So there I was last week at a public library, after I wrapped up a college planning workshop. A bunch of parents were milling around, asking questions.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman made a beeline for me. She had a hard look on her face, and a different agenda.
“You really pissed me off when I went to one of your presentations four years ago,” she exclaimed at a head-turning decibel level. “You bashed us guidance counselors!”
I kept my first, less evolved response to myself (“So…you came back for more?”), opting for a more patient, mature (out of character) reply, “Well, there are good guidance counselors and bad ones, just the same way there are good college planners and bad, good lawyers and bad ones and so forth.”
Then, she surprised me. Her point: parents’ expectations of the role of their guidance counselor were the root of the issue. Guidance counselors are not trained in the nuances of financial aid and other aspects of the college planning process, so it’s unfair for parents to anticipate advice in these areas.
I agreed, wholeheartedly. And I went out of my way to tell her that I have nothing but praise for GOOD guidance counselors.
Examples: I happen to be a fan of my 11th grader’s counselor, we had a terrific meeting two weeks ago. I correspond with several guidance counselors on my email list who attend my webinars, some have become clients. And, last week, I received an email from a professor who teaches a graduate school course for aspiring guidance counselors. He spent his own money to purchase 26 copies of How to Pay Wholesale For College for an upcoming workshop to teach his students about financial aid. I tip my hat to any and all counselors who commit to lifetime learning and self-improvement.
In short: I’m not anti-guidance counselor, and I never endorsed Counselor Amnesty (not sure what that means, but I thought it sounded funny).
The bigger issue is The System. The average ratio of high school student-to-counselor is 474-1, nationally. And even where ratios are more favorable, it’s highly unusual to for a family to get personalized attention and guidance regarding factors such as college return on investment, maximizing financial aid, merit scholarships from college endowments, how to “position” your child to maximize chances of admission and more.
Here’s something that even fewer counselors and high school administrators hint about: what happens AFTER college? You know, the 40 years after the four years (hopefully) of college.
Personally, THIS is the #1 issue that keeps me up at night as a student debt victim myself. (#2 is Pearl’s cell phone when she forgets to shut it off.)
Yes, college costs are exorbitant, but try to put this aside momentarily. Today’s college grads are facing odds longer than our generation faced – 50% are underemployed two years post-college, working in jobs that do not require a college degree. Student debt has passed the $1.3 Trillion mark (it’s actually much larger, because this statistic includes only government loans, not private student loans.) Defaults hover around 25%, depending on which study you read. Student debt is the first reason cited for preventing Millennials from buying a home or starting a business.
When is the last time you heard a guidance counselor or anyone in secondary education, for that matter, talking about any of this?
I’m not blaming, I’m just calling ‘em as I sees ‘em.
If you’re concerned about this and want to get actionable, “real world” tips and strategies to plan for college, consider yourself welcome to attend an upcoming, live, free, workshop.
I’ll be in Commack, Plainview, Roslyn, Greenlawn and Syosset in the next couple of weeks. Not simultaneously. 🙂
Forewarned is forearmed. Don’t put this off until after it’s too late to do anything, and you discover, after the admissions letters arrive, that you can’t afford your kid’s top choice college.
If you have a high school sophomore or junior, now’s the time to wake up and smell the java.
Please forward this to other parents who could use it, the more the merrier! Your pals in the PTO or PTA, Rotary, BNI, book club, your mixed martial arts pals, fellow Cross Fitters, members of your Super PAC, you name it – all are welcome!
P.S. If you’re in another state or country or otherwise can’t make it to a live event, don’t worry, Pearl and I are planning another webinar as we speak! Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement.