Category Archives: Choose a college

College Tours. Questions to Ask on a College Visit – And Who to Ask


College Tours. Campus Tours. Questions to Ask on a College Visit – and Who to Ask

Visiting your prospective colleges before you make a decision is smart. If you can’t visit one of your top choices, conduct phone interviews with multiple college staff and students. Either way, you have a great opportunity to make a more informed decision if you take the opportunity to learn from the people who study, work, and teach on campus first. By asking the right questions, you can gain a strong sense of a school and its culture, far beyond the facts and figures on its website.

201109-w-college-campus-notre-dameTo make the most of your visits, you should prepare thoughtful questions to ask on each college visit. The college tour is just one part of your college visit. Set your goal to meet with more than just the college tour guide and watch the promotional film or PowerPoint slideshow. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive college visit checklist of questions for your tour guide, current students, admissions officers, financial aid officers and professors. Plus, we’ll offer some advice on what not to ask.

Do the Research Before You Arrive on Campus.

You’ll see a few links highlighted throughout the article that refer to different pages on Student Resource Central, an online e-binder of relevant and highly valuable information. Between Student Resource Central and the college’s website, you have 90% of the information needed to make a good college choice. That last 10% will be revealed on campus and is equally critical.

About Shyness.

Get over it. You and/or your parents are about to spend a great deal of money (even if you have a full scholarship) for your education. If you were buying a $70,000 car, you’d probably ask a few questions and take it for a test ride before buying it. This is your opportunity to make an informed decision for you. Don’t let the circumstances hold you back from asking the questions you want and need to ask.

If you are considering colleges – then you have earned the right to ask questions – and get answers.

Why Are College Tours Important?

You can check out the school’s facilities, like the library, dorms, dining halls, gym, and science labs, as well as branch out to see its surrounding city/town culture. Gathering your impressions of your college’s campus and beyond will help you gain a much stronger sense of whether or not it’s a place you’d like to live and learn for four years. First impressions usually carry a heavy weight. However, many students who ended up going to their “2nd choice” for reasons out of their control report adapting and loving their “2nd choice”. At the end of the day, loving or hating any given college choice will be in your control.

We recommend having three designations for college choices after you have completed your due diligence. Sort your college choices into A, B and C groups. The A group is for your strongest matches – those that offer exactly the major you are wanting, the college is visited and supported by industry-related companies that employ students in your major and/or for your career interest and have great facilities, culture and top quality academics. Group B is for those colleges that offer something that fits what you want to major in, have reasonably good connections with industry representatives in your field of study and have an acceptable level of facilities and campus life. Group C is for those you have clearly decided to reject for any reason.

Keep in mind, an amazing visit is actually a subjective evaluation using fabricated events. When students have an amazing visit they typically feel much more empowered to put together a stellar application. If you find yourself applying to one of your “B group” choices, be sure to approach the application with the same enthusiasm as if it were your first choice. That B choice may just be the best choice.

collegecampusfallBesides sampling the dining food or hanging out on the quad, you can also learn about the student experience from your tour guide who is usually a current student, and other current students that you meet (summer tours present less opportunity to see the campus the way it will be during the busy Fall and Spring semesters).

Even the other student visitors on the tour with you are valuable connections. Ask them why they are considering that college, what major and career direction they are considering. Set up meetings to speak with admissions officers, financial aid officers, and/or professors. Those meetings are not advertised, and the admissions folks may even say they don’t want you meeting with professors. However, most deans and professors enjoy meeting with prospective students. Keep in mind they are needing to market their offerings so it is in their interest to take the time to meet with you.

Prepare.

Current students, tour guides, professors and deans can offer their unique perspectives and experiences, especially if you ask meaningful college visit questions that lead to broader conversations.

Before you hit the road, be sure to do your homework. Student Resource Central: Education Research: Search Colleges and Universities has incredibly rich data on pretty much every college, university and most vocational schools. You’ll want to know about costs, financial aid and perhaps most importantly, graduation and retention rates.

College Search Results US Dept Education College Scorecard

Choose questions based on your specific interests and who you are interviewing. Modify each question as needed. If a question asks about popular classes in general, for instance, you can adapt it to ask specifically about popular classes in, say, the Biology Department.

