College Strategy Blog was created as a place for me to discuss issues pertaining to college, as well as to provide real-life information and “lessons learned” from my work with students and families. This work includes both students who are planning for college and those in college already, and I have worked with students who are “average,” high-achieving, and those with disabilities. I’ve also worked with a broad array of families, ranging from working class to middle- and upper-income. Yet, their aspirations are the same: To achieve higher education success for their child. Whether planning to enter college, or trying to reach graduation, students and families need a strategy- a solid plan for higher education.
Regardless of the educational goals that a family has for their child, college has become progressively more expensive. No family wants their student to take five, six, or more years to finish a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, taking longer to graduate is the trend, and many students become one of the estimated 44% that drop or fail out of college. The “traditional model” of college planning, which focuses on maximizing GPAs and SAT scores, focuses on getting in to college. However, it says little if anything about graduating from college, and hardly acknowledges the key risk factors for taking longer or even not finishing. In its strictly theoretical, entry-only approach, it leaves many families unaware of the key factors that they should consider and plan for before college.
In 1997, I began developing a new, comprehensive approach for college planning that accounts for all the factors that can come to bear on student success. This approach is based on existing knowledge of critical factors, plus the advantage of “lessons learned” from applied work directly with students who are currently in college. Any effective model must be able to account for all relevant factors, ranging from high achieving students who wish for competitive or graduate school entry to students with disabilities. It also must account for why the majority of students don’t finish on time, why students drop out or fail, or why bright students didn’t perform as expected in college. For all of these students, an effective model must be able to find solutions, and bring these lessons to the college planning phases to prevent problems while in college.
This new, integrated approach arose from not only my work with students and families, but from my work with many professionals like teachers, professors, guidance counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and many others. A broad-based approach is necessary to define problems and find solutions, and they can often be complex scenarios that must be addressed. For example, high-achieving students who attend college may have known disabilities to be considered, or they develop them while they are in college. Ages 18 to 24, exactly when students are in college, is a typical age of onset for many adult conditions. College can be a very stressful time, and bright or exceptional students, while anticipated to do well in higher education, can and do struggle, fail, or drop out for many reasons. A good model must account for why students take longer to graduate or have problems in all their forms, and bring known issues from the college arena to families so they can plan accordingly, before their students ever set foot on campus. Prevention, as it is said, is always worth more than having to cure problems later.
Most importantly, the need for a more in-depth approach to college preparation and planning was underscored to me by students themselves. Modern students want to know more, and want to be more involved. They’re curious about the world around them, and want interesting and challenging lives where they can have an impact. They don’t want to be left in the dark about what to expect in the future, and want to make good decisions about their lives. Even when I speak with some college students now, they literally become angry because no one ever discussed key factors about higher education and careers with them before they made their college and major choices. In high school, students don’t want to be insulated from the world, they want to know about what’s going on, and what to expect in their lifetime.
In a move far beyond what the traditional model has offered, I inform students and their families about the myriad factors that they will face. When discussing majors, I tell students about trends and projections to 2030 or 2050 that will have an impact on the environment, economy, workforce, and many other fields. I give them a preview of the world to come, which allows them to position themselves much better from their college choices than if they never knew. I also discuss with them the characteristics of types of colleges and majors, and we tailor a plan to blend their interests in to what the world will be like, not only when they graduate, but throughout their lifetime. I work inside the “black box,” with college students themselves, and bring direct knowledge from applied work. Parents, students, and even college professors have loved this approach, and enjoy watching the burgeoning development of a new model of higher education planning and success.
In the end, no matter what a student’s educational aspirations are, having an effective plan in any endeavor is always the key to attaining a goal. Developing a comprehensive college plan, a college strategy, is what often makes the difference between having a satisfying college experience, or a disappointing one. With the great expense of modern college, not having a plan amounts to building a house without a blueprint: You risk it falling down, perhaps right on top of you.
I will say that I give 100% of my time to my clients, and unfortunately, my blog writing has come second to them. I am hoping to post more frequently than in the past. Locally, my work takes me from campus to campus, and I consult at a distance for clients in many other states, including New York, Florida, Chicago, Illinois, and California. I’ve worked with small, private colleges in the Midwest and Northeast, local community colleges, as well as many excellent upper-tier schools. What my clients will likely tell you about me is that I take my work very seriously, am fast to respond, and will stay focused on a task until it’s done. I take great pride in my work, and am always seeking the most positive outcomes.
On a technical note, I’ve had chronic problems at this blog with a “comment spam” issue, but I’m hoping to have this resolved soon. For this reason, I’ve temporarily turned off the “comments” function. I apologize for the inconvenience.
If you have any questions, please use the contact page or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Ludovici, M.A., is a national level Higher Education Consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s worked with students and parents across the U.S. about college issues since 2001, and is a member of CSRDE that focuses on best practices in helping students. He is also a member of NACADA, the national college advising association in the U.S. Please see the program page for services Jeff offers.