The Road Less Traveled
Episode #35. Host Jonathan Hughes has two conversations about unique paths when planning for college. He first talks to Ellen Ullman. She is the mother of a student who is enrolled at Michigan State University. After learning the cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuitions the Ullmans decided to move to Michigan. After, he talks to Gracie Rosenberg, who was a dual enrollment student at Franklin County Technical High School and Greenfield Community College. You’ll first hear their initial conversation from a previous episode and then a follow-up from this past summer. If you enjoy the MEFA Podcast, please leave us a review.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:00:00] Hi everyone, and welcome to the MEFA Podcast. My name is Jonathan Hughes and I'm the host of the MEFA Podcast. And this is not the typical episode of the show, and that's fitting because it's about people who haven't done the typical thing in terms of college. I like to think of this as the road less traveled episode of the MEFA podcast. And you know, if you talk to as many students and as many parents as I have, you realize that everyone's situation is a bit different. Now, I'm not saying that everyone can or should do what my guests today have done. But I bring you these stories to show you that at the end of the day, the path that you take to your career or your degree is your own, and that there is room for some creativity. So first off, let's hear my talk with Ellen Allman, a Massachusetts mom whose daughter is [00:01:00] just starting college this year at Michigan State.
Ellen Ullman: She wanted a large school. She wanted a school that had a huge, you know, a lot of sports and she wanted sororities and fraternities. She just, you know, she had gone to a lot of very small schools. we've lived in three states and she went to really tiny schools. So I think she wanted something different from what she had had. She also. Knew that she wanted to probably be a speech pathologist, so she started searching for large schools with good speech path programs, and Michigan State kept coming up.
Jonathan Hughes: Why don't we, can we talk really briefly about. How you and I first connected?
Ellen Ullman: Yes, absolutely. I had known about MEFA, my daughter's high school in Burlington, Massachusetts. One of the, I think our guidance counselors had a subscription and would send all sorts of resources, and I [00:02:00] attended a MEFA webinar to learn about, filling up the FAFSA and all sorts of other financial aid information.
Jonathan Hughes: And so you and I had a, a conversation I guess that must have started about loans. Is that correct?
Ellen Ullman: I believe it did, yes. Yes.
Jonathan Hughes: And during the course of the conversation, you said something that interested me and it was to do with. The cost of college and how you decided to, handle that?
Ellen Ullman: Yes. When we went to Michigan State, they had an accepted student stay, and so we flew from Massachusetts to Detroit and drove up to East Lansing and we're sitting in different sessions and they posted, in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition, you know, on the screen in the front of the room and in-state tuition was $25,000 and out-of-state was $50 and my husband turned and looked at me and said, "We're moving to Michigan."[00:03:00]
Jonathan Hughes: Yep. You understood that, right? Ellen and her husband and her dog decided that they would pick up and move halfway across the country to Michigan.
Ellen Ullman: So yeah, we, we had always planned on moving after she started school. We didn't know where we were going to go or when, but that, that pretty much started that and it turns out you can get in-state residency in one year. So we thought, you know, we both work remotely. Let's give it a go. And how did your daughter feel about that? Honestly, I, I thought she might be a little horrified, but she was thrilled and...
Jonathan Hughes: Oh, good.
Ellen Ullman: Yeah. And I was, telling you before this podcast, she actually, came down with Mono just last week, about her third week at school and it wasn't that hard for us to drive the hour in 15 minutes, hour and a half to go and get. She was home for a few days, just resting and trying to, you know, get everything back together and had we been in [00:04:00] Massachusetts, I'm not sure what we would've done.
Jonathan Hughes: How do you like Michigan?
Ellen Ullman: We love it. Love it. The people are super friendly. We're living in a great little city and we're downtown so we can walk everywhere and it's just, it's been a really wonderful move.
Jonathan Hughes: Had you ever been to Michigan?
Ellen Ullman: No just for that accepted student’s day. That was all of our first times.
