Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

Texas Tech and Lubbock – A University City on the Texas Plains

I’ve noticed when I’m visiting a college campus with an eye for finding what students like, I’m looking through a lens different than when I’ve visited the campus while conducting business. I’ve been to Texas Tech a dozen times over the last twenty years but never saw it quite like on my last visit.

Texas Tech is located in Lubbock, home of Texas music icons such as Buddy Holly, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely, and sits at the bottom of the lower plains, only a few miles north of sliding off the caprock into West Texas. It’s home to grapes, combines, and the tallest buildings outside of downtown are grain silos. I’ve always felt as if Tech and Lubbock got the short end of the Texas geography stick. It’s flat, arid, and hot. And when the winds come sweeping down the plains, as happened while I was visiting, it’s time to take cover. Picture a red dirt-out or conjure dust-bowl days; I hope that doesn’t happen often. What Lubbock lacks in scenery it makes up for in grit. Lubbock sits in the middle of the Texas Panhandle. It’s 300 miles from Dallas, Santa Fe, Austin, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City. Students come from 50 states and more than 95 countries, and over 65% travel more than 300 miles to attend college there.

Slipping into an orientation meeting, I listened to a one-time student describe her campus as friendly and accommodating with activities and something for everyone.  I asked the admission’s rep what she had loved most about campus when she had been a student. She smiled. She said aside from all the friendly people, she loves the thousands of tulips planted for the spring. I hadn’t noticed the multi-colored flowers when rushing into orientation, but I did when I walked the campus. Beautiful!

Red-tiled roofs adorn art-deco buildings west of downtown. Picture wide walkways, tree-lined, and more greenery than the rest of the city, except that Lubbock boasts there are more than 75 parks and 262 days of sunshine. Tech even has a lazy river on campus. There are 550 student organizations, 18 resident halls, and 30+ dining venues. On the east side of campus, across from their Big 12 Football Stadium, are blocks of shops, eateries, and upscale living apartments/condos.

Assured admission is for top 10% with no minimum ACT or SAT. First quarter students need a 24 or 1180. Second quarter students need a 26 ACT or 1260, and third quarter students require a 27 or 1290. There’s a holistic review for student in fourth quarter or not meeting assured admission. http://www.depts.ttu.edu/admissions/admissions-finaid/first_freshmen/

Tech’s total enrollment is 35,859 and the student to faculty ratio is 22:1. There are twelve undergraduate fields of study, over 150 majors, and twelve pre-professional programs.

Cost of attending for Texas students as well as those from border counties in New Mexico and Oklahoma was $25,626/year for 2016-17. Tech gives other residents of OK and NM and cost break too; those students cost to attend was $26,525. Students outside of TX, NM, and OK paid $37,866 in 16-17. Tech has a host of scholarships that can be found www.scholarships.ttu.edu Non-resident students could qualify for Texas tuition and fees if they are awarded over $1000 in scholarships from Tech. That could be an affordable deal!

Students can apply at www.applytexas.org. Check for regular and priority deadlines. What did I like best about this visit to Texas Tech? The people were friendly and helpful. Parking was easy. They made me feel welcomed, glad I was there. I didn’t have an appointment, and by the time I’d parked after speaking with a guard, the admission’s staff knew who I was, and they were expecting me! That’s friendly security. I also like that Tech provides a great education at a reasonable price. Finally, among Texas’ leading research institutions, it feels less pretentious than other universities. It could be their grit, or that they are showing rather than telling.


Minding the Gap Year – Part 2

Minding the Gap Year – Part 2



I thought I would make a list of gap year program websites after attending a recent college fair for gap year programs that was put on by USA GAP YEAR FAIRS www.USAGapYearFairs.org but have changed my mind on the list. I couldn’t believe what happened when I arrived at the gap year college fair. The parking lot at the school was full, and when I walked into the school’s library, the two levels were jammed with so many people I had to cut through book stacks to collect literature from every program. Every table have five to fifty parents and students surrounding it! I was shocked.

Thirty-five programs filled the library. There had to have hundreds of parents and students waiting to talk with representatives. What I learned was that instead of listing link after link to different programs, it would be better to list links to American Gap Association http://americangap.org/gap-year.php. Why? Because I’m a huge fan of professional associations that self-regulate members. After visiting American Gap Association’s website, I found they provide links to many different programs as well as they have continued accreditation system. That’s important because anytime a gap year program changes hands, new owners must seek accreditation.

