COLLEGE HOPES AND WORRIES

High school students and their parents face enormous stress in the race to get accepted to the university of their dreams. We’re breaking down the myths and realities for those who are college-bound.

Aired on May 3 & October 17, 2019.

 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

IT HAS BEEN THE SCANDAL MAKING HEADLINES FOR WEEKS AND ONE THAT HAS ROCKED THE WORLD OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE MEGA RICH, PAYMENTS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN SOME SITUATIONS REPORTEDLY CHANGING HANDS TO GET THE CHILDREN OF THE ELITE INTO THE BEST COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, WHAT SOME CRITICS NOW SAY THAT MONEY CAN BUY.

THESE HEADLINES ARE PLAYING OUT IN HOMES ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY, DURING THIS NAIL BITING SEASON FOR THE NEARLY 3 MILLION HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS APPLYING TO GET INTO COLLEGE.

COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION LETTERS, FINANCIAL AID OFFERS AND SCHOLARSHIPS ARE LANDING IN MAILBOXES RIGHT NOW AND WITH THAT MAIL COMES SOME SIGNIFICANTLY FRAYED NERVES.

THE PRINCETON REVIEW HAS A WAY TO EASE SOME OF THE STRESS AND LATEST SURVEY THAT THEY TALK ABOUT WHERE THEY'RE FOCUSING ON COLLEGE HOPES AND WORRIES.

HERE WITH THE BREAKDOWN IS ITS EDITOR IN CHIEF ROBERT FRANIC.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

IT'S A DELIGHT TO TALK WITH YOU AND YOU ALWAYS GIVE US A GREAT UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT'S GOING ON OUT THERE.

THANK YOU.

I'M GOING TO START WITH THE SURVEY THAT YOU DID.

YEAH.

AND I'M GOING TO ASK YOU TO EXPLAIN HOW MANY PEOPLE -- BECAUSE I WAS CERTAINLY IMPRESSED BY THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE AND FROM WHERE.

YEAH.

THIS IS NOT JUST A COUPLE OF PEOPLE YOU WERE TALKING TO.

TELL ME ABOUT THE NATURE OF THE EXTENT OF THE SURVEY.

THE SURVEY IS CALLED COLLEGE HOPES AND WORRIES OUR 17th YEAR DOING THE SURVEY, JUST SHY OF 7,000 STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS COMPLETING THE SURVEY THIS YEAR.

IF WE CAN FIGURE OUT WHERE STUDENTS AND PARENTS HOPES ARE IT'S AN EASY PUTT TO GET THEM THERE.

IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND WHY THEY'RE SCARED, WORRIED, STRESSED WE CAN HAVE A DISCUSSION OF SUBSTANCE TO HELP DIFFUSE THAT FRENZY.

THE NOTION OF THE STRESS LEVEL.

WHAT DID THE SURVEY FOUND IN TERMS OF THE STRESS LEVEL FOR THIS COHORT, IF YOU WILL, OF HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS?

IT IS EXTREME.

AGAIN, IT'S MORE EXTREME THIS YEAR THAN IT HAS BEEN THESE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.

IT'S 73% OF THOSE NEARLY 12,000 COLLEGE BOUND STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS SAID THEY WERE EITHER STRESSED OR VERY STRESSED ABOUT THE COLLEGE PROCESS AND THAT'S INTERESTING SINCE WE'VE BEEN DOING THIS SURVEY FOR SO LONG WE LOOKED TO COMPARE IT TO 2003 NUMBERS AND IT WAS 53%. WE KNOW THAT THERE HAS BEEN A HUGE RISE IN STRESS AROUND THE COLLEGE PROCESS IN SOME COMPONENT.

AND YOU ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT MILD STRESS, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE SAYING SIGNIFICANTLY STRESSED OR, YOU KNOW, RELATIVELY SIGNIFICANTLY STRESSED.

YEAH.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE FACTORS THAT ENTER INTO IT.

WE TALK ABOUT HOPES AND DREAMS AND WORRIES.

YEAH.

SO WHEN YOU ASKED ABOUT, OKAY, WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES NOW COMING OUT, WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANT FINDING FOR THAT?

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT IT AND THIS IS A LOT OF STUDENTS AS WE'VE BEEN SAYING AND THEIR PARENTS, 99% OF WHOM SAID COLLEGE IS WORTH IT, BUT IT IS WORTH IT FOR TWO SPECIFIC REASONS, ONE, THAT THEY'RE GOING TO GET A BETTER CAREER OF SUBSTANCE UPON GRADUATION AND THAT THEIR SCHOOL IS GOING TO BE A BETTER FIT FOR THEM ACADEMICALLY, CAMPUS CULTURE, FINANCIAL AID AND CAREER SERVICES.

