Her Times
By Pam Parker Erie Times-News staff blogger
Pam Parker's blog takes on everything from women's fun to momisms to lifestyles around Lake Erie and real estate. She'll take you down Memory Lane, up through sports and fun and off the grid. Get ready for laughs — it's more than just Pam. It's Pamdemonium.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1821
Posts tagged ‘college’
Posted: April 16th, 2014

graduation capI think we have just completed our last FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) — after six kids and 10 years. Pop the champagne cork!

I know families who are just beginning this process. Bless you, and before you start evaluating where your student will attend school or start a career, remember — not everyone should go to college. Not everyone is cut out for college. And kids can get great training for careers at career schools in a much shorter term. Here’s my take on teens and careers:

1.You know your child. Encourage, but don’t take over in decision making. Your teen has to figure it all out. Help, but remind yourself that next year the regimented school days will be over. Your teen has to figure out what and where they will be all day, every day for the next year and the year after that and then some. No one can predict the future, but you and your teen have to have a plan.

2It’s difficult to determine a career path at age 18. Kids don’t all learn to tie their shoes at a magic age. Career decisions are no different. Some kids just know what they want before they earn a high school diploma, but others change their minds. More than once — possibly for years.  You have to let them do it and support them.  When they change their minds — on schools, careers, jobs, classes — make them do the legwork. Don’t. Do. It. For. Them. Just don’t. Been there, done that with six kids. All but one kid changed career plans at least once. Let them do the research and move forward. Examples: Three changed majors, and one wanted to change schools. We told them all to go see advisers and find out what they would lose and what they would gain. And what it would cost. Success in all cases.

3. If you have an athlete looking at sports scholarships — be careful. Your teen needs to spend the next four years or more training for a career — not just advancing his or her high school sports career — unless they can turn it into a career. Most parents and kids make good choices — a school that matches career needs — not just athletic ability. But some folks lose sight of the career when the carrot of  reduced debt for four years is dangled as a huge benefit. And sometimes it’s not as huge as you might think. Make sure your teen is ready for the pressure of college and athletics — they’re not in high school anymore. Not all kids can handle it. There are wonderful success stories out there, but if your student signs up for an intense 5- or 6-year degree that will require year-round schooling, remember what the college goal is: a career.

4. College tuition, fees and room and board cost thousands of dollars per year. The lowest tuition might be under $10,000 per year, and if your teen lives at home, he or she might get out with $40,000 in debt in four years, but that’s not the norm. It’s usually more. And that’s just the tuition. College is serious business and serious debt. Many kids benefit from waiting a year to attend school or finding other careers that require career schools  – a much cheaper option than a 2-year or 4-year degree. Don’t think that college is a rite of passage and just let your teen sign up and see what happens. Be smart — have goals.

If you are stressing about your teen’s future, stop. Kids are amazing at figuring out things on their own with a little help from parents, teachers and others. Everyone needs guidance, but don’t go crazy with control. Enjoy watching your son or daughter become an adult. None of it is easy, but it’s so rewarding — especially when they’re working in careers they love. Sigh. We are almost there with all six. Your kids will do it, too. Just be patient.

Pam Parker is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle, Her Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is the mom of three, stepmom to three and step-grandmom to one.  All six kids attended post-secondary education. 

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: February 18th, 2014

FAFSAIt’s time to get that FAFSA done and start evaluating where your student will attend school. We have done this six times, and here’s what we learned:

Go to the correct link — FAFSA is free

Countless links are available with FAFSA letters, but they are not the right one.  You need: https://fafsa.ed.gov/ – it is the only one you need. Many links will ask for all your info and then a credit card. DO NOT GET INTO THESE SCAMS.

Set aside time and just do it 

It’s not that bad. You’ll need your W-2s, your student’s W-2s, and it’s easier if you you have your taxes done, but you can still finish.

