Category: Suzanne Wegmiller’s Blog Posts

Suzanne Wegmiller, Executive Director, shares her thoughts on hot topics, common questions, and all things higher education.

A thought for the new year

A co-worker recently shared this poem with me. I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to read and reflect as you start your new year.

The start of something new brings the hope of something great. Anything is possible.

Dream Big

 Author Unknown

If there were ever a time to dare
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing
It is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily –
but for something that tugs at your heart,
something that is worth your aspiration,
something that is your dream.
You owe it to yourself
to make your days count.
Have fun. Dig deep. Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though,
that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be times when you want to
turn around,
pack it up and call it quits.
Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
And that you are not afraid to learn by trying.


Because with an idea,
determination and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts, your intellect
And let your heart guide you.


Believe in the incredible power
of the human mind,
of doing something that makes a difference,
of working hard,
of laughing and hoping,
of lasting friends,
of all the things that will cross your path.

Next year

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only one you
And you will pass this way but once.

The Energy of In-Person Events

We all love the convenience of virtual meetings and events. Since the pandemic, we have gotten used to how easy it is to attend almost anything from the comfort of our home in front of our computer screen. It saves time and money—plus we don’t have to get dressed up! These benefits are the upside of virtual meetings.

Crosby Scholars embraces the convenience of these options, too. We love the fact that students don’t need to have transportation to get to an event every time. It’s also been great to be able to offer speakers from around the country to share their expertise with our Iredell students. The future will continue to include these virtual offerings because of the upsides they offer.

One thing that can’t be duplicated in a virtual meeting, however, is the energy that comes from meeting with other people who share common goals. There is something magical that happens when students from across the county come together on a college campus to learn together. Maybe it’s the commiserating about having to get up on a Saturday morning to come to a Crosby event. Maybe it’s seeing people you didn’t expect to see—but it makes you happy to know they are there with you. Maybe it’s the sense of community that comes with knowing that others care about your future and are willing to spend some time with you on a Saturday to help you grow.

Whatever that magic is, it’s there every time we get together in person with a group of Crosby Scholars. So if you haven’t attended an event in person yet, we encourage you to try it! We will be offering our next on-campus academy on January 28 at the MCC campus in Mooresville. There will also be chances to complete community service projects and to go on college tours with us in the coming months. We hope you will join us so you can experience the magic of the positive Crosby energy for yourself!

Still loving my college choice, all these years later!

My process of choosing a college was pretty simple compared to what many students endure today. Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Choose a state school (we didn’t think a private school was affordable, even with my good test scores and grades).
  2. Select a school not too far from home (within 2 hours was ideal).
  3. Do not choose the school where my dad had attended (this was my criteria, not sure that I shared it with my dad) Also, this school was the one that many students from my high school chose to attend each year.

Mr. K, my guidance counselor, must have been on commission from one college that fit these criteria, but it was within commuting distance, and I wasn’t interested. He kept trying to convince me, though!

I found another state school that had an innovation in their elementary education program—field experience for 4 quarters before student teaching!! That sold me. The idea of being in the classroom early in my college career really appealed to me. The school was about 2 hours from home so I applied and was admitted.

I made my selection: The University of Toledo.

At the time it was mainly a commuter campus with a small residential population. The best of both worlds—large campus amenities with the feel of a small campus, especially on weekends! Known at that time more for pharmacy and engineering than education, most of my friends were not education majors. I was from a small town in northwest Ohio, many of the other residential students were from the Cleveland, Ohio, area or the Middle East.

For four years, I lived in the residence halls meeting all kinds of people. I got involved as a desk clerk, housing judicial counsel, and finally as a resident advisor. This is where I made friends that I still have to this day. We experienced the good times and hard times of college life. Many of our fun times were had at free sporting or social events on campus.

These friends have gone on to become nurses, marketing managers, pharmacy directors, guidance counselors, dentists, homeowners, parents and grandparents. All successful in their chosen paths.

My college wasn’t ranked in the top ten. Our football team never won a national championship. But no matter. I’m still loving my college for the foundation it provided for my career and the people I met during my on campus. Trust your choice and enjoy every minute of your journey!

Which program should I choose?

The applications for Early College are about to open. Scheduling high school classes for next year will start in just a few short weeks. Some students and families might be getting anxious about these choices. Crosby Scholars staff members often get asked, “What program should my student be in?” or “Should we go with AP or IB?” As much as we’d like to be able to answer these questions for you, we can’t! These decisions should be based upon what you know about your child.

Here are some things to consider when trying to decide about a high school (or middle school) program:

  • Is your student more mature or less mature than most of his/her peers?
  • How much time after school is your student willing to commit to schoolwork?
  • In how many extracurricular activities will your student participate?
  • How much time/ability do you have to support your student with transportation, homework help, community service requirements, etc?
  • How much flexibility is there to change programs if our choice doesn’t work out?