THE INTERESTING THING THAT ONLY 9% SAID IT WAS ACADEMIC REPUTATION THAT WAS MOST IMPORTANT.

THAT'S INTERESTING.

THAT WOULD BE SURPRISING TO ME.

WAS THAT SURPRISING TO YOU ALSO?

I'M ONLY HEARTENED BY IT.

OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS IT'S BEEN FAIRLY CONSISTENT.

IAMS ALWAYS SURPRISED BY IT, I DO A LOT OF TALKS FOR COLLEGE BOUND STUDENTS AND PARENTS, WHEN I TELL THEM THAT DATA THEY ARE LIKE THIS IS INTERESTING BECAUSE IT'S THE QUESTION OF WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE RETURN ON MY INVESTMENT ACADEMICALLY IF I'M A STUDENT AND RETURN ON MY INVESTMENT IF I'M A STUDENT AND PARENT PAYING FOR IT.

YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT AFTER GRADUATION.

ARE YOU FINDING GENERALLY THAT THE PARENTS MIGHT HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEW THAN THE STUDENTS WHEN THE STUDENTS ARE SAYING, LOOK, IT'S NOT THE SAME THAT'S IMPORTANT TO ME, IT'S THE FIT THAT'S MOST IMPORTANT TO ME.

IT'S BEEN EERILY SIMILAR BETWEEN THEM.

1 OR 2 PERCENTAGE POINTS OFF OF THOSE THINGS.

PROBABLY NOT UNCOMMON.

WHAT WE HAVE FOUND SORT OF DISPARATE ANSWERS IS THAT PARENTS WANT THEIR KIDS TO GO CLOSER TO HOME, 250 MILES OR LESS, KIDS WANT TO GO 250 MILES OR MORE.

RIGHT.

THAT STUFF THAT WE COULD PROBABLY ASSUME, BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE VALUE OF COLLEGE THEY ARE SIMILAR AND I LIKE THAT BECAUSE THAT MEANS THEY'RE GETTING GOOD COLLEGE COUNSEL IN THEIR HIGH SCHOOLS AND ULTIMATELY THEY'RE HAVING A CONVERSATION OF SUBSTANCE WITH SOMEBODY FROM THE ADMISSIONS TEAM.

WE TALK ABOUT WORRY.

YEAH.

TOP OF THE LIST FOR WORRY IS?

IT IS INCURRING TOO MUCH DEBT TO PAY FOR COLLEGE.

THIS HAS BEEN SOLIDLY NUMBER ONE FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS.

ITS NOT SURPRISING, YOU KNOW, LEVEL OF DEBT BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SCHOOLS IS JUST ABOUT $30,000.

WHEN I ASK STUDENTS AND PARENTS THEY LOFT IT UP TO 50, 60, 70, 80,008 80 THOUSAND DOLLARS AND NOT HAVE AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE.

HOW ABOUT THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL AGE, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING IN TERMS OF WORRIES OR FEARS OR HOPES?

90% SOLIDLY SAID THAT FINANCIAL SAID WAS GOING TO BE NECESSARY, VERY NECESSARY OR EXTREMELY NECESSARY FOR THEM TO AFFORD SCHOOL.

SO WE UNDERSTAND THAT IF THEY'RE CONCERNED ABOUT DEBT THEN IT GOES IN HAND WITH THE IDEA OF FINANCIAL AID BEING NECESSARY FOR THE PROCESS.

WHICH I THINK IS FINE, PARTICULARLY IF THE CONVERSATION THAT THEY HAVE WITH SCHOOLS OR PART OF THEIR RESEARCH PROCESS -- WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE SURVEY, THIS IS WHAT STUDENTS ARE THINKING ABOUT NOW AND THEIR PARENTS.

IT'S NOT SAYING FIGURE TO THIS COLLEGE I'M GOING TO WILL OR HOPE THAT THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

SAYING THIS IS PART OF THE FACTORS THAT I'M CONSIDERING FORFEIT IN CHOOSING THAT PARTICULAR SCHOOL.

ARE YOU GETTING A SENSE AS A CONSEQUENCE OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS THAT THE SCHOOLS ARE MORE COGNIZANT OF THESE FEARS AND THAT THEY'RE DOING THINGS TO HELP THESE INCOMING STUDENTS ALLAY THESE FEARS IN SOME FASHION.

THERE ARE MANY SCHOOLS THAT ARE BRINGING CAREER SERVICES AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT INTO THE GENERAL CONVERSATION THAT THEY HAVE WITH STUDENTS EARLY ON IN THE COLLEGE PROCESS, WHETHER THAT'S AT A COLLEGE FAIR OR CAMPUS OPEN HOUSE.

