Category Archives: Teen Career Exploration

This blog is for any high school student, teenager, their parents, school counselors or career coaches who provide services to high school students. We focus on the high school student mostly. But if you are a college student and haven’t ever paused to do some serious self reflection and career exploration based on your true talents you might want to read this blog and visit us at Success Discoveries. This blog is a supplement to the Career Coaching for Students™ program found at
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College Visits: Ten Mistakes to Avoid

As a college-bound teen or parent, you have likely been dreaming of visiting colleges for a long time and are excited about getting that first-hand feel for the college atmosphere. It is a big decision, many times made with emotional gut responses – that needs to based on purpose.

The college choice is secondary, purpose is first.
If you are up against a time clock and need to get on the road, you’ll want to jump into our ten mistakes to avoid listed below. You’ll also want to do some up front strategic thinking to articulate a purpose for attending college so the final college choice is the best for your long-term goals. Here are the strategic questions that must be addressed before you take those first steps on college campuses.

  1. What is your purpose for attending college?
  2. What are your career goals?
  3. What are the educational requirements for the career you want to pursue?
  4. What employers and industries will be your primary targets once you graduate?
  5. What educational achievements do employers in your career path value most?
  6. Will you need an internship as part of your college experience?
  7. Which college or university should I visit?

Colleges and universities will show off their best stuff (see Mistake #8). Before you invest in a visit, be sure you know some facts and figures about the university. We recommend a great resource called College Navigator as a “must use” information repository. Whether you have already made up your mind or need to narrow your list of choices, this site has extremely important information you won’t find available on campus. For example, would you want to visit a college that has a first-year retention rate of 50% or a four-year average graduation rate of 40%?

College Visit Facts and Figures

For many students and parents, the strategic questions seem so difficult that they are bypassed by the rationalization “we’ll figure it out later”. Even some education scholars have suggested high school students aren’t capable of finding valid answers to those questions until perhaps their sophomore year of college. Yet, these same academic scholars expect students to make the decision to choose a college or university.

From a career planning and coaching perspective, the questions above are exactly what should be focused on in high school. The answers will evolve and student confidence in those answers becomes stronger with an intentional approach to the research process. AND, you’ll have a much more positive and fruitful college visit experience. Most if not all high schools as well as colleges and universities don’t offer effective guidance and support to answer these critical questions. The Career Coaching for Students™  program provides a proven and effective method for answering these questions in a manner that empowers the student and eliminates the fog.

Before you plan the college visit road trip…
Learn from those that came before you.

As you plan your college visits, consider the following ten mistakes many students and their parents have made. To get the most out of your college visits, avoid making the same ones.

Mistake #1 – Not registering with the admissions office either before or during your time on campus

If you don’t check in at the admissions offices, colleges have no way of knowing that you were on campus. Visiting a college and letting them know you were there can strengthen your chances of admission, because it shows you did your due diligence–commonly referred to as your demonstrated interest.

Visiting a college and letting them know you were there can strengthen your chances of admission, because it shows you did your due diligence–commonly referred to as your demonstrated interest.

The more you can connect with a college by attending an information session, taking a walking tour, emailing or interacting with admission officers on social media or attending events in your local area, it will seem to the college and the admissions officers that you’ve done your research. They can be fairly confident that you will accept and enroll if offered admission to that school. Even if you are doing a self-guided tour, make sure the admissions offices know you’re on campus.

Mistake #2 – Not researching or making pre-arrival plans prior to visiting

Whether it is knowing where to park or setting up a appointment to meet with a current student in your major, a professor or advisor or admissions counselor while on campus, it’s important to do your college visit research before you travel.

For instance: Parking can be difficult at many colleges and universities and parking tickets can be costly (based on personal experience of this author). Knowing where to park (and to not park!) will save you both time and trouble.

Although you might be able strike up a conversation with a student or two while on campus, and we do recommend that, there is a good chance that you won’t be able to spend extensive time with a student or professor unless you have planned the meet-up in advance. There are opportunities to meet students, the dean of the specific college at the university you are interested in and professors and advisors in the college, you just need to reach out and get commitments and contact information before arriving on campus.

For the more introverted student, this is an opportunity to “pretend” to be an outgoing and people-oriented person. You’ll be rewarded greatly for going outside your comfort zone. Think of it this way, you aren’t expected to know anything. If fact, high school students who don’t ask questions or present a false presentation of being all knowing are rated much lower by those you meet – and yes some of those you meet will be making notes and passing judgement to the admissions staff. There will be a file built about you.

