Another Scary Student Debt Story

student debt

I spent hours at a time with Mark at his physical therapy appointments. I would see the same young “techs” whose job was to set timers for people in the pool, restock towels and pillow cases on the tables, check patients in and out, schedule appointments, etc.

Never wanting to pry but every curious, I struck up a conversation with one kid who proceeded to tell me a pretty terrifying story.

He went to Pitt, having graduated at the top of his class in high school. As an avid high school athlete, he planned on physical therapy as a career. When his grades started to slip during his sophomore year, he knew he would never be accepted to PT school but still pushed ahead to finish his degree. He finished in 5 years due to an inability to schedule required courses and graduated with…..wait for it…..$120,000 in student loans. His monthly payments are more than $1,400 for the next 10 years! The more young people I talk to, the more I realize that this kid’s experience is pretty typical.

His parents are helping him with the payments but he’s still working two jobs to pay what he can (usually not half). He has no plans to move out any time soon. He enjoys free room and board at home plus access to a car and his parent’s cell phone plan. He doesn’t feel great about it but he is grateful for the safety net. He can’t afford to do anything with friends but doesn’t have time to anyway.

He’s hoping to refinance for a longer term and a lower payment but he doesn’t earn enough at either of the jobs to qualify yet. Side note: Neither of the jobs requires a degree, including the PT tech job. He’s been unable to land a job that pays more where his degree might be required. He’s thinking about a certification as a PT assistant but isn’t sure he would earn enough to make a significant difference and he worries about piling more debt and interest on top of his existing loans while they’re in deferment. He doesn’t think he could handle both jobs and classes at the same time.

Before you tell yourself that he wouldn’t be in this situation if he had kept his grades up and pursued a PT degree, remember that graduate school likely would have cost at least another 100k, maybe more.

The median income for a licensed physical therapist is anywhere between $60,000 and $86,000 (depending on where you live and what table you look at). According to one loan repayment calculator, he would have to earn $113,000 (assuming 15% of gross monthly income toward loans). The top 10% of earners in the field don’t even make that, let alone in their first 10 years. Sure, he could make less and dedicate a higher percentage of his gross income toward student loans but his total debt after graduate school might be double what it is now.

I wish kids would start telling their stories instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed by their debt. Parents and students get on a fast-moving train toward what they think is a successful career that takes them underwater instead.

I don’t know what the answer is except to say “no” when a school is steering a kid toward crushing levels of debt. It just isn’t worth it.

If you would like to share your own student debt story, I would love to hear about it. I really think it could help people make better choices about school, work and life. Click the “contact” tab at the top of this page and include “My Student Debt Story” in the subject line of your email.

 

Bilateral Patellar Tendon Recovery~ Pt. 3

Recovering from bilateral patellar tendon rupture

Welcome to part 3 of this series. You can read parts 1 and 2 to get you up to speed.

This is where things (meaning Mark) got going (finally). Things seemed to progress so quickly during this time period (from complete dependence for just about everything to almost complete independence) that it’s hard to remember what happened when but I’ll do my best.

Mark was scheduled to meet with the surgeon for the third time 4 weeks after his staples were removed. The transportation company cancelled at the last minute and we had to reschedule for the following week. Since his appointment was on a Thursday, it took almost another full week to schedule the initial consultation with a physical therapist who was highly recommended for this injury. My point is, your circumstances might put you a little ahead of Mark’s progress when you account for weekends and our delay.

We continued with the bending therapy in the meantime. The surgeon added heel slides. This engaged Mark’s quads. They sound easy but weren’t. Same set-up with locked leg resting on the ottoman. Mark sat on the edge of the chair with his other heel (unbraced leg) resting on a sliding board (sock or other cloth to reduce friction) and used his quad to pull the heel back, bending at the knee. This was another exercise that showed slow but definite progress. He got stronger and more steady by the day. This exercise also showed how much his quads had atrophied and couldn’t possibly support his body in a standing position. Crazy!

It’s important to note that we relied on a transportation company with a wheelchair van for all follow-up and therapy appointments until a couple of weeks into formal physical therapy. Luckily, worker’s comp covered this with no issue.

