NFHS Guidance Newsletter

Summer - 2nd Edition

Included in the Summer - 2nd Edition are the following articles:

Is College an Investment?

Summer Reading

Community Service

Junior Planning Checklist

Internet Safety - What Parents Should be Aware of

Is College an Investment? by Dr. Przytula

Is College an Investment?

For most parents the cost of their child’s post high school education ranks second only to their home purchase as their biggest lifetime expense. Parents sending more than one child to college could conceivably spend more money on college costs than the purchase price of their home. Few would argue that purchasing a home and maintaining it over time is a logical and sound investment, but what about money used for their children’s college education? Is college a good investment? The answer is complicated and certainly varies from situation to situation.

There are many opinions on this subject. Some of the experts on the subject like former U. S. Education Secretary, William Bennett, clearly do not think college was a good investment. In his book, Is College Worth it?(2013) Bennett argued that since most college graduates are unemployed or underemployed after graduation that they do not get a return on their investment.

Another expert weighing in on the subject, Jeffrey Selingo, an editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of College (Un)Bound (2013) argues that colleges and universities have not provided an increase in value commensurate with their increase in costs. He thinks colleges are spending too much money on non-academic attractions like hotel-like dorms and extra amenities while cramming more students in lectures taught by teaching assistants.

David Leonhardt, a New York Times editor (April 26, 2015) has a different view. He believes that the salary gap between college graduates and non-college graduates will pay the average student loan debt many times over a lifetime. He thinks it is destructive to send our students the message that we are in a college debt bubble and that we are over-investing in college.

Let’s examine these different arguments. Few would argue that financial investments need to pay back a 100% return immediately, so the employment status of graduates immediately after graduation is a poor measure of long term value. The College Board commissioned a study which found that the average college loan debt of graduates in 2013 to be $28,000, only a 2% increase from the Class of 2012. What most people miss when looking at student debt is that approximately one-fifth of that debt was from private sources and four-fifths from government sponsored loans. This statistic invites further investigation.

The maximum students may borrow under the government loan programs is limited each year to avoid over-borrowing by students and are “guaranteed” back to the lender. Private loans have no limits and usually carry much higher interest rates due to the risk of not being paid back. The average student debt among Connecticut college graduates was slightly higher than the national average and ranks among the highest ten states for student indebtedness. A student paying back the $30,000 debt over ten or fifteen years under the lower government -sponsored rates is not prohibitive where a student paying back private loans which can exceed the ceiling set by government-backed loans can be.

When students find themselves in a position of having to borrow from private sources in order to afford the college tuition, this could be a red flag. Are they attracted to the college because of its academic programs or are they tempted by the deluxe accommodations and world class food plan? If it is the amenities and not the educational value of a school, students may want to seek out a college that is more affordable or one that is commutable where they could save on the cost of room and board.

For those who qualify for private loans there is no limit on the amount of money parents can borrow for their children’s education, and they will not benefit from the government’s low student loan interest rates. Parents should also examine carefully college’s financial aid packages and guide their child toward a decision that is financially palatable for the whole family. A basic borrowing rule of thumb is to not borrow more than one’s expected first year salary after graduation. A graduate earning $50,000 will find paying back $100,000 in loans extremely difficult.

If one is going to college solely to “get a good-paying job” the student may want to consider other alternatives to college. Carpenters, plumbers and electricians are examples of careers that often pay higher salaries than teachers, social workers and nurses, all of which require a minimum of four years of college. Community Colleges can also offer a more direct route to a profession at a fraction of the cost of going to a state university or getting a liberal arts education at a pricey private school. For some, the five branches of the military, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard have very different expectations and requirements. The students choosing this route can train for a career, receive job training and even get help paying for college.

No one path is right for everyone. There are many factors to consider when looking at the world of education and training beyond high school. Families can determine which path makes sense, but this life-changing decision requires research and self-examination and a great deal of thought. We hope that we have given you some information that will help you along this important journey for you and your child.

Summer Reading by Kate Luce

Encourage your student to Read, Read READ!

How many summers have you been advised to get your kids reading in the summer? As many summers as your kids have been in school, I imagine. Why is there such a push for kids to read in the summer? Students’ reading achievement correlates with success in school and the amount of independent reading they do.” according to Bernice E. Cullinan in her article, Independent Reading and School Achievement.

The fact that reading is so important is not rocket science. Convincing your child to read during the summer on the other hand, may seem as impossible as a manned rocket ship successfully reaching Mars. Here are some helpful hints:

Don’t insist on great works of literature. Encourage your student to find books in his/her area of interest:

  • If your child hates fiction but loves skateboarding or dancing or insects or is fascinated by cars, loves sports or wants to be a veterinarian finding fiction books with characters who share their interests can sometimes help them to get involved in fiction.
  • Non-fiction books are just as valuable as fiction. Maybe your child is more of a”facts” person. There are non-fiction books about every imaginable subject.

