Navigating College Decisions During Unsettling Times

Navigating College Decisions During Unsettling Times

Keep the Plan Alive

We are embracing a whole new lifestyle, means of working and learning. For many, it is a shock to the system, an experience that takes time to adjust. If there is a silver lining to this new experience, it’s that everyone is experiencing it together.

High school students and their parents embracing homeschooling while thinking of the journey beyond, may now be taking on extra stress and anxiety. To help minimize the temptation to be drawn in such a direction, students and their parents need to stick with the plan. Yes, the feeling might be that everything has been turned upside down. However, with a few modifications, adjustments, life can get back on its intended course.

The Great Pause: If life was in its regular rotation and everything was relative, students and their parents would be looking towards September with enrollment in mind. Final lists narrowed, last campus visits, and Q&A’s would be happening. In the end, the goal is to select one’s fit, matching critical selection criteria. Ah, the plan. We shift to virtual tours of campuses, and the use of other touchpoints to finish the evaluations. College and universities are moving to 360 Degree and virtual reality tours, they’ll connect accepted students with faculty, coaches and students. To ease the stress, campuses are rolling back moving deposit days!  Campuses are pivoting, so you can too. Remain on track, be flexible, and keep the plan alive!!!

Paying the Bill: In the blink of the eye, this critical aspect of enrolling and attend school went form traditional to the unknown with the snap of the finger. Resources, meeting college costs, and financial aid awards for the incoming Class of 2020, changed in a heartbeat. Students and their parents went from; we can finance that balance too, not now. A message that institutions are hearing loud and clear. Students and families who find themselves experience changes in income, loss of employment, and significant changes to their financial profile need to file an appeal for additional aid. Will, the school, be able to meet all need, most likely not, but their mission will be to reach what is financially possible.

Plan B: All plans, whether when making a restaurant reservation, putting in an offer on a new home, or selecting the choice to pursue one’s next level of education, alternative plans are a reality. Today, this is never truer. If the college list went from broad to my choices, the truth is an opportunity is the list. After filing appeals, is there a new choice that checks all the boxes, including affordability? The question is, can we pivot, and keep the plan alive?

Plan ME: If you’re part of what seems to be a new movement to postpone, defer or not go to college after high school, that’s fine. But do it for the right reasons. If a college has been in your path along, but this current time has paralyzed you. OK, but I challenge you to get work on your plan. Hundreds of colleges need you on their campus, and your fit is ready to accept you. If going to work, invest in a skilled professional role, serving our country is your alternative path, go for it. Make it your plan.

Juniors – Your Journey Awaits!

 Essay, Building Your List, learning about your Options, and Speculating Costs. All part of the lives of the incoming Class of 2021. Parents, you, too, have items in your plan that need attention. Yes, I’m talking about what the plan is to meet tuition, the education cost in 2021? Were writing about you next!!

Resources – These are interesting times for sure! Utilizing all of your support and resources is the #1 priority to assist with managing the College Plan. Students need to be proactive and communicate with their High School Counselor, engage college administrators, coaches, and other advisers. As the father of four working college graduates, I know firsthand the effects of stress on relationships at home and work. I also understand and appreciate the power of having a plan, a comprehensive college plan. It will keep everyone focused, and on the same page while traveling on the college search and selection journey.

Mapping the Journey Through High School and Beyond

Mapping the Journey Through High School and Beyond

I have gone to school for twelve (12) years, and I don’t want to go anymore! I do not know what I want to study or major? I’ll go where everyone else is. I’m only applying to these colleges, and I will get in! I’m going to get an athletic scholarship! I heard you and dad talking, I know we have no money. I told you I’m just going to join the Army.

These and other statements and questions are part of many household conversations in neighborhoods all over the North Shore, Eastern MA, and beyond. Parents and grandparents of middle and high school students are involved in the process of wondering, planning, and for some worrying about the path of a student after high school. Struggle, confusion, and stress are also common around this time of year.

When asked how to manage my student and bring harmony to my house during this daunting and sometimes overwhelming experience, my question is, do you have a plan. We plan for retirement, when taking a vacation, we make to-do lists and restaurant reservation. Managing the journey through high school and beyond calls for a plan, beginning as early as middle school.  A strategy built on the goals wants and abilities of a student and the financial capabilities of the family. A plan that evolves and adjusts due to change but can serve as a foundation to map a student’s journey through high school and beyond.

Historically, March plays a pivotal role in the timeline for college planning. Parents and grandparents of Sophomores and Juniors begin their journey through learning and awareness. Tapping into resources through one’s high school, attending seminars and workshops, and yes, surfing the net and having “heart to heart” conversations around the kitchen table, are many of the starting points. Over the coming months (18-24 months), the plan will guide, direct, and monitor the many tasks and responsibilities. If followed, the plan can bring harmony and joy to any household.

