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Finding the Right College Fit

Did you know that one in three students end up transferring after their first year in college? Do you know why that is? Students often focus on which institution is the right match, but don’t carefully evaluate if the institution is the right fit. Let’s break down the difference between “match” vs. “fit.” When researching colleges, it’s important to know which ones are the correct “match,” meaning do your test scores, extracurriculars, and GPA meet the school’s expectations of students who apply? Finding the right college “fit” is a different story. First decide what you want out of your college experience. Ask yourself some of these questions:

Does this school have my preferred major?

Is a football team important?

Does the school have greek life?

What is the student to professor ratio?

What is the size of the school?

Can I bring my car as a freshman?

Are there a lot of campus activities to get involved in?

Is the location of the school a deal breaker for me?

Is there available financial aid?

Is the student body diverse?

Do I feel safe when walking around on campus?

Is there a strong career center to help me find a job after I graduate?

There is not a one size fits all college. These questions are a good starting point, but there are many other questions you need to ask yourself. Know what is important to you in a college experience and decide whether or not the schools on your target list meet your expectations!


The Gift of Boundaries

The Holidays are here! This is a fun time for most people. What better way to keep the fun for everyone, than discussing boundaries?

What are boundaries?

Think about a fence that surrounds a house. What does the fence represent? The area that belongs to the home owner. The owner will keep their important items inside the fence. Anything outside of the fence has to be allowed in and is not apart of what belongs to the home owner. If the owner decides to go out of the fence then they have to unlock the fence first.

Fences 101 - Antioch on the Move

Makes sense, right? – and no, I’m not here to sell you a fence. Boundaries help us stay true to who we are as individuals. They are rules that we make to stay true to ourselves. We know what we like and are able to do. Boundaries are not to block our view of the world nor keep the world from seeing us.

Sometimes around the holidays, we’re asked to do things that are outside of our “fence” and we automatically say yes. This is crossing your boundary; like going out of your fence without unlocking it. Now, you’ve either jumped it or ran through it. You can sometimes literally feel like this.

If you jumped it, you’ve used a lot of energy. Now you feel drained before you have even started to help. If you went through it, you are literally hurting yourself and you’ve damaged you’re fence. This could feel like being uncomfortable. In either case, you may have given the expectation that you’ll do this every time. Especially, if you have broken your fence; this is now an open place for anyone to come in.

Wooden fence broken plank Royalty Free Vector Image

So, what do we do?

I know that was a lot of “fence” talk, but the point is to take a moment. Going to unlock the fence represents taking time to ask yourself if you can and want to do this. What will you have to give up? How do you feel about doing this? If this takes a large amount of time and energy, do you have time to rest? Normalize, telling someone you need time to think about it. Knowing all the consequences, allows you to feel firm on your answer. Also, “No.” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to say no, politely.

This is the season of giving and for many of us that means time, money, and energy. You should feel good about when, where, and how much you give to others.

I challenge you to do more research on boundaries and start identifying your own!


The Value of Crosby Scholars

The value of Crosby Scholars goes beyond just offering assistance to students and parents for future success after High school. Crosby Scholars values the importance of building effective relationships with the parents of students in the program to ensure that their child is receiving the benefits necessary to thrive. Our values are accountability, respectfulness, service, trustworthiness and supportiveness. Each one is used on a day to day basis in everything we do here at Crosby Scholars. We take pride in knowing that we are making a difference in the students’ lives and they are learning more about themselves and their future endeavors. With the help of our amazing donors and all the many resources received, we are able to continue this program and inspire success together.

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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.


Building a Strong Financial Record

As a high school student, conversations around the topic of money are not usually had with friends or family. Why is this? One big reason for this is because our education system in America places little importance on financial literacy in the classroom. Currently, only twenty one states in America require a personal finance course. If parents don’t discuss financial basics with their high school student either, then many are leaving high school without a foundational knowledge about money. This can be detrimental for many.

When I entered college, I didn’t know the difference between a debit card and credit card. I didn’t understand interest. I didn’t know why it was important to have a budget or savings account! Listen folks, my decisions would have looked very different had I known more about money.

In order to set yourself up for financial success in the future, take note of some important advice.

  • Start a saving’s account while you are in high school! Time is a precious commodity. You have the time to start saving money while you are free from having to pay rent or bills. Maybe you babysit or lifeguard in the summer, and although it may not seem like a lot of money, at least it’s something. You will be happy you put that money aside one day.
  • Do comparison shopping. Before opening that savings or checking account, research different banks to see which ones charge the least amount for routine monthly maintenance fees. Most banks charge you a fee for holding your money unless you maintain a certain balance throughout the month.
  • Download a budget app like Mint or YNAB. Learning how to budget now will keep you on track when your financial responsibilities increase later.
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have. Once you get your first credit card (you have to wait until you are 18), don’t use your credit card on purchases you won’t be able to pay off. The APR (annual percentage rate) for credit cards is usually VERY high. That means if you don’t pay your balance off in FULL each month, you will start accruing interest on the total balance. It’s simple- don’t spend money you don’t have. Use credit cards to build a good credit score. 
  • Build a good credit score. If you don’t pay the balances off on your credit cards, your credit score will go down. Your credit score is determined by many different factors, but the important thing to remember is this:
    • Some employers do credit checks on potential hires
    • Apartment complexes run a credit check on potential tenants
    • Loan officers run a credit check to see if you are a high risk or not. This could affect whether or not you are approved for a high or low interest school, car, or home loan.