There are countless help sites, and they do help. The point of FAFSA is to determine what you and your student — you each have to do one — will owe for college. This is just an estimate. It does not take into consideration a lot of the aid your student will get directly from the school. No matter what FAFSA says in the end, don’t panic. Once your student chooses a school, sit down with the financial aid folks at the school, and discuss your package.

Visit Getschooled.com

An ad campaign with Michelle Obama is running right now that offers tons of tips on how to fill in FAFSA and what to do. Here’s the link.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Your retirement investments and house are safe from FAFSA scrutiny. I spent hours figuring out every penny we had invested everywhere — the first time. Then I visited a site that simplified net worth on investments. Here’s a link.

Don’t forget to put in “zero”

If an answer is zero — remember to put in the zero. Don’t leave lines blank. You’ll have to go back and figure it out at some point.

The final countdown

Most schools want your finished FAFSA before mid March. The big thing about getting in early is that some funds are first-come, first-serve. If you don’t get your application into a school, complete with FAFSA info, you risk getting in on all the available funds. We learned this the hard way.

No matter what …

We had good years, and we had bad years. When we had four kids in school at the same time, it was actually a benefit for them. When it does come down to what your students will owe, check out loans — all of our kids have loans. Big loans. But they all have careers, and they are paying back the loans. None of them are starving. We also have loans. Check with a financial adviser to see what is the best plan for you and your kids. The best advice we ever received was not to stop funding retirement in order to fund their educations. Unless you’re Warren Buffet. Ha!

Pam Parker is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyleHer Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is mom to three, stepmom to three and GramPam to one.


Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: August 14th, 2013

White delivery truck isolated on white background, clipping paths included.It’s peak moving season for a lot of teens heading off to college and the rest of us who might be moving. The folks at unpakt sent me tips.

They must know me. The last time I moved the family, it was horrible. And since we have moved kids, many, many times, I have some expertise:

  • Seasonal packing: We learned not to pack up the winter clothes for the kids heading off to school. Winter coats, jackets and boots take up a lot of closet space and packing room. My daughter taught us this because we might have needed a separate U-haul, and that was just for the shoes and boots. The “pack for the seasons” routine only works if your teenager is moving someplace not too far away because it means packing and unpacking will  happen before the snow flies and again in the spring. But college closets are only so big, and storage is often not available.
  • Packing DIY tips: Unpakt suggests socks, towels and linens can be used to wrap fragile items. Baskets, plastic bins, and luggage can take the place of traditional cardboard boxes. My boys used garbage bags. That’s a big savings on boxes, bubble wrap and packing peanuts. We never bought bubble wrap or peanuts — we had plenty of bins and socks. OMG the socks.
  • Plan for the future: Unpakt advises you to get rid of stuff you don’t need so that you aren’t packing and unpacking items you don’t use. I agree because we moved a lot of stuff we wound up giving away in a family move, but we also gave away things the kids needed a few years later — window air conditioners, microwaves, beds. I would rethink a plan before I gave that stuff away again. I’ve bought a lot of air conditioners and beds since the first kid went away to school. And I gave away a crib that would come in handy right now for a little granddaughter.

If you are really slammed for time and know that you are not a good mover, bite the bullet and hire movers or someone to pack you, move you and unpack you. It’s not cheap, but your sanity is worth something. I would do it all differently next time. And for the kids, I’ve moved them to third floors more than a few times. I never want to drag another mattress up a staircase. Ever. The kids have been very resourceful in grabbing friends to move them in recent years. Good friends. God bless them everyone!

Pam Parker is the editor of House to HomeLake Erie LifeStyle and Her Times at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is the mom of three, stepmom to three and GramPam to one.


Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 12th, 2013

MomsIn honor of Mother’s Day, I am reposting The Pennsylvania Conference for Women‘s e-mail message that quotes what women have said about their moms as role models — like the one at left. The Pennsylvania Conference for Women is the largest women’s conference in the state.  It is scheduled for Tuesday, October 29 in Philadelphia. Here are quotes from the website:

How was/is your mother a role model for your career?