Weeks 6-12

Mark went to therapy at least 3 times before they had him stand (with crutches still locked in extension).

During these sessions, they moved his knee cap around, stretched him, measured his range of motion, loosened the quad muscles using a thing that resembled a butter knife and did e stim and ice.

Mark was also able to get into the pool with help of a lift. We chose this facility specifically for access to the pool. I have no doubt that this accellerated Mark’s progress. His ability to move freely in the water without braces improved his range of motion and leg strength without the risk of falling or unnecessary stress on his knees. It also helped with Mark’s stability. If you can rehab at a place with a pool, definitely choose that option.

On October 3, which was 2 months to the day after his surgery, Mark was on his feet for the first time. The blood rush to his feet was so uncomfortable and distracting that it was hard for him to focus on his balance.

Mark was so wobbly that first time that it was hard to imagine him walking again. But the therapists explained that his brain just had to remember what this standing was all about. They brought a full length mirror over to help the brain make the connection.

Fear is another factor here. He was on crutches with a therapist on either side but you have no confidence that your legs/knees won’t collapse.

Two days later, they got Mark on his feet for a few isometric and balance exercises. He was a lot more steady and a lot less fearful. He was confident enough to do a round at home. So, by his fourth day of therapy (weekend and days in-between) he was on his feet for exercises only. He was still locked in extension, so picture Frankenstein. Also, we still relied on the wheelchair to get anywhere in the house. It was another week before he was pivot transferring to and from the wheelchair instead of sliding or scooting into the chair.

By the end of the second week of therapy, he was allowed to take his braces off at night for sleeping and when he was just sitting around at home. His legs still didn’t bend easily on their own so he mostly still used the ottoman but would sit with his legs bent and resting on the floor for increasingly longer periods of time.

By his second full week of therapy, his sessions were 3-4 hours long. He worked in the gym standing, stretching, doing isometrics and other manipulations with a therapist nearly constantly at his side. They unlocked his braces to 30 degress and started letting him walk at therapy with crutches. If he buckled or tripped (which he didn’t), his legs wouldn’t bend more than 30 degrees. The crutches were more for stability than weight-bearing. He also did pool work (mini squats, walking, bicycles while floating in an inner tube, step-ups and downs, side steps) for 60-90 minutes then back to the gym for ice and estim for 30 minutes.

I accompanied him to therapy (driving him after he could sit in a car) because he needed help changing after his pool work. Remember, at this point, he wasn’t supposed to stand without the braces which makes it hard to undress and dress-especially when you’re wet.

Mark was able to manage by himself even after the pool sessions (freeing up my days and weeks considerably) at about the 12 week mark. HALLELUJA! It was just about at this time that Mark was cleared to do stairs and was finally able to sleep in our bed upstairs.

Some Final Random Notes:

This time period definitely saw the most notable progress. Mark got more independent by the day. We’re a few days from the 4 month anniversary. He still notices sustained but slow progress.

Mark’s knees are sore after therapy because they work him constantly. Ice and rest helps. He’s been walking without braces and crutches for about 3 weeks. He’s been showering (with a bench in our tub) since right around the 12 week mark. He still walks pretty stiff-legged, gets fatigued easily with too much walking or standing and has experienced swelling in the ankles for the same reason.

We took Luke to a tournament in New Jersey the weekend of November 12 (3 months and 1 week post-op). Mark had been cleared to drive but could only do so for about an hour before he got too stiff and sore. Also, his ankles were swollen when we got back. Probably 6 hours in a car and watching two long matches before that. Other than that, Mark can run errands on his own and drives himself to therapy.

Mark’s left knee is still behind the right in terms of range of motion and pain. Nobody seems to be concerned about it. As my friend (a PT) explained, you would never expect two injuries to respond exactly the same way, even in the same knee or joint. That makes sense but it’s frustrating and a little scary for him.

It’s too early to tell when Mark can return to work. If he had a desk job, it would be sooner. As a tennis pro, he’s typically on his feet 6-10 hours a day. That’s not possible at this point. Plus he needs the extensive therapy to continue to progress.

I don’t intend to write another whole post but will likely add a footnote to this one when he’s finally back to normal just to give you an idea of how long the process was for him beginning to end.

