3 Non-Academic Things To Do Before Your Freshman Year Of College

Posted on August 25, 2014 by:

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Before you head to orientation, you’ll want to check some items off your to-do list.

August is winding down, and fresh high school graduates (like my brother) are preparing to take on a new stage of their life.

Incoming college freshman need to do a lot of official things before you finish “THE LONGEST SUMMER OF YOUR LIFE.” However, you’ll want to accomplish some less official things before leaving home, too—like spending time with loved ones and exploring all you can.

For the Syracuse-bound Little Goose, his big sis’s to-do list for him includes preparing for the cold north. “Chancletas” (flip-flops) are not meant to be worn year round in the northeast. No matter how much you wish you could. For you, here are three other suggestions on what to do.


1. Make Some Money—There’s Still Time!

Time is in abundance during summer. With so much of it on your hands, a job is suggested—wait, no, more like required.

It may be late in the summer, but it’s never too late to get a random, short-term job, like washing some cars or cleaning the gutters. You could become a pool boy or find something more geared toward your career of choice (presuming “pool boy” is not your intended career, of course).

Anything that can help you get some cash is encouraged. And once that income comes in, remember to set a budget. You don’t want to spend too much of your summer cash on adventures. The money you make during the summer will help you those first months of settling in. I guarantee it.

2. Just Keep Reading—Even If It’s Something Silly

Maybe you haven’t picked up a book since the school year ended? That’s OK, but now it’s time to get back in the habit. Reading keeps the mind active, and this will be a big help once the semester starts.

When you start school, you will face an overwhelming quantity of things to read. If you’re unprepared, this can set you off to a bad start. That’s why you should read ANYTHING and EVERYTHING: comics, random movie scripts, tweets, whatever. All you want to read, do it!

You’ll warm your brain up for learning, and you’ll get to do so with funny blog posts, memoirs, and other things you may not have time for once classes kick in. If you want to go a little bit further, set a reading schedule, like 50 pages a night or “one book in 1 week,” and see what you can do.

3. Create Healthy Habits

Heard of the freshman 15? If not, you will.

Gaining weight and destroying your sleeping schedule are common symptoms of being a freshman. Take preemptive action by starting an exercise regime that you can carry on during school year now. Pick a time and days of the week, and try to stick to it as soon as you get to school.

Exercise is a great de-stresser, and it can keep you focused on what you have to accomplish: getting that degree. Same thing goes for a good night’s sleep. A rested mind can help you stay healthy and more attentive in class.

What are some things you did the summer before you went to college that you wish you’d continue doing during the school year? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: Wikimedia)

What It’s Like To Go Back To School After 10 Years Off

Posted on August 15, 2014 by:

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The Open University in the U.K. allows you to take as many or as few classes as you have time for.

College in the U.K. (or as they call it, “uni,” which is just adorable) is different from in the United States, but it’s still subject to a lot of the same pressures and interruptions.

Aaron Weber spoke with someone in Scotland who took almost a decade off after his second year. Find out what it was like.


So, what’s the background for your story?

I started university when I was 17 years old, intending to study computer science and history. My maths weren’t all that strong, but I was good with computers.

I got married when I was 19, and my wife wasn’t working, so I had to do something to bring in money. Of course, it was still 2000, and the dot-com bubble hadn’t burst yet, so I found a job at an e-commerce consultancy that was acquired a few months after I joined. I spent 2 years there drinking too much coffee and holding meetings in the smoking room before the purchaser shut it down and laid everybody off.

In spring of 2002, I signed on with a startup in the U.S., working remotely and flying over every few months for meetings. That one went pretty well, and we got bought out by a bigger company, and I didn’t get laid off again until 2007.

What made you decide to return to school?

At that point, I sort of pondered going back to university to do a computer science degree. On the other hand, I had 7 whole years of working, so I thought maybe I didn’t need it. I knew I didn’t want to attend full time, but a part-time bachelor’s degree takes 8 years in Scotland at traditional colleges.

I decided to pursue a degree from the Open University. You can take as many classes as you have time for, and I set out on a pace to be done in just 5 years with almost no breaks.

