Monday, September 2, 2013

Which College Should Your Student Attend?

As you and your children research, investigate and visit colleges that may be of interest, you will find that each college has a different look, feel and appeal. Some you will like. Others you won't. That's all part of the process for narrowing the field.
To help ensure that you and your children make clearly focused decisions, you can use the information that follows to rank your choices. Some of you may want to use a five point scale to rate each college on items 4 - 11. In that way, parents and students can more easily compare colleges on individual items and total scores. You can even add items, if that would be helpful. However, the first three items on this list should be fully discussed and agreed upon long before you begin to look at colleges.
1. Evaluate Your Financial Position - How many children do you have? How much money can you afford for each child's college education? Is the student able and willing to obtain a part-time job? What is the likelihood that your student will receive a significant amount of grant and merit scholarship money? Is the student willing to take on one or more student loans? As parents, are you willing to take on one or more loans to help pay for college?
2. Consider Cost Reduction Alternatives - Since money is a concern for most parents, students should consider community colleges and lower cost four year colleges. However, be sure to check out the ratings and reputations of those colleges. It pays to attend a college that has a good reputation. Then, if you obtain good grades, you may be able to transfer to a higher ranked, four year college. Don't ignore the savings that can be gained by attending a local college and living at home. Does the student need a car? Should the student attend college on a part-time, pay as you go basis? Explore the alternatives to determine which one is best for you.
3. Rate Your Student's High School Performance - Be honest. What is the quality of the high school your child has attended? The best colleges will take this into consideration. Carefully evaluate your student's high school performance, including the following: academic achievement, leadership roles, participation and performance in school activities, community involvement and service, part-time work, critical life experiences, obstacles that were overcome and outstanding achievements. In what areas has your student been recognized by others for having achieved excellence? What is the likelihood that your student will excel in college?
4. Financial Aid - First, you should be interested in Grants and Scholarships, not loans. How
much money is each college willing to offer your child? Is there enough difference between the offers to influence the student's college choice? Qualified students should begin to investigate local and national scholarships and grant money early in their junior year of high school. After all possible grants and scholarships have been investigated, look at other options including work-study programs, part-time jobs and loans. Since student loans come in all shapes and sizes, both students and parents should carefully consider each loan option. Obviously, some loans are more repayment friendly than others. Make certain that you fully understand all loan requirements before you commit. Also understand that you may be repaying those college loans for more than twenty years.
5. College Ratings - Most colleges have an international, national, state or local reputation. What are the reputations of the colleges to which your student will be applying? Are any of the colleges known for the field that your student plans to enter? Colleges with a the best reputations can be helpful when it's time to look for a job.
6. Career Services - Does the Career Services office have enough employees to provide personal assistance, classes and training for every student, or do they merely provide information on their web site? Do they provide students with assistance in every aspect of the job search: A Goal, A Plan, Assessment Instruments, Research, Networking, The Resume, Interviewing, References and more? Can they help students with internships, part-time and summer jobs? Can they steer students to alumni who are already working in their field of interest?
7. Job Placement Statistics - Colleges are very clever with the statistics they present. Many colleges state that 95% or more of their students are employed within six months of graduation. However, those numbers don't tell you how many students are working in their field of interest and if they are earning a living wage. Are graduates forced to live at home because they can't afford to live independently and still pay off their college loans? Before selecting a college, students should find out how many employers, in their field of interest, actually come to that campus to recruit students. How many students, in that field, received job offers as the result of campus interviews? What were the titles of the jobs they were offered? How much did they pay? Where were they located? Parents and students have a vested interest in these answers.
8. Campus Safety & Security - Every college has safety and security issues. What are the statistics for the past four years? Ask about Murders, Rapes, Assaults, Stalking, Thefts and Intruders. What prevention measures are in place? With regard to major security events, what is the college's track record and ability to immediately communicate with students about lock downs? How does the college handle Contagious Health Issues - Meningitis, etc.? Are you satisfied with the way each college has handled such problems? Be sure to ask about and investigate dorm security. Talk with current students about these issues.
9. Counseling Services - What counseling services are offered? Which of the counseling services is your student most likely to need? Students often seek counseling for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drugs, drinking, academic performance and career issues. How comprehensive are these services? How frequently has each service been used by students in past years? What are the success rates?
10. Parent Association - Which colleges have a Parent Association? If they have one, you will be able to talk with other parents about any issues that concern you. Make a judgment whether each college is parent and family friendly. You will find that some are interested in parent opinions, suggestions and involvement, while others are not. Some colleges only want your tuition payments and annual donations.
11. Campus Activities - When students have a special interest, make certain that the colleges under consideration provide the student with an opportunity to participate. Other students may prefer colleges with a broad array of activities, so they can explore their options and test their skills.

