Thoughts on cancelling student debt

UC Santa Barbara lagoon
One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UC Santa Barbara where my son went to school.

I want to know what your thoughts are about cancelling student debt. The current administration is considering cancelling $10,000 per debt holder. Some are pushing for $50,000.

Personally, I believe a contract is a contract. If you cancel a loan for college, why stop there? Why not cancel mortgages, car loans and credit card debt? Of course, for those loans there is the option to file for bankruptcy. But not with student loans. Maybe that law should be overturned?

What does this say to those who chose to enlist in the military to help pay for their education? Or those who chose community college not to mention those who paid their loans? What about people who entered into trades like electricians, contractors, plumbers and hair dressers? Should they be paying for a doctor or teacher who has a ton of debt?

The point is the debt doesn’t magically go away. It gets passed on to the rest of us. Many universities have huge foundations. I’m not against the institutions forgiving debt. They could do it.

What do you think? If you disagree with me, please let me know what I’m missing. I truly want to know other points of view. What solutions do you suggest for overwhelming student loan debt?

Why do 50% of freshman fail college?

I remembered a post I wrote years ago after reading LA’s post called “Do We Owe Kids College?” There’s an interesting discussion in the comments about whether or not parents are obligated to pay for their kids college or not.

The post I remembered is below. The stats are shocking of how many kids fail. I wonder if it’s gotten worse since I wrote this?

Why Do Kids Fail College?

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools.You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

Swimmers on a recruit trip to Utah.
My daughter and friend on a recruit trip where they were allowed on the football field during a game.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate, but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

imgres
A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real life experiences. Plus, some parents cater to their kids’ every needs—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.
My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

What can we do to help our kids be prepared for success in college? What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? I’d love to get your feedback.

What Do Kids Put On Their Resumes When They’ve Never Held a Job?

img_5272

Honestly, I’m not a helicopter parent anymore, but I am more than happy to jump in and offer my opinion and guidance to my two 20-something-year-old kids.

Our son went to his first career fair a year ago and it led to opportunities and eventually a full-time “real job” where he pays his rent and his bills. Our daughter is nearing the end of her college career and I suggested she attend a career fair—sooner rather than later. She wasn’t thrilled but after pushing a little, she agreed and picked a date from her school’s career fair calendar.

I suggested several times to go to a group hour-long prep meeting for the career fair that was scheduled last week. I think she finally agreed to get me to stop with the “suggesting” but she didn’t go. Instead, she set a one-on-one appointment with a career counselor. Unfortunately, the counselor double-booked her appointment and my daughter received zero prep from her school.

This is the part I’m really proud of. My son took over. He helped her write a resume, coached her on an elevator pitch and even went so far as to help her select professional clothes. Since he’s been through the process, we were all relieved. Also, reading resumes on a daily basis is part of his job working for a high-tech placement company that specializes in software engineers in Dev Ops for the Cloud.

Today is the career fair. I’m excited for my daughter and proud of my son. I want her to be relaxed and enjoy the experience. I reminded her that this is her first career fair and she has more opportunities ahead. She can look at this one as a learning experience to better prepare for the future.

Her main concern was the resume and what should she put down for experience when she’s been swimming her entire life and has only worked a few months as a lifeguard and swim instructor.

I googled what student-athletes can put on their resumes and found a lot of helpful information. Student-athletes cultivate many traits that employers love—like self-motivation, teamwork, coachability, time management, perseverance, a strong work ethic, etc. After my son worked on the resume with my daughter I learned a few things I never knew:

ONE
Her part-time job as a lifeguard was pretty impressive. She saved a toddler’s life.

TWO
Her favorite memory of college was not the year she dropped 20 seconds on the mile, but rather last year when she was throwing up in her hotel room, sick as a dog with the flu, and rallied to swim the mile—because her team needed her to score points. She didn’t include this fact on her resume, but it will be a good story to tell in an interview.