By the time my classes began, I’d found another job, this time developing software at an investment bank. I initially intended to study maths and economics to go with my banking job, but I still didn’t like the maths part that much, and switched to politics, philosophy, and economics, which I enjoyed more.

What were your classmates like?

The OU has a very different age profile from brick universities; I tended to be one of if not the youngest people, and most of my classmates were people in their mid-50s and upward. As the recession progressed, though, more and more people my age or younger began to join us.

How’d you pay for it?

I didn’t qualify for need-based financial aid, so I paid the full tuition price out of my own pocket.

Fees have gone up dramatically in the U.K., but the OU is still about half the cost of a traditional brick-and-mortar residential university. And of course, education here is still loads cheaper than in the U.S.

A year’s tuition costs about as much as a month’s rent in Glasgow: just over a thousand pounds, or about $1,500. Books were extra, of course, but it wasn’t a real strain on my budget at all.

How’s it feel to be done?

Right now I’m still waiting for the result of the my final exam, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting my official diploma this summer. The weird thing about being done with school is that I have free time. I felt bored the other day. I haven’t felt properly bored since 2008.

How has going back to school affected your career?

It’s definitely been useful at work, more even than I thought it would. A lot of the statistical analysis you study in economics is useful in machine learning. And I’m currently working for a recruitment firm, so my knowledge of labor markets has also come in handy. But the most useful thing, really, has been having another prism through which to view things.

Any final thoughts for people considering returning to school?

Even without the content of the courses, there are two huge things I learned that made just going to school worthwhile: I had to get much better at managing my time, and I learned that sometimes good enough really is good enough.

Did you go back to school after a long break? Let us know in the comments what it was like for you.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

8 Things Incoming Freshman Must Do The Summer Before College

Posted on August 8, 2014 by:

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Mailbox in rocks on mountain

Just graduated from high school and walking on air? Enjoy, and remember to check your college email for important tasks due this summer.

When I asked my soon-to-be-college-freshman son what to include in a pre-college to-do list, he said: say goodbye to your girlfriend or boyfriend, buy a good alarm clock, and watch a movie about balancing partying with education.

Well, at least one of his suggestions mentioned education (sort of).

Based on what my other kids have experienced, there is a lot more to do before you arrive on campus. If you’re heading to school in the fall, be sure to check these eight things off your to-do list.


1. Accept Your Financial Aid

If your school awards you financial aid, you need to review the types they offered and “accept” the ones you want. For example, if your award includes subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, you might accept only the subsidized one to avoid the extra interest costs.

If you take out a loan, you need to complete your college’s loan entrance counseling requirement. On top of that, you also need to sign the loan’s promissory note. Without completing these, your financial aid award will not be available to pay your tuition and fees.

2. Decide On Parental Access

If your parents pay your college tuition, you will definitely want to grant them access to your school’s online payment portal. This will let them see what is owed and by when.

Also, you need to decide whether you want your parents to have access to other things—like your grades. Even if they fully pay your tuition, they aren’t entitled to see your grades (although I’m sure they will want to …).

3. Determine Housing, Food, And Roommates

Some schools require a deposit for on-campus housing. If so, send yours on time. You will also have to consider dorm and meal plan options. Many meal plans are “use it or lose it,” so if you have options, start out with a smaller number of meals and bump up if need be.

If your school offers a roommate matching system, consider whether to fill out a questionnaire or let a random selection seal your fate. Based on my kids’ experiences, both have pros and cons. If you complete a roommate profile, just be honest about who you are. (Live knee-deep in dirty laundry? Admitting it is your best strategy!)

4. Take Entrance Exams And Register

You may think you are done with exams until next fall—and no doubt you deserve a break! Yet, many colleges require placement tests to ensure incoming freshmen sign up for an appropriate course level. (Why pay for a class that’s too easy?) Once your results are in, you can select your courses.

When registration opens, try to be first in line. Since freshman get last pick of classes, being timely may mean the difference between an 8 a.m. calculus class or a more relaxing 10 a.m. start. I had 8 a.m. calc. With no inherent math gene, let’s just say I needed a lot of caffeine to get through it.

5. Sign Up For Optional Orientation

Many colleges offer optional orientation programs for a fee. Some schools have outdoor adventure programs offsite; others have programs right on campus. One of my sons, who attends a large university far from home, found this to be a great way to connect with other students—many of whom are still among his closest friends today.