Questions to Ask Your Tour Guide or Other Current Students

Most college tour guides are big fans of their colleges and are enthusiastic to share why. They tend to know lots of history and fun facts about the school, but you shouldn’t necessarily expect them to rattle off specific data and statistics about graduation rates and financial aid packages (save those kinds of questions for administrative officers) along with the information you collected through the resources mentioned above.

Tour guides are usually current students, so they can also speak to their personal experience. Remember, they were in your shoes just a few years before!

The following questions are divided by academics, support resources, internships, study abroad programs, extracurricular activities, residential life, and general culture. Finally, we’ll suggest some personal questions for your tour guide. As you read, consider which questions you’d like answered, and how you might customize them to meet your specific interests and needs!

Questions about Academics

  • What majors are considered this universities signature programs (which colleges are ranked higher compared to similar colleges/universities)?
  • Which majors/programs are recognized by employers based on number of internships and offers upon graduation?
  • How large are the required classes? [These will be larger. Some universities will have as many as 75 – 150 in their larger classes. The more common core the subject, the more likely it will be large.]
  • What courses are you aware of that offer especially innovative or creative learning experiences? Which classes have been most interesting to you so far? [The student may not be in the major you are considering. This question is more for gaining insight into the types of class delivery that is at the college/university that you may not have experienced in high school.]
  • Are the professors accessible outside of class? What has been your strategy for accessing the professors. Do the professors hold office hours? How often can students interact with professors outside of class?
  • What kind of classes have smaller section meetings? What are they like?
  • Are there any especially popular classes or must-have professors? [either for core required classes or if the student you are talking to is in the major you are considering]
  • When did you choose your major?
  • How much freedom do freshmen have in choosing courses?
  • Are students usually able to take their first choice courses?
  • How’s the Wi-Fi? How’s the cell phone coverage? Which providers provide the most comprehensive coverage? [some college campuses don’t have the cell phone coverage you’d think they would have]
  • How are freshman advisors assigned?
  • How would you describe the freshman experience, in terms of advising or any classes that everyone has to take?
  • Can undergraduates work with professors on research?
  • Are there honors programs? If so, what are they like?
  • Declared Double MajorIs it easy to change your major? Can I enter as a freshman with a double major?
  • How many hours of class do students typically have each week? How many hours of homework outside of class per day/week?
  • Are finals more exam-based or project / essay-based?
  • Where are your favorite best places to study on campus?
  • What are the hours for the library? Do these change during reading periods or exam weeks?
  • Are there any research methods or online tools I should learn about for my classes?
    • Do any majors require seniors to write a thesis or complete a senior project?

Academic and Social-Emotional Support

  • Can you get help from professors outside of the classroom?
  • What free academic support or tutoring is available?
  • What kind of resources are there for international student support and orientation?
  • What kind of learning disability resources does the school offer?
  • Is there a writing center to help with essays and research papers?
  • Are academic advisers accessible and effective?
  • Do the librarians help with research?
  • Do students organize study groups or online discussion forums?
  • Are there computer labs available with the required software?
  • How accessible and helpful is health services?
  • Are there opportunities to participate in organized conversations about issues and events with administrators, deans, professors and other students?
  • Describe the social orientation programs for freshmen? Are they required/recommended/optional? What was the most valuable thing students talk about after attending an orientation program?
  • Is there career counseling available? Have you received career counseling? Was it helpful?

Research, Internship, and Study Abroad Opportunities

student volunteers

  • What kind of opportunities exist for undergraduates to work on research or academic projects with professors?
  • What kind of internships are available? Do a lot of students get internships? What is the typical strategy for getting an internship?
  • Are any departments known for obtaining internships for most or all of their students?
  • Do any majors prepare students to continue as researchers in a Master’s or doctoral program?
  • Are study abroad programs popular? Any ones in particular?
  • Do most students study abroad on a program through the school or an external program?
  • Do students of certain majors, like engineers, find it difficult to study abroad?
  • Are there internship opportunities abroad?
  • Are there opportunities through the school for summer internships or research?

Extracurricular Activities

  • What are some of the most popular extracurriculars and why?
  • What are some of the larger campus-wide community service events?
  • What intramural sports or exercise classes are available?
  • Can you talk about the ____ club? (Examples might include the student newspaper, student magazine, international relations clubs, art groups, science clubs, musical performances, plays, bands, ensembles…whatever you’re interested in!)
  • In what ways do students connect with and volunteer in the surrounding community?

