#115 Making the Final College Decision with Marni Levine Transcript



Lisa Marker Robbins  01:01

As high school seniors stare down graduation, deciding which college to attend becomes more than just a choice, it’s a step toward their future. Joining us to tackle this monumental decision is Mari Levine, a seasoned IAC offering advice not just for seniors, but for any student navigating the college bound journey, so stick with us even if you have an underclassman. Marty will guide us through the critical aspects of making a final college decision. From the role of campus visits to understanding the nuances of choosing a major, we’ll explore the financial considerations that can impact your decision how to approach unexpected aid opportunities, and the flexibility colleges may offer even after application and admission. Marty’s advice doesn’t stop there. For those facing affordability, challenges or doubts about their path. We’ll discuss alternatives such as community college gap years, or refining your college list for re application. Whether you’re a senior making your final decision, or an underclassmen and planning ahead, this conversation is packed with actionable insights. Together, we’ll navigate the complexities of choosing the right college and major I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Marnie, welcome back to the show.


Marni Levine  02:35

Hi, I’m so happy to be here. You’re


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:38

a fantastic guest. Thanks for making the time. I love it. So we are recording this, we should say on March 1 2024. And we’re going to try to get it out quickly. Because really, you know, by the end of March, all of our seniors and I want to say real quick if if somebody has an underclassmen, and they’re listening are like, Oh, this is for families with seniors? No, it’s not. Because the advice that we’re going to give on how to make make that final decision on which college to attend will help guide families with younger students as well. But this is timely for the seniors, and informative for those with freshman sophomore, junior, and because this will be you pretty soon. So it comes down to the wire. I mean, you and I know by the end of March students, while some colleges let their students know very, very quickly that they’re in or deferred or not accepted. You will know all of your options by the end of March, no matter where you applied. Hopefully, it is this year, we may not know financial aid offers because in 2024, the FAFSA is messed up.


Marni Levine  04:02

Yeah, and that’s causing a lot of schools to delay, give their give some of their decisions, but also extend the period of time that students have to be able to commit to a particular school. They’re giving students a little bit more time right now to figure out what were the right places for them while they’re waiting for those financial aid.


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:24

I think that’s a great place to start really is when tip in a typical year. You really have to make a decision by May 1. Yes,


Marni Levine  04:35

that’s usually the deadline. And this year some schools have pushed that back to June 1, just because that federal aid form is is a little delayed. But for the most part, students have been getting decisions back from schools. And they’ve been collecting those decisions from rolling schools early in the year August, September, October and up early action, early decision, and now they’re waiting mostly for regular decision schools, which, as you said, come pretty much by the end of March. And then it’s time to choose. Absolutely.


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:12

So as you’re working as an IEC, supporting families, of course, a family that worked with Marnie is going to have a good college list. And so they applied to they did the work on the front end, and they applied to the right schools, a nice mix of schools. And now they’re coming back and chat with you. And March or April. And, obviously, I mean, I’ve always found, they probably can eliminate some of the schools where they got in easily, right.


Marni Levine  05:45

Yeah, I feel like when we develop a list, the goal is foundation up, I no longer call those like leaves or safeties, because I just don’t think they are anymore. And I also think it’s a little derogatory, I think Foundation, right, that’s what we’re going to build up from. So the goal is, is that the foundation school should be something that you’re proud of, and excited to go to, it shouldn’t be something that, you know, maybe you could just toss out, though, there usually are one or two that aren’t a perfect fit for you in a perfect world. But by this time of year, most of my clients and most students hopefully have, you know, several acceptances, and they’re trying to make a decision on where to attend. Where are they ultimately going to buy this education, get this education use this education? And, you know, where is that perfect place for them?


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:45

So that family lanes into this point, you know, the student, well, you know, the parents, and they’re sitting around the table in your office? Or maybe you guys are on a zoom call? And where do you start? Like, how do you if they’re down to like, gosh, I’m really stuck on these final two to three or four schools? And yes, I have these options over here. And I’ve decided I’m definitely not going to these schools. Let’s wire into like, how do you give guidance? What are the questions they should be asking themselves?


Marni Levine  07:17

So the first question to me is, did you visit the school? Have you stepped foot on the campus? Because you would not believe how many kids just build a college list without really seeing schools? And, you know, that’s understandable, because it’s costly to go visit? It’s time consuming?


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:37

Yeah. Well, you know, what it makes me think of is, do you believe, and there’s different schools of thought out there, but in your practice, to students sometimes apply to schools that they didn’t get on campus before the application was do?