6. Check Your Medical Coverage

Your college will require your medical records to ensure you have the necessary vaccinations, such as for meningitis. The health center will also need to see proof of health insurance. Otherwise, you will be automatically enrolled in the campus insurance program—at a cost to you. If you have your own insurance, you will need to complete the steps to obtain a waiver from the school insurance plan.

7. Check Your Inbox For What’s Left

Once you send in your deposit to your college, a flurry of information arrives in your new college inbox. If you haven’t opened your college email lately, do so to figure out anything you missed.

Summer reading? Check it off.

Mandatory classes on alcohol/drugs/sexual harassment? Complete them. It’s great information to have—and even more beneficial than a movie about balancing education with partying.

8. Plan Your Move

Once you complete all of the above, it’s time to prepare for moving day. Make a realistic plan for moving in by setting aside the time you think it will take—and then add a day to it! You will be surprised at how many details go into setting up your dorm room, and just how many trips to the store you’ll make.

What’s on your personal summer-before-college to do list? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: summitcheese)

3 Ways That Apps Can Help You Survive Long-Distance Friendships

Posted on August 5, 2014 by:

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White sphere with symbols for apps

Using free apps to stay in touch makes the world seem a little smaller.

In high school, I counted down the days until summer vacation. But now that I’m in college, I’m really starting to understand the “Summertime Sadness.”

With classes and homework out of the way for 3 months, there’s plenty of time to hang out with friends. In high school, most of my friends were a short drive away, so pool parties and bonfires were weekly events for us. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in college.


I’m in touch with a few high school friends but much closer with people from college. By closer, however, I mean emotionally, not geographically. Financially, I can’t travel to New York or Maryland every weekend (or Australia … at all), so I’ve had to find ways to connect with the people I love without emptying my bank account.

You probably know that free apps like Skype and Snapchat can help with this. However, even with great services like these, you can still lose touch—if you don’t have a plan. If you’re in a similar situation, follow these three steps to ensure your relationships can go the distance.

1. Put It On The Calendar

Video chatting, especially through Skype, is hands down my favorite method of communication this summer. Until hologram technology takes off, video chatting with friends is the closest thing to hanging out in person. But with summer internships and plans keeping you busy, it’s easy to tell your friends, “Oh, we should Skype soon!” and never actually do it.

Instead, schedule weekly virtual dates with your friends. You might think you don’t have time for these, but if you mark them on your calendar like you’d schedule gym time or lunch plans, staying in touch gets easier. My best friend and I have a weekly Skype date, and that half-hour is one of the highlights of my week. It makes the distance between Massachusetts and Maryland seem just a little smaller.

2. Share Moments And Messages

When I first got Snapchat, I was all about just sending and receiving selfies. Now, my friends and I use it to share moments with each other from our everyday lives: pictures of our vacation spots, Frisbee games, and jury duty (hey, it can’t all be fun).

While you can use Facebook or Instagram to share photos, Snapchat is different because your pictures go to individuals—making them more personal than a public post. You can also add text on top of the pictures, captioning them with a heartfelt note or an inside joke.

So, this summer, send pictures of the fun things you do to your friends, but be sure to add a message to let them know you miss them. Think of it as like a postcard (without the cost of postage!) telling your friends you wish they were with you.

3. Remember You’ll Be Together Soon!

You can find a ton of free apps to count down the days until you see your friends. A countdown is a good reminder that while this summer may seem endless, you’ll reunited be soon enough. I use Dreamdays Lite because it’s pretty and I can customize my countdowns with my own pictures.

Pick an app and set up a countdown until the next time you’ll see your friends. By keeping busy and staying in touch, the days will fly by, and that’s the best cure for “Summertime Sadness” I’ve found.

How do you stay in touch with your friends over the long summer break? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: Wikimedia)

3 Unexpected Expenses That Go With Moving Off Campus

Posted on July 16, 2014 by:

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Thermometer, sign that says "furnished apartment for rent," and Coca-Cola sign, all hanging in window

You may not have to buy new furniture, but there are other expenses to be aware of when renting your first apartment.