I TELL STUDENTS THAT I VISIT MORE COLLEGES THAN I'M CONVINCED ANY OTHER PERSON ON THE PLANET, BUT IF I'M NOT HEARING THAT CONVERSATION OF HOW ARE INTERNSHIPS, CO-OPS, CAREER SERVICES IN GENERAL TIED TO MY UNDERGRADUATE EXPERIENCE FROM FIRST YEAR TO COLLEGE TO LAST THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO HEAR AND WHAT STUDENTS AND PARENTS ARE ASKING TO HEAR AND SO MANY SCHOOLS ARE SERVING IT UP EARLY ON.

SOME ARE NOT BUT MANY ARE.

LET ME SHIFT FOCUS.

WE TALKED ABOUT THE SCANDAL.

OH, MY WORD.

YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS WORLD FOR A LOT OF YEARS NOW.

YEAH.

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY IT?

I AM SURPRISED BY THE EXTENT OF THIS SCANDAL AND I AM JUST DEEPLY UPSET, MY FULL TEAM AT THE PRINCETON REVIEW ARE DEEPLY UPSET ABOUT THIS PROCESS AND HOW IT CAN GO ON.

IT IS CHEATING AND IT IS CHEATING IN TWO WAYS, CHEATING ON THE SAT AND ACT AND CHEATING ON ACADEMIC ADMISSION.

WHAT'S NOT SURPRISING IS THAT THERE IS STRESS AROUND THE PROCESS AND PEOPLE PLACE SUCH BRAND PRESTIGE AND WEIGHT IN SOME OF THE SCHOOLS THAT WERE, YOU KNOW, SORT OF INVOLVED IN THIS OR THE SCHOOLS THEMSELVES NOT INVOLVED, BUT THE SCHOOLS THAT THEY WERE APPLYING TO WERE INVOLVED.

SO THAT DOES NOT SURPRISE ME.

THE STRESS LEVEL AS WE TALKED ABOUT BUT THE BRAND PERCEPTION THESE SCHOOLS ARE GOING TO GARN ME A MORE SUCCESSFUL FUTURE.

THERE'S 3,000 SCHOOLS OUT THERE.

I SAID, LOOK, THERE ARE PLENTY OF SCHOOLS WHERE YOU CAN DO MARVELOUSLY AND PREPARE YOU WONDERFULLY FOR YOUR LIFE.

LAST QUESTION.

SOMETIMES WE NEED A CRISIS TO MAKE US SIT BACK AND THINK ABOUT DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY.

DO YOU THINK THIS MIGHT HAVE SOME IMPACT ON ALL THE STRESS LEVELS OUT THERE AND THIS SORT OF MYOPIC FOCUS THAT SAYS THERE'S ONLY ONE GOOD SCHOOL THAT MY CHILD CAN GO TO.

I THINK IT WILL AND I THINK THE WAY COLLEGE ADMISSION WILL CHANGE BECAUSE OF THIS CHEATING SCANDAL IS THERE WILL BE MUCH MORE VISIBILITY IN THE PROCESS AND I THINK WE WILL HEAR IT FROM THOSE HANDFUL OF SCHOOLS THAT WERE SOMEHOW INVOLVED AND THE NAMES OF THOSE SCHOOLS, BUT I THINK WE WILL HEAR IT FROM DEANS AND DIRECTORS OF ADMISSION AND ADMISSION COUNSELORS, COLLEGE PRESIDENTS AND UNIVERSITY CHANCE LETTERS SAYING LET US PROVIDE YOU FOR VISIBILITY.

IF YOU'RE SAYING THIS IS TYPICAL, YOU ARE NO THE SURPRISED THEN WE SHOULD REMIND YOU THIS IS A HUMAN BUSINESS, THERE ARE QUANTITATIVE METRICS, BUT THIS IS A HUMAN PROCESS, CHARACTER, GRIT, PERSEVERANCE AS WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IN THE PAST ARE PART AND PARCEL OF THIS PROCESS BUT WE WILL NEED TO HEAR THAT OVER THE NEXT YEAR AND YEARS BECAUSE THIS IS GOING TO TECTONICALLY CHANGE.

EVEN FROM THE TIME WHEN MY KIDS WERE YOUNG, PRINCETON REVIEW IS A MARV ROUSE RESOURCE FOR PEOPLE AND THE DIFFERENT SURVEYS ARE HELPFUL FOR FOLKS.

GOOD TO SEE STHU THANKS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY.

YOU BE WELL.

YOU, TOO.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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