Residence Life

  • How many students do they really squeeze into those dorm rooms?
  • What are the dorms like? Are there lounges, laundry, and kitchens? Shared or private restrooms?
  • Do certain dorms have a focus or appeal to students with different interests, like a “healthy living” dorm or a dorm for pre-med and science majors?
  • Do most students live in the dorms? What about after sophomore or junior year? When do most students move off campus? How much cheaper is it to live off campus?
  • Are any students placed in dorm triples?
  • How are the resident counselors? What social events are planned for freshmen to get to know one another?
  • Do most students get along with their randomly assigned roommates? [Roommate assessment and guide]
  • What would I do in case of a conflict or need for a room switch? Is that possible?
  • What kind of food does the dining hall serve? Are there different options? How is it, really?
  • Does the dining hall accommodate special dietary restrictions?

Campus Culture and Surrounding Area

  • Where do students tend to hang out on and off campus? Friday/Saturday nights?
  • Are there movie theaters and concert venues? What about good cafes for getting work done or finding the perfect pumpkin spice latte?
  • Do a lot of students belong to fraternities or sororities?
  • How ethnically diverse is the campus?
  • What percent of international students are there? What countries do they come from? [this will likely be answered in the formal presentation]
  • Do students stick around or go home on weekends?
  • What’s the party scene like? (This might be a question to ask current students away from the group tour.)
  • Have there been any recent student protests? What were they protesting, and how did staff and faculty respond?
  • What are some big campus events, like homecoming or alumni weekend?
  • Is it easy to get around campus or get off campus without a car?
  • What transportation options are there around campus?
  • Is it a safe area to walk around at night? What kind of safety measures are in place?
  • Do many students work on or off campus? How easy is it to find a part-time job?

You don’t want to put your tour guide too much on the spot, but you should feel free to ask about her experience at college!

Personal Questions for Current Students

  • What’s your favorite class and why?
  • What’s it like to study in your major?
  • How helpful did you find your freshman year advisor?
  • What do you wish you had known going into freshman year?
  • What do you wish you had asked on a campus tour when you were in my place?
  • What’s a typical weekday like for you?
  • What surprised you about campus life here?
  • Is there anything you wish you had done differently to improve your experience here?
  • Are there any things you’d like to change about the school?
  • What would be your most important advice for freshman?
  • What’s your favorite spot you’ve discovered on campus since arriving?

For more technical information on admissions policies and financial aid offers, you might set up meetings with the relevant offices. Read on for questions to ask the administrative staff.

Questions to Ask an Admissions Officer

StudentSupportDirectionSignsMaking contact with the admissions office can not only get your questions answered, it can also get your “demonstrated interest” on file, which may help when it comes time to reviewing your application. Rather than appearing as an anonymous applicant, admissions officers may recognize you from a meeting, email, or other records of contact. Not all schools keep track of this, but for many, your visits are noted in a file and demonstrating interest by the number of visits may help show your enthusiasm for the school and thereby give you a an edge over applications that don’t show any visits.

If you want to meet with an admissions officer, make sure to set up a meeting via email or calling beforehand. If it’s application season, usually March and April, try to schedule this a few weeks early to make sure they’re not too busy to meet with prospective students. Then have your list of questions ready to show that you prepared and are ready to make the most of your conversation.

NOTE: Students who have investigated career directions, have a good plan and have decided what major or double major they want to pursue in support of that career choice are very attractive to most universities. Share your career interest and choice of major with your admissions office. If you haven’t done the career exploration work just yet and are undecided about a major, we suggest engaging a professional career coach.  In a couple of weeks you can have clarity about your direction, a plan and feel confident about pursuing your interests.

  • What qualities and experiences are you looking for in applicants?
  • What do I need to know about the application evaluation process?
  • My SAT/ACT scores are ___. How large of a role will that play in the admissions evaluation?
  • I imagine you review hundreds of applications. What best advice or pet peeves do you have?
  • Is there any difference for early versus regular decision applications? Is early decision more advantageous.
  • What percentage of students graduate in four years? [see if this aligns with the information from the website resource listed above]
  • What sort of student attributes are most likely to lead to success here?
  • What sort of student might not be happy here?
  • Can you tell me about career placements?
  • Do graduating undergrads typically get accepted to the grad school?
  • What services are available to help students prepare for post-grad employment?
  • Who can I talk to that would have the most insight into employment options and support for the major/career I’m interested in.
  • Do you have an active alumni network?

