For the most of her life, Kelci Lynn Lucier has looked at early fall through the back-to-school lens. The student, educator, education reporter and author is a cofounder of the online College Parent Handbook and, as the college life expert for About.com, Lucier has helped countless college students and parents negotiate the good, bad and everything in between of the American higher-ed experience.
This September, Lucier has shifted away from her previously ed-centric reporting to join the Boise office of Strategies 360, the research, public affairs and government relations firm with offices in 10 states and Washington, D.C.
"I'll be helping in their strategic communications," Lucier told Boise Weekly. "I'm excited. I'm not good at hiding the fact that I'm a big nerd and love new things."
Before starting her new assignment, BW asked Lucier to share some her higher-ed insight and, in particular, the land mines outlined in her bestselling book, College Stress Solutions.
Reading a lot makes you a better writer, yes? I love Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Lumina Foundation.
I don't remember there ever being so many education-based journals and reporting as we have today.
There's a lot out there. I've always cautioned people to look for sources that are not simply someone's personal experience. Also, I think education institutions are under-recognized. You can find a ton of information from your student's college.
Is it fair to say that the 21st century economic model of private American universities is tentative?
I still find a lot of value in the private model. It's very trendy to rip on private colleges and universities.
Is it a fairly common debate at dinner tables throughout the U.S.—whether a student should choose a private college versus a public one?
I think a lot of families see the sticker price of a private university and freak out, when that may not be what they really have to pay. For me, going to a private school was cheaper than a public school because I got a lot more financial aid.
As a parent, which way might you lean for your own student?
I would lean toward a setting that was appropriate for what kind of learner my student is. For example, I was best in smaller groups, and private college lends itself to that.
We're all familiar with the Go On Idaho campaign, focused on driving more Idaho high-school students to stay in school, but aren't a good many students going on to higher education too soon and ultimately dropping out?
That's not my opinion. For some students, they may not be prepared to navigate certain education systems because their parents had navigated too many of those systems for them up to that point.
I'm presuming that the key piece to that is the student being college-ready and, to a large degree, independent.
I can appreciate all the parts of that dialogue. I don't think any reasonable person would argue that we should have fewer students going to college.
But there are some people who believe just that.
That's why I used the word "reasonable."
The impressive thing about your book, College Stress Solutions, is that it's quite specific about stress and it is solution-based.
It was important to examine the different components of stress in the college experience: financial, emotional, physical, family, academic, personal and social. Those are all significant.
When many of us think back on our own land mines from freshman year at college, it's a wonder how we ever survived.
It's supposed to be difficult. Nobody ever graduates from college and says, "That was so easy."
Homesickness is tangible, yes?
It's huge, and students don't talk about that with each other so they think they're the only ones experiencing homesickness. There's a myth that college is the best time of your life when, in fact, it's very difficult. There's also the myth that college isn't the real world. So many people tell students, "Wait until you get to the real world." That just breaks my heart. Students deal with real world concerns everyday: health concerns, parents who have lost their jobs, deaths in the family, financial difficulties. Those are pretty real-world issues.
So, where do you start to prepare anyone for that?
I wish more people had faith in students and students had more faith in themselves. Homesick students who go home most weekends usually don't connect to their campus. So when they go home, it perpetuates. Get involved in a club. Get a job. Research shows that working 10-15 hours a week increases your GPA and chance of graduation.
That's an interesting number.
Parents shouldn't feel guilty if their student has to work. It can be an extremely beneficial factor. But balance is key. Try to keep it between 10 and 15 hours. After that, it can have an impact.
Talk a bit more about a parent's role in the success of a college student.
You can support or sabotage. There's no excuse for a parent to call a professor. Never, never, never. Put down the phone. That should never happen.
And your message to new college students this month is...
First off, congratulations. Believe in yourself. Be patient. Get out of your dorm room. Talk to people. Nearly everybody is new on campus. I know it's hard. Parents need to step back and students need to step forward to make this happen.