Author: jjamison

Comparing the Cost of College

During the admissions process, families are so focused on working to gain acceptance, that financial aid and cost is sometimes an afterthought.  Not for long.  The cost of college has increased exponentially over the past 2 decades and parents are often surprised at the total cost.  This is often the final factor in deciding which school to attend.  Here are a few things you should consider when comparing the cost of college.

  •  Know the TRUE COST
    • Net price calculators on college or university websites are nice for estimates, but you really need to make sure you understand the TRUE cost of attendance.  This is usually spelled out in the Financial Aid Award Letter.  This document is either mailed or available for download on the college/university’s student portal.  Some schools will release this information at time of acceptance, but others will wait until March or April.  The amount they represent here is the amount used for calculating need.  Often referred to as the Cost of Attendance or COA.
    • The Award Letter is unique for each university and for each student.  Typical costs are Tuition, Fees, Housing, Meal Plan, Books, Supplies, Transportation, Misc.  – While these things go into the Total Cost of Attendance you will not necessarily write a check to the university for transportation or supplies, so they are just estimates and your major, distance from school to home, class selection can have an impact on these costs.  So don’t look at another students COA. 
  • Make sure you compare Apples to Apples
    • COA and specific line items can be referred to differently by each school.  Example, one school might lump tuition and fees together, while another school might have 10-line items for different fees ranging from information technology, facility usage, recreation, loan payment fees, etc.  Also, some schools will lump room and board together or they may breakup the items with housing and then a line item for meal plan or food.  To complicate matters, your finial selection of dorm and meal plan, will have an impact on final cost of these items.  Example – if you get your COA before you select your dorm and when you choose a dorm you select one that has an upcharge, suite style or apartment style dorms that have upgraded amenities might come at an additional cost. 
    • Create a Spreadsheet or Document that will help you compare each cost as a separate line item.  You can do this with Excel, Google Docs or there are many free resources available to help with this. 
  • Look at your 4- year spend
    • One of the first things you should consider is how many years will it take you to complete your degree.  Like everything else, this is unique depending on your major, how many AP or dual enrollment classes you took in high school that are accepted by your college/university.  If you were an early college student that completed your associates degree while you were in high school, you might still need to attend the college for more than 2 years.  Do your research with each school and determine if they will take all your credits and if they apply directly to your major or if they are elective classes and you still need to complete all major classes which could add time to your schooling.  Once you determine the estimated amount of time, multiply the yearly cost by the number of years to determine total cost. 
    • During this comparison, you want to consider cost of living on campus vs living off campus.  Most off-campus housing will charge you for a full 12 months’ rent even if you are not there.  You will want to include those extra months of rent and utilities in the cost of education.   The cost of 4 years on campus at a smaller private school might be less than a 4-year public school in city with high cost of living.
  • Reach out to Financial Aid Offices with questions
    • Each school presents this information in its own format.  If you have any questions or need clarification, please reach out to the school’s financial aid department.  These professionals can offer clarity and help guide you in next steps. 
    • If you are struggling or feel that the calculation for need is incorrect, you will have to appeal with the Financial Aid department.  Let me be clear, there might not be anything they can do, but if there are options and other opportunities for additional assistance, they would be able to let you know.
    • DO NOT THINK YOU CAN WHEEL AND DEAL.  I often have students who want to use acceptance into one college to get a better price at another.  It does not work that way.  No matter how many internet videos you have watched. Every decision or change made by a financial aid department is based on student specific information.

A few other tips:

  • Understand the ROI (Return on Investment) – Go to Indeed.com or salary.com and look up your dream job and see what the average pay in the part of the country you want to live.  If the salary is less than the yearly cost of your education, you might want to consider all your options.  Example:  If AVG yearly salary is $40k, you might think twice before paying 60k a year for 4 years for your education.  How long will it take you to pay off those student loans?  Is the cost of the school you have selected worth the investment.  Can a less expensive school provide the same opportunities?
    • Attend the Crosby Scholars Evaluating your Financial Aid Award Letter Academy – Open to students and parents. March 28, 2022, 7pm www.crosbyscholarsiredell.org
    • StudentAid.gov is the federal student aid website.  Lots of people try to make money from financing your education.  Go straight to www.studentaid.gov with questions.

