My Time in a U.S. College: Things my Parents Would Not Want to Hear

marijuana

Doc Seidman says….

…Should parents be worried about their son or daughter’s behavior in college? Guest blogger Natasha Kurt may have some answers.

College in the United States was a great time. Coming from another country, I was surprised at how different the experience was for me. I made many new friends, both from America and other countries. I learned new things and enjoyed most of my classes. I also got to see places in the U.S. I never thought I would see as a child. Most of all, I enjoyed the parties at college. College in the U.S. was like a big party. I had a lot of fun.

I did not know what to expect when I arrived in the United States for college. I tried to prepare myself but it was not what I expected. Now that I have graduated and have my diploma from a good American college, I can share some of my fun experiences.

  • Drinking alcohol: The drinking age in the United States is 21 but you would never know it. Alcohol was everywhere. American beer was the most popular—and not very strong—but other alcohol such as vodka, rum and tequila were popular too.
  • Smoking marijuana: Marijuana laws are crazy in the United States. It is illegal on the national level (laws made for the country in Washington, D.C.) but legal in some states. I went to college in a state where it is not legal. It didn’t matter. Marijuana was popular. Smoking it out of a pipe or bong was common but many people still smoke it as a cigarette. It was always found at parties or even sitting in an apartment with friends. Someone always seemed have a marijuana cigarette.
  • Watching pornography: Thanks to the Internet, and free campus wi-fi, another popular activity. Americans do not have censorship.
  • Procrastination: Like many of my friends, I often waited until the last minute to complete an assignment. I could have done a much better job if I had started earlier, but it all worked out for me.
  • Skipping class: Not going to (skipping or cutting) class is also popular on the American campus. I don’t know why because college costs a lot of money. I would say that more American students missed or “cut” class than us international students. Many Americans did not seem to take college very seriously. It was strange to see that as my family had to spend a lot of money for me to be there.
  • Drinking Caffeine: This is also popular. Coffee is a popular drink (we had three Starbucks on our campus and they were all very busy). Americans also drink many sugary drinks with a lot caffeine such as Pepsi, something called Mountain Dew, and Red Bull. Coming from another country I was not used to drinking so many of these beverages. They keep you awake though.
  • Sex: After four years of watching everybody, I would say about half of the students were having sex regularly. I would also say that more than half of the students bragged about having sex regularly. Friends would “hook up” with other friends and just have sex. Many had multiple partners. Coming from a country with different values about sex, I found this very different. It seems like most of the sex was not part of a long-term relationship. It was just sex for the sake of having sex.

I am not sure if my parents would have sent me to college in the United States if they had known what college there was like. I had a lot of fun though and I would do it again! If you have the money, you should go. It is a good time.

Natasha is a contributor to www.internationalcollegestudent.com and will be writing for the upcoming site sexandcollege.com.

Community Colleges: A Guide for International Students

college hall

Doc Seidman Says…

….A U.S. “community college” is a school that offers a two-year degree (associate’s) instead of a four-year degree (bachelor’s). Because it is a two-year school, it costs a lot less money to attend. Community colleges are sometimes called “Junior Colleges” or “Technical Colleges.” Some community colleges offer both two and four-year degrees.

Students attend community colleges for many reasons.

  • Some students are not sure they are ready for a four-year degree. “Trying things out” with a less-expensive two-year degree close to home can be a better option.
  • Many students are older; in their 30s, 40s or more. They may be returning to school to learn new things or complete a degree they started but did not finish.
  • Many students cannot afford to attend a four-year college right away. They will attend the local community college, earn their associate’s degree, and then apply to a four-year college as a transfer student. In many cases, they can now earn their bachelor’s degree in two years, instead of four years (depending on the number of credit hours that transfer, or are accepted by the four-year school). Starting at a community college can save a lot of money. The average cost of tuition is around $3,500 a year, much lower than at a four-year school.

If you decide to attend a community college, know that most do not offer on-campus housing, or dormitories, for their students. Students are usually on their own to find a place to live. In the U.S., many students live at home with their families while they attend community college. The price of an apartment will vary based on where the college is. In many cases, however, it is easy to find lower cost housing near a busy college.

