It Does Not Take A Village . . .

by College Advisor NY on June 17, 2017

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York

If you’ve watched a newscast within the last few years, you’ve probably heard some depressing news about the future of the next generation:  they are categorized as “lazy,” “out of touch with reality,” or “unfocused.” As college admission coaches, each of us spends a great deal of time, 1:1, with teenagers and we can honestly say we’ve noticed a change in students over the years.  Whether it’s the abundance of technology at their fingertips (the most common excuse) or the result of helicopter parenting, many students are missing the necessary skills to successfully communicate with adults (both in person and by email) and I can assure you that writing skills are at an all time low.  The result is the inability to successfully navigate through the college admission process (and life beyond it) without their parents’ control.

It was after this year’s admission cycle that I fully realized the extent of this problem.  For the most part, if  parents had not dominated the process (answered my emails in place of their child, questioned me about essay topics, etc) their student would not have stayed on track.

However, we cannot entirely blame students.  They are the products of OVER parenting – also known as ‘helicopter parenting,” or the new term,  “snow plow parenting.”  Evidence of this phenomenon abounds.  A parent recently contacted us about his son who was applying to an MBA program.  He didn’t call us for advice but rather for help with the application – because he, (the FATHER) was filling it out.  You read that correctly.  This is a generational phenomenon – – I can unequivocally guarantee that my parents (and parents in previous generations) would never have overstepped parenting bounds in such a way.  And, if they had, they would have been called out on it.

To be clear, this isn’t a form of love (not that these parents don’t love their children), but rather a type of control.  Instead of teaching our children, we are robbing them of the ability to face life with confidence.  Imagine the subliminal message sent by these types of actions – “You cannot handle this so I will” is, in a nutshell, what children hear.  The outcome of this behavior yields exactly the opposite of the intention, and we are now faced with a generation of children ill-equipped to face what life will throw their way – many are paralyzed when faced with responsibility.  All one needs to do is Google “helicopter parents” and you will be inundated by articles from all types of sources (The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Child Times,  NY Times) – the list goes on and on – very different publications that all agree on one thing – this type of parenting is hurting young people.

My youngest daughter is now a college sophomore, and she is horrified by the way many students treat professors.  She validates that there is a breakdown in respect and courtesy that should be shown to authority and elder figures.

It is said that “to those whom much is given, much is expected” and the majority of students whom we work with are extremely fortunate in circumstance.  We need to begin expecting more from our young people.  And the only way to teach a child personal responsibility, is to give them some – and to let them struggle through problems until they resolve them – on their own.  This begins in childhood – by the time students are in high school, it’s too late; the foundation has already been laid.  Studies show that young children who are given chores around the house are more likely to grow up to remember to do their homework, hold down jobs outside the home and earn high grades.  A fairly simple recipe.  We need to get out of our children’s way.  Expect them to reply to emails from their coaches and teachers, demand that they earn some of their own money, and teach them to look adults in the eye, shake hands and send thank you notes.  These are all simple guidelines, yet we see fewer young people who exhibit them.

As an admissions coach, I am so thrilled when I do have a student who says “please” and “thank you” or who does reply to my email in a timely fashion (or at all).  Our expectations of our youth are at an all time low and we need to regroup and ask ourselves what we are doing to enable this behavior.  Like all good things, it starts at home, with the family – our children are our responsibility and a reflection of us as parents.  Children need strong (yes strict) parenting, discipline and role models. We need young adults who are confident and achievement oriented, not cowering.  Somewhere we went off the rails.  It’s time to get back to basics.  In my view we don’t need the village, just a hard look at ourselves, our values and our children.


By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York

Free is an enticing word and it grabs our attention.  So when New York unveiled its Excelsior Scholarship or “free” tuition program, the buzz began in earnest.  And with good reason.  Parents of prospective college students are especially vulnerable right now as the middle class has suffered with the outrageous rise in college tuition and little to fall back upon.  We address this demographic often and witness the examples on a personal level.  Families who believe they’ve saved well and done the right thing by their children sit with jaws dropped when they hear the finances of their particular situation, and they’re not alone.  For most families who are not considered “super rich” there are some tough decisions to be made when it comes to how to pay for college.

The quick facts look like this:  If your income falls below these middle class parameters, you’ll be a candidate for filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).   As such, your student will most likely receive a financial aid package with a mix of loans, grants and work study.  In past blogs I’ve discussed how crucial it is (EARLY in your process) to have a professional calculate your EFC (Expected Family Contribution).  This is the amount that the college (and the government) believes you can spend per year on one child.  Brace yourself;  it’s always MUCH more than you’d expect.  Families who make above this cut-off, must either rely on their personal savings and investments or merit scholarships given to their students by the colleges to which they apply.  The caveat here is that many schools do not offer any merit awards, and most merit awards don’t come which huge figures attached, so it’s important to plan accordingly BEFORE your child falls in love with an unaffordable school.

Enter the urgency for middle class relief.  We understand the struggle families face when looking down the barrel of almost $70,000 a year tuition; it’s unfathomable.  But Dr Dean wants students who might consider engaging in this contract with New York (yes, it’s a contract, with fine print and obligations just like any other) to understand the nuances of the negotiation.  “My fear is that students won’t understand the terms they’re signing on for.” says Dean . . .“New York is not giving this money away  and it’s really much less than a small school’s financial aid package disguised as free tuition.”  Just what are the obligations within the contract?

For one, students must not only maintain a certain GPA (which is more difficult for some than others) but they MUST graduate in 4 years.  They must also agree to stay in New York for the 4 years after graduation.  More importantly, students will still need to pay room and board and fees which will likely equal $19,000/year at most 4-year SUNY colleges…That’s not free!  So on the surface, this doesn’t seem too egregious, right? What looks good when signing on the dotted line as a high school senior may become a deal breaker as the years unfold.

