Quote of the Day: Problem Parents and Financial Aid

I don’t know how much the financial aid form said we can pay. My son filled it out.

 

This from a dad who wants $50,000 of financial aid for schools that cost $55,000 per year, but who let his 17 year old son fill out the financial aid forms. They applied to five different prep schools. They can’t understand why the boy wasn’t accepted at any of the five, and they’re upset.

 

 

Share

Email of the Day: Problem Parents / Too Many Schools

These days it’s much more common than it used to be to find kids changing schools multiple times during their high school years. It’s something of an epidemic. I think it’s consistent with the overall mentality of immediate satisfaction in our society today, and it’s not good.

Here’s an email I wrote to some parents whose child must be close to some kind of record for number of schools attended (6 in 3 states), especially for a very good student.

 

Ron,

For 30 years I’ve guided families through the prep school and college process. It’s my full time job. I get paid to do it. I help families in similar situations every year, and my guidance almost always pays for itself. In your case, I wish I could help, but I can’t.

I’ve watched the highlight videos and I’ve been doing some homework on your situation. The pieces are coming together.

You and your wife are friendly, highly educated people. I’ve always enjoyed the conversations you and I have had, but you completely lost your sense of reality on this topic a long time ago. On my website, there’s a section of blogs entitled “Otherwise likeable, intelligent people”. You’ve made the list. If it’s accurate (or even close) that your son has attended six different schools in three different states since he started high school, that’s a huge red flag. It’s so bad in so many ways, I almost don’t know where to start, but here’s where it ends. I’m going to tell you what you don’t want to hear. You’re a problem parent, and that’s holding your son back more than anything else in this equation.

Your son has scholarship level athleticism (although he doesn’t play the game that well). It’s realistic to think he could get a D2 or NAIA offer, and he still might. However, if his academic profile is as you described (3.4 GPA, 1700+ SAT), the much better choice, the smarter choice, is a very good D3 school (a UAA, a NESCAC or similar school) for the next four years. He’d get a great education, have a great basketball experience, and, finally, get some stability.

Given your history, I expect you will choose a JuCo for a year or two, then yet another school after that. I said at the beginning I’d like to help, but I can’t. I’d have to tell college coaches about your son’s history and that they’re asking for trouble if they take him (although they almost assuredly would know it without me telling them). They’d ask me why. I’d tell them the parents are a big problem. Then they’d ask me why I bothered contacting them in the first place, and they’d be right.

Sorry for being blunt. I’ll call you later to discuss.

Thanks.

 

Mike

 

 

Share

Quote of the Day – Two Years for Less Than the Cost of One

 

We got two years of prep school for less than one PG year was going to cost.

 

This from parents whose child was planning on a post-graduate year, but immediately changed his mind after visiting his first prep school and decided to go for his junior year instead.

 

Share

Don’t Leave PG Year Early

Leaving a PG year before graduating is almost always a bad decision. Not only do student-athletes lose educational benefits, they also call into question personal characteristics like integrity and dedication when they fail to live up to their commitments. Ironically, those that leave early are usually the ones who need to stay the most.

Education is about life preparation. Prep school, especially a PG year, and even more than high school, is all about life preparation. It’s not just what is learned in the classroom, it’s about maturity, responsibility, decision making and character. It’s about teaching the student-athlete what to do in college when there are fewer rules and more choices. It’s about how the student will react in certain situations. What will he or she do when no one’s watching? Bad decisions such as leaving a PG year before graduating pave the way for bad decisions in college.

Here is just one glaring example of a poor choice by a student and family, both of whom should know better.

Derrick had no scholarship offers after his senior year of high school. An average student, his grades were not keeping him from receiving a scholarship, but he needed to learn what it takes to make his grades and test scores reflect his natural intelligence. He opted for a post-graduate year at a school with an excellent track-record in his sport and a level of education that matched it. Three weeks short of his prep school graduation, and just days after receiving a good, mid-level D1 offer, Derrick left his prep school and went home, claiming he wanted to spend more time with his family before starting college summer school the following month.

His prep school coach, a former D1 standout and excellent student at one of the academically top rated D1 schools in the country, talked to Derrick at length about the decision. He accurately pointed out the flaws in his decision making and urged him to reconsider. So did the Director at the school. What came out in the conversations was not an issue of time with family at all. As it turns out, a two week family trip to Europe was already planned for the day after graduation, so there would be plenty of time with family. What came out in the conversation, the real issue, was that Derrick had been slacking off in his classes and would have to work hard to catch up. In addition, he was going to have to take end of the year exams. Despite knowing this before he agreed to do a PG year, he now claimed that was going to be too much work, especially since he had already done it last year as a high school senior.

Teenagers make questionable decisions. Parents are supposed to know better. Any parent knows parenting isn’t easy, but it’s part of the job description. Derrick’s parents supported his decision. They invoked the all to common refrain “he’s 18, we can’t make him do it” and offered no resistance. His prep school coach explained to Derrick’s parents how much more difficult college will be given the increased demands of sport and classes, and how they were setting a bad precedent by supporting Derrick’s decision to not live up to his current responsibilities. Nothing changed. Parents and child missed a valuable opportunity to increase their chances of future success.

Another adult in the support system who failed Derrick was the post-graduate director at the prep school. Contrary to the coach and school Director, he offered virtually no resistance to the decision, begging the question of what exactly he is responsible for in his position.

