You Can Work Your Way Through College

I read “You Can’t Work Your Way Through College Anymore” comment by Richard R. West on Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2018. His argument is that the cost of college went up higher and faster than increase of minimum wage so there is no way to graduate 4-year college without taking student loan.

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College and MeToo Movement

My heart goes to young gymnasts violated by a sports medicine doctor, Larry Nassar. There are plenty of opinions and criticism about the doctor and the US Gymnastics Board so I am not going there. Instead, I like to talk about college and sports/students.

It is obviously someone at Michigan State University (Dr. Nassar’s former employer) knew the sexual harassment incidents at some point. The university did not initiate an investigation of these crimes. After the news broke national headline, Michigan State reacted – the allegation was surprise to them and no one important at the school knew about it, they claimed. They seemed to be very defensive.

According to the Wall Street Journal article in March 19, 2018,, Dr. Nassar’s supervisor, William Strampel did not believe the allegation and did not want Dr. Nassar fired.

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Does College worth your money and time?

Many people have started asking if college is something worth investing because of sky-high cost of college, student loan debt problem at many American households. According to the USA Today, average student loan debt is about $30,000 per borrower. My answer to a big question, “Does College worth your money?” is, it all depends.

I believe in education but college is not for everyone. Some people are good with hands, for example, fixing cars or making furniture. I recommend people with these skills to go to vocational school, not college. We all need mechanics, carpenters, shoe makers, and etc. Embrace your talent and our diversity! Having diverse workforce of talents and skills are good for all of us! Admiring on a college degree and disrespecting other non-academic skills make this world unhealthy. We need people with different talents. We do not need everybody to be an attorney. 

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Should college tuition waiver be taxed?

New proposed GOP tax plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not a law yet. It passed the House and Senate. The House bill is different from the Senate version. So the next step for the US Congress is to make a unified bill from both House and Senate. I don’t want to make comments by anticipating a disaster when it has not even become a law. But you need to know that the House bill, not Senate version is pushing taxing on:

  • Tuition waiver from a college, and
  • Tuition assistance from an employer

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Alternative to a Student Loan? Income Share Agreement (ISA)

I happened to read an Income Share Agreement (ISA) article in Wall Street Journal published in Sept. 11, 2017. I never heard of an ISA until I read the article. I was curious. “What is an ISA?” “Is an ISA actually a student loan disguised in a fancy phrase?” The article said it was not a student loan but I was skeptical. I researched an ISA in Business Insider, Forbes, American Institute for Research, etc.

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For-Profit Colleges, Are They Friends or Foes?

For some of you thinking to go to a for-profit school, you might want to reconsider the decision. The primary goal of for-profit school is making money. Making money is their BUSINESS. Your success is not their priority.
For-profit make money by:

  • enrolling more students,
  • charging students higher tuitions and fees,
  • paying less to instructors, and
  • receiving more government grants by increasing student enrollment.

Some For-Profit schools are so mismanaged that they have filed bankruptcy or shut down. As a result, former students at these schools are left without a degree or certificate. These students have a trouble receiving a transcript from closed for-profit school in order to transfer class credits to other schools. Some may be left with huge amount of student loan in the middle of semester with no money back.

Here are some numbers:
The comparison data below is taken from “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success” prepared by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions United States Senate, in July 30, 2012.”


It is obvious that you pay more to for-profit schools for the same degree. Why do you want to pay more for getting the same thing? You might say, “I have a full time work and need to support my family. I can’t go to school during a day.” It is true that For-Profit schools serve more “non-traditional students” who are working adult students requiring flexible schedules.
I want you to investigate community college. Many community colleges offer great benefits such as:

  1. many classes are available in the evening or on-line,
  2. many courses are transferrable to 4-year college,
  3. technical classes, for example, dental hygienist or auto mechanic, useful for landing on a job quickly,
  4. Instructors at community college tend to have more real-world working experiences – great for job searching help.
  5. affordable and flexible – some States such as Tennessee and Oregon offer free community college courses for their State residents.
  6. smaller classes – easier to make friends and ask questions and get help. 

For-profit might make things look easy and sounds wonderful when they are recruiting new students. But, wait. Do Your Homework! Find which community college has a program interest you.



Guide to New College Freshman 101

I knew almost no one at college when I entered my foot at the University of Washington in Seattle. On the huge campus, my eyes were locked on a campus map. I was navigating myself like a lost tourist in a big city. Find a right building and classroom by swimming through nearly 20,000 students with backpacks was a daunting task. As soon as I got a classroom, oh no! It did not look like a classroom. It was more like a coliseum! Some classes had massive number of students, something like over 200 people. It was overwhelming. I realized that I became invisible – just a number in college.

In a class, it seemed impossible to even ask questions in the classroom. So many thoughts started popping up in my head. “I need a help but who can help me?” “What did a professor just say?” “Do I need to read 3, three! chapters by this Friday?” There is homework due next week, already? Really?” It was too much, too fast. I thought I was only one who were not keeping up. There were no reliable and trustworthy friends I knew. New school, new routine, new place, everything was new in refreshing and puzzling way. Everyone in my class appeared smart but me. “Can I survive in this environment?”