Your credit score will follow you EVERYWHERE!


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:

Creator: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON 
Copyright: 2014©UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT WILMINGTON

                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.


Independence

I’m sure you have heard people say, “Adulting is tough. I have so many responsibilities and I wish I had someone to help with the bills.” Being an adult has its perks but it also comes with a bucket full of responsibilities. As a high schooler, I’m sure you are exercising a lot of freedom from the influence or control of many people, except for your parents or guardians. It’s natural to desire independence from those who raised you, but remember that life will really change when you are no longer under their roof.

Take advantage of living at home. Embrace the opportunity to save money, learn new skills, and plan for your future without having the full responsibilities of an adult. Your time will come. For now, focus on who you are as a person.

 What are your values and interests? Who do you want to become? What changes do you want to bring about in this world? Leverage the resource of time. Use this time wisely as you plan and prepare for college in the next two to three years. Use this time to gear up for what is to come. Most adults wish they could go back in time and make different decisions. It’s just you right now. You don’t have a husband, wife, or kids. Take this time to focus on YOU!

How can you become more of an independent thinker? What are your weaknesses? How can you challenge yourself to grow? Adulting is not all that it is cracked up to be. Focus on developing an independent mind first. Push yourself to read books and explore all your future options after high school. If your mind grows and matures, you will already be ahead of the game when true adulting begins.


Are You Taking Care of Your Mental Health?

Since being in quarantine we have heard more about mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but a little harder to navigate. When we are physically unhealthy, we gain weight, we break out, and we feel aches and pains in our bodies. When we are mentally unhealthy it shows in ways that may be a little easier to ignore.

Unstable emotions

Quarantine has made it much harder to do activities that were once stress relievers. Many people use sports as stress relievers, some do group classes like yoga, and some just need time with friends and/or family to vent and connect. Not being able to do these things may make us keep our emotions inside and not express them at all. If you notice being angry or sad more than usual or even moods changing extremely through out the day, this could be you.

Isolation

We have had to isolate for safety reasons, but sometimes when our mental health is suffering, we tend to stay to ourselves. Not to be confused with being introverted or wanting alone time. Isolating, in this sense, is not wanting to be around others because of how negatively we feel about ourselves or something we are going through.

Over exerting

When we are going through tough times, we sometimes try to keep ourselves busy so that we do not have to deal with our thoughts. It looks productive to those around us, but we are suffering inside. However, when we are not able to express ourselves, we made the problem even bigger. Our emotions store in our minds and bodies and cause anxiety, depression, and even physical problems too.

How to help

In order to help with our mental health, we need to take time out of our day to check on ourselves. Use the following ways at your own leisure. Meditation is a great way to slow down and assess our bodies. There are apps that can guide you through mediation. Journaling is a classic way to get our thoughts and feelings out of our heads. You can also find journal prompts online to keep you in the habit. Also, seek a counselor or therapist if necessary. Many are able to do telehealth, so that you can meet with them through zoom or another online service.


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.   


Middle School Isn’t Too Early

Many times when we are talking about the Crosby Scholars Program, we have some people that feel that middle school is too early. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I want to take a moment to give reason to why middle school is the perfect time to start thinking about college.

Learning Yourself

Middle school academies are geared for students to learn themselves and how they interact with their environments. We talk about the different learning styles and students are able to find ways that work best for them. This is a time when emotions are high and hard to manage for students. In order for students to have a positive learning experience, they need to learn how to manage them.

Time for Responsibility

Students in middle school have one major task in order to be successful. Becoming responsible. Students in middle school have to learn to be responsible and to understand their schedules for school and their extracurricular activities. This is a major concept when it comes to being ready for high school and college; the earlier the better! We work with our students in middle school to become responsible for their learning.

Social Interactions

We work with all public schools in Iredell County. Our in person and online academies have been a chance for students to interact with students they probably would’t meet otherwise. We have seen so many friendships spark from academies and volunteer work. When students enter college they are likely to meet people from all over the country and even the world. Being in Crosby Scholars helps students get used to meeting new people and making new friends

College Talk

We do not want to overwhelm our students with the pressure to perform at college levels so young. We talk about careers and encourage them to expand their horizons. Our middle school college tours are to help students picture themselves on a college campus. Our goal for middle school students is to become the best version of themselves inside and outside of the classroom and also for them to be invested in their education.

If you have any questions about our middle school program please contact our Middle School Coordinator, Ashley Scott!