Mistake #3 – Not having complete contact and meet-up information for your time on campus

Having each day planned out with times, meeting places, maps and all contact information will make your trip run so much smoother. Even with detailed, daily itineraries at their fingertips, we have heard that some students have forgotten to go to appointments (wow!) – not a great first impression. Imagine how much more difficult it will be to navigate an activity-filled day without a planner with this information readily accessible. [By the way, the Career Coaching for Students guidebook is a 3-ring binder that transforms into a college visit organizer.]

Here’s an example: If you’re stuck in traffic, a meeting has run long or you’re lost on campus, having contact information at your fingertips will make it easier for you to let someone know you’re still on your way.

Hotel can’t find your reservation or you arrive late at night? From personal experience, our hotel reservation had been changed inadvertently by the web-based booking agent and we didn’t know it until arriving at the hotel counter. It worked out in the end but it added a level of stress to an otherwise exciting journey. Having your confirmed booking information on your daily itinerary will make it easy for you to retrieve your reservation. We had ours.

Mistake #4 – Don’t be “that parent”

You expect your teen to be respectful and cordial when on campus, so don’t be that parent that other students and parents will talk about after the tour. Remember, this is the teen’s time to explore. It is your student who needs to ask most of the questions, to get the feel of the campus and the college community. As a parent, try your best to fade into the background while also enjoying the experience with your teen. Chances are, if they’re like most teenagers, they won’t feel at ease asking questions if you’re right beside them or overpowering them. It’s ok to ask questions but don’t be the lead, DO follow. Be helpful but not overpowering. Many deans and professors will actually ask the parents to sit in the waiting area so they can meet with the student one-on-one. We applaud this tactic. Parents, if they don’t take this proactive step, bow out and let your student meet without you.

collegecampusfallMistake #5 – Not taking time to explore the campus on your own

Be sure to allow time to look around at all aspects of the college. Let your teen wander around on their own if they want. Visit areas you might not have seen on the campus tour. Ask the tour guide what they recommend. For example, is s/he interested in the performing arts? Find out how to visit the facilities on campus. How about the fine arts? Would it be possible for someone to show them around the studio? The library? The intramural athletics facilities? Taking the time to explore is well worth the time and effort. As subjective as it is, taking a little extra time will help your teen determine whether or not the college is a good fit for their personality and short and long term goals.

Mistake #6 – Don’t miss the opportunity for your teen to spend an overnight on campus

Some colleges offer an overnight program. Staying overnight can be an ideal second visit strategy. If this is available and something your teen would like to do, check with the admissions offices – as far in advance as possible – to find out if they offer the opportunity and if so, when these arrangements are available, their particular policies, and when to register – the spots do fill up quickly! This is one of the most valuable experiences that your student can have during the college search process; many students miss this opportunity either because they don’t know about it or because they plan too late.

If your teen does arrange an overnight, make sure you both have secondary contact information in case a problem arises; and have a talk with your son or daughter about their responsibilities when on campus. We’ve heard some stories of visiting students heading off in their own direction and not communicating with their host as to where they are. You and your teen should discuss in advance what they hope to get out of their overnight experience and understand that they are guests of the college.

Mistake 7 – Not asking relevant questions

Whether visiting as part of a group or with parents, students should be prepared with questions. Your teen should do some research before they arrive on campus so the questions they ask are those that through their research they have not found answers to – this will allow them to benefit the most from the time they have with tour guides and admissions staff. Some teens hesitate to ask questions because they are shy or afraid they may sound foolish. Others hesitate because they do not want to annoy the others in the group by holding up the tour. Neither fear is warranted.

Neither fear is warranted.

In fact there’s no better time to ask questions than during a campus visit. If your teen has questions in mind, they should ask them. Refer to our other article, College Tours: Questions to Ask on a College Visit – And Who to Ask for a starter list of great questions. It will help them make informed decisions.

When it comes to asking questions, the student conducting the tour is a great warm up opportunity. Also ask admissions staff, teaching and laboratory staff and even current students you meet throughout the day.

Mistake #8 – Getting impressed by the bells and whistles

Campus visits are a great opportunity for colleges to sell their services to eager students and parents. While most colleges and universities do deliver on their promises, they tend to highlight their best side while downplaying some of their shortcomings. The landscaping along the driveway will probably be immaculate and you are likely to hear about the number of volumes in the library, the new sporting or theater facility or hi-tech classrooms. Don’t be immediately swayed. Look around and ask questions.
During your campus visit, it is important to stay focused on what matters most to your teen. But you can also pay attention to the things that will make a difference to you as a parent. For instance, if you know your son or daughter is interested in studying in the STEM fields, check out the labs and the research facilities – don’t get caught up in the hype about the rock wall.

