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A Penny in the College Bank

During a family reunion, a guest mentioned that he was glad that he was starting the Florida college preplan. When I pointed out the possibility of one of his daughters wanting to go out of state, he scuffed at the idea. It made me wonder whether or not the idea of paying for college early by the use of state-program, perhaps to avoid rise in costs, was worth the potential yearning for that same child to follow their own path and choose a school which does not meet the plan’s criteria.
After reading an article by a contributor from USA Today, the pre-paid college mold is not one that fits all. It is beneficial in some circumstances. While the cost to attend may rise every year, the money put forth today can at least cover the price of future credits. Also, despite Florida’s preplan only covering public universities and community colleges, it can also be applied to cover the average in-state public tuition cost towards a private school or one that is located out of the state. No matter what, the money that you put in you will get back in full. Florida, Massachusetts, and Washington are among only a handful of states that guarantee a pay in difference incase the universities that the plan does cover raise their prices. For the people investing in these plans, it is a stress-free scenario. There is no worry based on the fluctuations of stock markets effecting the funds that are being saved.
For those doubters who, while they still like a sense of security, want more options, programs such as the 529 Plans, make the process more flexible on a 360 degree angle. For the most part, there are various payment plans and a more varied selection of top-ranking colleges. Rather than the student being forced to stay in-state, the 529 Plans works to include private colleges and universities across the nation. Among the most part, these colleges are diversified enough to include a range of schools from some of the Ivy Leagues to consortiums. Other than more options to choose from, there exists no age limit as to when a child must be signed up for the program. Also, if when college season comes around, the money is used towards all of the school’s expenses then there is a levy on taxes. Cons to this program exist in that the worth of the savings may fluctuate. As opposed to the Florida preplan or other state-exclusive programs, the 529 Plans is based on the current state of that market. The money is invested into stocks and bonds.
As Joe Hurley, the founder of SavingforCollege.com has said in the Seattle Times, it is impossible to buy future tuition at today’s prices through state-saving funds such as Florida preplan, instead it is purchasing the tuition at its premium. While the 529 Plans may not be a concrete path, it does allow room for more options and possibilities. However, just as it was insinuated that a child’s caretakers should know best for their children, it is important that every family makes a decision as to what is right for them.

Prompt: In a poem describe a child inserting their opinion in an adult’s conversation.

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Academic Balance Beam

A few years ago, I had written an article questioning the worth of a liberal arts education. I had wondered where students’ job prospects lied after graduating with a degree in French or History. However, after growing as a person and encountering that the most well rounded people came from a liberal arts background, my breadth of understanding what a true education is all about expanded.
The statistics four years ago could have scared any scholar into jumping to a vocational school. Let’s be realistic, job opportunities were scarce and the only stable market consisted of those in the medical field. Now, with work opportunities stabilizing all across the board, technology no longer runs a company down the drain. People have learned how to use it as a tool rather than cower beneath it. Now, with this adaption society can return to the sustenance of what manifests life. As James O. Freedman was quoted in saying in The New York Times, “Liberal education opens our eyes…it’s about understanding yourself and having some resources to deal with everything life throws at you.” The former Dartmouth president speaks to the equal sentiment shared in articles written in the Huffington Post and Newsday.
While there is neither specific determinant nor formula as to what would be the perfect choice of college or university for a high school graduate, it is important that other than following their instincts and cost vs. benefit, there should never be a ruling out of a certain area of schools such as those in the liberal arts league. Various alumnae ranging from Hilary Clinton, Martha Stewart, Bob Woodruff and Bradley Whitford amongst others have shown that in various fields how their Political Science or English degree proved to useful.
Not only does a liberal arts education supplement the critical thinking skills required in any field, but it also helps stimulate interest and participate in learning about the world one lives in.

Playing Courage

I am no expert in the romance department, but in the mesh of Valentine’s day and the flutter of watching my friends migrate to and from boys for the special occasion it makes me wonder if this conquest to find the “perfect” one, a plot line that barely changes for any person no matter the day and age, can merely be bought when a person wants the merchandise. And while it is customary to hear that love will arrive when the time is right, there surely must exist a particular time frame that foreshadows when the heroine will meet her hero.
Those in Jane Austen’s time period rarely had a choice but to follow their parents pre-arranged marriage, later on in the 40’s and 50’s couples hitched at a young age – almost right out of college – and the era of “free love” found any moment, especially Woodstock, right to be with anyone who they found to be charming. All those periods had a particular setting, not so much of a physical place but as a general time frame in their lives that the people knew it would be their moment to find the “one”. With the developments that society has gone through, more people are waiting to be in a serious commitment until they are older. People have also found various outlets, especially the internet, as means of meeting someone. For those people who prefer to keep things to the basics and like to get mentally prepared (yours truly) the best place to mingle, from various advice and observation of the couples that have lasted the longest in a stable relationship, seems to be college.
The fact that you know in which direction you want your life to head into and are more mature than your high school self, gives you a more adult-take on a romance that is meant to be serious. Not every relationship, however, is given with a 100% happiness guarantee and if meeting someone in college does not lead to anything major down the road it is an experience to grow from. In particular it gives those two people the opportunity to narrow down the 100-must-have’s to a realistic check list of what is important to them.
But perhaps the college sweetheart, who was not love-at-first-sight in Physics 101 but was a good study buddy or friend, does lead to something. Then what does it take to transform something from just-friends to the next level? The main ingredient is courage. It takes bravery to make a fool out of yourself, take a risk, learn from the mistake and not look back in embarrassment. This by no means requires taking the methods from Kindergarten and declaring, “I like you,” so bluntly but if you never take the moment to slip your fingers through theirs or lean in closer than necessary, then you might never know what could have happened.

