100 episodes

NYCollegeChat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college options hosted by Regina Paul and Marie Segares. NYCollegeChat is a program of Policy Studies in Education, a non-profit organization with over 40 years of success in engaging parents and school boards in K-12 education. For more information, including detailed show notes with links to all the colleges mentioned in each episode, visit http://nycollegechat.org/.

Connect with us! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter as NYCollegeChat. Contact us with questions at 516-900-NYCC or info@policystudies.org.

USACollegeChat Podcast Regina Paul and Marie Segares for Policy Studies in Education

    • Kids & Family

NYCollegeChat is a weekly podcast for parents and high school students about the world of college options hosted by Regina Paul and Marie Segares. NYCollegeChat is a program of Policy Studies in Education, a non-profit organization with over 40 years of success in engaging parents and school boards in K-12 education. For more information, including detailed show notes with links to all the colleges mentioned in each episode, visit http://nycollegechat.org/.

Connect with us! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter as NYCollegeChat. Contact us with questions at 516-900-NYCC or info@policystudies.org.

    Episode 177: Why the College’s Cost Matters

    Episode 177: Why the College’s Cost Matters

    Well, we are just about done. We are on Step 14, the final step in researching colleges on your son or daughter’s LLCO (that is, one last time, the Long List of College Options). And, one last reminder: Feel free to rush online and get our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students (available at Amazon). It’s a steal at $9.95! 
    Step 14 is, to many people, the most important step and even the only step. I find it ironic that we would end our podcast--for now--on this note and that we would give our last piece of advice about college cost. Why? Because cost is the thing I care about least in helping your kid find a great college. Perhaps it is because I do believe that where there is a will, there is a way. Perhaps it is because borrowing money for college is not something that I find offensive--since I can’t think of a better reason to borrow some. Perhaps it is because I know that college can be a once-in-a-lifetime chance--one chance to do it exactly right. Of course, you can come back to college as an adult and be very successful; but why wait, if you could have made it work right at 18? Perhaps it is because I want every kid to get the best possible start in life and because I believe that a great college choice is that best possible start. Well, enough about me.
    We hope that college cost is not the most important step for YOU when deciding where your son or daughter should apply, especially because it is very hard to predict what financial aid you might be able to get from a college, from your state government, from the federal government, and from outside organizations. It is also true that financial aid at a good private college on your kid’s LLCO could make that college as affordable as any good public university on the LLCO. But that is something you won’t know before you apply. We understand that paying attention to cost might be a sensible thing to do; it’s just not the only thing.
    1. Tuition and Fees Finding and understanding tuition and fees on a college website isn’t always as easy as you might expect. College Navigator offers a straightforward table of college costs, but it will be for the preceding year--and not for next year, which is what will matter to you.
    And by the way, some college websites display tuition and fees separately, while some provide one combined figure. Try to use a combined tuition-plus-fees figure for each college so that the figures will be comparable from college to college.
    Furthermore, some websites display information by term (e.g., by semester, by quarter), while others display information for the full academic year. Make sure you know which you are reading! For example, remember to multiply by 2, if the information you see is for just one semester. (I have actually made that mistake and wondered why the numbers seemed too good to be true!) 
    Question 50 asks students to jot down the tuition and fees for the current academic year or, if possible, for the next academic year, and to record the year, too (so you know exactly what you are dealing with).
    2. Tuition Incentives Remember that some colleges have attractive and even compelling tuition incentives, which they will proudly announce on their websites. For example, some colleges freeze tuition for four years at the price a student starts with as a freshman. Some colleges allow students to take an extra semester for free if the college is at fault for not offering, on an accessible enough schedule, all of the courses needed to graduate on time in four years. Some colleges provide generous discounts to students from contiguous states or to students in the region (like the West or the Midwest or New England). It makes sense to see whether each college on your kid’s LLCO has any tuition discount that could help you at any point in your kid’s undergraduate years. Question

    • 11 min
    Episode 176: Why the College’s Admissions Practices Matter--Obviously