When I visited American Gap Association’s website, sixteen programs were listed as current in their accreditation. http://americangap.org/gap-year-programs.php. I would rather provide a link to them so that those interested in gap years can find the latest programs that have been accredited as well as reviews of those programs They also shared the website of thirty-one programs that were not accredited. I found that interesting. Not all were gap programs, some links were to books.

I was interested in advice about taking a gap year. What I found helpful was that the site advocated for students taking care of college business – deferrals, deposits, and questions to determine how much time to devote to a gap experience as well as self-reflect on the reason for the experience. http://americangap.org/planning.php. It’s important to understand how to keep oneself safe while traveling and why it’s happening.

Want to read more about the benefits of taking a gap year? American Gap Association stays current and links to articles on the gap experience.




Attending the fair enlightened me as to how much there is to learn about gap years. It’s a growing movement for students to take a year off from college, but not for play although there’s fun to be had. Gap years afford students a time to learn outside of the straight academic trajectory, a time to inform the subsequent college years.


Take a Look at Texas Lutheran University

Take a Look at Texas Lutheran University

Texas Lutheran University is a small, private liberal arts college located in the sleepy town of Seguin, Texas – 35 miles east of San Antonio and 50 miles south of Austin. Approximately 1300 students can choose from 28 majors and 37 minors. TLU participates in Division III sports and approximately a third of students participate in school athletics. Go Bulldogs! I think most students attending will find their entertainment on campus or in the big cities listed above or mid-sized adjacent towns of San Marcos and New Braunfels.

On the campus tour, we walked into a biology lab where the professor was setting up for an upcoming lab. He was open, approachable, engaging, and pleased with the work of his students. When asked what he enjoyed most about his lab, he replied with the great equipment and the small lab size that allowed for interaction with students. He followed us out into the hall to point out winning posters that students had created to showcase their field research from the previous year. Also catching my attention was a note on the door entering the science building that read a plant sale was taking place of plants used in experiments. Part of me thought how nice to recycle plants after their use, but I also couldn’t help but imagining Little Shop of Horrors.

Our tour guide was nice, polite, answered our questions, and seemed to be involved in lots of campus activities. As we moved from building to building, the campus grounds were pretty and well-maintained. I didn’t find the buildings visually exciting or ornate, but that could be keeping with Lutheran tradition.

What I found most interesting in their literature was a directness on the cost of attending along with an academic scholarship grid that is a great tool to guide families with information of approximate merit aid. I think it would be great and transparent if every college published this  Tuition and fees in 2016-17 were $28,910 and total cost for the year was $38,630. Their average SAT score was 1528 on the old 2400 scale.

TLU has a variety of application deadlines and will even accept a few students after their last deadline on a space-available basis. TLU has received national attention from a variety of college ranking systems. From their brochures:

No.2 “Best Regional College” in the West 2016 – U.S. News & World Report rankings

2015 “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” from Washington Monthly College Rankings

2015 Best Western College by The Princeton Review

President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll member since 2012

Great Colleges to Work for by The Chronicle of Higher Education since 2012

Check out all the good things happening at Texas Lutheran University at http://www.tlu.edu/. I think it’s one of those undervalued, hidden college gems providing a quality liberal arts education.

Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

For-profit vs. Non-profit Colleges: Are the Lines Blurring or is it Just Me?

I’m always on the lookout for innovations in higher education, and with technology changing all aspects of life as we used to know it, higher education will continue changing. For instance, many students take classes online. Some may take a course or two online while attending college as others complete their whole degree without ever setting foot onto a brick and mortar campus. In fact, two of my current favorites are Western Governor’s University (totally online and competency-based) and Arizona State University’s pay if you pass freshman year program.

I’ve worked in higher education a long time and have my bias. I’ll admit it. One of them is for-profit colleges. Overall, I don’t care for their model. Really! I would never send anyone to one. Their first business principal is to make money for shareholders. And many, while providing education, don’t seem to be placing much emphasis on the learning that takes place or the well-being of the student. In fact, as the federal government started withholding financial aid, colleges started closing.

So here’s a conundrum. Non-profit colleges are raking in money too. Hopefully they’re reinvesting in students and services, but with ever-rising tuition, it feels like a gouge. That’s why I urge students and parents to become wise consumers of higher education. Figure out their goals so they are better able to make wise choices.

Now there seems to be a hybrid model of for-profit colleges – those that unabashedly make money while providing an educational experience. Several that leave me scratching my head are Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix, and now Minerva Schools at KGI.

Let’s take them one at a time:

I’ve not really been a fan of University of Phoenix. Several friends have taught for them and the consensus was they paid low adjunct wages and students didn’t want to work as hard as the instructor thought they needed to for a grade. That said, they were one of the first out there filling the need of education that worked with adult schedules as opposed to traditional schools that wanted students to quit jobs to adhere to limited class offerings. Good thing that’s changed!

