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Joining us on this episode is Alicia Mero, the SENIOR high school admissions REPRESENTATIVE For bryant & stratton college.
Bryant & stratton college haS 19 ground campuses in New York, ohio, virginia, and wisconsin, IN ADDITION TO an online campus. They are accredited by The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Lee Doubleday: Joining us today is Alicia Mero, the senior high school admissionss representative for Bryant & Stratton College. Today, we’d like to discuss the difference between high school and college, how to be successful in college, and how to pay for college. Alicia, thank you for joining us.
Alicia Mero: Thank you so much for having me.
Lee: Alicia, why don’t we start by asking this question. What are some key differences between high school and college? What are we talking about here?
Alicia: So, there’s a lot of things that you may already think of that are different from high school versus college, but there’s also some things that students don’t think of. So some of the key differences are, when you are in high school, you may call your teacher Mr., Mrs., or Miss. When you get into college, you will probably call that instructor “doctor” or “professor”—they usually tell you what they prefer. So that’s something that may be a little more common of a difference. High school is also usually free, but in college you will have to think about some different financing options to help you pay for your tuition and some other fees that we’ll talk about. In high school, it is mandatory for you to be in class, right? So, if you’re not in class, usually your parents are notified right away and you have an attendance policy that you have to follow, right? So that’s different in college. It is 100% voluntary to be in class. It is your responsibility to make sure you actually attend the classes and submit your assignments.
Bob Martin: Alicia, this is Bob Martin. Very quickly, I’m glad you brought that up. A great nexus into the next question—it has to do with first-year college dropout rates. Now, according to data that Lee and I see, generally speaking, in the United States is about at 30% first-year dropout rate. Why do you think this is happening? What do you think some of the reasons are for this rate being so high?
Alicia: I think there’s quite a few different reasons. Sometimes it’s the preparedness of the student—maybe they were expecting something different than what actually was handed to them. Maybe choosing the wrong major, or the major they originally wanted wasn’t actually offered. And the biggest one that I find is that the college or the campus is not the correct fit for the student. So, when I talk to students, I always talk to them about—think about what you’re looking for. Yes, of course, you want that perfect academic program, but you also want to look at the environment and make sure that you can envision yourself in that classroom and you can envision yourself on that campus, because that plays a huge role with you actually feeling comfortable.
Bob: That’s interesting. You’re kind of alluding to this whole thriving—how do you help a student thrive in the environment that they’re coming into? What are some of your suggestions on helping students thrive and be successful in their environment, particularly first-year students, when they’re trying to get over that hump?
Alicia: I think the most common suggestions that I give would be to become familiar with your campus. That way you know where you’re going when it comes to the time for classes and things like that. Also, get to know some of the important people on campus, such as the dean, such as your advisor, your professors, people that you’re going to go to for help. And that’s another thing that I always say: “Remember that no question is a bad question. Always go to class. And also, ask for help when you need it. And then remember to just have some fun time. Make sure that you do prioritize your classwork, but also make sure you put some fun time in there as well, because this is for new beginnings.”
Bob: So it’s kind of like—I think you’re saying we should kind of be visible, in other words, make sure that—try to make sure that the educators know who you are and know that you’re an interested student, and you’re there to learn, and you’re there to get their help.
Alicia: Yes, exactly, exactly. And if you need help, you are not the only one. So just make sure you find those resources and ask for it because, at the end of the day, this is your education, and you want to be proud of that.
Lee: Okay, Alicia. Now college sounds like it can be a great option for someone, however let’s talk about the cost. What are some of the costs associated with attending college?
Alicia: So, cost is a big concern for a lot of people for obvious reasons. There are a variety of costs, but the good news is there are ways to help you pay for it. But some of the costs include tuition, so that’s your actually—you’re paying for your courses that you’re attending, your books, your school supplies. If you are staying on campus, maybe you have to pay for dorms or maybe you’re renting an apartment with friends. You’ll also have to think about a meal plan or groceries. How are you going to feed yourself? And then, if you’re driving, you may have to think about gas and car repairs. Or maybe you are paying for transportation, such as the bus or the train. So those are some costs that you may have to think about.
Lee: Okay. And I know that a lot of students, in particular the ones coming out of high school, are filling out the FAFSA and may be needing help or assistance filling out the FAFSA. What is the FAFSA and how do you fill one out?
