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Quick Facts: School & Career Counselors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes some quick facts about Counselors that should be of interest:

What School and Career Counselors Do

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Career counselors help people choose careers and follow a path to employment. As of 2016 it is estimated there were 291,700 Counselors nationwide.

Work Environment

School counselors work in public and private schools. Career counselors work in colleges, career centers, and private practices. Both types of counselors generally work full time.

How to Become a School or Career Counselor

Most school counselors need a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors. 

Pay

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $56,310 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing school enrollments is expected to lead to employment growth of these workers.

What did college cost when you graduated high school?

We are all aware of the tuition and fee increases that have taken place over the past 50 years that have made going to college an expensive proposition for most of your students and their parents. Outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion in 2018 – second only to mortgage debt – doubling over the past decade. Fox Business News recently published an overview of what college cost from the 1970’s to current.

How much has the cost of college changed? GOBankingRates determined the cost of college by high school graduation year, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and College Board.

Overall, costs – adjusted for inflation – increased more than 386 percent for public four-year institutions, and 285 percent for private four-year institutions between 1964 and 2019. When inflation is not accounted for, those percentages rise to 3,819 percent and 2,988 percent, respectively.

Here’s a look at the findings:

1970-1971

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $405

Private four-year institution: $1,792

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $2,697

Private four-year institution: $11,933

1975-1976

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $540

Private four-year institution: $2,290

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $2,609

Private four-year institution: $11,064

1980-1981

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $800

Private four-year institution: $3,620

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $2,588

Private four-year institution: $11,712

1985-1986

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $1,320

Private four-year institution: $6,120

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $3,149

Private four-year institution: $14,602

1990-1991

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $1,910

Private four-year institution: $9,340

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $3,774

Private four-year institution: $18,454

1995-1996

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $2,810

Private four-year institution: $12,220

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $4,706

Private four-year institution: $20,465

2000-2001

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $3,510

Private four-year institution: $16,070

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $5,234

Private four-year institution: $23,963

2005-2006

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $5,490

Private four-year institution: $20,980

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $7,246

Private four-year institution: $27,962

2010-2011

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $7,630

Private four-year institution: $26,770

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $8,863

Private four-year institution: $31,097

2015-2016

Cost at the time

Public four-year institution: $9,150

Private four-year institution: $31,280

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $10,157

Private four-year institution: $34,832

2018-2019

Inflation-adjusted costs

Public four-year institution: $10,339

Private four-year institution: $36,386

What to look for when hiring a college consultant?

A consultant should help reduce anxiety for parents and students during the college admissions process.

U.S. News & World Report recently published an article that can help Counselors point parents in the right direction when they see the need to hire an independent counselor. Despite all the negative publicity the recent college admissions scandal is giving to the industry most independent counselors are very good and bring a lot of value to parents that need extra help.

Operation Varsity Blues, as the FBI dubbed it, is the college admissions scandal heard around the world.

The alleged bribery scheme to help the children of wealthy parents get into elite institutions ensnared Hollywood actresses, business moguls and college coaches accused of helping rig the system by creating a “side door” into schools, circumventing the normal admissions process. Working with an independent college counselor, parents allegedly tried to gain an edge by having students admitted as athletes – despite not playing sports – and changing their standardized test scores.

Now the scandal has cast college consulting in a negative light, prompting some professionals to call for a recommitment to ethics in the industry.

“This is an unfortunate example of the lengths to which people will go to circumvent and manipulate the college admission process, particularly to gain admission to highly selective colleges,” Stefanie Niles, National Association for College Admission Counseling president and vice president for enrollment and communications at Ohio Wesleyan University, said in a news release.

The scandal prompted similar criticism from others in the space. American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers Executive Director Michael Reilly said in a statement, “This behavior compromises the integrity of college admissions and reinforces stereotypes that people of privilege can circumvent the rules. It undermines public confidence in our institutions.”

As its moment in the spotlight arrives, the college consulting industry is booming both domestically and internationally.

Data from the Independent Educational Consultant Association, a nonprofit professional organization, show a 400 percent increase in domestic independent educational consultants since 2005. In that same time, the number of international consultants grew by 1,000 percent.

To Mark Sklarow, IECA chief executive officer, this is the most explosive scandal he’s seen in the admissions world since he began working with the nonprofit 25 years ago. The actions taken by the educational consultant at the center of the Varsity Blues case are in direct contrast to IECA ethics, which specifically bar admission guarantees and emphasize truthful, accurate application materials.

