Cheap Places: A Guide for International Students

States

Doc Seidman Says…

….Going to college In the United States can be very expensive. 

College tuition is expensive for those coming to study and live from another country. The costs of attending the school (tuition) and the related living expenses can be very high.  Some people are lucky, they may have the money to go to college wherever they please.  For most people, however, going to an American college will cost all the money they have saved. They need to save money any way possible while still getting a good, American college education.

There are many ways to spend less money. One way is to attend college in a region of the country where it does not cost a lot of money to live, eat, and play. Where you go to school in the United States is an important consideration for those who do not have the money to go wherever they choose. In this case, it might be best to first identify part of the country that would be affordable and then look for college in that area. This can save international students a lot of money.

U.S. states that cost the most money to live. (CNBC)

For those that don’t have a lot of money, these may be states to avoid:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

The cheapest, or least expensive states to live (USA Today)

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee

Every state is different

Laws can be different in every state. This is why it will cost more money to live in some places and not others. This includes the cost of real estate (homes/apartments), food, gasoline, and other living supplies. Taxes also vary from state to state. Some states have high taxes and some states have few or no taxes. You might want to live in an exciting city such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, or Boston, but they can be expensive places to live and study.

A city can be expensive

Some states may not be on the expensive list, however, a city in that state might be. For example, the state of Florida is not one of the most expensive states to live in, however, the city of Miami, is one of the most expensive cities to live in. If you find a school in a big city, check to make sure you can afford to live there.

What you can do?

Make a list of the colleges in the less expensive states that might interest you. Visit the college website. Look to see if they have the subject you want to study. Write down their tuition. Understand that some schools might have more than one price. These schools are subsidized (helped) with taxes paid by residents and will cost less money for someone who lives in the state to go to school there. As an international student, you will not have that benefit and in most cases, will have to pay the more expensive, out of state tuition. Some schools may help you with a grant or scholarship, but that does not always happen.

Study the population

Another good idea is to study the demographics (population) of the college. For example, if you are coming from India, you may feel comfortable knowing your school has other students from India. In the United States, some parts of the country are friendlier to international populations than others, so it is important to see that your college has students from your country.

Finally, the F1 Visa

Understanding the city or region and the related costs population of the local college is a good start. Additionally, all international students need to have an F1 Visa which allows them to study in the U.S.. One of the requirements to obtain the Visa is showing that students have the money and resources to study in the United States.  Living in an inexpensive area may not be the answer, but it can be helpful.

Your Second Home

colleagues

Doc Seidman Says:

…Anyone out there looking for the perfect job? I encourage you to read the following post from my colleague Lucy Capul about what you need to be looking for.

  • Once you start working, do you realize you spend more time at work than at home? You spend most of your time at the office, with your colleagues, in meetings, on the computer, or on the phone. Every industry and every company is different. But one thing is similar. Your “office,” or the place where you work, becomes your second home.

I recently had a conversation with two friends. One friend was having a hard time adjusting to the new boss micromanaging everything. This drastically changed the office culture for the worse. Another friend was interviewing for a possible new position which would require her to relocate to a new state. In these conversations, there was a common theme: The office culture.

If you are in the process of interviewing for that dream job after college, or are planning on relocating, one of the top questions you should ask at the end of the interview is: “What is the company culture/team dynamic?” This question, as well as other important questions to ask at the end of your interview are discussed in Affordable College Prep’s Career Development Advising Packages.

My friend who was having a difficult time adjusting to the new micromanaging director was considering moving to a different department or even changing jobs but felt she would have to start over from scratch. She spent so much time building up her position in that office she felt she it would be like starting over if she were to get a new job. The advice I gave her was that no matter where you go, whether you are promoted or even get a new job in a new company, you still need to learn from scratch. It was important for her to see if the change in company culture was worth staying or if it was something that would ultimately affect her personally and physically.