    Episode 176: Why the College’s Admissions Practices Matter--Obviously

    Well, this is where it gets serious. Researching Step 13 will give you and your son or daughter an idea about how likely it is that he or she will be accepted by a college. Of course, no one can say for sure whether your kid’s grades or admission test scores or extracurricular and community service activities or letters of recommendation will be appealing enough to get him or her admitted to a particular college. But several academic hurdles might turn out to be what stands between your kid and one or more colleges on his or her LLCO (that famous Long List of College Options). Your kid will need to use both each college’s website and College Navigator to research this crucial topic and to answer Questions 40 through 49 on admission practices.   Just to remind you, these steps are based on our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students (for further information, get one at Amazon).
    While we could talk for days about admissions practices and while many consultants and their websites do only that, we will keep it brief for now. Let’s start with one complication in researching this topic, as we explained to students in the workbook:
    You need to figure out whether the data you are examining are for “admitted” students or for “enrolled freshmen.” These two groups are obviously not the same because many students who are admitted to a college do not actually enroll. Since you are trying to figure out whether you will be admitted, using “admitted” student data, when available, is probably the better choice; however, either set of data will give you an idea of the caliber of the applicants a college accepts.
    Start by looking up the colleges on your LLCO on College Navigator and going to the Admissions section of the college profile. These data will be for “enrolled first-time students.” Helpful data are presented clearly in this section.
    Then check each college’s website. Some colleges do a great job of presenting data on admitted students or enrolled freshmen, and others simply do not. Some colleges make it easy by providing a page of facts and figures about the new freshman class--sometimes called a Class Profile (of students who enrolled) or an Admitted Student Profile (of students who were admitted, but did not necessarily enroll). However, it is not always easy to locate this page (though it is often in the Admission section of the website). If you can find the common data set on the website, you will want to look under the third part: C. First-Time, First-Year (Freshman) Admission.
    Question 40 asks students to check off whether the data they will be using are for admitted students or for enrolled freshmen. In a few cases, it might be both. Remember to try to use comparable data when comparing colleges. For a more detailed discussion about where to find each piece of data we are going to discuss now, check out the workbook.
    1. Acceptance Rate Let’s start with a college’s acceptance rate. Here is what we said in the workbook:
    One way to judge the selectivity of a college is by looking at the number of students it accepts compared to the number of students who applied. Let’s call this “acceptance rate.” You should understand that, generally speaking, colleges like to boast that they have a low acceptance rate; that makes them feel more exclusive. There are many ways for a college to manipulate its acceptance rate, such as by encouraging applicants who are really not qualified and who will be rejected when they apply--a practice that is just as mean-spirited as it sounds. There have even been some news stories, opinion columns, and general criticism lately of colleges that seem overly impressed with their own super-low acceptance rates--say, below 10 percent.
    Without looking too closely at small differences in acceptance rates (like the difference in

    • 20 min
    Episode 175: Why the College’s Activities and Sports Matter

    Episode 175: Why the College’s Activities and Sports Matter

    Well, listeners, the end is in sight. Today is Step 12 out of the 14 steps we want your son or daughter to take this summer to make his or her search for colleges more effective. Just to repeat, these steps are based on our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students (there is one with your name on it waiting at Amazon).
    Step 12 asks your son or daughter to investigate what the colleges on his or her LLCO (that’s his or her Long List of College Options) have to offer outside of the classroom--extracurricular activities, community service activities, fraternities and sororities, and intercollegiate and intramural sports. These activities that help enrich students’ lives outside of the classroom can make the difference between a great college experience and a just-okay college experience for lots of kids. Tell your son or daughter to go to each college’s website to answer Questions 35 through 39 on activities and sports.
    1. Extracurricular Activities Let’s start with extracurricular activities--something that a lot of you will soon know a lot about since you will be facing questions about high school extracurricular activities on college applications. This is what we said to students in the workbook:
    Many of you participated in extracurricular activities in high school. Some of you did that because you really enjoyed the activities, and some of you did that because you thought it would help you get into a good college. Whatever your reasons were in high school, extracurricular activities in college will increase your network of friends, give you something worthwhile to do in your free time, give your mind a break from academics, and possibly lead to a career or to a hobby that could last a lifetime. College is truly more than academics.
    When we did our virtual college tour [feel free to review Episode 27 through Episode 53 of USACollegeChat], it was astounding to us just how many activities are available on most college campuses, and it seemed clear that a student could start a club for almost any purpose that interested him or her if such a club did not already exist. It was not uncommon to find that large universities had literally hundreds and hundreds of student activities and clubs--truly, something for everyone. There is everything you had in high school, plus so much more--theater groups, music groups, newspapers, yearbooks, literary magazines, student government organizations, agricultural organizations, engineering associations, honor societies, and so on...
    Don’t underestimate the importance of activities--either now in high school or later in college. Keep in mind that some college applications ask you to write an essay about your most important high school activity and that many college applications ask you whether you plan to continue with your various activities once you get to college. It’s a good idea to say “yes.”
    Question 35 on our College Profile Worksheet asks students to jot down how many extracurricular activities each college on their LLCO offers and to list some that they are interested in.
    2. Community Service Activities Question 36 on our College Profile Worksheet asks students the same question about community service activities. In the workbook, we wrote this to students (and see the workbook for some great examples):
    Many of you participated in community service activities in high school. Some of you did that because you really enjoyed the activities, some of you did that because your high school required it, and some of you did that because you thought it would help you get into a good college. Whatever your reasons were in high school, community service activities in college will increase your network of friends, give you something worthwhile to do in your free time, give your mind a break from academics, and possibly lead to a caree

