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Business as Usual Featuring Jason Vallozzi at Campus to Career Crossroads

Business as Usual

We have Jason Vallozzi, Founder of Campus to Career Crossroads, joining us on Business as Usual today to go over what's changing as colleges welcome back students in the coming weeks. Plus, we will explore how applying to colleges, admissions tests and SATs will be changing in face of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.


So good afternoon, everyone. This is Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council joined here today with Jonathan Kersting with All Things media. I'm hearing a little bit of feedback. So I'm not exactly sure what's happening. But our intent is to mute everyone's fun to ignore background noise. I will have our team on the back end, make sure that that's happening. So I want to give a couple of shout outs we've been doing this show for about 90 some odd days. And we're pretty excited about the kind of exchange that we've had. But our job is to make sure that we're providing relevance to everything that's going on in the tech world and our greater community. So we have public partners and the partners, how are you know, like Huntington bank have been with us right from the beginning. But we also have sheetz. And if you don't know sheetz, which you really should, if you're pittsburgher, and you've traveled anywhere, you know that they have a mission to provide fast, friendly service quality products, clean environment. And they're known across the industry as a company that constantly reinvents themselves. And by the way, they have an innovation center now in Pittsburgh, and they're working on that next iteration of innovation. So we're pretty excited to have them as partners. Deloitte, Deloitte is a partner of ours for many, many years. They're a force in business from an innovation perspective, they have been at the forefront in many revolutions in business for over 175 years. So I thank both of them for their sponsorship, as well as Huntington bank for being an anchor for so long. So a couple of things on programming notes, we have some great sessions coming up for our business as usual just at noon, including an Information Session this Friday about the Keystone innovation zones.

We'll be hosting the lead official from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development that administers what is called the KIZ program. And our friends at KIZ resources will also be with us and they'll talk about the hundred thousand dollar in tax credits that are available to KIZ companies each year talking about the process of selling credits, etc, etc. all the things that matter to helping your business particularly in the early stages. On August 12th and 13th. We're kicking off tech fest 2020. It's a two day program aimed at helping software developers hone their skills through multiple workshops and they're hosted by peers. And believe it or not on August 24. We're hosting our annual technology leadership golf outing with honorary hosts this year including Ed McCallister, the CIO of UPMC Richard Smith, the CIO of Wabtec And Jim Lehner, the CIO of sheetz to start we have a few more in the hopper for that. So I mentioned that we've muted your microphones. I think we have that under control now. And then we also have a chat. And the chat is allowed for you to ask our guests questions. So please use that it is not intended for for sales, and any kind of advertising for your company. So I'm going to jump in, and I am going to introduce Jason Vallozzi. He's the founder of campus to careers, crosswords, crossroads, excuse me. And here's the thing. We're living in a world where everything's changing, and if anyone is has any kids or family members or friends have, who have kids that are headed that are in high school, and as well in college, Jason really has a great pulse in terms of what's happening right now. There are lots of concerns, lots of issues, lots of concerns, lots of things that people are thinking about financially. As well as academically in terms of what's happening with their kids. So we're going to bring on Jason, and he's going to just talk about himself for a moment and his business and what he's doing.

So Jason, how are you doing? Well, thanks so much for the opportunity to be here really excited. So as you mentioned, I have a business called campus to career crossroads. I help families one on one with the college admissions process. Sometimes people in Pittsburgh aren't aware independent educational consultants. We aren't here to rival school counselors, but we work with families one on one that have a multitude of questions from the parent side, the student side helping them find college success. And right now, many families have been reaching out more than ever to my business because having an advocate on your side during the admissions process is more crucial than ever. So I spent over 15 years in admissions, so I've seen thousands of families go through this process, I know their stresses and concerns. And then also I'm a part of best in class, professional associations which continues my knowledge And gives me colleagues throughout the country. One of those is the independent educational consultants Association, where I'm actually not a member, but involved in their leadership structure regionally, as well as their finance committee. So these avenues give me a lot of great resources, knowledge insights, I've been talking to admissions officials on and off the record, let's say, for the past couple of months. And things have really gotten interesting as they've always wanted students to come back to campus, but COVID is spiking in many parts of our country, and just not practical. So it's really great to be here today. I really love the thoughts we have for today, just helping families right now. There's many seniors freshman's, they're transitioning, and how do they do it? There's stressors and then for high school students and families, how do we apply to colleges? What are we doing there? So a lot of great thoughts.