Questions to Ask a Financial Aid Officer

College Financial Aid Game: How to Get Your Fair Share E-Book Offer

Get the E-Book

Just as the admissions office will have lots of facts and advice about the admissions process, the financial aid office can walk you through your financial application. The next section covers questions you might have for them.

Most schools offer a good deal of information about the cost of tuition, room and board, books, and other fees through online resources (see above resource), as well as the steps to take to apply for financial aid. If financial aid’s an important factor for you, it could be helpful to meet with an officer and make sure you’re doing everything you can to get your financial needs met. Also see Student Resource Central Financial Aid and Scholarships resources for valuable information and free e-book, The College Financial Aid Game: How to Get Your Fair Share.

Research available online resources first, so you’re not asking about info that’s readily available online. Then you can use that base knowledge as a stepping off point for other queries, like the ones below:

  • What kind of need-based financial aid do you offer?
  • Do you meet 100% of demonstrated financial need?
  • What information do you require besides the FAFSA?
  • How many students receive merit-based scholarships? How much is offered?
  • Are there other scholarships that students can apply for at the time of application?
  • How much loan debt does the average student owe after graduating?
  • Can I renegotiate my financial aid offer if it’s lower than I need?
  • What are some opportunities for work-study?

Questions to Ask a Professor or Dean

Finally, meeting with a professor could be a great way to make contact and learn about a department and class, especially if you have a strong sense of what you want to study. You can learn about their teaching style, the department’s approach, and any opportunities for independent projects or research. Contact the office of the Dean and ask the staff member how to arrange a prospective student meeting with the Dean or Professors. Also ask if there are any special days that the college will be holding special events that will be of value.

 

  • What are the general expectations for students in your class?
  • What is your advice for students to succeed in your class? What separates a grade of A vs a B from your perspective?
  • What are typical requirements, like exams, papers, or presentations in a semester?
  • What is the most important personal soft skills that you see in highly successful students?
  • What knowledge would you consider to be prerequisites?
  • Do you offer opportunities for undergraduate students to do research?
  • What other opportunities are you involved in or sponsor that are outside of the classroom to reinforce my learning, like cultural clubs or festivals?
  • Do you meet with or mentor students outside of class?
  • What are the signature strengths of your program? Department?
  • What’s your vision for the community of students who major in this program? Do they serve as peer mentors, collaborate on projects, form study groups, have a high rate of getting summer internships, etc.?
  • [If interested in grad school] What could I do to prepare for further research at the graduate level? Would I be required or able to write a senior thesis or do an honors program?
  • How much flexibility would I have in shaping my major or taking an interdisciplinary approach? If I want to double major, when can I declare and do I have the flexibility my freshman year to schedule courses to support my double major?

Questions to Avoid on College Visits

You may want to avoid asking questions that are overly personal and not helpful to others in the group when you’re on your tours. While it’s fine to ask about certain departments, DO NOT share your life story and DO NOT ask any one to speculate about your admissions chances.

A final good rule of thumb to follow is to avoid asking basic questions that can be easily answered via Student Resource Central or a quick search of the school’s website. Be prepared. For instance, questions like the following fall into that category:

  • Do you have a psychology major?
  • When was the school founded?
  • How many students are in the freshman class?
  • What was last year’s rate of acceptance?

If you ask questions that are readily answered online, you are losing impression points. All of the official representatives you meet are very aware of what information is available to you. Think about it from the admissions perspective. Do they want students who are self-directed, self-starters and inquisitive or do they want students who depend on everyone else as if they are royalty?

How to Prepare for Your College Tours

collegecampusaerialYour first step is scheduling and signing up online for your college tours, as well as any other meetings or overnight stays. The best time to tour is when classes are in session so you can get the truest sense of the college in action.

Since you should prepare questions and take notes on the answers, I recommend writing them down and bringing a notebook (paper or electronic) to take notes. You’ll be getting a lot of information, along with walking around and seeing everything, so it will be useful to have a record to which you can refer at the end of the day.

You certainly don’t need to go overboard with the college tour questions. I would suggest preparing five to ten of your most important questions for each person (student, admissions officer, professor, etc). You may find you should choose about three during your tour, while you may be able to ask a lot more during a one on one conversation or meeting. Better to over-prepare than under-prepare, and you could list your highest priority questions at the top to make sure you get to them first.

