Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Some of you are DONE and some of you are SO CLOSE to walking (six feet apart) across the graduation finish line. Here are a few things to remember as you prepare to attend college in the fall.
 Celebrate your accomplishment! You did it!
 Check in with your college – weekly. Some colleges are starting on campus classes in August, September, or October. Some will be completely online for the fall semester. Some won't make a final decision until early August.
 Schedule student orientation. Many colleges are holding orientations online or delaying until just before the fall semester. Either way, orientation usually includes valuable advising information and allows you to register for classes.
 Submit your final transcript and other required documents.
 Say thank you! Tell teachers, counselors, mentors, tutors, coaches and others that have helped you, “Thank you”. Give SPECIAL thanks and appreciation to your parents and family for support. Invite them to remain a part of your community to help you succeed in college!
 Make summer meaningful. Plan to work, improve your study skills, learn something new, or spend time (whether online or in person) with friends and family this summer. Save any money you earn for when you start college in the fall.
 Check your health records. Get your physical. Confirm your health insurance. Purchase a small first-aid kit. Maintain your exercise and nutrition routine over the summer. Don't allow the Freshman 15 to piggy back on the Quarantine 15.
 Reaffirm your higher calling and determination to graduate with a bachelor's in four years!
"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
You may have heard that without vision, teenagers wander into food court water fountains. Or something like that. It's the same with college planning, without a vision, college-bound students may wander. College planning is a process. You need a plan. In the "Rising Cost of Not Going to College," researchers learned that "the surest path to a good job and satisfying career runs through college."
In Genesis 2:15, we read that God placed man in the garden to "work and watch over it." The original desire for work was a blessing. It sounds like Adam's higher calling was to be a gardener!
Mark Twain said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you're born and the day you find out why." Here are four steps you can take to help you find your why.
Step 1: First, decide that you want to earn a post-secondary education. This is important because some jobs may only require a certificate or some technical training. Others require more education. I recommend earning a four-year bachelor's degree since 65% of future jobs will require a bachelor's degree.
A 53-year old firefighter has been working as a professional fireman in Dallas since he was 19 years old. What an incredible career of service to his community! He earned his 2-year associate's degree years ago. When a Fire Chief opening became available, he wanted to apply. While he has the required experience, he does not have the required education. To become a Fire Chief, he needs a 4-year bachelor's degree. It is important to know what your career goals are, so you can plan accordingly.
Once a decision to earn a bachelor's degree has been made, you need to develop a plan. Start by searching for a major in a fast growing career that complements your calling. When trying to figure out what you're called to do, remember to consider what problems you want to solve, what grips your heart, and even what keeps you up at night - besides cramming for that world history midterm.
Step 2: Once you have selected a major, find a college that is a good academic, social, and emotional fit. If you select a college before you select a career option, you may find out that your favorite I'm-going-to-this-college-no-matter-what doesn't have a program with your desired major.
And what about the potential social and emotional fit. Angel Perez, Director of Admission at Pitzer College wisely said to “keep an open mind about everything you do in college. . . ‘some may’ make you uncomfortable. If you are always comfortable, you will never grow.” Bruce Poch, Dean of Admissions at Pomona College added that "Students who know what they are looking for have better luck finding it and can do a better job of articulating their hopes and interests in their applications.
So step 1 (major selection) comes before step 2 (college selection).
Step 3: Then, when you have a list of colleges that are a good match based on your career choice, you can determine which is the best financial fit. If you start with the cost in mind, you may eliminate affordable options. Since the average four-year cost of attendance is between $83,000 - $183,000 depending on the college (public or private) and career (liberal arts, engineering, aviation), you need to have a plan to pay for college.
Step 4: Now that you've made a commitment to attend the college that is the best fit for you, you're ready to begin preparing for your higher calling, future career and life goals. So let's start career planning.
Robert J. Massa, VP for Enrollment at Dickinson College once said that "There are at least 50 colleges that will be a “right fit” for you!” The challenge is to narrow them down to the right one. Making wise decisions doesn't just happen. You need to plan, work, review, and revise your plans. Remember, discovering your higher calling, as well as college planning, is a process (video by Chispa Motivation).
FUN FACT: At some colleges, students are tossed into campus water fountains on their birthday. Hope you were born in a warm month!
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antonie de Saint-Exupery, pioneer aviator
In her book, “How to Graduate Debt-Free,” Kristina Ellis shares a few can’t-miss financial principles. Here are five principles to consider as you start planning financially for college.