Alicia: So, the FAFSA is super important for every single student to fill out because it is a way to actually determine what free money that the student is actually eligible for. So FASFA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And when you apply for that, you’re able to apply for it right online with the help of your parents and guardians. You’re able to apply for that and then determine what is actually eligible to give to you for free money, because then that helps you pay for all those things we just talked about.
Bob: Alicia, this is Bob Martin again. Very quickly, what we’ve found is—what we’re finding and what we’re hearing from our guidance counselors across the country and also from students—is that the COVID situation has had a real serious impact on the amount of information and amount of good information that’s getting out to potential students. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Alicia: I do think that it’s becoming an issue, just because a lot of the remote learning and students aren’t actually in person anymore or when they are, they’re kind of just there for class and they go home. So, they’re not getting to meet with counselors and administration kind of one-on-one to get some of that extra help that they normally would get. And I know that FASFA nights and things like that that schools usually hold, they’ve been canceled or they’ve been moved remotely. I know that that has been something that all schools are kind of struggling with, but I’m hoping that next year we’re able to get back into those FASFA nights and FASFA labs.
Lee: Alicia, are there any resources that Bryant & Stratton offers as far as helping students fill out a FAFSA?
Alicia: Yes, we have an amazing financial aid team here at Bryant & Stratton College at all of our campuses and we can actually sit down with you and your guardians and assist you with filling out the FAFSA and make sure that you have the correct information with you, because it can be kind of tricky with some of the questions that are on there.
Bob: Now Alicia, obviously we’re trying to encourage people to look at Bryant & Stratton. But when it comes to FASFA, I’m assuming your workshops and your information is generic. So—and what we want to do is make sure that the students know what they’re eligible for, what they’re able to apply for it. And if they use the resources at Bryant & Stratton, fantastic. That’s what we want. But if they end up going someplace else, as long as they’ve gotten good information, that’s the goal, right?
Alicia: Exactly. Exactly. It’s really to make sure that you know the process and make sure there’s no confusion. Because like I said before, any college you go to, you want to make sure you fill out that FASFA. So, we host FASFA nights—whether it’s remote, whether it’s in person—and we do those a couple of times a year, since normally the application opens up in October of the senior year of the student.
Lee: Okay, Alicia. And we talked about the FAFSA, but what are some other payment options for college?
Alicia: So there’s a lot of options that can actually help offset the cost and make college more affordable for students and their families, such as grants like we talked about with the FASFA. That is free money from the federal government, from the state government, that you do not have to pay back. You do have to qualify for it—you have to meet some of these requirements—but it is completely free and you do not have to pay that back. So there’s also scholarships that you can receive from the institution that you’re choosing to go to. So, for example, at Bryant & Stratton College, we have specific scholarships that we allow our students to apply for. And there’s outside scholarships. You can take a look at your high school for scholarships. You can go online. You can go to your employer. You can go to your bank. And that’s, again, free money. There are some stipulations with some scholarships, but as long as you maintain those requirements, you can get more free money that way. And then there’s work study, which you apply for through the federal government as well, which is where you can actually work on your college campus and earn money that you can use to offset some costs that you may have while you’re on campus. And then, of course, student loans. There are federal student loans that you apply for when you apply for your FASFA as well.
Bob: And of course, you got Imagine America if you’re going to a Imagine America participating college, which is near and dear to our heart.
Alicia: Yes, we love that.
Bob: Are there any other—so you’ve covered payment options. You’ve covered FASFA. We’ve gone through dropout rates, which has been great. Is there someone at Bryant & Stratton that can go over some of these payment options with interested students?
Alicia: Yes. So, between admissions and financial aid—we really work together—but this lands more in the financial aid advisor’s lap. With this information, every single student who comes to visit on a first tour with us, they meet with financial aid just to talk about cost. They talk about options such as FASFA, such as our TAP application in New York State, and then all of our scholarships. We go over that with them as well, that way they know all of their options and how to make college affordable.
Lee: Okay, Alicia. Well, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. We had a great conversation about the differences between high school and college, some of the ways to help students thrive while they’re in college, including staying visible and being more connected with the college dean and important people on campus. We also talked about the different costs associated with college being tuition, books, housing, food, transportation—just to name a few, what the FAFSA is and what it means for you in order to fill one out and how to fill one out, and the different payment options for college that include additional scholarship opportunities, grant opportunities, as well as work study programs and, of course, student loans. I want to thank Alicia for your time today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you on the podcast.
Alicia: Of course. Thank you so much.
Lee: If you’d like any more information on Bryant & Stratton College or this episode, please view our show notes at www.imagine-america.org/podcast for more information. Thank you all and goodbye.