If you have any specific questions about this injury, caregiving, progress you can find my contact information by clicking the “contact” tab at the top of the page.

Bilateral Patellar Tendon Rupture~Recovery Pt. 2

bilateral patellar tendon surgery

*This post may contain affiliat links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. My opinions or suggestions about the equipment or products are based on our experience and are my own.

In first post of this series, I wrote about what to expect in the first 2 weeks or so after bilateral patellar tendon surgery.

This is a rare injury and there isn’t much about it on the internet except medical journal articles about how rare it is.

I’m writing about the recovery in parts so the posts don’t get too long. To give you an idea without the suspense, Mark was walking with crutches (unlocked to 30 degrees) by week 10. Three months out, he is driving and walking up and down stairs (stiffly and relying a lot on railings). Neither of us could picture it even 6 weeks post-op.

Weeks 2-6

If you recall from the first post, Mark had a visit with the surgeon one week after surgery to remove the surgical bandages over his incisions. The following week, the staples were removed.

During the second visit, the surgeon taught me how to do Mark’s therapy for the next 4 weeks. First was moving his kneecap around to inhibit or break up scar tissue (mobs). #yuk.

My other job was bending his legs one at a time. “Bending” is an overstatement. The first few times, each leg probably didn’t bend more than 5-10 degrees. If you can imagine a tight rubber band connecting his quad to his knee cap but less flexible.  Before each of these sessions, I would move his knee cap around. Like I said…yuk.

The key with the bending is that Mark wasn’t supposed to flex his quads at all. I learned later that flexing the quad naturally pulls the knee cap up which I guess could have interfered with the repair and complete healing.

So, this all sounds doable except when you consider that while I was working my magic on one leg, his other was locked in extension and had to be supported straight out in front of him.

Once again, that chair and ottoman was a lifesaver.

I basically moved from one side of the ottoman to the other. The leg I wasn’t working on would rest on the inside edge of the ottoman (which was pushed up against the front edge of the chair but pushed out to the side opposite the leg I was working on. It was tight because I would be wedged right agains it so the other leg was a close to in line with Mark’s hips as possible (not flared out).

And the slooooooow process began. The first time we tried, I was scared to death to drop his foot or move it to quickly. I sat on a low stool in front of him, cradling his heel and calf in my hands. This was hard on my back but the consistency paid off.

The left knee was (and still is) 15-20 degrees behind the right and a lot more stiff but we saw slow, steady progress in each leg by sticking to 10-12 reps, holding for 10 seconds. We did this 3x per day religiously and I think it made a big difference when he was ready to work with a therapist at a facility.

A couple of tips for bending therapy:

  1. We used a sliding board across the front edge of the chair to create a flat, level surface and some support under the knee/thigh we were working on. Otherwise, I felt like the give of the chair cushion allowed Mark’s leg to go lower instead of the tendon or muscles stretching.
  2. As Mark’s flexibility increased, he had to sit on stiff cushions to get high enough to allow the leg to bend without touching the floor.
  3. Mark had to scoot as far to the side of the chair of the leg we were bending to give me enough room to sit next to the ottoman where his braced leg was resting. The goal was to do the exercises while his leg was straight out in front of him.
  4. It is no easy task to relax the quads during either motion (down or up). The idea is passive movement on Mark’s part.

Care and Comfort

Pain was not an issue in this period. Sleep was difficult since he was still locked in braces at this point.

Mark was more amenable to visits from friends and family and awake most of the day in the chair. The weather was still pretty nice and he would read the paper on the porch for an hour. Still housebound except for doc visits.

 

Remembering True Honor and Courage after Election 2016

WWII Veteran Walter J. Phillips

1st Lt. Walter J. Phillips

Mark and I have referred to Walt’s experience of surviving a plane crash during WWII many times these past 3 months as Mark has recovered from his injury.

In some ways, it’s helped Mark to remember his dad’s courage and the extreme conditions in the first 24 hours after the crash (before the morphine).

Remember a hero today.

Dark and Quiet-Glad I’m Home

election 2016 aftershock

I’m stunned but not surprised if that makes sense. When some were so sure that there was NO WAY IN HELL that Trump could possibly be the next president, I worried that there WAS A WAY in this country.