To read in more detail about what student-athletes can put on their resumes, here’s a story I wrote for SwimSwam called “6 Traits Swimmers Have That Employers Want.”

What do you think kids should include on resumes, if they’ve never held a “real job?”

 

IMG_7214

My kids a few years ago with Angus.

 

How parents can help their kids get into college

Parents can offer a lot of help and support on the road to finding the right college. But, don’t take over and do it all for your kids. I can’t tell you how tempting it can be to lead the college hunt—if you’re a parent who helps out on a daily basis—like driving forgotten lunches and papers to school when they’re in high school. Yes, guilty! I know one parent, whose son failed miserably out of college after college. This parent admitted that he had written all the college essays and filled out the applications. He begged me not to do the same for my children.

1268612_10201830817922396_1577138410_o

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

On the other hand, someone needs to keep track of what’s going on and that your child is meeting deadlines. The junior and senior years can be really tough with crazy, hectic schedules, proms, AP tests, etc.. We can’t back off at this critical moment and expect our 16 or 17-year-old to know instinctively what to do. Also, you can’t count on your high school to get your child into college. Not all high counselors are created equal. Some are really good at talking to kids and helping them through the process, while other counselors might not see it as their responsibility. They may have so many kids on many different tracks that they can’t offer one-one-one college counseling.

Here’s a check list of what can parents do:

1. Set up a master calendar. It’s a good idea to get a big, giant calendar or white board for your student and mark down all the important dates like SAT, ACT tests, college visit, deadlines for applications, FAFSA, etc.

2. Here’s what your child needs when it’s time to submit applications (don’t wait until the last minute to get these! You’ll only add to the stress if you wait):
—Official transcripts from all secondary schools attended.
—One letter of recommendation from an adult guidance/college counselor, coach, employer etc.
—One letter of recommendation from a teacher who can speak about academic ability.
—SAT or ACT scores

3. Review the essays. Don’t write them, but read them with a critical eye and get some feedback from other adults who you admire in terms of their writing or smarts.

4. Research schools. You can do initial research into schools’ majors, costs, and find out what their admission standards are. Every college has a website and if you dig deep into the admissions sections, you can find out the ranges of grades and SAT scores.

5. Make sure your child is taking the necessary classes and keeping the grades above a C. Don’t nag, but don’t let them slack, either.

6. If your child needs help with testing, enroll them in a SAT prep class. I did this for my daughter, who is not a good test taker and although she hated going, she thanked me afterward. She said the class, taught at a local high school over the summer, really, really helped.

7. Stay calm. This can be a bumpy road with pot holes and rocks along the way. Your teenager may procrastinate or suffer from anxiety over getting the college applications done. Parents can set the tone and keep the stress at bay, or they can add to it.

How do you think parents can help their kids through the college application process?

 

13417585_10210063407525531_6987965472607988093_n

My son’s high school graduation.

 

When Is it Okay to Do Too Much for Your Kids?

randk

When they were young and needed me.

The sad truth is that my kids don’t need me as much as they used to. My days are no longer spent driving to school and the pool, volunteering in the classroom, packing lunches or helping out on the swim team.

I used to do way too much for my kids. All the time. I drove forgotten homework to school, suits to the pool and all the little things to totally incapacitate my children’s development to grown-up adults.

So, when my daughter called and said she got an email and her classes were going to be dropped on Friday—if tuition wasn’t paid—I didn’t exactly jump to take care of it. I’ve learned from my prior mistakes and write parents tips on how I wished I’d have parented for SwimSwam.com.

12932798_10206137398662617_6843010651924527660_n

This spring at Open Water Nats. Photo thanks to Ref Paul.

Next, she begged me to call the school. I held firm that she should handle it by herself.

She asked me why I hadn’t paid tuition? That one stopped me. We don’t pay tuition. She earns it through a swim scholarship and she must certainly be aware of that fact. I guess she was really worried and upset. She is in her major and excited about her classes.