In addition to asking questions and jotting down notes on the responses, you should take the time to observe everything going on around you. Beyond viewing the facilities, try to notice how the staff responds to you or how students interact with one another. Perhaps most importantly, is it a place where you’d feel comfortable?

Finally, spend some time writing, discussing with parents and/or reflecting after your visit. Does the school seem like a good fit with your personality, interests, and goals? Do you feel excited about the prospect of attending? At the end of the day, you must save the final questions for yourself.

Happy hunting.

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.
SpiderChart-EngStudent-DecisionMaking
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.
 KeysJPG
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.

Qualifications
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 http://www.compassdiscoveries.com/
Julie’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliecbrewer

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 http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Disparity Between Teachers’ Views and Student Performance


High School StudentsThere is a major disparity between high school teachers’ views of college readiness and student performance.

  • High school teachers estimate that 63% of their graduating seniors will be adequately prepared for college-level coursework without the need for remediation and that 51% will graduate from college (MetLife, 2011).
  • Data shows that only 25% of high school graduates who took the ACT test were ready for college-level work (ACT, 2012).
  • Ninety-three percent of middle school students report that their goal is to attend college. However, only 44% enroll in college, and only 26% graduate with a college diploma within six years of enrolling (Conley, 2012a; Conley, 2012b).
  • High school seniors who set the post-secondary goal of earning a four-year degree are 28% more likely to apply to college than students with no aspirations to attend college. Students who aspire to complete an advanced degree are 34% more likely to apply to college than those who do not (Gilkey, Seburn, & Conley, 2011).
  • There is a gap between students’ aspirations to attend college and their preparedness for college-level work. As a result, many students who enroll in college do not graduate with a degree.
    • From 1997 to 2010, the percentage of middle and high school students planning to attend college increased from 67% to 75% (MetLife, 2011).
    • During that same time, the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 29 who attained a bachelor’s degree increased only slightly from 28% to 32%. (Snyder & Dillow, 2011).
  • Nearly half of all high school seniors believe they lack the full spectrum of skills and abilities needed to secure non-entry-level jobs. One fourth of seniors surveyed reported they did not feel at all prepared for college-level work (San Francisco Youth Empowerment Fund, 2011).
  • Many new and underprepared college students must enroll in remedial coursework. Twenty percent of incoming freshmen at four-year institutions and 52% of those at two-year colleges need to enroll in some type of remedial coursework. African-American, Latino, and students from low-income families enroll at the highest percentages (Complete College America, 2012).
    • The estimated cost to states and students to provide remedial college courses to underprepared high school graduates is $3 billion annually (Complete College America, 2012).
    • In community colleges, less than 25% of students who required remedial coursework earned a degree or certificate within eight years of enrollment. Forty percent of students who did not require remediation completed their degree or certificate within eight years (Bailey, 2009).
  • However, completing a postsecondary degree has become more important than ever. Although 76% of young adults say that college has become harder to afford in the past five years and 73% believe that graduates have more student debt than they can manage, approximately 80% still believe that some type of postsecondary education or training is more important now than it was a generation ago (The Institute for College Access & Success, 2011).
  • Research predicts that within the next 10 years, 63% of all jobs in the United States will require some post-secondary education and that 90% of new jobs in growing industries with high wages will require some postsecondary education (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010).

Root Cause – Student Apathy

In the “real world” of work, especially high volume/high value manufacturing, when a problem has been recognized, resources are assigned to identify the root cause and fix it – quickly and systemically. This doesn’t seem to apply in the academic world. Consider the College and Career Readiness Overview Page on the American Institute for Research’s National High School Center’s website. I became apathetic trying to read and understand their message.

Too Much of a Good Thing

The idea of “careers” is introduced to the students in elementary, middle and high school. Classroom time is allocated a few times each year to focus on becoming more aware of careers. Until the student develops a fixed  “personality”, exposure to the world of work and all the possibilities for a career is a good thing. At some point students begin to feel overwhelmed by the choices and the perception that the world of work is too complex and intimidating. Once the student’s personality (we call this “natural talent”) has been established (around the summer of incoming 9th grade), the student needs a valid, reliable and tangible approach to considering paths, careers and educational options.

Today, many high schools require each incoming 9th grader to choose a “path” that will trigger many curriculum decisions – that the student and parents of the student may not be fully aware of their implications – which may handicap the student later as they look at post-secondary education and career options.