Colleges look at the courses taken as well as the grades earned.

It is true that sometimes a “B” in a more rigorous course might be more impressive to colleges than an “A” in an easier class. However, a “C” in any class won’t impress the most selective college admissions officers. So, it’s important to have a balance between challenge and support to ensure success.

My best piece of advice is to do your homework. Talk to counselors and principals to learn about what it takes to be successful at their school. Ask questions and read the registration guide for your district. (You will be amazed at how many choices there are!) Involve the student in the process of deciding. If your child ends up somewhere they really don’t want to be, it probably won’t go well.

To help you understand just a little bit about some of the programs you can choose from in Iredell County, I created a chart. This is just a starting point to begin exploring and doesn’t include every choice available! I hope it helps.

Are College Rankings Meaningful?

It’s easy to get caught up in the college rankings hoopla! Who doesn’t’ love a “Top Ten” or “Best of”? Lists are fun and we like to see if our favorites are included. College rankings can be confusing because there are so many lists! (And they don’t agree often!) Here are some of the most well-known sources for annual college rankings:


                Forbes Rankings

                Princeton Review

                Social Mobility Index Rankings

                Top Research Universities

                US News & World Report

                The Wall Street Journal

                Washington Monthly

                Bloomberg Business

Department of Education College Scorecard

One of the reasons there are so many lists, is that each source has its own method(s) to determine the rankings. Here are a few of the factors considered in some or most of the lists:

Graduation and Retention Rates

Academic Reputation (as rated by guidance counselors and academic peers)

Faculty Resources

Student Selectivity

Financial Resources (endowments, etc.)

Alumni Giving


You might be surprised to learn that these rankings can be traced all the way back to 1900. Some employers at that time published a list of “Where We Get Our Best Men”. They publicized the schools that their best new hires had attended. Over time this morphed into some of the “Who’s Who” publications that you might know. The modern version of college rankings really took hold in 1983 when US News and World Report first published “America’s Best Colleges”.

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, there are plenty of great sources online—just search! To keep this blog short, I want to highlight just a couple of points regarding college rankings.

  1. Know what information is used to determine the ranking.
  2. Be aware that some colleges have specific strategies aimed at moving up in the rankings.
  3. Remember to look at the college major/program you are interested in. The program reputation is often more important that the college’s rank as an institution. You can have a great program at a lesser-known (possibly lower ranked) college. There are also highly ranked colleges where some departments might be just average.
  4. Remember that “fit” is more important than a ranking. Find the college where you feel a sense of belonging—“your people” are there. Students excel when there is the right combination of challenge and support.

Making a Perfect Choice

Many high school seniors have a difficult time trying to figure out what to do after high school. One of the reasons is the fear of making the “wrong” choice. Which college is the perfect choice? What major is the perfect choice?

I’m writing this blog post to say I don’t think there is a “perfect” choice. For every student, there are probably two or three choices that would be great. Several colleges could be a good fit and provide a solid education.

So there might not need a “perfect” choice, but everyone needs at least one good choice. Preparing early is one of the best ways to make sure you will have a good option after graduation. Crosby Scholars works with students in middle school. It’s not too early for them to start thinking about their future selves. Do they want to go to college for 4 years, or would they prefer a shorter 2-year path? What kind of lifestyle do they want to achieve?

High school students can prepare to have several good choices after graduation.  Building leadership skills and volunteering will improve the chances of getting a scholarship. By studying hard and making the effort, they can learn time management and other good habits. Students who do this earn good grades.

The trouble is, many students don’t worry about these things until their senior year. By then, time is too short. High school success starts the first day of freshman year. (Some students get a head start by developing good academic habits in middle school!

There’s a song called, Freewill, by Rush. Some of the lyrics are “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Think about it. If you choose to do no planning or preparation for your future, you are making a choice. You’re choosing to limit your options.

I spoke to middle school students several years ago about rowing the boat or floating in the current. If you choose to float, you are at the mercy of the tides or currents. You may run into rocks or overturn because of a  branch in your path. If you choose to row, you have to use energy to work, but you also have control. You can steer clear of danger and speed up or slow down.  Most of us enjoy having some control!

Crosby Scholars is here to encourage students to plan for a future they want. We help provide resources and support to help students row their boat in the direction they wish to go.

Community College is not a Dirty Word

Are you a parent thinking community college is fine—as long as it’s not where your student will attend? Students, do you think less of your peers if they attend community college? Face it, whether we like it or not, there is a stigma about attending a two-year college.  

It’s time to change the idea that a community college education is only a fallback plan. Many students and their parents don’t even consider community college. They believe that classes or the campus experience at a two-year school are not as good.  

Last year, Mitchell Community College was the top choice for Crosby Scholar graduates. But, “I’m only/just going to Mitchell” is a statement we heard way too often! Students should be proud to attend community college. Crosby Scholar alums who attend community college aren’t there because they lacked options. They chose a two-year college for good reasons.  