Student Loans For College

It seems as though it is easier to get a student loan for college these days. The hard part about how to get a college student loan is "getting a good interest rate." Some people spend years repaying their college student loans. I bet they never imagined how long it would take to to repay their student loans.
Applying for a Student Loan for college
It has become very convenient to apply for a student loan for college. You can be approved for a student loan quickly. Even if you have bad credit you can still get approved for a student loan.
More than likely you may have already received mail or email regarding your pre-approval for a student loan. The catch with these offers is the terms of the student loan. The main objective of the sender is to try and lock you into thinking you qualify for a student loan, without paying much attention to the terms of the loan. Then they hit you with high interest rates and high monthly payments once you graduate.
Repaying a College Student Loan
There is a high number of college students who graduate in debt. They took out a student loan for college and are becoming overwhelmed with monthly payments which results in Student Loan Debt. Fresh out of college a good job plus financial freedom. Exactly that makes it so easy to want to put your payments on student loans "off" so you can buy a car or rent an apartment. This is not good because to avoid student loan debt repaying your student loans has to be a priority once you graduate. Think logically or think "student loan debt."
Some students have graduated and have no clue about their student loan payment options. This happens all of the time because a lot of college graduates do not know where to find information regarding their student loan debt.
Student Loan Debt Relief
Is there a solution for student loan debt? If you need more financial freedom from your student loans your lender won't mind extending your student loan payment time. This is because they will still be paid, just over a longer period of time.
Usually this results in the student paying more money over time with these low monthly long term payments. Student debt relief? Absolutely 15 years later when you finally finishing paying off your loan.
College Student Loan Alternatives
A scholarship is the first thing that should come to mind when you think about college tuition. Contrary to this a student loan should be your absolute resort.

Friday, April 19, 2013

What You Can Learn From the Boston Bombing Social-Media Circus

After explosive devices detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three and injuring 180 people, social media sites including Twitter erupted -- but not always with trustworthy information. Several top news organizations came under fire for reporting information despite conflicting reports of what was unfolding. For business owners who often share or comment on breaking news over social media, it was easy to wind up sharing faulty information. And some brands ran afoul of consumer rage when their marketing efforts -- many running on automated programs -- were issued amid the chaos.
The confusion continued as the week went on. By Thursday, the FBI reprimanded users of sites like reddit for conducting their own digital manhunt for the Boston bombers. Similarly, local Boston police asked journalists on Friday to stop live-tweeting police actions and scanner traffic in order to preserve the safety of officers and the effectiveness of their manhunt.
Given the immediacy of how news is spread over social media, and the potential for sharing incorrect information, business owners should avoid sending scheduled marketing messages and commenting on moment-by-moment updates during sensitive breaking news events. For brands, a more effective use of social media could be to share links to positive and constructive services. In this case, examples might have included Google's Person Finder tool or, a way for people to send their photos and videos from the marathon directly to the FBI. -- PRDaily, ReadWrite, Daily Dot and Mashable
Twitter Music officially launches.
Twitter's much-rumored music service helps users discover new music that was previously under their radar. "Most of Twitter Music feels like just another Spotify, or just another," writes the Wall Street Journal's Matthew Lynley, noting that heavy music listeners probably already have profiles on other music-discovery services, and may not want to duplicate them. On the other hand, Lynley says, the emerging artists section of Twitter "shows exactly how powerful Twitter's data set can be at surfacing relevant music to even the most well-equipped music fanatics." -- The Wall Street Journal
Medium acquires long-form publishing platform MATTER.
Publishing startup Medium has joined forces with MATTER, an innovative platform for long-form journalism on science, technology and the future. Launched last October by Twitter and Blogger co-founder Evan Williams, Medium is an invite-only service that aims to be a new kind of home for thoughtful reading and writing. MATTER raised $140,000 on Kickstarter early last year to launch a site that promotes quality, in-depth journalism through subscriptions and individual article sales. "Experimenting with tweaks to the model and the way we distribute our content will be a vital way of making MATTER robust in the long term," MATTER said in an announcement.
Twitter creates a new position: data editor.
Twitter has hired Simon Rogers away from British newspaper The Guardian to be its first data editor. Rogers is a 15-year veteran of The Guardian and editor of its Datablog, which he created in 2009. "Twitter has become such an important element in the way we work as journalists," Rogers said on his personal blog. "As data editor, I'll be helping to explain how this phenomenon works."
Gotcha! Social media popularity doesn't equal credibility.
Kevin Ashton, a manager at electronics firm Belkin and a former entrepreneur, created a persuasive online identity for an imaginary digital-culture guru named Santiago Swallow. The fake expert's online presence included a website, a Wikipedia page and a seemingly verified Twitter account with 80,000 followers. Ashton's explanation of how and why he did it makes for a fascinating read. He used the experiment as a springboard for outing self-proclaimed experts and bestselling authors whose online followings are mostly fake.