Jonathan Hughes: I mean, not knowing the area. How did you make that move?
Ellen Ullman: Great question. Excuse me. We, we connected with a realtor. My husband, had some contacts through his job and we found a realtor and we asked that realtor to give us a list of towns and cities that had really vibrant downtowns with affordable housing. And we got a short list and ran it by some friends of ours who lived in Chicago who knew this area, and they kind of pointed us to where we are and said, we think you'd really like that [00:05:00] city. So yeah, it was kind of word of mouth and, and of course I'm a researcher, so I did a ton of research online and you never know, but this time it worked out.
Jonathan Hughes: Was it important to be just far enough away?
Ellen Ullman: A hundred percent. Yeah, I mean, we're actually a little too close, I think an hour and 15 minutes. I would prefer two hours, but like I, she has not, she doesn't want to come home, so that's the good news. She wants to stay there and she absolutely loves it. So...
Jonathan Hughes: Unless she has mono,
Ellen Ullman: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan Hughes: I, I don't think probably most people are going to move out of state to get in-state tuition. What was it about your circumstances? Sort of resulted in you doing that, do you think?
Ellen Ullman: I think probably the main reason was that we only have the one child, so we didn't disrupt anybody else's life and, both my husband and I work remotely. I actually have my own small business [00:06:00] and he just needed to be near an airport so, I think having all of that. And we've also, like I said, we've lived in a few different states. We've moved a few times, so it wasn't as daunting as it might be to other people who've maybe been in the same place for 30 years or so.
Jonathan Hughes: So you're, you're paying out-of-state tuition this year?
Ellen Ullman: Correct.
Jonathan Hughes: But next year, next you'll qualify for tuition?
Ellen Ullman: Hopefully so I mean, we're doing all the things that says on the website. Getting Michigan licenses, getting the car registered, paying taxes to Michigan, pretty much building our lives here.
Jonathan Hughes: Is your daughter considering going to graduate school at all?
Ellen Ullman: She is, and, we've lovingly told her. That's on her. Yeah, we-
Jonathan Hughes: No future moves.
Ellen Ullman: Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan Hughes: Thank you Ellen, and good luck to all of you in the winter. Now the main segment of the show has its origins in a previous show that I did, that I spoke to four high school students about their college admissions [00:07:00] processes and how they made their college decisions. It was supposed to be a view of how the average student goes through this process and makes this decision, and it was great and you should go back and listen to it. And I love the show and I'm very proud of it. But I have to say that these were not the average students. They were all very driven, very impressive, and just creative and brilliant. But there was one student who even among these students, had a unique path. I thought she deserved her own focus, and she was so gracious that even after the interview that we did initially, she offered to do a follow up with us. So the first thing you're going to hear is my first interview with her when she was a high school student, and then I'll come back and introduce the follow-up. So here's Gracie.
Gracie Rosenberg: Okay. Hi, I'm Gracie Rosenberg. I usually her pronouns. I'm a senior at the Franklin County Technical School and I'm in my [00:08:00] sophomore year dual enrolled at Greenfield Community College. So you can dual enroll when you're in high school, full-time or part-time. You can take like any number of classes at a community college.
Jonathan Hughes: Yeah, that's right. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college courses and get college credits. So how did it work for you?
Gracie Rosenberg: In terms of GCC, they accept students at any age, any grade level, so I had to get approval from my high school before doing that, and I was able to do that.
Jonathan Hughes: And when did you start this?
Gracie Rosenberg: When I was a junior, I started my, the second semester of my junior year because that's when I heard about it. And I just went, Oh, like can I do that? And then how many classes can I take? And I believe I was the first, junior at the Franklin County Tech School to do a enroll like full time. So I kind of had to, had a lot, had to have a lot of talks in my guidance counselor of kind of like the logistics and how I would fulfill my shop requirements and there's a lot of moving parts there. But thankfully I was able to get it worked out.
