Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University, the only Catholic college serving Central and Southern New Jersey, provides a comprehensive liberal arts education. The university, located in Lakewood, has a long history of being a women’s college with some coeducational programming, and Georgian Court became fully coeducational in 2013. Among the many reasons why students turn to Georgian Court to further their education, small class sizes (with a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1) and personalized education are two big ones. Students also feel that the university goes out of its way to prepare them for their future—which, after all, is what higher learning should be all about.
That emphasis on helping students to succeed begins before they even set foot on campus. Justin G. Roy, Georgian Court University dean of admissions, spends a lot of how they can make college more affordable. In a day and age when many college students are graduating with debt, helping students to put their best foot forward in the real world starts at the financial level. Georgian Court University offers more than $12 million in scholarships and additional aid each year—thanks to both donors and alumni support. It was also the only four-year school in New Jersey to freeze tuition costs this year. That’s just one of the university’s many efforts to lessen debt and increase access to college.
As someone who was responsible for navigating the process on his own, Roy says he feels compelled to help students with the guidance he could have once used himself. Roy says he understands how difficult it is to navigate the financial piece to college education and says this is one way he can “give back.”
“It’s also important that we talk to students and their families about financial literacy because of how much has changed in the world of higher education and of financial aid,” Roy continues. “It used to be that all scholarships were done through the high school guidance counselor— and certainly some still are—but today there’s also the world of Google and there’s a lot out there. We want to help where we can.”
Ready, set, search – for scholarships
According to Roy, “affordability” is on everyone’s minds these days—as it should be. After recovering from the Recession, many American families are being more frugal.
“Affordability is a hot topic right now but there’s a lot that institutions can do to help,” Roy says. “While students are often told to ‘look for outside scholarships,’ we want to provide the tools to help them actually do that.”
Among those tools, Roy has a series of practical tips that help students to succeed in searching for scholarships:
- Start with online search sites where you can create a profile for yourself.
- Set up a separate email account for your scholarship search so that important information doesn’t get lost.
- Dedicate a specific time every week to your search. Get on a schedule—like a two-hour block—and treat it seriously, like a job.
- Go to town—hall. Check in with organizations like the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, and others to see what they can offer.
- Sweat the small stuff—even if that means applying for a $500 scholarship here and there. Truth is, they can easily add up. Don’t ignore the smaller opportunities.
The marketplace mindset
Another way that Georgian Court is helping students succeed is by assisting them in becoming career ready. It used to be that students thought of their campus career service center as a place to check out job boards or have someone review a résumé. But today—and at Georgian Court in particular—career counselors do much more than that. Kathleen Brady, Georgian Court’s executive director of career services, corporate engagement and continuing education, says her job is to “introduce students to their future selves.” She does this by calling her background as a life coach into play.
“There is certainly value in services such as providing job postings or helping someone with a résumé, but before we do any of that, we have to ask what they want their life to look like,” Brady says. “Why do they want the job they think they want? We’re getting students to look at the big picture.”
As Brady guides students toward careers that will truly make them happy and fulfilled— as she says this is an important part of the equation just as talents and skill sets are—she also helps point them in the direction of internships, which are more important than ever.
“Most importantly, internships provide students with an opportunity to discover what type of person they want to be,” Brady says. “It creates a space where they can determine how to demonstrate their mastery of a subject matter while honoring their personal values in a competitive marketplace. They get to not only test their skills but their values.”
Brady says that students often require some guidance not only with their future self but their present one. That means making important decisions about majors and minors.
“I may get a student that says he or she wants to be a doctor, but they’re failing biology,” Brady says. “While we want students to choose the path that makes them happy and fulfilled, it’s not all magical thinking. There’s hard work involved, too. So we talk about what it will take to get to where they want to be.”
Sometimes that means switching majors. Other times it means buckling down. Either way, Brady says she is there to help guide students on their path. She says there are four key questions she asks everyone who comes through her door:
- What do you want to be?
- Why do you want to be that?
- What do you have to do to get there?
- Are you prepared to do what it takes?
The answers to those questions will ultimately help students to make critical life decisions. And in the end, Brady says that’s what it’s all about.
“We are one stop on their journey but we want to help students as much as we can while they’re here,” Brady says.
Of course that sentiment is echoed by Roy, as well, who says that he sees it as helping students lay down a foundation for success.
“We want to give our students the keys to the car, so to speak,” Roy says. “We can’t drive the car for them, but we can be backseat drivers and help them along the way. Ultimately we want them to be the drivers of their education.”
Georgian Court University
900 Lakewood Ave.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 7 (September, 2016).
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