So if the student didn’t fall into apathy as they entered 9th grade, there is a good chance they fall within the first two years.

Student EngagementFast-Forward to the Solution

Opportunity for Apathy #1 –  Students desperately need to feel in control of their own destiny. The sooner the better. If a student feels they are part of a “system”, a system that may or may not serve their best interests, they aren’t in control – the system is in control. Forcing the student to choose a “path” upon entering high school when the student isn’t prepared and has no process for decision making is where apathy is born.

Opportunity for Apathy #2 – Our youth are under constant pressure to compare themselves to others, in the classroom, on TV, in the neighborhood – and even with their siblings. Middle school graduation includes celebration of accomplishments in many ways. Teachers try hard to give every student an award or recognition of some kind. But the reality is that student self-esteem is tied strongly to academic performance. About 50% of students moving to high school feel inferior, inadequate and incompetent.

Eliminating Apathy – Now, imagine the student receives a sophisticated “talent assessment and career exploration” program in the summer prior to entering 9th grade – that has nothing to do with IQ or grades. And in that program, not one time did the career coach/instructors talk about the requirement for grades or academic performance for career matching.

Keep in mind, we are very aware that the more elite the college or university, the more important the need for grades and high SAT/ACT scores. And if you want to go to medical school, grades are everything…until they aren’t. Students with perfect grades and GMAT scores have been turned down from medical schools. We also see student college applications with higher grade point averages rejected by elite colleges and universities over student applications with lower grade point averages. Yet, none of these institutions are looking at the primary driver that correlates with success – a student’s talent. College Admissions teams do look at a students’ “well-roundedness” which is like shooting a shotgun at the side of a barn – you’re bound to knock some of the paint off.

As part of the program, the student was given the clarity about their position in the class ranking – everyone was starting at #1 in their class. And, as research is proving and employers are recognizing, GPA, grades or SAT/ACT scores do not correlate to success (yes, they are important but not the deciding factor).

So instead of administrators, teachers and parents harping on academic performance so the student qualifies to go to college (even though the student has no idea why they want to go to college), the program focuses on serious but interesting, tangible career matching exploration that results in one, two or possibly three career choices that create organic excitement in the student. And, as they learn about the career option, they also learn what education is required, which post-secondary schools and major course of study offer the best opportunity to achieve and succeed in that career and – here it comes – what it will take academically to get there.

And once they get excited about a career interest, the career exploration program introduces the student to scholarship and financial aid information (extensive resources) with one message – you can afford it.

Self-Direction and Will are Born Instead of Apathy

With the right career exploration program, the student is able to walk into 9th grade with excitement and tell the academic counselor what they want to get out of high school.

It’s Not Only Possible. It’s Happening July 18th and 25th

Any high school student, from incoming freshmen to senior, needs to attend this program. Tap on the link in the following heading:

National Student Career Exploration Extravaganza!

  • Webinar-based – Attend in the comfort of your home.
  • Students and their parents attend for one price
  • Includes
    • Student binder
    • Extensive talent assessments
    • Two 3-hour group webinar-based sessions
    • One 1-on-1 private tele-coaching session after the webinar program
    • Extensive research resources (for career, education, financial aid research, and much more)

Registration now open. Seating is limited.

Is Student Privacy in Jeopardy? What Parents and School Counselors Need to Know


Student Data has left the barn.Every year, parents of junior and senior high school students are inundated by marketing materials from hundreds of post-secondary public or private schools and for-profit trade schools – many you might never have heard of before. One of the common statements I hear is “How did my son or daughter’s name and address get out?” Welcome to the new age of big data.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s Lead Education Blogger, wrote a great article published on NPRed entitled, What Parents Need To Know About Big Data And Student Privacy.

In her article she explains the main law that governs data kept by public schools is based on the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. It gives parents and students, once they turn 18, three rights: to inspect their own records, to correct those records, and to give consent in writing before the release of those records to any third party.

Kamenetz writes, “Well, for the most part. There are two blanket exemptions. One covers the “what” (of student information) and the other the “who” (is authorized to see it).”

According to Sheila Kaplan, a privacy activist mentioned in Kamenetz article, “The big hole in FERPA is directory information”. She explains: FERPA allows schools to release a student’s “name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance” without first obtaining consent (although they are supposed to disclose the release and allow parents to opt out of directories).