Jonathan Hughes: And why [00:09:00] did you want to do it?
Because I've always, I've, I'm, I mean, I've always been someone who's like, very academically oriented. I'm very like, career driven. I really want to kind of go above and beyond with those things and kind of get the best like, academic experience I can. And so I think I sort of started figuring that out for myself and, and the fact that I wanted to do those like advanced academics and. Push myself as, as far as I could in terms of academics when I was, you know, a couple years into the tech school because I go to a technical school. There's a shop requirement, so I have shop every other week, and so I can't stop doing that.
So I do that every other week in addition to taking, you know, I've taken three or four classes per. And because of the fact that I have to go to shop every other week, I can't take classes in person, so I take them all online. Which has worked well for me cause it's given me a flexible schedule right now. So I'm instead of going [00:10:00] to my high school every other week for shop, what you were able to do, I think halfway through your junior year, is you're able to go out and co-op so you're able to work a job in your field and earn money instead of going to school. So it is an awesome opportunity and I've been doing that for the past few months. I, I got a job somewhere. It's basically just like any other job search, and you do that every other week instead of going to school. It's awesome.
So, I understand that you were the first junior to do an enroll at this high school. That's pretty amazing.
Gracie Rosenberg: Thank you. That, that's what I was told.
Jonathan Hughes: And on top of all this stuff too, I understand that you're applying for scholarships, right? For outside scholarships.
Gracie Rosenberg: Being a high school student, who, you know, I can't get financial aid yet from, from college. So I am still like paying in full for those classes. So, yeah, it's definitely been necessary to do all, do that, searching for scholarships. I had that conversation with my guidance counselor, and she's definitely helped me kind of search for these different things, different scholarships I can utilize. [00:11:00] She's helped me become kind of a expert, like scholarship searcher, which is definitely necessary. And yeah, she's told me about different things that I can take advantage of, being a dual enrollment student, going to a community college, like using Mass Transfer.
Jonathan Hughes: Yeah. Can you talk about mass transfer a little bit?
Gracie Rosenberg: Mass transfer is, if you go to a two-year community college and get an associate's degree, you can then transfer to, a four-year college, any college that's in that public, any state college or university,
Jonathan Hughes: And do that, that cost saving like advantage play a big role in your decision to do dual enrollment.
Gracie Rosenberg: That was, that kind of came secondary cause I kind of wasn't thinking about that then. But it's sort of now been like a convenient realization of like, Oh, this is really gonna help me. And this is really a good decision to do, like an associate's degree at a community college, save a lot of money. And then, you know, I'll, I'll have to do two years to get a [00:12:00] bachelor's degree. And then whatever, goes on from there.
Jonathan Hughes: And so what do you ultimately want to do?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah. In, in, in terms of a career path. I'm, I've kind of discovered that I am super into biology. And that's kind of definitely the career path I'm going to be following. Yeah, probably for rest of my life, who knows? But definitely for the foreseeable future, I've gotten kind of, I'm kind of in the stage of like exploring different, biology fields and like what am I most into, I was very set on marine biology for a long time. Still kind of am.
Jonathan Hughes: Wow. Thank you so much. Is there anything else you want to say before we go?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah, I mean, first of all, like thank you for having me on this because this is like a really cool little piece of sharing my experience and, and little bit of like publicity. And I'm, yeah, definitely happy to be on here and I will definitely, I would like be happy to do some sort of follow up podcast or something at some point. I'll keep you updated.
Jonathan Hughes: Well, true to her word. Gracie did [00:13:00] follow up with us over the summer to tell us about what she's been doing. This is a conversation that we had in August of 2022. More about her college plans, her experiences and counting fish.
Gracie Rosenberg: I just got a little, gig at the Curtis Falls Fish Ladder.
Jonathan Hughes: Oh.