Prompt: In a short story no more than 800 words describe a character who dared to accomplish their wildest dream.

The Hormonal Nomad

It may be an occurrence that has spread over the centuries. One that, just like a common cold, comes with any season. This is accompanied with terrible symptoms such as pangs of jealousy, random bursts of nostalgia (before you’ve even left your current nest) and the bittersweet taste of salty sorrow of leaving who you know behind for a new beginning. What else must I be talking about except when people drift apart?
Whether you are a young adult packing flimsy boxes with random belongings for a dorm room half your bedroom size of an adult cramming an apartment’s worth into a U-Haul for an across the country (or continent) journey, the feeling of distance with all you’ve ever known is overwhelming. While the idea of a new town is refreshing and can lead to discovering new sights, people and experiences, the distance with our loved ones can cause a significant set back. While this alone may be a factor that can convince a few of changing their life’s quests, for those who are dedicated navigators we must trudge on.
While the earliest homosapien probably did not analyze such matters of missing their neighbors and followed their instinct, more modern society has taken the liberty to express our every emotion. Through music, writing and theater we can evidently see our emotional complexities. Standing from our shoes it can feel as though everyone else drifts off slowly, almost drifting through fingers as easily as dirt. But if you turn the angle around the person no longer planning girl’s night out or a day for a football game might be you. If this is true, the red shimmer of embarrassment and guilt can transcend into your face at any moment. All this time you may have felt that others were distancing themselves, when in reality it was you unconsiouly putting space between something your conscious knows won’t be a block away within a year.
Before you check the calendar or call to set up tonight’s picnic, remember what to keep in mind. Those friends and family members, if meant to be, will always be in your life. Guaranteed that it won’t be nearly half of them, but the lesson is not to shut the doors and become a hermit. Instead it is to see life through the cliché of living it to the fullest. Never will you know who will be around in fall and gone by summer. People may come for a week, season or year but their position in your world is always for a purpose. It’s important to sometimes close the American Airlines and realtor’s tabs and see those within your grasp at the moment.

Prompt: In a poem, no more than 30 lines, describe a specific animal that is forced to become independent.

Slicing the Middle Man’s Price

For high school students that have a set mapped course for college, they face several churning seas before they even can click ‘Submit’ on their application. Before they worry about any price tag and the special exclusive discount they may receive, they must worry about the multiple costs that stream from applying just to one school. Although several companies and institutions try to focus on helping students, all they seem to want is a check.

           The first financial mouse trap is set in a student’s sophomore and junior year. With the two years filled with standardized tests, the cost of taking the SAT Reasoning with writing, SAT Subjects Tests, and ACT can lead to a bill of $135. Never mind the fact that teachers recommend that a student takes the SAT Reasoning with writing and ACT at least three times, which would thus increase the price. Before taking the tests, the smart snack that students vouch for, the preparation whether by tutoring or the traditional method of studying from a book can lead to something so simple yet necessary casting the minimum of $20. With all universities, except those with the exemptions to all standardized tests, requiring these tests there exists no choice by to take them. What these companies, like College board who cling to the image of being supportive of anything educational, should make these tests more affordable by reducing the prices and, when it comes to sending off the scores, either cutting or putting a transaction that occurs through the computer at a zero cost. With these head owners of multi-million dollar testing industries sucking every penny away before the voyage of college expenses have even begun, they ignore the bare bones of the economy by not lowering their prices.

            The irony in the next set up is unmistakable. On every application it is an option for students to get considered for financial aid. Those that do choose to fill out the tedious forms and go through the hassle of collecting the information, usually go through this one journey to save money not expecting to have to pay for the application itself. Another catch that the College board does is pry the money to send the application of the CSS Profile to the majority of schools that require it in addition to the FAFSA form for financial consideration.

            Schools themselves can ease the pain. Rather than worrying about finding the money for the application itself, which may range from a minimum of $30 to $100, they can either cut it to a minimum or allow certain students who may send in the application through early action or early decision to not pay it. This advantage offers students motivation to finish their application sooner.

            By cutting these small costs it allows for a student to once again dream big. It allows families to be able to cross one small financial bridge which can have significant effects. At the end of the senior year, a student can feel content that they tried their hardest and applied to all the schools on their wish list. By these institutions and companies cutting back a few costs, they will have achieved at least one accomplishment – they would have cut that question of “what if…”

 Prompt: In a poem no more than twenty lines long, describe a situation in which the narrator wonders what seems to be impossible.