“We want to make sure that if a family hires a member of our association, that they’re really knowledgeable, well trained, ethical, competent, all the things that you would expect,” Sklarow says. He adds that in the absence of state licensure for independent educational consultants, IECA has adopted that role of arbiter, setting standards and practices.

For parents planning to hire an independent educational consultant, Sklarow has advice on what to look for.

First he suggests that families find a counselor who reduces, rather than raises, their collective anxiety about college admissions. Consultants, he says, should help families understand and explore their many college options. The focus, he adds should “not be about getting in” but rather on graduating, with an emphasis on what is best for the student over school prestige.

And when it comes to admission guarantees, Sklarow tells parents to be wary because “it’s impossible to make the guarantee.”

Sklarow also advises parents to look for consultants who have a background in counseling or academic advising. It’s also important, he says, to hire a consultant who has familiarity with college campuses, someone who has visited the grounds and met with staff.

When it comes to warning signs, one in particular jumps out.

“I think a red flag is somebody who just doesn’t belong to a national (college counseling) organization,” Sklarow says. If a consultant is not part of a group such as IECA or NACAC, Sklarow asks, “why would somebody enter this field and stay away from being vetted?”

It’s important, he says, that the consultant has had a background check, especially if the individual works one-on-one with high school students. Sklarow suggests that parents vet consultants themselves through, at minimum, a thorough online search. IECA members undergo a background check as part of the membership application.

At the same time the college consulting industry has boomed, counselors in public high schools have been spread thin. Nationally, the student-to-counselor ratio was 482 to 1 from 2004-2014, according to a NACAC report compiled using data from the National Center for Education Statistics. The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 students for every counselor.

When families turn to college consultants for guidance, it can often be expensive. According to IECA data, the average hourly fee for a consultant in 2017 was $200. A quarter of consultants charge more than $200 per hour while 15 percent charge less. Comprehensive package fees can range from a low of $850 up to a high of $10,000.

For a family with limited resources, hiring a college consultant can be a significant cost. But Sklarow says families may not always need comprehensive services and that perhaps a few hours with a consultant can provide the start they need. And while the average hourly fee is $200, IECA data show that some consultants charge as low as $85 – enough, Sklarow says, to get started.

“When you think about the cost of college, it’s pretty reasonable to put that money upfront to get you started in the right direction,” Sklarow says.

He adds that families also can access free resources on the IECA website and that many members do some pro bono work.

Free advising services also can be found in the form of nonprofits. According to the nonprofit National College Access Network, more than 2 million students across the country are served by its 450-plus member organizations.

“It is free for students, because we know that these underrepresented students, first-generation students may not have adults in their home who have been through this process to guide and advise them through it, let alone have the funds to hire the professionals to do those things,” says Zenia M. Henderson, director of member and partner engagement at National College Access Network.

A member directory showing a breakdown of organizations by states is available on the NCAN website.

When it comes to applying for college, Sklarow says parents and the consultant should remember it’s all about the student.

While parents should be involved in the college process, their role is to help provide guidance but also to stay out of the way, he says. Though they can offer help in ways such as suggesting essay topics and brainstorming with the student, they shouldn’t take over the process. Nor should the college consultant complete work for the student that will be passed off as his or her own material.

The role of parents in the college admissions process was the topic of focus in a recent report from the Make Caring Common Project led by Faculty Director Rick Weissbourd, who also serves as a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.

The report – coincidentally released around the same time Operation Varsity Blues was revealed – touches on ethical parenting in college admissions. Even as the author of a report on parental ethics in admissions, Weissbourd says he was stunned by the scandal.

“I was really surprised at how mind-bogglingly dumb and unethical it was, quite frankly,” he says.

Tips in the report include using the admissions process to teach ethics, having authentic conversations among families, and encouraging students to be grateful for the opportunity to attend college and those who helped them get there.

Weissbourd adds that while it’s easy to see how those caught up in the college admissions scandal acted in a fraudulent manner, parents should also consider the ethics of behavior such as exaggerating community service hours or writing a teen’s essay.

“This is a real time to be a moral mentor for your kids and model how not to do those things, to send a message to your kids that you can’t just do what’s convenient or what serves your interest. You’ve got to think of the collective good and think about fairness,” Weissbourd says.

Josh Moody, Reporter U.S. News & World Report

Josh Moody has covered college admissions and international education for U.S. News since 2018. Prior to joining U.S. News he blogged about higher ed trends for Forbes.com and reported on K-12 and higher education, as well as local government, natural disasters and crime for The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Virginia. He began his career as an education reporter for the Kearney Hub in central Nebraska, covering the University of Nebraska—Kearney. Moody is a graduate of the University of Nebraska—Kearney, where he studied journalism and political science.