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah. So I'm, I was literally just counting fish all summer. Yeah, I actually, I just wrapped it up yesterday and it was a, it was a work from home thing, so I literally took a computer and watched video free through a, a camera that's motion activated. So every time a camera that's just pointed at the window looking into the fish ladder, so every time a fish goes by, it activates, and the feed is capture. And I literally have like a template of like 10 fish that I memorize and was like, Oh, there's a this and this and this.
Jonathan Hughes: And how many fish are we talking about?
Gracie Rosenberg: Well, thousands.
Jonathan Hughes: So the last time we talked, you were still in high school. Tell me where you are right [00:14:00] now and, and what's ahead for you.
Gracie Rosenberg: One, one more year, two more semesters at GCC, to get my Associates. And then what I'm hoping to do for the, the fall after that spring, is to find, Wait, is that what I'm doing? Hold on. Yeah. , it's to. No, for the spring I'm part of Yes. That, so you find some sort of internship that I can do. I, I would really love to, you know, get out and more into the, the field of biology with actual employment slash internship.
Jonathan Hughes: It was interesting to hear Gracie's reflections on her experience as a high school and college student. So how many classes did you take initially?
Gracie Rosenberg: I took four, which was a lot.
Jonathan Hughes: That, that's a full-time
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah.
Jonathan Hughes: Course load for a college student.
Gracie Rosenberg: Yep. And it was, I honestly don't know how I did it because [00:15:00] every other week I was still attending the tech school to fulfill my shop requirements.
So it wasn't like I had like all the free time to do my classes. So. Yeah, it, it was, it was pretty rigorous and it was, I hadn't, you know, been on the college scene before, so it was new to me, but I think I, that was when my, my motivation was very fresh then, and very like, I want to be doing this instead of what my alternative is. So I think that kind of got me through.
Jonathan Hughes: Did you, did you enjoy it? Did you, you were looking for an academic rigor, apparently you found it. Did you like that?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there's, there's ups and downs to anything. It, it took up because I was still, you know, going to high school every other week. It took up most of my time, which was, you know, not preferable. I'd like to have, have life doing other things as well, but I, I really enjoyed the, the stuff I was learning, I think was the, the major thing.
Jonathan Hughes: And, is that something that you think, I mean, other students will do after you. [00:16:00] Did you have any conversations with anybody or did anybody say to you that, that, did they think you were crazy for doing it or did they want to do it themselves or did they just know not to call you because you were busy,
Gracie Rosenberg: Probably like a mix of all of us. I mean, I, I've never been that much of like a social butterfly. I don't have very big social circle. So I had a few, few friends at tech, but the, the majority of my, like friends were, outside of my, the outside of the tech school. But yeah, I had a, I had a couple close friends and it, it's, I think for them it was just kind of a thing that they, you know, weren't interested in, which is fine. More on, on the track of, you know, getting into their career out of high school. I definitely think now that I've done it, more juniors are going to do that because there's definitely people that, you know, are in the tech school that want to go to college and want to get that jumpstart.
Jonathan Hughes: Did attending the college courses make you eager to go to college full-time?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, it definitely, it gave me [00:17:00] a taste for, it, and I, I enjoy having that. Academic kind of rigor because I, I know I'll be, Yeah, I know I'll be prepared for the rest of college. I planned to transfer to UMass Amherst after I, finished at GCC. So, yeah, I, think it, I mean, that first semester made me realize that, you know, four courses with the other thing I was doing was too much. So, now, now I've since I graduated, I have a better balance. I'm going to be working part-time and that's, a bit less than what I was doing in school and taking three classes.
Jonathan Hughes: So the other thing I want to ask you about specifically is mass transfer, right?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yeah. That was all, just happened to be told to me by my advisor when I was in high school. She gave me the, she was, she's great. She gave me the whole rundown of like, this is if you go to GCC and you're planning to transfer to four-year college after this is like, these are the things you should be prepared for, [00:18:00] like resources you should go find and what your future paths might look like. So yeah, so she told me about mass transfer and about. John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which, is something that, you get, if you get a high enough score on the MCAS Exam when you were in high school.