Since students do not live on campus, they need to find a way to get to and from their classes. Many people in the U.S. have cars so driving to school is common. If you do not have a car, most community colleges are part of a major public bus route where students can ride a bus to and from school. (You would want to review bus transport in advance because every region and school is different.) It is also possible to walk if you live close enough, weather permitting. Even if you can walk to school, you will need to find a way to get to other places (grocery stores, shopping, restaurants, etc.). Keep in mind, however, that cars are extremely popular in the United States and most places are built to accommodate them.

When it comes to college in the United States, you often get what you pay for. The more you pay to attend (higher tuition) the more services and advising your college is likely to provide. In many cases, the less you pay, the fewer services and personal attention you may receive.

If this is something that may interest you, research possible community colleges you may be interested in. Try and avoid a college that is “for profit.” That means it operates like a more traditional business and the college might be more interested in having you as a paid student than seeing you succeed. A good community college will have an office for international students. It would be a good idea to contact the director and get more information about the international student population. They can also answer any questions about how the school is accredited and what opportunities are available to international students both during school and when they graduate.

If you want to attend college in the United States but do not have a great deal of money, the community college option can be right for you. Most do very good work and make every attempt to see their students succeed.

10 Dorm Must-Haves for Under $30

dorm room

Doc Seidman Says…..

….anyone you know getting ready for college? Read this helpful post from my colleague Rachel DeHaven on how to save money on important dormitory supplies.

Excitement and stress are kicking in for both you and your child while dorm shopping!  After living in dorm rooms for many years, I have compiled the top ten must-haves of dorm life.   The essentials go without saying (sheets, pillows, etc.).   This post contains all the things you may not have considered when writing up your shopping checklist.  Bonus: did I mention everything on this list is under $30?! Keep your student happy and your wallet happier.

1.    Bed Risers.

These bad boys are a must get. However, you should only buy if you have seen the dorm room first or know for a fact they are not included. Some dorms will actually lift your bed on request, make sure you know if that is an option before you buy. Lifting your bed will leave so much room for storage such as clothes, books, and luggage.  These risers are almost seven inches and will be perfect to squeeze the essentials under and keep everything organized.

2.    String Lights.

Dorms generally have poor or harsh lighting in their rooms.  String lights are great for nighttime when students are trying to wind down or even for a hip look when friends are over.  Especially great to hang over the bed for some lighting when their roommate is trying to sleep.

3.    Coffee Maker.

For those caffeine addicts this is a must have!  Skip the long morning coffee lines and make it in the dorm.  Also great for those long nights of studying.  Lifehack: use the coffee maker for hot water to make oatmeal or even ramen.  Check the university’s policy on appliances in dorm rooms first before you buy.

4.    Reusable water bottle.

Terrific for your student to bring to classes and have in their dorm room.  Also great for the environment by cutting down plastic bottle use.  My personal recommendation goes to the Hydro Flask.  The water stays cold for 24 hours and will even keep ice overnight.  Coffee and tea lovers can keep their beverages hot for over 6 hours in one of these bottles.  They lean toward the pricier side of things, but come with a lifetime warranty!

5.    Sleep Mask.

Perfect for your student when they need a little extra shut eye.  Will keep out light if their roommate is up late studying or fantastic for naps in between classes!  Perfect for the weekends when your student will most likely be sleeping long after the sun comes up.

6.    Command hooks.

Another way to utilize all the space of the room and free up room in the closet.  Command hooks are an easy way to hang coats, purses, or even backpacks. It will keep clutter off the floor and free up space that would normally be occupied.  These have a sticker back so it will not damage the wall.  Most dorms request no holes in the wall so this is an easy way around that.  A pack of five should keep anyone happy for the next year.

7.    Bedside pocket.

These are especially useful for those rooms that do not have nightstands or if your student is in bunkbeds.  It gives room to hold a phone (aka alarm clock) so they will never be late for class!  Plus, plenty of room for remotes, chargers, and even books to ensure they do not get lost in a potential disarray of the room.