I feared what some wouldn’t admit out loud but would freely express in the privacy of the voting booth.

When the no-brainer, game-overs were not ending Trump’s game, I knew it could be possible. But I’m still in shock.

Here we are. Thoughtful people are wondering what they can do.

My son, who voted for the first time and who might have written in Harambe had the GOP selected a human, asked a few times last night, “What are we supposed to do?”

Truth is, I don’t know. I have no idea how to convince my friends who are truly and systemically invisible under a Trump presidency (you know, minorities, non-Christians, women, girls, immigrants, the poor, the jobless, sane people) that this country or the world is safe.

I don’t feel safe.

But here’s what I plan to do in the next few days:

Besides medicating myself with all the leftover Halloween candy in the house and praying the Rosary incessantly (there is palpable calm and peace there), I’ll be….

Keeping the TV off. I’ve had enough of the chaotic ratings-chasing, soap-selling, vertigo-inducing “news” media that helped create this mess. Clearly, the talking heads and experts don’t know any more than I do. They did not see this coming.

I don’t care how it happened. It happened. I’m filtering and censoring what plays in the public spaces in my home. It’s not informative and it’s not entertaining.

Second, I’ll do my best to encourage civility in the family. We are all on edge and stressed about this terrifying  and depressing turn of events. Last night found us snapping at each other.

election night tweet

Exhibit A

I’ll try to be positive and calm and see if that rubs off. I’m hoping my kids (or Jodie) will make me laugh about something. See exhibit A, above.

Third. I’m declining to engage about this topic in the next few days, except to the extent that my kids need to talk about it to calm their own anxiety.

Outside of my family, no offense. I can’t talk about it. It’s too depressing. But really, what is there to say? Most people I know are reasonable and we all feel the same so do we really have to pontificate? No.

It sounds selfish and maybe it is but I need to regroup. It’s my way of staying out of the soup of despair. Total self-preservation move. Eventually, I’ll reengage but I’ll wait for the aftershocks to settle.

Finally, I’ll encourage my kids to double down on their gifts and interests and not to rely on gatekeepers, institutions or conventions to move them forward.

Two political parties were disrupted last night (though, if you read this prophetic piece by Naval Ravikant, it was really one). Get used to disruption and maybe take Jay Samit’s advice.

It’s time for me to go dark and quiet for a while. #blessup.

Bilateral Patellar Tendon Rupture~Recovery Pt. 1

bilateral patellar tendon rupture and recovery

Warning: This is a LONG post. If you or someone you know has suffered this rare injury, I hope it helps. That’s pretty much the point of it. The post will bore everyone else. This is the first of 3 parts. Part 2 covers weeks 2-6. In part 3, I talk about Mark’s experience during weeks 6-12.

It’s important to note that your experience might be completely different depending on your ability to rehab at home after the surgery, your age, weight, whether you have someone at home with you 24/7 (our situation) and the type of repair that was done. Mark did not require cadaver tendons which might have affected the healing timeline on the front end.

This post contains affiliate links to products we used (and are using). If you purchase a product I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I took the time to include links for your convenience, too. You probably have a lot going on.

Here goes…

It’s been three months since Mark got hurt at work. It seems like we are just coming up for air. Though, he still has a long road of recovery ahead.

Mark wasn’t cleared by the surgeon to try to stand at therapy until 2 months after the surgery. He was completely NON-WEIGHT-BEARING and LEGS LOCKED IN EXTENSION for two full months.

Since blowing both tendons is so rare (even the health professionals kept forgetting the ramifications), there’s very little information on the internet about recovery.

Non-weight-bearing means a completely different thing when you have one good leg. Logistically and therapeutically.

Weeks 1 & 2: Care and Comfort

The first week was all about pain management, getting regular (KWIM), comfort and avoiding blood clots.

Since I was helping Mark with every single maneuver and task in the first few weeks, it was great that friends and family (who really couldn’t do much else for him) brought meals and gift cards to the local grocery store that made feeding Mark and the kids easy on the fly. (It’s not even possible to express how humbled, grateful and relieved I was to receive this type of support so I won’t even try. If you know someone going through this, it’s an excellent way to help).

