just about half of what he needed to go there. How could his parents come up with the rest—without borrowing all of it? So, even a great scholarship that sounds like a lot of money cannot necessarily make it possible for a kid to go to a college that has accepted him.

There is one other way to get money for college if the parents do not want to borrow any: Have the student take out the loans. There are both private sources of loans (like banks) and public sources. We hesitate to say too much about the world of public student loans because it is always the subject of political discussion and could change between when you hear this episode and when you need to use the information. Suffice it to say that the federal government will lend your child some money for each year of college, at a reasonably low rate, through the Federal Direct Loan Program; one type of loan is based on financial need, and one type is not. However, what your child is going to get will be between, say, $5,500 and $7,500 a year. While that would go a long way at many public colleges, it would not go very far at all at any private college. Additional loans from private sources (like banks) would be needed to pay private college tuition, and those might require some sort of co-signing by you.

Somewhat like the federal government, your state government can also be a source of financial help. For example, the New York State Tuition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as TAP) will cover most of the tuition expenses at the tuition rate of a New York public college, if your family meets the income eligibility requirements. However, if your family income is too high, your child will not be eligible for TAP funds.

The bottom line here is this: If you as the parent do not feel comfortable borrowing any money for college costs for your child, then the chances are good that your child should look only at or, at least, primarily at public colleges—unless you already have all the money you need to pay for the college of your child’s choice, unless you would feel comfortable having the child take out all of the loans himself or herself (including from private sources, like banks), unless your child has posted an outstanding high school GPA and outstanding college admissions test scores, or unless your child is a recognized outstanding high school athlete who is being recruited by college coaches.

2. Borrow Whatever You Need

This is the opposite of the previous option. Some parents feel that borrowing money—in whatever amount is necessary—to send a child to the best college that accepted him or her is worth it. You might wonder how incurring a huge debt—maybe as much as, say, $200,000—could ever be worth it. But those parents would say that putting a child into the best possible college setting could set that child up for life—whether it is the best academic education the child could have gotten, or the best sports training the child could have gotten, or the best theater group or college newspaper the child could have been part of, or the best circle of friends the child could have landed in (friends who would turn out to be friends for life, have their own successful careers, and be major influences on and supporters of each other for decades to come).

In the interest of full disclosure, this is exactly my own personal feeling, and it is exactly what my husband and I did for each of our three children. We borrowed every penny that we needed and did not already have—for three private undergraduate colleges and three private graduate colleges. I would do it all again tomorrow if I had to.

In our case, the federal government made it easy. Our loans were all Direct Parent PLUS Loans, which do require a credit check, which could prove problematic for some borrowers (by the way, if you are not eligible for a parent loan after your credit check, the federal government will actually raise the limit somewhat on what it will lend your child by four or five thousand dollars per year).

To be eligible for all of these federal loans—both student and parent loans—you must fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The filling out of the FAFSA is much discussed. Free assistance in how to fill it out is available online, and often high schools and colleges run free workshops for parents about how to fill out the application, which will have to be updated and resubmitted each year your child is in college.

I want to make it very clear that I am not a FAFSA expert. I am so much not a FAFSA expert that I got help from a private company, whose services I paid for each year for each child. The company literally filled out the FAFSA application on the telephone with me every time and made sure that I got it submitted properly. I consider the approximately $100 a year per child that I paid to that company as money well spent. If you look at the FAFSA application and are confident that you understand it, then that’s great. If you look at the FAFSA application and are not confident that you understand it, then get help—free if you can conveniently find it, but paid if you can’t. You don’t want to fool around with completing the FAFSA application. It is the easiest way to borrow money for college at a reasonably low interest rate.

FAFSA applications should be completed ideally in January for the following school year, or as soon thereafter as possible. You will need your tax information from the previous year in order to complete the application, so you might not be able to do it as early as January. My understanding is that at least some money is given out on a first come, first served basis. So be first.

One more note: The CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE (where CSS stands for College Scholarship Service) is administered by The College Board and is the way to access nonfederal financial aid from almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs. The form can be filled out online and needs to be done only if one of the colleges or scholarship programs your child is applying to requests it. It is easier to do this one after your FAFSA is already completed because you can use the FAFSA to help with this one.

3. Split the Difference: Borrow Some Money, But Not Too Much

Well, there’s always a compromise position, and it is often the wisest. This compromise is that, as parents, you find a way to borrow some money to pay for your child’s college education and, in so doing, you and your child agree to keep those costs under some control so that you don’t have to borrow any more than is absolutely necessary. So what would be some compromise college choices for your child, in likely order of expense to you, from least to most:

  1. Apply only to public colleges, but not limited just to two-year public colleges. In other words, your child would be permitted to apply to four-year public colleges, which are more expensive than two-year colleges and which would always include the flagship state university, which is usually a reasonably good choice.
  2. Apply only to public colleges, but include out-of-state public colleges in that list. While those colleges will be more expensive—really, considerably more expensive —they will still not be as expensive as private colleges. However, opening your child’s search up to out-of-state public colleges will put a lot of great state universities within reach, which might be more highly respected than the flagship state university or other public colleges in your home state.
  3. Add some private colleges to the list, but only if they are at the lower end of the private college price range and only if your child agrees to live at home and commute to the private college. How good this option might be depends entirely on where you live and on how many reasonably priced, good private colleges are nearby. If you live near in or near a great college town like Boston, which is populated with many private colleges, this option could be appealing to your child.

Of course, there are other compromises that we could invent, but you get the idea: Consider borrowing enough to give your child some choice among the best colleges you can afford—whether those are only public two-year colleges, where your child might be able go full time and live on a campus not near your home if you borrowed the money, or indeed private four-year colleges, which would open up the whole world of college to your child if you borrowed the money.

Whatever you decide—to borrow a lot, a little, or nothing at all—make sure your child understands where you stand before he or she gets too far down the track on a college search that you are not comfortable supporting.

Listen to the podcast to find out about…

  • Federal Pell grants that don’t have to be paid back
  • The unique perspective of the seven Work Colleges
  • The complications of divorce when filing financial aid applications

Check out these resources and programs we mention…

Connect with us through…

Ask your questions or share your feedback by…