Principle #1: Start Early
Procrastination. It’s the quickest way to avoid getting things accomplished. And when you wait, you lose valuable time to consider all your options. So, since you’re interested in attending (and graduating from college), mark that down as your goal.
Too many students wait until their junior year or even senior year (gasp!) to begin planning for college. We recommend that students begin planning for college in the eighth grade. Some financial planners recommend starting in elementary school – especially when it comes to financing higher education.
Why is starting early important?
If you find out as a junior that your favorite college requires three years of the same foreign language, and you’re in French 1, your application would be denied. While most colleges only require two years, a growing number of selective colleges require three.
Since college admission officers are reviewing your 9th – 11th grade GPA, you’d want to make sure you are taking challenging classes and getting high grades as a freshman.
If you’re just getting started as an upperclassman in high school, that’s okay too. While your options may be limited, don’t procrastinate any longer. Work with your school counselor or an educational consultant to develop a strategy and get started.
Principle #2: Make a Plan
The Bible says that "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5).
Students need to determine what career they want to pursue, what college they want to attend, and how they are going to pay for college. Even if adjustments need to me made, making a plan will alleviate stress and uncertainty.
If you are still reading this article, then you are interested in creating a successful college plan. You need to find a trusted professional or independent educational consultant that will help you create a personalized plan to help you discover the right career and college for you.
Be diligent. Make a plan.
Principle #3: Create and Maintain a Budget
When you start mowing lawns, babysitting, or serving customers, you also need to create and maintain a budget. There are many budgeting tools available online through your bank or other financial resource. Find one and get started!
The spending and saving principles you learn with a budget of $1,000 can also be applied when you have to manage $50,000 per year. When you attend college, they expect to be paid (for the classes, housing, food, fees…) at the beginning of each semester.
Ellis shares that “not monitoring your spending habits can cause you to pay out significantly more than you anticipated, further distracting you from your goals. Especially since college turns out to be far more costly that families expect” (p11).
This is one reason you want to work closely with your school counselor or an educational consultant.
Principle #4: Avoid Debt
There are many ways to avoid owing debt for your college education.
Earning high grades and getting high standardized test scores is the best way to avoid debt. Why? Because those two factors are used to determine how much merit aid a college will award a student. And since it’s renewable, you have a chance to reduce your out-of-pocket costs significantly.
Students are starting at community college to save money – and some two-year schools are offering free tuition to local students. One valedictorian started his college journey at a community college. They waived his tuition because they were so excited to have him as a student. He eventually graduated from Texas Tech and works as a pharmacist.
For those who don't want to start and transfer from a two-year college, should consider attending a public university (and commuting) to save additional money. To begin with, public schools are cheaper than private ones. Commuting means you're living at home and driving to school. It's a different experience - but you are avoiding lots of debt.
While some private universities have a sticker price of $70,000 per year, they offer the best merit aid. They have tuition discounts of almost 48 percent!
Apply for private scholarships. Lots and lots of scholarships. Earning lots of $100 and $250 scholarships will add up in the end. And that will keep you out of debt.
Just remember that loans are used to fill in the gaps and should not be considered until all other resources are exhausted. If you do get a loan, use your budgeting tools to devise a way to pay this off as soon as possible.
Principle #5: Use the Power of Compound Interest
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructed each follower of Christ to "set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up."
If you want your money to work for you, instead of you working for money, start saving early. As mentioned above, when you bring home your paycheck, you should start saving at least 10 percent of your income. Use the 10-10-80 Principle: if you tithe 10 percent and save 10 percent, you can live and enjoy the remaining 80 percent.
Then, when you invest that money in an account that is earning interest, you’ll see what compound interest does for you.
As you can tell from this article, it is important to start early when saving money and planning financially for college. Take the time to connect with an expert so you can make wise decisions.
It’s never too early to explore career options. Going to a children’s museum to play farmer, astronaut, fireman, or teacher is a great way to start. However, as a teenager, you might resist attending that family outing (while secretly wishing you could go with your friends).
So, before completing any career assessments or having informal conversations with industry professionals, take a few moments to research the career data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And ask yourself a question: what would you enjoy doing for 2,000+ hours a year?
There are around 300 occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree for employment. So, you’ll have plenty of options to consider. There are only 14 declining occupations that require a 4-year degree including computer programmers, reporters and editors.
The good news is that there are over 100 occupations with an excellent future based on percentage job growth. So, among the first things to consider when researching your career options are median salary (after 10 years on the job, the average is $77,000), number of annual job openings (it varies between 300 and 200,000) and the required time to earn your degree (4-11 years).