Mark was pretty much finished with the pain killers within 7-10 days.

The hardest thing was getting comfortable with both legs locked in extension in braces.

Mark also experienced an almost constant tingling, numbness and coldness in his feet, especially from the ball of his foot and toes. The kids or I would squeeze his feet with light pressure to relieve this as often as he asked. It gave him very temporary relief. Now that he’s on his feet more, he doesn’t notice it as much. At least it doesn’t bother him if it is there.

One dose of Senekot at night worked great to get the pipes moving that were jammed up from pain killers. ‘Nuf said.

Otherwise, good food, hot coffee in the morning, a captivating book and “The Sopranos” (loaned by a neighbor) kept things bearable in the beginning. We are so lucky to have the most thoughtful and generous friends and family. People were so supportive and thought of ways to ease the burden and this terrifying turn of events.

Blood Clots

Mark was on Lovanox shots (in the stomach-super fun) for 3 weeks post-op then 325 mg of aspirin 2X per day.

Ten days after he was finished with the Lovanox, he experienced a sudden onset of back pain (kidney/lower lung) in his left side. Accompanied by an occassional catching when he tried to take a deep breath.

No other classic symptoms associated with blood clots (swelling, other shortness of breath, chest pain). His symptoms improved with ibuprofen and lasted about 12 hours. We wrote it off as muscle pain or strain.

Two weeks later, the same pain returned in his back on the right side. This was more severe, lasted longer and again improved with ibuprofen. Since it was the second episode, we went to the ER. (No easy task when you can’t get into a car-grateful for a good friend who jumped in with his wheelchair van.)

Turns out that he had a clot in each femoral artery and pulmonary emboli in his right lung.

Long story not short, the hemotologist put him on 15 mg of Xarelto 2X per day for 3 weeks then 20 mg once a day until at least 3 months after he is completely mobile and unrestricted. He has had no problems on Xarelto.

My advice, don’t mess around with aspirin after the Lovanox. Insurance company will resist because it’s supposedly expensive but beg the surgeon to campaign for it or get a hemotologist to confer before you leave the hospital.

Hopefully you can afford the copay. If not, get to the ER as soon as you get whiff of a symptom, no matter how difficult it is.

Miscellaneous Comfort Tips

We realized a day or two after Mark got home that he got a lot of relief by laying flat and resting his legs on bed pillows long-ways. Sometimes two under each leg. It relieved pressure in his lower back and reduced swelling in his feet, ankles and legs. It also got his heels off the bed.

Mark iced his knees fairly regularly in the first two weeks. I left the hospital with the ice packs and covers plus refill ice packs. These 8 gel packs can also be heated and have come in handy for stretching once therapy started outside the house.

Therapy

Healing. That’s it. One week post op, Mark had an appointment with the surgeon to remove the surgical bandage. The next week he went back to get the staples removed.

Transportation

Mark was unable to get into or ride in a normal car or van. Even if he could have gotten in without levitating, he wasn’t allowed to bend his legs. We were lucky that the worker’s comp covered all transportation costs until he was able to get into a car. They sent a wheelchair van for all doctor visits and therapy.

Equipment

Here is a list of “MUST-HAVES“: Mark was injured at work and the Worker’s Comp carrier has been great about getting him everything he needs to help with his comfort and recovery. We are lucky NOT to have co-pays.

If you have high deductibles and are blessed with family and friends who really want to help, maybe they would be willing to help you afford these things for a few months.

  1. Urinal (get one before you leave hospital)
  2. Wash basin (again, hospital)
  3. Extra wide bedside commode (not the drop-arm model which would be a death trap)
  4. Ramp if you have stairs to the first floor of your home
  5. Sliding board
  6. Reclining Wheelchair (if possible)
  7. Case of wipes
  8. Fully automatic hospital bed (this is an affiliate link but you won’t likely be able to afford this. Insurance probably will. Campaign for the fully automatic. But get whatever you can.)

Since I cared for my aunt in our home for two years prior to Mark’s accident, we were equipped with a ramp into the house, a bedroom on the first floor with a fully automatic hospital bed and an extra wide bedside commode.

