Dr. Nancy Berk releases new parent survival guide: COLLEGE BOUND AND GAGGED
October 27, 2011
Does the mere thought of getting your teen through the college admissions process cause anguish or make you want to cry? What if instead of crying your eyes out, you were laughing you head off?
With the introduction of her new book, COLLEGE BOUND AND GAGGED: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind, Dr. Nancy Berk has accomplished the impossible: she put humor and fun into the college search process.
You'll find yourself laughing along with her as she lends practical advice with a beautiful light touch, sense of irony, and tales from the trenches. And with a smile on your face, you will realize that you've found the best guide for you and your teen to survive college search.
Smart College Visit users know Dr. Berk from her popular "College Mom Minute", weekly one-minute, humor infused tidbits designed to bring a smile and lend advice for parents.
Nancy Berk and Smart College Visit founder, Z. Kelly Queijo, are both on the docket as speakers at the upcoming American Marketing Association 2011 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Nancy will keynote the luncheon on Tuesday, November 8, and Kelly is leading a pre-conference tutorial session titled "Build a Better Community of Bloggers."
Smart College Price Calculators
No longer must families wait until their student is accepted to learn about their “real” price of attending that college or university – the price after all sources of aid are considered. With the new transparency in education, families will have access to net price information long before they send out applications. Perhaps even before they decide upon a campus visit.
Starting in October, the federal government will require undergraduate institutions to offer a net price calculator on their websites to give students an estimated cost of attending their college -- a sort of Expedia or Carfax of higher education.
Given that the price of attending college often equals the cost of buying a new car every year, this makes sense. People are concerned about borrowing heavily for higher education and more likely now to consider net price as a major factor when deciding among various colleges.
The manner of arriving at the net price of a college for a student, after taking into account all scholarships, grants, work study, and loans can be the most frustrating aspects of the admissions process. Some colleges have been posting net price calculators or "estimators" for several years, and the federal government also has provided a template.
How good are these various price calculators? How do they compare? It’s important that the information used in these calculations be up-to-date and factor in a student’s unique financial and academic circumstances. The federal net price calculator template is a model and understandably must take a "one size fits all" approach to aid-awarding criteria across all institutions. However, standards and packages vary with each college.
The biggest plus and major drawback of the federal template is that it asks only eight questions to determine a student's dependency status, expected family contribution and price of attendance. Key questions about family assets and income exclusions are not asked, nor does it consider merit-aid criteria.
Price calculators built on the federal template show net price, but don’t calculate up-front, out-of-pocket costs, which means students won’t see how loans and work-study could reduce their net price.
Some college and universities are using price calculators customized especially for them. They may take longer to complete, but they incorporate the institution’s grants and methods of determining aid and a thorough examination of the student’s financial and academic situation. That’s 15 minutes well spent.
- When Your Child Turns 18 and Goes to College: What Parents Need to Know (SCV)
- Panels of Experts Address Net Price Calculators and Financial Aid Award Letters (NACAC)
- The Net Price Calculator: Financial Aid ‘Game-Changer’? (NYT)
Choosing which Colleges to Visit: The 5-Hour Drive Limit
We talked with Celeste, mom of a high school junior, about the other factors that influenced the college selection process for her son.
Check out what made this family's list, then tell us, what's on your list of criteria?
SCV: You mentioned visiting three schools with two more on the list for fall. How did you/your son decide which schools to visit?
Celeste: My son is VERY interested in doing Air Force ROTC in college. (In fact, his first choice is actually the Air Force Academy.) He wants to go to a college where the ROTC program is actually on campus, which severely limits his options. My husband and I created a list for him of those schools that were within about a five-hour drive of family members on the East Coast--we can't afford to fly him back and forth across the country and we want family members to be able to reach him if there is an emergency.
SCV: Aside from ROTC and location, what were the other factors related to deciding where to visit?
Celeste: My son looked at the web sites and found that most of them had programs for what he most wants to participate in for extracurriculars--cross-country and band--so that was not a deciding factor. He then looked at the acceptance rates, GPAs, SATs. The ones that were more demanding were more interesting to him because he likes a challenge. The schools that made his list were: University of Virginia (UVA), Virginia Tech, Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) and the United States Air Force Academy (the only exception to our 5-hour drive rule).
SCV: What were the visit experiences like for you/your son?
Celeste: The first one was amazing, possibly because everything was new and a bit overwhelming. By the fourth one, we were tired of information sessions. Some schools, like UVA and UNC-Chapel Hill, did a great job of making it interesting and engaging. We walked away with a good sense of the school's culture and what they stood for. Duke's was average--it provided a good overview, but it was too long. Virginia Tech's seemed boring--although it might have more to do with our early-morning drive there than the speaker herself, I didn't feel I had a sense of what Tech was all about. My son felt that way about the information session as well, but he really enjoyed the tour there.