I assured her there wasn’t anything to worry about. The financial aid office was probably processing scholarships and hadn’t gotten to hers yet. She’s had lifelong experience at being a W and at the end of the alphabet, after all. Her classes were not in danger of being dropped. Still, she was concerned and wanted me to take care of everything.

I finally broke down and called. While I sat on hold for 30 plus minutes and got transferred around from office to office, I wondered why I was doing it at all? The times I’m asked by my son or daughter to help them are few and far between. I’m thankful for that. So, when she did ask for my help, I decided to go against my better judgment and experienced “parenthoodness” and pampered her.

IMG_0233

Now they don’t need me so much….

In the end, there are FERPA things and I couldn’t help her anyway. What’s FERPA you ask? Once your child is in college and you want to make calls, or check out their grades, etc. you’ll learn that you don’t have any rights to do that—unless your child fills out a form and gives you those rights.

“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.” http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

180334_1867729736781_315297_n

What used to be my typical day–drive to school, pool and piano.

So, a good thing to think about is that if you’re doing everything for your child and they leave for college and need your help—you just might not be able to help them.

When do you think it’s okay to do too much for your children? How do you overdo it in the parenting arena?

How Best to Deal With Your Kid’s Roommate Drama

Now that your child is in college, be prepared. Roommate drama is a thing. How can parents help–or should we?

imgres-9

University of Utah, Salt Lake City

 

I experienced drama with my first roommate at the University of Washington. I won’t go into detail, but needless to say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. She was from out-of-state, didn’t know a soul, and after a few fun weeks of acting like besties, we were unable to live with each other. I remember her passive aggressive nature, and I never knew what I had done to offend her. But, she wouldn’t speak to me for days on end. Next, she glommed onto my brother and I watched them as an inseparable couple—except she’d flirt with one particular guy behind his back. We ended that roommate situation after two quarters and never spoke to each other again.

images-2

University of Washington, Seattle–my alma mater

My son had a bad situation his freshman year. He and his roommate filled out the computerized roommate pairings at UCSB and they housed together because they had the exact same SAT scores and similar interests. However, the roommate was an hour from his home and girlfriend, had a ton of high school friends with him, and my son just didn’t click or want to get sucked into the continuation of high school life.

 

imgres

UC Santa Barbara

 

This weekend, we went to my daughter’s “Parents and Move-In Weekend.” For the second year, she’s living off-campus in a house with three other girls. She has a large, yet cozy room she’s decorated in her own style. But, inevitably there’s roommate trouble from time to time. Whether it’s someone who hoards dishes under their bed, roommates who never do the dishes, or another who’s boyfriend has moved in for 60 days…things will happen between college kids living in close quarters. They are used to having their own space. There’s bound to be tension as they figure out how to be adults, living with new people.

IMG_8790

My daughter’s living quarters.

I’m glad we were there for her when some roommate drama cropped up. Here’s a few ideas to help with roommate drama:

One

As a parent, stay out of it unless it’s a dangerous situation or may result in trouble with the landlord.

Two

Give support to your child and let them vent to you. Help them figure out what is the best course of action.

Three

Why are they anxious or upset? It may be deeper than what they tell you on the surface.

Four

It’s important for your child to not keep things bottled up, but talk things out. Whether it’s talking in person or texting—just make sure they are able to express themselves.

Five

Advise your child to think things through before they act. Are they willing to live with the outcome of a roommate confrontation? Or, is it better to let it go?

Six

Let your child know that it’s important to stand up for themselves. It’s not okay to be taken advantage of.

IMG_3533

Dusk at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City

 

What roommate problems did you have? How do you help your kids handle roommate drama?

On another note, I read in the Seattle Times that the dorms I lived in are being demolished!

“You’re Only as Happy as Your Least Happiest Child”

IMG_2339

My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

IMG_1895

The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

IMG_2623

Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

IMG_2592

Olive the cat.