Mark’s not a big guy so he likely wouldn’t have been approved for the extra wide commode (insurance approval is based on weight)-but we had one. Knowing what I know now, I would have paid the difference or bought one outright. It makes sponge-bathing himself so much easier and more comfortable. Since we don’t have a shower on the first floor or even a walk-in, this is important. Even if we had an accessible shower on the first floor, getting in there would have been virtually impossible with his restrictions in the first 8 weeks.

Also, Mark avoided a bed pan by learning how to maneuver onto the commode. Sorry for the graphic detail but this would be important to a person facing this injury.

Being locked in extension (legs straight out in braces) and non-weight-bearing, made transfers (even to a wheelchair or commode) tricky.

Luckily the hospital PT showed him how to slide onto the commode and wheelchair while his legs were still supported on the bed. He scooted sideways on the bed then backed into either chair. See photo below to see what I mean: (sorry for the blurry pic but gives you an idea).

how to transfer to wheelchair with bilateral patellar tendon injury

In the wheelchair, he would slowly back out while I supported his braced legs until the wheelchair leg supports could be swung into place (either by him or one of the kids-yes, a 3 man operation at first). Another trick was bridging the leg supports with 2 sliding boards so his legs wouldn’t fall through or have to be strapped to the supports. See photo below:

Reclining wheelchair and bridge for legs

Reclining wheelchair and bridge for legs

We have a chair in the living room with a weirdly large ottoman. Both are low and were easy for Mark to slide onto from the wheelchair. (Photo below) If not for this furniture, Mark would have been stuck in bed or the wheelchair for 8 weeks.

bilateral patellar tendon rupture recovery and support

Let’s talk about the wheelchair for a minute.

The equipment company sent a lightweight wheelchair sized according to Mark’s height and weight. As much as I appreciated the size for maneuverability through the house, the narrow seat was uncomfortable for Mark since his legs were locked straight out in front of him. Imagine sitting upright in any chair with your legs straight out.

After a couple of tries, they found him a reclining chair which was much more comfortable for long periods of time (trips to surgeon, ER and in a wheelchair van).

The seat base is wide and deep and the ability to recline the back even a little makes a big difference.  If you can get your hands on one of these bad-boys, even if you have to buy it yourself and resell it on Amazon when you’re finished, you won’t be sorry.

Hospital Bed

As I mentioned above, we already have a hospital bed because I cared for my aunt before Mark was injured. I’m guessing most insurance companies will authorize a hospital bed because they were asking if we would need one when Mark was still in the hospital. Get one if you can. If you can get a fully automatic one, get it. The bed made sleeping on his back bearable.

Mark didn’t need the trapeze so we sent it back. A bigger person might need one.

This post is getting loooong so I’ll tell you about the next 4 weeks post-op (weeks 2-6) in the next installment. I hope this has been helpful.

 

 

 

The Search for College Scholarships

college scholarships

[This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. My review of the books in this post are my own opinions].

I’m in “find-money-for-college” mode.

Since Luke committed to Cleveland State University, he’s been preparing to take the SAT again and I’ve been doing research on scholarships to minimize the amount he’ll have to borrow.

In this post, I’ll discuss three resources that I’m using to organize the search.

First, I bought two inexpensive ebooks that offer a systematic approach to searching and applying for scholarships. Both are quick reads and have similar strategies, so either would be helpful.

“The Scholarship System” by Jocelyn Paonita


The author provides a step-by-step approach to find money, organize your search, plan and write effective essays and other tips and strategies. The book includes worksheets to help you plan along the way and to minimize repetition and back-tracking.

 

“Confessions of a Scholarship Winner” by Kristina Ellis

 

Ellis has an interesting story. Although she was eligible for scholarships that don’t apply to many students (immigrant parent, father passed away, low-income household) her approach is very similar to Paonita’s.

Both authors insist that students can qualify for scholarships regardless of grades, class rank or SAT scores. Both Ellis and Paonita give practical advice about how to make an application stand-out and highlight a student’s interests and attributes even if they don’t seem significant.

For example, Paonita suggests using certain power words in the essay and Ellis suggests opening an essay with a story instead of repeating the question as a thesis statement.