The groups tended to be too large to hear everything on the spring tours, although the guides did their best. I would really recommend visiting in the wintertime if possible--it might be cold, but the groups are much smaller. I noticed the guides showed only parts of campus, partly because of time, and partly, I suspect, to make you feel as if these universities weren't as large as what you feared! It really didn't matter, because by the end we had a pretty good feel for the school. Also, the combination of information sessions and tours usually ran about two to two-and-a-half hours, and by then we had reached our saturation point! (If you're going to Duke, bring snacks and a drink. Theirs went three-and-a-half hours!) Virginia Tech actually showed a dorm room. No other college did.
SCV: What do you wish would have had happened or that you would have had time for on any college visit?
Celeste: Questions! All of them except for UNC-Chapel Hill were morning tours that went through lunch. By the time they were done, we were practically shaking from low blood sugar levels. Even though we wanted to stay to ask questions, we were too hungry to do so. This was unfortunate, because the only colleges that talked about ROTC were UVA (because someone did ask during the information session) and Virginia Tech. Knowing only a few students are interested in ROTC, we would have preferred to ask about it after the tours, but the tour guides typically did not know anything about it (except at Tech) and we were too hungry to go back in and ask the admissions people. I would also liked to have had a chance to ask about spiritual life on campus.
SCV: Was your son engaged with the visit?
Celeste: For us, these visits were overviews, so he did not ask many questions at this point. He tends to absorb things, reflect on them, and come back with questions later. I think he asked one question during the four visits. For these visits, he wanted to get a feel for the campus and the culture and decide whether he wanted to apply. He typically separated from us to stay closer to the guide (and on one tour the students were actually ordered to separate from the parents and be in the front) so he could hear better. We usually dropped back so other students could be up front as well. We believe that while parents play a part in this decision, it rests primarily with the student, so they need as much information as possible.
SCV: What's your #1 concern/priority regarding where your son ends up going to school?
Celeste: I have told him very plainly: My concerns are he attends somewhere he can continue to grow in his relationship with God, he gets a good education, and he has fun. In that order. I am not concerned with name recognition, I just want a college that is a good fit for him.
Do you have a college visit story to share? What's it been like to tour colleges? How do you decide where and when to visit? Click here to share your story with us. We'd love to hear from you.
Do You have a College Visit Story?
We've shared these stories from parents about their experiences visiting college campuses across the country
- Don’t Pick a College Sight Unseen
- Twins and College Visits: One Parent's Story
- 7 Months + 4 Colleges + 2 Visits Each = Time for a Prius
- Father-Daughter Adventure (Mike O’Donnell from Seattle)
Now, we'd like to hear from you! What's the college tour cycle been like for you and for your family? Were there things that stood out that made the experience memorable either on a personal level or as it relates to college choices? How important was the college visit to your teen's college choice decision?
Your submission is appreciated and, in the spirit of providing family-friendly, useful, engaging information, will be reviewed by our editors prior to posting.
Thank you for sharing!
Our Best Tips on Preparing for the SAT
1. Know the deadlines.
2. Take the SAT Practice Test. The main advantage is to become familiar with how questions are worded. Be sure to take them as timed tests. See the SAT Practice page for a variety of options.
3. Read every day. The worst thing you can is not read everyday.
4. Study Vocabulary. It's essential and, ideally, studying vocab should take place over time as opposed to weeks/months before the test date. Reading should include a variety of genres, topics, and reading levels. Resources such as Word-a-Day challenges, cross-word puzzles and dictionary games add fun, easy ways to expand your vocabulary.
5. Get a good night's sleep before the test date.
Also, relieve the stress with a little humor:
College Tour Tip: Remember the 2-2-2 Rule
2 Schools a Day.
Don't try to visit more than two schools a day, especially if the schools aren't close together. Any more than that and you'll never have enough time to really get a fair sense of the school, which after all, is the entire point of taking the road trip.
2 Question Limit.
Given that most teens find their parents embarrassing under any circumstances, they are especially sensitive to mom or dad asking numerous questions on the campus tour. Try to limit your questions to two vital topics. For example, focus on safety and financial aid.
Speak with 2 professors or students (at least!) from your teen's intended major. Now is your -and your teenager's - time to determine if this learning environment is right for your family. Ask a student, "What is the quality of faculty advising? Which outstanding professors or courses does he/she recommend for that specific major?" Speak to a professor about general education requirements, which classes are most popular and fill up quickly, and which classes should be completed in the first year.
