Blog | Topic: Admissions

Is College Worth It?

WorthIt“Students seem to have no idea what they are getting into.”

My neighbor’s son was recently visiting home after spending a day speaking to classes at his alma mater. He was asked to talk to current college students about his work and how his time in college prepared him for a career in finance. Before diving into the topic at hand, he asked the students about how they were paying for college and how much debt they were accumulating. The above comment was the beginning of our recent, eye-opening conversation on my front porch.

Students have no idea? My neighbor made three helpful observations from his day with college students… First, he was alarmed to discover that the school he attended less than 10 years ago now costs $46,000 a year. He had no idea that the cost had risen so much since he was a student. Second, he was shocked to learn that most students didn’t seem to realize how difficult it would be to pay off that kind of debt in the current economy. (And these were students studying business and finance!) Third, he was disappointed to realize that he seemed to be the only person bringing this up with the students.

I wanted to make sure I was hearing him correctly. Here’s the summary I offered: “So, students are accumulating massive amounts of debt, the job prospects are bleak and no one, before you, has pointed this out to the students?”


The above video clip is the beginning of a BookTV panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute about William Bennett and David Wilezol’s book Is College Worth It? A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education. (You can watch the full program here.)

Bill Bennett’s introduction should be heard by all students and parents entering the college planning process. No matter what side of the political aisle you are on (and yes, Dr. Bennett is most often associated with the “right”), you should not avoid asking good questions about the value and worth of a 4-year college degree, especially in this economy. At one point during the panel discussion, Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder makes this observation: “Colleges are too costly; students are learning too little; and employment prospects for graduates are increasingly dismal.” That should, at the very least, give us pause.

Please do take time to watch this short video, read the book and let the conversation begin!

It is because countless conversations like the one yesterday on my front porch and the publication of important books like Is College Worth It? that has motivated me to host the new CTI seminar “The College Choice: Faith, Family & Finances” on October 12 in Lancaster, PA. College costs are going up, students are going into crippling debt and I’m convinced that we need to have better conversations about life after high school. I hope to see you there!

Related Resources:

Seminar: The College Choice: Faith, Family & Finances (October 12)

Blog: Houston We Have a College Planning Problem

Blog: College Financial Planning: Advice for Parents and Students

Blog: College… Not Just Where, But Why?

Expert Interview: “College, Crippling Debt and the Need for Financial Wisdom” (PDF) by Derek Melleby

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Houston, We Have a College Planning Problem

College Choice - CTI HomepageCPYU’s College Transition Initiative began in 2005. For the last eight years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to groups of students and parents about how to be prepared for and make the most of life after high school. Recently, I’ve noticed a shift in the way families talk about higher education. Here’s a story that captures what I mean…

A few years ago I was speaking in Houston, TX. During one of the breaks a father and his son hurried over to talk to me. The dad stood behind his son, his hands on his son’s shoulders and his plea went something like this:

Please tell me what to do with my son. We don’t have a clue. Everything has changed! When I was growing up, this is how it worked. I grew up in California. During my junior year of high school, the guidance counselor took the initiative and told me, based on my interests and academic ability, that I should consider a career in engineering. I went to a state university, for free, got a degree in engineering and I’ve been an engineer at the same company for over 25 years. Now my son is entering the college admission’s process and it seems so confusing! He doesn’t know what to study or where to go. He’s has received very little help from his school. We receive mail from colleges every day. We really don’t know how we can afford it. Make sense of it for me!”

He smiled after the last sentence. He knew I couldn’t possibly provide all of the information he needed during a five minute break. But this conversation has stuck with me. Since that day, I’ve wanted to provide a seminar for students and parents to help them “make sense” of the college planning and admission’s process.

The times have changed… Think about this father’s story: A guidance counselor knew him well enough to help him in the process. He went to college FOR FREE! He got a job in his field shortly after he graduated. He has been working for the same company for over 25 years.

This scenario is no longer the norm. But the other parts of his story are now very common: His son isn’t sure what he wants to study, where he wants to go and the father has no idea how to pay for college! Sound familiar?

Countless conversations like this one has been the motivation behind the new seminar “The College Choice: Faith, Family & Finances” being held in Lancaster, PA on October 12.

The seminar has three goals… Participants will gain:

A biblical vision for making the most of these years

A clearer understanding of the cost/value of college

A wise approach to the college admission’s process

This seminar is for students, parents, educators and youth workers looking for resources for making better decisions about life after high school. The seminar will be beneficial whether you are early (parents of middle schoolers) or late (parents of high school seniors) in the college planning process. I hope to see you there!

Click here to learn more about the seminar.

Click here to register.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

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Admission: 3-D Movie Review

ZD30_1SHT_billing block_1Background/summary: Tina Fey and Paul Rudd costar in Admission, a comedy/drama about the college admission process and the “surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness.” The movie follows Princeton University admission counselor Portia Nathan (Fey) as she travels to high schools, reads student applications and navigates the competitive world of elite college acceptance. On the road, Portia reconnects with a former college classmate, John Pressman (Rudd), who is teaching at an alternative school and trying to convince Portia to accept one of his students.