My mom’s mantra was “make yourself indispensable” (i.e. do whatever’s needed, not just what you think you should be doing).

My mom always told us to do what makes us happy.

My mom had her own alteration business in 1948 before (and after) she got married. She taught me to be independent and not to settle – whip up a dress and a fabulous meal too.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom but also sold Tupperware and Avon. She had such a beautiful light about her, and people were drawn to her smile. I realized having positive energy and a good smile goes a long way.

Funny you should ask. I am a communications trainer and I reference her years in the banking industry all the time. I learned so much from her about how to treat people, how to be a true professional, and how to be a working mom. I am indebted to her entire generation of women who blazed a path for me and the women of my generation. I hope to do the same for my girls.

My mom didn’t have a high school diploma; she worked in sewing factories, long, hard hours for low wages, also waitressing. She inspired me to get an education so that I could earn a better life. I am grateful.

She told me to invent a product, I did, and millions of sales later I have her to thank!

Growing up, my sister and I witnessed my mother (a single parent) struggle and work long hours as a waitress. After many years she had enough and decided to better herself and her family by going back to school for nursing. While going to school full-time and working (and being a single parent was an even harder struggle), she graduated and has been a nurse for well over 10 years now. I am extremely proud of her hard work and dedication. Her persistence has taught me to succeed in everything I do. I would not be where I am in my career today if it were not for my mother.

My mom modeled communication, she took us to campaign, community, church…taught us to prioritize a balanced life…our God, our family, our community.

My mother started “take your daughter to work day” with two other women. She has paved the way for so many women scientists and inspired me to be a business owner. She’s my hero.

My mother owned a public relations company in the ’60s. She was very successful and always told me I had to find a career that I loved so that I would never have to depend on anyone else.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Pam Parker is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyleHer Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is the mom of three, stepmom of three and step grandmom of one.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 7th, 2013

Basketball hoop and sunsetPsychiatrist Gary Malone — a former student athlete — reminds parents of middle-school and high-school athletes to chill before we push too hard toward college athletics and scholarships. He reminds all parents of these critical numbers:

  • Only 3 percent of high school athletes will go on to compete in college

  • Less than 1 percent of college athletes turn pro, where the average career is three years

  • Don’t become obsessed with one child’s athletic career at the expense of the other kids in the family. 

A distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association and high-performing student-athlete throughout his own high school and college years, Malone says he appreciates the benefits of extracurricular programs. “Athletics can be extremely beneficial to a young person’s life, but I think we have our priorities backwards,” Malone says. “Imagine how much better off our country might be if, instead of football, we were obsessed with our children’s performance in science and math. In my home state, Texas, a new high school football stadium is opening that cost $60 million dollars and seats 18,000. That’s all funded at public expense. We constantly read of districts across the country cutting academic and arts programs and teachers’ salaries due to budget shortfalls. How can this make sense?”

It’s great when kids want to compete at the collegiate level and even better if they get $$ to do it, but not all kids are cut out for that life. As parents, we need to appreciate that sentiment because in the end, kids need a career when school is done.

Pam Parker is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle, Her Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is the mom of three, stepmom to three and step-grandmom to one.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 19th, 2012

Jim Martin of the Erie Times-News tweeted an interesting story about college debt this morning that appeared in the Washington Post.

Written by Melissa M. Horton, a deep-in-debt college grad, it is a frightening reality of what a lot of kids face. She is $100,000 in debt. She laments choices her parents made, choices she made and discusses Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) proposed Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.

She says “Clarke’s bill proposes forgiving as much as $45,520 of eligible student-loan debt after new borrowers have made 120 payments — equivalent to 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years — or would forgive any outstanding debt for those whose loans predate enactment if the borrower has already made 120 payments in the past 10 years. Even better, the forgiven amount will not count as income, so debtors need not fear paying higher income taxes for 2012.”

