For all the independent consultants and school counselors, I'd like to share an article from David Leonhardt of the New York Times discussing the benefits of marginal students graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Knowing the benefits of higher education, we need to be intentional about having college planning conversations. To recommend the right careers and colleges, ask open ended questions about what they are reading, listening to, and doing in their free time with family and friends.
Reading and parental interaction are two of the most important aspects to the educational success of students. I've met a number of parents who did not graduate high school who support their students desire to attend college. So don't be afraid to probe into the educational history of their family. Research shows that persistence increases with each subsequent family member that attends and/or graduates from college.
Leonhardt shared that two independent studies showed that “enrolling in a four-year college brings large benefits to marginal students.” Marginal students who are given a chance to challenge themselves can be successful. Research shows that “students do better when they stretch themselves and attend the most selective college that admits them, rather than undermatching.”
He points out that while investing in students enrolling in community colleges makes economic sense, failing to invest in students pursuing bachelor’s degrees could be harmful in the long term. One twenty-nine year old college student did not graduate high school or earn his GED. Yet, his end of semester grade in calculus was a 97! He's closing in on his bachelors degree.
Even with a national six-year graduation rate at fifty-six percent, some don’t believe marginal students should be encouraged to attend college because of the debt incurred. Yet, “most people with no college education are struggling mightily in the 21st-century economy.”
Since attending college benefits everyone, teach students how to select a college that is a good overall fit.
And remind them of the benefits of a graduating with a bachelor’s degree - which is better than just attending.
Despite initial protests, the Wellesley College graduates heard a commencement address from Mrs. Barbara Bush, who was the current First Lady of the United States. In her address (watch, read), she reflected on her first visit, ten years prior, and described the beauty and spirit of the campus. She was a gracious guest and honored to speak.
Then she challenged the Class of 1990 to “consider making three very special choices”.
“The first is to believe in something larger than yourself ... to get involved in some of the big ideas of our time.” Mrs. Bush chose “literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society.”
What is your big idea? What is your bigger than life challenge? What problems do you want to solve? As you search for these answers and pray that your “heart might be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), you’ll begin to discover your higher calling.
The second choice is to “have joy. [Life is] supposed to be fun!” She said she married George Bush “because he made me laugh.”
The career and college planning process will have stressful moments. But don’t allow those issues take away your joy and laughter. As Paul wrote throughout his letter to the Philippians: “rejoice in the Lord!” Have fun exploring! Have fun living!
“The third choice that must not be missed is to cherish your human connections: your relationships with family and friends,” said Mrs. Bush.
These relationships make living for something larger than yourself easier. And they make it fun! Your career as a registered nurse, elementary teacher, bookstore manager, or a small-business owner will teach you discipline, hard work, and how to earn a living. To make your career worthwhile, you need to learn how to develop healthy relationships.
As Mrs. Bush said, “you are a human being first and those human connections --- with spouses, with children, with friends -- are the most important investments you will ever make.”
Students, as the former First Lady Barbara Bush shared, you have three special choices to make. You don't have to wait until you graduate college. Start now.
Find your big idea.
Never lose your laugh.
And stay connected.
I can help you do all three.
The Texas Association for College Admission Counseling (TACAC) hosts college fairs, training events, drive-in seminars, a conference, and a student mini-camp called Camp College.
TACAC shared the description of the mini-camp: “Camp College is a college preparation program targeted to prepare a diverse group of students from across the state of Texas for college. Held on college campuses throughout Texas, Camp College is a three-day residential program that welcomes approximately one hundred twenty rising seniors for college application readiness education. The program's mentors guide students through the program.”
As a first-time mentor, I was excited, but did not know what to expect when arriving on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU), the camp host. After three days, it turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had since becoming an educational consultant ten years ago.
After checking in and meeting other admission professionals from the high school and college side, we started training to mentor the campers. The diversity of the professionals helped me grow and appreciate each of our roles in the admissions process. Twenty-four hours later, students began arriving from all over Texas by car, bus, and plane.
For some of the rising seniors I mentored, this was their first camp experience. Others had been to church camp or cheer camp, but this was quite different. It was about the college planning process. Living and walking on campus to learn about the college process reinforced its importance.
Through seminars, small group times, and one-on-one conversations, students learned about college admissions, college selection, financial aid, and perfected their admission essay with the guidance of their mentor.
While there were no pizza essays, one girl from Houston wrote how her desire to visit the island country of Japan has challenged her to learn the language and appreciate the culture. A Tyler resident wrote about how the lessons learned from cheerleading (hard work, determination, communication, leadership…) has prepared her to be successful in college and life. Another student from San Antonio described how marching band “was in her blood” (her parents marched; her band became like family).
Also from the TACAC blog, Chelsea Beard, an admission officer from San Jacinto College, reflected on her 2016 experience, “Applying for colleges can sometimes be an endless maze of confusion, frustration and stress for students. As a senior myself I was constantly lost in the process and being first generation I didn’t have anyone to turn to. I loved the idea of being able to help students through their maze and to alleviate some of the stress of going to college.”
Students also attended a college fair, experienced all that a campus had to offer (long walks to class, short hours to sleep, roommates, and campus dining).
Mentoring was fun! Working with my colleagues from across the desk was the best! If you are an independent educational consultant, school counselor or college admissions representative, you should go to camp.
You may have read about the high school senior from Memphis, Tennessee who was accepted to 149 colleges and offered $7.6 million in scholarships.
As a future parent of a teenager, I am thrilled for her and her parents. Her college bills are paid!
As an educational consultant, I want to help you filter through a few outcomes reported in her story.
Her school counselor shared a list of colleges that did not have application fees. This was a smart, money saving decision! She would have spent over $6,500 on application fees alone (the average is $45 per college). And 20 percent don’t charge to apply. What is not shared is if the student created a list of colleges that were good academic, social, emotional, or financial fits.
Students should apply to at least four, but no more than twelve colleges and universities. Many counselors would argue that four is enough. While there is no cap on applying to colleges, anything over 20 can be overwhelming. While the reporter shared that she was maximizing her college options, this can be a stressful way to select a college.
As of May 26, when the article was published, the student was still trying to decide where to attend college. Decision Day (when your decision and deposit are due) was May 1. So, some of these colleges made the decision for her.
It is recommended that you visit each campus you’re interested in attending before applying. You wouldn’t buy a car (especially your first!) without checking it out, driving it, and finding out that is a good fit. So, if you haven’t visited a campus, you shouldn’t attend the college. I have visited 28 colleges in four years. This student would have visited one college a week for almost three years. That’s a lot of walking!
Colleges and universities are in the business of higher education. So, everyone must pay for their service. I’m assuming that most of this senior’s financial aid came from merit aid (which is totally, totally deserved because it’s earned by her grades and test scores). Merit aid is the best way to pay for college!
She was also crowned the charter school’s top Million Dollar Scholar (out of 145 seniors). Altogether, the senior class received $30 million in scholarship offers. A neighboring high school had 51 students receive more than $1 million in scholarships; some received $4 million.
Earning her bachelor’s degree at her top choice university has a total cost of attendance of $81,000. She won’t need $7,539,548 she received. What will happen to the private scholarships she was awarded but cannot use? Did she earn more than enough? What about the students who fell short of winning that scholarship?
While this is an extreme case, every student needs to finding the right college, needs to visit the colleges they want to attend (unless cost is prohibitive), and needs to find a way to pay for college.
I truly believe this student will excel wherever she attends.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.