Now Grand Canyon University has a campus as well as online programs. Within their campus, they have Division II sports teams and are hoping to enter the WAC. That’s certainly not what one expects from a for-profit. They’re tuition for on-campus classes competes with non-profit colleges. They’re accredited. They make money via their online classes. But guess what? Non-profit colleges make money online too. Online is the latest cash cow. I know as I’ve paid out big bucks for online classes. I have a daily Google search on Grand Canyon because it’s one of my favorite places; I mean the real Grand Canyon – the hole in the ground. Consequently I receive notifications about GC University’s stock and growth projections. If they paid dividends, I might even invest as it seems to be poised for growth in 2017.

Minerva Schools at KGI looks like a new arena, a new concept – the world as the classroom. Students attend the first year at their San Fran campus and then travel to a new world city every semester with a small cohort of students. London, Berlin, Seoul, Buenos Aires – living in the culture and solving real-world issues via critical and creative thinking skills. Wow! Accredited! Detractors point to less than 2% acceptance rate in the first two classes and their saying they are a prestigious alternative to an Ivy League education. Saying it doesn’t make it so. I’m not even sure if they are for-profit or not-for-profit because their website say non-profit while reviews say they are for-profit.

Has the whole for-profit vs. non-profit argument run its course? I worked for a non-profit for 18 years, Let me tell you, there was a whole lot of talk about making money. For-profits often give tremendous amounts of money away too. Look at company foundations as an example. The lines feel as if they’re blurring in my mind.

Here’s the deal: I’m confused. I can’t make up my mind even though I read about colleges and college choices daily. Innovations in education or new wrinkle in scams? Sour grapes from tradition educators? And here’s a link to a news brief that came in on outcomes of student performance comparisons between for-profit school graduates vs. non-profit college graduates. http://www.educationdive.com/news/report-some-for-profit-students-outperform-peers-from-traditional-institut/433719/

I know for sure that higher education is one of many businesses that will continue to change as technology advances. Now, maybe more than ever, it’s up to students and parents to educate themselves on potential higher education choices. Start by deciding educational goals, needs, and affordability. The old adage, Buyer Beware, stays in play, whatever choices made.


Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.


College Readiness – It’s in the Math

College Readiness – It’s in the Math

What academic courses do high school students need to take to be pass their college courses when they arrive on campus? That’s the $10,000 question since scholarships are tied to students passing their courses. It seems a waste for students and parents to invest time, energy, and money in the whole college planning process only to find that when students arrive on campus, they’re not ready to do the work required in classes. The harsh reality is many students find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of academic content covered in college.

Here’s the bottom line: Students need to take as much and as rigorous of a schedule of academic content as they can in high school to be prepared for college. I recommend four years of English, math, social sciences, and hard sciences. Additionally, many colleges require courses of foreign language and computer science (sometimes counted as a foreign language).

For years, I spoke to secondary school leaders about using data to improve instructional practices. The truth is parents and students can use data to make informed decisions too. Data informs us, and the drama of the college preparation dilemma plays out most dramatically when looking at math standardized test scores.

ACT reports out math scores by students’ self-reported course taking patterns. Here are math scores for the graduating class of 2016:


What does this information tell us? In general terms, the more math a student takes and the more rigorous the math courses are, the better the student does on the ACT math portion. That makes sense as The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test. More math = more math knowledge = higher math scores.

Did you know that ACT also publishes math college readiness scores? The benchmark for predicted academic success in College Algebra, typically the first class that will count toward graduation and not considered a remedial class, is 22. That means a 50% chance of making a grade of B or a 75% chance of making a C.

Let’s look at the three largest population groups in math taking patterns reported by students:

Other comb of 4 or more year of Math – 33% of students take this pattern with an average math score of 23.6

Alg1, Alg2, Geo, & Other Adv Math – 18% of students take this pattern with an average math score of 19.3

Alg1, Alg2, Geo – 12% of student take this pattern with an average math score of 16.8.

Three years of math, starting with Algebra 1 in high school, doesn’t make a student ready for college algebra. Students taking this math sequence in high school could be placed in remedial math in college.

Students who are taking advanced math courses do better on the ACT math test. What are the advanced courses? Many students take Algebra 1 in grade 8 so they can take more advanced math in high school. Although I can’t be certain, I’m going to take a leap of faith and write that students may be checking other combinations of 4 years of math because they’re taking AP or IB math courses. Maybe their fourth year of math is labeled as Pre-Calculus at their high school.