    • 14 min
    Episode 174: Why the College’s Security Measures Matter

    Episode 174: Why the College’s Security Measures Matter

    Today is Step 11 out of the 14 steps we want your son or daughter to take this summer to make his or her search for colleges more effective. As you know by now, these steps are based on our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students (get one at Amazon ASAP).
    Step 11 brings us to the safety of students on campus and the security measures that a college takes to keep its students safe. Parents: Getting information about security measures on campus is one way to help alleviate your concerns about letting your son or daughter go away to college and live on campus. Information can be found on each college’s website and from College Navigator for answering Questions 32, 33, and 34 on our College Profile Worksheet. You will also notice and definitely hear about security measures if you visit a college and take a campus tour.
    Before we go on, let’s say a word to those of you who plan to have your son or daughter commute to campus from home. Safety is an issue for your family, too. You will still need to pay attention to all of the security measures on campus, but you will also have to worry about the convenience and safety of the commute.
    As we said last week in our episode on campus housing, what about commuters’ late-night trips home after a meeting on campus or a late class or studying in the library? What about the safety of getting to a remote parking lot to get in the car or the safety of waiting for 20 minutes or more on a subway platform or on an empty street for a public bus? What about commuting in bad weather, especially in snowstorms, when a college campus might close down unexpectedly and public transportation is snarled? Safety issues might be even more important for commuters than for residential students, and the college cannot be responsible for the safety of your kid’s commute once he or she leaves the campus.
    1. Security Measures Question 32 asks students to check off the types of security measures offered on campus by each college on their LLCO (that, is, their Long List of College Options). Here’s what we said about security measures in the workbook for students:
    If you are going to live on campus and you have a chance to visit a campus housing facility, notice whether there is an adult uniformed security guard with a sign-in and sign-out book at the entrance of that residential facility. Ask whether the security guard is there 24 hours a day. We know that many college students find these security guards to be a bit annoying, and we know that this amount of supervision is one reason some students prefer to move into off-campus housing after the freshman year. But, we can also tell you that parents love seeing those security guards at the entrances to residential facilities, and we don’t blame them.
    Obviously, uniformed guards provide a higher level of security than a reception desk staffed by students who are working part-time jobs or work-study jobs. Some colleges, in fact, do not have anyone at all on duty to monitor the flow of people in and out of residential facilities; students just go in and out with their own keys or cards.
    Whether you are on a campus tour or reading about a college on a website, look for daytime and nighttime security measures like these:
    Shuttle buses or vans to take students from one part of campus to another, especially when the campus is big
    Blue-light call boxes on recognizable stand-alone towers with a blue light on top, which are placed along walkways, in parking lots, or in distant parts of the campus and which let a student in trouble call for help instantly (some are also outfitted with cameras, sirens, and broadcast systems to alert students nearby or to provide more information for the police or security guards)
    Students who serve as walking escorts from building to building or from buildings to the parking lots a

