College Advising, Educational Consulting

What to Know Before You Start at a Large University

The start of the Fall 2019 semester is just around the corner, which means that literally tens of thousands of students are getting ready to start college at one of the many large universities around the United States. If you’re getting ready to attend a large university for the first time — a university with enrollment in the tens of thousands — here are a few things you need to know.

First, think of this transition like moving to a new city. I don’t mean only that you’re leaving your home town and moving to a new college town, but that moving onto a large campus is like moving to a new city in itself. The campus itself is like a small city, and sometimes like a medium-sized city — if you already live in Columbus and are starting at OSU, or if you already live in Orlando and are starting at UCF, that transition into college is still like moving to a new city. So you need to get the lay of the land.

First and most importantly, go to orientation. Don’t blow it off. Listen to every word and take notes. Three years down the line you’ll wish you paid more attention at orientation, so just tell yourself you already regret not paying attention, and then pay attention.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions at orientation. Most people will have the same questions. But, there are smart ways to ask questions and less smart to ask them. The smart way to ask questions is to listen first to the information being presented, process it, and then ask questions about the information just presented. If you have questions about something that hasn’t been covered, wait until the end. It will probably be covered.

Getting the lay of the land means the campus map is your friend. You should get one at orientation, but also download the school app. There should be a great campus map on the app too, and it should be connected to the map program on your phone. Remember, you’ve just moved to a new city, so you need to know how to get around.

You already know that your dorm building and classroom buildings are important to find, and you know you’ll need to know where to go to eat. You know you’ll need the library, but some libraries will be more important than others — most big schools have multiple libraries. Also mark all of the administrative buildings you’ll need. Find the parking lots too. Drop pins everywhere and tag them appropriately.

Campus policies matter, so learn them. Read the Student Handbook. Work within the school’s policies. Learn how the system works, and if you have questions, get help.

Getting help means connecting with your advisor. Use your advisor for help. Know this person. It’s very easy to get lost, be ignored, and not get the help that you need, so it’s up to you to find the right people and ask the right questions.

If you’ve declared a major, connect with your department as soon as you can. Get to know professors and students in the department. Ask their advice for scheduling too, especially the order in which you should take your classes. Some classes will have specific prerequisites, but even the ones that don’t might best be taken in a certain order.

What I’m going to say about your advisor will be true about every single constituent on campus: they are very busy because they have to work with a lot of people. That means:

  • Don’t think your problems are unique.
  • Don’t think your problems are more important than everyone else’s.
  • Don’t think you’re an exception to the rule, but if you truly have exceptional circumstances, let people know.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Be patient, wait in line, when your turn comes up, get all of the information you need. Think about what information you need ahead of time.
  • In fact, be kind to the people behind the desk. They will appreciate it. But, don’t waste their time. Get to the point. There are people waiting.
  • Look for the answers to your questions in the Handbook first. Check the school website for material that you might need to bring with you to any given administrative office for any given reason.
  • Things will take time because everyone is processing a lot of people. That means don’t wait until the last minute for anything. That’s the source of almost all of the problems in my points above.

Do you have any more questions? Contact us. We can help.

Avoiding Student Loan Debt, Cost of Degree, Educational Consulting, Understanding the Market

How Does Our Service Work?

If you’re a high school student, a college student thinking about transferring, a college student thinking about graduate school, or a parent of any one of these, Bright Futures Educational Consulting can help you or your child choose a major and then a college that will give you the best employment prospects with the least debt. That’s our goal.

And, we can do it for students anywhere in the world for a relatively low price.

No matter where you are, you start out with either a telephone or an internet chat. This one hour initial consultation is free. After that, if you choose to retain our services, after you make payment you’ll be sent a link to our proprietary online questionnaire. As part of the questionnaire, you’ll upload a copy of your most recent unofficial transcripts. The questionnaire and transcripts will allow us to make an assessment of your strongest interests, your secondary interests, and then your strengths and weaknesses. It really covers everything.

After we’ve done this assessment, we’ll generate a customized report spelling out your best options for higher education, from choosing a major to choosing a college, along with an analysis of the possible return on your investment for your different degree options.