Here’s the point I. If students are not taking four years of rigorous math in high school, and worse, if they are only taking three years of math in high school, neither they nor their parents should be surprised when the student is placed in remedial math in college.

Do the work in high school or do it in college. Do the remedial work in college and be prepared to pay the tuition for a class that doesn’t count toward graduation.

You do the math!        


If you want to learn about other ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, visit https://www.act.org/content/act/en/education-and-career-planning/college-and-career-readiness-standards/benchmarks.html

Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/.

College Essay – You, the Hero, Take a Journey

College Essay – You, the Hero, Take a Journey

Haven’t started your college essay yet and it’s due soon. Oops! I know you meant start weeks ago, but life got in the way and now it seems like a daunting task. Let’s see if this helps.

What’s your favorite movie? What’s your favorite fictional story or book? Mine is Wizard of Oz. In fact, I have the DVD from Netflix and watched it five times over Christmas. What’s so great about this classic? It’s the same story with Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker – Hero Takes a Journey. In fact, the hero takes a journey and its cousin, stranger comes to town, are two themes that form the basis of most fictional books and movies. When hero’s bloom or stranger’s arrive, things start shaken.

From left to right, Clara Blandick, Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton and Charley Grapewin star in the MGM film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, 1939. In this scene, Almira Gulch arrives to take Dorothy’s dog Toto away for termination, after he bit her. (Photo by MGM Studios/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

You’re the hero in your essay and you are called to action. Dorothy was called to action when Miss Gulch took Toto. Harry Potter was called when Hogwarts accepted him even when he didn’t know he’d applied. If neither had responded to the call, there wouldn’t have been a movie, right?

Heroes face obstacles and challenges that must be overcome. Dorothy had to find her way to Oz and take the broom away from the Wicked Witch. Harry had to keep himself safe from those who wanted to kill him. Each learned something during their adventure. Both had external as well as internal growth. Harry gained the confidence in his abilities to defeat the dark powers. Dorothy learned that home was where she belonged.

You get the idea, right? You, the hero, take a journey in your essay. You don’t have to land in Oz or fly to Hogwarts to be a hero. Let me demonstrate with a sentence outline:

I used to work at a fast food restaurant and ate there every time I worked.

We used to put dull pennies in the hot sauce for a few minutes until they turned shiny.

We joked about what it was doing to our stomachs. (Call to Action) I became concerned.

I researched information about fast food for a school paper I had to write. (Begin journey) Boy, was I surprised at what I learned.

I quit. It took a while but I found a job in a natural grocery store so I could learn healthier eating.

I haven’t eaten fast food since. I lost twenty pounds and my acne cleared.

People noticed. I started talking about food choices and its impact on weight and skin. Some people made joked but others listened. (obstacles)

A few of us started bringing lunches and then started a nutrition club at our high school. We are working toward healthier food choices in the cafeteria. The cooks weren’t interested at first because they were used to their style of cooking. People from the natural grocery store came and gave training on healthier cooking.

I want to major in nutrition in college so I can continue helping people with healthy food choices. (resolution) Boy, I’m happy I learned about pennies in hot sauce.

Do you see that one event, putting pennies into hot sauce, started a chain of events that led to both external and internal changes? Bonus points for starting a club and bringing people from the community into the school. That demonstrated leadership and communication skills without blatantly writing that you’re a leader who knows how to communicate (It’s show, don’t tell).

Okay, what have you got? Doesn’t have to be big. The truth is it’s often the small things that provide big lessons. Where have you been called to adventure?

Dorothy learned home was where she wanted to be. Harry learned he had the courage to meet his fears.

Just to point this out in case you didn’t notice: I didn’t start with the essay. I wrote sentences, sixteen sentences, that formed a story foundation. From those sentences, I’ll add information and images to flesh out the essay. Truth is, with sixteen sentences I’m almost halfway finished. Colleges don’t want a book.

Last tip. Writing is rewriting. Once you’ve written sentences and added to them, let the paper rest. Come back and you’ll be surprised what you will want to add (and delete). Repeat three or four times to build your essay into one that stands out from the students who rushed through their writing. The application reader will know! And once you have this basic story, you will find you can shape it to fit most college application essays.

Why? They want personal stories about what makes you a hero.

Kira Janene Holt writes and blogs on college planning at www.CollegePlanCoach.com. Find her books on college planning at https://www.amazon.com/Kira-Janene-Holt/e/B006Q9ZCZ2/. Ask her questions or suggest blog topics at KiraJaneneHolt@gmail.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirajaneneholt