October 8, 2012

College Open Houses

On October 8, 2012, my daughter and I attended a college open house and Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.  It was the first time we had attended an college open house, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. 

My daughter is currently a junior in high school and I take opportunities like this one to let her explore what college is about, and that it isn't this really scary place.  This also becomes a time when we can discuss college, careers, and expenses.  I found the whole experience of the open house a bit underwhelming, however, it did have its good points. 

We found out about the open house through a billboard that was near where I worked.  Going to their website, there was a very informational area where you could register and sign up for different sessions.  They had 30 minute sessions that talked about NIU, choosing a major, the financial aid process, and the honors program.   They also had tours of dorm rooms, which we decided we didn't want to attend.

The open house started in the basketball arena which provided free parking and shuttle buses to the campus.  The only thing in the arena was basically a checkin where you received a bag to put all the brochures for the day.  After being told to go to two different tables where all they did was ask for our name, we went to the shuttle buses.  Getting off of the bus, there wasn't anyone or signs telling you where to go, you basically followed the red bags.  In the student center, the hall was setup with booths about different campus services, colleges, and college life opportunities.  We stopped at the athletics table, the honors table, and the academic advisors table.

At the academic advisors table, we received our first good piece of advice.  We were looking at a sheet of all the majors offered at NIU.  The advisor told us to start by crossing off all the things you DON'T want to do.  This will leave a list of topics that can be further researched as possible majors.

We then attended the Honors sessions.  To our surprise, this seemed to fit my daughter's personality very well.  The honors program has their own dorms and a single class that you take each semester.  The honors classes are typically a small classroom instead of a lecture hall and tend to be more discussion based.  The NIU honors program also have guest lecturers and outings to help the transition to college life.

Our final stop was to go to the Math Department.  As part of the open house, each department held an open house or some type of informational session for that particular.  I've been telling my daughter she should major in Math as it leads to a lot of diverse careers.  For example, you may think the Pixar movies are about graphical arts, but they really involve a lot of math.  The person we met with was very impressed that my daughter was taking Calculas as a junior and talked a lot about the differences of theoretical Math and the application of math concepts in statistics and actuarial sciences. 

If you decided to go to a college open house, plan a little before you go, as there wasn't much direction once we were there.  This was a little different than the Illinois Wesleyan campus tour we took in January as we were driving what we wanted to learn about instead of the university taking us on a tour.  We learned to ask about honors programs to see what they add to the college experience on each campus.  I continue to look for experiences to get over the "I don't know what I want to do" phrase, and hope, a little at a time, we can narrow down our choices.

College Open Houses was originally posted on My Kids College Search blog on October 8, 2012.

April 29, 2012

College Visit to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University  Drysdale Softball Field

Today, we went to the Northwestern Wildcats softball game against the Ohio State Buckeyes.  We were at the game since my 8th grade daugther's club team responded to an invitation by the Northwester softball program.  My high school sophmore went with us as she is also playing softball and is considering playing while in college.  We took the opportunity while there to drive around the NW college campus. 

Seabury Western Theological Seminary

Northwestern University is located just north of Chicago in the town of Evanston, Illinois with its campus located on the shores of Lake Michigan.  In sports, the college participates in the Big 10 conference.  The university has very high academic standards for its 10 different colleges which include the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Kellogg School of Management, and schools of Art, Education, and Applied Science.

We took this picture of the Seabury WEstern Tehological Seminary as we were driving thru campus on Sheridan road.

I believe my daughter is starting to warm up to the college visits, even though today we didn't walk thru campus.

College Visit to Northwestern University was originally posted on My Kids College Search blog on April 29, 2012.

February 13, 2012

High School Freshman Year Selection of Classes

One of the first preparations you make for college is your selection of classes during your freshman year of high school.  When selecting your high school classes there are a few things to keep an eye on:

  1. What are your high school graduation requirements?
  2. What are the requirements of the college you want to attend? (not many will know this)
  3. What about the eligibility requirements of playing an NCAA sport?
Every school will have the same student/athlete requirements, however, some colleges may require more than the minimum.  We'll concentrate on the student/athlete requirements and then go from there.  The NCAA breaks colleges down into three divisions:  Division I, Division II, and Division III schools.  Basically, the largest schools are in Division I with the smallest schools being in Division III.