Ultimately, your goal is to earn a degree in a growing occupation that will provide a competitive salary, challenge you, and allow you to contribute to society. And you should have fun too!
A bachelor’s degree takes four-years or less to complete. There are 56 bachelor’s degrees that are considered to be growing faster than average. This means that the occupation has a projected growth between 10% - 37% over the next decade.
With a median salary of $100,080 per year, applications software development is the fourth fastest growing career. At 30.5%, it has the largest projected growth for graduates with a bachelor’s degree.
There are over 85,000 projected job openings per year for applications software developers, second only to registered nurses. Job titles may include Computer Applications Developer / Engineer, Database Developer, or Software Applications Architect / Designer / Engineer.
Information security analysts has a projected growth of 28.4% and Operations research analysts is projected to have the third largest growth at 27.4%
Low but steady growth is projected for 13 occupations including civil engineers (10.6%), technical writers (10.9%), software developers, systems software (10.8%), and financial analysts (10.8%).
In reviewing the data from all 800+ occupations (including those that don’t require a college degree) the one thing that stood out to me was the number of declining professions that require a master’s degree. Zero. Depending on the occupation, you’d only need an extra year or two in graduate school to secure a better job outlook. More education provides more options.
If you think you might be interested in pursuing a graduate degree, know that the top three occupations projected to grow over the next decade might be good fits for those who enjoy math and science.
Nurse practitioners have been among the fastest growing occupations for the past six years. Currently, the projected growth is 36% over the next decade. Nurse practitioners have 14,000 annual job openings and enjoy a median salary of over $101,000.
Surpassing them with a 37.4% projected growth are physician assistants. They may work as an assistant in anesthesiology, family practice, pediatrics or radiology. This health science occupation also has a median salary of $101,000 with about 11,000 annual job openings.
For those who enjoy playing with numbers and formulas, you might enjoy becoming a statistician. Statisticians work in government research, biology labs, large corporations, with environmentalists, and in professional sports. This career has a projected growth of 33.4% (about 4,000 jobs a year) and median salary of $81,000.
Low but steady growth is projected for urban and regional planners (12.8%) and school counselors (11.3%).
DOCTORAL / PROFESSIONAL
The health professions that require the most education (up to 7 additional years after earning your bachelor’s) and have the greatest growth projection are postsecondary health specialties professors in clinical sciences, dentistry, neurology, physical therapy (25.9% growth), physical therapists (25%), postsecondary nursing instructors and teachers (24%), and audiologists (20.4%).
Even though additional education (consider the cost!) is required, the top five fastest growing occupations have a median salary of $84,000. Students need to research all of their options to determine how much and how long they are willing to learn.
Pharmacists have a 5.6% projected career growth. The three occupations with the lowest projected growth are appointed or elected positions as judges.
Now that you’ve considered these numbers, pray about your higher calling, complete a reliable career assessment, and start researching your top three career options using O*Net OnLine and the Occupational Outlook Handbook to discover a career that is right for you.
(And its okay if you want to visit the children's museum.)
Autumn A. Arnett (Education Dive) points out some changes to the Department of Education (DOE) data that I believe could reshape the success rates (and those treasured rankings) in higher education.
She writes that “many institutions hide poor outcomes for lower income students by enrolling fewer of these students and lumping their graduation and retention data in with that of more affluent students, who are naturally better prepared to succeed on campus. However, with more students coming from lower income backgrounds than ever before, shedding light on how well schools are or aren't serving them could be a critical first step to actually ensuring their success, which is critical to meeting national security and workforce demands.”
Reporting this new data could elevate Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) as affordable examples of college success. In 2014-2015, there were around 700 MSIs (14% of all colleges) that enrolled 4.8 million students (28% of all undergrads).
Arnett continues, “Though often the lowest resourced institutions and traditionally raked over the coals for their often dismal graduation rates, data has shown that when controlled for the same population — that is largely Pell grant recipients and students of color — these institutions actually do a better job of retaining and graduating these students. And they're doing it with less money, which could serve as a lesson for the industry as a whole as it continues to struggle with declining public support against the reality that these students are more expensive to educate.”
Reporting this new data could slow the annual 4.0-4.5% rise in college tuition. Some students are paying a quarter of a million dollars to earn a four-year bachelor’s of science in biology. This makes sense when you equate the quality higher education with higher costs. As students (and their parents) compare the cost with the outcomes, they will begin to attend more affordable schools. In the long run, this may help drive costs down.