This fall, my daughter is moving off campus with her friends. Of course, this process started in the spring, when they went on a waitlist for an apartment complex they wanted to live in.

When they reached the top of the list, they had 24 hours to accept the available unit … or drop back to the bottom of the waitlist. So yes, “we” started paying rent on May 20—three full months before she’ll actually move in.

And while those extra months of rent proved to be an unexpected expense, they were far from the only one students moving off campus face.


Lately, it seems like I have co-signed or guaranteed too many leases for my college-aged kids, who have had enough of college dorm life. This makes me somewhat of a reluctant expert on the subject of rentals and leasing, from the eyes of a tenant (or, rather, the eyes of a tenant’s parent).

If you signed on the dotted line for a place to live this fall, you’re likely excited to get away from your folks and move in with your friends. However, first and last months’ rent payments might not be the only expenses awaiting you. Here are three others you need to be aware of before packing the moving truck.

1. Surprise Deposits For Utilities

By the date your lease begins, you and your roommates will need to show your landlord proof that you have transferred all the utilities into one of your names. Talk with your roommates about how to manage these costs—you may want to each take responsibility for a specific utility. Paying a bill in your name and on time is a good way to build your credit score.

But be warned: Some utility companies require an initial deposit. When my daughter signed up with the local electric company, it surprised us both that they required a $250 deposit. If you have to deal with a deposit as well, decide whether you will pay it yourself (and get all the money back some day) or split it equally among your roommates. If you choose the latter, keep track of how much everyone chipped in.

2. Insurance May Be Mandatory

My daughter’s landlord required proof of $100,000 in liability insurance for all tenants, in case something crazy happens, such as a person getting hurt or the property getting trashed during the lease period. This unexpected insurance cost added another $129 to the annual expenses of renting.

And in case you were wondering, liability insurance does not cover your personal property. For that, you would need renters insurance. (Considering how my son’s stuff was ruined in a flooded storage unit, I can attest that the extra expense of renters insurance can be worth the money.)

3. You Must Complete A Property Condition Form

This one is to prevent future unexpected expenses from coming your way.

When your lease begins, you have a short period to let the landlord know of existing damage or problems with the unit. It is really important to fill out this property condition form by the deadline, as well as to take pictures of any existing wear and tear. That way, you and your roommates cannot be held responsible for any existing damage.

My son’s very inexpensive rental house in the Rocky Mountains came complete with broken glass and screens, dirty carpets, holes in walls, mold, rodents, and more. When I saw the squalor, I was appalled he was going to live in such a place. I also thought we’d never get his share of the security deposit back, but we did—thanks to the property condition form.


There are a lot of other details to manage with signing a lease and all the startup activities. But once you have it all done, you and your roommates can get to work on the more fun part, like hunting for good used furniture, stocking your fridge, and scheduling your house warming party.

Have you signed a lease with your friends? Let us know in the comments what surprises you encountered in the process.

(Photo: turkeychik)

What’s “Love” Got To Do With Choosing A College?

Posted on February 12, 2014 by:

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Open book with the word "Love" on top of it.

Love is bliss, but it can complicate your academic decisions.

In this season of Valentine’s Day, love is on the mind of many parents—especially if their kids are choosing a college based on where their boyfriend or girlfriend is going. These parents are freaking out, and I don’t blame them.

Plenty of lists on how NOT to choose your college usually include letting your heart make the choice. However, some emotion plays a part in almost every decision. If the emotion dominating your college choice is “love for a significant other,” though, remember to consider the following.


1. Is This “The One”?

Hard to predict. Nowadays, most people don’t end up marrying their high school or early college sweetheart. Just ask your parents about their old flames and their thoughts on those early relationships. You might be surprised (horrified?) by some of their stories.

If your love is meant to last, it will withstand the distance and test of time. Now is the time to follow your educational and career dreams!

2. Play The Field

(Really; as a happily married woman, I get to offer this advice.)

Where else but college can you find a major selection of attractive, smart, ambitious, fun people all in one place? The truth is, if you are all wrapped up in a relationship before you even get to college, you will miss out on a whole lot of fun, which includes meeting and dating new people. You won’t know what you missed if you don’t give it a try.