Jonathan Hughes: Yeah. I remember the last time we spoke you weren't sure if you were, you know, gonna continue on through the public route or if you were, you were looking at some private colleges too. Was sort of cost a factor in that decision?
Gracie Rosenberg: Yep. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and visiting a lot of schools and I was, always kind of keeping my mind open to, I mean, if I found like a, a private school that I, really liked and really wanted to go to and I spent some time thinking about like, realistically, like, might I be able to afford the private school and it would only be two years for a bachelor degree, which would make it more affordable. Ultimately I decided [00:19:00] that I did like UMass Amherst. Something that is an advantage for it that I wouldn't have anywhere else is that I could live at home. Well, going there. And another cool bit is I get to get around the first year campus living requirement because I'm applying as a transfer which is awesome. Yeah. So I can live from home and save a lot of money that way, and I can, I mean, it basically, I can save like almost all my money, through my, my undergraduate in college, which is awesome.
Jonathan Hughes: I've taken a lot of calls from parents who want to know, like, Well, how do people do this? How, how does everybody else do this? And you did something that people don't do, you know? And it, it, it was a really cool thing and very sort of inspiring thing. When I told people about it, they were like, Oh my God, I can't believe that why she did. She was the first person to do this and she did all that stuff. This is, that's a great story. And so, you know, I mean, I guess what would you tell other people? What would you make sure that other [00:20:00] people knew who were, you know, in high school or, or just trying to think about what they're gonna do for college?
Gracie Rosenberg: It's, it's things you. all the time, I think as a high school student is to like kind of start thinking about things early. And you know, you don't have to like figure out what your whole future is going to be, but it's definitely worth it to like start thinking about it because that's the first step. And it's better to start doing that sooner rather than later. And for me, I kind of found my, like I wanted that, I wanted to do dual enrollment. That was like the big thing for me. You might kind of find that that's not for you and you can have that conversation. Talk to your guidance counselor a lot and, and just think about early on what you might want to do in a career. I've always sort of like known like biology is probably gonna be the thing for me, but.
I, I thought about other things I, like, I talked to my advisor, and I took those like quizzes that are like, what is your interested skills like align with [00:21:00] from, the process of going into dual enrollment, I mean, GCC is, is a really, I think, unique place and unique school. I've, I found a really awesome social community. It has a, a lot of campus jobs. The academics are rigorous. It's, it's rated like one of the, one of the top community colleges in the country. Genuinely it's a great school and so like if it, if you're living near there, I would definitely recommend checking it out. And there's, you know, there's other community colleges around. I would find out if, from your advisor, if it's something you can do. And I think most high schools you can.
Jonathan Hughes: Oh, good luck. Thank you so much Gracie.
Gracie Rosenberg: Thank you very much. This is really nice.
Jonathan Hughes: All right folks, so that about wraps it up for us today. I want to thank Ellen and Gracie for joining us in the program today. And folks, if you like the show and you want to hear more from MEFA on all topics related to planning, saving, and paying for college and career, and about reaching financial goals, please subscribe to us. On Apple [00:22:00] Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, wherever you get your shows from, and whether you're a new or regular listener, please remember to rate and review us so we can keep doing what we're doing and getting this show out for people like you.
Thanks to our producer, Shaun Connolly once again. My name is Jonathan Hughes and this has been the MEFA Podcast.
Ellen Ullman: MEFA has been a wonderful resource. I. All sorts of scholarships for my daughter to apply for. I definitely, I didn't attend many webinars live, but I was able to go to the recorded versions and, you know, it just gave me a ton of answers to questions I had in that whole applying and, you know, accepting. And, you know, I just wanna say a little thanks to you guys for all the free resources that you offer parents and. More people take advantage of them because it's, you know, a wonderful resource.