Category Archives: Choose a major

The Detrimental Dilemma for College Freshmen: Go In Undeclared? Should I Double Major?


Declaring a Major or Going in Undeclared – an Expensive Decision

AliceinWonderland-Any_Path_Will_DoEntering college is without question one of the most exciting and fun times for young adults and their parents. Many tasks have been completed to get to this point. Often, however, declaring a major is not one of them.

The Economic Impact of Being Undecided

The following is pulled from the book, College Planning for Busy Parents: A Guide to Affordable Colleges, Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Tax-Saving Strategies, by Troy Onin.

Dan Johnston does college aid presentations and workshops at over 50 high schools each year as the Regional Director of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). One of his most frustrating examples of bad college advice is: “If you don’t know what major you want, go as an undeclared student. You can decide on your major after a few basic courses.”

Johnston says that, “For most students that is the worst advice possible. Granted, there will always be students whose best initial choice is undeclared, but they represent a very small percentage of students. The idea that a large number of students without a career plan can take a few basic courses, then suddenly ‘find’ themselves (to the tune of $20,000 to $50,000 per year), is sadly pathetic and needlessly expensive.”

The Bottom-Line

For those of you that just want the bottom line message from this article, here it is. Going into college with your major undeclared is not only a bad strategy, it is unnecessary. It will potentially be costly in money, time and self-esteem. The same can be said if a student chooses a college major and career direction while in high school – if approached in a wrong way. It is with extreme prejudice that this author believes it is very possible to graduate with a double major in four years. Some exceptions to this rule exist but for most employers, a student with a double major is much more attractive than the college grad with a single  major.

The Career Coaching for Students™ program uses highly valid, reliable assessments in an appropriate way to support a proven approach to student career exploration, choosing a major, choosing a career and addressing student needs (see Tiedeman and Perry theories related to student career development below).

Declared Double Major

The Facts about students, choosing a major and choosing a career

In an article by Gayle Ronan, she describes how college freshmen face a major dilemma. Ronan points to a statistic offered by Dr. Fritz Grupe. “Eighty percent of college-bound students have yet to choose a major their senior year of high school. But they are still expected to pick schools, apply to and start degree programs without knowing where they want to end up. It is little wonder 50 percent of those who do declare a major, change majors — with many doing so two and three times during their college years, according to Grupe.”

Liz Freedman, student employment coordinator for Internship and Career Services at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, authored an excellent article posted in the Penn State Academic Advising Journal, The Mentor, entitled The Developmental Disconnect in Choosing a Major: Why Institutions Should Prohibit Choice until Second Year.

Rather than accept the argument presented in the article for delaying declaration of a major until the students’ college sophomore year, I will present relevant portions of the article here (excellent insights for parents come from the article) and respond with a solution that counters the argument and accelerates student development while in high school.

To be clear, without a solution in high school, I have to agree with the argument that Freedman presents to prohibit declaration of a major until the sophomore year of college. However, delaying declaration of a major but maintaining the status quo in career advising [as it is at most universities] will NOT result in better outcomes for students.

In her article, Freedman quotes E. St. John, “There is, perhaps, no college decision that is more thought-provoking, gut wrenching and rest-of-your-life oriented — or disoriented — than the choice of a major” (St. John, 2000, p. 22). This idea exemplifies the fact that choosing a major is a choice that should be intentional and based on knowledge of one’s self, and when the wrong choice is made, the implications can be harsh.

Ideally, we can all agree that the right major will lead to academic success, as well as fulfill academic, personal, and vocational goals. College and university administrators have begun implementing various types of institutional resources to assist undecided students when choosing a major, but most students are still likely under-prepared when choosing a major – no matter when they choose.

The Data

An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as undecided (Gordon, 1995), and an estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation (Gordon, 1995). The statistics show that choosing a major has serious implications for the majority of students, not just undecided ones. Unfortunately, few of the decided students are basing their decision of major on factual research and self-reflection. According to a College Student Journal survey of more than 800 students asked to elaborate on their career decision-making process, factors that played a role included a general interest in the subject; family and peer influence; and assumptions about introductory courses, potential job characteristics, and characteristics of the major (Beggs, Bantham, & Taylor, 2008, p. 382). While these may be valid factors in degree choice, the study ultimately implied that students are choosing a major based on influence and assumption rather than through an understanding of their own personal goals and values.