If you are in the same predicament, ask yourself, “Is the stressful environment worth staying?” Does it make you a better professional and person? Think about how you would feel at home. If you feel stressed at home, you start to declutter and do a little spring cleaning. Start “spring cleaning” your work by brainstorming what is important to you. Would you be able to grow in that environment? Is there something you can do to help to declutter the stressful environment? Can you speak to your boss about it? If not, remember this quote by Alexander Den Heijer, “When a flower does not bloom, you change the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

My other friend interviewed with a major company and went into the interview excited. She felt this would be her way to a new job in new city with great salary. She was getting bored in her current city and felt a need for a change. Once she finished her three-hour interview, she felt confused. She didn’t feel like she fit in with the people interviewing her. She felt confused about the team structure and communication, two things very important to her. She felt that it was better for her to stay with her current company because the dynamic has improved a great deal in the last year. She would rather stay in her current position with her current salary than accepting a higher salary in a new place where she felt she could never feel at home.

Whenever I go into an interview, the number one question I make sure I ask is about the company culture. I spend so much time devoting my heart and soul into my career, spending time with my colleagues, I want to feel at home. This is important for every young job seeker to take note of. Where do you see yourself working? Even if you always dreamed of working at Vogue since you were a little girl or dreamed of working at the company that your family raves about, think about if it is right fit for YOU.

Even if you do get the job, you do have the option to decline. You do not need to accept every job offer that comes your way. Carefully consider if the company culture is right for you. Life is stressful already. Don’t let a difficult office environment add to the pressures of your daily life.

 

Your work environment becomes your second home. You spend your whole day there, sipping your coffee, eating lunch, and conversing with the same people every day. You grow up there in a way. You learn your mistakes, you hone your strengths, you identify your weaknesses, and you grow a thicker skin. You learn new technology and new etiquette as you meet new people every single day. The way you talk, act, sit, your verbal and body language are all molded by your surroundings. You want to be around a positive environment that makes you not only a better professional but a better person.

In my professional experience, I have encountered different types of company cultures. One culture may empower and invest in their employees while another culture bullies and manipulates their employees. In every scenario, I found that I look forward to the company culture that I would want to “come home” to as they are investing in me which in turn is investing in my future. I have turned down jobs from places where I used to work, despite being offered a higher salary. I did not enjoy their company culture.

Don’t pick the job for that higher salary, the title, the company association. Pick your new “second home.”

When you receive that new job offer, ask yourself, “Do I see myself coming home” to work every day?

Its 9 a.m. You are sipping your coffee. Feeling at home?

Lucy is the Director of Marketing and Career Development for Affordable College Prep. You can purchase her book, “Nine A.M. Coffee, Tea, or Snooze,” on Amazon.

 

Congratulations Graduate!

Mortorboard

Doc Seidman Says……

…….For college seniors, the month of May is something many have been waiting for.  The cold, blustery months of winter turn into the refreshing warmth of spring (except here in Florida), and college students throughout the country prepare to graduate. Graduation, or commencement, as it is called in academia, is an extraordinarily joyful time for students. And why not? They just spent the last four or so years sitting through tedious lectures, pretending to laugh at the professor’s boring jokes, and doing arduous class assignments. The thrill of walking across the commencement stage and throwing a mortarboard into the air in celebration is almost second to none. As a faculty member sitting in the audience, or as an administrator sitting on the stage, I, too was joyful and proud.

Some students learn the hard way that walking across the stage and celebrating with friends and family does not necessarily mean they have graduated. It simply means they have participated in the ceremony. The diploma comes sometime later, after the college has done its due diligence to make sure the graduation requirements have been fulfilled. It’s quite possible that there are students dressed in cap and gown, joyfully celebrating with their friends, who have yet to pass Statistics, or French, or Organic Chemistry, or Food Safety and Sanitation, or any other degree requirement. Don’t get too excited. It’s back to the classroom for you.

But for most everyone else, however, it is indeed a terrific accomplishment and a joyful time. It is something that will be with you forever and nobody can take away.

Unfortunately, many folks who start college don’t finish. In fact, recent statistics have shown that only 55% of four-year college students complete their degree within six years. At least 40% never graduate at all. If you are a student classified as a demographic minority, the chances of completing your college degree are even lower. Only thirty eight percent of African American students (46% of women and 35% of men) will complete their degree. Hispanic students do a bit better with a 46% completion rate. As a comparison, 62% of white students complete their degrees in six-years while Asian students perform the best with a 63% completion rate.

Are you the first in your family to go to college? Congratulations! But sadly, around half of you won’t finish. Do you come from a lower income family? Although government resources help, not having all the money you need is a significant hindrance as only 43% of you will graduate. Were you raised in a foster family? Your completion rate trails the entire field at only 14%.