Marni Levine  07:56

Many? Okay,


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:57

so it’s okay to parents. I mean, if you’re multitasking, listen to this, like it’s okay to apply to a school. It was what I’m hearing you say, apply to a school that you maybe haven’t visited? Because for all the reasons you just said, money, time, all the things. But don’t enroll at a school that you haven’t gotten on campus? Absolutely


Marni Levine  08:15

not. Because many times we choose those schools based on something ethereal, right? It’s a name, it’s my cousin’s cousin went there, my best friend goes there. And he’s happy, my camp friend goes there, and she’s happy. So to me, yes, you know, sometimes you have to choose a school. Without seeing it. Those schools might not consider demonstrated interest, it might be costly to go visit again. But you can never attend a school that you have not seen for yourself, you must do your due diligence, right? You’ve got to get on campus. The best way to do that, at this time of year, our admitted students days there, their incredible schools, roll out the red carpet for you. And you will see other students who are in you’re not looking at it anymore from the perspective of Oh, my I’d love to come here or Oh, I wish I could get in here. Now you’re in the school wants you and you’ll see other kids who are in the same position as you and other families who are in the same position as you and you’ll be able to see do I see myself here?


Lisa Marker Robbins  09:25

I love that a great advice. And you know, if somebody’s got a younger student who hasn’t applied yet, and they’re listening, I always say to families, like be sure that you’re looking at your high school academic calendar. And you’re creating the space for this kind of a second round second tour, and the winter and spring of the senior year, because I even found with my own children as well as kids that I advise some of the schools that they visited early. They wanted to do a second visit to when they were making that final decision. Oh, absolutely,


Marni Levine  10:01

I think that there’s so much growth. Sometimes we see a school and sophomore year or freshman year, you’re going with an older sibling, or you’re going to a game because your parents, you know, are alums at that school, and you’re going, you know, to visit or you’re by relatives, whatever the reason is, now you’ve grown and you’ve changed, and you’ve got to see it for yourself. And also college campuses are very fluid, right? Things change on college campuses. So is there construction going on? Is the culture, the political environment, something that you’re comfortable with? Do you want to be go Greek, you know, maybe earlier on, you didn’t want to be in a sorority or fraternity. Now, these are things that you’ve got to consider. Because you’re going to be living there for four years. And, you know, the truth is, you’ve got to see yourself there, you’ve got to talk to other kids on campus. And you’ve got to know, and parents have to know if it’s right for them. This comfortable.


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:58

So Okay, step number one, if you haven’t visited, visit, or if you did visit, and you’re kind of like I visited that one, but that one, take the time to get on campus. So then what’s your second filter?


Marni Levine  11:11

The second filter is we must talk about your major at you know, amen, right?


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:19

Well, no, Lisa’s passion and purpose in life is to help kids figure this piece out. So run with it, but Amen. It’s


Marni Levine  11:26

the now you’re you’re comfortable, you know, okay, I’m gonna be happy here. Everything the culture fits, what I what I want. Now, the only way to compare schools is by major. So you’re comfortable on campus A and B, are you admitted directly to your major on both campuses? If you are not admitted to your major, directly, then what is your pathway into that? Major? Will you need to get a certain grade point average? Are there prereqs? Is there good advising?


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:03

Is there a pasady?


Marni Levine  12:05

Is there capacity, you know, there are many capped majors, that means a major is limited to a certain amount of seats. You and I, Lisa, were just talking about certain states that limit that to in their own in state students. So if you’re going out of state to accomplish,


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:23

shout it out, like University of Arkansas comes right out and says, If you are, if you want to study nursing, or architecture, we do not allow out of state students to come in that is a capacity cap.


Marni Levine  12:34

You know, and that’s something that’s really important, because hopefully you did your research, and you knew that if you wanted to be a nursing or an architecture major, but perhaps it wasn’t clear, you know, on the website, or you didn’t hear it or you missed it. And now all of a sudden, it’s something that you need to consider.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:53

Well, I think you also bring up a good point, like, hopefully you did your research, but I think we both know that there are lots of families that, you know, I think it falls into two categories, somebody who is very thoughtful with their lists, like somebody who’s working with you put a lot of time, money and effort into a good list. And we’re gonna have listeners who did this on their own. And they maybe maybe that was their first kid and they didn’t know what to ask or, and I hate to say they had a bad list, they have a list that doesn’t necessarily fit in. So there’s two different sets of families out there. I mean, I heard from a mom this week, it broke my heart because she said or maybe it was last week. But she said, I’ve been a longtime follower of yours. And I looked at our emails, and she clicked through and listened to like every podcast episode, right? She said, for four years I’ve been I haven’t had a podcast for four years. But she said for four years I’ve been following along. And my daughter always had confidence that she wanted to be an engineer. But she never did any job, shadows, informational interviews, didn’t really dig in to find it out. And now she’s completely freaking out. Because she’s ended all She’s admitted to engineering at all of her school. She’s a senior now, she got engineering specific scholarships. And now she’s doubting that that’s her path. You know, now we need your course, can we get in right away? And we’re gonna fast track them through the course. But it broke my heart because that was a family who thought they knew. But I think you’re you know, and now she’s saying like, I might need a different major at these schools. And how would that work? So you’re makin question. Yeah, yeah.