Lastly, the choice of major significantly impacts the student experience, both positively and negatively, affecting retention, engagement, student learning, academic standing, setting of academic and career goals, and more. For example, in a 2006 Canadian study, researchers followed 80,574 students in 87 colleges during a five-year period and showed that high academic grades are related to having a major close to one’s personality which can be described as congruence. Most impressively, they found that congruence better predicted overall grade-point average (GPA) after five years than ACT scores (Jones, 2012).

The development STAGES of first-year students

Undeclared MajorIn contrast with the evidence that first-year college students are most likely making uninformed choices when determining a major, the common four-year college curriculum path assumes that students enter college prepared to make a decision regarding major and, ultimately, career path. Unfortunately, the reality is that students are most likely not developmentally prepared to do so. According to Perry’s student development stages, students in their first year will experience dualism, in which the world around them is made up of dichotomies (good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, yes vs. no, etc.).

Perry's College Student Development Stages

Perry’s College Student Development Stages

Students in the Dualistic stage believe there is one right answer for everything, including the choice of major (Evans, Forney, Guido, Patton, & Renn, 2010). Dualistic students believe there is one “right” major for them, and they tend to look to others for the answer (adviser, parents, peers, and faculty) rather than draw conclusions based on their own research, personal goals, and self-reflection. Most first-year college students are still attempting to understand their own identity, and having lived a majority of their lives under someone else’s guidance, they may not yet be able to come to legitimate conclusions about themselves. This raises the question, without knowing one’s self, even after a year in college, how can one effectively choose a major?

Based on the understanding that most high school and first-year college students are  in the dualistic stage of development, it makes sense that students receive assistance navigating a decision-making process. According to David Tiedeman’s approach to decision-making, these students will begin college in the exploration stage, considering random, exploratory options (as cited in Harren, 1976).

The cornerstones of Tiedeman’s career construction theory unites the concepts that career emerges from self-organization, purposeful action bridges discontinuity, and decisions evolve through differentiation and integration.

According to Tiedeman’s approach to career development, in the process of making a decision, an individual progresses through seven sequential stages: (1) exploration, (2) crystallization, (3) choice, (4) clarification, (5) induction, (6) reformation, and (7) integration. Tiedeman identifies eight decision-making styles: planning, intuitive, impulsive, agonizing, delaying, paralytic, fatalistic, and compliant. Planning is viewed as the most effective style with intuitive sometimes being effective.

In Tiedeman’s Exploration stage, little to no progress is made toward a choice, because knowledge of one’s self and the professional world is needed but not yet understood, and students may feel anxiety about making life choices.  Since incoming students are both dualistic and in the exploratory process of decision-making, they may not yet be developmentally ready to make important life decisions without a structured period of self-reflection, learning, and growth. When making decisions independently or based on the opinions of those with whom they have a personal relationship, such as family members, students will most likely make an uneducated, unrelated, and ineffective decision not based on their true personal goals, interests, and values.

The OBVIOUS disconnect

According to the academic experts, most incoming students are not developmentally ready to make effective decisions such as choosing a major based on identity, self-reflection, and career path. To emphasize this gap, those in the employment field are starting to advise that students follow a double-major strategy to achieve the greatest marketability upon graduation.

Those in the employment field are starting to advise that students follow a double-major strategy to achieve the greatest marketability upon graduation.

Some students “end up” with a double major due to changing interests, but that usually leads to extended semesters beyond the traditional four years. However, if a student enters with a clear direction and establishes a double major as an incoming freshman, it is very likely they will be successful within the traditional four years.

…If a student enters with a clear direction and establishes a double major as an incoming freshman, it is very likely they will be successful within the traditional four years.

Another look at Perry’s stages of development shows that the earliest point at which students may be able to effectively choose a major is not until the stage of multiplicity (Evans et al., 2010). The key here is to understand that the Multiplicity stage is not age-dependent.

Multiplicity signifies the ability to recognize that various options exist when one right answer is not known. In this stage the student may be ready to narrow their major preferences, but it may not be until even further in development (the relativism stage) that students can truly begin deciding based on what they know about themselves. Furthermore, Tiedeman’s decision-making process argues that after the exploratory phase is the crystallization period (as cited in Harren, 1976). Here the student can begin making progress toward a decision but does not actually make one. For example, the student can effectively begin weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a particular decision, consider other alternatives, and understand some of the consequences of these alternatives. Clearly, there is a serious disconnect between where traditional freshmen students are developmentally and the level of development needed to make a successful choice in major. If choosing a major actually means choosing one’s goals, values, and interests based on intentional self-reflection and understanding of one’s self, then most first-year students are not ready. But some are.