Mistake #9 – Not making the effort to gather ‘insider’ information

To find out how things really work, spend some time getting insider information from those who have nothing to gain — current students. Sitting down and having coffee or lunch with a current student will provide valuable insight into the things that really matter to your student. Before the day of your campus visit, find students through Facebook or other social media that attend and make a list of questions to ask students. You’ll find juniors, seniors and recent graduates are likely also on LinkedIn.

Questions your student might ask are:

  • “What do you like most about the college?”
  • “Why did you choose this college?”
  • “What’s it like to live in this college dorm?”
  • “What does your typical weekend look like?”
  • “Might you tell me what don’t you like about the college?”
  • “Do you find the professors, administrators and staff helpful/supportive?”
  • “Can I text you if I have additional questions?” (ask for their phone number)

Mistake #10 – Discounting the importance of the surrounding area

Ignoring the surrounding area is a mistake that could impact your teen’s whole college experience. Each community surrounding a college is completely unique. Let’s say you live in a rural area and your teen is visiting a college in a big city with very little campus area or the campus is spread out in a patch work manner. If you have time, hop on a bus or subway that may be the primary transportation that your teen will use often. Find out where the dorms will be – will it be too noisy? Are they within walking or biking distance to most classes.

If your teen comes from a bigger city with a lot going on, how will it feel to be in a more suburban or rural campus? How easy is it to get to the grocery store or Target? Does the school provide transportation or do they contract with the public transportation system of the city?

Surroundings do matter. Your teen will be spending four to five (?) years in college and it is important to not be in the wrong setting. Spend some time discovering the restaurants, cultural centers, museums and other facilities that the neighborhood offers and ask your teen if this is a place where they would be happy to call home.

A campus visit can give you and your teen great information. Information that will help them make the right college choice.

College Visit Checklist by Career Coaching for Students

College Board campus-visit-checklist

Career Coaching for Students College Visit PROs and CONs Worksheet

Tap here for other articles that may be of interest on our blog.

Preliminary Study Shows Critical Skill Missing in College Freshman – but why?

Is Decision Making as a Skill One of the Keys to Student Success?

5 Reasons Parents Should Invest In Career Coaching for High School Students

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Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

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Have a question for Carl Nielson, author of this article and creator of the national program Career Coaching for Students?


What to do after you receive the college acceptance letter

Receiving an acceptance letter from a college is an important moment not just for the applicant, but their family as well. Jeffrey Brenzel, ex-Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University says many families have no idea what to do when the acceptance comes in. Getting an acceptance, though joyous, can also leave you a little bewildered on what you should do next. An intentional decision-making process will ensure your happiness and success.

Here is an optimal step-by-step approach to what you should do after receiving the acceptance letter.

1. Wait for letters from other colleges

If you have applied to more than one college, it is best to wait and see if you get a response from a college you prefer over the current one. Colleges start sending out letters by mid-March and for most colleges, the National Candidates Reply Date is in May. However, make sure you go through the documents and check the stated deadline.

2. Compare costs

If you have received an acceptance letter from multiple colleges, conduct a cost comparison. Do not look at just the tuition fees, but take into consideration other expenses such as cost of food, cost of living in the city, transportation, hostel fees, cost of books and any other expenses you might incur. Do a comparative analysis and discuss it with your family. Take into account the loan amount you plan to take.

Subtract any confirmed grant or scholarship money and be sure you are able to meet the net expenses comfortably. Ask yourself, “Can I afford the cost or do I need to pick up a part-time job? If I have to work, can I juggle my studies and the job, without compromising my grades?”. Keep in mind, if you perform very well in your freshman year, you may be eligible for a scholarship for your sophomore, junior or senior years, but don’t be dependent on that happening.

3. Re-visit the campus

Hopefully you have already visited the campuses where you’ve applied. Make sure you re-visit your top two choices. These days students apply to multiple colleges, and therefore, it becomes difficult for admission officers to assess how interested the applicant actually is. If you visit the campus and show your interest, this acts as an important factor for your candidature.

As per a survey conducted by The National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2015, a very important factor for freshmen were a student’s demonstrated interest. According to the survey, this is what the admission officers look for:

“The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2015 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, overall high school GPA, and admission test scores. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.” – NACAC

Let us break these down so you can perfect your score in all these areas and up your chances you securing your seat, because some colleges do rescind their offer if their conditions are not met.

  1. Grades, admission test scores, class rank and teacher recommendation- These can be achieved by dedication, discipline and perseverance.

  2. Overall high GPA – Getting accepted into a college should not make you lose focus on your high school grades. Most letters have a conditional clause which indicates your overall GPA needs to be a minimum for the acceptance to stand valid. Declining grades or disciplinary actions can cause the colleges to revoke the offer. So do party after getting your letter, but get back to work soon after!