3. Things Can Get Messy

If you arrive on campus in a committed relationship, it can be complicated. Many of your college experiences get wrapped up in being a couple. So, if that changes, you may risk losing your whole friend group. This is especially hard if you didn’t have an opportunity to make any of your own friends independently.

Worse yet, after a sad breakup, you might kick yourself deep down, if you knew all along that you should have gone to another school …

4. Long Distance Love?

If you don’t follow your sweetheart to college, you can still keep the relationship going long distance. However, even this can derail your integration into your college experience.

Hundreds of texts a day and regular calls, Skype, and Facetime definitely interfere with your willingness to get to know the interesting person sitting in class right next to you. If you go this route, try to work out communication boundaries with your loved one in advance.

5. It’s Your Decision

No one can talk you out of your feelings for your boyfriend or girlfriend. Hopefully, your parents understand that as well. They may try to dissuade you from targeting schools based on love, but only you know the depth of your feelings.

6. Be Honest With Yourself

No matter what pressure you get from your parents on this matter, you owe it to yourself to make an honest list of pros and cons for choosing your college. If being near your favorite person is the only driving factor in wanting to attend a certain school, you need to be 100% sure of your decision. By writing your thoughts down, it will help you understand the real trade-offs of following your heart.


As for me, my husband and I survived a year apart while I was in grad school, and we’ve been together over 20 years! I am very glad I got the education I did, while managing to keep the relationship going long distance. (Course, it didn’t hurt that he came to visit me during my semester in Paris, which just happens to be one of the world’s most romantic cities!)

Did you choose your college based on where your boyfriend or girlfriend was going? Did you endure long distance love during college? Let us know in the comments how that worked out for you. 

(Photo: Nina Matthews)

9 Things To Consider Before Moving Off Campus

Posted on January 15, 2014 by:

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Face made out of food on a plate.

Does the thought of another year of dorm food make you want to move off campus?

Are you considering renting an apartment or a house next fall? If so, you will need to consider a number of things—including how to convince your parents. This is especially true if you’ll need them to co-sign the lease.

I’ve signed a few leases myself for my son. And as a mom and a licensed real estate agent, I can tell you, you need to read the fine print! Here are nine things you may need to discuss with your parents before you sign.


1. Did You Do Your Research?

In some college towns, the rental market is overheated. So where to find a place? In addition to your college housing website, check online real estate resources. If you work with a real estate rental agent, find out upfront whether you will need to pay them a fee.

If you tackle the search on your own, be careful. There are reported cases of scammers out there online.

2. What’s The Cost Upfront And Per Month

Find out the rental cost per month, and whether the landlord wants first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit upfront. This initial cash outlay can really add up!

Also, you need to know if the landlord wants a bank-certified check in hand to secure your spot.

3. How Long The Lease Is

Landlords may want to lock you in for an entire calendar year—which can be costly, especially if you will not be living there over the summer. It’s always worth asking if they will accept a shorter lease period. They might, but if so, prepare to pay a higher cost per month.

4. Who’s Paying For What?

Are utilities included as part of the rent? Which ones? If you’re covering these, ask the landlord what the previous tenant paid on average for heat, hot water, electricity, cable TV, and Internet. This will let you know if you can really afford a place.

5. Can You Sublet?

Subletting can come in handy for summer months you’ll be away, or if you’re planning to spend a semester abroad and want an apartment to come back to.

Ask the landlord whether you can sublet your room, or whether someone can be added to the lease if he or she approves it. (Sometimes they’ll allow the latter, but it won’t necessarily let you off the hook as a responsible party.)

6. How Many Roommates Can You Have?

Some cities and towns have restrictions on this so college students don’t overload a property with six roommates in a two bedroom. Doing this wears down an apartment quicker (and increases the probability of it being trashed—bye bye, security deposit).

7. How Well You Know Your Roommates

The last thing your parents will want to do is co-sign a lease with someone who will not uphold their part of the deal!

As responsible parties to the lease, you and your parents will be liable for any portion of the lease that your roommates or their parent co-signers do not pay. So trust is important here.

8. What’s The Overall Picture?

Your parents will want details. Is there a washer and dryer on site? How far is the unit to campus (rule of thumb: the closer to campus, the higher the price tag). Is there a food store nearby? What about public transportation or parking? Do you have to cut the grass or shovel the sidewalks?