There are solutions

Fortunately, it is not all bad news; there are practical solutions to address this inherent disconnect. Experts agree that high school summer career exploration and planning programs that incorporate a heavy “assess and reflect” focus using valid and reliable assessments followed by an intentional and effective step-driven exploratory approach will eliminate the gap – and empower the student to make an informed choice of major – before they enter their freshmen year of college. For those students that don’t have that opportunity, the experts agree that implementing a first-year college program is paramount – but few colleges and universities do this well according to student feedback.

For some universities, there is a mis-directed desire to change the terminology we use about pre-major students from “undecided” to “exploratory” students or something similar rather than implement a sustainable and effective career exploration and planning program. Choosing a Major

Colleges and universities are failing to assist students who are unprepared to effectively choose a major. Therefore, truly assisting students in making well-informed life choices will require systemic changes in institutional structures and processes.

Some academic advisors believe prohibiting a major choice until the sophomore year is the most responsible option. To do this, there would need to be a mandatory course or program during the first year, and a “total intake academic advising model” would be required in which students in their first year receive counseling from an objective, central career coaching office (coaching model) and it is not until the second year that students will be advised within a specific academic discipline, such as with a faculty adviser (King, 2008). A structure such as this may offer first-year students career assessments, a relevant and effective career exploration process, personal research intensive opportunities in areas of study, job shadow experiences, informational interviewing guidance, personal reflections writing, upper-level classes observations, and  faculty interviewing.

But all of this already exists  – if the student is given the properly designed program and support – during high school. Students as young as incoming 9th graders (freshmen in high school) have demonstrated the cognitive ability to leverage a program that addresses all of the points made by Perry and Tiedelman. In fact, most high school students who have participated in the Career Coaching for Students™ program have demonstrated complete ability and competency to leverage the program.

High School StudentsThe Best Solution

The significant disconnect identified in this article and the fact that colleges and universities are far from delivering a solution was the motivation behind the development of the Career Coaching for Students program, developed by Carl Nielson, an executive coach and organizational development consultant with over 20 years in human resource management. “I initially developed this program in 2007. As of 2015, it has been delivered to thousands of students through high school sponsored programs, local public workshops and one-on-one in family homes and webinars throughout the United States. The “distance-coaching” webinar-based program has been received very positively with reports of consistent student success and enjoyment. Students in India and China have also participated in the program along with U.S. students via webinars.” stated Nielson. But we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

“Perry’s stages of development and Tiedeman’s work around decision making are important for parents to understand, states Nielson. “The Career Coaching for Students program moves the student through the multiplicity stage (the ability to recognize that various options exist when one right answer is not known) and relativism (students can truly begin deciding based on what they know about themselves). The program also supports the development of the students decision-making skill based on Tiedeman’s decision-making process. The student is able to work through the exploratory phase and make significant progress in the crystallization period where they begin making progress toward a decision but do not actually make one. The student begins weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a particular decision with the use of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, considers other alternatives, and understands some of the consequences of these alternatives. The truth is that I was describing the Career Coaching for Students program as a Decision Making Skills Workshop several years ago, well before I stumbled onto David Tiedeman’s research. Between the solid alignment to theoretical research and extremely biased positive feedback from students and parents, I believe Career Coaching for Students™ is the only solution for high school students at this time.”

Conclusion

It is not only possible, it is essential that high school students be given the opportunity to develop in ways that position them to make good life decisions, including choosing a major and career before spending thousands of dollars and risking self-esteem. You are encouraged to take advantage of the Career Coaching for Students Self-Directed Home Study offering (high school or college level version) – which includes three hours of one-on-one coaching. This program is available for customized implementation within a high school’s core curriculum or as an after-school program.

Would you like to discuss the program in more detail with Carl Nielson? Click here.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl has helped thousands of students find a better way through the career exploration process that works.

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.

Before you choose a career, Choose to be a Linchpin


Linchpin by Seth GodinSeth Godin published a book in 2010 called Linchpin which quickly became popular. This article is dedicated to his teachings from the book – mostly quotes from the book. I encourage any high school student to buy the book and read it. If you are a parent of a student, read it. If you work in the home or outside the home, read it.

In the book, Godin positions work by first stating “The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed. Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can. The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.

On the other hand, your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo of your own work, and influencing change in people and processes to achieve goals.

Godin shifts our perspective. He calls the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.  The job is not the work.”

Art isn’t only a painting. Art is anything that’s creative, passionate, and personal. And great art resonates with the viewer, not only with the creator.

What makes someone an artist? Godin states that he doesn’t think it has anything to do with a paintbrush. There are painters who follow the numbers, or paint billboards, or work in a small village in China, painting reproductions. These folks, while swell people, aren’t artists. On the other hand, Charlie Chaplin was an artist, beyond a doubt. So is Jonathan Ive, who designed the iPod. You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.

An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo of their work. And an artist takes personal responsibility.

That’s why Bob Dylan is an artist, but an anonymous corporate hack who dreams up Pop 40 hits on the other side of the glass is merely a marketer. That’s why Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is an artist, while a boiler room of telemarketers is simply a scam.

Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.

Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does.

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.

The secret to being wrong isn’t to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn’t fatal.

Here’s the truth you have to wrestle with: the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it. If there were a map, there would be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map.

The dimension of work that has a map isn’t where your art is applied. Your art is applied where the map stops.

Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.

If you are deliberately trying to create a future that feels safe, you will willfully ignore the future that is likely.

At the age of four, you were an artist. And at seven, you were a poet.

The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival.

A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain.

The only correct answer to ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ is ‘Because it’s lizard brain told it to.’ Wild animals are wild because the only brain they posses is a lizard brain.

The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.

Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re hiding out in the comfortable zone. When your uncomfortable actions lead to success, the organization rewards you and brings you back for more.

If you need to conceal your true nature to get in the door, understand that you’ll probably have to conceal your true nature to keep that job.

Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.

…Treasure what it means to do a day’s work. It’s our one and only chance to do something productive today, and it’s certainly not available to someone merely because he is the high bidder.

A day’s work is your chance to do art, to create a gift, to do something that matters. As your work gets better and your art becomes more important, competition for your gifts will increase and you’ll discover that you can be choosier about whom you give them to.

The competitive advantages the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected, and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion. All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.

The tragedy is that society (your school, your boss, your government, your family) keeps drumming the genius part out. The problem is that our culture has engaged in a Faustian bargain, in which we trade our genius and artistry for apparent stability.

The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.

As our society gets more complex and our people get more complacent, the role of the jester is more vital than ever before. Please stop sitting around. We need you to make a ruckus.

You cannot create a piece of art merely for money. Doing it as part of commerce so denudes art of wonder that it ceases to be art.

…the greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.

Not only must you be an artist, must you be generous, and must you be able to see where you can help but you must also be aware. Aware of where your skills are welcomed.

When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short nor easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it’s not, dream bigger.

I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace.

The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

A brilliant author or businesswoman or senator or software engineer is brilliant only in tiny bursts. The rest of the time, they’re doing work that most any trained person could do.

If you can’t be remarkable, perhaps you should consider doing nothing until you can.

The reason you might choose to embrace the artist within you now is that this is the path to (cue the ironic music) security.


Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm serving businesses ranging from Fortune 100 multi-national corporations to small family-owned businesses. 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 really works. Professional-grade assessments and co-directed 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 or submit an inquiry here:

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.

What is the ROI Value for Career Coaching in High Schools?


Supply vs Demand for Student Career Coaching?A posting on LinkedIn’s Life Coaching Teens and Young Adults asked for advice on pricing coaching services to schools. That started my brain thinking about the pricing formula I typically use for in-school, school-partnership, public workshop and private one-on-one programs using the Career Coaching for Students program.

Pricing – and value/ROI – for high school career counseling and coaching is very interesting and important. I certainly don’t have a definitive answer for other coaches but I’d like to share a few discussion thoughts, one formula for pricing and compare that to the per-student cost to deliver a one-semester course.

Note: All examples in this article use “typical” data but a specific proposal always gives consideration to the client’s needs and how the program being delivered is customized to meet that need.

Pricing vs Value/ROI vs Demand

In my corporate work, I have a minimum day rate of $3,500 as a starting point. That fee is neither high nor low, more likely it is about in the average for a consultant/coach to deliver a day’s worth of work in a corporate setting and includes costs such as assessments, books and other supporting materials. If the number of people participating is larger than 15 the fee goes up based on value and expenses on a per-person basis.