What’s the Purpose of College?

Many Americans have begun to ask whether college is worth it. And who’s to blame them? With college tuition rising at astronomical levels, it’s reasonable to think prospective consumers will do a more careful “return on investment” calculation. But instead of asking whether it’s worth it, we’d be better off asking a different question: what’s the purpose of college? Without nailing this answer, it’s impossible to discern whether it will be or was worth it. Even more importantly, being clear about the purpose of college also helps us make the most of it.

The problem is that our national narrative about “college” has created a decidedly false dichotomy between the two primarily professed purposes of college. There is the camp that says college is about preparing a person for work – to help them get a good or better job. In fact, this is by far the most commonly cited reason for why Americans value higher education – to get a good job. The other camp says college is about more broadly preparing a person for success in life – to be an engaged and enlightened citizen capable of thinking critically and communicating clearly, ultimately able to thrive in their well-being. Make no mistake, many of us see the purpose of college as both a job-driven and a life-driven purpose. But our dialogue is horribly stuck in the muck of an either/or debate on these two fronts.

It’s time to end the either/or debate and embrace the reality that college’s purpose is both. College is about both preparing people for a job (and helping them advance their careers and earnings) and to thrive in their overall lives. Findings from a Gallup-Bates College study released today give us convincing evidence of the importance of both/and – as well as point us toward an improved framework for thinking about the purpose of college. What if the purpose of college is finding one’s own, individual purpose? And what if achieving this is critically linked to finding purposeful work? Here are the study highlights:

  • Eighty percent of college graduates say it’s important to derive a sense of purpose from their work.
  • Yet, only 38% of graduates strongly agree they have discovered work that has a satisfying purpose.
  • For graduates with low levels of purpose in their work, only 6% are thriving in their overall well-being. But graduates with high purpose in their work are ten times more likely to be thriving in their well-being (59%)!
  • The top two drivers of a graduate achieving purpose in their work are whether they had an applied job or internship and someone who encouraged their goals and dreams during college.
  • These findings are true for all generations of graduates, but especially true for Millennials who are more likely to derive purpose from their work than other sources and in looking back on their college experience are more likely to regret not having had real-life work experiences.
  • Finally, graduates who are reflective are 67% more likely to have purposeful work.

What does all this tell us?  It tells us that graduates value both purpose and work – and in fact, find the most purpose in and from work. It tells us that we still have a lot of room for improvement in helping graduates achieve purposeful work. It tells us that if you care about one’s well-being, you’d be smart to help them find purposeful work – because that boosts their odds of thriving by ten times. It tells us there are two very, very important aspects of college that we should ensure no graduate misses the mark on: applied work experience and faculty, staff, and students who embrace a culture of caring about one another’s goals and dreams. And it tells us that a classically liberal arts element of college (teaching students how to be reflective) is powerfully linked to their job success.

What more do we need to end the silly debate about the purpose of college as job training vs. life training? If we view it too narrowly as job training, we miss the purposeful elements that bring work to life. And if we view it too broadly as life preparation, we lose focus on the single most important aspect of bringing life to it’s fullest through work. Work is not just about a paycheck; it’s also about a purpose. Helping graduates achieve purposeful work may indeed be the purpose of college.

If we want to answer the question of whether college is worth it, we need to start by asking “what is the purpose of college?” Reflecting on that may very well be the key to unlocking the next era of higher education, economic and well-being prosperity for our nation.

Brandon Busteed is a Forbes Contributor and is President of Kaplan University Partners and former Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development at Gallup. This blog was published on Forbes.com.

Having the “Right” Parent Sign the Application Could Mean Big Savings on Parent Plus Loans

Parent PLUS Loans have always been an expensive option for financing a child’s college education. They come with an interest rate that is higher that many private loans and an origination fee of over 4 percent for every new loan. But thanks to rules that went into effect more than 10 years ago, they also offer income-driven payment options and forgiveness plans that can free parents from unwieldy debt.

These rules, which went into effect on July 1, 2007, can make these loans a godsend for parents who will be near retirement when all of their children are out of college, when one parent earns much less than the other, or when one parent has a disability or chronic illness. Unfortunately, as many as 80 percent of parents know very little about these provisions. That’s a problem, because parents can only take advantage of them if the right parent signs the loan.

Who Should Sign?