So where do you want to start? Where do you want to start? We want to talk about what the top concerns are as it relates to going back to campus, both college and high school like what are some of the patterns Do you want Talk just I'd also like to talk about some advice as well. Sure. So we want to set the stage for talking about going back to campus because each university seems to have a different plan. lead gen. You know, if you could give some guidance that would really be helpful. So if you want to start with college we want to start with high school.

Now let's start with college. I think that's the the immediate right now because these next few weeks, you know, we've seen even in our region speaking of that colleges in the state system have recently pulled back they were billing and write great article in the post because that today talking about the changing landscapes and I had this fear from being in admissions colleges are risk adverse. Mm hmm. is for the most part, so opening up bringing thousands of students back in the dorms and cafeterias, right. It was a very challenging thought for me. So it's getting real. I think many families don't realize how quickly the summer goals. Many goals are just recently had graduation ceremonies of some remote capacities. Right. So people are still in that celebration mode, but they can be literally I was speaking to a client yesterday that's going to an out of state school, August 11 is when they're going, that's not that far away. Right, ready to go. But for other families that as schools start earlier tuition bills, Tom, these logistics so I think a couple great things that families need to do, especially right now they're transitioning is talk about this as a family. Do students learn well, remotely? Are they in contact one thing that I take a lot of pride in all my clients, we have admissions contacts at each of the universities, they're going to be matriculating to and we're talking because those people know at best I mean, we watch the news and it gets very confusing even from my experience. You hear the University of California what's going on in Texas, Florida, but how does that impact a student going to a school New York or or where they might be attending so I think it's one of the most underrated areas Audrey that people don't utilize in admissions. I stress with all my clients is build relationships with admissions people, it's never too late. They know what's going on directly at their school changes are happening every day. But I think families need to be talking amongst themselves. Are they comfortable school in an online setting a hybrid setting, whatever that campus is proposing? And are they talking to those admissions officials understanding what the logistics are, what the contingent plans are, and making sure that meets Well, with everybody in the family.

Jason, there was an awesome Wall Street Journal article this morning. That just basically echoes what you're saying right now. And it's a mess. And it's different for everybody. And so I think your advice is just so sound like you build that relationship with your admissions officer. And that is your direct way and right.

It's one area. It's funny. Jonathan says Great point. People really think of admissions officers as gatekeepers are transactional and never think to reach out I know from being on that side of the table. I love and I still talk to admissions people every day. They want to get to know students, they want to get to know families, but if you don't reach out, you don't start that dialogue of Hey, what are the Plans look like what are contingent plans. What happens if the students get sick on campus some colleges are designated dorms, specifically in case students get Koby. So there's all types of things out there. And the only way you can do that is really be talking and dialoguing with admissions officials, university officials at the campus that you're directly interested in. And those are not out of bounds questions. those are those are questions that need to be asked.

So it's but in many cases, when you mentioned earlier that it's only a few weeks away for many of these decisions to be made. So let's say I'm, you know, headed to some school in New Jersey, and you're my advisor, truly myself and my family, what kinds of things are you going to coach me through to think about?

I would say at this point, you know, most of my families we've had conversations I've been fortunate my my clients lead towards planner. So we've been talking the past couple months, I've been kind of saying some of these things. So we've been talking about, you know, our Are you comfortable with online learning? If that happens, are you comfortable with hybrid models? So I've been trying to have these honest conversations with families that I could potentially see. Again, no one has a perfect crystal ball. But some students we've seen this past few months of school ended, did better with zoom learning, right? distracted in the classroom and their clients and some students I've seen that didn't do well in the zoom learning environment. So how does that? You know, one other piece of advice? I've been talking with my clients over the past couple months, look at your freshman class schedule. If this goes online, are you able to do this? I jokingly say which is not probably a joke, but true. I shouldn't be taking camera biology via zoom. So I have that on Jonathan can appreciate that. Maybe as a communication we're doing just fine doing your biology classes on zoom, Jason.

there'd be some, there'd be a lot of studying and I need all the in person help I can get for that class. I'd be honest to say but No, I think it's looking at your class schedule. It's easy to schedule classes for students. In a sense, they'd be all in person. But what happens if there is a change? Even? We don't know what's going to happen when we do get back to campus if there's a flare up, or what happened. So I think it's those type of thoughts, Andrea, talking through the scenarios, encouraging families to talk amongst themselves once a week, making sure they're all comfortable. Because there's a big family transition. A lot of people don't realize when students go to school mom, dad, the student, they're all impacted. So are we all comfortable with this? And then secondly, looking at your schedule is huge. And are you taking the right classes to set your freshman year off for success?

Well, you know, what's, what's really interesting is that, you know, it could be that this, you know, this whole issue of COVID that's happened, has just changed learning forever. I mean, it could be that the examples that you're using in the past or just the past, that's all they're just a memory and Many kids are kinesthetic learners, they're hands on, they really like the interaction. That's how they learn. And and they sense. So could it be that this is just the beginning of the disruption of the future?

It is. And I think one thing that I shared with clients, you know, going across all different majors is this creates a whole new opportunity out of this, you know, we've seen our work world working remotely in some cases has made us more efficient, it's changed industry. So I think it's given these clients a springboard to go into their college education to solve new problems, to think of new solutions in a different direction, and how all majors are going to be impacted. They're going to be studying to embrace that opportunity to find these solutions to look at the areas they're going to be studying and see where they can be the inventors where they can be the innovators where they can add value to all companies that are going through this because I to your point, Audrey, I do think there is a major issue. Underlying to this, but I think find some positivity. And again, if students I find from working with them over the years, they're highly adaptable in most cases. And I think they'll adapt well with this. But I think if they start to figure out where the opportunities are, and when they can connect, they're learning something I'm very passionate about is not just going from class, but connecting their learning to industry. That's when they can really take off with the opportunities ahead as we get more settled in this new stage.

I mean, there is one piece of university life when you're a resident. I mean, you get a chance to live in a dorm and you get a chance to adapt and adjust to meeting a whole lot of new people. And to me, that's the biggest fear that we're going to have a generation of people who didn't have that kind of opportunity. Now, listen, college isn't for everyone and I understand that. But if you're going to spend the money on college that to me is the biggest perk is having those incidental accidental you know intentional rules. Relationships with an array of people that you normally wouldn't. And if you don't have collaboration in the classroom, how do you how do you do that? Right? What are some of those? Those, you know, accidental collisions of friendships?

No, I think you make a great point because I think parents are struggling with that as they're probably going to get tuition bills ahead. What we what students originally applied for six and eight months ago, is not is not what is sort of the deal right now. But we're at where we're at students, in many cases, will be living in dorm rooms by themselves. So I think you make a great point. That's something that concerns me for my admissions leadership days. One of the biggest things and I always stress to clients is being involved in clubs and organizations and activities. And that's going to look and feel differently. freshmen that were isolated in their dorm room generally didn't transition out of that campus and in many cases sometimes will leave because they never found the fit. Right? They'll be exclusively in dorms by themselves. So there is sort of a new social dynamic to be worked out. But I also think in this new reality we're living in just like we're speaking today, we all have to learn how to communicate work virtually online together. So I think, again, hopefully, some of their adaptability will come into play. But ultimately, the college experience they applied for November, October, December, January, that that experience is no longer an option for them.

Well, I mean, part of if you think about if you just take an old model of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, I mean, it's safety, right, you know, shelter, obviously, safety, but then what about the sense of belonging, right. And if you're in your own room, I mean, I can't imagine what it would have been like if I had my own room when I first went to Ohio State. honest, I can't imagine and I'm an extrovert. So for those, you know, I wanted to be a part and having a roommate whether I like them or not, was a was a key part of my transition into feeling belonging in the community.
Yeah, no, I think the salvia college experience that many parents wanted to see right. This year just isn't.

It couldn't be the nostalgia is yesterday's news. So we're dressing the world. That's my point. You know, I'm being nostalgic, but that's not the world today. And I get that. And so moving forward. Are you seeing students more students take a year off? Is that become more of prevalent?

You know, ironically, my clients are planners, and we've been talking many had decisions before decision day hits, which is traditionally April and May so we knew where they wanted to go. I think students out of all this still want to get to campus, at least the majority of clients I'm working with I haven't had that. Not to say it might not happen in the weeks ahead, but I think people want to, students don't want that chance of Hey, I want to get to campus even it's a hybrid model. Even if I'm living in my own dorm, they still want to have college experience.
They don't know any difference. So they're still looking to get there. I do think the word I'm glad you brought up it's something I'm super passionate about gap year and a student deferring their admission are two different worlds and it really scares me. For my admissions times when students took a year off school, there are many students that never came back. Mm hmm. I think it takes a year off without any plan and I can respect if they aren't an online learner and just waiting for you. financial investment, I can respect that. But I would want to know and I don't have this with any clients, but I'm prepared. What are we doing with the eight hour unit? 16 hours in a day? What are we learning? What are we? How are we getting back to school because students without those plans, unfortunately college or any type of education post secondary will pass them by hopefully and then it may come back when they have a lot more life responsibilities. I think gap year I hear a lot which I wrote a great blog with a person that runs a gap year program on my website. It's it differentiates those two terms mean something new And again, coming back to a point it's so situational, you need to speak at colleges. I know there are certain universities, it's their prerogative, I don't think it's right or wrong. I'm not here to judge but they're taking merit aid away, if you defer for the whole year. So if you are need to understand if you've gotten some sort of institutional war a parade, what will happen to that. So again, you need to be having the dialogue with the admissions people, some will let you hold it some wool. Again, there's over 4000 Polish a country, so you really need to be in the details. You so it's, again, I think with if somebody is going to differ, I really would want them to have a strong action plan of what they're going to do and how they're going to come back to this, whether it's in January, or the following year.
Jason, I posted the link to that blog post. It's a really good post. It's in the comments there spelling ones out there. Check that out because it does really explain it very nicely.

What What about SSH keys now what about this whole movement about entrance exams changing I think in California. They've made some changes and I'm not sure about anywhere else.
No, it's the USC, the University of California systems decided to start piloting test optional. You know, with that in mind, many schools are saying they are test optional. And I think this comes again to our point where you really have to be in the details and if families don't know this is where I become a great resource because I love to get into details. Some colleges are seeing their test optional, but they requiring scores for business programs, engineering programs, medical programs, so you really have to look is this full test optional or not? And I think what families are saying and you're losing sight of there's something in admissions called test blind, and test optional not to be confusing. Test blind is when a college will not look at scores all together. That's optional is when a call it will say if you have scores, we'll consider them however if you don't, we'll look at other areas can realize is there are and I do have clients that you know, have taken These tests in the past in December, so they do a great score so they can submit that. I would say to that, at this time, the SH T and the AC t are, you know, have their full false schedules out. If you haven't registered, you need to get dates because colleges haven't moved their admissions dates back and their deadlines which a big deadline is usually around November 1, for many colleges, so it's important to get those scores now if we aren't able to test in the fall, then that could change things, you know, for some, but I think right now, fingers crossed, everyone's hoping that we can get back to standardized testing in the fall months and students will be able to submit those scores. So I think people need to be very cautious when they hear test optional not think Woohoo, we're, we're done with that. There's coming back, man, it's coming back. No worries.
What about the questions about value proposition so I get into Harvard versus you know, going to another university. Maybe I don't need to spend $60,000 Yeah.

Yeah, no, I think, you know, it's funny. I was on a call with a client this morning. There is an admissions application method called early decision, which is a binding commitment, right? And the students said, which is a great point, he's like, Jason, I've really liked this school, but I don't see it. It's really tough for making an early decision commitment, which is a great point, because early decision isn't for everyone. I always feel a competitive schools like Harvard and Ivy's run strongly on more applicants being admitted through early decision in many cases. So I think that's going to be a big challenge for students. And I think to your point as well Adri families are going to say from a value standpoint, if we're learning at home, you know, not education costs could be completely different for colleges. We're pushing 70 80,000 a year right, could change this next generation. We had a generation that got out of school, and they have degrees and they're deeply in debt. in debt and not able to get jobs so that, you know, that's also prevalent. So are you aligning people to be thinking about what the opportunities are in the next four to five years?

Absolutely. That's a passion and why I've always called my business campus career crossroads, I think college should be thought of in a healthy way. With a return on investment perspective, every trade has a different, really ROI. And it's healthy. I think I take a lot of pride in building a college list for families and navigating blind spots. Again, we shouldn't have a college list with all 70 $80,000 price points. There's all different price points throughout that so you have to protect the family academically and financially. So I think when you build an effective college list, you have different ways to apply. You have different schools of admission selectivity. And those choices are really helpful because when they're in the right space, it's really fun to watch these young people then connect the dots, find their passion, find their interest over the month ahead, and they have great choices. So it's more Critical than ever, I think to build the right college list for clients and their families to make sure we stay in that affordability, academic and return on investment range, it's going to set them up for success.
So are there any questions out there? Jonathan?

That's some great ones here. Yeah, definitely. Um, so, Jason, so are you expecting a big decline in overseas students and how this might impact college finances?
I'm sorry, what was the first part of the channeling account?

Are you expecting a big decline in overseas students do the whole COVID thing and will that impact college finances then accordingly?
Yeah, actually, that's huge. You know, let's get political. You know, a few weeks ago, the administer the Trump administration wanted to stop foreign students from coming on a lot of universities filed lawsuits, because again, foreign students or students usually pay full tuition and universities have been very hurt right now in the past four months. So, you know, I think that's something else people need to look at, but the oh you know, having four Students come in adds a great deal of diversity to the campus life, the learning. And that's something very important that colleges need and looks like is going to happen potentially. But it's something it's another area of concern for college administration leadership right now making sure all those students are back on campus safe.
Absolutely. We've got a really good comment here from one of our regular webcast viewers here from Aaron O'Neill. Just commenting here saying overwhelmingly students physically went to school to connect with high achiever, fellow students and teachers and in person opportunities, says, she says I went back to school for a Master's recently in the school asked those current students what they thought about online learning. Well, there are benefits to it. You're being able to replay presentations and safety but you're not getting that that connection, obviously, that we're been talking about this entire time because you know how important it is for us to encounter them again.

Yeah, no, it's it's going to be different in that regard. I mean, again, I'm not a doctor. I'm a vaccine. I'd like to think somewhat in the in the months or year ahead or so, you know that there will be some of that back to normalcy. You know, all students have gone through this. You know, it was interesting. I was reading an article and there's a podcast from Tulane University who has a really great admissions leader, who's really a thought leader throughout the country and shared students coming from Hurricane Katrina and how that impacted their college experience. years. Wow, now that adversity, you know, coming into a place like Tulane, which is a very prestigious university, very academically challenged, they were set to go there. They had obviously a lot of momentum taken out of their freshman experience, but how they worked through that rebound, it came through stronger so I know this freshman class is certainly having a lot of consternation. I certainly have a lot of empathy for, but I do think that they will get back to some of that nostalgia college experience at some point. It's going to look different, but I think this will embolden them and again, if they can take these opportunities to find new solutions, new ways to collaborate They're going to be stronger and further ahead because of it.