9. Remember What You’re Getting Into

When it’s time to sign the lease, consider that you are signing a legally binding contract. It is always a good idea to consult a real estate attorney with any questions on the lease before signing. This will help you understand your rights as a tenant under the law.

It’s that old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure …

Did you have an easy time finding off campus housing? Let us know your story in the comments.

(Photo: Katy Warner)

Reflections And Regrets After Graduating College

Posted on January 14, 2014 by:

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Ohio Stadium Homecoming Weekend

Brigit also wishes she’d attended a homecoming football game, even if it wouldn’t have been at a stadium like this.

Since graduating in December, I haven’t had time to think about my years as a college student. A new year is perfect for reflection, so I wanted to share some things I’m happy I did in college—and those I wish I had done.

For those of you with just a semester (or more) left in school, hopefully this list will help you think about what you want to accomplish before graduation.


I’m Happy I …

Went To Community College First

I won’t give you the whole spiel, since I’ve written other posts about it. However, the short version is that I saved a lot of money, met some amazing people, and found myself at community college. It’s where my whole college career started, and I loved it.

Got Involved On Campus

I did plays, volunteered, created a club, and ran that club. The experiences made me crazy busy, but they were really fun. I met so many people, got great experience, and overall, spread happiness.

Spreading happiness in the lives of others is what I want to achieve in life, and getting involved let me do that.

Worked On Campus

It was amazing getting an on-campus job—and not just because I saved on gas.

I helped other students “find their path,” just like I had to. I also got good work experience with my job and met other passionate workers. I got all of these wonderful things from my job, and I got paid to do them.

Majored In Something I Love

There are so many options for majors in college. This can be a disadvantage, as it is hard to find one that you love. Luckily, I found one of my passions: English.

I know an English writing degree isn’t one of the most desired majors that companies look for. However, you can minor, or even double major, in another subject as a backup. So, I’m glad I also have my associate’s degree in theater from my community college and a minor in marketing.

I Wish I Had …

Studied Abroad

I definitely looked at the options, and I very much wanted to go to Europe—though I would have been fine going anywhere. However, I was scared it would be a waste of money or time. I couldn’t afford a wasted semester. I wish that I had done my research into the financial options.

Gotten Internships In My Future Career Path

Believe me: I had a lot of internships. Half of my résumé is internships.

However, I didn’t get an internship in my career path of book publishing. Most of my internships were in online publishing, magazine publishing, or nothing to do with my major. Now, I’m worried that inexperience will hinder me.

Applied To Jobs Earlier

I had a plan. I was going to apply to jobs in November, 2 months before I graduated. I met with a career counselor who looked over my résumé, gave me a sample cover letter, and sent me off on my own. I had all of my stuff ready by October.

However, my classes, work, and extracurricular activities started to pick up in November. I also noticed some mistakes on my résumé, so I couldn’t send it out for editing jobs. So November went by, as did December, and now it’s January and my head start is gone.


Though it might seem like I have a lot I wish I had done, I don’t regret anything I did. Overall, I’m very happy with my college experience and I hope you feel the same way when you graduate!

Let us know about your reflections and future hopes in your college career in the comments.

(Photo: fensterbme)

“Every Student Is A Lot More Than What The Admissions Office Sees On Paper”

Posted on December 13, 2013 by:

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Van Wickle Gates, Brown University

It’s easy to get past a college’s front gates: just go in for a visit. (It could help you get through them for good, too.)

Lori Connor has worked in admissions and financial aid for 15 years. Today, she helps school implement SALT™ for parent company, American Student Assistance®. Since we’re right in the middle of college application season, Aaron Weber asked her to tell us about admissions, money, and transferring to new schools.


AW: What are some common misconceptions about applying to college?

LC: There are three things, really, that I think are tricky for families.

First, people don’t always know how important it is to meet face-to-face with admissions and make campus visits. A lot of students think that they’re done once they finish the application. But it’s more than just the application form. Every student is a lot more than what the admissions office sees on paper, and if you can help us get a better idea of who you are, then we can do a better job. If you can, go to campus, meet the representatives, and do interviews. It builds a relationship with the school. You can still get in without a visit, of course, but it can really help a school understand a student.

