The Value of College: Is It Worth the Cost? A Recent Graduate’s Perspective.

College is expensive. There’s no way around looking at the big number on the price tag. In the midst of our less-than-desirable economic conditions, is it really worth spending thousands of dollars on a degree without a 100% guarantee of finding a job at the end of it all?

These are the questions I face every day as a college adviser and in all honesty, they are not easy to answer. I’m a recent college graduate (Millersville University, December of 2010) and I can tell you first-hand that paying back my student loans has not been a piece of cake, a piece of pie, or a piece of anything remotely tasty, for that matter. However, I can honestly say that with no hesitation, I would make the same decision to enroll again in a heartbeat.

My college experience was worth a million times more than what any calligraphy on a diploma can possibly express. I gained valuable life experience, whether that meant figuring out how to make my own doctor’s appointments when I was sick, juggling a load of coursework while working two on-campus jobs, or finding that delicate balance between work and play we all sometimes struggle with. Moving away from home, living in a new community, building friendships, maintaining old friendships, managing my money, and even paying my first electric bill were all miraculous feats I never knew I could accomplish on my own.

Aside from growing exponentially (with or without the “freshman fifteen”), college made me MARKETABLE. As a graduating high school senior, I can’t say that I had too many skills to bring to the workforce. I knew I could write essays and answer telephones (because I worked as a receptionist for a part-time job), but otherwise, I had no idea what it meant to be professional in the workplace. Here are a few ways college helps create graduates ready for the workforce:

  1. Communication skills: Solid verbal, written, and listening abilities. Simply fulfilling your general education requirements in college (English composition, speech, math, and social sciences electives) provides you with the opportunity to improve verbal, written, and listening skills, regardless of your major!
  2. Leadership skills: The ability to take charge or relinquish control according to the needs of the organization/team/project. Participating in activities from Student Government to Greek life to academic clubs to professional organizations opens up many new opportunities to become a student leader, event planner, or active participant in group-work while navigating different kinds of social situations.
  3. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: The ability to identify problems and their solutions by integrating information from a variety of sources and effectively weighing alternatives. Conducting research for projects and classes allow you to fine-tune your ability to integrate, organize, and assess large amounts of data and information. Social situations, such as living with roommates and working on group projects provide endless opportunities to practice problem solving and weighing options. Furthermore, all of these experiences promote self -advocacy, which forces you to find and use resources to resolve problems independently.Image
  4. Work Related Experiences: Work experiences that provided an understanding of the workplace and served to apply classroom learning. As a college student, you have a limitless amount of work experiences at your fingertips, including internships (seasonal, semester, or year-long),writing and defending a thesis, work-study jobs on campus, academic conferences (attending AND sharing research), study abroad programs, research opportunities with faculty members, and volunteering on campus and in the community.

Coincidentally, all of these characteristics listed above are in the top-ten values of what employers look for in graduates (Source: Gettysburg College’s Center for Career Development). If it’s not convincing enough that college shapes students into being workforce-ready, then look at our nation’s employment trends: only 37% of jobs in 2018 will be for those who hold ONLY high school diplomas. Of these jobs, only 1/3 will pay an average of $35,000 per year, which is what the government considers to be the “minimum middle class income”. This means that 63% of jobs will REQUIRE further education beyond high school, whether in the form of a certification, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree.

Look at it this way: college is an investment. But what you gain from it, an education and valuable experiences, are things that can never be taken away from you.

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Christmas gifts for HS seniors

Christmas is upon us and if you haven’t finished your shopping yet, get ready for enduring the “race for a space” challenge in mall parking lots, standing behind extreme coupon-ers in lines 10+ people deep, and playing the “I was here first, let go of the last imitation Burberry scarf, dragon lady” game in crowded shopping aisles. I try and avoid these interactions as much as possible and thus essentially hibernate from Black Friday to Christmas Eve, Macbook pro in hand, shopping the virtual way. You can find me sprawled out on the couch, in my sweatpants and favorite MU t-shirt with the tiny-but-growing hole in the armpit, away from the judging eyes behind the Clinique counter and competitive soccer moms buying overpriced sequined fake imitation Uggs for their twelve year olds.