Reporting this new data could help prospective college freshman understand that “where you go is not who you’ll be” as Frank Bruni shared. This is echoed in the Gallup-Purdue University survey that shows the learning and living experiences in college impacted their future more than the type of institution they attended. The data will allow parents to consider all outcomes (full-time, part-time, transfer, Pell grant recipients…) to inform their decisions.
Generation Z students understand the need for higher education. And they do not want to pay for what they don't need. They are not as concerned with athletic programs and dorm life and are more concerned about earning a degree.
In Pulling Back the Curtain (ACE and CPRS), they show that minority serving institutions have better than average outcomes. Consider the completion rate (students who completed their degree at their starting institution within 6 years) for public full time students. (NOTE: MSIs have received federal recognition between 1965 and 2008.)
The report rightly states that their "analysis cannot directly speak to the quality of education offered by these institutions (PBTC, p8)" but it looks like these MSIs are producing college graduates! That is one HUGE step in the right direction.
Eventually, this new data will improve conversations with college-bound students and their parents and help them make better decisions about continuing their education.
The great (and frustrating) thing about playing fantasy football is that anyone can play and anyone can win.
It’s great because you get to play with friends or co-workers.
It’s great because you research potential players, apply your strategy to draft a winning team, make weekly managerial decisions, and watch football a little differently on the weekends.
It’s frustrating when the first-time player who literally auto drafted her team while she was on vacation in Spain and didn’t make any (I mean ANY) adjustments to her weekly roster makes it to the semifinals. Very! Frustrating!
…but what does fantasy football have to do with planning for college?
The great (and frustrating) thing about planning for college is that anyone can plan and anyone can attend.
It’s great because you get to plan and even attend college with friends.
It’s great because you research potential colleges, apply your strategy to get accepted to the right fit college, make weekly college planning decisions, and you might watch college football a little differently on the weekends (as long as you don’t choose a college based on an athletic program alone!).
It’s frustrating. Well, college planning can be confusing. It can be frustrating if you’re the first person in your family to attend. It can be frustrating if you are an international student. It can be frustrating if you don’t make any adjustments to how you prepare.
It’s frustrating…if you don’t have a plan! Solomon wrote, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Just for fun, let’s follow the outline from The Dummies Guide on How to Play Fantasy Football and try to apply it to college planning.
1. You join a league.
Fantasy football league owners send out invitations for players join public or private leagues.
College admission officers send out invitations to prospective students with the hopes of getting them to apply. Know that an invitation does not mean the college knows what you want to study or what you have to offer. Many times, your GPA or test score qualified you to be placed on that list. Which is awesome!
Invitations give you an opening but you get to decide if you want to attend public or private four-year university or attend a two-year college.
2. You prepare for your league draft by scouting players.
Before choosing a fantasy team, players spend time researching, ranking them based on their personal preference, reviewing their draft strategy.
So before choosing the college of your dreams, you need to research (check websites, visit the campus, visit the community), rank the programs and colleges, and review your application strategy.
3. You build your fantasy football team via the draft.
The draft is the most fun and exciting day of the fantasy season. Each fantasy owner reviews their draft strategy, drafts their players, and fills their roster with the best team possible.
College application season can be fun and exciting. You’re submitting essays, recommendation letters, transcripts, and setting up auditions or interviews. You need to gather as much information as possible to make a wise decision.
Each college will review their admission strategy, admit their students, and fill their prospective freshman class with the best students possible.
4. Your team competes against another team every week.
During the pro football season, the real teams play every week just like the fantasy teams. Each players’ statistics of how they performed are posted to determine which team (roster) won the head-to-head matchup. The team with the most points wins each week.
During the college application season, you are competing against other prospective students for a spot in the incoming freshman class. Your statistics (GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, potential major, class rank…) are compared to the mission of the college to determine who would be a good match. In 2016, UCLA received over 100,000 college applications!
This is why applying to more than one college is important!
5. You make moves to improve your team.
As a fantasy owner, you’re in total control. You make roster changes if a player is not good enough or gets injured or is not playing up to their potential (in your mind).
As a prospective student, you are in total control. Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll still want to review the financial aid award letters to see if this will be a good financial fit. Don’t make a final decision until you’ve crunched all the numbers. You can even submit an appeal letter if your financial circumstances were not reflected on your financial aid application (FAFSA).
6. Your team (hopefully) makes the playoffs and wins your league.
The last team standing wins a thirty-six inch trophy or a gold ring (see above), or cash. (Some fantasy football players are serious!)
And it's not always the team with the most head-to-head wins the championship. Some winners barely got in to the playoffs but still finished strong.