Startup Wedding Planners Explore Niche Markets to Stand Out

Wedding planning is a popular entry point for aspiring solo entrepreneurs to break into the industry, since a planner doesn't need much more than some expertise, business cards and a website to get started in this lucrative slice of the love industry. Weddings represent a $51 billion market in the U.S., and couples are investing more in wedding planning services to make their special days unforgettable. Since 2009, spending on planners has increased 47 percent, from an average of $995 per wedding to $1,466 in 2012, according to market-research firm the Wedding Report.
With the number of wedding planners in the U.S. estimated at upwards of 20,000 by the Association of Bridal Consultants, some entrepreneurs are tapping niche markets to distinguish themselves in a crowded industry. Modern specialties range from day-of coordination for the bride-on-a-budget to exotic destinations and gay and lesbian weddings.
Here's a look at how three wedding planners have built thriving businesses in niche markets.
Startup Wedding Planners Explore Niche Markets to Stand Out
Helena Parker is like a wedding conductor on the big day but doesn't manage planning from the beginning.
image credit: Melissa McClure
The Day-Of Coordinator
Helena Parker, Divine Events by Helena
San Diego

Helena Parker caters to brides who don't want to spend thousands of dollars for a wedding planner but still need help. Clients hire her to deal with vendors in the final two weeks leading up to the wedding and manage the flow of events on the day, which typically requires about 20 hours of work. Unlike a full-service planner, she isn't involved in early-stage planning and doesn't help choose colors, flowers, food or music.
Parker's day-of rates start at $850 and increase depending on how much the couple needs coordinated in advance. Full-service planners charge an average of $3,500.
Related: Creating a Blueprint for Your Brand Strategy
A former bookkeeper and financial analyst, Parker started Divine Events in 2009. While planning her own wedding, she met a group of other brides-to-be and wound up attending some of their weddings as a guest or a quasi-coordinator. She became something of an expert on planning the celebrations, and because she wanted to spend time with her child, opted for day-of coordinating instead of the traditional full-service.
"Every wedding planner I know in San Diego is trying to talk people into full-service planning," Parker says, but she has been successful sticking to her lower-cost niche. After only four years in the business, she's planning an average of 17 weddings a year, thanks to positive word of mouth and Yelp reviews.
Startup Wedding Planners Explore Niche Markets to Stand Out
Bernadette Coveney Smith has expanded her gay wedding planning business to include courses on how to service the LGBT niche.
image credit: Antonio Del Valle
The Same-Sex Wedding Expert
Bernadette Coveney Smith, 14 Stories
Boston and New York 