Discover: What is the message/worldview?

  • The college admission process at elite colleges (i.e. Ivy League) is intense and pressure-filled. Students build resumes and transcripts to compete for minimal open spots and look for any advantage or key insight to gain acceptance. In this environment, a student’s GPA determines their value and worth.
  • Parents are just as competitive as the students and they do everything they can to help their son or daughter get into college. Portia makes this observation about parents: “The college application is the final referendum on their parenting skills.”
  • During her reluctant visit to New Quest, an alternative high school in New England, Portia encounters a different understanding of education and motivation for a college degree. Students think that Portia is operating from a “societal approved definition of success” and suggest to her that life is about “leaving the planet better than we found it.”
  • The film portrays tension and unrest in respect to each character’s vision of happiness and the good life. Portia wonders if she is “boring” because she has had the same job for 16 years and has no desire for starting a family. John has traveled the world trying to “save it” but is still depicted as discontent and “running from something.”
  • Even in the midst of a competitive academic and work environment, the most important thing about life is relationships. Ultimately, commitment, attachment and stability are seen a “good” while a life of rootlessness and mobility is called into question.


Discern: How does it stand in light of the biblical message/worldview?

  • God’s people are all given gifts that are meant to be used to give God glory and benefit neighbors. Some people are given intellectual gifts that should be cultivated and nourished. The college admission process can be seen as an opportunity to give God glory or to glorify the self. This movie should challenge viewers to consider why they pursue educational goals.
  • A person’s value and worth should be found in knowing that he or she is a child of God. In his first letter, John writes “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). An academic transcript or a college degree does not determine a person’s worth. God’s unconditional love for His people, along with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, empowers believers to live lives of faithfulness.
  • A biblical vision of learning is to grow in wisdom so that we can be of better service for God. For followers of Jesus a college degree should be about increasing one’s serviceability for God and others. In a subtle way, through the students at the New Quest alternative school, viewers are introduced to a different reason for going to college: “to leave the planet a better place than you found it.” A biblical worldview pushes us even further: we go to college to learn how to serve God and neighbor more.
  • Jesus summarizes the meaning of life and the way to “true happiness” like this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…And Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:37-40). According to the biblical story, a life that is not built on these words will find happiness fleeting.
  • People who are shaped by the biblical story better understand the “wisdom of stability” that can often be missed in our mobile culture. Speaking through Jeremiah, God’s exiled people living in Babylon are commanded to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters” (Jeremiah 29:5).
  • One of the implications of being created in the image of a Triune God is that we are made to be in relationship with other people. Without deeper, intimate relationships, it is difficult to experience and understand God’s love and faithfulness. Community is essential to the life of faith.


Decide: What do I do with it?

  • Admission can be used to spark many conversations for students about life after high school. It forces viewers to examine more deeply the reasons behind their desires to go to college or pursue a career.
  • The movie will also challenge parents as they think about their role in helping their son or daughter get into college. Do parents (and students) see a college acceptance for their child as a status symbol or as a way to bring honor and glory to God?
  • What does it mean to be happy? What is the good life and how to we get it? Even though the movie Admission is about the college admission process it also invites viewers to wrestle with these bigger questions. Although the characters take a windy road to reach these conclusions, the movie ultimately portrays commitment, attachment and stability as something worth striving for.


Download as PDF handout.

More CPYU 3-D Reviews.

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Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College

Is your son or daughter planning to go to college? Do you assume that someone, maybe a guidance counselor, will help him or her get into a college? Are you confused by the college admissions process? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I highly recommend Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College  by journalist Andrew Ferguson. It is an entertaining and engaging read, combining a good blend of laugh out loud humor and informative advice.

Ferguson writes about his experience walking through the process with his son. “For Americans who had gone to college in the fifties, sixties, or early seventies, a process that had seemed rather straightforward—find a school, preferably nearby, figure out how to pay for it, leave home, study, flirt, party—now appeared unexpectedly elaborate and crucially important, complicated by a bewildering array of plausible options and eager come-ons. Parents seemed slightly stunned, and then uneasy, and then confused.” As a journalist and parent, Ferguson was compelled to write a book to help eliminate the confusion. He explains, “For every piece of advice or information a parent or child receives while applying to college, there is an equal and opposite piece of advice or information that will contradict it.”

What’s most appealing about this book is that Ferguson isn’t afraid to challenge the assumption that everyone should go to college or even that one has to go to college to be successful. He challenges readers to consider why they want their child to go to college and whether or not a bachelor’s degree is the best way to meet their aspirations. Ferguson is especially concerned about the cost of college and wants to prevent parents from spending too much money on something that may not ultimately deliver what they want: a child with marketable skills and job prospects. Crazy U is worth reading by anyone trying to sort through the college admissions process and the proper place of education in the lives of young people.

Watch a video with the author and his son here.

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