8.    Bath robe.

When sharing showers your student will need coverage to get them to and from the stalls.  They are also exceptional for lounging in during nighttime dorm study sessions.  A long and soft robe will help keep them warm during the winter months.  This robe is extremely fluffy and comes in pink, blue, or grey.

9.    Slides.

Another shared bathroom must have, specifically if your student is in a communal shower situation (freshmen most likely are).  These types of showers are home to all sorts of nasty critters and many people get athletes foot because of it.  Avoid dealing with itchy feet and get your student some shower shoes.  These comfy shoes are sleek, stylish, and most importantly slip resistant!  There would be nothing more embarrassing than wearing the wrong shower shoes and having a rather unfortunate fall.

10.  Shower caddy.

The last third and final bathroom related shopping expense.  With communal showers there is nowhere to leave your belongings.  Your student will need an easy and convenient way to travel from their dorm room to the shower hall in style.  This shower caddy will most certainly hold shampoo, conditioner, and (hopefully) soap. Plastic or mesh caddies will dry easily and not get moldy or smelly.

Rachel is the editor of the #BacktomyBachelors blog for AffordableCollegePrep.com

Cheap Colleges: A Guide for International Students

College 3

Doc Seidman Says….

….In the United States, no two colleges are the same. The amount you will pay (tuition) will vary from college to college. If you are trying to study in the United States on a limited budget, the college you choose to attend will be your most important decision. You would want to go to a college with a good reputation yet not have to spend too much money.

The reputation of the college is very important in the United States. The school you graduate from will go on your resume and be part of your permanent record. As you may know, there are “elite” or top colleges in the U.S. (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, for example) but not everyone can get into them or afford to go. They can also be very expensive. You would then want to find a good college that good reputation in the area you want to study.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, these are the least expensive U.S. colleges:

 

NAME OF COLLEGE STATE TUITION AND FEES (in US $)
Brigham Young University Utah $5,460
Arkansas Baptist College Arkansas $8,760
Tougaloo College Mississippi $10,600
Jarvis Christian College Texas $11,720
Blue Mountain College Mississippi $11,760
Alice Lloyd College Kentucky $12,050
William Carey University Mississippi $12,300
Park University Missouri $12,470
Amridge University Alabama $12,630
Bethune-Cookman University Florida $14,410

 

The most expensive colleges are:

NAME OF COLLEGE STATE TUITION AND FEES (in US $)
Columbia University New York $57,208
Vassar College New York $55,210
Harvey Mudd College California $54,886
University of Chicago Illinois $54,825
Trinity College Connecticut $54,770
Franklin and Marshall College Pennsylvania $54,380
Tufts University Massachusetts $54,318
Amherst College Massachusetts $54,310
University of Southern California California $54,259
Sarah Lawrence College New York $54,010

 

Now that you have a low and high dollar amount for the cost of college in the United States, you can better understand how much money you will need. If your college choice or choices is/are not on the list, you can see whether the tuition they charge is on the lower or higher side. As many international students know, they will not have the same benefits that an American student will have. This includes:

  • Student Loans- money the U.S. government lends students at a reduced interest rate
  • Grants- money the government provides students to attend school. Grant money is a gift and not a loan. It does not need to be paid back. Grant money is often need based.
  • Scholarships- money for college provided to students by companies or organizations. Students must apply to receive scholarship money. It, too, does not need to be paid back. Most, but not all scholarships are merit based.

Keep in mind that there are many costs in going to college. The amounts given here are for tuition and various application fees. They do not include other important costs such as: rent, food, book, transportation, and spending money. You would want to make sure you factor in these amounts before you decided to study in the United States.

As you probably know, as an international student, you are not able to work in the United States, unless it is for employment designated by the school. That means you will most likely not be able find a job to help you pay for things. Plan accordingly. Finding a lower cost college in a lower cost part of the country can certainly help.

Finally, remember, as part of your F1 Visa interview, you will need to show that you have the financial ability to go to college in the United States. Going to a lower cost school can certainly help, however, it may not be the answer.

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.