There are many reasons for this. Money is perhaps the biggest one. Many underfunded students soon learn that they don’t have the resources to complete a four-year degree without an unwanted overwhelming debt burden. Many students get full and part time jobs while in college, but having multiple part-time jobs, or even just one full-time job, can be detrimental. The workplace culture soon supersedes the academic culture and next thing you know, classes are skipped, assignments are missed, and academic woes just pile on.

Since we are discussing money, not surprisingly, students attending private colleges have a better completion rate than their public-school counterparts (66% to 59%). Private schools, with a higher tuition and reduced class size, tend to be more nurturing. The professor may reach out to the students who seem to be fading away. Support services are more attentive too. The lines should be shorter to talk to whichever student support specialist is needed. It may not seem like much, but it helps.

The “For Profit” schools probably do more harm than good. For those of you, or someone you know, who is enticed by one of these heavily advertised universities, note that if you enroll, less than one in four of you will actually complete. They can also be expensive. Most “For Profits” make it easy to enroll and even easier borrow money. Whether or not you complete your degree, if you borrow money to  go there, or any other college, you need to pay it back. And if you fail to graduate and have a lot of debt….ouch! Not good.

Sorry to ruin the upcoming graduation party, but college can certainly be a case of “let the buyer beware.”  Whereas we would all like to think that attending college is certainly different than buying a used car, in many ways it is not. The buyer’s euphoria to find a good deal on a car might mask the deficiencies the used vehicle may have. It car might start out smoothly, but it is highly possible that as the years go on the flaws show themselves. And if you don’t thoroughly “check under the hood” before you buy it, the problems might arise more quickly.

Future college students and their families really need to “check under the hood” of the colleges they are considering attending. Check the graduation and retention rates. Investigate the advising systems in place. Kick the tires too while you are at it. Visit the campus. Talk to administrators and faculty. Make sure your future student will be well positioned to succeed and graduate. And perhaps most important, take a realistic view of the amount of debt that will be incurred. The truth may hurt, but a smart decision beforehand should help to prevent the pain of debt without graduation.

To the 50% or so that our truly graduating, all the best. Congratulations on your accomplishment. It’s a good one. Hopefully, the college taught you how to make smart decisions. Something that will serve you well in the years to come.

 

 

Wrap It Up

condoms

Doc Seidman Says……

…..Although sex in college is a popular activity, it is not as popular as most might people think. A 2015 study by New York Magazine found that 41% of women and 49% of men denied being sexually active in college. Additionally, almost 40% of those studied claimed to be virgins. What is high, however, is the percent of college students who will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Studies put that estimate around 20 to 25% of the total student population with some students getting an STD more than once.

Let’s face it; college can be fun; too much fun at times. But too much fun can also have consequences. As the English poet William Blake famously said, “Fun I love. But too much fun is of all things the most loathsome.” Loathsome indeed. Too much fun in college can lead to a host of loathsome woes ranging anywhere from extreme hangovers to contracting an STD.

If your plan is to have a lot of fun in college- while maintaining your commitment to academics, no doubt- be somewhat mindful of the consequences. If the fun end-game is to get to “third base” and beyond, so to speak, whether you are a guy or gal, don’t forget the all-important condom. For as unsexy as condoms can be, they are an integral part of staying healthy while in college.

But condom usage among the college population is down too. Studies vary on this but they generally agree that around 50% of students claiming to have an active sex life do not use condoms. It is worth noting that the “50%” represents those students claiming to have the more “traditional” sexual experiences. Condom usage percent decreases for the “less traditional” experiences. (For more information and better definition of “less traditional” look it up yourself.) Whichever way- traditional or nontraditional-  those percentages are too low; college sexual health experts claim.

The reasons for low condom usage vary. Many blame high schools for failing to provide their students with proper sex education. Sex Ed curriculum in high school is noted to be on the decline, people who study this claim. Furthermore, close to 90% of high schools allow parents to exclude their children from these classes if they do not agree with the curriculum. And of the schools that teach Sex Ed, 30% do not allegedly teach proper condom usage procedures. This is all unfortunate as many would say that sexual education in high school is not just important, it is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

As we all well know, whereas high schools are traditionally easy to blame, also falling in the blame game column is the higher than normal usage of drugs and alcohol in college. Over 45% of binge drinking college freshmen claim to not even consider using a condom, or other type of contraceptive, when engaging in sexual activity. Many of those non-condom using binge drinkers go on contract an STD.  Sexual health experts- as well as our parents- all agree: don’t binge drink.