  3. Admission essay – Writing an admission essay can be tricky. While this essay is supposed to bring out your thoughts and is a platform to state your personal goals, but remember the essay needs to be professional and succinct. If you are not too sure about how well your essay reads, contact the best essay writers and take their assistance to improve your essay writing skills.

  4. Your demonstrated interest – As stated above, visiting a college campus not only substantiates your interest to the admission officer, but also gives you a lot more information about the college. It is advisable to attend a class so you can know about the quality of instructors, or attend a regional event on the campus, or just spend a day to get an overall feel about the campus. Ask yourself, “Do I envision myself coming here every day and liking it?”. See if you fit into the campus “politically, religiously and geographically” as suggested by Robert Franek, Vice President- Publishing, Princeton Review.

4. Internship opportunities

Check out the different internship opportunities offered within the major at your accepted colleges. Also ensure they offer the majors you are interested in. Choose a college that scores high on these two factors as they determine an important part of your growth.

5. Connect and investigate

Kiersten Murphy, Director, Seattle-based Murphy College Consultants says you need to be a “great investigator“.

Some good avenues you can check to know more about the college, apart from visiting the campus, are:

  • Check out their blog. This usually speaks volumes about the college culture.
  • Find out how many students return after the freshman year.
  • Find out how many students graduate.
  • Talk to current students, alumni of the college and staff from the college.
  • Connect with people in Facebook groups, LinkedIn and other social media communities.
  • Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor. Chances are they may have additional information and useful insights.

While it is a great idea to connect with people and get their thoughts, but be discerning and know how to differentiate opinion from fact.

6. Get social

Attend a local alumni gathering. You will not only get to meet people and make friends, but many times these early connections can lead to future job prospects. Once you’ve accepted and are told who your roommate will be, reach out to get to know them. You can also discuss who would bring what for sharing in your dorm room. Don’t put this off to the day you show up on campus!

7. Don’t be passive

Most colleges appreciate if the student stays in touch with them throughout the admissions process. Keep them informed about your latest grades or updated GPAs. It is also wise to have your teacher or high school counselor send a letter, but do not assume they will do it on their own. Take the initiative to approach them and request them to do it. Any letter of recommendation from your teachers has a lot of value.

However, some colleges have a handful of admission officers and bombarding them with frequent updates can be annoying, and might even hurt your chances of acceptance. But this is a recommended way if you are planning to get into a small college.

8. Ask for an extension, if required

If you need some more time to arrive at a decision, write a letter requesting for an extension. If you do get it, use the extra time responsibly to make the decision. Do not make the mistake of sending deposits to multiple colleges to buy time. This is not only unethical, but colleges might retract their offer if they find out.

What should you do if you receive a list letter from a college?

Receiving a conditioned acceptance letter (aka, wait listed) can be difficult and leave you frustrated. In such cases, it is advisable to go ahead with some other college where you received a confirmed offer. Do not pay any deposit fees to be on the wait list. Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor to discuss an action plan and get more clarity on the way ahead.

Hurray! You have chosen the college! What’s next

Read all their documents and make a list of what you need to send them. You will need to send:

  • forms completed thoroughly and correctly
  • your letter of acceptance and confirmation
  • the deposit
  • letter requesting financial aid, if any
  • any special needs or disability requests, if applicable

Write to the other colleges

Do not forget to write to the other colleges you received acceptance from to let them know of your decision. Write them a grateful letter thanking them for their acceptance and declining your interest. This will help the admission officers sort out their list and contact the wait list candidates to join them.

Use an intentional decision-making process to choose the best college for you, one that you will be happy to be a part of, and that will help you achieve your professional goals, but remember to be realistic with your expectations. Keep in mind what Brenzel, Yale University, says – “Remember above all else that no college is going to be paradise, and that all colleges have something outstanding to offer you.”

Meenakshi VenugopalMeenakshi Venugopal is a guest blogger and the co-founder of Hashtag17, a company that specialises in web designing and development, graphic designing and social media marketing. When she is not working on projects with her clients, she guest blogs on education, technology and management. She is a contributor on Entrepreneur and JPost.

Livia SusanLivia Susan is a business manager who recently started Lifesaver Essays after being a freelance research and writer for over 6 years. She has helped numerous companies and individuals with their web strategy, social media strategy, content, blog posts, and much more so their companies could establish an identity of their own. With the start of her own education company, Lifesaver Essays, Livia plans to make education better and easier for students.

How important is your handshake?

student-money-handshakeFrom the picture above, you can guess the answer. YOUR handshake will have a financial impact on YOU. Guaranteed. So it is very important. Do I have your attention? I hope so.

When I shake your hand, it’s neither too rugged, nor too tough; it’s solid. And even though I feel uncomfortable staring into a stranger’s eyes (it is a form of intimacy) I will look you in the eye as I shake your hand. My corporate clients, C-level people and managerial level decision makers who are involved in hiring and college recruiting tell me all the time, “The handshake tells me a lot.”

Everything starts with a handshake and you may be judged by your handshake in interviews, business meetings and day to day encounters, whether you like it our not and whether you know it or not! So, take heed, your handshake may define you.

Improve your handshake with these simple guidelines:

  1. Prepare to meet someone when possible by reflecting on who they are and what you know about them and their different roles (all of their roles like mother/father, son/daughter to an elderly parent, manager, executive, young recent grad representative of the company, etc.). Take a moment to consider their world, their day and their goals.
  2. Proactively reach out your hand to the person you are greeting.
  3. Look directly into the eyes of the person’s hand you are shaking – be bold, do not look away.
  4. Firmly grab the whole hand of the other person and squeeze firmly. Some people use the squeeze to make a statement and squeeze too hard. Squeezing too hard is WRONG and rude. But giving a limp handshake is uncomfortable (yuk!).
  5. Shake with firmness twice (it’s ok if the other person extends the shake).
  6. Smile if it is natural for you, but simultaneously nod or gesture with a clear and confident voice, i.e. “Good to meet you.” or “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” If you don’t have confidence or feel intimidated by the meeting, simply “fake it until you make it”.
  7. Keep eye contact until a mutual letting go.
  8. Always be sincere in showing your interest in the other person.

If you think your handshake does not matter, try bringing up the topic people in business. You might be surprised to discover how important or opinionated business leaders are about eye-contact and handshakes.

So how important is your handshake? A firm handshake coupled with solid eye-contact will have people warming up to you faster, while improving your professional career as it solidifies partnerships. According to David Hoare, an accounting systems and business consultant, “The number one tool for marketing is the handshake and a smile.  It costs zero to extend the hand and use a few facial muscles.  But the value it generates is priceless.  Pretty much all business relationships begin this way.  The handshake and smile is the most effective marketing tool available at all levels of business.”

MediaPlanet posted an article on the handshake where they stated, “A recent survey of more than 2,000 businessmen and women revealed that 47 percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.” This isn’t just true for the external hiring process, you’ll find this true when internal job opportunities become available too.

Forty-seven percent of professionals believe they have lost a contract, a client or job opportunity because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings.

When it comes to starting your career, being face-to-face lays the foundation for career growth. It’s where casual meeting, greeting and handing out business cards translate to hiring, building collaborative and supportive relationships and acquiring life-long mentors.

The digital world will continue to transform the ways we can stay connected, but those connections need more than a Wi-Fi signal and a webcam to come to life. If you are interviewing, and the company is trying to save costs by using webcam technology, volunteer to meet at their place of business if it is an extremely important opportunity. If the opportunity arises, simply say, “I was planning to be in [their city] that week anyway, I could easily extend my stay to meet in person if that works on your end.” The risk is that some jobs require the person to change their plans without much notice. The person may agree to meet in person and later find out they have to change their plans to accommodate the SVP or CEO’s schedule. The best way to view that risk is that the person you are planning to meet with will likely delegate the meeting to others so it isn’t likely to be a complete failure.

So shake those hands and be the master of meet and greet skills. Only your financial and career future are riding on it.

Carl Nielson is founder of Success Discoveries and creator of Career Coaching for Students™, a program for high schools, colleges, families and students. Carl is also managing principal of The Nielson Group, a national talent management consulting firm. View his LinkedIn profile here.

Is Decision-Making as a Skill one of the Keys to Student Success?

In life, there are so many options and decisions to make. For high school students, decision making skills are critical yet one study showed incoming college freshmen engineering students who were assessed using a specific personal skills assessment scored “decision making” at the bottom of their developed skills. And as seniors, college students did not show a significant improvement in the Decision Making competency.
Students may get input from family, teachers and friends.  But, they are still not convinced – and shouldn’t be convinced – that they have the right answers.

10 steps for good decision making…

1. Define the problem you are facing? What is the problem to be solved (e.g., what classes to take next semester, what college major to choose, what college to choose, what career to choose)? Write down the problem statement so you are clear on what you are trying to resolve. Write down why you should solve this issue (e.g., what are your priorities) and any qualifiers for the best solution (example: I want to choose a major that leads to great career options and a high paying job when I graduate). This step gives you an idea of how important this decision is and what to consider.