The following core course requirements were published in the NCAA 2011-12 Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete .  In addition to these requirements there is also minimum GPA (typically starting at 2.0) and SAT / ACT score requiremetns which can be seen in the above guide

Division I Core Course Requirements include the completion of these 16 core courses:
  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school)
  • 1 extra year of English, math, or natural or physical science
  • 2 years of social science
  • 4 years of extra core courses (from any category above, or foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy);
Division II Core Course Requirements include the completion of these 16 core courses for students enrolling on or after August 1, 2013:

  • 3 years of English
  • 2 years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
  • 2 years of natural or physical science (including one year of lab science if offered by your high school)
  • 2 years of social science
Division III requirements are defined by each Dvision III school.

By using these as a guide going in your Freshman year of high school, it becomes very clear that your should take four years of English and four years of Math.  You should also look at the colleges in your state, for example, in 2012 the Big Ten College, The Ohio State University, listed on their freshman admissions website the follwing minimum number of classes, with the recommended being in parenthesis.
  • 4 units of English
  • 3 (4) units of math
  • 3 units of natural science with significant lab experience
  • 2 (3) units of social science
  • 2 (3) units of the same foreign language
  • 1 unit of a visual or performing art
  • 1 additional unit of the above courses
Although the student/athlete core requirements doesn't include foreign language, The Ohio State University does, so adding a foreign language in the first or second year is something to consider.

As you get closer to graduation and start narrowing down interests and schools, the course selection will become straigh forward.  As always, when in high school challenge yourself and explore classes you are interested in. 

High School Freshman Year Selection of Classes was originally posted on My Kids College Search blog on February 13, 2012.

February 6, 2012

When to Start Saving for College

With the cost of college rising every year faster than the rate of inflation and minimum raises in the workplace, the $25,000 per year price tag is becoming a burdon on most families or on the students themselves after they have left college and start repaying loans.

When do you start saving for college?  The answer is as soon as your child is born.  Let's take a hypothetical example of four years of college costing $100,000.  With interest rates at almost zero, componding interest isn't going to help us out much.  So, we'll make the assumption we will have to foot most of the college tuition and room and board ourselves.  $100,000 divided by 18 years is $5,555 per year and we'll divide that by 12 months out of the year which equates to about $463 per month to obtain $100,000 if you start when your child is born.  If you start when your child is 9 years old or have way, you need to double that number.  So much for a new car after you have kids.

Let's start wittling down the number with ways of raising money for college.

1.  Join UPromise and Save for College - I've been a member of Upromise since 2001 and have earned about $1500 towards my kids college funds.  Not a lot, but its something.  I received most of the money after I bought my house with their relationship with Real Estate Brokers.  Now, most of the savings is via grocery stores and restaurants.  They also have their own credit card and network of online stores.

2. Set up a 529 plan.  Check out the different 529 plans as almost every state has their own and my state allows my to deduct the amount I contribute from my state's taxes.  Savingsforcollege.com has a great research and comparison of the different plans.  This is where you put your $463 per month.

3. Put learning first, so your student gets good grades.  Good grades in high school and on ACT and SAT tests will usually get you some money off of your tuition.

4. Scholarships are another way to lower the cost and you can find a scholarship on just about any subject.  Sports scholarships are available for boys and girls sports.  Academic scholarships are available for good grades.  And you can find many websites dedicated to scholarships like scholarships.com and fastweb.com.  I'll review the different scholarship sites in an upcoming post.

5.  The military offers programs that will help you pay for college if you go into the military first.

Remember the key is to start saving early, get good grades, and do some research around scholarships.

When to Start Saving for College was first published in My Kids College Search on February 6th, 2012.

February 4, 2012

College Visit to Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois

ISU Quad in January 2012
This is the third in a series of posts about college campus visit during January 5th and 6th. The first two  were a University of Illinois visit in Champaign, Illinois and a Illinois Weslyan University visit in Bloomington, Illinois. This stop was to Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.

My wife and I attended Illinois State University and graduated in 1990 and 1991, so this was a trip down memory lane for us. Classes were not in session while we were there, however, there was a high school function going on around drama which made it seem like a normal day.