Starting a Plan
  • Step One: Explore the world of possibilities after high school; college, work, skilled professional, military.
  • Step Two: Schedule a family financial checkup early. We do it for our health and wellness, even our car. Learning how much one can afford before we are shopping can be helpful.
  • Step Three: Build a plan that shoots for the stars but is realistic at its core.
  • Step Four:   Work the plan, make modifications, let it evolve, and it will bring harmony to the experience.

March also sees HS seniors approaching their finish line as final Offers of Acceptance and equally important Financial Aid Award Letters arrive at home. These critical documents are evaluated and compared to select one’s final choice, one’s “fit,” the institution that will receive a student’s May 1st  Deposit.

No Idea

For decades the general plan was that everyone needed to go to college. If not, it was work or the military. Now, there is a more significant movement, a greater acceptance to slow the rush for students who are not sure if they want to attend college after high school. Yes, the tendency is to follow society pressures, but sending a student who is not academically prepared, motivated at the idea, or with the financial support will have a negative impact. Use the same concept of the college plan to map out the next steps that can include Community College, work, or a blend of both. If we have learned anything from the recent/ongoing Varsity Blues Scandal, chasings society’s pressures do not always work out best for the student and family. Send up being the best plan!!

Learning and Educational Programs

Before the internet, DIY, chasing millions of hits and website leads, many of us obtained information by attending workshops. Workshops that offered chances to examine timely details, ask questions specific to one’s world, and learn with one’s peers. These types of programs are making a revival through the new Spotlight Connect Program. New venues are now available for students, parents, and extended family members to gain critical information to aid in their college experience.

Pivotal College Years is another resource I would recommend parents to investigate. Yes, we need the internet, but we do not need 335Million hits to research when looking for admissions and financial aid information. Pivotal College years are an online content library supported by a team of experts, including us at Get College Going.

College Counseling During Interesting Times

College Counseling During Interesting Times

As I put thoughts together today, my mind is racing with what to pen. So much has happened in the last month; it is crazy not to think that this past month (or more) has not left many feeling paralyzed. Over the week, I need to get a card, and as I drove to and walked in the parking lot, I have the feeling I was in a tourist area in the offseason. In my decade(s), what I can compare this recent experience too is the Blizzard of ’78 and 9/11. Both left me paralyzed and asking why? But as we did after those life-changing events, we are/should be moving forward supporting our families and friends.

As the parent of four working college graduates, the current stressors and strains bring me back to their journeys, stressful but nowhere near what current students and parents are navigating. Thoughts during these unsettling times:

Admitted Students: Congratulations! Many students are learning of their offers to join the incoming Class of 2020, their next Freshman class. Generally, to follow is an invitation to an “Accepted Students Day” program. The event held on campus is designed to take a student and their family across the finish line. It’s the “Say Yes” to the college event with deposits to follow, reserving a seat in the class, and a dorm room.

Still Thinking – Comparing Choices: College is an investment, mind, body, and money, so slowing the pace is while evaluating strengths and weaknesses, is a critical step. Academics, emotional and social stability, affordability, and an ROI that points one towards employment are all the boxes to check. Yes, some schools, those in the Elite, Ivy, small liberal arts sectors may hold their May 1 Deposit Day firm; however, hundreds of others, campuses equal in the brand and experience, are moving their dates. Breath and check their website.

Rising HS/Transfer Students: Although the Corona Virus has changed everything, many things for HS sophomores, juniors, and seniors still contemplating their path after high school remain the same. The difference is how to get it done. Testing, campus tours, evaluating colleges, and calculating college cost are some of the many critical tasks on every college planning checklist. Executing them now as we bounce back will be the key. Tours have become virtual; learning through Webinars communication turns to Skype/Facetime/phone, and Testing Dates are going to be June.

Stick to the Plan: In these times of uncertainty, the best resource is one’s plan. A plan that identifies the tasks and responsibilities shows accountability and structure, uses resources and tools and is modified as needed.

Don’t Be Passive: Everything related to obtaining services and assistance needs to flavored with honey versus vinegar. But, if things are not working, questions are going unanswered, students are not learning, one needs to be their most influential advocate.

Today’s News – What’s the Decision: Hitting the pause button has been my rule of thumb during times of crisis, emotions, and life-changing events. The pause button allows me to seek out support, begin my questioning, and remain holistic in my view. Whether it was little Devlyn’s seizures, Thomas Jr.’s deciding to join the Corp as a grunt with a Bachelors Degree (i.e., no OCS) or releasing my 84-year-old dad from his suffering, life-changing events are never easy to manage. Understanding the rules, thinking ahead, and using one’s network of friends, family, and trusted advisers (not to forget faith) allows us to weather the storm. So whether we are still confronting the virus or working to bring our lives back to some sense of normalcy, let’s remember we have a league of supports ready to assist us on our journey!!

Don’t weather along!!