Neal Schwartz was recently featured on Episode 19 of Dooner’s World, where he and Mike took a trip down memory lane to trace Neal’s humble beginnings at a college radio station near Albany back in 1974 to his current mission of preparing today’s youth for the “new frontier.”
After a 26-year career in corporate America in the middle of the country, Neal decided to change paths. As a soccer coach for 11 years, he found working with kids and parents to be his forte, and knew he would end up changing to the educational field. He started College Planning of Westchester in 2004, offering tutoring, SAT and ACT prep. But one day when a client asked for help applying to a certain college, Neal realized that college counseling was a real need in the community, seeing that colleges were becoming more and more competitive, and not just about test scores. He therefore launched his first college application bootcamps in 2007.
He found that many of his students were asking the same questions: “What do I need this stuff for?” His goal was to help guide students and help them distinguish between what they thought they should be doing and what they really should be doing. He aims to have students wake up everyday and love what they do.
While guiding students through College Planning of Westchester, Neal also volunteers at Yonkers Partners in Education, giving back to the community and helping to turn around the school system. Neal’s universal goal is to help students think about what they really want, and not just what society is telling them.
In response to the pandemic, Neal says that the college process hasn’t changed and probably won’t. Most students are still going to want and need to go to college after high school. He believes that no matter the circumstances, the skillset learned from college is essential to success. He also believes that there’s a good chance we’re going to come through this, and just have to be flexible to “pivot” towards the new frontier.
In the wake of current events, Neal found that his clientele was open to trying out a new, virtual experience. When converting his one-on-one college counseling and test prep services online, he discovered that it worked extremely well. Video-conferencing tools allowed his tutors and students to share screens and reach the same if not better levels of productivity.
While one-on-one tutoring and counseling had a rather smooth virtual transition, Neal acknowledges the difficulties that colleges have to face with a ratio of instructors to students at one to twenty or one to fifty. These challenges have led many to make assumptions that online college is not as high quality, and that all online education is the same. However, these assumptions are wrong. Every college is drafting out a different approach for how to convert their courses and still remain engaging, so the online education playing field is quite diverse.
It’s not only the resources that count, but the community you connect with that makes a college experience worthwhile, even if that community is made online at first. While we’re all facing unforeseen circumstances this academic season, changes are still expected to take place. But Neal is confident that colleges will learn how to navigate the new pandemic environment for the long-term.
To watch the interview and learn more about the “new frontier” for college students, click on the links below!
Navigating the college process in our current crisis is a challenge. If your student is struggling, give us a call to schedule a free college counseling consultation today!
Neal Schwartz, Owner
College Planning of Westchester
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