For the soon-to-be-high-school-graduate, this is the perfect time to start asking for all of those college essentials you won’t be willing to purchase yourself. Here is a list of items that will be helpful to you during your exploits as a college freshman:

1) Rain boots. The worst, and I mean, worst feeling, is when you’re walking to class in the rain and the bottom of your pants get soaked. Then you’re stuck ALL DAY with soggy, cold pants, an annoyance that all of us at some point have experienced and would like to forget. Save yourself the trouble and ask for a pair of rain boots this year. Don’t worry about looking like an idiot; everyone has a pair and they are all equally obnoxious in pattern and style. You will be happy you have them, I promise.

If you are a guy, I’m not sure what kind of rain gear your kind wears on your feet, but you can’t go wrong with a fly raincoat and/or umbrella.

2) First aid kit. This sounds like another present that isn’t very fun, but trust me, when you are sick and away from home for the first time, it is the worst ever. You don’t necessarily need one of those traditional first-aid kits with the red cross on the front – you can always u

bacon band aid

se a colorful storage container and make your own. Include bandaids, basic medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen, tissues, cough drops, the contact information for your home physician, a copy of your insurance card, a box of tea bags, vitamin C drops, ice packs (the kind that you break and then they get really cold… whatever they’re called), eye drops, and whatever else you think you might need.

3) Messenger/weekend bag and travel mug. In college, you’ll be doing a lot of walking with intermittent periods of sitting. Hopefully you are doing some learning while you are sitting. But nonetheless, you will be transporting yourself and your books, computer, and other assorted materials all over the place during the day. Having a heavy-duty bag that can withstand rain, is easy on the shoulders, and has essential pocketing will help you keep your expensive-as-heck textbooks and laptop safe and sound. Guys, perhaps you will prefer a backpack over a “murse” (and remember, 2-strapping-it is cool now), but either one works. I’d also recommend a laptop sleeve and travel mug/water bottle as additional measures to accomodate your new lifestyle. A weekend bag is another good call for those trips you’ll be taking to visit friends and family.

4) Quality bedding. A comfy bed can help make the transition from high school to college a lot more bearable. If you’re used to a queen sized bed with a TempurPedic mattress, I’m sorry to say, but you are going to be incredibly uncomfortable your first few nights at school. However, getting a better quality mattress pad, a soft blanket, the perfect density pillow, and a good set of sheets can turn a bad day into a good one. If you can’t curl up in bed to feel better, then what can you do? This can get a little dicey as a gift, though, because a lot of your dorm-room decoration revolves around the print on your comforter and sheets – maybe give some examples to your parents before they head out to go shopping.

5) Gift cards to Target, Walmart, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, etc. There are a ton of things you’ll need to purchase for school (back-up alarm clock, running shoes for the gym, robe and towels, shower caddy, clothes hangers, dorm room snacks, iron and ironing board, notebooks, storage containers, etc), most of which will not fit under your Christmas tree. Giftcards to these stores (which one might think are relatively boring places to shop) will be a welcome present once you realize how much all of these essentials will end up costing in the long run. If you work a summer job, you can save some of your cash and put it towards text books (which cost big bucks $$$$$$), instead of waste baskets and laundry detergent.

These may not be the most exciting of all presents to open up on Christmas morning, but trust me, you’ll be lucky you did come the fall semester of your freshman year!

Ice cream and college have a lot in common, you know.

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well okay, world, it’s time to come clean. I’ve been carrying on this charade far too long now. Hopefully you won’t think less of me after reading this admission, written on a blog about 3 people inadvertently find themselves reading due to accidental clicking and misspelling during a google search, but a public venue nonetheless.

I am indecisive by nature, a vice that without fail, will reveal itself at the most inopportune times, like at the front of a really long line in a Coldstone Creamery.

What in the sweet chocolate hand churned icy goodness does this have to do with college admissions, you ask? Well listen up, turkey hill (get it? regional joke), because I’m about to tell you.

In my line of work, people aren’t lining up at the door like they do at your local Rita’s on a 95 degree day with 83% humidity (gotta love PA weather). A steady trickle is more along the lines of the type of current that students drift in upon. Some of them come by their own free will, which is always a plus in my book, and some come because the bell has already chimed for the beginning of the period and they’re late and they think I will write them a pass if they pretend like they are interested in college and they are sad to realize that I won’t because I’m onto their little games. .. … … And some are brought in forcefully, against their will and much to their displeasure (which is always surprising to me, because do you really want to sit in Anatomy for 47 minutes, or do you want to talk about college, which will arguably be the best and most fun experience of your life?) Regardless, I will meet them at some point under one of those three conditions, and they will tell me about the one college they want to apply to.