Did you get the answer you wanted?

The next step in the college application process is to receive an answer from the admissions department. There are a number of responses you can receive…Accepted, Deferred, Wait-listed, or Declined.  At this time, you might not even have any of these responses and you are in a waiting pattern.

The Global Pandemic has modified the College Admissions Process.  Many colleges were frantic to make sure they kept their application numbers up.  For some schools numbers were down, but for many others, they received a record number of applications during the Early Action process.  There is no way to know exactly but test optional applications, increased number of students applying early, and students applying to higher number of schools than they would in prior years might be some of the factors that have driven the numbers up.

Students and Counselors alike are surprised that they have not heard or have been deferred in record numbers.  Admissions offices with the same or less staff are having to review a higher number of applications early and they are not sure what they are going to get during the regular decision timeframe.  College Kickstart has published acceptance rates that you might find interesting.  When the number of applications is up the % of acceptance goes down.  All of this impacts our students. 

How you respond to the communication you receive from the college or university you are applying to will determine your ultimate success in acceptance.

No matter what the answer you need to do the following:

If deferred: 

Follow steps above. If you have decided that you no longer wish to attend that college/university, then you can communicate your decision to the school. A deferral decision in the Early Action/Early Decision process removes any obligation to attend and frees you to accept admission in another college or university. Most students continue with the deferral process and wait on final decisions in the spring. If you are still interested in this college/university then consider these next steps.

Deferred (Not a denial) possible response to an Early Action or Early Decision application. If you were deferred most colleges and universities feel that you are a strong candidate, but not as strong as others that applied early. They want to review your application with other applications in the regular decision process. Chances of acceptance after deferral depend on the university. Explore the school’s website for additional information.


Waiting on Decisions – What should I do?

So you have finished your applications and are now waiting to hear from the schools about a decision. Each day you check your email, run to the mailbox, or log in to the school’s website to check your status. It does not help when friends and family going through this process might have already heard from their school and are posting all over social media, “I Got IN” photos. Very few people jump on to tell the world they were deferred, waitlisted, or rejected.

So we are really in No Man’s Land. That space where you just have to wait. Some people are better at this than others. If you have not received the envelope yet, you are probably wondering WHY?

Add COVID into the mix and you are probably wondering if there is a path out of NO Man’s Land. Here are a few things you can do.

Stay Calm – Don’t stress out.  There are so many factors and you should take a moment to enjoy the relief of completing your college applications.

Don’t pick up the Phone First – The last thing you want to do is pester the admissions department.  Calling and saying – “Where’s my letter or Why didn’t I get in?”  Is probably not going to get you anything.

CHECK YOUR EMAIL – Yes that is all in caps for emphasis.  I have no idea why, but high school students really don’t like email.  But schools still use email to communicate key pieces of information.  Not only Check your email…READ your email. 

Check the School’s Web Tools – It is really important to make sure YOU are NOT missing something or your application is incomplete. Also, you might see an update on your status online, before you get anything in the mail.

COVID IS having an impact on the process – Each College is working their process through the lens of a pandemic.  The number of applications might have changed, which changes the formula that they might have used in the past.  The Fall enrollment might have been down so they are trying to figure out how many students to accept.  Be patient, this might work in your favor.

Do Your Homework and Reach Out if appropriate – Some Admissions teams really WANT to interact with students!  Schools are going to extraordinary lengths to reach out to students.  These offices missed in person interaction in the fall. They are setting up zooms, virtual hours, and social media live events.  Check into the school’s policy on interacting and reach out to those departments.  

I am tired of hearing and saying that this year is different, but it really is.  If you have real questions and you have done your homework reach out. They know this year is different and they want to make sure you have a path to communicate. Follow these steps.

If the published dates pass and you have not heard, or you have not gotten the response you were hoping for, reach out to your Crosby Advisor.  We are here to help.  You can also email me at jjamison@crosbyscholarsiredell.org. I would love to help in any way I can.