Illinois State University was founded in 1857 and was the first University in the State of Illinois.  ISU offers undergraduate and graduate programs out of six colleges: Applied Science and Technology, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Fine Arts, and the Mennonite College of Nursing.

We started in the Milner Library and tool a walk around the 1st floor. I'm not sure the kids really know what to think as we walk through a college library, but it is always interesting to me.

We then walked down the Quad towards the newest building on the ISU campus, the State Farm Hall of Business. This was the first time I had seen this building and what a great building it is, I was really impressed with the courtyard in the middle of the hall.

Illinois State Redbird on Sidewalk
in front of the Alamo
We then proceeded to walk across the quad towards Stevenson Hall.  A quick, expensive stop at the Alamo and then stopped in the bowling and billiards center, where I spent most of my time.  My kids loved seeing my name on a couple plaques that are hanging up and I am still in a few pictures in the trophy case. 

To schedule a visiit to ISU go to the ISU website.

The post College Visit to Illinois State University originally appeared in the blog My Kids College Search.

January 21, 2012

College Visit to Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL

This is the second of three posts on three college visits we made to central Illinois in January 2012.  The first was a visit to the University of Illinois in Champaign, which we did the day before.  This visit took place on January 6th, 2012, is to Illinois Wesleyan University.

Illinois Wesleyan is located in Bloomington, Illinois about 2 hours south of Chicago, Illinois and about 2 1/2 hours north of St. Louis, Missouri.  Founded in 1850, the university only concentrates on undergraduate degrees, has no graduate degrees, and is know for its liberal arts programs.  This is a private university with only about 2,200 students, which is smaller than my daughter's high school.  According to statistics listed on the IWU website for the class entering in 2011, the average composite ACT score was 28, the average composite SAT score was 1257, and the average high school GPA was 3.8.  IWU is a Division 3 school and the Titans compete in the CCIW (College Conference of Illinois Wisconsin).

Ames Library at Illinois Weslyan University

We registered online for a campus visit where we met with Brandon Christol in the Admissions Office and toured the IWU campus with Sarah, currently a junior at IWU.

Being our first campus visit, I wanted my daughter to get a sense of what this was all about, so as we walked into the visitor's center and was handed a visitor's form, I immediately gave it to my daughter to have her fill it out.  From that point, it became my daughter's visit to the university, not mine. 

We first met with Brandon for about 45 minutes, he was very helpful, and knowing that my daughter was only a sophmore in high school he started with some basic questions.  What do you want to do?  What are your interests?  Of course, my daughter said she didn't know, which was to be expected.  Brandon talked about the different colleges, the different sizes, public vs private, the admissions process, the application process, and costs.  One of the unique aspects of the university is the May Term, which is after the Fall and Spring term and is a single class students can take before going home for the summer.  Another unique aspect of Illinois Weslyan is the fact that it is located in close proximity to Illinois State University and Bloomington is the headquarters of State Farm Insurance, thus you are not a small college in a small town, although, speaking from experience, if you get lost, it will only take you 5-10 minutes to hit a corn field in any direction.  Wow, that was a lot to take in.

Head of Aphrodite on the roof of McPherson Theatre
Sarah, who is an Psychology major and is from the south side of Chicago, then led us on a campus tour for about 45 minutes.  Sarah showed us the library, the many places to eat on campus, two different dorm rooms, and the athletics building.  It is a different atmosphere with the students in class, although, it didn't feel very crowded.  Sarah did an awesome job leading us around campus, you can tell that she love's her school.

College Visit to Illinois Weslyan University originally appeared on My Kids College Search on January 21, 2012

Pictures are from the IWU Website.

January 19, 2012

Studying vs. Sports

I was proud of my daughter today, she chose to work on her homework and study for a quiz instead of going to the season's first open gym for softball.  It takes guts to stand up to your parents the first time, but she made a decision even though I pushed a little too hard.

This begs the question, should your high school student concentrate on grades or athletics and does either help you get into a better college or help pay for college.  The answer is probably it depends on the child and the grades they get. 

Tonight, it was neither, tonight, it was a life lesson.  One my daughter will take with her forever.

Studying vs. Sports originally appeared on My Kids College Search on January 19, 2012