I don’t agree with a lot of the writer’s opinions, but she makes some excellent points. The bottom line is debt is excessive for many college graduates. The interest rates that kids are paying on personal college loans is much higher than any mortgage loan. If you have kids headed to college or in college, don’t let your babies grow up to be so deep in debt. What we’ve learned with six adult kids:

  • All of our kids are in debt, but three out of four graduates spent at least a year or two living at home to save room and board money — that’s thousands. Yes that means they can’t go across the country to pursue a dream. I’m not knocking the dream, but only two kids really were focused enough to know what they wanted to do for life. Indecision is costly in college.
  • All kids worked through college. It’s critical for spending money. Don’t borrow basic living expenses.
  • Get advice from a professional who can help you figure out what to do financially before your start the loan process. Pay a financial adviser who specializes in  college financing. Not just finances — college finances.
  • Don’t bank on a brainiac or athletic scholarship. We have athletes and we have brainiacs. Regardless of how smart or athletic your child is, college is not free.
  • Not every kid needs a college education. Some career schools offer one- to two-year programs that result in very specific jobs. Employers are begging for some positions, particularly in health care.

Stay positive. Support your teen’s dream but have a plan B and C. Two of our graduates changed majors more than once. Not everyone knows what they really want at age 18. Be prepared and be supportive, but be realistic.


Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 13th, 2012

If your kid has an affinity for math, choosing to study accounting and taxes could add up to a pretty good career. An article on AOL.com says tax season alone offers some pretty good opportunities. Read it here. There’s more: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16 percent increase in accounting jobs by 2016. That’s just a four-year degree away if your teen is heading off to college in the fall. Read the details here.

Some kids might think it sounds like a boring career path, but think again. Careers in research and other areas all need numbers folks. Let’s face it, every company needs an accounting staff.

Salaries are good too. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2012 survey says 2011 accounting graduates earned an average of $50,500 a year. Read the article here and read the report here.

We’ve got one accountant in the family. We count on her for financial advice.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: January 26th, 2012

If you have kids looking at colleges, then you know the word FAFSA. It stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you want more information, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov.

There are a lot of FAFSA sites, but don’t start filling in your information anywhere but http://www.fafsaonline.com/fafsa-form/. Other sites charge a fee and waste your time. And it’s a lot of work.

My husband and I have been doing FAFSAs for 8 years for 6 kids. And I’m not done yet. I am about to start my son’s for 2012 – 2013. I’ll share tips with you.

The first big one is before you go nuts on this, figure out your net worth — not including your retirement investments. Most average earners can count that as a zero. You’ll need your current tax forms too.  You can estimate, but you’ll have to do the whole thing over again with figures. Another tip: never leave blanks — ever.

Here is a site that gives you some tips on how to fill FAFSA out. http://www.fafsaonline.com/fafsa-form/ — it is one of the few that I found really helpful. Stay tuned for more tips as I get started on my umpteenth FAFSA!

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: November 14th, 2011

We need mathematicians and scientists in this country and we need to start growing them now. Why? According to numerous reports in U.S. News and World Report and other national rags, not even half of our country’s high school graduates are prepared for college-level math or science.

That’s just not good enough for us parents.

What happened to the geeks? And why aren’t we doing something about it? A few years ago, my son graduated from high school with at least four cooking classes under his belt. My daughter had innumerable art classes. Aren’t a few of those classes enough? I’m frustrated because we are still graduating students who don’t know how to balance a checkbook and what interest rates mean. Graduates don’t need to cook or draw pictures if they can’t figure out how to pay the rent and utilities.

My kids loved both math and science and we found games – lots of games – that encouraged those skills. Here are 100 ways to get your kids into math and science and make it fun. Do it now. Physics can be fun if it starts as play.

We need to grow the next crop of Einsteins. Click on any of the links above, and get started!



Posted in: Uncategorized