If you ever feel jittery on the first day of college, don’t worry. I survived and thrived. Everyone can do it if you follow steps below.

  1. You are not alone. Almost everyone feels the same way as you are. They are not all figured out yet. Breath.  
  2. After a week or two, you will know who you can depend on in a class. You just need to be open and start talking to other students.
  3. If your professor is not helpful to you, go to Teaching Assistant (TA). If that fails, then find a smart person in your class. You will know who the person is after a couple of weeks observing in the class.
  4. If your school has tutoring service, use it.
  5. Some colleges have psychologist available for you. Use the service if you need a safe place to talk about your problems and struggles.
  6. Join a student club or participate in sports, music, or something you love to do with like-minded students.
  7. Study and have fun. You need to do both. Go for a walk or have fun at student events on campus.
  8. Work part-time and make friends.
  9. Call your parents or childhood friends. And go home and see your parents once in a while.

After one quarter/semester of school, you will learn the rhythm of college life and you can make it!

College Life and Mental Health

When I was at a graduate school working on my dissertation, I suffered anxiety attack. I didn’t know it was anxiety attack but I felt like I was going to die. Symptoms included waking up in the middle of night, shortness of breath, chest pain, and uncontrollable shaking during a meeting or having lunch with a friend. I got scared for no reason whenever I was indoor. At night I went outside to take a deep breath. If I was with someone at a meeting or a restaurant, I pretended going to a restroom but I rushed outside.
This “dark cloud” or “scary feeling” choked me without any sign or warning every day. I had the enormous pressure from my advisor to publish my research, and I expected big accomplishment myself. But I could not function as a normal person. I honestly thought I might have to go to a mental institution. I wished I had some physical illness like broken leg rather than suffering from a mental illness. Many people including me still see a person with mental illness as a crazy or nut and somehow that was his/her fault. Mental illness definitely carries some stigma. I thought of burning myself on campus or jump out from my second floor window rather than being locked in a mental institution.
How did I recover from it? I was exhausted, mentally and physically, and really wanted to feel normal again. So I sought any help I could think of. I received some counseling from an on-campus psychologist. I even called a suicide prevention office in the middle of night because I was so lost and desperate. Also, I went to see a medical doctor to verify what I was really suffering from. A MD confirmed that I had an anxiety attack. It was a very sad diagnose. I was shocked and thinking, “Me? Anxiety Attack? I am not crazy, am I?” Finally I conceded the fact that I was having anxiety attack, I made a decision to share my secret to some trusting friends. What a relief I felt! I found out some of my friends had a panic attack from work or school in the past but I never knew about it until I told them my story. “You are not alone.” “You are OK.” These were words from my friends set me free. Consequently I decided to drop out from Ph.D. program. I felt like a failure but I remembered the encouraging words from my pastor. She said, “Just because you failed one thing, you are not a failure. A failure is someone who never try anything new or challenging.”
College can be stressful. If you are not a traditional college student, it is more stressful. If you don’t have a good friend at a school you attend, it is stressful as well. If you receive a bad grade at college courses – C, or D, or fail a class, it makes you cringe, especially if you used to be a top student at high school.
You might get well-adjusted in college life but if you face a problem, do not keep it yourself. Keeping it a secret make you more depressed and helpless. Talk to someone you can trust and not judge you. They are more likely your friends, parent, mentor, a counselor, or psychologist. Find someone you can trust and talk about it. There is no shame in sharing your struggle!

Choosing a college when you don’t know what you want to be or study

This topic is tough one and very common. I honestly did not really know what to major at college before starting my freshman year at University of Washington. People in this category might be thinking “I will figure out what I want to study while I am in college.” If this sounds like you, ask yourself and/or research the followings:
1. What do you like doing even you don’t get paid?
2. What is your strength? For example, are you good at analyzing large amount of data? Are you good at interacting with people? Your strength is something it comes out from you naturally without much effort.
3. What kind of jobs are there using your skills and passions? If a college major of your interest does not have any practical use in the real world, you might want to rethink of the study field.
4. What potential earnings do these jobs give you? Money is not everything but financial independence will give you more freedom.

O.K., some of you might say, “I love singing.” Or “I like playing a basketball.” I personally love playing the piano and wanted to be a pianist. These are great passions but I must tell you that there are no middle class for art, entertainment, music, and sport fields. I do not want you to lose your dream but I want you to think what you can do with your skills to earn a decent income. Passion and dream alone is not enough. Unfortunately the most of us are not the top performers. So if you want to study singing at college, think of what other skills you can acquire at college and use all skills to market yourself in the real world. For example, if you earn English and music degrees at college, then you might be able to market yourself as a music writer for music magazine or website.

Passion alone is not enough; job marketability alone worn you out later. Ask yourself what you love to do and then how you could apply your passion and college degree for your future.