The second hole got much, much wider in the past few years.

FERPA always allowed school officials to release records to other education officials without parental consent. In 2008, that right was expanded to contractors and volunteers, as long as they were under “direct control” of schools. This included for-profit cloud service providers.

Are Marketers Providing a Service or Simply Making Money?

One of the concerns that Kamenetz raises in her article is whether student data will be monetized. It already has – in a billion dollar way. Reidenberg’s study found that fewer than 7 percent of district contracts restricted the sale or marketing of student information by vendors. It did not, however, say how many of the cloud service providers are actually selling that info. And who are these vendors?

You don’t have to look any further than your local school board and junior high and high school counselors. They have likely signed “site licenses” with cloud based solution providers such as XAP (“XAP Corporation is the pioneer in electronic and Internet-based information management systems for college-bound students and the leader in online data”) or Naviance, a program of Hobsons. XAP’s privacy statement states that “We will not share your personal information with outside parties except when we have your permission or we are required by law to provide it.” As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. You are giving your permission and they are selling your information.

At the College Board, their privacy policy states “Our Student Search Service is a voluntary program that connects students with information about educational and financial aid opportunities from more than 1,200 colleges, universities, scholarship programs and educational organizations. According to their policy, here’s how it works:

  • Students may choose to participate in Student Search Service when registering for a College Board exam.
  • As part of taking a College Board exam, students are asked to fill out a Student Data Questionnaire (SDQ).
  • Participating, eligible organizations can then search for groups of students who may be a good fit for their communities and programs, but only among those students who opt to participate in Student Search Service.
  • The search criteria can include any attribute from the SDQ, except the following: disability, parental education, self-reported parental income, social security number, phone numbers and actual test scores.
  • The most searched items are expected high school graduation date, cumulative GPA and intended college major. A full list of SDQ questions is available in College Board test registration materials.

According to Kamenetz, often the issue is murkier than the outright sale of information. For many cloud services, like Google Apps, the entire business model is based on mining data for marketing. “A quarter of the services are free to the districts — the providers are monetizing it somehow,” Reidenberg says. Even the nonprofit Khan Academy allows third parties like Youtube to track students’ Web usage.

In practice, defining the commercial misuse of student data is tricky. A program such as Pearson’s enVisionMATH, a software-based tutoring platform, continuously analyzes millions of data points on student performance in order to improve its products and pitch more relevant products to school systems. That’s both an educational and a commercial use.

Alternatives do exist. For example, Success Discoveries, developers of Career Coaching for Students, recently released their Student Resource Central information repository for public access. Part of the criteria for an information site being listed in Student Resource Central is the ability to provide useful information without providing any personal information. Sites like College Board are included due to the ability to gain value from the information on their site without sharing your personal information. They also list sites like Kaarme, founded in 2006 by concerned parents to expand college opportunities for high school students. Their goal is to make college education and scholarship information accessible and affordable by connecting colleges, parents, counselors, and coaches in a safe networking environment, free of charge.

Now you know why you receive a mail box full of marketing material. Safe surfing.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works. Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

7 Things Any High School Student Needs to Effectively Compete


There is a great deal of advice when it comes to students preparing to compete in the global economy. Showcasing your abilities properly has now become more complex – and more critical. For example, a resume is a strategic tool designed to give you the edge over other applicants (for summer jobs, internships, and eventually that first job after school). When you use a Google search for resume writing, you receive 12.7 million hits. For most students, thinking about writing a strong resume is a “just-in-time” exercise. For many seniors in high school, that [strong resume] train has already left the station.But regardless of where the student is in their journey, it is never too late to start.

A resume reflects what has been. Students that have a desire to be competitive a few years from now need to be thinking about how they want their resume to look starting in their freshman year of high school. A resume matters when applying to colleges, especially the more academically elite colleges. A resume matters when you try for the internship that 500 other students are going for and there is only one position available. A resume matters when you are about to graduate from college and are trying to get interviews with the better employers. But the strength of the content of that resume starts with the beginning of secondary education – or earlier.

It only makes sense that the better employers are looking for the better students. GPA is only one measure and it may not be the main one.

News bulletin: Your grades aren’t the beginning and end to creating opportunities.
When writing resumes, a strong GPA is a great attention grabber but it is only a beginning. According to Heather R. Huhman, a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies, many of today’s job seekers tend to forget to include the things they’re passionate about or experiences they’ve gained outside of their academic accomplishments.