Remember that reading of any kind is beneficial. In addition to books there are many sources on the internet for reading. Here is a sampling:

If your student absolutely DOES NOT want to read then next time they get on the internet point them to some of the following sites for podcasts about interesting subjects. for all the Ted Talks

Search the web for documentaries on subjects that interest them.

Even if they are not reading they will be learning about interesting things. Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. We have a rich world out there. Help you student learn more about it!

Community Service - by Stephanie Romano

As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” The summer is a great time to work towards your community service goals to impact your community as well as to start finding yourself as a young adult. New Fairfield High School requires students to complete 15 hours a year, however, your desire to complete community service should be more than just for a graduation requirement. There is a multitude of extensive research out there supporting this point of view, however I found the most profound, and simple explanation for the importance of volunteering is from the words of a high school senior. In her article, “6 Reasons Why Volunteering is Important (and Awesome!)”, Alexis Zimmer simply explains why all high school students should embrace the excitement around community service.

You can read the whole article here: but she lists the six reasons as follows:

1. Gaining New Insights & Experiences

2. Giving Back & Helping Others

3. Meeting New People & Making Connections

4. A Sense of Accomplishment

5. Building Career Options

6. The College Admissions Process

Like Alexis, New Fairfield High School feels that community service helps to define our students. It’s a chance for them to explore their passion, give back to the community, and learn more about themselves than they could in a classroom setting. Spending yoursummer committing to community service is more than just about how many hours you put in, rather the life lessons you learn from interacting with people and organizations where your few hours may mean more to them then you’d imagine. And you never know when your selflessness pays off; whether in making new friends, meeting connections for job opportunities, or just heightening your confidence and self awareness, you’ll truly gain something from your time. So explore areas that interest you, get contact information for those organizations and ask how you can volunteer to make a difference!

To log your hours for your community service, you can find forms in the guidance office and the College and Career Center. Don’t just stop at the required amount for graduation either; many scholarships are available to students with high numbers of community service hours so hand in a log for everything. Keep in mind that committing to one organization over a long duration of time is more beneficial than just doing a couple of hours at different events here and there. Lastly, think outside the box! Most students find that they earn a lot of community service hours through the sports and clubs they are already involved with. However, looking to an elderly neighbor that may need help with lawn work or grocery shopping, a non-profit organization fighting for a cause you believe in, or helping with charity events can be just as fulfilling and open more opportunities for you.

Junior Planning Checklist by MaryAnn Smyth and Lisa Dighton

JUNIOR 2015 Checklist

Where should I be in the College Search Process?


  • I have met with my counselor (and my parents) for an individual college planning meeting.
  • I have asked TWO teachers (maximum of 2) for letters of recommendation via Naviance and in person.
  • I have provided the teacher(s) AND my counselor writing the letter(s) of recommendation with the necessary information to write my letter (i.e. Resume, Teacher Recommendation form or had an interview).
  • I have taken the ACT and/or the SAT and plan to take it again in October or November.
  • I have had an open/honest discussion with my family about college finances and the expectations (How much can they afford? How much am I expected to be responsible for?) Together with my family, we will explore financial aid and scholarships.
  • I have started a list of colleges to apply to on Naviance. Listing approximately 6-8 schools (The final list should include reach, middle and safety schools as well as financial safety schools…)
  • I have visited the colleges on my list over the summer and made a Pro’s/Con’s list.
  • I have started to think about my college essay. I am considering different topics and have started a rough draft/finished the college essay.
  • I have looked at the Common App/college applications in Mid-August to view supplemental essays (if applicable). The Common App can be started after August 15, 2015.
  • I have registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse (if I am planning to play Division I or II sports in college) BY THE END OF JUNIOR YEAR.
  • Started thinking about the SEE Project and inquiring about a possible site.

If you answered yes to all of these questions you are on the right track in your college process. If you answered no to many or most of these questions SEE YOUR COUNSELOR or email them ASAP.

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Internet Safety - What Parents Should Be Aware Of - by Lisa Dighton and MaryAnn Smyth

As our dependency on cell phones and technology increases and our adolescents are more exposed to and involved with a variety of social media we wanted to communicate a few resources to assist you with monitoring your child and being aware of the dangers inherent in cyberspace.

As quoted in Common Sense Media, attached is a link on "How I Can Make Sure My Teenager is Being Safe Online"

Additional resources are listed below on several Apps for your information.

Parents’ Guide from ConnectSafely:



Parents’ Guide to Cybersecurity

Parents’ Guide to Cyberbullying

Safety doesn't happen by accident.

NFHS Guidance Department Contact Information

Dr. Przytula - Director of Guidance - O - P, R's 2016

Lisa Dighton - A - D

Kate Luce - Q - Z

Stephanie Romano - G - L

MaryAnn Smyth - E - F, M - N, R's 2017