“The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

 

I bought this book after reviewing an outdated version at our local library. Some amazon reviewers complained about how it’s organized (for example, all state-specific scholarships are in one section rather than separated by state). I was able to skim the descriptions fairly quickly to eliminate scholarships that don’t apply and note ones for which Luke might qualify.

Now that I have a list, I’ll organize them on a spreadsheet (as suggested by The Scholarship System) and include application deadlines, scholarship amounts and other basic information.

I discovered a few things while reviewing the scholarships in this book. First, many scholarships are available to undergraduate students, graduate students, even PhD.s. Other scholarships target younger students so it’s a useful resource for many years and it’s clear that a student should continue to pursue scholarships throughout his college and grad school years.

The other thing I noticed is that there are dozens of scholarships for female engineers, amateur and HAM radio operators, students interested in food service/hospitality/travel industry, to name a few.

I found at least 20 scholarships for which Luke is eligible. In a future post, I’ll write about the application process and how we prioritized our efforts.

SAT Prep for the 21st Century

 

SAT prep expertNow that Luke has committed to attend Cleveland State University, he’s obligated to raise his SAT scores by at least 40 points to qualify for the academic part of the scholarship on the table.

Since he didn’t prepare at all the first time around (procrastination), Luke’s pretty confident that any prep will bring up his score.

I didn’t want to take a chance, though. I had read one guy’s story about how his son used an online course for only 3 weeks and scored perfect on the SAT.

Krause Institute perfect SAT

Enter Kranse Institute SAT Prep Expert

I know, sounds like B.S. and I don’t expect Luke to obtain a perfect score but as I did more research into the course designed by Shaan Patel, who perfected his approach to the test and studied the test design for a perfect score himself, I was convinced that Luke could get some value from the videos.

Luke has been using the course for one week, here’s what I like so far:

1. I don’t have to nag him

This, in itself, is worth the price of the couse. I catch Luke reviewing the videos without any prompting from me all the time.

2. The videos are short and concise

The course is organized to address one area at a time (obvious) and each video within the subject covers one concept or strategy. This streamlined approach minimizes confusion and easily allows the student to measure progress and identify trouble spots during practice.

3. The interface is aesthetically pleasing

Let’s face it, our kids are visually engaged 24/7. The video course has the benefit of graphics which in-person, paper-based study aids don’t.

The slide graphics are pleasing to the eye and don’t distract from the concept or strategy. This makes the whole process appealing and less stressful.  In short, it’s easy on the eyes.

Shaan Patel (the course creator) teaches all the lessons. His voice is soothing and natural.

4. It’s convenient

It’s great that Luke can login and watch a video at any time of the day or night from anywhere. He enrolled in a prep course at our local high school last year but had to miss a few classes (Saturday mornings from 9-12 for 8 weeks) for tennis tournaments and prior commitments.

While showing up consistently and going over practice questions in a group setting is better than nothing, the class setting wasn’t efficient or personalized.

The Kranse format allows Luke to review concepts that he consistently has trouble with and skim videos that cover concepts with which he has less trouble.

5. TIme

The course is designed to take 6 weeks. Students have access for up to 18 months which is plenty of time if your student plans to review the course to retake the test.

Patel advises using official college board questions (his reasoning is sound on this) but he gives you the best strategy to approach each type of question.

6. Price

At $499, the course is a fraction of the cost of other popular SAT prep courses and boasts an average score improvement of 368 points (210 on the new SAT format), including 7 perfect scores among its students.

Kranse offers a 7 day 100% money-back-guarantee (useful if you purchase the course and the student doesn’t even crack it open or doesn’t feel it would be a good fit). They’ll also refund your money if your student’s score doesn’t improve, no questions asked.

Quick sidebar here: In our case, the cost of the course is easy to justify. Luke saved us hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in travel and application expenses by making a choice after one visit. Improving his score could translate to at least $6,000 a year. The college won’t be affordable at all if he doesn’t meet that 40 point improvement threshold. Stakes are pretty high and worth a couple of hundred dollars.

A Special Offer for My Readers

The blog where I originally learned about the course offered a limited time/availability 30% discount code. I contacted the company and obtained 50 coupon codes for a 30% discount for my readers.

