Remarks at 2014 Parent's and Families Open House

2014 Remarks at CW's Parent's and Families Open House

December 6, 2014

Student Center, The College of Westchester

As delivered.

Good afternoon, everyone.  I am Mary Beth Del Balzo, president of The College of Westchester.  It is gratifying to see so many of you here today.  I remember when my oldest daughter and I were beginning the college search.  It was a daunting experience, even though I had years of experience.  I’ll share a few things that I have learned along the way, and cover some items that you may be thinking about.

Home or away?

How do I decide which college to attend?

How will we pay for this?

What is this college all about?  Who is the CW student?

Home or away?  One of the most frequently asked questions is, “won’t I miss out if I commute to college rather than going away to school?  Some of you may have already decided that home is where it’s at, but for the rest of you, here’s the scoop.  While going away to school is an experience that commuting students don’t have during those first college years, there are advantages to staying home while attending college.  The comforts of home count for a lot, and being in an environment that we are already comfortable with.  Away at college, students report at least as much need for adjustment to living with new people and others habits, as they report on acclimating themselves to their studies.  Many students withdraw and come home after one or two semesters away.  Making the right decision now is important.

At CW, the social scene is also fun, and studies are the most important thing to focus on.  If you already have a part time job, most employers understand the need to adjust hours to allow you to be successful in college.  Ultimately, the biggest adjustment is focusing on new classes, a new schedule and a new college level of study.  And yes, of course, there are clubs, activities, trips and opportunities for events, and academic honors programs that you can participate in.

The other thing to remember about “going away” is that you still go away, if you want to!  Almost all of us move out of our family’s home at some point.  It does not all have to be the same time.  A number of our freshman class is made up of students who have decided that going away is not for them, and transferred into CW.  The truth is that you will not be missing out on going away, as most of us eventually have that independent living experience that we crave. 

How do I decide which college to go to?  I remember visiting a number of colleges with both of my daughters.  There was one school that they both considered.  My older daughter and I visited first, went to an information session, took a tour, spoke with an admissions counselor, and she decided it was not the school for her.  My younger daughter had the opposite feeling and loved and attended that school.  Different strokes!

So the moral of that story is that you need to visit colleges you are interested in.  When I was deciding on college, many years ago, as a high school senior, I was on my own.  I’m the oldest of 5 and my parents were busy working and taking care of my younger siblings.  I took care of my own college search.  I asked a couple of my friends to visit colleges with me, and they did.  We explored campuses, took rides and looked around.   I never did get a chance to speak with an admissions counselor, though.  I think it would have helped.

At CW, we require a personal interview with every student we are considering, and every student who is considering attending.  This is the first big step in the CW experience, and you have all already taken that step.  I’m sure that you found that your admissions counselor really cares about what you are dreaming of doing with your life.  You’ll find, today, that there are many others at CW who will work with you to help insure your success and partner with you along the way including your instructors, professors, academic advisors and success coaches, financial assistance counselors, the administration, and significantly, CW’s career counselors.  We also have student ambassadors available to speak with today, and whenever you visit campus.  If you haven’t already participated in a crash a class event or a three credit jump start course after school, please plan on it. You will be hearing from many of my colleagues today, and I’m sure you will begin to understand what I’m talking about.  We all want you to have the best possible college experience, and realize the professional dreams you have set for yourself, or the dreams you are beginning to consider.

I’m sure families are asking how will I pay for this?

We are all concerned with how we will pay for a college education.  There is much talk in the press, especially the last couple of years, about whether a college education is worth it.  According to the US Bureau of Labor, someone who earns an associate degree will earn an average of $600,000 more than a high school grad in their lifetime, and a bachelor degree grad will earn over $1Million more that someone who has just earned their high school diploma.  Worth it?   I believe it is.

CW has a number of scholarship programs available.  You may have already met with one of our student financial assistance counselors, in order to get an overview of what might be coming.  Yes, there are colleges that are less expensive, and there are many that are also more expensive.  CW is at the low end of the private college scale when comparing tuition.  More importantly, I want you to consider this – your college education is an investment in yourself.  Parents and family members feel this way too.  You are worth it, and the payoff is there for you professionally.  This is one of the many reasons that choosing your college and your major wisely is the wise investment in yourself.  Make the right decision the first time.

Here are some of the practical matters:

There are many internal CW based scholarship programs, and many external programs as well.  The CW Charitable Foundation is another source of need based and merit based scholarships once you are attending CW.  If you qualify, there are state and federal grant moneys to assist you with your tuition, and there are student and parent loans if you need them.  This is the investment part.  Yes, you do have to pay back loans; no, you do not pay back grants or scholarships.  However, with a CW, career focused education, you will be ready to enter the job market if you do your part.  We will help you connect with work study and/or part time jobs while you are in school, if you want, and with full time jobs in the field you have chosen to study, at the right time.  In your last couple of semesters, depending on whether you are an associate degree or bachelor degree student, we work with you to get ready to interview.  Professional communications class is part of the curriculum for all students.  Many students participate in at least one significant internship that connects them with potential employers and various job experiences while they are still at CW. 

And since you are here today, you are probably still asking, what do I really need to know about The College of Westchester, and would CW be right for me?

You probably already know about our program offerings, our degrees and our high commitment to job and career success of our graduates.  What you may not know is how you fit into this type of environment.  The CW student declares a major when they first enter the college.  Their curriculum is constructed to help them achieve professional goals swiftly.  The CW student does take gen ed courses, as strong English and math skills are important for everyone, but they are also immersed in their major first semester freshman year, and throughout their studies.    As a CW student, you can participate in academic, leadership and social clubs and activities throughout your time with us, which can help build your resume.  We invite our local employers who are CW partners (there are hundreds) to partner with you directly, critique your work, and encourage and mentor you.  Career Services holds career cafés specific to your major, and there are frequent part time and full time job fairs that many employers attend.  Employers want to hire our students and graduates.  Professional opportunities are endless.

But lastly, while we can provide you with opportunities of a lifetime, because that is what college truly is, YOU need to jump in and participate. 

 A quick story about this – one of our grads, Marissa Brett, was our keynote speaker at commencement two years ago.  She told the story of her mom bringing her to CW and saying, go in there and apply.  Marissa was not sure about what she wanted to do with her life; maybe the community college, maybe straight out to work, maybe cosmetology school.  Her mom promised her that if she went to CW, she could then make one of those choices after graduating.  Marissa took the challenge and attended CW.  She is now President of the Westchester County Association, a huge organization that works with all of the fortune 500 companies in Westchester, and she is the impetus behind the resurgence of Westchester’s economic health. I look forward to seeing you at orientation, and even more significantly, as you accept your degree at commencement, when you become a CW graduate.

Show your enthusiasm and accept the challenge to be that excellent student we know you are.  Are you ready to be that person?  Are you ready to challenge yourself to be successful, to relish every step toward your professional success?

Thank you for allowing me the time to speak with you today about this most important decision!