Power in YOUR Story

Some people have to be prodded to share their stories and other people you just can’t shut up.  Have you heard the phrase “Listen & Learn”?  I know all too often we listen to be able to interject our experience or our story.  I can see the scene right now, and if I was totally honest, I have caught myself doing it.  Two plus people having a conversation.  (If you are having a conversation with yourself this is an entirely different conversation :)). 

So, at this point you are thinking, why am I reading about telling my story on a Crosby Scholars Website?  What does this have to do with college access?  How does this affect me?

I have found that stories can get a student into a school, can help a friend avoid a mistake, can inspire others to support a program.  I recently asked our alumni and students to share their Crosby Scholars Success Story.  My hope is that their story will help future students to know that it is possible to achieve their goals.  I hope to share these stories in a future blog.

Now, let’s address how your story can get you into school.  College applications are ALL about telling your story. 

Your transcript tells your academic achievement story.  But it is only part of the story.  People can’t see the struggle the effort and the work you put into those grades.  Your high school adds to the story.  What your school offers AP, IB, College Level Classes, when viewed in conjunction with your grades, shows how you challenged yourself and took advantage of opportunities. 

Your Activities tell your story – Did you take time to do other things while going to school?  Are you an athlete?  Musician?  Are you a leader?  What clubs or groups did you align yourself with?  Your activities show your passions and interests and can make your transcript even more impressive.  Example, if you don’t have time to participate in 10 clubs at school, you might think, wow I don’t have a very impressive story.  But, if you worked 20 hours a week to help your family with finances and you still kept your grades up, that could be more impressive than joining 10 non-descript clubs. 

Your Common App Essay tells your story – If it doesn’t, IT SHOULD!  You have 650 words to relay your story.  I read hundreds of essays each year and one of the biggest mistakes I see is that students use a large number of those words telling someone else’s story.  Like your proximity to someone that has a really dramatic story gives you credibility.  NO!  Use the essay to share about YOU!  Make sure people walk away with a greater understanding of who you are, what you want and how you want to get there.

College specific supplemental questions tell your story – Colleges are looking for more insight.  The more selective the school the more questions you have.  Most of the time these questions get to why you want to attend a school and how you will use the opportunities available.  Sometimes the questions are weird, “List the first 5 songs on your playlist?” What on earth does that have to do with anything. You would be surprised at what tells your story.

Social Media Accounts Tell your Story – Not every college looks at your social media account to determine if you are good fit, but everything you put out there is not going away.  Schools, scholarship organizations, teachers, and future employers, can see your story online.  Have you ever googled your name and city and state?  What images appear?  What story shows up?  Your good, bad, and ugly has a part of telling your story. 

There is Power in your story!  Sharing about your struggles, achievements and experiences can earn you friends, give you access to experiences, and help others learn.  Use your power, TELL YOUR STORY!


Do I need to complete the FAFSA?

Working with 12th graders and their families, I get this question A LOT!  What if I told you your child could go to a private selective 4-year college with a list price of $73,000 per year for the amount represented on your EFC?  You say, “I make too much money.”  What if your EFC came back as $28,000?  Would you want to fill out the FAFSA then?  The answer would be YES.  

What is the FAFSA?  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  This application is what colleges and universities use to determine if a student has financial need.  When you complete the FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR), which shows your families Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  Based on your tax returns your EFC can range between 000000 – 999,999.  The lower the number the higher the need.  Families with an EFC lower than 6,000 are typically eligible for federal assistance like the Pell Grant.  Colleges also use the EFC to determine use of state assistance and funding and that EFC can be higher to get access.  Completing the applications not only gives access to federal aid in the form of grants but it gives all students access to federal student loans and parents access to Parent PLUS Loans. 

What Determines Need:  

Now I am not going to spend my time selling you on the FAFSA.  There are plenty of websites and groups focused on encouraging students to complete this free application.  These are the sites you want to visit to get the answer to all of your FAFSA questions.   