That’s great, but let me reiterate:

One college.

Singular.

Not plural.

The cheese standing alone.

I’m all about loving one college and one college alone. Like how swans mate for life (and I know a lot about swans, more than your average person, due to my experiences at Millersville), there’s only one school for me and University XYZ is that place.

“We are in totallllll like with each other. Like, I really like, you know, like it. What do I like about it? Well, like, it’s totally pretty. And the professors are totally like, smart. And the food? It’s soooo good, like, you wouldn’t even believe how good their pizza is. And green looks sooooo good on me! Totes brings out my eyes!”

I encourage and support this mindset completely. If you have done your research, visited the campus, and know enough about the dining hall food to give me your own personal restaurant.com review of it – I am pleased as punch, believe that. But what I do have a problem with is only exploring one option in a universe where essentially, you have limitless options, or at least 3,994, according to Collegeboard. As an indecisive person, it is natural for me to really question the 100% decided mindset that I often see friends, coworkers, and family members are somehow able to settle upon. As an indecisive person, I am prone to skepticism, second-guessing, and arbitrary internal dialogue that results in circling around an issue like a shark does around baby seals (awww). As an indecisive person, I am familiar with the pro-con list, the “I’ll sleep on it” mentality, and the “black and white are too extreme, gray is a great neutral” standpoint. But I ask you:

Would you buy the first car you test drive at a dealership?

Move into the first house a relator shows you?

Marry the first person you date? (I guess this actually happens a lot… one of the weaker examples, but still…)

Choose the only kind of ice cream that you’ve sampled?

No. No you wouldn’t! In some cases, maybe, but in most cases, getting a feel for what your options are will help you make the BEST, MOST EDUCATED decision possible. If you aren’t going to make an educated decision about your future education, then that’s a problem. In a consistently inconsistent world, we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Hope that you get into your #1 dream school that you will “totes luv 4e” – definitely! Plan for the possibility that you won’t – absolutely!

Perhaps certain circumstances will change to deter you from loving that college as much as you used to. “I can’t go to a school that Billy Jones is going to… ugh! But it’s the only one I applied to! And now I have to! Wahhh!” Or… “My boyfriend and I were going to go to school together.. but now we broke up.. and I don’t have anywhere else to go!” … Or… “My financial situation is completely different now that my parent has lost their job – I can’t afford to go to BestCollegeEver University anymore! But I didn’t apply anywhere else!”

I am not encouraging you to be like me, at the front of the Coldstone line, 25 people deep at this point, having a heated internal debate over whether chocolate marshmellow or chocolate frozen yogurt is going to be the better choice (obviously the marshmellow, like froyo can even compete). As Ian McKeithen said, “Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight. Indecision is a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind.” Indecision will leave you, at times, paralyzed, unable to commit to anything at all. But I truly believe that putting all of your chips on just one bet, without preparing with back-ups, alternatives, or escape routes, can be just as equally dangerous.

Seniors: take the time to explore all of your options. Look for accelerated degree programs, selective schools, community colleges, and articulation agreements. You could look just as good in blue as you do in green. Consider applying to a mix of public and private schools to see what financial aid package looks best. And don’t wait until the last minute, either. Because deadlines expire and ice cream melts. Both of which leave a big mess that even the best stain removers can’t clean up. Unfortunately I know that from experience.

6.5 Reasons Why Community Colleges Are Awesome

I’m not sure how the proprietary school craze began and I can’t give any insight on whether or not this trend will continue to grow in the upcoming years… hopefully not… but what I can say is that community colleges are still and will forever be awesome. Why, you ask? Because I said so. And because of these other 6.5 additional reasons:

1) They answer the question: “Is college right for me?”

Area man gleefully cycles to his local community college.