2. Gather information. Ask for advice. Write down what you need to learn. Interview people (e.g., parents of friends, your own parents, other students). What do others who have already been through this say? Gather information from valid sources (e.g., speak to your school counselor, check for useful information on the Internet) What facts are important to consider? What is holding you back from gathering information (e.g., fears, etc.). This step provide you with both objective (non-biased) and subjective (biased) information.

3. What is important to you? You may have listed some important things in your problem statement in step one. Here you want to list those tangible values that further qualify the possibilities. What conditions must be met?

4. Brainstorm and write down your possible options. Come up with ideas and choices you can choose from. Organize them.

5. Create a plan for researching your ideas or choices and carry them out. Create a plan of specific steps with deliverable dates (everyone works better with deadlines) that you will take. Begin to carry out your plan.

6. Remove barriers. As you begin and throughout the process of carrying out your action plan, look for barriers to accomplishing what you want and take proactive action to mitigate (reduce) the impact of any barrier to achieving your goal.

7. Summarize your action plan. Provide a recap of what you are doing for yourself, and share the recap and the process you went through with your parents and other important stakeholders.

8. Identify the consequences (good and bad) of each choice? Use steps 2 and 3 to help determine the pros and cons of each possible choice listed in step 4. Write these down in a table so you have all the data right in front of you. Create a decision T-diagram for pros and cons to the option and, with your shorter, best possible options, analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the option.

9. Decide on the best choice for you. This is much easier after you go through the above steps. Rate your options if you have to. Rank order based on your research. Take a few days to think about it if you need to and then come back to your dilemma.

10. Measure the results. This can only be done once you made your decision, carried out your plan, and received feedback. How would you rate your decision? What about the steps you took? Are you still meeting the things important to you. What lessons did you learn? This is an important step for strengthening your decision-making skills. If you find your decision didn’t work out well the first time around, use what you learned when you go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate your choice. If the first choice didn’t turn out right, it doesn’t mean game over. Retrace your steps and start from the best place possible.

Are high school students provided access to competent career coaching and career, education and life planning exploration tools?
Since we all live busy lives, we are looking for tools and support that are easy to use and bring true value and benefits – saving time and money in the long run – not to mention greater self-esteem and confidence for the student.
Looking for Immediate Answers
It would be great to get instant answers.  However, searching for the right career is a journey – a process.
Tools make the journey easier.
Career Coaching for Students™ is an easy-to-use program that divides the process into three steps –
• Knowing yourself
• Learning about careers that match You, Inc.
• Deciding the right strategies and paths
Even the Home Study self-directed program provides two 2-hour personal sessions with a career coach using distant-coaching technology (via phone and Internet) to get you started.  The tools provide students with the answers needed to successfully decide on a career direction – or to feel confident you’ve shortened the list to a very manageable two or three career areas to further evaluate.
Once you purchase the program, you get immediate access to the student assessments and client resources.
We also offer the most comprehensive and extensive student resources that students need to explore careers, school choices, majors and much more – to make the correct decisions.

Student Well-Being: Two Reasons Schools Should Care

High School Studentsby Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer, Success Discoveries, and creator of Career Coaching for Students, a program for high school students.

I work with high school students rather often considering I’m not a teacher or school administrator. What I’m sensing is that student well-being is important – for two key reasons. The first reason is the recognition that schooling should not just be about academic outcomes but about well-being of the ‘whole person’; the second is that students who have higher levels of well-being tend to have better cognitive outcomes at school (an important goal of most high schools).

I provide a program called Career Coaching for Students™ which is how I’ve come to work with so many high school students. This program has a key component – to focus on the whole student, to establish a sense of well-being on multiple levels while exploring self and possible futures. According to the Australian Centre for Education Statistics & Evaluation, in May 2015, they released their literature review into Student Well-Being. You can access the entire document here. It clearly and concisely lays out all the considerations important for addressing student well-being in schools. It also offers dozens of research papers to explore by way of referencing.

Defining well-being as:

A sustainable state of positive mood and attitude, resilience and satisfaction with self, relationships and experiences at school.

Assuming your school or organization is keen to address well-being in a meaningful way, the literature suggests you need to have 5 things in place.

1. Safety – Schools need to provide a safe environment

2. Connectedness – A sense of belonging to the school environment

3. Learning Engagement – Students can engage with a school at social, institutional and intellectual levels.

When people work with their strengths, they tend to learn more readily, perform at a higher level, are more motivated and confident and have a stronger sense of satisfaction, mastery and competence.

4. Social & Emotional LearningSocial emotional learning (SEL) is an educational process for learning life skills but many of the aspects can be found in other more reactive problem-focused educational programming such as character education, restorative justice, peer mediation, bullying prevention, anger management, drug/alcohol prevention, violence prevention, school climate, ethical-decision making, harassment prevention, positive behavior supports. SEL teaches mental skills that lead to understanding and managing emotion, setting positive and realistic goals, building long-lasting relationships, showing empathy for others, and constructive and ethical problem-solving skills.