One caution here, there are a ton of websites that want to provide you information on how to complete the FAFSA.  While some might be helpful and reputable, some are trying to sell you something.  How do I know?  Five years ago, when I started this journey with my oldest going to college, I paid someone to help me complete the FAFSA.  Back then you had to key in everything manually and they did not have the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  To be honest, I had heard so many horror stories about this process that I was afraid to try it myself.  Guess what, I DID NOT NEED to pay for help.  I could have saved my money.  Your answers are your answers, and no one can play the system to change the outcome.  If someone is telling you they can get you a lower EFC…RUN AWAY, they have some snake oil to sell.  I am happy to report that using the IRS Data Retrieval tool made the next time I completed this form much easier. 

If you are unable to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool because of special circumstances, please do your research for your situation. Studentaid.gov has detailed information, instructions and videos to help. You can also reach out to your institutions financial aid department. CFNC.org is also partnering with NC schools to offer assistance. Click on the CFNC.org link in the above list to see help options.

If you are going to pay for college completely out of pocket and not utilize any student loans, work study, grants, scholarships and for some school’s merit aid, then NO don’t fill it out.  Completing the FAFSA DOES give you access to:  

  • Federal Grants 
  •  Work-Study
  •  Subsidized student loans
  •  Unsubsidized student loans
  •  University need-based grants & scholarships
  •  Merit Scholarships (Some schools require the FAFSA or awarding merit scholarships)
  •  Crosby Scholars need-based Last Dollar Grants
  •  Admission to some schools requires the completion of the FAFSA

Every school uses the FAFSA in some way.  You really need to research the schools on your list to determine what they require and how they use it.  Some schools will also require the CSS profile.  There are 5 schools in NC that require this document and there is a cost associated to complete.  That is a topic for a different blog.  🙂 

So, to answer the first question, “Do I need to complete the FAFSA?”  I would say, YES.  And by the way, this is not a ONE and DONE thing.  If you want access to the same funds, you will need to complete the FAFSA every year your student is planning to attend school.   


Be S.M.A.R.T. when searching the internet.

I just finished attending a staff meeting with the team at Crosby Scholars Iredell County.  We were discussing the appropriate curriculum and ways to get key information to students and parents in our program.  In this COVID, Pandemic world we live in, more people are looking to the internet for information.  Any kind of information. 

How do I bring out the curls in my hair?  How do I apply makeup to look skinny?  Top 10 ways to learn virtually?  How to write the best essay to get you into all Ivy League schools?  You know what I am talking about, you each have gone to that much-loved search bar and typed in a question and been directed to a list of resources.

What you do next is sometimes a game changer.  Do you click on the first 5 on the list?  Have you noticed that those sometimes have the word (AD or Advertisement) in the line?  This means they paid to be in this spot and just because they come up first does not necessarily mean it is the most accurate or relevant information.  Here are a few tips to help you make sure the information you find actually provides accurate information. (I am going to gear my remarks towards college access.)

Source Check

  1.  Check the Source – Who is providing the information?  Is it a reputable organization, like Crosby Scholars? What experience does the writer or site have in the realm of your search?  Visit their website without going through the link and see what they are all about.  There are also sites like SNOPES.com; truthorfiction.com; factcheck.org you can use to check the validity of a claim.

Marketing is Everywhere

2. What are they selling?  – EVERYONE is SELLING SOMETHING!  YouTube channels want you to subscribe, you might have to watch advertisements until that lovely SKIP ADS button appears.  Most businesses are sharing information to push you to purchase or investment.  While Crosby Scholars is a free program, we want you to use our services or become a participant.  We never charge a fee for our academies, information, or participation.  Many websites have fees, they will tease you with a video or article about the best way to do something, but if you really want the knowledge you can, 1 share your personal information or 2 pay a small fee to get access to what is next.  Proceed with caution!

I want to be clear!  There are LOTS of reputable organizations offering services that are reasonably priced with good outcomes.  With my Non-Profit Hat on – I would like you to search for FREE resources.  I bet you can find the information, skills, knowledge you are looking for at no cost to you.

Avoid Expired Information

3. Check the Date – Is the information provided current?  Things change sometimes by the minute.  Information about COVID 19 from March is really not relevant any longer.  So many things have changed and so much has been learned that videos, articles, papers are really out of date.  If you are researching a history project that dates thing might not be as important but as for College Access information, this is a moving target right now and you want to find the most recent info.