Deal-Demand-and-Supply-ForcesFor example, I am about to kick off a high-potential coaching program for 15 employees of a large multinational corporate business unit that includes an opening 2-day program, four months of one-on-on coaching and a closing 2-day program for a fee of $55k+. What does this have to do with schools/colleges? I think I have a lot to offer to schools. I would love to be full-time in that venue. Unfortunately, corporate clients tend to value my services greater. The irony is that if an education institution went all-in with say a thousand students in my Career Coaching for Students program over a 4 year contract, the math would work out ok for me (not great but doable). Most school administrators and college career centers think on a much smaller scale – especially when it comes to outsourcing a service they want to deliver with in-house teaching staff. From my information, the in-house staff model is failing – resulting in a great deal of wasted $$ and low-to-no benefits for the school or the student.

College-Students-Following-The-Career-Path-SheetsAt the college level, student participation in a college’s career exploration coaching service within the career center is less than one percent of the college’s student population according to several articles and social media postings by Career Center Directors. One thing we know is that students will recommend or not recommend to their friends based on a program’s value – regardless of if it is free or fee-based. If a program isn’t growing and the value isn’t driving demand, it is likely not being recommended by students to students. Having less than one percent participating in a service tells me students are “not” recommending the offered program to their friends. With a low participation rate, college presidents decide to fund other programs. But the need for credible career coaching remains a “big” need as evidenced by the “average” number of changes in majors per student in college and the average number of semesters to graduate with an undergraduate degree.

For those of us in the coaching profession, there is great economic diversity. Some professional coaches are the primary bread winner in the family. Others provide coaching services as a secondary and discretionary family income. If you fall in that latter category of “discretionary income” coaching, you might look at volunteering. If you don’t need income to live on and are in a position to do volunteer work, volunteering is a great and noble thing to do. Many high schools and colleges may consider you but you may also find trying to volunteer to be as frustrating as pricing for your services. I see too often those in the coaching profession who have the spouse’s income providing for the primary financial needs of the family. The need to price professionally isn’t as great and consequently, there is a low-ball pricing mentality. My opinion is that our passion for coaching (serving the needs of others) shouldn’t dictate our pricing strategy. I suggest you try to identify what the benefits will be for the client and price based on value – not based on a minimum income requirement.

A Pricing Formula for In-School Offering

The following is a general formula that I use for nonprofit/education institutional pricing proposals. My belief is that I either choose to volunteer or I choose to propose a professional solution that adds real value and price the proposal accordingly.

Sample educational institution pricing formula for Coaches:

  1. Calculate a desired hourly rate. What annual amount of income from coaching are you wanting? In other words, how do you value yourself in this profession on an annualized basis? Example: Let’s say you have a goal of $50,000 per year from coaching. And you think, “if I reach my ‘goal’ of 30 hours per week (pretty much full time), I will be pleased”. That equates to $50,000/2080 hours = $24.00 per hour (nothing for vacation, insurance, home office expenses).
  2. Double the hourly rate. This covers your personal expenses, taxes – any general costs of doing business and time for marketing to this client = FINAL HOURLY RATE.
  3. Determine all program delivery expenses (student materials, reproduction costs, etc.). Calculate down to the per student cost.
  4. Calculate the Total Program Delivery Rate. How many hours for delivery + how many hours for prep = Total Hours. Take Final Hourly Rate x Total Hours = Total Program Delivery Rate
  5. Calculate Total Raw Cost. Multiply # of student participants x per student cost =  Total Raw Cost
  6. Calculate Total Cost. Multiply Total Raw Cost x 1.25 = Total Cost
  7. Calculate Proposal Amount. For Small one-class proposal: Add Total Program Delivery Rate + Total Cost for a Proposal Amount.
    For a Large, multi-class calculation: [Total Program Delivery Rate x # of classes of 25 students] + Total Cost = Proposal Amount

Program Benefits and Goals:

For fun, let’s test this with a program called Career Coaching for Students delivered in a high school class room setting for one semester (http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net):

Better Career Planning Better LifeThe expected benefits need to be articulated and assigned measures that we can refer to later. Here is a short list of expectations for the Career Coaching for Students program:

  • Higher overall student academic engagement
  • Lower drop out rate
  • Greater percent of students with a plan for post-secondary education
  • Higher average class GPA at graduation
  • Higher SAT/ACT test scores.
  • Less higher education costs for students and parents (due to less changing majors and graduating on time from post-secondary education).

