High School Grads – Buying the Right Computer for College

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Now that he has completed his first year of college, our son realized that he bought the wrong laptop to take with him. He is still trying to figure out what he going to do for his second year.

You can be better informed.

The questions you need to answer to find the right computer are in this article:

What’s the Best Computer for a New College Student in 2008?


New! 3GenFamily.com – Our New Website Is Now Live

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Long Distance Caregiving for a Parent While Raising Teens and Balancing Work and Home

The past 16 months has been an amazing and eventful time for me as a long distance caregiver for my 83 year old father, parent of two teen boys, spouse and juggler of work and home life. When I started this blog, I had no idea I would meet so many dedicated and fascinating people also working to get the best information into the hands of readers like you.

Because there is still a huge need for real answers to many of life’s toughest situations, I am expanding this blog to meet those needs. While I am grateful to WordPress.com for having a perfect place to start a blog, it is time to move to our own website.

I’ll be offering you even more honest content and real life ideas that work for caregivers, parents and anyone struggling to balance the conflicting priorities of work and home life.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

One housekeeping note: If you signed up to receive this blog via email or RSS from Feedburner, you will need to sign up again at 3GenFamily.com. I am sorry for the inconvenience. There isn’t a way for me to just move your settings over to the new website.

Don’t miss a single post. The latest post discusses 110 Tips for Getting Into the College of Your Choice.

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Articles on Reducing Conflict with Adult Siblings, Getting Into the College Your Child Dreams About, Surviving Long Distance Caregiving

I will be writing more of the types of article you have come to expect from 3GenFamily Blog. And, there will be new features based on requests and comments I have received from our readers. The topics will still relate to being sandwiched in between two generations — our aging parents who increasingly need our help and our children who are not yet ready to fly into the world.

Somewhere in there, each of us also needs to make a space for ourselves for meaningful work and for celebrating life’s small and large personal successes. Buried between the lines is the emotional turmoil of conflict with our adult siblings and the the lack of understanding of bosses and coworkers who haven’t reached these stages of life.

How do you explain an issue to someone who has no frame of reference?

Please come visit us at 3GenFamily.com

Best Regards,

CK Wilde

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post either whole or in part. Please use the comments to request permission.

Was Your Son Or Daughter Rejected By A Top College?

Related posts: April 20, 2008

New Post: Review of 110 Tips for Getting Into The College of Your Choice

Come visit our new website: www.3GenFamily.com

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog.
April is a gut-wrenching month for any high achieving high school senior applying to colleges.
After pouring heart, soul and thesaurus into college essay after college essay, the student waits anxiously for the results.

Big 9 x 12 envelope with acceptance letter and paperwork or flat #10 envelope with a rejection letter?

These days, notice is more likely to come by email or on your password protected section of the college’s website. Your student logs in and cheers exultantly . . . or groans in pain.

Watching From the Sidelines

Parenting your teen through this process is like watching him or her nervously step up to bat in a softball game for the first time. Is it a home run, or a single or an out? Receiving the acceptance letter feels like a home run to win the State Championship .

But, oh, the rejection letter (strike out in the bottom of the 9th inning) hurts deeply inside no matter how gently it is worded. It feels so final.

Making matters worse is the fact that 4,158,000 babies were born in 1990 (US Census Data). This is the largest number of children born since 1960. More students are applying to college; and more of those are applying to top colleges. Harvard received over 27,000 applications for Fall 2008!

So, how does a parent help a daughter or son through this?

Telling your student not to feel rejected will probably fall flat, especially if your teen has begun to visualize himself there. What do you do?

Try Diverting Attention Instead

Help your teenager focus on the good news. Spend time looking at the packages from colleges that accepted your student. Stress what a tremendous effort your son or daughter made to get these results.

Banish all blame from the conversation. If you hear your high schooler mutter, “If only I . . .” stop them from saying anything more. No amount of anguished blame will change the results. It may be trite saying, but it is true nonetheless — “when one door closes, another one opens.”

Help your student look for the door that’s opening. Talk about the positive features of the colleges that accepted your student. What is unique? Which has the most classes and activities that fit your teen’s goals and interests?