From there, we start working together — on your application essay, your request for letters of recommendation and, if needed, your financial aid and scholarship applications. Then, you start applying.

Even if you think you’re a weak student with limited options, we can find options for you that you didn’t think you had. Once you’ve started applying, we’ll be with you to advise you and help you all the way until you start college, even up to the point of making sure you’re in touch with the right people at your new institution.

The services you receive are customized — you can save money by only getting help in the areas that you most need it. After that, our consulting service has two tiers. First, in-person and direct, and next, online only. In-person consulting is higher depending upon travel costs. We’re located on Florida’s Space Coast, so anywhere from St. Augustine, FL to Jupiter, FL along Florida’s east coast and then into the Orlando area is our lowest price. Outside that radius, prices go up a bit.

If you’d like to keep costs low, though, you can choose our online only consulting. Since all of our initial consulting and the questionnaire is online, we can conduct all follow up meetings online, and we can send you copies of your consulting report by both email and paper mail.

It’s probably best if you think of our service as an investment that’s bound to save you money — thousands of dollars in student loans, wasted time at the wrong institutions or pursuing the wrong majors, and a lot of stress dealing with the unknowns involved in applying to college. Give us a call and see how we can help you in your specific situation. Check out these other links for more information:

Avoiding Student Loan Debt, Cost of Degree, Graduation Rates, Learning, Majors and Areas of Study, Return on Investment, Understanding the Market

Revisiting “An Era of Neglect”

In 2014 the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a lengthy article about higher education funding titled “An Era of Neglect.” The number of candidates proposing reforms in higher education funding this election cycle has made student debt, education funding, and education costs hot topics again, so I think now is a good time to revisit these reports.

In short, between 2008 and 2014 economic downturns and private sector commitments to paying as few taxes as possible has led to cuts in state budgets. Rises in tuition costs during this period were exactly proportional in many cases to cuts in state budgets for education, and in order to drive up admissions, colleges are increasingly investing in sports and amenities rather than in qualified educators.

The result is that the business sector is getting what they’re paying for in the form of lesser-skilled college grads, the costs of college are being increasingly pushed onto the public in the form of debt, and a new debt crisis is looming as college graduates are increasingly unemployable or underemployed, making it difficult to repay these student loans.

While colleges and universities can be more responsible in their spending patterns, that by itself isn’t enough to reverse this situation.

You might think it’s smart to just skip college altogether, but with few exceptions, bad prospects for college grads mean worse ones for those without a college education.

The only winner in this situation is the financial sector, at the expense of taxpayers.

An Era of Neglect – Special Reports – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

College Writing, Learning, Majors and Areas of Study, Pedagogy

A Creative Writer Apologizes to Numbers

Fun read by a creative writing professor about his relationship to numbers. I think the institutional separation of arts and sciences causes us to forget the historic relationship between the two. The original seven liberal arts consisted of three studies of language and ideas, the trivium — grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic — while the other four focused on either theoretical or applied math in the forms of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Education was never about either developing language or math skills. Each one helps you understand the other. Intensive study of grammar and poetics, at some point, makes you feel like you’re studying algebra:

A Humanist Apologizes to Numbers – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

One problem with contemporary education at most levels is that it puts knowledge into silos. When you silo learning at the higher education level, you pit knowledge fields against one another, forcing fields and departments to compete for funds and students. That creates zero-sum pedagogical thinking, and that keeps us from serving the whole student, or all students, very well.

College Writing, Learning, Pedagogy

Writing for College and Beyond Book Site Up

One of the benefits of using Bright Futures Educational Consulting for help with your or your child’s college application process is that I’m a published author and experienced college writing instructor who now has a first-year writing textbook out: Writing for College and Beyond.

Bright Futures Publishing is providing marketing and administrative support for the first-year writing textbook Writing for College and Beyond (Lulu Press, 2019). Contact Bright Futures Publishing for desk or review copies, and check out the book webpages for more information, including links to ordering information, the table of contents, the book flyer, testimonials, and a list of special feature.

Writing for College and Beyond is a new kind of first-year writing text, one that emphasizes connections between the writing students do in typical English composition classes and their future business and professional careers. It’s also fully customizable for departmental or group orders. Contact Bright Futures Publishing for more information.