So, the college applications, including financial aid, are done. And even though my daughter understood what it would entail, until you're actually in the midst of it, you don't appreciate it's a lot of hard work. And stress.

Now the difficult part … waiting. Wondering which of the schools will accept you. Hoping that you'll have options, including at least one on your "wish list". Well, before you know it, you'll hear back and will be faced with having to make a decision. One that may feel like the biggest decision of your life, so hopefully, these five steps will help …


  1. Yes, No, Or Maybe
    Obviously, the schools themselves may help you narrow down your options (keep in mind many colleges and universities reported record-high application numbers this year and record-low acceptance rates), but you might also find yourself on one or more waiting lists. But start to review your options as they come in so you don't feel overwhelmed at the end.

  1. Let's Talk Money
    This happened in our home … my daughter was accepted by her first-choice school, but once she was done celebrating, she needed to be realistic, which meant crunching the numbers. Some schools send their financial package with its letters of acceptance; others follow up separately. And, since every school presents its financial package differently (one of Black's pet peeves), you need to make sure you're evaluating the same things for every school, including room and board if you're considering an "away" school. IMPORTANT: Make sure to separate what's "free" money (scholarships and grants that don't have to be paid back) from loans. (Some schools may show you a total of "financial aid" that include both, which skews the numbers.)The key will be determining your "out-of-pocket" cost – which is the money you'll need to come up with – whether loans, work-study programs, family members, etc.

  1. Compare & Contrast
  2. There's no right or wrong way to do this. Some people, like Black, would probably create an elaborate Excel spreadsheet, some might create "T charts" with pros and cons, some might just jot down notes. The point isn't how it looks, it's what works for you – including what you're comparing. Yes, the out-of-pocket cost's important. But there are other things (whether or not they were part of the initial selection process) you need to consider, such as location, size of the school, academic standing, extracurricular opportunities, help entering the workforce after graduation, etc.
  1. Narrowed Down … But Not To One
    When we taught at KIPP, Black would often ask the seniors to narrow it down to the top two or three schools, and then ask if the out-of-pocket cost was the same, which they'd select and why. Then she'd have them compare the difference in cost and decide if they thought it was worth it. This exercise often helped them determine what was really important. Plus, depending on your situation, there's nothing that says you can't circle back to a school and explain that you want to commit, but financially you're not quite there. If appropriate, let them know about competitive offers, and ask if there's any other "free" money available. As our mom always said, if you don't ask, you don't get.

  1. PARENTS, PLEASE READ! "Good" vs. "Right" Decision?
    As a mom, I want what's best for my child, so I'm trying to guide (and hoping not overly influence) her college decision, especially since Black made me realize that the decision ultimately belongs to my daughter. She's the one going to college, and it's her first major "adult" decision. What I need to teach her isn't to obsess about making the "right" decision (and if she later decides the school isn't quite right for her for whatever reason, she can always transfer); instead, focus on making a "good" decision (what Black calls a "conscious" decision) where she's done her homework and has thought it through.

So, anything else? Well, yes, and perhaps the most important thing of all. And it's something that Black has told high school seniors for years, and now my daughter (her niece),

It does not matter if your college is a "bumper sticker" school or one that few people know. It does not matter where you start your college career as the diploma only has the name of the school from which you graduate. But what does matter is what you make of it. It is about more than academics – it is about experiences and taking advantage of opportunities. It is about remembering … College is not the objective – it is a step along the way – and there are lots of roads, and colleges, that can get you to your destination.
True

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

When I first heard the term "digital literacy," I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but I'll admit that I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and usually turn to my daughters for help. I don't know if it's just generational, but I'm intimidated by my computer, and although I can do the basics, any time things go "wrong" I default into panic mode, followed by feeling lost and frustrated. And the thought of buying a new computer? Well, it gives me a headache – not only the cost but especially learning how to use it. And if I lose internet service, I feel disconnected from the world. (I guess that can sometimes be a good thing.)

Then there's my cell phone, and I admit that smartphones often make me feel stupid. I remember when phones were landlines, and cordless was a big deal. Now I'm walking around with a small computer that also makes phone calls and takes photos. I've learned how to text, load some simple apps, and even how to set the alarm clock, but that's about it.


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

I know us "older" people think younger people are technology-savvy, but many are merely technology-dependent, which is very different. Technology is much more than access and setup. Being able to use computers, smartphones, and the internet covers a wide range of "basics" (such as emails and other communication tools, web browsers, and search engines), and there are specific computer skills that improve our productivity (such as word processing and spreadsheets). Now, you often need web conferencing skills (like Zoom or other audio and video applications) just to interview for a job.

But, that is only the beginning. Since we live in a digital world, we need the skills to find and analyze information, and also make sure it is accurate and credible. (What is that old adage, "Garbage in – garbage out"?) However, it is not only finding the right information, it is then knowing what to do with it. Including what and how to share.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you describe digital literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
  • Why does using technology correctly seem so daunting?
  • What do you think is the best way to learn about technology and become digitally literate?
  • How do you evaluate the reliability of internet websites and other resources? How do you locate appropriate and credible sources of information?

P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Research & Analytical Skills we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

When my husband got fired, I was scared. Not just for me, but for my family. Why? Not only the obvious reasons but having to deal with personal finance for the first time (during a crisis, no less) was overwhelming. Especially because I thought you needed a finance degree to figure it out. I knew that we were in a huge financial mess, not because of the specific details of our situation, but because neither my husband nor I knew where we stood. How could two highly educated people be so clueless about their finances?!

It may be human nature to fear the unknown, but feeling you have to face things alone makes it even worse. I knew my husband wasn't going to be much help, so I turned to my sister, the one with the M.B.A., hoping that she'd tell me what to do. Instead, she insisted that I had to learn to do it myself, not only for my own good but so that I could then "teach" my daughters. Luckily, she guided me step-by-step, although the last thing I ever expected was that she was keeping notes and would turn my crisis into a book! (She thought it would make a great sitcom!)


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

What are big sisters for? Anyway, fast forward to the first time I remember hearing the term "financial literacy." It was when we were asked to "teach" it at KIPP Houston High School, and although they explained it as understanding money and personal finance in order to make smart financial decisions, I did not like the term. It immediately made me think that the opposite of being financially "literate" is being "illiterate," which has a negative connotation of being uneducated or ignorant when, in reality, it is a function of never having been exposed to the subject matter and/or recognizing its importance.

Red and I are perfect examples. She had been a straight-A student who went to a prestigious college yet managed to avoid learning about money and personal finance until she was almost 40. My situation was even more extreme. I have an undergraduate degree in Economics, and an M.B.A. in International Finance, yet did not apply what I learned about money (on a macro, or big picture, level) and corporate finance to my finances until I was almost bankrupt.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Have you or your family been personally affected by financial literacy issues or challenges? If so, how have they impacted your life?
  • Why do financial matters and topics seem so daunting?
  • How is it possible that Red and Black, both highly educated people, could be "so clueless" about their own finances?
  • Obviously, becoming financially literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?
P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Personal Finance we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.

When we first talked about how to change other people's minds in To Change Minds … Change Your Approach?, Red was shocked to learn that Black, her highly pragmatic (albeit extremely sarcastic) sister, who often thinks of disagreements as sport, actually suggested using approaches that seemed more in keeping with Red's "style" as a warm and fuzzy mom, who goes out of her way to avoid conflict.

Of course, that led to us talking (initially, Black thought Red just wanted to bask in the light of being right, but quickly realized that the straight-A student wanted to better understand the approach), and we ultimately created the following list because we both love lists.

Keep Reading ... Show less