Creative Admissions

Some colleges have gotten creative and are offer acceptances for the Spring in addition to the Fall semester. University of California at Berkeley offered that to a friend of ours last year. It is a creative alternative that turned out great for our friend. He got into one of his top choice schools, just not in the Fall. Berkeley also had a special program for Spring admits in the Fall semester so that our friend could work on required courses. It worked out just right.

Then, there are waiting lists.

More students will be offered waiting list status this year than before. Usually college admissions directors can predict how many students will enroll in a given year. But, 2008-2009 is rather unusual so the waiting lists will be larger than before.

The decision to stay on the waiting list is more difficult. It depends on the other acceptances and financial offers your son or daughter has received. Just how interested is your child in that college that put him/her on the wait list?

If the answer is VERY interested, the student should immediately let the school know by returning the postcard or completing the electronic form. It is a good idea to follow this up with a letter to the Director of Admissions. The letter should should be as specific as possible with reasons why the student is still very interested in that particular school. For example, explain which particular courses or programs the student is interested in at the waiting list college.

Your high school guidance counselor can help here, too, by forwarding the latest set of grades to demonstrate the effort the student is making in school and sending additional glowing recommendations from a particular teacher. Your guidance counselor is also a resource for evaluating the the offers from the colleges which accepted your teen.

Deadline May 1

It is critical that your teen reserve a place at one of these acceptance schools by or before May 1. On the plus side, this assures that your son or daughter is going to college in the Fall. The downside is, If your teen then gets admitted from a waiting list, he/she may have to forfeit an entrance deposit (sent to the acceptance school) to go to their top choice school. The entrance fees are sizable at some colleges, but modest or non-existent at others. It is important to pay attention to them.

If, after all of these efforts, your student doesn’t get into a top choice school, there is the possibility to transfer to another school after Freshman or Sophomore year. Transferring is almost as much work as applying as a Freshman.

One of the best discussions I have seen about transferring colleges is at About.com.

There are good reasons to transfer and bad ones. You, as the parent, can help your son or daughter look at the current college experience for the signs that transferring is the right thing to do. But, it is important to distinguish between adjustment to a new environment and issues that really do need changing.

The first year of college is a major leap for your teen into a new and unfamiliar environment. Adapting to that environment is stressful, there is no question about it. Re-creating those cozy friendships and daily routines left behind in high school takes time. Until they happen, even the most mature student can feel awkward and out of place. Don’t be surprised if once those are established, your student realizes that he/she is in the right place after all.

Congratulations! You are the parent of a college student now.

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post either whole or in part. Please use the comments to request permission.

Does It Matter Where Your Son or Daughter Goes to College?

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

Our local newspaper added a ton of heat to the controversy that rages this time of year about which college a high school senior should attend. The headline read: Forget the Ivy League: Most Valley CEOs Went Public.

Right now, high school seniors everywhere are polishing essays to impress those soon-to-be bleary eyed college admissions staff, many of whom will read more essays than ever before. Our children born in 1989 (4 million babies born) and 1990 (4.2 million babies born) are part of a boomlet almost as large as the late baby-boom year of 1961 when 4.3 million babies were born.

Consequently, colleges are seeing more applications than previously and turning down top candidates they would have welcomed just a few years ago. Admissions directors expect this to continue until the end of the decade.

Ever resourceful and upbeat, many high school guidance counselors are countering with the mantra, ” It doesn’t matter where you go to college. A top student can succeed anywhere.”

The MercuryNews article by Mark Schwanhausser seems to support that, too. The statistics on Silicon Valley CEOs does show that the majority attended public universities. Most have two or three degrees, though, with an MBA and/or a Ph.D in engineering being the most common.

The CEOs who were interviewed for the newspaper article often remarked that they chose their schools for reasons other than getting to the top of the corporate ladder. But, then the author threw parents everywhere a curve ball.

He asked recruiters for Cisco and Intel where they look for college graduates when they recruit for jobs. Both recruiters readily admitted that they do their searching at 30 to 40 of the “absolutely best schools in the United States.” Companies know that the tough screening process at certain schools makes their job easier. This quote from one recruiter is highly revealing,”Finding great talent at other schools is possible, but it takes more work.”