Applying the Pricing Formula – A Simple Example for the Coach

  1. Annualized net personal income goal: $50,000 = $24 per hour
  2. 2 x $24/hour = $48 hourly rate
  3. Program Delivery Expenses per student (binders, assessments, online student resource center):
    $129 for 50 students
    $99 for 350 students (we can lower costs dramatically when we have higher quantities, plus customize the binder with the school’s name and mascot)
  4. Program design.
    One class time per week for a semester for a class of 25 students.
    15 weeks per semester = 15 delivery hours for 25 students = .6 hours per student PLUS prep hours of 10 hours (rounds up to 1.0 hour per student)
  5. Total Program Delivery Rate
    $48 x # of hours (25 students = 25 hours in this example) = $48 x 25 = $1,200 Total Program Delivery Rate
  6. For a smaller program of 50 students: 25 students x $129 = $3,225
    For a larger program of 350 students: 350 x $99 = $34,650
    =Total Raw Cost
  7. Total Cost
    For smaller program: $3,225 x 1.25 = $4,031 one class of 25 students
    For larger program: $34,650 x 1.25 = $43,312 for 14 classes of 25 students
  8. Proposal Amount
    For one semester, one class of 25 students: $1,200 + $4,031 = $6,231
    For one semester, larger program of 350 students, 14 classes:
    $34,650 + 43,312 = $77,962

Analyze for Cost/Value Proposition:

Career Coaching for Students offered in-school:
Small one-class program cost per student: $249
Large program, multi-class cost per student: $223

To compare, as a publicly offered program to families, we average around $500 per student in a group workshop setting of 10 – 15 students for a 12 – 15 hour program. One-on-one for the CCfS program (about 12 – 15 hours) is $750+ per student (higher on the East and West coasts).

vs the Cost for One Teacher-Delivered Course in High School

What is the cost per student for any high school course? To be more exacting you could do the following calculation:

Teacher hourly salary rate x [# of hours for class + # of prep/support hours]

or  use a simpler calculation:

Teacher annual salary ($57,000) divided by # of classes taught over two semesters (14) divided by average # of students in the class (25)
References
http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/high-school-teacher/salary
http://new.every1graduates.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/OVAE_Cost_of_SLCs_Final_Balfanz.pdf

Teacher-Delivered Cost per Student

Teacher = ($57,000 / 14)/25 = $162 per student per class.
Of course adding school payroll burden for benefits and retirement of approximately 30% = $162 x 1.30 = $211 per student as a minimum. Double that to cover physical buildings and staff overhead which brings the teacher-delivered cost per student per course up to a more realistic $422 per student per course.

Your Pricing

Based on teacher-delivered pricing, you have room to price your offering in a way that is a win-win for you and the school. Keep in mind you are being given the facilities within the school and you are benefiting from the administrative overhead and lower overall marketing costs so it is not realistic to set a price of $422 per student for your offering. The price you want to stay closer to is the $211 per student for  a work agreement of 15+ students on one or two scheduled days per week.

Doing single student counseling/coaching with a school district? You need a contract based on multiple students in a semester that you will be providing one-on-one services to. That might be an estimate but at least you see what kind of interest, if not commitment, the school district has in using you.

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.

Do I Need to Have A Career Plan in High School?


dream-job-nextexitThe old saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” means if you do not know about a problem, you will not be able to make yourself unhappy by worrying about it. That belief is supported by the belief “ignorance is bliss“.

When it comes to creating/having a career plan, focusing on it (worrying about it) will actually create a great deal of happiness, help you avoid major stress and save you (and/or your parents) thousands of dollars. Based on almost daily news, the amount of college loan debt has escalated to levels considered very dangerous for our economy and for individuals. Having excessive education loan debt is a personal accountability issue – not a national economy issue.

How much debt do you want or plan to have when you graduate college? According to an article in the Huffington Post, “the average college graduate obtained a degree in 2012 with $29,400 in student debt, up from $18,750 less than a decade before in 2004, according to a new report.” To avoid unnecessary costs (which frequently ends up becoming debt) during college, avoid changing majors and choose the right college or university for you. If you are unsure about a career direction and go into college as an “undeclared major” you are likely to not have any revelations about a career direction by the end of your Freshman year. Whether you put it off or tackle career planning in high school, the only way to avoid unnecessary expense and find true happiness is to do the career planning work.