Derrick’s future college coach, more than anyone, had the power to change the situation if he wanted to. One simple sentence telling Derrick to finish prep school and that would have been the end of it. A future college coach’s word is gospel to a brand new recruit, and Derrick would have done whatever his college coach told him to. Instead, the coach did what’s all too common. He took the path of least resistance by not challenging the family. Like many in today’s litigious society, he chose to avoid confrontation and the possibility of offending anyone. Ironically, he cost himself, his athletic program and the college in the process. Even though Derrick had accepted the scholarship offer, the university admissions department had yet do admit him. Leaving prep school early was not going to help that. In addition, Derrick’s degree from a prestigious prep school would have reflected very well on the college athletic program and the kind of kids the coach is recruiting. This college generally gets few, if any, students from schools of that caliber, the athletic program almost none. More importantly, Derrick likely might have received some college credits from his PG year. With the demands on time at the college level, along with the increased difficulty of the courses, many athletes drop courses during the season or take a lighter load and less challenging classes to begin with. Having credit for some courses before he arrived on campus would be a significant benefit. It also might have allowed him to take graduate courses as a senior, which would again reflect well on the sports program. Finally, college is an academic institution first. The idea of a college coach signing off on this type of decision is at best ironic, at worst unacceptable. Both the kid and college would have benefitted if he’d stayed just three more weeks at prep school.

Some would rationalize decisions like Derrick’s by saying the student will make the right decisions when it comes time in college. History shows that’s unlikely. As in sports, the sooner a child learns life’s fundamentals and forms good habits, the better the chances of future success.

Others would say the prep school coach and the school Director are biased, that their reasons for not wanting the student to leave school are motivated by self-interest. While there’s certainly some truth to that, it’s dwarfed by the objective facts as stated above. These are people in educational leadership positions whose job it is to provide the best guidance they can to teenagers and parents. They got it right.

Not only do athletes cheat themselves emotionally and educationally when they fail to finish a PG year, they exhibit a lack of work ethic, commitment and perseverance that should be concerning to college coaches. They’re going to get the sport benefit either way. They might as well get the non-athletic benefits while they’re there. By leaving school early, not only did Derrick forfeit a degree from a prestigious prep school that would have followed him for life, he and his parents missed a great chance to improve his chances of success in college and in life.

 

 

 

Share

Don’t Laugh Too Hard

While this will certainly be funny to many, it’s just one example of mistakes commonly made by families trying to navigate the recruiting process. So enjoy the laugh, but don’t think others aren’t laughing at similar things you’ve done.

Devin is a talented basketball player. He and his mother recently told me and others he was being recruited by a good mid-level D1 school. Skeptical, I asked them to define the recruitment. They showed me an email inviting them to a reception for prospective students to be held at an upcoming basketball game at that university. What they didn’t understand, as they interpreted this invitation from their subjective point of view, was that the invitation was a mass mailing sent to many prospective students by that university in a general marketing attempt to increase applications and enrollment. It had nothing at all to do with his basketball talent or any basketball recruiting. The reception just happened to be at a basketball game because it was that time of year and basketball is the high profile sport at this particular university. They didn’t know that. They thought it meant he was being recruited for basketball. Most would have instantly seen that this was a mass emailing. In Devin’s defense, he is talented enough to get some D1 basketball interest. This just goes to show recruiting is a tough thing for most families to interpret. So remember, don’t laugh too hard. This might already be you, and you just don’t know it.

 

Share

Sacrificing Education – One Example

James, a weak student and talented athlete, had two choices at the end of his senior year at catholic high school. One, attend a “football factory” for the fall semester where the level of football and exposure would be high and he would not have to take any classes. Two, accept an offer to attend a prep school where the football level would be lower and he would receive a life-changing education he would not otherwise have had access to without leveraging his athletic talents.

Paying for either option was an overriding factor for this family, whose financial troubles were such that just finding the money for the monthly utility bill was a challenge. The football factory would cost $10,000 – $15,000 for one semester. The prep school option would cost nothing, and would include the whole year, not just a semester. Without giving it a second thought or visiting the prep school, James chose the football factory. His parents, who had initially vetoed any consideration of a football factory, relented, committing to paying the money while admitting to having no idea where they would find it.

As it turned out, at the end of the season at the football factory James was no closer to a D1 scholarship than he had been a year earlier. He had no D1 offers. Instead, he had now been out of the classroom for a semester (it would become a year as he went home for the second semester and essentially did nothing) and his family was now significantly in debt. Had they prioritized education first, at least James would have received a top-shelf education while making friends and connections that would stay with him for life. They sacrificed an education James sorely needed and spent money they didn’t have, and ended up with essentially nothing to show for it.

Ironically, there’s a solid argument to be made that what kept James from receiving a scholarship is exactly what was missing at the football factory and abundant at the prep school. Physical talent was never James’ problem. Maturity, responsibility, discipline, hard work and personal growth were. By definition, those characteristics are all in short supply at sports factories. At the prep school he would have been immersed in them 24 hours a day in the form of his classmates, school faculty and coaches. How ironic that what he needed most to reach his goals was at the place the family didn’t choose, and would have come with the education of a lifetime.

 

Share

Quote of the Day

The D1 offer we had has been rescinded and we don’t have any D1 or D2 offers on the table. He’s being recruited hard by some academically excellent D3 schools, but we don’t want to take out the loans necessary to pay the $40,000 per year it’s going to cost to send him to those. We don’t know anything about prep schools, but we’re not interested in hearing about them. We’d go to a prep school if a D1 school told us to, but we’re not interested in hearing about prep school options that could be free or lead to a Patriot or Ivy League offer.

 

This in September of her child’s senior year from an otherwise seemingly intelligent, organized, thoughtful mother whose child who is a very, very good student.

 

Share

Quote of the Day

 I know I don’t know much about prep school, but I’m not interested in hearing about it. Prep school doesn’t sound good to me.


This from a senior whose season is virtually over and who has no offers. He and his family are spending money on a recruiting video, two recruiting services, an out-of-state all-star game he was “invited” to and are now willing to pay half the cost of college, but he doesn’t want to hear that he could attend a top prep school for free.

 

Share