So if you want to work for one of the best technology companies, you’ll have an easier time getting an interview if you go to one of the “top schools” because recruiters focus their efforts there.

You can find a ranking of the top schools from US News and World Report. But, you’ll need to pay $14.95 for the premium online edition to see all of the ratings for all of the colleges. Another resource is the CollegeBoard.com. In addition to overseeing the SATs, the CollegeBoard has expanded into college planning, college search and college financing (beware of the sales pitches here.)

But, you may be asking, what about Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison? They both dropped out of college and are doing just fine. Does anyone really need college at all? Why not just get started on building up job experience? How the heck do you advise your son or daughter when they ask for your ideas about this?

Here’s my take on it: Attending college is an incredible opportunity to study something that interests you and to sample topics you haven’t tried before. (Steve Jobs credits a calligraphy class with igniting his sense for design.) Most careers today require at least a college degree. If you don’t have one, at some point you get passed over for promotions. Your teen should plan on a graduate degree if he/she has aspirations to climb the ladder of success in technology.

I believe that it is important to find the best ranking school with the best fit for your student’s needs. Definitely look at public schools but don’t ignore private colleges and universities because of cost. See my post on financial aid.

By the way, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Jobs of Apple are both wildly successful without college degrees because both started their own companies and led them to major success. No one asks to see their diplomas. They have proven they can produce results.

But, a new college graduate will be measured by the name of the school on the diploma. America’s top corporations will all vie to hire from the so called top 40 or 50 schools. So, the answer is yes. It does matter early in their careers if they dream of sitting at a desk at any of the Fortune 500.

Ultimately, anyone can succeed with a willingness to work. My favorite no BS book on the subject is:Automatic Wealth for Grads . . . and Anyone Else Starting Out

Michael Masterson may not be as well known as Bill Gates but offers solid tips from his real life experiences working for others and owning his own companies. This former Peace Corp volunteer and college professor has insights that are right on target. You may even want to check it out for yourself. I did and learned a lot!

The Cure for Helicopter Parents of College Students

3GenFamily Blog has moved to a new location on the web.

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

With the start of a new school year at universities and colleges in the US, there have been a flurry of news reports and newly released books discussing the problems that “helicopter parents” are causing. These parents are so named because they are still hovering around trying to take care of their students who are attending college.

But, it is not just a parent problem. It is a child problem, too. For many of these college freshmen, this is the first extended time away from family. If they are not used to using a coin laundry, locating and taking public transportation or foraging for food on their own, freshman year becomes a struggle to learn about living alone along with studying and adjusting to a new social structure.

Some students are natural adventurers, but others are not. The result is a very homesick son or daughter who just wants to give up and come home. Meanwhile, the parents, who really do want their children to succeed in college and in life, offer to help in ways that can range from minor to ridiculous.

Paul Wruble in his blog at TuitionCoach.com suggests a solution that is straightforward and makes enormous sense. Your child needs practice being away from home. During high school (and even before), your student should participate in summer camps, student trips, visit distant relatives and go on trips with others.

Any activity (it doesn’t have to be expensive) that allows your child to learn about living away from your immediate home environment offers an opportunity for your son or daughter to test drive independence. By little bits, your child gains confidence and, seeing that confidence, you let go.

Summer camps or student travel programs are too expensive? What about marching band, chorus, speech and debate, science clubs, robotics clubs, sports and other school and community organizations that have trips funded by contributions from the community? And, of course, there is Scouting, Campfire, YMCA/YWCA camps and activities. Many organizations have scholarships for students whose families can’t afford the fees.

Let your child find the program that excites him or her. Don’t do the work, but don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer.

One of the skills my son and I worked on while visiting some college campuses and attending college interviews was using public transit. How do you look up schedules? How do you purchase a ticket from the machine or add money to ticket? How do you use the airline self-service kiosk?

We didn’t rent a car while we were in Boston. We walked everywhere except for the taxi to and from airport. In Pittsburgh, our hotel had a shuttle that dropped us off and picked us up.

Right before making the final decision on which college to attend, Number One Son took solo trips to two campuses on the East Coast. One trip was to attend a special event for newly admitted students. The college arranged for sharing dorm rooms with current students and had planned meals and events.