Four years is, of course, the “norm” for an undergraduate degree.  However, a large percentage of college students are unable to complete their studies within that time period.  The facts speak for themselves.  According to USA Today… “at flagship research public universities, the on-time graduation rate is only 36%. Only 50 of the more than 580 public four-year institutions have graduation rates above 50%.  And students who do NOT graduate on time end up spending 40% more on their education; yes, FORTY.

Dean goes on to explain one of his major concerns “If you do the math, by increasing the student body through the Excelsior program, there will be even more students vying for the necessary classes to graduate;  more students and fewer classes will equal fewer students graduating in 4 years.”  We hear this often from parents whose children chose large universities; their child is unable to get into a class that the school has mandated they take for graduation.  There is no way around this issue and the free tuition program will compound it.

To be clear, it is not always the inability to gain access to upper level classes that prevents an on-time diploma; transferring is another huge issue that puts the brakes on a 4 year graduation goal.  All of this needs to be considered when weighing your options.  Keep in mind, transferring is an expensive mistake.  Should your child attend a SUNY school and be miserable, they’ll be “on the hook” for the tuition they took not to mention the cost of non-transferable credits to the next institution.  “Fit” is still the name of the game no matter what your financial outlook.

“We want families to continue to look at this process holistically.” Dean advises cautiously.   “While ‘free tuition’ may at first be enticing, in the end, a private school may be a better fit for your child academically and socially.  Free makes for a great sound bite, but you need to dig deeper.”  The possible upside to the introduction of the Excelsior Scholarship is that now, smaller private schools will be forced to take the public competition into consideration; remember, schools are businesses too.  So keep all your cards on the table.   Keep in mind that the aid from a private school WILL cover room & board, whereas the NY plan will only take tuition out of the equation and that is in the neighborhood of $6700.  When you add R&B and SUNY fees, you’re up in the neighborhood of $18,000.  If you dissected a private college’s offer it might look like this:  $60,000 sticker price; families EFC at $22,000,  financial aid package comes out to $36,000, out of pocket expense to you is $24,000 with no strings attached.   Thus it is possible, even probable that a family whose income is $125,000 would pay about as much – perhaps even less at a private college, than they would at a SUNY school.  We’ve had families who, when the process began, never imagined they could afford the private school their child dreamed about but ultimately they were awarded enough to swing the dream school without breaking the bank.

New York has done a great job at marketing this tuition program right at the nerve center of the problem.  The middle class has been struggling and they’re ready for some real relief.  However, that can come in many forms and we don’t want our clients jumping into something they’ll later regret.  Like anything else in life, it’s wise to review all the facts, know your student well and assess all options based on more than the word “free.” We do this with all the families under our care and have guided thousands of them to happy college careers.


Tune In To Life Happens Radio this Saturday

May 28, 2017

Set Your Graduates Up For Success Upcoming Show – Saturday, June 3 Lou Pierro and Dean Skarlis   As we celebrate the achievements of our high school graduates in June, families should also be laying the groundwork for their child’s legal transition to adulthood. Tune into Life Happens Radio on June 3, when Lou Pierro […]

Read the full article →

The Campus Visit: According To The Experts

April 28, 2017

By Erin Wheeler, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor  of New York I love a good road trip!  Sunny weather, loud music, junk food and good company.  It’s always fun to hit the open road and see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences.  Taking those trips with family or friends to visit […]

Read the full article →

Decisions, Decisions!

April 12, 2017

By Deb Coco It’s finally that time of year.  Our students have visited, visited again, applied and of course, WAITED.  May 1 is just a few weeks away. If you are like most students, you’ve received offers from several schools and now it’s time to buckle down and weigh your options.  It’s more difficult than […]

Read the full article →

How Do You Survive Junior Year? Start The Process In Your Sophomore Year

April 5, 2017

By Deb Coco Parents – do you remember your junior year of high school?  My recollections revolve around a pack of girlfriends, Friday night football games, dances and the dreaded curfew.  I have to think hard to recall SAT prep (I’m not even sure I did any, and the ACT was virtually unknown in Boston). […]

Read the full article →

The College Admissions Interview

March 10, 2017

By Erin Callahan Wheeler The interview outfit. I remember it well. Blue flowered jumper, pink shirt and pink sweater. Simple brown flats and a simple brown bag. That was my uniform. But that doesn’t mean I left the house looking that put together! I would crawl into my parents’ mini-van in a hoodie and mesh shorts, […]

Read the full article →

Attend Dr. Skarlis’ course: “Finding The Right College At The Right Price” – Wednesday, March 22 6:30 pm

February 9, 2017

Register today for Dr. Skarlis’ Continuing Education Course “Finding The Right College At The Right Price” – at Shenendehowa High School on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 from 6:30 pm – 8 pm.  Dr. Skarlis will discuss how to begin the college search, maximizing scholarships and financial aid, the most important factors admissions officers consider when […]

Read the full article →

Spending Money To Save Money?

January 1, 2017

Why investing in a college advisor can LOWER your stress level…and your cost. By Deb Coco There is an old adage stating “you must spend money to make money.”  In the world of college admissions it’s really no different.  Investing in a qualified college advisor before embarking on this process will all but guarantee you […]

Read the full article →

Beauty Is, Very Often, Only Skin Deep

November 1, 2016

By Deb Coco What is it that makes a college or university desirable?  Is it rankings?  Graduate school placement? Athletic programs?  Depending on whom you ask, the answer can be quite different.  However, the one constant, year in and year out, is that a handful of “brand name schools” will be coveted by students and […]

Read the full article →