5. Whole School Approach – a culture of high expectations for all students with teachers who emphasize continuously improving their own thinking, skills and tools.

Well-being must be integrated into the school learning environment, the curriculum and pedagogy, the policies and procedures at schools, and the partnerships inherent within and outside schools including teachers, students, parents, support staff and community groups.

I believe that engagement and well-being are at the crux of what highly successful schools focus on and if we get this right, outcomes will – largely – look after themselves (for staff as well as students).

Misguided outcome focus

  • Average student GPA
  • Percent of students going to a four-year college

More effective outcome focus

  • Number of students with an established career plan, path and vision for their future
  • Number of students using and displaying effective life skills throughout high school years

But still… too many schools, organizations and systems pursue the wrong outcomes at the expense of engagement and well-being, and then they struggle to understand why staff, students and the wider community are so disaffected.

Career Coaching for Students logo

So what do you want to do with your life?

Career Coaching for Students™ and Life Skills for Students™ is primed and ready for mass delivery in high schools. But in the meantime, if you are a parent wanting to provide your high school student (incoming 9th grade is a perfect time) with a kind of well-being that leads to higher engagement and success, visit the Home Study version of the Career Coaching for Students program (which includes the Life Skills for Students self-study curriculum).

What’s the difference between a Student Career Coach and a School Counselor?

High School StudentsBy Julie Brewer, M.ED., licensed facilitator, Career Coaching for Students™ program and certified career counselor (GCDF)

What’s the difference between a high school counselor and a student career coach? We need to set the record straight: high school counselors are not the same as a student career coach! Parents need to know what support is being provided at school to help high school students and what is not. The difference can mean thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses for every family, not to mention the psychological impact with self-esteem.

A high school counselor has a broad job description. They are charged with addressing many areas around student success. Unfortunately, they also are responsible for a great deal of administrative work. To see a recent job description for a High School Counselor in a job posting go here.  The consistent theme seen in these job descriptions is a focus on “students in need”.

The school counselor’s educational level or credentials tend to be more specific as well (see Qualifications below). A student ‘career‘ counselor, employed by the school, may be more narrowly focused on student career development but will likely also have a significant administrative workload.

In addition, if the school subscribes to one of the tech solutions offered to high schools, the student career counselor may delegate too much of their career coaching job duties to the technology solution, expecting the student to be self-directed and motivated to use the tools.

A student career coach approaches each student as a unique client. They combine counseling best practices with high-impact career coaching in a manner that empowers the student and family to focus on vision, path and pursuit. The student career coach impacts personal social development, educational achievement, life skills and career direction.

Forward Movement
Career coaches first establish focus around the student’s self-awareness of talent strengths, current realities (academic, soci0-economic, etc.) and personal career and life goals. The student career coach has a method approach to working with the student to develop personal goals and create action goals to move forward – and break through barriers. As they work together, the student career coach looks for any past or current barriers that may be causing any challenges for the student.

Career coaches may have certifications from an accredited body like International Coach Federation (ICF) in addition to an undergraduate and masters in a wide range of career subjects like engineering, accounting, life sciences, psychology, etc. Those that come from academia may have an undergraduate degree in education, sociology or psychology and a masters in a related area. They will likely also have a professional license (e.g. Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC) which is typically required to practice in a school setting in the state they reside.

Outcomes vs. New Directions
A student career coach is going to assess the students’ talents and interests and provide tools and approaches that encourage/challenge the student to identify and research desired career paths and pursue those interests through student-appropriate action planning and execution. A student career coach focuses on co-creating outcomes/results/accomplishments that engage the student. They assess the student’s situation and help detangle confusion or address the emotional reasons if they’re not making progress.

Bottom line, a student career coach is dedicated to leading the student to a place of self-clarity and behaviors that support self-starting engagement in developing and sustaining one’s own future.

Do high academic achievers need a student career coach?
Annual Earnings TrajectoryMost high-achieving students are not provided much attention unless they specifically request assistance. Most students believe they are suppose to somehow magically know what they want to be or have the confidence and ability to figure it out – yet over 90% of students do not have clarity nor the confidence to adequately make decisions effectively.