The other was a solo trip to a campus because he could not make their planned event. My son arranged to meet the brother of a friend who is attending that college and toured the campus on his own. He stayed on his own in a motel close to campus. An important note for parents: some states (New York in this case) have rules about students under the age of 18 staying alone in a motel room. I had to fax a permission letter to the manager of the motel before my son arrived.

The airport in upstate New York was fogged in when he arrived at that last destination, so they landed at another airport and traveled the rest of the way by bus. The trip back also had its weather problems. My son learned first hand how difficult travel could be to that location. He eventually decided that he wanted a less remote college.

None of this made saying goodbye at the airport on August 31st any easier for me or my husband when it was time for our son to begin college on the East Coast. But, we knew that he had done this trip before and could do it again.

Sending a Son to College – I Didn’t Know It Would Be Painful!

We stood for a long moment at the entrance to airport security. At eight thirty five p.m., the usual bustle of this busy airport had slowed to a trickle of passengers and flight crews tired and happy to be home.  There were also a few travelers preparing to take a “red eye”, one of those late evening flights of last resort when you absolutely need to be at your destination at a certain time.

My tall, curly haired 18 year old was preparing to board a late night flight alone to the East Coast to begin college.  He had traveled on his own last Spring on a decision making trip to choose between two great schools.  But, this felt so different from other times he has travelled.

“Try to get some sleep on the plane going to Chicago,” I reminded him for the third time.

“OK, Mom,” he said gently.

“We’re so proud of you. You’ll have a great time at school,” my husband beamed.

“Thanks, Dad, ” my son grinned.

As Number One Son walked through the airport security checkpoint with his new backpack stuffed to the top with necessary electronic gear, a bag of sandwiches and a pair of underwear and socks (in case his luggage got delayed), I felt a gargantuan lump in my throat.  I looked up at the so very familiar face of my husband. He was struggling with his emotions, too.

Wow, I was having “separation anxiety” and my son’s plane hadn’t even left the airport!  Even though my face was smiling, deep down my heart was crying. Will he be ok?Had I imparted every bit of knowledge and wisdom to him? Was he prepared?

Worse yet, was I prepared? As parents, we forged a  great relationship with our son by keeping lines of communication open, setting clear boundaries and, most important,  keeping a sense of humor. (My secret resource for parent/child humor was reruns of “The Cosby Show.)

Now, the situation that was so easy and comfortable was abruptly shifting — flying away on an airplane to the East Coast. My years of dedicated caregiving had paid off. My son had “made it” into one of his top choice colleges — he worked to get great grades and SAT scores. He polished his essays until they shined.  He was successful in his extracurriculars. But instead of a jackpot, I have sadness, questions and worries.

Did I do my job to prepare him to be competent in the adult world? What part do I play now in my son’s college life?

The “experts” have voluminous advice about letting go. The morning talk shows have been warning about the dire problems caused by “helicopter parents” who continue to control their college students lives even while they are away at school. Certainly, I don’t want to be like that!

The good news for us is Number One Son has been using his alarm clock on his own for quite a while. He knows how to cook a basic meal, clean a house, and do his own laundry.  He successfully managed his homework and outside activities schedule on his own. And yet, he would often solicit my husband’s and my opinions on various decisions before making them. Our son also had mentoring relationships with several of his high school teachers.

Suddenly, our son is away from home and his support system. How is this going to work? Where do we fit in his life now?

 My very astute husband pointed out, ” this isn’t so much about letting go as it is about redefining the relationship we have with our son.” How do we make that happen?

Luckily, I found this great book:

You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me) : Mentoring Your Child During the College Years

The author, Marjorie Savage, has been working with parents of college students for a number of years as the parent liaison at the University of Minnesota. Inside the 12 chapters of this easy to ready book, Savage offers understanding and insights that begin with the summer before college,  and include the culture shock of school (and the corresponding empty-nest upset for parents), the freshman 15, course loads, extracurricular activities,  and life after college. She gives parents an informed and common sense guide to establishing the right level of parental involvement.

I have found it to be a great resource in puzzling out the best way to forge our new relationship with our 18 year old. I urge you to check it out.

Are Banks Encouraging Teens to Fall into Debt Trap?