The 2007 rules have made it possible for parents to consolidate their loans under the Direct Consolidation Loan Program. It’s under this program that parents can pay back their loan under an income-driven repayment plan called the Income Contingent Repayment plan, or ICR. In addition to lowering monthly payments, ICR provides for loan forgiveness after 25 years or, if one parent is working for a non-profit organization, in as few as 10 years.

 Here’s the catch: the provision applies to the parent who signed the loan. That’s why it’s important to understand the full scope of regulations about Parent PLUS Loans before signing on the dotted line.

Many parents assume that both of their incomes are taken into account for loan repayment, but that’s not the case with Parent PLUS Loans. ICR can be applied to one parent’s income—the one who signed for the loan. That’s why it’s to the parents’ advantage to have the parent with the lowest income or who will be working for a non-profit when it comes time to pay back the loan sign for it.

Figuring Out Payments

ICR payments are based on 20 percent of the parent’s income. While that might sound high, what makes this loan workable is that the 20 percent is calculated based on a parent’s discretionary income, which is lower than gross or even adjusted gross income. And remember, we are only talking about the parent who signed for the loan.

To calculate discretionary income, deduct the current poverty guideline (currently $16,960) for a family of two. from the parent’s adjusted gross income. Note that discretionary income also excludes the untaxed portion of social security and all other untaxed income.

So let’s look at how this can work. If the person who signed for the loan is only making $15,000 annually at a part-time job, receiving another $15,000 in untaxed social security and taking distributions of $70,000 from a ROTH IRA (for a total of $100,000), there would be zero payments required on the Parent Plus Loan until the time it is forgiven.

Who Can Take Out a Parent PLUS Loan?

Eligibility for a Parent PLUS Loan does not depend on the borrower’s credit scores or debt-to-income ratios. However, the borrower of a Parent PLUS Loan must not have an adverse credit history.

An adverse credit history may include:

a current delinquency of 90 or more days on more than $2,085 in total debt;

more than $2,085 in total debt in collections or charged off in the past two years (before the date of the credit report); or

default, bankruptcy discharge, foreclosure, repossession, tax lien, wage garnishment, or write-off of federal student loan debt in the past five years (before the date of the credit report).

If a parent has an adverse credit history, the parent can still borrow from the Parent PLUS Loan program if they submit a successful appeal for an exceptional circumstance, or if they use an endorser (cosigner) who does not have an adverse credit history.

Some Notes on Loan Discharge

Although income tax will be due on the amount forgiven under the 25-year repayment program, other discharge provisions are more attractive. There is no tax due when the loan is forgiven in 10 years for a parent working for a non-profit. In addition, if the parent who signed for the loan dies or is permanently disabled, the loan is discharged with no debt passed on to the parent’s spouse or other heirs.

What if the rules change? If the rules change prior to a parent’s first loan disbursement, they will be bound by the new rules. If the rules change after their first loan disbursement, they will be grandfathered into the rules in place at the time of their first disbursement.

More to Consider

The rules regarding Parent PLUS Loans are complicated, so parents should make sure they do their due diligence before they sign. And while the loans are a great option for some families, they are not for everyone. A family’s financial profile, where they have placed their retirement income and a parent’s age are among the factors families need to consider before taking out a loan. Finally, anyone who will require loans of $100,000 or more should only enter into the program with the help and guidance of a financial adviser or competent parent loan specialist.

Parent PLUS Loans can be a great option for some families, the key is to know the facts before you sign.

Matt Grzetich, of My College Planning Team in the Chicago area, received his BA in Organizational and Corporate Communications from Northern Illinois University.  He has over 10 years of experience in assisting families understand the enrollment and financial aid process within higher education.   He specializes in FAFSA, the appeals process, reviewing award letters and Title IV Funding options. Matt is passionate about helping families understand the financial aid process and navigate the most cost-efficient options to pay for college.

Email: mycollegeplanningteam@gmail.com

The cost of taking the SAT and ACT, explained

The SAT’s baseline price is $47.50 and the ACT’s is $50.50. Where does that money go?

It costs a lot of money to get into college. There’s the cost of high school extracurriculars and test prep, all the things that are supposed to give a student a better shot at getting into the “best” school. There’s trips to visit potential schools to prove that your student is deeply interested in attending. There’s bribery for “side door” acceptance, if you’re into that sort of thing. But even if you don’t spend thousands on upping your potential to get into college, there’s one cost that is basically unavoidable: the cost of taking the SAT or ACT.