Earning a college degree is not for everyone. But for those who begin, and finish in four-years (six at the most), there will be a winner.
By attending and graduating with a college degree, you will set yourself up to have the best start in life.
And that accomplishment is better than any fantasy football championship.
I love collegiate sports! In August, football will kick-off and begin to receive a lot of attention (followed by volleyball, basketball, cheerleading…). Each February seventeen-year-old seniors make big announcements (National Letter of Intent) about where they’ll play college by playing college logo roulette. “He’s holding the hat with college logo B, passes over hat A and puts on hat D. He’s going to State University!”
Only in sports.
What should the other potential student-athletes do?
Brennan Barnard wrote an article in the Summer 2017 edition of The Journal of College Admission (NACAC) titled Guiding the 98%: Counseling Non-Scholarship Athletes. In it he shares simple reminders about the athletic recruiting process for the non-scholarship athletes.
Barnard shared a NCAA report that “colleges and universities offer over $2.7 billion in scholarships each year.” This means that only two percent of student-athletes will be awarded any money. So, what about the other ninety-eight percent who still want to play – and need counseling.
Before you begin working with an athletic recruitment counselor…
Now here are your recruiting tips...
Students, you need to focus on developing a plan to earn a bachelor’s degree within four years. Major league baseball rookie Arron Judge earned his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State. He also won the 2012 College Home Run Derby and the 2017 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby. Remember, it’s always academics before athletics.
If you are not in the top two percent who might receive some scholarship money, then this article underlines the importance of comparing financial aid award letters, earning merit aid, and applying for private scholarships.
If needed, I can coach student athletes on what to do and create a list of colleges with competitive bowling and sailing (etc.), but I am not an official athletic recruiter. I cannot offer judgment about your current or potential talent. I can offer unfiltered facts about the reality of collegiate sports.
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.
English and mathematics.
The ABCs and the 1-2-3's of education.
College-bound students are not getting off to the best start after high school because they must take basic math and English courses. While college freshmen are taking remedial courses, they falling behind on their path to graduation. This is bad.
I was ranked forty-seventh in a class of over three hundred fifty students. Even with top grades in math, my SAT math scores were low (never take your SAT after a Friday night football game). Since colleges use test scores to place freshman in math and English courses, I took two remedial math courses before starting College Algebra. Three months prior to college, I was taking an honors Trigonometry and Analysis final.
IHEPs Access to Attainment reported that fifty percent of college-bound freshman require remediation with twenty percent taking three or more remedial courses.
Meredith Kolodner (Hechinger Report) shared that seventy-five percent of California community college students are “unprepared” for college when they arrive. Seventy-five! What does this mean? Students have to complete their remedial classes before enrolling in college-level math and English courses. In Nevada, fifty-three percent of freshman entering a four-year university were required to enroll in remedial courses.
Thirty-four percent of students did not meet any of the four ACT benchmarks in 2015. The National Conference of State Legislatures posted that "forty-one percent of Hispanic students and forty-two percent of African-American students require remediation, compared to thirty-one percent of white students."
Emily Deruy of The Mercury News reported that forty percent of freshman entering a California State University campus have to take remedial math or English. Koldner reported that only twenty percent of remedial math students make it to College Algebra. While learning math and English is important, studying high school level math in college is holding students back.
Here are four ways that remedial courses affect college-bound students.  It costs money and time. The average 3-hour credit class costs $594 per credit hour. So does a college freshman want to spend $1,782 in a high-school level class?  Remedial courses do not count toward their degree plan.  These courses are designed for students who scored low a standardized placement test.  These courses are seen as more of a barrier than a passageway to a degree.
Schools and organizations are looking for solutions to remedial courses. In high school, students would benefit from free after-school tutoring. IHEP recommends that schools identify students who need remediation before graduating and offer proven remediation practices. Kolodner shared other proposed solutions including Common Core State Standards and addressing the misalignment between college readiness and high school exit standards.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR STUDENTS
If you are a student or parent, I recommend completing a learning assessment to identify ways to improve study habits at home and at school.
I also recommend connecting with a math and English tutor. You can choose from online sources or classroom teachers. Some parents pay thousands of dollars to help their children improve their baseball swing and free throw percentage. But paying a few hundred dollars to improve your sentence structure and numerical reasoning skills is worth a lifetime of benefits.
The good news is that during my third semester at college, I became a math tutor. Yes, even though I had to take remedial courses, I mastered the subject matter. Contact me if you need some additional recommendations. Together, we can do better.
Updated: August 2, 2017
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.