Marni Levine  14:29

And that it’s really difficult because it’s not always clear as it was, as you and I know, right? And so now going in and trying to figure out, can I get into a different major? What would I need? Is that going to add yours? My education? Is that going to add cost to my education? Or is there a better place for me? Where, you know, I might be admitted to the whole school. There’s few of those but there are certain schools where you’re not admitted directly to a major. And that might work for a student who doesn’t want to be an engineering major anymore, you know?


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:10

Well, we were talking about that research project that we just did. So we reached out to the state flagship university for all 50 states, and out of the 50 states are only eight that admit to the university, but not to the major. And it’s good to know that, like, it’s good for families to know, where do I have an assured path? Where will it be easy to change majors? Where do I not have to know before I go, and Where must I mean, I’ll link to it in the show notes. But that’s at florist coaching, co.com, forward slash majors, because we want to be transparent. And while I a lot of colleges, it’s not like they’re trying to hide this, but there’s so much information families need to know, they don’t need, they don’t know how to get to that piece.


Marni Levine  15:56

Yeah, and students do need flexibility, you know, they’re not necessarily going to stay on the same path. Always. Hopefully, if they come to you, or to me, they’re gonna work, yeah, have a better chance. But it’s possible that they’re not. And you need to understand again, what you’re going to be able to accomplish within those four years that you’re there. So that’s something that I would talk to everybody about, at this point, what are you holding in your hands? What chords Do you have? Right? Well,


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:25

you brought something up to as you were talking about that, like, if I have to switch majors, is that going to keep me in school longer? And now it’s going to cost more? So talk about the financial filter? So you know, have you been on campus? On the campus visit? Do you are you admitted directly to your major and you know what your options are? So money’s the third one, right? Money


Marni Levine  16:47

would be definitely the third, I actually to me, money should be first. And it’s almost off the table at this point. Money at this point, once you’re in, if you planned wisely, hopefully you were aware of what the costs would be that you’d be able to afford it. And that now we’re holding apples to apples in our hands, right. So that we know that if we’ve got five yeses at this point, at the beginning of March, they are schools that I can afford. However, there are perks, there are places where you might be given merit money that you didn’t expect, you might have been offered an honors program that came with a stipend, you or research that came with a stipend, you might have all of a sudden fallen in love with a state school versus a private school and the costs would be a little bit different there. You might have decided that you want to go on to graduate school in the last year, and maybe what you had in the bank needs to stretch a little bit further. So there are, you know, definitely considerations. And I think money is a perk, guys, they use brains for bucks, why not take the money


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:01

use brains for.


Marni Levine  18:03

So, you know, I get kids all the time who are admitted maybe to that foundation level school that we put on their list, and they’ve been offered nice merit scholarships. At that point, you’ve got to consider, you know, what does that mean? In my in, you know, in three years to me or four years to me, for families, they may have other kids coming up the pike right now they might think I can afford it, there’s financial changes that could happen, why not take that money? You know, to me, it’s definitely worth considering. And I don’t love when people say, Don’t go to that foundation school or you’re better than that foundation school go. Just that that’s ridiculous, you know, your we chose that foundation school for a reason. Because you’d be proud if you got that money or that honors program where it would have value to you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:56

Well, that and that’s what was gonna say this foundation schools will tend to be not only the ones that are giving merit aid, but where you’re going to have more of, there’s less competition, and you’re, you’re the cream of the crop at that school. So you’re going to have honors programs with smaller class size, you might have the honors dorm, you might have those research opportunities. And, you know, you’ve got to have those foundation schools on and many times I’ve seen students choose them ultimately, because of the perks. opportunity


Marni Levine  19:26

comes at the top of the class, your professors will know you, you know, they’ll recommend you for research, they’ll recommend you for internships, they’ll recommend you for jobs, you know, if you’re the kid struggling at the bottom of the class, it’s going to be rough to get those opportunities. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:43

so you made a good point about if somebody’s got a good list and they did the work. They have a list of schools that are going to be in budget like you shouldn’t even apply if it was going to be out of budget.