Bernadette Coveney Smith capitalized early on the same-sex marriage movement. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that same-sex couples had the right to marry, she quit her job at a Boston nonprofit organization and launched her same-sex wedding planning agency, 14 Stories.
"I was 27 and idealistic, had done event planning for nonprofits, and I knew I had the skill set," she says. "I wanted to be a wedding planner and an advocate and pave the way."
It was a smart a bet. In 2008, Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in the state for all nonresidents as well, even if their home state didn't recognize it. The next year, Coveney Smith's business skyrocketed. She handled 56 weddings, up from 22 the year before, and revenue reached six figures. When New York began allowing same-sex marriage in 2011, she opened up shop there as well.
Related: The Secret to a Strong Branding Message? Focus.
Couples from other states and countries where same-sex marriage is prohibited book "elopement packages" in New York for $3,500 to $12,500 and in Massachusetts for $800 to $2,300, which include assistance in obtaining a marriage license. Coveney Smith has also positioned 14 Stories as uniquely equipped to manage the special challenges that same-sex couples face. "Straight couples seldom have to worry about family acceptance or discrimination [by vendors servicing their weddings]," she says. "Yet this is a very real concern for same-sex couples."
Startup Wedding Planners Explore Niche Markets to Stand Out
Alison Hotchkiss (left) plans weddings on ranches, in Europe or in tropical destinations like Tulum, Mexico.
image credit: Mel Barlow
The Destination Wedding Planner
Alison Hotchkiss, Alison Event Planning & Design
San Francisco and New York

In 2003, when Alison Hotchkiss started planning weddings in exotic locales, the term "destination wedding" wasn't yet part of the lingo, and only three other U.S. planners specialized in lavish locations.
Today Hotchkiss handles 18 to 24 weddings a year, has four full-time staff members, six contractors and two offices, with a third opening soon in Zurich, Switzerland. It's proven to be a lucrative specialty. She charges a flat fee that ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 depending on the scope of the work.
Hotchkiss had long worked in corporate event planning and the travel industry. After helping plan friends' weddings in Lake Tahoe, Hawaii and Costa Rica, she began specializing in destination weddings. Rates are typically higher, but destination planning is also more demanding, since time-zone differences and language barriers often complicate logistics.
"You have to roll with the punches and be malleable," Hotchkiss says. A strike in Mexico could disrupt transportation, for example, or generators might provide the only electricity in a rural town. She says identifying top-notch vendors in foreign countries and maintaining good relationships with them are key to pulling off successful destination events.

Venture Capital Funding Slows in the First Quarter

Venture capital investment dollars declined 12 percent in the first quarter of 2013 from the previous quarter, and the number of completed deals slid 15 percent, according to a report released today by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
Venture capitalists invested a total of $5.9 billion in 863 deals in the first quarter, compared with $6.7 billion in 1,013 deals in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The decline is consistent with industry expectations. For the past several years, the venture capital industry has been raising less capital than it invests, accounting for some of the slowdown. Less money is also being funneled into traditionally capital-intensive sectors such as clean tech and life sciences, especially in first-time deals. What's more, the majority of deals are taking place in the capital-efficient IT sector where funding round amounts are lower, according to the report.
During the first quarter, software companies received more VC funding than other sectors, accounting for $2.3 billion, or nearly 40 percent, and 329 of the deals. The increase in funding in the software space is "very pleasantly surprising" given the drop-off in funding overall, says Tracy Lefteroff, a global managing partner of the U.S. venture capital practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This is the fourth consecutive quarter of more than $2 billion invested in the sector.
Related: Venture Capital's Big Boys Getting Bigger
Unlike software, several sectors tracked in the report saw notable investment declines. The life sciences sector, which includes biotech and medical device businesses, fell 28 percent in dollars and 23 percent in deals. The clean tech sector, which includes alternative energy and conservation companies, declined 35 percent in dollars and 13 percent in deals from the prior quarter.
While overall venture capital investing has declined, it's not necessarily a harbinger of bad news for startups. There's still plenty of angel capital around, and historically less than 1 percent of U.S. companies have raised capital from VCs, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo.-based organization that seeks to advance education and entrepreneurship.
"You're seeing more and more angels stepping up to the plate on a percentage basis compared with venture capitalists," says Lefteroff.
Concrete data for angel investing tends to be harder to come by, given the private nature of many of the deals. According to the Halo Report, a national survey of angel group investment activity, angel investing remained stable in 2012, compared with prior years.