Second, fit is really important. That’s another reason I always encourage people to visit campus and meet students and faculty. It gives you more information about the school and helps you decide if it’s the right place for you. The more you know about the campus and what it’s like to be there, the better.

Finally, there’s money. This one’s hard to get right for just about everyone. It’s easy to say “look for the best price” and “money is no object, go to your dream school.” But the reality is somewhere in the middle. What if you like one school almost as much as another—do you let the price be the deciding factor? You don’t want finances to stand between you and your education, but you do need to take them into account.

For students who are applying to graduate schools, or transferring to a new college, how is the process different?

They’re not as different as you might think. Graduate school is a more focused process, because you’re not just applying to a college, you’re applying to a very specific program. There are fewer candidates applying for fewer spaces, so there’s a lot more in-depth review, and more involvement from professors and not just the admissions office. I’ve also found that potential grad students are more likely to ask about the career services office, which is a good thing.

For transfer students, we’ll be looking at both college and high school transcripts. Similar to graduate school, we’re looking at a smaller number of applicants and a small number of spaces, so we can really focus on those applicants. For transfer, it’s even more important to visit the campus if you can. If you can’t afford a visit, call and ask if there’s assistance available. Many colleges will pay to bring promising students out for a tour.

Behind the scenes, what do admissions officers talk about?

We swap stories about micromanaging parents, and about our own kids. My son’s a freshman now, and let me tell you, after helping him apply to college, I really understood where the helicopter parents were coming from. I always swore I wouldn’t be That Parent, but it was a struggle to back off.

Have a question for Lori about admissions or financial aid? Post it in the comments.

(Photo: Will Hart)

The Only Thing That Keeps You Sane During Your Last Week In College

Posted on December 10, 2013 by:

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Broken Clock

You can’t stop time, no matter what you do.

Over Thanksgiving break, I was doing some homework at home (i.e., my parents’ home) when I needed something for the first time in a while: a glue stick.

I was partially appalled (my final year of undergraduate study involved work with a glue stick?) and partially clueless (where could I even find one?). I checked the boxes stuffed in my dad’s office closet, finding a glue stick, as well as my old high school, middle school, and elementary school poster-board projects.

Never did I think 6 years of horrendous science fair experiments could make me nostalgic, but they did. It hit me hard and fast: I only have 1 week left to be a student.


What’s Going Through My Head

Frankly, a lot of doubt. We’ve been students our entire lives. College was really just a step up to super student-dom: moving into the corporate world is like moving into the big leagues. No more professors to save the day with extra credit assignments or retakes; mess up a project in the real world, and it could be “bye-bye job.”

Also, as I discovered this summer, being a real person is a lot of work. I’m proud when I have time to make two dinners a week and vacuum my living room. How am I going to cook for myself, clean my own house, pay my rent, and still find time to have fun on the regular? There’s no more course schedule to organize my time.

I won’t lie—I thought about backing out once or twice. Of marching into the dean’s office and telling him I made a huge mistake, that I’d actually like to hand over 30 grand to take Yoga 101 with all my friends for the next 6 months. And then I repeat that statement, and remember something …

This School Ain’t Cheap

If you’re graduating early, there’s a reason for it. Maybe you have some amazing job offer lined up for January. Maybe you’re just sick of eating dining hall food. Or maybe, like me, you couldn’t pass up avoiding another $30,000+ student loan.

Look, I’d like to take yoga and put off my diploma until May, but that’d be handing in my “responsible young adult badge” before I even earned it. For me, it’s a dumb financial move and an even worse character move. Yes, the real world is a scary place, but it’s also our inevitable destination. Why burn money just to delay getting there?

Thinking about the money I’m saving is literally the only thing that kept me sane these past few weeks. That line of thinking might potentially lead to me transforming into Ebenezer Scrooge in a few years, but at present, it’s the truth. I wish I didn’t have to rank money so high on my priority list, but hey, welcome to the world of massive student debt.

Practicality’s bell is a’ringin’, my fellow early grads; here’s hoping it’s not as bad as it’s cracked up to be.

Fellow December grads: What’s keeping you sane as you conclude your college careers? Let us know in the comments.

(Photo: james)