So one of the things that I worry about is the bifurcation of access to universities. And I worry that this has made it worse. Because only those who can have access can kind of can, you know, afford to even make some of these decisions. And I also worry that many universities might not be able to withstand the challenges ahead. And so some may say, that's just the free market working appropriately right. I do think that we might be all too nostalgic because we had great university experiences. And we want that for, you know, our kids and our families and friends. I do think that there's no going back. But I also think that we need the advice of someone like you who's been across the sector for so long on both sides of it, so to speak. can just help people think think about what's the return? What's the investment? How does your child learn? What kind of careers is that is your child or your you know, your family member going to go into and what is the world? What's the world and we don't know what the world isn't four years from now, because jobs that will be existing in four years are not jobs that we know about today. But we directionally know that there are some basic skills that people really do need to have at least as a base in college, and it's continuous learning. So I appreciate you the work that you're doing by helping families and so obviously, you're doing a whole bunch of zooms, right. You're talking to families by zooms you're not going to their house, you're not hanging out with them.

I know it's, I think it's too risky for everybody. I just wouldn't want to see anybody get sick from their family, to my family. And really, you know, I've done this with clients all throughout the country and had great success. And I think it's actually more advantageous in some ways to meet via zoom. Nigel's were always busy sharing screens and even when we talk through the details, and even right now, I've been working with a lot of students on building their, their college application items, because there's a lot of controllables to develop a great college application that students can now be screen talking through essays, talking through activities, talking through all the details is actually much more effective. And many families have liked it, you know, we found great, you know, found even more value because it's more convenient for their schedules and work schedules. And, you know, we don't commute. So, again, it's probably added an extra layer of efficiency to my business where, again, I always enjoyed them face to face with people and I think our great Pittsburgh community always values that. But I think right now, safety first, and we aren't compromising anything in the service, deliver and probably more effective instead of passing papers and passing things around and taking any chance.
That's great. Well, Jonathan, if there's Nothing else.

One last question. Just Bell here. Yeah, from Alicia McGinnis. So here's a good one for you, Jason, curious about your thoughts on this? What are your thoughts about standardized testing going forward? How will it be relevant if some applicants had problems getting it done with COVID? Plus some schools are just abandoning it at this point?

No, it is being piloted to you know, when we look at the UC system and other schools, people are looking to maybe step away from it. It's going to be interesting. I know colleges, in many cases, it was a great data point for them to help find that academic fit. So I think it's going to be determined through this probably out of this how colleges can evaluate candidates appropriately and effectively to fit. The one thing that I always say with standardized test scores people don't think of as much is that they actually help. I think when you look at the scores a little bit to see what that academic fit would be for the student there because you don't want to see a student get over overextended academically. So test scores, people always looked at what do I need to get in, but then secondly, you can Get them from a different light to help determine academic write, a lot of people never want to write. But yeah, I think it's something out there, it's going to be tough to, to potentially abandon the AC T and the SCT certainly are huge companies that have a lot of presence. And you know that there's just been a lot of influence with that. But I also think colleges are open minded to it. So it's probably going to be one of the things we definitely have to track. And it's, it could be a new possibility of the COVID. In the next three or four or five years when we look at there is a great website, I'll leave it in closing called fair A lot of families don't realize exists out there that tracks all the colleges going test optional. And even before this, there were many colleges that were truly test optional, meaning they didn't want to see your score, things like that. So many people don't realize that websites out there because sometimes they might have a son or daughter that's not you know, best for standardized testing, or was another great resource I love to share with clients because it shows them there's tons of great questions. abilities out there. You know if standardized testing isn't a great fit for for someone as well.

Well, thank you for joining us. I think your website should have been shared by now. You want to say it one last time?
Sure. It's campus to career Crossroads calm just as it sounds completely spelled out. I really appreciate the opportunity. Hopefully, we've maybe shared some insights of the tools and anything over and above happy to help you sign up.

So, Jonathan, who's on tomorrow, tomorrow is Lucas Kerman from very excited, man. That was a $35 million series c raise back in spring, one of the positive points in Pittsburgh during his work, this whole COVID things we're gonna learn about how they're going to grow in Pittsburgh,
right, but they're focused on colleges and colleges and schools and neighborhoods. So good stuff.

So thank you, everyone. Thanks for being here with us today and we'll see you tomorrow.
Thanks, everybody.

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