If you purchase the course and enter the coupon code “ELIZABETHPHILLIPS30” on the checkout page, you’ll get $149 off the regular price.

Luke is registered to take the test again on December 3. I’ll let you know how he does.

I would have waited to write this post with a full, unqualified endorsement (or not) based on Luke’s score but I wanted to let you know about the course and the discount sooner than later if you know a student who plans to take the test in November or December. The format has already helped Luke set goals, get organized and motivated him to study.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through a link, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

That Was Easy (Update on the College Visit)

 

CSU-vikingI mentioned last week that Luke went on his first college visit.

He liked everything about the weekend, including the tennis coach, the other players, the team’s prospects for winning the conference in the next few years, the campus and the brand new, indoor tennis facility a few blocks from the dorm.

Bonus for us is that it’s only a couple of hours away which will give us an opportunity to see some matches. YAY!

If the athletic + academic scholarship offer stays the same, I feel comfortable with the finances. He’ll probably have to borrow some but he can offset or eliminate that by brainstorming and saving a bunch of money. I’m not expecting grants but you never know. He might bring his SAT score up enough to qualify for another $1500 per year. Every little bit helps.

It’s great to have the search process behind him and there are definitely perks to being recruited (admission, priority for classes, job at the tennis center, etc.). Luke’s ready to focus and now he has something to work toward.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what he’s doing to bring his SAT score up.

College Visits

college-visits

Photo cred: Aleksandr Kozlovskii | unsplash.com

My oldest wasn’t interested in college so we were spared.

Her younger brother (by 11 months) will visit his first college this weekend. He has to go alone because I’m caring for Mark who suffered a serious injury at work that left him temporarily disabled. Mark can’t even get into a car.

Luke plans to play tennis in college and the coach is hosting his visit (though he’ll be staying with someone on the team). Don’t even go there. I figure he’ll be in a position to drink and hope he’ll be smart.

I visited 2 colleges when I was a senior in high school and attended the second. I wanted to play basketball so my choices were limited to small, D3. I didn’t have the resources to go far away. I also didn’t have the resources to apply to or visit a lot of campuses. It was fine. I was content with my choice and loved my college experience. I qualified for a lot of grants and aid and only borrowed $12,000 for my degree.

I know it’s standard for kids to visit 10, 20 sometimes 50 different schools. I don’t know how that happens logistically. How is that even helpful? I think it confuses the matter and gives kids the impression that every aspect of a college experience should be perfect.

Luke knows it’s not realistic to go more than a couple of hours away. We can’t afford to fly him back and forth from school. He also knows that we don’t plan to give him a tour of the U.S. in search of the perfect set-up. He has a few priorities in addition to our limitations.

Money will be the biggest factor. His eligibility for assistance is a big mystery. Likely we’ll have to disappoint him if the numbers don’t add up. I refuse to let him borrow more than $15,000-$20,000 total for an undergraduate degree (I prefer no debt) and no matter what FAFSA says, we’ll decide how much we can afford to contribute-if any. I try to prepare him for the reality of that but I don’t think he gets it.

I’m also trying to convince Luke to be strategic about college. I learned that NCAA Junior colleges award twice as many full scholarships as D1 and D2. Luke will likely grow, mature emotionally and improve his skills in the next few years. Plus he would have the option of going farther away if we have to pay for less school. This might put him in a position to be able to use his college fund to pay for the remaining two years at a 4 year college where, because of the limited  number of scholarships, he’s not likely to get as much help.

Just about everyone I talk to (my age and younger) regrets borrowing as much as they did for their four year degree and wishes they would have gone to community college for the first two years. If Luke can play tennis in a truly competitive situation, I don’t think he’ll regret it.

I’m guessing there’s less competition for JUCO tennis scholarships. Since tennis is an elitist sport, Luke’s peers are looking at top academic and tennis programs. I read that many junior college coaches don’t allocate their recruiting budget simply because they don’t have the resources to recruit and scout and aren’t approached by suitable athletes.

So, the question will be whether Luke will consider my advice about how to navigate this college thing. My main goal is coming out on the other end of it with little or no debt. We’ll see.