Musings of a dad with too much time on his hands and not enough to do. Wait. Reverse that.

Tag: college (page 1 of 3)

Visiting colleges

I am deep within the season of college visits with my high school senior: actually, I’m nearing the end. As I’m told switching colleges (and majors) can be quite expensive, I want to make sure that wherever my daughter lands, she’s there for good (until she graduates, of course). So, we’ve been visiting colleges. Lots of them. Sometimes repeatedly.

The whole process has been time consuming, but to make the most of our visits, I try to do a fair amount of preparation before our trips. Here’s a checklist I put together to better prepare me for each sojourn:

1. Register for the event

Chances are, your early visits will be in response to pre-arranged “open houses” and similar events. Typically, the college will want you to register for the event. In theory, the more colleges see your child’s name in their registration lists, the more favorably they’ll look upon her during application time. Regardless, I always try to register. Also, don’t wait until the day before: sometimes the registration links will expire a day or two before the event.

2. Map it out

Plan out your route a day or two before. Figure out what building you need to be at, when, and where you can park in close proximity. By mapping out your driving route, say with Google Maps, you can also figure out how early you need to hit the road. Here’s a pro tip: see if the college you’re headed to has a mobile app. Mobile apps can be great for navigating a large campus. Otherwise, try to print out a campus map. Here’s another pro tip: see if the college recommends a particular parking garage. Occasionally, they’ll validate!

3. Plan ahead for weather

We’ve visited campuses in the hot summer sun and on cold, snowy days in January. Check with your favorite weather app ahead of time to know what sort of weather to expect.

4. Dress accordingly

Obviously, dress for the weather including bringing an umbrella if you expect rain. Think about wearing comfortable shoes, particularly if you anticipate a tour of a large campus. Remember that this is a chance to make an impression on the school’s admissions staff, so your child and you should dress decently.

5. Bring questions

Admissions staff always ask attendees if they have questions. Have some. Your child should have some, too. If you can’t think of any yourself, just Google for some. I have my own list that I print out when we go on visits.

6. Bring pen and paper

I always bring at least one notebook and several pens for taking notes. I also bring a clipboard so that it’s a little easier for me to take notes if I find myself on a walking tour. When I get back home, I try to type up all my notes electronically so that I can easily reference them later.

7. Bring other helpful items

I bring a small backpack in which I house my notebook, pens, and clipboard. Since I like to be prepared, I usually bring other items including:

  • Bottled water
  • Snacks and protein bars
  • A small portable battery and cables for charging phones
  • A flashlight…just in case

8. Look through any handout material

Obviously, any handout material you receive should help answer some of your questions. It will include contact information where you can follow up with questions you think of later. Occasionally, colleges may even include coupons for the bookstore and/or local eating establishments.

9. Score the school

You could be doing this whole college visit thing for up to a year or more. By the fourth or fifth school, you may even begin forgetting the earlier ones. Aside from taking decent notes on each school, you should objectively score them against criteria that’s important to you. For example, if graduating in the smallest amount of time is important to you, you might ask yourself: “I have a strong likelihood of graduating in four years from this school.” Then, based on the information you’ve gleaned from you visit, you might score that statement from one to five with five being the highest likelihood. Come up with a variety of similar questions that reflect what’s important to you in a school and put them in a scorecard. Either during the visit or shortly after it’s over, have your child fill it out. Later, record those scores in Google sheets or other spreadsheet software. Eventually, you can tally those scores to see which school scores highest. Here’s a scorecard I’ve used in the past.

10. Pick your visits thoughtfully

Most admissions counselors say–and it’s probably true–that the best time to visit a school is during the school year, when you and your child can see the hustle and bustle of school life and better make a determination if the “vibe” is right for your child. Of course, visiting at these times introduces a few other concerns: 1) you’ll likely be visiting during the work week which means you’ll probably have to burn a vacation day and 2) when the campus is full, the parking lots may be, as well. Also pay attention to the school’s sports schedule: you’ll probably want to avoid a visit to a Big 10 school when their football team is playing.

Move out skills

The Edit Your Life podcast recently aired a short episode about teaching life skills to your children. One of the co-hosts referred to such skills as “move out skills” which I find to be an awesome phrase that I’ve started using.

Getting your kids to buy-in to learning a new skill can be tough and the hosts had these nuggets of wisdom to help with some of those challenges:

  • Emphasize to your kids how little time it will take to learn a given skill. Of course, this depends on the skill in question. For maximum effectiveness, you should keep your skills as bite-sized as possible.
  • Point out that very few people get a skill right the first time. Tell your children, “don’t be frustrated…you’re not good at this thing…yet, but you’ll get there.”
  • Use a recent experience as an example and catalyst for learning a life skill. With college looming over the head of my oldest, this is the perfect opportunity to teach her more household responsibilities.
  • Make it a challenge. Consider turning life skill learning into a competition with rewards at the end.
  • Encourage other adults in your child’s life to teach him skills. I really like this point. For one, this helps distribute some of your work to others. For another, I’m frankly not as skilled as other friends and family and wouldn’t be the greatest instructor on a lot of these ideas.
  • Start today. Enough said.