But before we all give up beer pong, we need to know if condom wearing completely prevents getting a sexually transmitted disease. Sex health experts want to remind everyone that some diseases such as herpes are passed along through skin contact during sex. Even if you do wear a condom, it is still possible to get herpes. But condoms do, however, minimize the risk of getting an STD. It is universally agreed that wearing a condom is a much better option than not wearing one, especially if there are multiple partners.

At this point a college parent might ask, “What more can I do to help my son or daughter maintain good sexual health while in college?”

One answer might be in choosing a college that has a good sexual health reputation. (Yes, this data exists too. College sex research seems boundless.) A recent analysis based on CDC STD reporting calculated a campus sexual health index for most U.S. colleges. The findings were based on three factors: Access to contraception, average campus sexual assault rate, and public STD data from the surrounding region. The colleges with the best sexual health reputations were Oregon State University, Boise State University, and Florida Atlantic University. The worst scores went to Marquette University, Vanderbilt University, and University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Do these findings mean anything? Do they influence admissions? Do the sexually healthy schools brag about this during their campus tours?  I would imagine these results are meaningful, however, it is doubtful they influence admissions. Some of the schools on the “bad list” such Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania are highly selective. I would imagine students might be happy get accepted, sexual health reputation be damned. As for hearing about this on a campus tour…. prognosis doubtful. The subject of sex rarely, if ever, comes up.

So, what can we conclude? For one, the vice industry seems to be alive in well in the college community (sorry, parents). Cigarette smoking is up, as is the percent of students having unprotected sex. Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Binge drinking remains popular, as is the use of drugs of all kinds. Research shows that healthier students are happier students. Happier students tend to retain and graduate. There’s little doubt about that. Clearly, college students can benefit by adopting healthier lifestyles.

And that’s a wrap.

The Campus Tour: Know Before They Go

college tour

Doc Seidman Says….

….Touring a college campus can be a valuable experience. A formal campus tour will give prospective students and their families an idea of what the college experience will be like. In a previous post I had some fun with the campus tour pointing out areas that you probably won’t see but should. Whereas there is some truth to that (who doesn’t want to see where the best pizza is?), it was largely written with a tongue in cheek approach. There is a serious side to the campus tour, however, and parents need to prepare accordingly. Sending a family member to college is a big investment, and like any other big purchase, important facts need to be presented and questions need to be asked before the purchase is made.

The tour usually begins with an orientation given in a small to medium sized auditorium, depending on the size of the group. Here, an admissions office representative will greet the students, present the campus strengths and review the admissions requirements.  This can last anywhere from a half an hour to an hour depending on the amount of information the college chooses to present. Afterwards, a current student will take smaller groups on a tour of the campus. Common sites include viewing a sample dorm room, the student dining center(s), a classroom building, the main library, the recreation and fitness center, as well as any other important areas the college wants you to see.

Tour guides will stop throughout the tour and discuss important subjects such as campus clubs and organizations, the athletic events offered, and the various facts about student technology needs (Wi-Fi and printing services, for example).  Whereas this is a valuable information, most colleges will only showcase the areas they want you to see. They will present the topics they want you to know. The college, after all, is trying to sell itself. They are putting their best foot forward.

If you are a parent about to send your son or daughter away to college, there are things you should also know. They might not be as sexy as the new recreation center but they are critical to your son or daughter’s success nonetheless. A campus tour guide may or may not point them out. You need to ask. More important, your tour guide or admissions representative should know the answers.

Here are five important questions:

  1. What systems are in place for advising first-year students?

The first year of college is the most critical for your son or daughter. If students aren’t happy or don’t feel comfortable, they are more prone to leave than students who are content. Colleges don’t want to lose these students. They want them there. Almost every college has systems in place to keep the freshmen students engaged and happy. Nowhere is this more important than through a robust freshman advising system. Students should receive regular advising from a full-time faculty member as well as other campus support staff. If this information is not shared with you during the tour, ask about it. A smart move would be to ask the student tour guide about the advising he or she received during their freshman year. You will most likely receive an honest, candid reply.