Unfortunately, many high-achieving students are seen changing majors in college multiple times to “figure it out”. This results in much higher student debt and/or cost to the family – in the tens of thousands of dollars – that is not only unnecessary but delays the student’s ability to begin a career. The lost income by delaying graduation is much higher than the student debt. For example, if a graduating college student’s first salary is projected to be $50,000 per year, that equates to approximately $3,500 per month of income after taxes. Delay graduating by one semester (5 months) and you’ve lost $17,500 in earning potential at the start and over $80,000 for your lifetime. Delay a full year and you’ve lost $42,000 at the start and over $150,000 over a life time. The immediate cost of extending college by one semester is between $15,000 and $20,000 without considering the lost income. Lifetime Earnings Based on Education

Going to the School Counselor
The high school counselor will likely ask the student about why they are stuck in the first place. They will look for where the real motivation exists and if procrastination about making career decisions may have a deeper root somewhere else. The student career counselor will be there to remind you, encourage you and talk you through the experience of the process (taking standardized exams, applying to colleges, choosing a major, choosing a college and perhaps choosing a career).

The student career coach will go into high gear to provide the student with greater self-awareness, identify and narrow high-potential career interests, develop action plans around critical dates and deadlines and connect the student with people who are passionate about and working in the student’s career of interest.

Once the narrowing has been sufficiently completed, the career coach will focus more on what needs to be done today and tomorrow to move the student forward. Sometimes it’s dealing with the fear, but then you still need a method to set you up for success. A career coach helps a student with strategy and to think beyond what would normally be considered. For example, most students don’t realize they can join a professional organization as a student or start volunteering in the field they are interested in pursuing (without making a full commitment to that career yet). Student career coaching moves students into some form of action.

Timing is Everything
When is the best time to employ school counselors and/or career coaches?
We strongly encourage families to meet with the high school counselor the summer of the incoming 9th grade (freshman year). And, ideally, in the same summer before that meeting, employ or attend a student career exploration program such as Career Coaching for Students™ (one-on-one distant coaching by phone/web tools, in-person locally or workshops in your area).

About the Author
Julie Brewer is a licensed facilitator of the Career Coaching for Students™ program. She is a certified career counselor (GCDF) with a Master’s degree in Education and over ten years teaching experience. Her passion and expertise lies in coaching high school and college students to help them identify, appreciate and match their unique set of strengths and talents to high-potential career areas.

Through Career Coaching for Students™, a proven coaching program, Julie works with students and parents to develop a meaningful and successful career and education plan. She was trained in advanced assessment facilitation by Carl Nielson, creator of Career Coaching for Students, and went on to found Compass Discoveries in 2015.

Julie’s two sons graduated from Hinsdale Central High School, her oldest is pursuing a career path in economics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Her youngest is in Ghandruk, Nepal gaining experience in a wildlife conservation gap year program.

In her free time, Julie is an avid traveler, music fan, and life long learner.

Julie’s passions include:
★ Playing the role of certified career counselor, coach, educator, and entrepreneur.
★ Specializing in career coaching students in high school, college and recent grads.
★ Engaging students with high-quality, insightful and accurate assessments.
★ Co-creating achievable and exciting educational plan design based on student’s goals.
★ Introducing and focusing students on life skills development throughout the process.
★ Helping students choose a university and college major or vocation based on career and education goals.

Visit Julie’s website at
Julie’s LinkedIn profile:

Email Julie

The Career Coaching for Students™ program takes a practical, highly effective approach to helping students:
◾Gain greater self-awareness
◾Understand strengths
◾Identify high-potential career options
◾Research different educational strategies
◾Differentiate themselves from the crowd
◾Ensure future success and satisfaction

For more information, visit the website at

Student Career Coaching and the Cure for Alzheimer’s

by Janet Blount, licensed facilitator, Career Coaching for Students™, serving Baltimore, MD and Atlanta, GA

Career Coaching for Students article imageThere are 5.3 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is a debilitating brain disease that robs people of their memories, the ability to speak, read, swallow and enjoy life.

My mother is one of the millions who have Alzheimer’s. I am watching this once vibrant, intelligent woman become a shell of her former self. Those of us who have seen the devastation this disease causes, shout out in despair, that this disease must be cured.

Alzheimer's Effect on the brainSomething that is equally devastating to watching your loved one succumb to this disease is to think that someone who could cure this disease will not because they have not had the opportunity to identify, understand and pursue career paths that match their interests and talents.

The Career Coaching for Students Program is the leading career exploration and planning program that takes a proven approach to coaching students. This program empowers students to gain greater self-awareness and clarity about their strengths and passions, understand the connection between their personal strengths and different career choices, identify high-potential career options that align with the student’s talents and pursue their passion.

The students in the upcoming high school graduating class may invent the cure for Alzheimer’s – if they really know more about themselves. Think about it. It’s about the Science of Self.

Helpful links about Alzheimer’s:

Alzheimer’s Association Website

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)

To learn more about Janet Blount:

Careers Are Us website

On LinkedIn

Career Coaching for Students

Email Janet