As graduation gets closer and closer, the prospect of deciding upon what to do with your future can become more and more daunting. Looking at the cost of attendance for universities, indecisiveness about what to major in, and the fear of moving away from home can be a lot to handle at once. In a time of such uncertainty, how can you be sure of what the right decision is for you? Enter your area community college. Because of their low cost of attendance and rigor of their coursework, you will have the benefit of test-driving college from the comfort of your home to see if you really are set on earning an associate or bachelor’s degree. Imagine a community college to be the segway tour of your future college and/or professional workplace experience. You get all of the inside information without having to over-exert yourself by picking up your life and moving to a new place. Also, your sneakers receive less wear and tear.

2) Transferrable credits and articulation agreements. 

What’s a transferrable credit and articulation agreement, you ask? Good question! If you do your research, you can plan your class schedule at a community college to be made up entirely of credits that will seamlessly transfer to a four-year university. So, what that means is this: you’re saving hundreds of dollars in tuition to take classes at a community college that will end up counting as classes at a more expensive university. You’re essentially gaining the same experience and knowledge for less money.

So, what about articulation agreements? These are contracts that community colleges make with four year universities (public and private) that say this: if a student enrolls in our community college, takes specific classes, and maintains a certain GPA, after two years they will automatically be admitted to the university involved in the articulation agreement and their degree program. Example: If I take Course Accounting classes A, B, and C and maintain a good GPA at Penn HIghlands Community College, Juniata College will admit me to their Accounting program (this really is an existing articulation agreement: click here for more details)

3) Low cost, valuable knowledge and experience.

For many students, the cost of attending school can become a major roadblock. Perhaps the only roadblock for some. Very few people have thousands of dollars at their disposal to cover the cost of tuition, housing, and additional fees over the course of two to four years. That’s why community college can be a great option – the tuition fee per credit is much lower in comparison to both public and private schools. Furthermore, the options available for community college students (see transfer/articulation agreements) can help them design a degree program that fits their financial needs (whether it’s earning an associate’s degree at a community college and continuing on at a four year school, or spending only a few semesters before transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree). Community colleges also offer financial aid for students who qualify: this includes both need based aid (determined by the results of your FAFSA) and merit based aid (scholarships and grants given to students as a result of their academic/personal achievements).

4) The variety of degree/certification programs available.

Community colleges, much like other two and four year schools, offer a wide variety of degree programs. Whether you are interested in art, culinary arts, auto, education, dental assisting, business, cinematography, biology, construction, nursing, or medical assisting, most likely the closest community college will offer at least one program of interest to you. You can also opt to take general education classes if you find yourself to be one of the brave “undecided”-ers. It’s important to seek the advice and wisdom of faculty once you choose a major – they’ll help you plan out your semesters, class schedule, and hook you up with transfer information if you so choose.

5) Flexibility of scheduling.

While four year universities service a majority of traditional students (recent high school graduates), community colleges serve a majority of students who return to college after graduating high school several years ago. Many of these students are currently in the work force or have families and thus cannot attend classes during regular business hours. Community colleges often times have more flexible scheduling and can offer night and evening classes for those who have a 9-5 job. Students can also choose to attend either full or part time – this may change your expected date of graduation (based on the degree program you choose), but it allows you the freedom to work part-or-full-time while attending school. Do you prefer to spend your afternoons playing World of Warcraft after sleeping in until 1 PM? Then flexibility of scheduling works in your favor, virtual-world enthusiast.

6) Campus Life

Traditionally, community colleges do not offer students on-campus housing (except for Northampton Community College!) and this can deter potential students from attending. However, many community colleges offer housing assistance for students who do not live within commuting distance. In addition to housing assistance, most community colleges offer students and faculty a membership to their wellness facilities: weight rooms, cardio machines, lap pools, athletic fields, etc. Your membership fees are most likely included in semester fees. There are also numerous clubs, organizations, intramural sports, and associations that allow students to meet new people and provide valuable work/learning experiences.

6.5) Colleges love community college students. Some universities will offer special scholarship opportunities just to transfer students who are coming from their local community college. So not only are you saving money on your first two years of classes, but you’re also getting the hook-up from the institution you transfer to. It’s a win-win! And trust me, win-wins are rare these days.

If these 6 reasons didn’t convince you that community colleges are worth a second look, then I guess I’m either a poor persuasive writer or a local community college in your area tore down some kind of historic site or really old, beautiful tree to build it’s buildings and you now have some kind of personal vendetta against the system. Either way, I hope you gave this brief blog slight consideration and are at least more knowledgeable about why community colleges exist and their benefit to students who find themselves in a state-of-transition between high school and beyond.