  1. What are the on-campus tutoring options? How is the tutoring center staffed and how many students utilize it?

Just about every college offers some type of on campus, complimentary tutoring for students. You may get to see the outside of this academic support building somewhere during the tour. This office can be an integral part of your son or daughter’s academic support as many students need some help with academics at some point.  Many students who need academic support avoid getting help from the on-campus facility. There are many reasons for this, the most notable being ego. Students feel too proud to be seen struggling in something. Try and get a peek at the inside of this building. Is it busy? Ask questions about the tutoring services students can receive. Meet some of the staff if you can. It is important that anyone needing academic help not only receives the support, but feels comfortable doing so.

  1. What are the drug and alcohol policies on campus, particularly in the dormitories?

I have yet to hear this subject come up during a campus tour. Each campus’s policy will vary so it is good to know what the policies are for each campus you visit. Some schools have strict policies while others are laxer. Will your son or daughter get in trouble if drugs and or alcohol are found in his or her dorm room? If it is a strict campus, he or she might be innocent but guilty by association. It is good to know this in advance.

  1. What happens if your son or daughter gets sick and needs to see a doctor?

Some tour guides are happy to point out the campus infirmary and the great services it provides. That’s generally all they know unless they have had a personal experience with it. For services that require care beyond the campus infirmary, details are sketchy. They shouldn’t be. This is important. Don’t let your tour guide gloss over this. Sadly, students do get sick and need care beyond what the campus infirmary provides. Parents should ask how this is handled. What are the related costs of receiving extra medical attention? Also, if a sickness forces a student to miss many classes, how does it get handled? Don’t wait until it is too late to find out.

  1. What does the college have in place to respond to the mental health needs of the students?

The subject of mental health, whereby extremely critical, never comes up. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are all too common in college and need to be properly diagnosed and treated. This should best be discussed privately with an admissions representative after the tour. How common are these issues and how do colleges respond? Students and parents need to know.

Join the Band (or something else)

trumpet

 

Doc Seidman Says…

…. There are many things you can do to help yourself while in college. You can learn how to study properly, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and make good friends. Perhaps the best thing you can do, however, is to join a club or organization.

Most college students have probably heard this advice ad nauseam, almost to the point of where they purposely don’t want to join anything out of spite. To some, being the “anti-involved” student is the desired choice. That is flawed thinking. College is all about training your brain to make smart, not flawed decisions. Therefore, make a smart decision and join something.

Being a part of a club or organization gets you involved with the campus community. It allows you to make some new friends and even have some fun. You become more engaged in your college experience which in turn makes you a happier student. Happy is good. Happy means you are going to come back to school each fall and (hopefully) graduate in a timely manner. Happy also means you will become a proud alum. This makes your college quite happy.

What to join? Most colleges, even those with a smaller student body, give you many options. They list them on their website and remind you of them when you take a college tour. Most prominently, there is athletics, both organized and recreational. Almost all colleges have some type of sporting event or activity you can get involved with. If you are not the sporty type, there is the student newspaper. Not the wordy type, there is drama or music. There are religious organizations; political organizations; service organizations, and activist organizations you can participate in. Many colleges offer a club based on your area of study. You can join the Physics Club, the Math Club, The Hospitality Club, The Spanish Club, Future Engineers, Future Accountants, Future Botanists, The Philosophy Club, and on and on. There are clubs and organizations for computer programmers, computer hackers, debaters, singers, dancers, and even magicians. But wait. The college you are joining doesn’t have a Magicians Club? You can probably start one. Almost all schools have a process for which you can start your own organization. Follow the proper steps and your club for magicians can magically appear.

When I was in college I joined the band; the marching band to be more specific (go ahead and laugh). Don’t chuckle too hard because it was the smartest thing I did while at college. I got to see new places as we travelled with the football team. I also made a ton of new friends; many of which I am still in contact with today, thirty plus years later. Being part of the band kept me engaged with the school and most certainly made me a happier student. When I had a tough day in the academic or residential world, my friends in the band were always there to pick me up. Looking back, it was probably the difference between graduating from Cornell University and transferring somewhere else.

Don’t be the “anti-involved” student. The “anti-involved” student is typically angry and bitter and won’t have the same degree of fun as their “involved” student counterparts. College is an important time in your life. Make the most of it. Be smart. Get involved. Join something.