For many students, thinking beyond next weekend can be challenging. The reality is many students find themselves scrambling about their second year of college because they don’t have many things to list on their resume. Getting through school is the minimum you are expected to do. It is all the other things you do – or don’t do – that will determine your competitiveness – and the quality of your future opportunities.

So you have a 4.0 and you are in the top 5% of your high school graduating class ranking. With nothing else to add, you will likely not have as many options when it comes to college application acceptances, internships and ultimately those “first job” offers upon graduation from college. A strong GPA is valuable but it isn’t any where nearly as valuable as a high GPA and several extracurricular achievements.

Freshman in high school have the best opportunity for setting the stage for having a “totally awesome” resume that will pay big dividends to stakeholders of “You Inc.”. And by the way, you (the student) are the majority stockholder in You, Inc.

So here are 7 things you can do in high school (besides getting good grades and participating in extracurricular school programs – which you need to do as well):

1. Build a professional website, blog or online portfolio.

Online PortfoliosOne of the things that seems to impress employers when they research candidates is whether the individual has a professional website or blog. In the online information portal called Student Resource Central, an entire category is dedicated to Social Media and Online Portfolios. The top 14 online tools are listed –  some you might be aware of, and some so cool you must use them.

If you’ve created a professional website to showcase your knowledge, passions, expertise and accomplishments, you should definitely include a link to your website or portfolio in your future resume. Starting in high school and adding to it each year will set you apart from the competition.

2. Social media accounts.

Facebook Find Us LogoYour social media presence is another important element. When using social media, be mindful of what you showcase. Ideally, keep your social media clean of controversial language, political views and immature content. Start thinking like a professional. Assume anyone considering you for college admission, internships or job opportunities will find your content.

3. Entrepreneurial Freelance projects.

Employers value entrepreneurial experiences. Use any freelance opportunities to help you shine. One high school student turned a photography hobby into a revenue producing part time job. According to a survey of Generation Y workers (those ages 18-29), the third-most common college major for that group is “entrepreneurial studies,” and there are now 2,364 post-secondary institutions offering entrepreneurship and small business programs. Even if these students don’t become an entrepreneur, chances are they may go on to get a job with a young, venture-backed company or work for an established corporation that places high value (higher starting salaries) for entrepreneurial behaviors.

Showcase your freelance experience in your resume. Keep track of your accomplishments and people/organizations you’ve worked with.

4. Awards or special recognition.

BSA Eagle Scout BadgeGirl Scouts Gold AwardHave you received special recognition for being an outstanding contributor? You are in control of this more than you may think. Look for intentional ways to be recognized through your volunteer work, such as tutoring younger students, or through structured programs such as achieving the rank of Eagle scout in the Boy Scouts of America or the Gold Award in the Girl Scouts or by acts of service in your church or community. Plan to graduate with honors in high school and college. You will want to include these accomplishments and awards in your resume.

5. Certifications.

Project Management CertificationJob seekers who have certifications in a specific tool or skill or knowledge area can definitely benefit from including those items in their resume. Very few students see this one. A friend of mine helped his daughter study for and pass several certification exams, normally designed for professionals, before she entered college. Many certifications require some kind of experience or completion of a related project as evidence of applicable knowledge. You don’t have to be employed in a traditional job to meet these requirements. Search out the opportunity or ask those adults in your network for support. An industry-specific or career-specific certification will definitely help you stand out.

6. Side projects.

Girl Scouts project for Gold AwardSimilar to freelance work, side projects are a type of structured work that has timelines and outcomes. But they may not be tied to revenue. Volunteer work or helping your parents in the family business can be very powerful. For Eagle Scouts or Gold Award recipients, a project is required to receive the award. Be sure to include these projects, not just the award. Look for ways to claim significant accomplishments in your personal life and definitely include them on your resume.

7. Volunteer work.

student volunteersLook for opportunities to volunteer. Through school, many clubs or honors programs require volunteer work. Try volunteering every Saturday at a local food bank for the summer Are you into a particular sport? See if you can be an assistant coach on a youth recreation league (and get certified to be a youth coach while you’re at it). Look for unpaid internships too.  Volunteer experiences such as these can help you make a very strong impression on admission counselors or employers. Volunteer work also shows employers you have leadership and project management skills.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving Fortune 100 company clients. As creator and master trainer of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.