    • 9 min
    Episode 173: Why the College’s Housing Matters

    Episode 173: Why the College’s Housing Matters

    Well, we are up to Step 10 out of the 14 steps of your kid’s summer homework. So far, so good. Keep checking our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students for further detail and more examples (it’s still available at Amazon).
    Step 10 calls for your son or daughter to investigate on-campus housing options, which could make some difference in where to apply and where to enroll if you are planning for him or her to live in college housing. Some students, of course, will be commuting to campus, so these questions might seem less important; however, plans change, so housing is still worth a look--both freshman housing and upperclassman housing.
    By the way, there are some colleges where the majority of students live in campus housing well past the freshman year, including colleges that actually have a multiple-year housing requirement. What are all those colleges--and their students--thinking? So, send your son or daughter to each college’s website to answer Questions 28 through 31 on this topic.
    1. Freshman Housing Requirement Question 28 asks students to check off whether each college on their LLCO (that, is, their Long List of College Options) requires freshmen to live in on-campus housing. Why would there be a freshman housing requirement, you might ask? Here’s what we wrote to students just like your son or daughter:
    Let us start by saying that we think you should live on campus as a freshman if at all possible, given whatever financial constraints your family has. As a matter of fact, many colleges actually require it--for both good and not-so-good reasons.
    A really good reason is that living together in campus housing (whether that means traditional dorms or residential “houses” or something else) does promote a kind of camaraderie among students that is hard to develop any other way. Living in close proximity to others in your same situation often provides a system of support and friendship that many kids at college want and need--whether that comes from studying late into the evening/morning together or eating together or walking back and forth to classes together or meeting each other’s friends and just hanging out together. Perhaps a not-so-good reason, though an understandable one from a college’s point of view, is that colleges need to fill those dorm rooms and bring in the revenue that comes from filling them.
    The importance of living on campus is similar to the importance of going away to college, in our opinion. Both provide you with a way to spread your wings in a relatively safe and protected environment before you are ready to be completely on your own. Living in campus housing requires you to figure out how to eat, study, do laundry, clean up, sleep enough, and manage money--without having to deal with the safety and transportation and utilities issues that come with off-campus housing and without the comparative ease of living at home.
    So, even if you are going to a college in your hometown or within commuting distance of home, try to live on campus--especially if you can afford it, but even if you need to use scholarship funds or loans to cover it. Why? Because it is an integral part of the college experience--especially if you are attending a college close to home.
    2. Types of College Housing If you have visited any colleges so far in your search, you probably already know that not all residential facilities are created equal when it comes to attractiveness, comfort, convenience, supervision, and security. But prospective students should also remember to think about what residential life will be like not only as freshmen, but also as upperclassmen with more and/or different housing options, including apartments nearby, but off campus, and perhaps fraternity and sorority houses.
    The residential facilities that a college provides are usually wel

    • 14 min
    Episode 172: Why the College’s Schedule Matters

    Episode 172: Why the College’s Schedule Matters

    Today’s episode is about Step 9 of your kid’s summer homework. All 14 steps are being explained in our series of episodes this summer and have been explained, with more examples and details, in our workbook How To Explore Your College Options: A Workbook for High School Students. Workbooks are still available from Amazon if you want one for your son or daughter.
    Step 9 looks at the components that make up the college schedule. For many colleges, these questions will produce a rather traditional response, something like this: a fall semester and a spring semester, each running about 15 weeks. There will also be a summer term or two, and there might even be a super-short winter term between the regular terms. But there are also innovative scheduling options that your son or daughter has probably never heard of and might find attractive. Tell your kid to go to each college’s website to answer the three questions on this topic. 
    1. Term Length and Course Length First, let’s talk about the length of academic terms and, therefore, of college courses. They might be more varied than you think. This is what we wrote, in part, to students in the workbook:
    Some students like to study something over many weeks because that allows them time for calm reflection and for breaks every once in a while. Other students like to study something over a shorter time period because that keeps them better engaged and focused and allows less time for forgetting. Some students can do very well when asked to concentrate on subjects or projects intensively in short bursts, but have trouble sustaining interest and attention over longer time frames. Other students are just the opposite.
    Whatever your preference is, there is a college for you. You might not want to make college schedule the main reason for choosing a college, but you might find that it contributes to your thinking about how successful and comfortable you might be at a particular college. On the other hand, you might find a college schedule so intriguing that the schedule alone could push a college to the top of your list of options.
    Many colleges operate on a traditional fall and spring semester system, with each semester’s lasting from 15 to 18 weeks, depending how you count exam and holiday weeks. There are two semesters each year, and you attend both and take the summer off. . . .
    Some colleges operate on a trimester system (three terms a year) or a quarter system (four terms a year), and each college determines how long the terms run and how many you attend in a year.
    And then there are colleges that run shorter terms in which students take just three courses at a time instead of the traditional four or five and colleges that run courses of various lengths at the same time in the same semester. Parents: Chances are that college schedules are a lot more varied than you and your son or daughter thought.
    Questions 25 and 26 ask your kid to jot down how many weeks courses last (keeping in mind that courses might run different lengths of time at a college) and to check off whether each college on the LLCO (that is, your son or daughter’s Long List of College Options) uses semesters, trimesters, quarters, or something else.
    2. Innovative Options What might that something else be? Well, for example, Colorado College has a unique Block Plan, where students take all of their courses on a one-at-a-time schedule, with each course about three and a half weeks long and taught typically from 9:00 a.m. to noon each weekday. That schedule is so intriguing to me that I would like to go back to college myself.
    Innovative scheduling options also come from universities that want to make room for significant cooperative (co-op) work experiences--meaning that students study full time in most terms, but then work full time in one or more terms in order to gain important job experience.

    • 10 min

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