Why Thanksgiving Is The Best Holiday Of All Time, Ever, x 1,000,000

Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the year, hands down. It harnesses all of the awesome qualities of its brother and sister holidays while neglecting to demonstrate any of the typical holiday annoyances. Let’s examine this more indepth.

The I-Don’t-Have-To-Work Factor – The simple fact that we have off from school on Thursday, Friday, AND the following Monday is enough to put it over the top of Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Presidents Day.

The performance factor – not only is there the Thanksgiving Day Parade, featuring the sweethearts of America (inflatable cartoon characters, Justin Biebs, and Santa Claus), but there’s quality sporting events to enjoy as well. Unfortunately there are no teams I could give a crap about playing this year (do people even like the Dolphins? on the other hand, if they beat the Cowboys, I’m all for the playful mammals of the ocean ), but on Wednesday and Friday the Flyers are playing. Christopher Columbus was pretty smart about deciding to have Thanksgiving during this time of the year when sports seasons overlap so all argumentative relatives have something to watch and enjoy. The guy just doesn’t get enough credit.

The Safety Factor – In ADDITION to having awesome entertainment available at the change of a channel, there is no danger of accidently blowing one of your hands off. The 4th of July might be my second favorite holiday, but it falls second to Thanksgiving for several reasons because of that tiny voice in the back of my mind saying I may or may not end up in the emergency room at the end of the day. You can never be too careful.

The Ownership Factor – Thanksgiving is just America’s holiday: take a look at what we’re celebrating and you’ll be able to see exactly why it is so. When the native americans and the pilgrims were figuring out how to best break up the work day calander during the year, someone had the brilliant idea to make a holiday where gluttony is not only encouraged, but expected… AND … all department stores are required to have ridiculous money saving sales the next day to encourage the shallow, soul-sucking consumerism we so dearly cling to. My two favorite things, shopping and eating, rolled into one – obviously this beats out Halloween (you only get candy) and St. Patrick’s Day (I’m not Irish enough to justify feeling like I can celebrate it with a clean conscience).

The I-Don’t-Have-To-Do-Anything Factor – It’s fair to say that Thanksgiving might not be the favorite holiday of the middle aged to elderly people of America because essentially, they’re doing all of the work. When I go home for Thanksgiving, you better believe my behind is going to rest upon the comfy couch in my living room, remote control in hand, as my siblings and I watch movies, play games, and generally waste the day away waiting for the feast to begin. This annoys my parents to no end but with age and a more refined skill set, my ability to tune out their demands and nagging has increased substantially, and thus it doesn’t really bother me much anymore. Sorry Mom 😦

Not only do I essentially partake in nothing but sloth-like behavior all day, but I also don’t have to buy presents and spend money to feel like I’m celebrating properly. I’ll admit it, on Christmas I’m lazy too, but I’m expected to have presents for the family (and when you have 4 siblings and 4 parents, the immediate-family-ness gets way out of hand) and let’s just say it’s not possible on this salary. If you can’t afford presents, you automatically feel guilty and crappy about yourself, which is negativity I do not want to experience on such a joyus holiday occasion. Thanksgiving is all about excessive calorie intake, sleeping on the couch, and making leftover turkey sandwhiches at 2 AM in the morning – no batteries included, which is just how I like it.

The Acronym Factor – T-gives is the best holiday acronym… H-ween? Doesn’t happen. X-mas? Overdone. V-day? More like, hate-my-life day.

The Obvious Factor – Food, food, foodie food food. Pie. Cranberry sauce!

The Last Hoorah Factor – Thanksgiving is the portal into Holidaytown, USA. After Thursday, all hell breaks loose and people go crazy over Christmas and then New Years. The season is upon us and because sometimes it brings about more misery than it does happiness, we are alotted one final she-bang of happiness/living without substantial debt/listening to the radio without hearing annoying x-mas music/not worrying about our winter weight-gain.

I could probably keep going about all of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving so much, but I think I’ll end it here. My apologies for the lack of updates as of late, but as there are probably only two people who read this blog, I’m sure the rest of the world isn’t so disappointed. Beth and Liz, get ready for some posts coming your way in the next few weeks. Buckle up and keep arms and legs inside the blog at all times.

PS – Me and Binx…. just hanging out…