Research for your specific circumstance

4. Go Straight to the School’s Website – So many organizations and groups want to be the end all be all for college access information.  At the end of the day most of the people giving you advice, or information are providing that information in general terms.  If you want to know SPECIFICS, go straight to the horse’s mouth.  Example:  A recent news program shared a video that spoke to the ability to haggle with schools over the cost of tuition.  They shared 2 student’s stories.  If you watched that and you do not understand the specifics that went into that student’s outcome, you might be really frustrated with your outcome in a similar attempt.  Example:  Financial Aid questions about your specific situation should be addressed to your school’s financial aid office.  They know what they are looking for and you can get your answer directly.

Tears are NOT Necessary

5. Keep an Open Mind – I read A LOT of content about College Admissions, Test Prep, Financial Aid, etc.  Because I am looking through my filter of helping many different students in different situations, it is easier for me to objectively review the information and not get upset or take it personally.  While keeping an open mind, understand the audience, don’t automatically give up because someone said on YouTube that they did not get into a school because of a test score.  Don’t be discouraged, don’t give up!  Make a list of things that you question and dig deeper into the topic.  Example:  Talking about the cost of college and scholarships and federal aid.  You might start your search with high-level general information, but then dig deeper by going to Net Price Calculators at the schools’ websites and visit the studentaid.gov site to get your questions answered. 

In this very VIRTUAL world we are working in, be SMART about how you find your information.  Check the source, don’t buy what they are selling, check the date, dig deeper at organizations’ sties and KEEP AN OPEN MIND!


Interview with College Admissions Officers

As the Senior Program Coordinator with Crosby Scholars Iredell County, I get a lot of questions from students about the college application process.  Most of the time students and parents want me to get my crystal ball out and answer questions, that usually have the same answer… “It depends on the school”, “Schools handle that differently”, my favorite “You will need to check with the school or institution to see what they say.”  People might think I am passing the buck and/or too chicken to answer the questions.  I assure you that this is NOT the case.  Example:  Will my kid get into school Fill in Name if they have a 3.8 GPA and a 21 on their ACT.  Guess what the answer is…I DON’T KNOW.

Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball.  Each class year is different, you never know what circumstances might affect a decision and just because a student got in last year with those scores, does not mean they would get in this year.  The list of things that can affect the decision is a mile long. 

I would like you to put yourself in the shoes of the college admissions officers out there.  Imagine you have 1,000 seats to fill and you receive 100,000 applications.  Now we know this is an exaggeration, but you get the point.  These admissions teams want to do what is best for the school, students, families, and everyone. 

The college application process is hard enough, now add a global pandemic and the cancelation of every type of test used to help make placement decisions.  Students and parents are worried, counselors are frustrated, and schools are again trying to do what is right. 

I recently reached out to a group of College Admissions Officers and asked if they would be willing to answer a few questions.  I picked the questions based on what I get several times a day.  I would like to thank Appalachian State University, North Carolina State University, Southwestern University, SUNY Maritime College, and UNC Asheville for taking the time to answer these questions for our students.

Most schools agreed that students should use every available resource to reach out and learn about their campus, programs, and opportunities. Some schools are even offering one on one zoom sessions and UNCA is offering in-person tours by appointment only.

Deciding when to apply can be a struggle. If you are interested in applying for financial aid, honors, or scholarships, I suggest you apply early. Again, check with your school to determine application deadlines and details.

The schools we talked to are test-optional for college admission applications. Be sure to understand if you will have to submit scores for Honors programs, Merit Scholarships, or athletic participation.

Be sure to understand your schools test policy and school specific process.

These admissions officers offer some great advice for our class of 2021 applicants.

Remember to visit your school’s website for up to date information.

Special thanks to the following colleges and people who participated in our survey. Also, a special thank you to App State, NC State, and UNC Asheville for participating in a Zoom Q&A session with our Crosby Scholars in Iredell County.

Appalachian State University – Elena Taylor, Associate Director of Admissions

North Carolina State – Frankie Miller, Admissions Counselor

Southwestern University – Christine Bowman, Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services

SUNY Maritime College – Carlos Cano, Assistant Director of Admissions for Communications

University of North Carolina Asheville – Savannah Purdy, Admissions Counselor


Covid or College: Do I Have to Choose?

So many things in our world have changed in the last 3 months and it IS extremely overwhelming.  Last year my conversations with students and parents were centered around what to bring to college, understanding changes to parent student relationships with FERPA and enjoying the excitement of the new year through Facebook and Instagram posts. 

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Today the conversation is DIFFERENT!  Students and Parents are asking should I still go to college?  What is the value if everything is going online?  What options do I have?  Do I still need to pay the full price of school and dorms?  The thought of students paying a premium to stream classes was very creatively displayed in this Facebook post.

First, I want to remind you…There is value to education.  While the image is funny, we realize it is not really a true comparison.  Colleges and Universities are planning to provide in person, online or some hybrid of education and there is a cost and a value to that education.  If you thought so last year while you were applying, that should not have changed.

What might have changed is your financial situation and sensitivity to the cost vs value proposition.  Your family finances will definitely impact your decisions, but you should reach out to your school and explain your situation and see what is available.  Each school is managing financial aid requests separately. 

Recent High School Graduates started a very grueling application process.  Blood, sweat and tears, YES tears, went into a large majority of these students’ efforts to get accepted into the school of their choice.  Then COVID hit and they had to decide pretty early what they were going to do in the fall.  Some students changed their plans about going out of state or far away from home, some decided to stick with their initial plan.

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The choices were tough but were made. Now we are seeing a surge in cases and colleges are sending out invoices for the fall semester not only including the cost of a dorm room but requiring contracts signed from families stating that refunds would not be given if college campus has to close.  Now families are second guessing their May decisions, campuses are scurrying to provide information that is sometimes only good for a few hours. 

Everyone is asking WHAT SHOULD I DO? 

  • Don’t make hasty decisions – You spent 6 months or more researching schools, completing applications and then deciding on an institution to attend.  Be sure you review your choices and understand your ultimate educational goals.  If you change now, what are the implications on future options. 
  • Read EVERYTHING VERY CAREFULLY- There is A LOT of information on each school’s website.  Before making or changing any decisions, be sure you understand every aspect of the decision.
    • Find options or choices that work for your student
    • Understand deadlines for changes
    • Understand cost or fees associated with changes
    • READ – READ and then GO Listen to the volume of video communication about all of it available on YouTube. (Don’t believe me, type in your school’s name and 2020 and up will pop short videos about managing ever-changing campus life.
  • Communicate with your school – If you have researched all available information and still have questions, reach out to admissions, student services, and financial aid to address specific circumstances of your family.  Some schools have resources that might be able to help you overcome a change in plans. 
  • Be careful what you sign!  – Schools are pushing more documents than ever before.  Make sure your student reads or at least forwards the email to you to read before they agree.  Examples of documents:
    • COVID prompted and changed the housing agreement
    • Tuition agreements
    • Code of conduct – Check out the level of detail in behavior they are asking students to sign.  UMass Code of Conduct
  • Be confident in your decision – Once you have worked through all of the issues, stand firm in your plan, work to support your student as they begin the year.  The stress associated with this transition is big enough but when you add COVID, that multiplies.  Make a plan and check-in. 

So, yes YOU WILL HAVE TO CHOOSE!  But this is not an either-or proposition.  Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you and your family.  Consider learning styles, location, safety, cost, and family.  Luckily there are so many pathways to education and you have options.  You don’t have to choose COVID or COLLEGE. 

In closing I will say that you also need to CHOOSE to be a member of the community and take steps to ensure your health and well-being and that of your community.  CHOOSE to be SMART.


Why being the exception should not be your rule.

Why being the exception should not be your rule.

Ever seen a sign at someone’s desk that reads, “Poor Planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”? 

I really do enjoy working with students and helping them to achieve their goals.  I love the “a-ha” moments when it all seems to click and students learn something about themselves and succeed in ways they never thought they could.  On the other hand I am just as crushed when I see one of my students struggle or fail because of something silly like a missed date, requirement, or misunderstanding.  But win or fail, we learn from each circumstance.  The lesson might be hard but it is valuable and often times that mistake is not repeated — an achievement in itself.  Today’s Lesson is “Exceptions should NOT be your RULE! 

In my role as Senior Program Coordinator for Crosby Scholars Iredell County I often have to ask a question of hundreds of students.  The answer then drives processes.  Every time I send out an email I hold my breath.   Then I hear it, my phone signals that I am getting a response.  Every time I hear the phone ding, I know it is an exception.  Want to know how I know?  Nowhere in the instructions did I say to send me an email to respond.  The reason being, I can’t keep up with 300 individual emails.

I started this blog wanting to help students understand that always asking for exceptions and doing things in a special way just for them is not really doing them any favors.  In today’s world everyone needs an exception, an accommodation, and special excuses.  I am not talking about IEP or 504 accommodations.  Asking for exceptions because of learning differences is one of my exceptions.  (Ha Ha)

You know what I am talking about.  Go into a room of 25 students.  Announce that you need them to perform a specific task on a specific day at a specific time.  Sit back and watch the 5 – 10 hands fly up for the – I can’t make that day, that time does not work for me, I really don’t like that task is there something else I can do.  I am here to say — NO.  Sometimes if you want to benefit from a program or a job or an experience, you are going to have to make it a priority.  Go back to that room of 25 kids.  Take a look at the 15 to 20 students that said, yes, I am here, I am ready, tell me what I need to do to benefit.  These kids are the rule.  Sometimes it is good to be the rule.  For the kids that take every opportunity and meet the requirements and engage with interest and sincerity.  Those are the kids that are going to succeed.  Not only in Crosby Scholars, but in LIFE. 

This does not mean that I am looking for a cookie cutter world where everyone is the same and everyone is alike.  I strongly believe we THRIVE on diversity.  Different views, different ideas, different backgrounds, bring something special to the world.  Let’s take those 15 – 20 students that did not ask for exceptions but each have different educational goals and paths.  I love helping kids explore what can be next and know that they don’t have to follow the crowd.  They will succeed and thrive if they follow their own path.  Checking the boxes of a designed and planned program will only enhance their ability to be successful. 

When did we start thinking that groups, organizations and programs have to bend and sway for individual likes and dislikes?  I believe that we too quickly jump into participation to look good, or check a box, or build that resume.  I would offer that we should be selective of our time and participation and only engage in activities that bring value and fit with your goals, desires & passions.  Ask these questions?  What is the value of the Program? Why do you want to participate in the Program? What do you hope to get from participation?  Do I have time and capacity to see this through?  What are the alternatives if I DO NOT participate in the program?

Your time is valuable. If you do choose to participate I suggest you try to be the rule.  Complete the requirements, participate, engage, and use the resources.  If you don’t someone else will.  Stand out in a positive way and not as the person that always needs a workaround.

In the game of college admissions, scholarships and jobs, there is always an application process.  There are specific steps and processes that need to be followed.  If you are looking for exceptions, don’t be surprised if you do not get them.  When 42,000 students are applying for 9,000 spots, this is not the time to not follow the process or look for an exception.  You will be remembered, but for all the wrong reasons.

Think about how excited you will be when you get that acceptance letter!


Have a Little FUN!

GO HAVE FUN!  In the middle of a pandemic, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

By Jenniffer Jamison

Nope, I am totally serious.  The stress of homeschooling, technology learning curve, lack of social contact with friends and family is the perfect reason to add a little fun to your current situation. 

First – Fun is relative.  You might not agree with my definition of fun.  That is okay.  You have to discover what fun looks like for you.  I found an article on Fun written by Rebecca Crespo “Ten Simple Benefits of Having Fun”, on www.minimalismmadesimple.com.  She states that there are two living creatures to look to for guidance on having fun, Children & Dogs.  Think about it, she is right.  Both children and dogs, explore new things, have a sense of wonder and play.    They don’t take themselves so seriously. 

Then, I thought, I need to prove the importance of having fun.  Scientific proof that fun helps with learning and relieving anxiety, and everything else that goes with it.   BORING.  Reading all the data is itself the opposite of FUN! 

Next, I thought I should take a look at the group of people this blog is written for, teens and their families.  This is when I found some examples that took some ingenuity and thought.  I will not bore you with facts about the frontal lobe and cognitive behaviors of teens.  Needless to say, they don’t always think everything through.  They also want to prove to the world that they are so grown up while really still being a child at heart. 

Sixty days ago if you told me that Graduations were going to be postponed, college orientations go virtual and the possibility of not being on campus for the freshman semester was a thought, I would have told you that was CRAZY.  Well, here we are. 

Once the initial newness of the Zoom conference call wore off for my middle school student, we had to look for different ways to keep her engaged and interested.  Middle School students are not the only people in this boat. 

The more you dread something the less you will want to do it.

Add a little fun and like May Poppins says “Snap the jobs a game, and every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake, a lark a spree it’s very clear to see….Okay, finish the song.  You know you want to ….”Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

You don’t have to look far on the internet for examples of how people are either dreading zoom calls or disrupting them.  I love the one where the class made it look like they were passing a pencil from one window to the next. 

Some people say that was a waste and a shame – I say what a way for teamwork.  You know it took those kids some problem-solving skills to figure out how to make that a seamless process.  Looking for the videos I found the same class had about 10 other videos posted with different ideas, dancing, sleeping, etc. Everyone had to work together to produce the outcome.  And guess what — It was fun!  While I am not encouraging kids to be disrespectful to their teachers or employees to their bosses, I believe the teacher was in on this.  This is something they will share with others (clearly), talk about, have others talking about.  I am sure something from that experience will help them in the future.  So I say— Worth it!

There are times to be serious but I believe you have to add a little fun, especially in the current time of unknown anxiety and increased isolation. 

While you are having fun you are also, learning, experiencing new things, sharing with others, team building, and problem-solving.  Some might even say the exploration of fun, hobbies & interests can add to finding the right career path and building your college resume. 

I asked our Facebook community what they are doing to have fun and below is a list of things that were shared. 

  1. Get Moving– Run, Walk, Jump, Skip just start moving. Exercise helps with mood and energy levels.
  1. Get Outside – Something about nature that is calming.  I am currently typing this blog outside and I have to say I feel inspired.  Just look at that blue sky! Sunrise, sunset, meteor shower this month, and a couple of really cool Moons.  Look it up.
  1. Get Together – In a socially distant way.  There are ways to be with people.  You cannot isolate yourself completely.  Being with others will have a positive effect.  Can’t walk 6 feet apart from a friend then take your dog for a walk.
  1. Play Games – UNO, Monopoly, Cards, Sorry, Trouble, Pictionary, Tabu, Trivial Pursuit, etc.  I dare you to go find your family’s stash of old board games.  Play one a week.
  1. Cook – Great time to learn your Mom’s recipes for when you go to school or try something new.  Better yet grab the family recipe box on the back of the top shelf in your kitchen.  Find the recipe handwritten by your grandmother and go for it.  Just no bread — you will not be able to find the ingredients at the store right at this moment. 
  1. Explore your Family – Ancestory.com is a great way to learn about your family tree.  Too techy for you, then pick up the phone and call your grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  Heck, ask your parents about when you were a little kid or better yet when they were a little kid.  You will not regret this time. 
  1. Explore a Hobby – Sewing, art, writing, dance, playing an instrument, learning a sport.  Pick something you have wanted to learn for a while and go for it.  You might find something you are really good at and a new passion.
  1. Help Others – You can find great joy in helping others.  Find ways to help your family, neighbors, and community.
  1. Clean your room — Now some of you are calling foul – That is not fun!  You never know what you are going to find at the bottom of that pile of clothes and clearing the clutter from your life might have a positive effect on your mood.  I know your MOM will think that it is FUN!  “Happy Mother’s Day?”
  1. BE YOU – Everyone has a different opinion on what fun is.  Go figure out what that is for YOU and do it!

 All of this requires action so GO have fun!