Why College Isn’t for Everyone

Dear Mr. Dad: My 16-year-old son has been talking for a while about what he plans to do after he graduates high school. Everyone in my family has at least one degree so I just assumed he’d be going to college too. As we’ve discussed his plans, though, it’s becoming clear that they don’t include college. I’m trying to encourage him to at least do some research on programs, look into financial aid, and start sending out applications. But he thinks there’s no point in it. How important is higher education today?

A: Pretty important—and getting more important every day. That said, the traditional 4-year college route isn’t for everyone—and it shouldn’t be. Let me start with the pro-college argument:

Right now, nearly 70 percent of high school grads go on to college. And I expect that number to rise as the world economy becomes more global and we find ourselves competing not only with fellow Americans, but with highly trained professionals all over the world. As the education level of the job pool increases, many employers who, a few years ago, might have been happy hiring someone right out of high-school are now demanding a college degree.

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Does class size matter?

I’ve always wondered about whether class size is important in college. Places like UC Berkeley and UCLA have huge classes (hundreds of students) that are often taught by grad students–and they’re always ranked near the top 10  of just about every Top 10 list of the best colleges and universities. But those small liberal arts colleges–like the one my oldest daughter is going to in upstate New York–are doing a bang up business. In this guest post, Paul Stephen makes a pretty good case for smaller class sizes. But I have to admit, I’m not 100 percent convinced that they’re the best option for everyone.

So you’re deciding which University to go to.  When factoring in class size, I’d  stick to the smaller class size and I’ll explain why.  From my own experience, I prefer smaller classes so that you can have a more personalized education and have more leadership opportunities. I attended Brown University, where class size was generally very small and I was able to get to know not only my professors but my classmates as well.

Getting to Know Your Professor

Oftentimes this key aspect of education slips by the wayside.  Larger universities have graduate students who teach a majority of the classes.  At smaller universities like Brown, the undergraduate experience is what is most important.  You will most likely be taught be a Professor, not a teaching assistant.  Why is this important you might ask? Well, getting to know your professor might help you make better decisions in your education.

I switched majors during my time at Brown and my professors were there to advise and help me make the right choices.

My professors were able to get to know me just as much as I was able to get to know them.  This way, they were more focused on helping me learn.  They were able to address my learning needs more rapidly and effectively.  Therefore, there is much more attention for each student.  This makes all the difference in learning.  I have had a few large classes while at Brown and believe me it was much more difficult to get the help and attention I needed.  On the other hand, I was able to excel in the smaller classroom.

Furthermore, in small classes, professors are more focused on actual teaching.  They have less other concerns like research or being disciplinarians.  They will put more effort into their classes and the curricula.  This means better courses and possibly new classes.

Making a Difference

Instead of being treated like a number, smaller class size allows you to use your voice and be counted as an individual.  You can make a difference by speaking up in class or taking on a leadership role.  Small class size allows for greater interaction with your peers. You can share ideas and ask questions you would not have the chance of asking in a larger class size. This way, you can get more attention and focus on the things you don’t understand.  Remember, your contribution counts!

A Personal Experience

In a smaller class at the University, education is more about you! How great does that sound? Well, larger universities might have more to pick and choose from, but the crux of the matter is that with smaller classes, you get to choose and design a major that interests you.  At Brown, I was able to study Comparative Literature (Russian/English).  This was particularly interesting for me because I love literature, writing and am of Russian descent.  It worked for me. Here I am several years later, still writing and researching and doing what I love.

Do It Yourself

Instead of learning about how to do something, you will actually do it yourself in a small class.  This is of tremendous importance to all you science majors.  Hands on opportunities should not be taken for granted.  It’s a great way to learn and master something like how to use a telescope for example.  My writing at Brown improved dramatically as I was learning hands on and being critiqued every step of the way.  By continuously writing, I was able to improve.  This was a big step for me. Although I enjoyed writing before coming to this University, I was able to get feedback from experts in their field.

Paul Stephen writes from Nipissing University. Our psychology degree programs benefit students with an extensive list of psychology courses to choose from, many involving laboratory or practicum components. Nipissing’s small class sizes work to our student’s advantage.

5 Ways to Kill Your College Application

Over the past few weeks I’ve done several radio shows on getting into college and surviving while you’re there. I’ve also written a few columns on the insane amount of money a college education can cost these days. In today’s guest post, Paul Stephen has some great advice on simple mistakes that can torpedo your child’s chances of getting into the college of his or her choice.

Admissions officers have to wade through sometimes thousands of applications. Unless you are an “auto-admit” or “auto-reject”, you will likely be placed in the “maybe” pile (the destination for most applicants). From there, every page of your application will be copied and circulated through various members of the admissions committee. One misstep and your application could get tossed into the “reject” pile. Here are five common complaints boasted by college admissions officers everywhere; learn what they are and ways to avoid making them on your own college application.

1. Using an inappropriate email address on your application. If you don’t have an email address that ends with .edu, create an email account that only contains your first and last name @xxxx.xxx. Don’t use nicknames like jessonfire6969@gmail.com, or sexychicshs420@hotmail.com, for example. The admissions committee does know what those numbers mean and they won’t be impressed. Even if your email doesn’t contain inappropriate innuendos, it still looks unprofessional to send a serious email to an admissions committee with catlover1999@youremail.com.

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Is College Expensive? You Have No Idea. Really, You Don’t.

Our kids are in trouble. Big trouble. In every other generation in recent history, children have done better than their parents. They get more education, have better jobs, make more money, and live longer. Until now. Children growing up today are in the first generation that will be doing worse than their parents in just about every measurable area. And perhaps the most obvious sign of this changing tide is how families are adjusting their college dreams.

According to the just-released College Savings Indicator study (done by Fidelity Investments), only 31 percent of parents with kids headed for college have adequately considered how much college will cost, the impact of graduating with a crushing debt load, and how the choice of major could affect future employment prospects. Translation, 69 percent have not had the 21st Century version of “the talk.”

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Getting the Best out of College

[amazon asin=160774144X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Anne Crossman, coauthor of Getting the Best out of College.
Topic: Insider advice for success in college.
Issues: Ensuring that college-bound students are actually getting the most out of their college experience—and their money’s worth—once they arrive on campus; mastering every important aspect of college life (academically, socially, and beyond); how to full advantage of your college career and still have fun in the process.

College Life + School Refusal Behavior + College Acceptance Secrets

[amazon asin=160774144X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Anne Crossman, coauthor of Getting the Best out of College.
Topic: Insider advice for success in college.
Issues: Ensuring that college-bound students are actually getting the most out of their college experience—and their money’s worth—once they arrive on campus; mastering every important aspect of college life (academically, socially, and beyond); how to full advantage of your college career and still have fun in the process.

[amazon asin=0195306309&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Christopher Kearney, author of Getting Your Child to Say “Yes” to School.
Topic: Helping a child with School Refusal Behavior (SRB).
Issues: Defining SRB (it’s a difficulty attending school or remaining in class for an entire day; how SRB differs from truancy or school phobia; recognizing the signs and symptoms of SRB; working with your child’s teachers to overcome SRB; how friends can help (or hurt).

[amazon asin=1592403026&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 3: Don Dunbar, author of What You Don’t Know Can Keep You out of College.Topic: A top consultant explains the 13 fatal application mistakes that can get a child rejected.
Issues: Why character is the key to college admissions; when “just be yourself” is a mistake; what admissions directors are really looking for and how they make their decisions.