My tall, quiet 18 year old is getting ready to fly across country to begin his four year undergraduate adventure. From the time he was a baby, my husband and I have tried to encourage positive financial habits — saving half of his gifts and earnings, comparison shopping, buying only items that he really needs, even selling used video games on eBay before buying a new one.

Number 1 Son has accumulated a small amount of savings, encouraged by the several banks with which we have had accounts. Children’s savings accounts are usually free of charges to get the child into the habit of thrift.

Until your son or daughter turns 18, that is. Then, they are fair game.

My son’s story began a few months ago when UBOC sent him a letter saying that they were automatically converting his student savings into a checking account with monthly fees. He is astute enough to know that those fees would relentlessly eat into his hard earned funds. He went down to the local branch of UBOC to ask if there was a better option. Nope.

So, he began the not so simple task of finding another bank. His original plan involved moving to a bank that also had a branch where he would be going to college. That limited the choices.

A few internet searches later, he found what semed to be the prime candidate, WaMu. The WaMu website was offering free checking and 5% on a savings account with a very minimal balance. Eureka!

He went down to the local branch to get more details. I tagged along to see what would happen. The New Accounts rep reassured my son that he could open the checking account at the branch and still get the high interest on his savings. (The website said the special rate only applied to accounts opened online.)

Being a person who likes to talk with people who take his money, he closed his account at UBOC and went back to WaMu the following Saturday to open the new accounts in person.  A different account rep opened the accounts. Being far too trusting, neither my son nor I questioned this account rep about the rates.

The first statement arrived — 0.25% on the savings account. With inflation running at 4%, this pitiful rate is just like having monthly fees erode the balance.

We went back to the branch. Both account reps insisted that no one ever told us that we would get the 5% by opening the accounts at their branch office. I asked to speak to the manager.  The assistant manager was available.

The assistant manager was friendly and polite. My son explained that he was college bound, needing a checking and savings with the best possible rates. The manager reiterated that the only way to get the best rate is to open the account online and gave instructions to my son on what to do. He would open new accounts online and transfer the money to them. It seemed simple enough . . . until he actually tried to do it.

Online, Number 1 Son discovered that the account rep had put in the wrong email address, accidentally dropping the final letter off of his name. He went into his account to change it.

But when he went to open the new account, it wouldn’t work. Even answering all of the security questions didn’t get it to work. He repeated his attempts several times until the bank computer turned off his active account for potential identity theft activity. Calls to the assistant manager didn’t provide any help. The solution — wait seven days and try again.

“Oh, also, you may want to check your credit report in case someone has tried to steal your identity, ” the assistant branch manager suggested.

Could that be possible? I showed my son how to order his free online credit report. Experian wouldn’t give him anything. Equifax wouldn’t give him anything. TransUnion had the good graces to say that they didn’t have anything on file for him.

Of course not! He hasn’t had any credit accounts or loans  in his name.  This was a clue.

Seven days later, my son tried again to open an online account. After his first attempt failed, I suggested he call WaMu’s online help center before the bank computer did another security lock down. A very pleasant person informed him that the computer wouldn’t open an online account unless it could verify his identity from drivers’ license records and credit verification.

A giant computer rules WaMu making all the decisions and the people just work for the computer.  No one can override the computer.

There was no way for my son to get the high interest account. Why didn’t they tell us that from the start? I don’t think the computer tells the workers at WaMu what the rules are–for security purposes.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo both have special college banking programs. A student can get a checking account with fees waived based on certain criteria. And, they’ll give your college student a credit card in addition to the debit card attached to the checking account. Oh, by the way, BofA and WF would love to consolidate your student loans, too.

Is there an equivalent savings account for college students? Certainly not.

What is the return on a regular savings account with fees? 0.1%

This seems so shortsighted! Who will have saved downpayments to buy homes (and take out home loans) if every college graduate only has loans and credit card debt? Saving money regularly is an important discipline that every person needs to develop. Otherwise, you can fall into the debt trap and not be able to get out.

For the banks, debt means profits. Banks are creating a new generation of debtors without a thought to the consequences. It brings to mind Michael Douglas’ s speech in “Wall Street” – “Greed is good . . .”