The SAT (formerly standing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, now just SAT) and ACT (originally American College Testing) are standardized tests that are functionally mandatory for admission at many colleges across the country, from elite universities to community college. Currently, it costs $47.50 to take the SAT ($64.50 with the Essay portion), and $22 for each of the SAT subject tests, not including the $26 registration fee. The ACT costs $50.50 ($67 with the Writing portion), and for each test there are extra costs for late registration. Advanced Placement (AP) tests cost $94. Fee waivers are available, but considering most college counselors suggest students take these tests multiple times, odds are many students and their families are paying hundreds of dollars just to be considered, turning college testing into a billion dollar industry.

Recently, these tests made the news again in the college admissions scandal centered around “counselor” William “Rick” Singer. Part of this particular scam involved bribed proctors either allowing professionals to take these tests in place of students, or editing the test results before sending them in. And thus, a decades-old conversation about bias and corruption in college testing — and whether the SAT and ACT should exist at all — was given a shot of adrenaline.

The college testing industry is run by two nonprofits: the College Board, which develops the SAT, PSAT, and AP curriculum, and ACT Inc., which administers the test of the same name. And for decades, the two have been accused of abusing their nonprofit status by holding a monopoly on college testing and, thus, admission. However, in recent years, more colleges and universities have been deeming these entrance tests optional or entirely unnecessary, often in order to promote a more diverse applicant pool — and to weed out unfair advantages. Even without a crime ring, “Well-to-do people buy their kids all kinds of advantages,” Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “These so-called objective numbers are very easily manipulated in a way that creates a tilted playing field.”

Schools going test-optional, or eliminating them altogether, could mean a huge blow to the big business of testing. Or it could just drastically change the way the system is gamed.

Why the SAT and ACT exist

It’s not difficult to understand how the SAT and ACT became part of America’s college admissions process in the first place. At the turn of the 20th century, when college was effectively just for white men, many schools had their own exams. These had to be taken at the colleges themselves. This would shut out any student who didn’t have the means to travel and result in wildly different tests that were probably inconvenient to prepare for. It also meant that the nearly uniformly white, rich, and male students at elite prep schools basically had a lock on the top universities (yes, that’s still a problem, but we’ll get to it later).

The College Board, founded in 1899, was a group of a dozen colleges (all on the east coast) and a few prep schools that wanted to create one test everyone could use, regardless of background. The group also aimed to standardize what sorts of things high schools would teach to get their students ready for university. The SAT debuted in 1926 out of their efforts. However, the SAT started as an aptitude test, and was criticized for only showing whether students were good at taking the SAT. Enter the ACT, which was developed in 1959 at the University of Iowa, and designed to see if a student had actually learned what they were supposed to learn in 12 years of school. The SAT began to follow suit, and over the decades both tests have gone through overhauls with the goal of being an objective representation of a student’s readiness for college.

It’s an appealing thought, especially given how uneven K-12 education is in America. We know public school funding is based on property tax value, meaning schools in wealthier areas get better funding. We know the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to send your kid to a private school (where grade inflation is more prevalent), or to have access to treatments for learning disabilities, or to be able to afford outside test prep and tutoring, or all the other things that give you a leg up when applying to college. But the SAT/ACT, ideally, could be a great equalizer. “It’s not dependent on how lenient or how harsh the grading standards are in a given high school,” says Professor Daniel Koretz, author of The Testing Charade. “You don’t have the risk that high school teachers are giving inferior grades to certain groups based on bias.” It’s the one thing all admissions officers have that, in theory, means the same thing.

Of course, in practice, that’s not how it works. “The reality that there has been a long-standing and clear racial, gender, and economic bias in both tests is the larger problem,” says one private school teacher in Manhattan (who asked that he not be identified). Some argue that the test itself is inherently biased in terms of how it’s written. Others, like Koretz, say that because the way our public education system is set up, it’s just more likely that poorer and underprivileged kids won’t have the resources to do well. Either way, we wind up with white and Asian students routinely outperforming black and Latinx students on both tests.

Who’s in charge of the SAT and ACT?

The SAT is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) on behalf of College Board, while the ACT is administered by ACT Inc. All three companies are nonprofits, though as Koretz explains, that doesn’t mean they’re altruistic, and many have accused these companies of only caring about their bottom line. According to their last tax return, ETS had a total revenue of $1.4 billion, with their president making $1.1 million. ACT Inc. had a total revenue of just over $353 million, with their CEO/director making $800k. College Board is also in charge of AP curriculum, another large consideration for any college applicant. Both College Board and ACT Inc. also offer test prep materials, from $99 live-streaming study sessions to official study guides. College Board has recently teamed with Khan Academy to provide a lot of free online lessons, but it still stands that this is a business. The SAT and ACT have a stake in remaining a necessary part of any college application.

ETS and ACT Inc. can also impact how colleges see their applicants. “I get literally at least a call a day from some working-class student who busted their butt to increase their SAT or ACT scores, and then have ETS or ACT suspend their scores and accuse them of cheating,” says Andre Green, the executive director of FairTest. “Meanwhile, we find out that rich people are literally buying off proctors and ETS.” ETS claims it’s not a monopoly, saying “there are competitors for most of the testing programs and related products and services we develop,” but the fact is that students can’t get into most schools without taking these tests, and the entire landscape for that test-taking is unfair.

Some argue that, because of this unfairness, college degrees in general are a scam and should not be held in such high regard. But that point of view is easier to hold the more advantages you have. Studies largely show that the more privileged you are, the better off you’re going to be with or without a college degree. According to one study, if you’re black or a woman, regardless of your financial background, getting a college degree ups your chances to earn more, whereas “the differential college earnings premium by family-income background is more evident among men and whites.” Shifting the goalposts from “everyone should have a college degree” to “college is a scam” just keeps the same people in power and privilege. When experts, administrators, and parents argue over testing and admissions, it’s because the stakes are still high.

This is why it’s not necessarily a problem that ETS and ACT Inc. have a hold on the tests, but more that the tests have a hold on admissions. “Let’s say there’s a government-run test. It’s not the manager of the test, it’s the stakes. … When a test is this important, people are going to game the system,” says Green. Students are always looking for ways to prove their competence, so as long as there’s a test that claims to do that, regardless of who runs it, students will take it.

Can these tests be made more equal?

In an effort to combat all the above-board ways students can gain unfair advantages in the SAT and ACT, more than 1,000 colleges are making the tests either optional or entirely not required. Ironically, some of those schools, like Bryn Mawr College and Union College, are the ones that developed the SAT with College Board nearly 100 years ago. It’s a trend many educators are in favor of. “While I do not believe there is any magic fix, I feel that moving to a more portfolio-style admissions process would help the process become more equitable,” says the private school teacher in Manhattan. “Certainly there needs to be academic metrics used to evaluate students; however, we are all more than our scores on tests.”

There are also various efforts to help students navigate the costs of these tests, from teachers and parents starting GoFundMes for test prep, to free test prep offerings from Khan Academy. But the fee waivers offered by College Board, ACT Inc., and the National Association for College Admission Counseling are mostly available to students on government assistance (with the latter allowing for school counselors to argue for students who aren’t). But plenty of students have a hard time paying, regardless. On Reddit, many students have complained about the costs; one was shocked at how much it cost just to register for the SAT subject tests, while another mentioned the cost of taking it internationally (which is almost as much as the test itself) is as much as some teachers in their country make in a month.

Green argues “the best way to measure someone’s work … is to look at their prior work. … So rather than trying to establish some crazy predictive which we know is a little biased, we should look at a students prior performance.” However, Koretz says transcripts can be just as biased as test scores, and that most universities just don’t have the staff to keep track of which schools have less funding, inflated grades, more AP offerings, and all the other things that influence what a student’s B+ average or 3.4 GPA actually means.

There probably could stand to be more attention paid to actual high school transcripts and histories. That way, admissions officers may have seen that the students involved in the Singer scandal were not actually star athletes. But the troubling fact behind college admissions, ETS, and College Board or not, is that no one really knows how to predict how high school students will do in college. Though one study, sponsored by College Board, says SAT scores are an important predictor of college performance, other studies say SAT scores aren’t a good predictor of freshman GPAs. And freshman GPAs aren’t necessarily a good predictor of college performance or adult success or happiness or fulfillment or likelihood that a graduate will give back to the school. And no matter what, admissions officers just can’t get to know every single applicant.

Right now, college admissions depend a lot on two somewhat pricey tests controlled by two nonprofits. But doing away with their stronghold on the tests won’t do away with biased teachers, uneven public school funding, privilege, or class. But a hard truth for many students and parents to absorb is that there are no guarantees.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no use in trying to make things as equitable as possible. If colleges are going to require the SAT/ACT, perhaps they’d like to think of paying for them, or making them free, or hell, making college free. $64.50 is a little easier to bear when you’re not going to be in debt for the rest of your life.

