RateMyTeachers.com Blog

Thursday, January 01, 2004

RateMyTeachers.com Newsletter #3

RateMyTeachers.com Newsletter #3
January 2004

Happy new year, from RateMyTeachers. School is back in session and everyone is getting down to business. For some students, the issue of finalizing college applications has taken on a new urgency. Others students are hard at work prepping for SATs. For many students, these issues are still a year or more out of sight, and out of mind. Regardless, the RateMyTeachers staff knows the new year is a time of renewed energy. As you tackle your new goals, the RMT staff is proud to introduce our newest feature – our very own guidance counselor and advice columnist.

RateMyTeachers PRESENTS: The Guidance Guy – Larry Hochman

RateMyTeachers is proud to present real life guidance counselor, Larry Hochman, a.k.a. “The Guidance Guy.” Larry Hochman is a guidance counselor in central Connecticut and has joined the RateMyTeachers team to answer any questions facing our students. Larry is the author of “Nine Secrets to College and Career Success” and is a treasure trove of information. We are proud and lucky to have him on our team. Please continue on to read “The Story of Allison,” written by the Guidance Guy for RateMyTeachers members. After that, check out our new advice column page at:

Feel free to ask the Guidance Guy anything on your mind at school and he will do his best to assist you. Each month, we will choose some of the best questions and answers to publish on the site.

Until next month,
Michael Hussey

The Story of Allison
by Larry Hochman (The Guidance Guy)

How will you decide which colleges you should apply to? Here's a story that might help a little.

About three years ago one of my students (we'll call her Allison) was a senior. She came from a divorced family where neither parent had gone to college. She didn't know much about how the system worked.

Of course, she went through all the workshops her high school's guidance department offered, she listened to all the returning graduates coming back for Thanksgiving vacation, and got lots of stories about what was a good college experience and what should be "do-overs".

Allison was a good student...a B average. Her S.A.T. scores were also pretty good...just over 1000. She had lots of options.

So what should Allison do?

Pick a location? What a great idea.

Allison didn't care much about the size of the school she went to, but she wanted it in a large metropolitan area. Since she lived about two hours from New York City, she thought that might be nice.

She also thought she might like to major in business, since she didn't particularly enjoy science or math and she liked the business side of her job at a sit-down restaurant.
Beyond that, Allison didn't give the college search process much thought until November of her senior year.

Big mistake.

As I'm sure you know from term papers, the closer you get to something's due date, the more nervous you get about doing it, and the more you become willing to settle for any old choice, so long as you're doing SOMETHING!

So one day Allison got a letter from a really nice college in the NYC area that specialized in business degrees. A good college...nothing wrong with it.

It also cost $28,000 a year. Is that a good investment?

Sure it is...if a college has EXACTLY what you're looking for. If the major is perfect, if the atmosphere is perfect, if you have fallen in love with the place, if you think it will put you in a REALLY good position to compete in the economic world when you graduate.
And if you're very rich or you're willing to go into debt up to your eyeballs for a very long time. Because even with financial aid, you've still got enough loans to choke a pig.

So what did Allison do?

She made Mistake Number Two.

Without looking at any other colleges, she decided to apply to that one and that one only. Since it was not a very selective college, she got in easily. And they gave her a SCHOLARSHIP! $1500!

Great...now she only had $26,500 per year to pay.

Despite the pleas of her guidance counselor and the misgivings of her mom, she decided this was the college for her.

She applied for financial aid, got another couple of thousand in grants, got the standard student loan for a first year college student, and had her Mom take out loans for the remainder of one semester's tuition.

Allison really enjoyed her one semester at this college...got good grades and felt like she really fit into the community.

So it was really hard to say good-bye after half a year because her mother decided she couldn't afford the tuition for the second semester.

Allison wound up going to community college for the spring semester, and transferred to a state university in her home state. She's now a junior majoring in accounting.
She enjoys her "new college" and looks forward to moving to the Big Apple when she graduates.

Of course, she and her mom are still paying off the loans from her one semester at Big Price Tag U.

Am I saying that expensive universities are a mistake?


What did Allison do wrong?

1. She started the college search process late, so she made decisions under pressure.

2. She didn't look at enough schools. Someone had a really nice picture of a really nice school on a really nice letter, so she said "yes" to the first place that looked good.

3. She didn't look at the big picture. Finances are a big part of the picture for many people, and just because someone said "scholarship" to her, she thought the money part would be taken care of.

There are other mistakes she made along the way, but these are the big three. You can make mistakes and still wind up in a good situation, but these three are enough to take what should be an exciting time and turn it into a nightmare!

How do YOU compare to Allison in YOUR college search process?

Feel free to email any comments or questions to the Guidance Guy at: larry@guidanceguy.com
Please check out his website at: http://www.guidanceguy.com