I wrote two years ago about the 8 things I learned when helping my daughter find a college.
Today, I’m a bit wiser in the craft of college selection, but this kiddo is different from his sister. And the pandemic has changed some things (some permanently), so there was still some learning to do.
1. Every 18-Year-Old Requires a Custom Search
Two siblings share DNA and the same home environment, so you’d think they’d turn out kinda similar. Or not. They are both created in the image of God, but Pippa and Grey went their separate ways from there.
Pippa was born to excel in school. Grey, not so much. He’s got the same brainpower and curiosity, but the great ivy walls and hallowed halls of academia are of more limited interest. That’s OK – he’s got other superpowers.
My two loveable but very different kids are how I learned that it’s impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to postsecondary pursuits.
2. Post High School Education Is Important
You hear all the time about wildly successful people who dropped out of college, or who never bothered to go in the first place. Steve Jobs. Richard Branson. Simon Cowell. Rachael Ray. Mark Zuckerberg. Sean Combs. Bill Gates.
I talked to Grey about these highly-visible business superstars. I compare them to NBA players. You can make the Lakers, but the odds are against you. And the ones who do make it are gifted and driven.
For the rest of us, education is key. According to 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, higher levels of education correlate with much lower unemployment rates and much higher median weekly earnings:
3. Education Includes More Than 4 Years of College
I know a number of people who have busted their butts to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in three years, utilizing AP credits and summer opportunities. Lopping off the fourth year saves on tuition, but also the opportunity cost of what you could be earning while you are lounging on the quad.
We’ve also talked about community college options and even apprenticeships. After all, engine repairs will never be outsourced to China.
Grey looked seriously at programs at the Community College of Baltimore County and Universal Technical Institute.
4. Work to Find Good Value
Have I mentioned that college is expensive? 🙂 But it doesn’t have to be uber expensive. There are lots of deals out there, but you have to work to find them.
Start with in-state public schools. They are subsidized by the state, so they offer more value for the money. Some out-of-state state schools are very reasonable as well.
Church-subsidized schools are similarly discounted. Brigham Young University typically tops “best value” lists with their $25k tuition and room & board total cost.
Then there are seemingly random discounts and come-ons. Grey applied to the University of Louisville not because Lamar Jackson went there, but because they offer a “Regional Scholars Program” for what seems like half the country.
For academically strong students, check out these 81 colleges with full-ride scholarships.
5. Stay Flexible in a Pandemic
I’m a big believer in visiting schools. I know it’s a bit of a crapshoot who you get for the info session or campus tour, but nothing beats breathing the cafeteria air and hearing the chatter of the student center.
This year didn’t always allow for visits. Sayonara Louisville – we barely knew ya! We made it to University of Akron, but the campus was deserted, which is a bit of a downer. We had to rely on online virtual tours more than I like to.
Another change: Standardized testing. We were feeling fortunate to find a seat for Grey at an SAT test site in August 2020 when so many other students were shut out. But then the pandemic and related restrictions continued to drag o-o-o-o-n, and it became obvious that some students would never be able to take the test. Which meant that most schools would ignore, or heavily discount, the SAT. (This trend will likely carry forward).
So much for our home-cooked secret sauce SAT prep technique that delivers high-ish scores to the patient practitioner. Following is one of Grey’s sketches of me from when he finished a practice test before I did. He’s especially proud of the stomach.
6. Celebrate the Past & Maintain Hope for the Future
When Pippa made a decision two years ago, we had a big college reveal party to celebrate her accomplishments, pray over her, and wish her well for the coming fall.
Grey, ever the competitive soul, was determined to crank it up a notch. As his parents, we were all in. He had earned this moment.
Last Friday, we gathered friends and Grey took center stage:
If you can’t see the logo on his shorts, here’s another clue:
Go Golden Flashes!