Marni Levine  19:58

I don’t think you should I mean, I I think that sometimes I hear family say, we’ll figure it out if you know, let’s see what happens. But even I, as a parent, had my family financial circumstances change with my oldest son. And, you know, while we said, oh, we’ll figure it out, I was pretty happy when he chose our State University. When


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:21

you didn’t have to figure it out. When I didn’t have to figure, what would your advice be to a family I a school had me in this is, I mean, this is pre COVID. It’s a number of years ago, but a school had me in to give a presentation in March one year. And I was not speaking just to seniors, I was speaking to all you know, in general, freshmen through seniors, a senior mom during the q&a session raised her hand and she said, you know, we’re sitting here with these options, my daughter’s got four schools that she’s into, they have her major, she likes the schools, we can’t afford any of them. And so this goes back to this good list, bad list. If a family finds themselves, first of all, if you’re underclassmen, figure out the budget before your kids falling in love with us campus and applying. If you have a senior and you happen to be listening in, you’re like, realistically, this is going to stretch us and we’re nervous and or we cannot afford it this mom, so we can’t afford any of my daughter’s options. Like, I know the families you’re working with aren’t going to be in that situation. However, what advice do you give? I know what I said, I want to hear what you would say and that I


Marni Levine  21:39

think that there are lots of options for a kid like that. Right?


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:43

Okay, so I hope there is hope all is not lost.


Marni Levine  21:48

There’s always hope, right? Because not all paths are four years, sometimes it takes a little longer sometimes. But there’s a few things you could do number one, you know, I would first look at all those schools and see what opportunities that those schools are there for any scholarships that she might be eligible for, that you didn’t know about before. You could check that out, you should also check and see does that to any of those universities take any of her AP credits or dual enrollment credits, because sometimes that can shave half a year, you know, off of school, and that might, you know, ultimately make it a little more affordable.


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:25

Well, that what I just heard right there is don’t think about just what freshman year costs, but think about what the whole time to graduation costs, right? I think sometimes we make a mistake, I see families talking about this, they make a mistake of thinking like they’re talking about it in terms of one year of college what it costs. But really, if you’re getting out a semester or a full year early, which a lot of kids can if they do it wisely, look at that total cost of attendance from freshman year to graduation, right? Absolutely.


Marni Levine  22:57

And there’s always ways to make it shorter, right, there’s always community college or local classes that you can take that are less expensive, where we can be able to say, okay, I can shave off a half a year, and that’s a lot of money in the end. So I recommend students do that anyway, it makes life easier. Even if it doesn’t make it less expensive than the antic they stay. Another thing that students in that position could do is consider one or two years of community college, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s a huge money saver. Many of the local community colleges in certain states have pathway programs to the big state flagships. So that’s wonderful. Another thing would be a gap year, there are so many great actual programs right now, that could buy them time to create a better list.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:51

That’s why we actually have done two episodes before on gap years. One was a solo and one I had a guest. And I think sometimes people hear like, well, but that’s more money. But it doesn’t have to be like we gave great ideas and I’ll link to both of those episodes in the show notes. But we gave great ideas of like DIY gap your is not like sit around and play video games, no.


Marni Levine  24:15

Gap your has to be do something meaningful. So you could volunteer at a hospital or work at a hospital if you thought you wanted pre med or, you know, you could try to find a research opportunity or you could do something hands on where you gain a skill that you might need for a future career. So if you wanted to be an audiologist, for example, you might get a hearing aid certification that takes about a year as far as I know from my niece, who’s an audiologist. You know, there are different things that you can do to make that year still have value and during that year, then you reapply wisely. Yes.


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:55

So you’ve got the list of good schools. So Look for scholarship opportunities. I think some families do miss that. There can be scholarships that have additional applications that you just weren’t automatically, you know, automatically considered for, I think to like, if it’s a family who maybe that school was affordable when you applied, but you have had a change in circumstances, you know, going in and doing an appeal, and having them look at your financial aid package, because maybe you’ve had a job loss where maybe there’s a medical need in the family now that you I’ve navigated that with families before. And there might be some wiggle room.