This story was written by Jaya Saxena on Vox. They have some great content so check them out. Here is a link to their site: https://www.vox.com/

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7 Considerations to make when transferring schools

Numerous students transfer to another college and complete their degree program each year. Wanting to be closer to home, changing your major, not seeing the current school as good fit, and financial issues often factor into a transfer decision.

Before making a final decision, students should consider the following:

Bill at Current School
Review your account status with the billing/bursar department and financial aid office. If your account still has a balance due, make payment arrangements. You want to avoid having the bill turned over to a collections agency and additional fees added to your account. When leaving a school, you will also want an official academic transcript for your next school.

Placement Testing and Transfer Credits – Community College
Having earned college-level coursework can potentially assist in not needing to take the community college placement/assessment tests. Some community colleges will accept unofficial transcripts to consider waiving the need to take the placement/assessment tests before you sign up for classes. However, the official transcript is needed to transfer credit to your new school. Please check the community college’s website or contact them for their transfer credit evaluation policy.

Work and School Balance
If you are planning to remain a full-time college student, working more than 20 hours a week can impact your grades. Are you now going to work full-time and go to school part-time? If so, taking one or two classes maximum per semester gives you a better chance to balance school and work.

Academic Decisions
Are you planning to keep the same major or change your career path? Do you want to earn a college certificate and a degree? Some community colleges have certificates you can earn that also count towards degree requirements. The certificate may help you obtain a better job while you are still working towards completing a degree. If you plan to transfer to a four-year school, consider associates of arts and associates of science degrees versus associates of applied science degrees, which typically have less transfer options. Review these options when talking to an academic advisor.

State Residency Requirements – Community College
Check with the registrars/records office about state residency requirements. You do not want to assume you are still a state resident after being away from home for a while. In addition, some community colleges have different tuition rates for in-state, in-county, and out-of-state students. Checking this up front can allow you to prepare for community college costs.

Cost of Attendance at Your New School
When will your new school review your potential transfer credits? Will your new school consider you an in-state or out-of-state resident? This will affect the time it will take to graduate and the costs of going to another school. Before making a final transfer school decision, please check on the Cost of Attendance (COA) at your potential new school. This information will come from the financial aid office. The items to check are the tuition and fees, room and board if you are staying on campus or an apartment nearby, and books and supplies. Then also review the Cost of Attendance for the miscellaneous and travel expenses. This will assist you know how much your new school will cost.

Financial Aid Available
Is your new school less expensive, more expensive, or are you not sure yet? Don’t make any assumptions. You may be leaving one school for financial reasons and run into the same challenge again. Is your possible new school eligible for the DC Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG)? If so, log into the DC ONeApp system and complete the school transfer process. Make sure your potential new school is added to your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the financial aid award letter is prepared for your review before making a final transfer decision.

This post was made to the NACAC blog by Mr. Kenneth McGhee who is the director of the DC Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG) within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, DC. OSSE is a NACAC member organization.

My recent experience with my daughter’s apartment rental company – tip for your students that plan to live off campus

My daughter is currently finishing up her last year of school at a public University in Texas. She lived on campus her first two years, took an internship for one semester, and has lived off campus her final two years.

I recently was made aware of a trick the local apartments use to get students (and their parents) on the hook for more rent. Her lease was expiring in July so she talked to the rental company about extending it from August-December to cover her last semester. The apartment company representative then told her they only do August-July leases with no exceptions at the current rate and for short term rentals(if they agree to one) it would be an additional $140 per month. They then told her that most students typically will sign the 12 month lease and then sublease the apartment for the months they don’t need. When my daughter told me this I said that can’t be right, so I called the leasing company and explained the situation, that she had been a good tenant always paying on time, and was there anything that could be done.

They had us over a barrel, knew it and wouldn’t budge. They said if they made an exception with us it could be seen as showing favoritism and they could be sued by other tenants. They also said every apartment company in this small college town had the same policy of only writing 1 year leases for the August-July period. I asked what about those students that don’t go during the summer? I also asked about those that graduated in May (which the majority of students do)? She said that they either pay those months or sublease the apartment for the months they aren’t there. I’m not looking to get in the leasing business and didn’t want to be on the hook for 7 additional months of rent so we begrudgingly agreed to the extra $140 per month.

This is something to be aware of and let your students and their parents know about this practice. Possibly they can negotiate upfront rather than at the end of the lease when they have no other recourse. At the very least they will be aware of it and can plan accordingly.

New study shows one-third of parents delay retirement to pay for their child’s college education

Discover Student Loans recently conducted a national online survey of 2,015 students, former students and parents in the United States.

Almost one-third (31 percent) of parents with students currently in school or recently graduated say they may have to work longer or retire later due to helping pay for their child’s college education.

The survey also found that 31 percent of parents said they may not have as much in retirement savings as they would like because of helping their child pay for college. In addition, 25 percent of parents reported that they may have to give up vacations, entertainment spending or other things they may like to do in the future.

As you work with students and their parents to begin mapping out their future paths you may cite some of the statistics from this study to help emphasize the growing cost of college education and the many ways that families should begin saving to lessen that burden when those tuition bills ultimately begin hitting. There are many scholarships and grants available for students, but they won’t come to them. They need to be searched out.

“While parents are often willing to make personal sacrifices to help their child pay for college, it’s important they discuss their financial contribution as a family and balance that with their long term budgeting goals,” said Nicole Straub, vice president for Discover Student Loans. “This is especially meaningful as families start to receive award letters, compare financial aid packages and apply for scholarships.”

Despite the financial challenges they may face from helping their child pay for college, the survey found that only 18 percent of parents limited their child’s college choice based on price. As a Counselor you can help them decide what school’s are realistic based on their personal situation and which are not.

Lack of sleep can impact your student’s mental health

Many students will use the “cram” method of staying up all night prior to an exam studying. Information recently published by Mattress Advisor   shows that the mind and body function best when balanced. What might surprise you is that a critical part of maintaining this balance is allowing the body and mind to refresh during sleep. Unfortunately, many people (particularly students) do not or cannot get the quantity or quality of sleep they need. When this happens, their mind and body respond by malfunctioning. Therefore, sleep quality has a direct correlation to physical and mental health.

The effects of sleep deprivation on your mental health

When the body fails to get the amount of sleep needed to recover balance, sleep deprivation occurs. The body enters a physical state of stress. On a more scientific level, the body releases chemicals known as cortisol and glucocorticoids during sleep deprivation, and the combination of these two chemicals wreaks havoc on the body.

More specifically, they disturb the body’s ability to process glucose efficiently, disrupt appetite-controlling hormones, increase insulin resistance, and mess with reproductive hormones such as testosterone.

SLEEP AND YOUR EMOTIONS

When they mind experiences sleep deprivation, mood and emotional balance suffer. Have you ever noticed that when you are exhausted, you tend to seem more sensitive? Maybe your temper flares or things that you normally wouldn’t pay attention to start to bother you?

Sleep is vital to maintaining balance in the amygdala – the part of your brain that controls your emotions. An imbalance in your amygdala results in heightened activation of emotional responses, inflated pleasure responses, and increased reward responses. At the same time, the expectation of reward is much higher and it’s combined with a decline in the ability to think through negative consequences, increasing your desire to act impulsively.

Over time, the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation results in a mind that remains in a constant state of stress. Your ability to think clearly and control your emotions are impaired. Sleep deprivation and stress contribute to a negative feedback loop that can be difficult to break and often results in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders. Lack of sleep can also have physical effects on your body, such as aging and hair loss.

THE DEVASTATING PATH OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION

With heightened stress, comes heightened anxiety which can make you hypersensitive to all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional stimuli. For anyone diagnosed with mental health disorders before sleep deprivation, the additional stress can increase the severity.

For example, people who struggle with body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as compulsive hair pulling or skin picking, typically report their first symptoms in early adolescence. While a person can learn to manage the behaviors, they last a lifetime. An essential part of treatment is the ability to recognize triggers of the behavior and make a conscious choice to choose another behavior.

Research suggests that people with BFRB’s experience an increase in their behaviors when they are stressed or anxious.

Without sleep to maintain balance, increased physical and emotional sensitivity and decreased critical thinking can trigger an exaggerated emotional reaction. The exaggerated emotional response can trigger the desire for a physical sensation, such as a BFRB that can soothe the exaggerated emotion. Without critical thinking to interrupt the impulse, the person resorts to the harmful action.

GIVE YOUR BODY TIME TO RECHARGE

Your body and mind need time to recharge and recover daily to remain healthy and to get well when unhealthy. Quality sleep is as vital for the body and mind as air and is worth every effort to achieve.

As you talk to your students about their next steps in life after high school be sure and instill the fact that getting a good nights sleep can impact their well being and can be a key to having a successful future.

Mattress Advisor has published a few other blogs related to sleep. Here are the links:

Guide to sleep after trauma

Exploring the connection between depression and insomnia

Older Posts

Link for Counselors