And in case you’re unsure what sort of skills to start teaching your young ones, the hosts also created a handy, “100 Life Skills You Can Teach Your Kids in 5 Minutes or Less:”

Those skills are fantastic! Here are ten more I’d add to the list:

  1. Balance a checkbook, reconcile credit card statements, and, in general, manage your finances
  2. General computer skills especially with regard to security
  3. Air up a tire (maybe even change one)
  4. Identify when there’s an issue with the car (that engine light generally means something bad is going on)
  5. Operate a drill
  6. Put together a piece of furniture (bonus points for Ikea)
  7. Go grocery shopping with coupons
  8. Use a can opener (both manual and electric)
  9. Mow the grass and learn basic lawnmower maintenance skills
  10. Check and change the furnace filter


Teaching your kids about money

Recently, I listened to an episode of the Rich Dad podcast centered around teaching financial literacy to our kids. Here are my notes on the episode.

In the opening monologue, the host ascribes as “garbage” the convention to:

“…save money and get out of debt and invest for the long term in a 401k. So if you’re teaching your kids to save money, go to school, get out of debt, buy a house, and invest for the long term in a 401k or trust that your company pension or your state pension plan is going to be there to save you, this program is for you.”  (Robert Kiyosaki)

Hmm. So saving money and getting out of debt are not good things? I can certainly understand how putting your complete faith in 401k and pension plans is probably ill-advised and that home ownership as an investment is a dubious proposition. But saving and being debt-free is bad? I think what he really means is that it’s bad to save in US Federal Reserve notes, as the Federal Reserve seems to increase that supply with seeming reckless abandon, eroding the purchasing power of those notes over time.

Cash Flow

The crux of the episode focused on the husband-and-wife team of Andy and Marcy Tanner and how they’re raising their two young boys to be financially literate. Mr. Tanner is the author of two books: 401(k)aos and The Stock Market Cash Flow. 401(k)aos seems to be a book describing deceptive practices in the 401k industry while The Stock Market Cash Flow appears to be more of a prescriptive book about how you can take advantage of the stock market.

The Tanners seem to do a lot of international public speaking and take their boys with them to speak in front of thousands. Learning to speak in front of crowds of adults by itself is certainly a great experience for their children. The family are also avid players of a game called Cashflow–I assume it’s this “Cashflow” game from the Rich Dad franchise, which they say is a chief instructional tool they use with their boys.

Infinite Returns

The episode then detoured from tools and techniques to teach our children about money to “those bums in Washington” and Wall Street. One term that kept coming up was Infinite Return. The best I could gather, Infinite Return is a technique, largely achieved in real estate investing, where you somehow invest no money in an asset and then turn around and sell the asset for an “infinite return” on your initial $0 investment. Tanner did make one observation that never occurred to me before: with 401ks, and probably most other investment vehicles, people invest their own money in these instruments. The 401k managers call this money “assets under management.” Those managers take a fee from the investors. Thus, this is a form of Infinite Return for the managers: they make no investment of their own capital and take none of the risk yet they make a return off the transaction all the same.

Taxation without representation

The conversation then shifted to the age disparity between the host and the two young guests. The host claimed that pension programs use, I guess, incorrect actuarial tables that expect most participants to die at age 70. Since people are living longer these days, retirees are drawing on these programs longer and shifting more and more burden on the young for support.

“One of the questions that was a real epiphany for the boys was: ‘David, are you old enough to vote?’ ‘No.’ ‘And Zach, are you old enough to vote?’ ‘Nope.’ So you guys didn’t get to vote for all this spending. You didn’t get to vote for these policies and, yet, you understand clearly that you’re going to have to pay for it.”  (Andy Tanner)

“So if you didn’t vote for it and yet you have to pay for it, David, what’s that called? ‘Taxation without representation.'”  (Andy Tanner)

Cashflow Quadrant

Mr. Tanner off-handedly mentioned another tool, The Cashflow Quadrant, that he used as an initial teaching device to show the four different roles the kids could assume as they enter the workforce.  Just this image alone seems like a powerful teaching tool I can use today.

Learn how to sell

“The most important skill of an entrepreneur is sales.”  (Andy Tanner)

The Tanners raised their children to hone and enjoy the skill of sales. Lemonade stands advertised on Facebook became the boys’ training ground. With their profits, the boys invested in Disney and McDonalds stock. Then, after learning about the detrimental effects of inflation on their cash savings, they began purchasing silver. Lately, they’ve gravitated toward investing in real estate.

“One of the thing’s that’s fun is Mom and Dad will invest in bigger projects and you get to be part of that….We do have some real estate as a family–in a family trust–but you really want your own, don’t you?”  (Andy Tanner)

Real estate in a family trust. Might be something good to remember.

The biggest asset of the US federal government

In closing, the host mentioned an astonishing statistic that, at first, I just couldn’t believe: at $1.3 trillion, student loan debt is the biggest asset of the United States federal government. What?! How can that be?  How depressing!

More tools, please

So, this podcast episode was decent, I just wish the host and guests would have detailed more tools and techniques they use to educate their kids–particularly tools that aren’t part of the Rich Dad brand.

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