Marni Levine  25:42

Yeah, always ask, it never can hurt to ask, they can take away your Yes. Right. So it always, it’s always worth, you know, saying, hey, you know, is there anything you can do. And if it doesn’t work out, you did your best you asked, and now you make your choice for what you’re going to do in that next year. But you can’t just sit around and, you know, it’s it’s insanity to think that you’ll just do it the same way and nothing will change, you know, or something will change, you have to then create a change, right? You have to look for schools that are more affordable, you have to look for different pathways. And, and there are so many colleges out there, don’t just look at what’s right in front of you, or the 10 names that you know, dig in and see what’s in your budget.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:26

I mean, there’s literally over 30 704 year, private and public, private, nonprofit and public universities. So there is something you know, and I think to Well, I want to go back to something you said because I don’t want somebody is we’re closing here. I don’t want anybody to miss this point. They can’t take their yes away. I actually have had families not realize that before, where I’m like, contact them and see if they can do anything about your financial aid package, or a kid change. I could finally dug in senior year and got clarity on their major and they want to they were admitted to one major, but they actually want another one. I’m like, all you can do is ask they’re not going to suddenly say like, oh, because you asked that question. Nope. We don’t want you anymore. They’re not going to take away their Yes. And you said that quickly. But I’m like, I wanted to reiterate it because it’s such wise advice. And, and it should make us wise consumers and bold to ask for what we need. Definitely.


Marni Levine  27:27

And I really I just had a client who believed in the beginning, they wanted kinesiology, they decided they want business since then. And they’re in a big state flagship. That’s pretty exclusive. And I spent just ask, and they asked, and they approved it. So now that’s an option for that student where it wasn’t going to be a valuable option for them before.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:53

I had a student a couple years ago, they applied engineering at a state flagship they got into engineering. They took their Burkman personality assessment with me like later in the years when I met them. And they really figured out that they were pre engineering where they got in. But the business school at the school was a directed met, and they decided they actually want in need finance. And I’m like, just as they asked in April of their senior year, and they approved it. So what same outcome, right?


Marni Levine  28:26

Right, you can only ask and and if somebody says no, then that might be back to our original topic of reason not to go to a school, right, the pathway there isn’t going to be for you. So always ask and always do the research, because the ultimate goal is to get a job. After this, you know, you need a career after this. And so, you know, that is while college is fun, and it’s a growth experience and a learning experience. It is about eventually being able to come out and adults. And you need to know that you’ve got about a degree that had value to


Lisa Marker Robbins  29:00

very good. Well, this has been so helpful. And I love that we’ve got actionable items for a family in the throes of this right now with a senior. And I think that this is so helpful if somebody has a freshman, sophomore or junior on how to do this, right so that they’ll still have to do this process come the spring of senior year, like really weigh the options. However, they’re gonna have good options. Yeah,


Marni Levine  29:28

I think if they look at those things, and there’s a lot of resources out there, they can look on common data set, they can look at college navigator, they can see how many kids graduate with a particular degree from that school. What are the career resources that are available to a student? Those are things parents can actually help with while the students are figuring out is the culture something that I love? What major do I want to be, but parents can really see you know, behind the scenes kind of some of the data that would make a call pledge valuable and that way when it comes to this time of the year, they can help guide the student and a wise decision. So Marnie,


Lisa Marker Robbins  30:07

obviously, you are a great resource if families want to stay in touch, or learn more about working with you, how did they do so


Marni Levine  30:18

they can go to my website, college marnie.com. And all of my contact information is there, they can see what we’re all about. They can follow me on social media, we do some great takeovers, you and I are doing some collaborations there. So they could go to college, Marni underscore on Instagram and they can find some of the collabs that you and I are doing.


Lisa Marker Robbins  30:42

There. You’re an excellent Instagram follow. So because you know, you also are not just sharing your voice, you’re sharing the voice of the students that you’ve worked with, who are now on their campuses. And that’s what we want to get out to families. Thanks happy on their campus and happy on those. I know this will not be your last time. So until next time, thanks.


Marni Levine  31:04

Thank you have a great day.


Lisa Marker Robbins  31:12

As we wrap up our conversation with Marty Levine on making that pivotal college final decision. It’s clear the journey to selecting the right college and major involves thoughtful consideration, exploration and some strategic planning. Marty has provided us with a wealth of information from understanding the importance of campus visits to evaluating financial aid options and beyond. For those of you looking to dive deeper into making an informed college choice, particularly when it comes to selecting a major, I have a resource to help you roll out war in a college based on the number of students earning a specific major at a college. This information can be crucial in understanding the size of programs you’re interested in, and whether the colleges on your list are investing in those majors. Remember, it can be a red flag when only a few graduate in a particular major. My step by step instructional video is that flourish coaching co.com forward slash numbers. I’ll link to it in the show notes to this video and many more resources are on our website. And they’re designed to guide you through the college selection process is just one of the tools we’ve created to help students and their families navigate these important decisions confidently and clearly. Thank you for joining us on College and Career Clarity. If this episode has helped you or could aid someone else you know this on their college decision journey, please share it. Following the podcast rating and leaving a review also greatly supports our mission to assist more families in creating successful futures.