The old adage, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t work when talking about college. The price of college (which varies widely) doesn’t always reflect the value of what you are earning. Instead of seeing community college as a great value, people assume that if it is cheaper, it must not be as good. There is nothing wrong in wanting to earn a degree in a cost-effective way. One semester of tuition and fees at App State will cost about the same as three semesters at MCC. Avoiding student debt is a very good reason for choosing an economical education. 

Students who choose a career degree at a community college also do well. There are two-year degree programs that result in high-wage occupations. (Think R.N.’s, medical technologists, engineering technicians, etc.). For students interested in these careers, community college is a no-brainer!  


In NC, we are lucky to have a community college in every county. Students who have family responsibilities or a job are able to commute. Room and board prices at colleges are often as much or more than tuition and fees. Families have already covered those costs, so living at home doesn’t add to the bill for parents.  

Big fish, smaller pond 

Students at community college won’t find themselves in a class of 100 or 200 students. They will also have professors as teachers, not graduate students. Professors at community colleges spend most of their time in the classroom, teaching. Community colleges have libraries, student clubs, campus activities, and new people to meet.  

Career and transfer options 

Many students want to transfer credits from a community college to a university. To make this possible, courses must be similar. Two- and four-year colleges earn accreditation from the same organization. They must meet the same standards for faculty credentials. 

Every four-year college accepts transfer students—even the most competitive institutions. Research shows that two-year college graduates complete a four-year degree more often than other students. Those same two-year graduates are also have higher grades than their counterparts who were at the university for four years. 

Support systems 

Why do these students do better? Some of these students realize they are not ready to move out and take on more responsibility. By commuting to school, they maintain support systems with local teachers and family members. Gaining confidence through successful college work is valuable before starting at a university. 

So, let’s all work to get rid of the stigma that community college is less. The only way to correct this perception is to change our own attitudes and behaviors. Students should not be “looked down upon” for selecting a higher education path that is the best fit for them. Instead, let’s congratulate students on making the right choice for them! 

A Secret to College Success: Awesome Academic Advising

Coordinator of Advising and Assessment—my first position after completing graduate school. At Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio, I trained faculty advisors to work in the Advising Center. These expert advisors could explain a variety of options and possibilities for every student. They knew about every program offered at the college. 

Like today, students struggled with transportation and budgets. As advisors, we knew that it was important to take all these factors into account as we worked with people. We stayed in close contact with financial aid, career counseling, and other student services. We helped connect students to other resources available to them.

Students I knew came to college to make their lives better. Some were re-training after a lay-off. Others were coming to college for the first time after children were older. A few were starting over after making a poor attempt at college right after high school. So why, then and now, do students who come to the college so motivated, not finish a degree? Why is there such a high rate of attrition at community colleges and universities? 

There are many answers to those questions. This blog is focused on one. Students don’t finish degrees when they never see a clear pathway to the goal. Taking a class here and there with little direction means that a student often doesn’t see a finish line. Or, because of haphazard scheduling, the finish line is further away than it could have been. Most students, though, do have a goal that they want to complete—usually in the shortest time possible. 

When I was a freshman, I received a paper worksheet that listed all the requirements for my degree. My path was visible on that 8.5 x 11 page. I loved using my highlighter to cross off classes every quarter. I felt a great deal of satisfaction as I completed more and more pieces of my program. Today, many of those worksheets are digital, but still a powerful tool and motivator!

I had the advantage of knowing the degree I wanted to pursue when I started college. But, it’s okay to start as an “undecided” or “undeclared” major. These students need advisors and information more than anyone! One benefit of not declaring a major is the freedom to explore options. Yet, this can and should happen with a plan in mind. Advisors can recommend courses to a student based on conversations with him or her. The advisor knows the course offerings, professors, and “insider” information. By working with an advisor, the student’s schedule can be the best possible choice each term. 

Colleges publish plenty of information about degree plans and program offerings. But, advisors always know more than what’s in writing. They know which professors might be on sabbatical or medical leave. They often know what type of research a professor is conducting. Advisors know which courses are offered in certain patterns. Although 100 level courses are for freshmen, the advisor knows which ones tend to be more difficult than described. They can suggest good fits during the semester that requires several difficult courses. They also know about clubs and organizations on campus that might interest a student. Students who know their academic advisors well receive more than a signature on a schedule each semester. 

Students, though, should not depend on the advisor alone. Each student must become a self-advisor, too. Students need to know the degree requirements and the recommended course sequences. Undergrads should read the college catalog. They should explore study abroad, online, and other options. Good advising happens when a student brings a tentative schedule to the appointment. Instead of dealing only with scheduling questions, there will be time to talk about internships or co-op experiences. Students and advisors might also discuss the best options for classes in a minor field of study. Job opportunities in the field could also be a topic of conversation. 

Advising is offered by colleges to support students. Students should take full advantage!