So, the short answer to the question, Do I Need to Have a Career Plan in High School?, is that you need to be doing the work of creating a career plan. The Career Coaching for Students program looks at this work as developing Decision Making skills. Decision making is a recognized skill of highly successful people and happens to be one of the weakest skills for incoming Freshman in college. You don’t necessarily need to have made a career decision but you need to be well on your way to identifying and understanding your career interests and the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with your career interests.

A career plan is the reward for the work you’ll do to determine your skills and interests, what career best suits your talents, and what skills and training you need for your chosen career.

By developing a career plan, you can focus on what you want to do and how to get there without worrying and without unnecessary expense. To do this well, you must start with a “professional-grade assessment” that helps you understand your personality strengths. Career planning is only one benefit of using assessments to become much more self-aware.  You’ll also find you will have a better understanding of your skills and experiences to discuss with potential employers (on your resume and in future interviews).

To eventually have a defined career goal, get started now.

A career goal can be a specific job you want to do — such as doctor or teacher — or be a particular field you want to work in, such as medicine or education.

Rather than limiting your future, a career goal may help you discover career possibilities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. There are several job possibilities with any chosen career. For instance, if you choose a medical career, you may want to be a scientist, a nurse, or a doctor.

A career goal can also guide you into doing what you want with your life.

  1. Become Self-Aware.
  2. Identify Career Interests.
  3. Narrow your career interests to a top two or three.
  4. Determine what you need to do to prepare for your chosen career.
  5. Besides the right college major, do you need special training? Some careers need the specialized training but don’t require a college degree. If so, find out what schools offer the training you need. Also, determine what kind of experience will you need to be successful in the career. Consider an internship as a way to get work experience in the career field.
  6. Write your career plan.  Use online tools to help you create a visual career plan.

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 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.

Is Choice of College Setting Your Destiny?


Your destiny based on college choiceThe article in the Washington Post, The Resume That Makes for a Top Executive, by Gena McGregor, references a new study published this week in the Harvard Business Review, which provides a snapshot over time of the demographics and career trajectories of Fortune 100 executives. The study shows how much the boardroom is changing. Not all students are interested in becoming the next CEO of Google, but choosing a college continues to be riddled with anxiety for those that have choices. The study’s data reveals some changes that are worthy of noting for any high school student (or parent) struggling over which college/university will be best – regardless of career direction.

The study states the majority of top executives now have undergraduate degrees from state universities, with only a fraction going to college at one of the Ivies. Nearly 11 percent of the top executives are foreign-educated, up from just 2 percent in 1980. And however few women there may be in leadership positions, they actually climbed the corporate ladder faster than men, spending fewer years, on average, in each job and taking a shorter time to get to the top.

The research, an effort by professors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and IE Business School in Madrid, compiled the backgrounds of the top 10 executives at each Fortune 100 company in 2011 — those who might be called the most powerful 1,000 people in corporate jobs. They conducted the same study in 1980 and 2001.

What has interested people most about their study has been the details about where executives got their education. “I was surprised that’s been such a remarkably big deal for most folks,” Cappelli says. “I guess it’s something that makes people think about their children. Anyone with kids is thinking about these roles, and it’s an aspect of inequality that’s very noticeable to people.”

The study shows the education backgrounds of top corporate leaders are becoming much more equal over time. In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges. While the percent of Ivy Leaguers has dropped slightly, from 14 percent in 1980 to 10 percent in both 2001 and 2011, those with degrees from private non-Ivies has plummeted, falling from 54 percent in 1980 to just 35 percent in 2011.

Why are we seeing so many more corporate executives from public universities? More meritocratic corporate cultures could be playing a role, Cappelli notes, but he thinks it’s mainly due to history. “It’s a bit of an archaeological story,” he says. “If you think back to when the executives now went to school, around 30 years ago, it was sort of the…golden era of state universities, which really boomed in the late ’60s and ’70s. Schools like Michigan and Berkeley — they were building these fabulous campuses, and pulling people in who would have otherwise gone to Ivy League schools.”

That’s not to say elite schools don’t still hold sway among MBA-holders and the very top leaders. If you look at the three most senior executives in each organization (say, the CEO, CFO and Chairman), 21 percent have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, compared with 10 percent overall. Additionally, 40 percent of all the executives who hold MBAs got them at one of the top 20 ranked business schools in the country, many of which are at Ivy League universities.

Another way the makeup of the boardroom is changing, of course, is in the number of women. Like other studies before it, the Wharton/IE Business School professors counted the number of women at the top, finding that almost 18 percent of the top jobs were held by women in 2011. That’s a massive swing from 1980, when they reported finding no women among the top 1,000 corporate leaders.

More interesting than the stubbornly few number of women at the top, however, was the finding that women are managing to reach the top faster. It took women an average of 28 years to reach the “top-tier positions” (CEOs, vice chairs, presidents and the like), compared with 29 years for men. Women reached “middle-tier” jobs (executive VPs, general counsels, chief marketing officers) in 23 years, compared with 26 years for men. In addition, women were promoted quicker in each of their jobs, at an average rate of every four years, while it took men five.

Cappelli offers three explanations for why this might be. One, he says, could be an explicit effort by companies to get women into top jobs faster. “It’s possible that a type of affirmative action is going on,” he says. Another could be that the talent pool of women in these executive jobs is simply better. Because we see more women than men change work paths or drop out of the workforce in the middle rungs of their career, he says, it’s possible “the women are actually better because they’re self-selecting.”

Finally, Cappelli suggests, the difference may be due to the fact that there are more women in functional jobs — such as human resources, legal or marketing — for which the technical expertise needed means they’re promoted more quickly. In the report, the researchers call it “riding a different elevator.”

“If you’re going up through a functional track,” Cappelli says, “you could be advancing at a very different pace than the folks who are going up through operations jobs” that may require more rotations or longer tenures at each stop along the way.

Quirks about the leadership ranks at different companies, and what they might reveal about the different corporate cultures, may be even more interesting than the broad-based trends the study found. For instance, the average length of a top Google executive’s career is just 14 years (the shortest in the Fortune 100) while at Hewlett Packard and ConocoPhillips, it’s 32 years (the longest). Meanwhile, some companies have outstanding male-to-female ratios among the top 10 execs — at Target, Lockheed Martin and PepsiCo, women hold half the senior management jobs — while as of 2011, there were still 17 companies in the Fortune 100 with no women at all among their top 10 leaders.

To Cappelli, this is among the most interesting of the study’s results. “They’re all just so different,” he says. “There’s a UPS model, there’s a Google model and there’s an Exxon model. The idea that there is a corporate model of leadership just doesn’t seem to resonate any more.”

The take-away – Strategically narrow your college choice

Many high school students choose a college mainly on emotional criteria. The following is based on a study by the University of California—Los Angeles‘s released in January 2013, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2012.” The 2012 study is based on the responses of 192,912 first-year students at 238 U.S. four-year colleges and universities who entered college in fall 2012.

Strategic Reasons Emotional Reasons
1. College has very good academic reputation (63.8 percent) 5. A visit to this campus (41.8 percent)
2. This college’s graduates get good jobs (55.9 percent) 6. College has a good reputation for its social activities (40.2 percent)
3. I was offered financial assistance (45.6 percent) 10. I wanted to live near home (20.1 percent)
4. The cost of attending this college (43.3 percent) 11. Information from a website (18.7 percent)
7. Wanted to go to a college about this size (38.8 percent) 12. Rankings in national magazines (18.2 percent)
8. College’s grads get into top grad/professional schools (32.8 percent) 13. Parents wanted me to go to this school (15.1 percent)
9. The percentage of students that graduate from this college (30.4 percent) 16. High school counselor advised me (10.3 percent)
  18. Athletic department recruited me (8.9 percent)
  19. Attracted by the religious affiliation/orientation of college (7.4 percent)
  20. My relatives wanted me to come here (6.8 percent)
  20. My teacher advised me (6.8 percent)
  22. Private college counselor advised me (3.8 percent)

To make the best choice, identify your personal preferences for industry and career direction first (you can still be somewhat general but the more clarity the better at this stage). Then research which universities are tied into those industries and are academically highly ranked for the major you are wanting. Look for major corporate donors to a university to see the connection. As they say, follow the money trail. Another way is to call the placement office and ask which companies consistently hire interns (in your major) from the university’s student population.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator 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.