Related Reading & Resources for College-bound Teens & Parents from #CampusChat
The following resources were recommended by Carol Christen, career strategist, author, and guest on CampusChat on November 3, 2010. The books listed below are affiliate links for SmartCollegeVisit.
California Career Zone - see quick assessment tools
Parachute4Teens - see Resource section--Helping youth find jobs or create their own business
When Your Child Turns 18 and Goes to College: What Parents Need to Know
For some parents, it seems all that all they did was blink and their babies morphed overnight into young adults when, in reality, they spent years preparing for that moment when their offspring would step through that opening that slams the door shut on childhood and swings open the door to adulthood.
So, what happens now that your baby is 18, a legal adult, and headed to college?
For starters, parents (and their student) need to about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The first exposure to FERPA will likely come during the college admissions application process. Students will be presented with a FERPA statement when applying to, or accepting an offer of admission from, any school that receives federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education which they will be required to sign.
Signing the FERPA statement is an acknowledgement by the student that he/she understands his/her right to review their academic record, control disclosure (grant who has permission to review the record), and request changes if an error is detected.
According to Eric Stoller, Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, FERPA can be the basis for some amazing conversations between students and their parents/families. “The biggest thing about FERPA is that most schools have clearly defined policies that are available for parents/families. The education about FERPA starts during the Admissions process and really takes hold during Orientation. Most people are okay with FERPA once they realize that it was designed to protect a students privacy.”
Getting the bill vs. footing the tuition bill
Another change that takes place once your child accepts an offer of admission is that communication from the school with the parents pretty much disappears if it has not already done so. Your child will receive the tuition bill and any information related to financial aid and/or scholarships. Many schools have moved to online payment of tuition and fees.
Regardless of who is actually paying for college, it's the student who gets the bill online, not the parent. Students who, as high schoolers, rarely checked their email, now must do so in order to keep up with deadlines and notifications related to entering college.
Stoller points out that some schools have systems in place that help parents out when it comes to keeping abreast of information available only online. “There have actually been some developments on the part of student online services providers to create access points for parents/families to be able to access tuition/billing information (with their student's permission) for the purposes of account payments,” says Stoller. He stresses that communication between the student and the parent(s) is necessary to make this happen, especially since it involves access to a portion of the student's account/record.
Out of sight, but not out of mind
When it comes to logistics and issues that involve student safety, it's the Dean of Students Office that usually becomes the point of contact for parents, especially if there is an emergency. “I think it is important for parents/families to connect with offices on campuses that are authorized to act as advocates for students,” says Stoller. “Technically, once they are 18, a student is in control of their lives. Realistically speaking, most traditionally aged students are going to be on their parent/family insurance, be part of a family tax filing, etc...their rights are largely connect to the resources that they need in order to remain at college.”
Other 18-year milestones
If your child is male, he must register with the federal Selective Service when he turns 18, or within 30 days of that birthday.
An 18 year-old is a legal adult and is held accountable to the laws governing adults including voting, driving, paying taxes, serving jury duting, owning/buying property or firearms, and what constitutes consensual sex. Some laws may vary by state, so check with the state government for the specifics related to where your child is attending college, not where you, the parent, lives and continue to have those all important conversations with your child/young adult.
Tonight on CampusChat: How to be the Parent Admissions will Love
Tonight's #CampusChat the topic is "How to be the Parent Admissions will Love." Earning "love" from a college admissions office is probably not what parents think about when they "help" their child navigate the college admissions process, but, for some, it couldn't hurt.
For example, would you bring your pet to a college campus and then ask the admissions office staff to keep an eye on it while you go on a college tour? Let's just say this won't win you any love from the admissions staff.
Tune in to #CampusChat on Twitter tonight at 9PM Eastern (8CT, 7 MT, 6 PT) for more great parenting tips on WHAT NOT TO DO when you visit campus. Your kid will thank you and Admissions will love you.
All of the tips I'll share come from real experiences by admissions professionals. So join us tonight. The best (or worst) is yet to come!
Whine At 9 takes on Kids, College Tours & College Admissions
Dr. Nancy Berk, co-founder of Whine At 9, a free, weekly audio podcast featuring where whining is OK! This week, Nancy takes on parenting and the college admissions process.
Nancy recently co-hosted CampusChat where we all got to whine about kids, college tours and college admissions. One of my favorite tweets by Nancy during the chat was:
@nancyberk: Helicopters never die, they just babysit.
For all the <helicopter> parents who may be reading this, there are more great whines in the transcript as well as more info about Nancy in the links below: