Category Archives: Education Grant

What it Takes for Students to Become Financially Independent


Best and Worst Undergrad College Degrees by Major - Are we asking the right question?When does a student become financially independent?  This is a question that most students and parents struggle with.

This independence question gains importance as you turn 18 and intensifies as you move to full independence. For college students (those college bound please heed this), the watch-out is to not get on a financial “high” in your sophomore year of college because you saved and were frugal your freshman year. And don’t go into apathy as you see your student loan debt growing in your junior year. For all students regardless of post-secondary direction, the 18 – 21 age range is when you are practicing your independent role. You are now an adult which means you are supposed to be independent. Right? Well, it just isn’t that simple any more.

In the late ’70s, I faced the challenge of putting myself through college without much help. I used government-sponsored grants and low-interest loans sparingly. I worked at least one job during school at all times and summers and spring break and christmas holidays. I came out after four and a half years with a relatively small amount of debt. I remember driving out of my college town for the final time with no cash. My last amount of cash was used to fill the gas tank. I didn’t have a job. I lived with my parents for 3 months after finishing college. The 3 months living at home and looking for my first career job seemed like forever. As it turns out I was lucky it took only 3 months. Once my “professional” paycheck started coming in my financial independence and my self-esteem were no longer an issue.

Today, it is more difficult for students to obtain financial independence quickly. It depends on the situation but here are some of the issues students face:

  • The Need for a High GPA – GPA’s of 3.5 or higher is a must have for many companies so students have to study harder and longer to obtain this. Many schools programs are extremely rigorous and a full-time load is really full-time.  This means less time for working.
  • Helicopter Parents – Parents are making many decisions for children way past the age of 18. Instead of helping them work towards independence, they are making decisions perhaps the student should be making. Many parents tend to pay for most everything for the student without a thought.  This hinders the students ability to grow and learn life lessons.
  • College Involvement – Many students are heavily involved in programs or athletics in school.  It is difficult to work and be committed to studies and a full-time extra-curricular activities.
  • College Costs – College costs have become astronomical. In many cases, it is impossible for a student to be completely financially independent particularly if they are attending an expensive college. Parents are having to assist more today than ever before. One rule, you should never have to pay full sticker price for college regardless of college choice. There seems to be a significant gap between “advertised price” and “actual price”. Actual will be less.

Here are some ideas to help students reach financial independence by the time they graduate or shortly thereafter:

  • Budget – Students should sit down with their parents before they turn 18 and obtain a list of all the expenses the parents pay for.  Both parties should discuss items that the student can begin to start paying for.  Over a period of time, the student should begin to take on more responsibility for expenses. Many times, the parent agrees to pay for things until the student graduates from college. After starting that first job upon graduation, the first pay check is celebrated with a transfer of obligations for those things the parents have been paying (gas card, cell phone and data plan, insurance, etc.).
  • College Costs – Both parents and students should be involved in filling out financial information for FAFSA, deciding on a school, obtaining scholarships, loans, grants,etc…it seems complicated but as you get into it, you’ll find it isn’t too much. It’s just tedious. Don’t let your parents take the lead here. This is an opportunity for students to practice their self-starting, decision-making and personal accountability skills which are critical to becoming independent.
  • Developing Credit – Credit is something that a student needs to start developing. Start with a very low credit limit ($100), charging small items and paying them off the same month. The earlier you are able to establish some credit, the better off you will be.  If your parents are involved in paying for your education, let them know you are doing this but don’t rely on them to bail you out if you get in trouble. I don’t recommend parents co-signing for the credit card or giving the student a credit card.
  • Planning for the Future – Stay aware of the need for some savings for an apartment rental for when you graduate.  The student should look through the local newspaper or search ‘Google apartment expenses’ to get an idea of today’s rent, down payment, utilities, etc…
  • Work with Your Parents and Surprise Them – Both parents and students should work together as a team and discuss how to gain financial independence and set realistic goals.  Demonstrating to your parents that you make good decisions will reap big rewards and help to change the relationship from parent-child to parent-adult. they’ll always be your parents but you are probably ready to change the relationship so here is your chance to break the parent habit in a good way.
  • Do Research – There is plenty of information on finance geared to the college student. Student Resource Central™ has practically everything you need, but if not, there are books that will go deeper. You can find our recommendations on our Amazon e-store.
  • Choosing a college that is best for youTHINK Like an Entrepreneur – Whether you work at the local grocery store, provide babysitting services or start your own lawn care company, always give your best and be disciplined in your approach to work. If you are working for a company (such as the local grocery store or retail store or restaurant) look at yourself from the manager’s eyes. What do they want from you? They want you to be on time, be prepared and be responsive to the needs of customers and to them.
  • There are No Mistakes – Learn from your lessons as difficult as they may be. Everyone was a teenager at one time. Everyone goes through a learning process. Avoid feeling bad about any mistakes you make. Always use mistakes or failures as learning opportunities – keep going. Don’t rely on your parents to bail you out when something doesn’t go the way you planned. Learning life lessons early on in life prepares us to be stronger, more independent adults.

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.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Parents Guide to Career Exploration and Planning


It isn’t possible for every high school student to benefit from the Career Coaching for Student program (maybe some day). If it were, you’d be sure to receive assistance in all of the areas listed in this article and your teen would be on solid footing for the path ahead. Short of that honorable goal of serving every student, the following ideas are for parents of incoming high school students and any teen ready to consider and explore their future.Happy Teens

Parents are a teens primary counselor. As much as teachers, school counselors and other professionals try, parents play a crucial role in drawing a study plan and shaping the career direction and future of their children. Entry into high school is the time parents need to acquire knowledge about educational options, objectively understand their teens interests and skill sets and “parent” them through the exploration and decision-making process. Decision making doesn’t have to mean “choose” a career while in high school. Decision making needs to be focused on strategic direction. That may result in a career decision or it may set the student on an informed path to explore and evaluate the best potential opportunities that lead to happiness and success.  Either way, a good career choice will be made.

Why parents’ guidance is important for student career exploration

  1. Because parents have rich knowledge and experience. The teen’s interests and talents may be very different from a parents, however, the parent has the knowledge and experience to bring greater wisdom to the process.
  2. Many students choose their school or college of study after a brief, mostly subjective look at a few choices, without research and due diligence, often times going by just the hearsay. In this situation, parents can encourage their teen to gather all relevant information to make a more informed choice, considering both the short- and long-term benefits and prospects.

How parents can help in career selection

  1. A parent’s attitude matters a great deal! Stay positive and focused on a future of success. The work place today is always changing and may seem scary. Don’t make the past seem perfect and the future terrifying. Encourage your teen to develop a positive attitude and learn about a variety of industries. Many career choices can be applied in diverse industries which present very different experiences.
  2. Do not shoot down ideas that your children may come up with on their educational and career choices. If you react negatively, it will likely shut down or reduce the communication process. Keep the lines open as you encourage information gathering and informed choices rather than “your” choices.
  3. Jump on opportunities. Informal discussions about the world of work with your teen can be productive. Current news and websites like www.ted.com can be a catalyst to a rich discussion.
  4. Provide guidance and blind encouragement. Do not impose your ideas against theirs. Your goal is to help your children find their own way based on their interests and skills and not follow your ideas and interests, which could prove counter-productive. By discussing interests, dreams and goals, you can get to know your children better, which will help you guide them.
  5. Encourage your teen to set goals. By starting early with goal setting and action planning, simple and rewarding goals will lead to extremely valuable skills for life and more consistent achievement of goals as an adult.
  6. Be practical and realistic in your approach but don’t assume something isn’t possible. Examine and find out whether their interests are genuine, or mere aspirations influenced by external forces.
  7. Encourage your child to explore their options through work experience and by talking to people in occupations that interest them. Visits to relevant businesses will help. Putting your teen in contact with those in a career of interest is extremely valuable. Meeting multiple people to gain “inside” career information can be more valuable than a summer job.
  8. Let your teen identify and select their area of interest. Parents can help students to identify the broad area of work that interests them, what sort of environment they would like to work in and then link it to their skills, interests, abilities and values. Be wary of popular assessments used for students. Many are not effective and can create confusion. Their validity and reliability may also be questionable.

How to begin

1. The best way to begin career exploration with your children is by talking about your own career. What do you do in your job. What decisions did you make that led you to this point in your career. Teens aren’t always overly interested when parents begin to share their wisdom with them. Be patient. When it comes to “telling”, asking questions more often is a better strategy for opening the door to rich discussions. Discuss a variety of occupations that you observe in everyday life and what those jobs may involve.

2. Emphasize personal accountability and self management. These are two critical skills consistently found in highly successful people – regardless of what career they choose to follow.

THE ACTION PLAN

The career decision-making process described below includes activities that can begin pre-high school and go through high school and post-secondary education.

Action 1 – Enable self-awareness through valid and reliable assessments. When it comes to assessments, start with yourself. Evaluate the assessment administration experience and the results.

Action 2 – You and your teen may also want to consider lifestyle implications and the overall impact that lifestyle preferences will have on career choice. For instance, will the job require irregular hours? Will the salary support the lifestyle your child wants? How much education does the occupation require vs the desire for continuing education? It’s important for your child to understand the relationship between lifestyle, personal preferences, occupational choice, and educational pursuits. Help your children understand and balance the difference between wants and needs.

Action 3 – Help your teen stay focused on career exploration.
Help your child to explore a variety of options with the goal of narrowing those options to a manageable few. Most students want to look at college choices first, major second and career third. Help them avoid that mistake.

Action 4 – Evaluate educational strategies that support a career direction. Evaluate educational options before looking at college choices. Schools vary greatly in their reputation for different areas of study. The best employers know which schools are at the top for a subject and which are not.

Action 5 – Research school choices based on career direction and desired post-secondary education. No school has everything for everyone. Even the most prestigious schools such as Harvard might not be the best school for what your teen is interested in. Choosing a college or university takes a little work.

Action 6 – Make choices based on quality information. Encourage your child to explore a variety of career areas, before making a choice. The economy, demographics, and technology will continue to change the workplace. Some jobs become obsolete while other new jobs emerge. Some occupations may maintain the same title, but they may change or evolve so drastically that they no longer resemble what they were a decade earlier. As the workplace continues to change, it will be more important to focus on personal soft skills and how they can be applied. Some soft skills are more important than others depending on the career. Decision making has been identified as one of the most important soft skills required for career success. It has also been identified as the weakest of soft skills of incoming Freshmen in college.

Action 7 – Create an action plan

Planning is much easier to do when a passionate future view exists. The passionate future view serves to motivate your teen to take challenging courses.

Action 8 – Begin planning for the expense of college. Motivation goes up when a teen sees that excellent grades will pay off in significant scholarship money and improved odds of being accepted to their first school of choice. Don’t think you can afford the most expensive colleges and universities? Explore all options available to get scholarships, financial aid, fellowships and interest free students loans. Why? Many of the scholarships will be based on achievement and required courses through the high school years. Many students of lower income families are provided significant financial support.

Action 9 – Take action. Encourage your child to stick with a rigorous school curriculum to build a strong foundation in math, reading, writing, computer skills, and science. The stronger the foundation, the more career options will be available later in life.

Action 10 – Review and revise. As your child matures and gains more knowledge and experience, his/her interests may change.

Course selection in high school will determine what opportunities are presented and the available course of action after graduation. For instance, if your child wants to go to college and she/he hasn’t taken the required advanced level courses, remedial courses may be necessary.

Help your child to stay on target by taking the necessary courses. Remember that all plans should be flexible in case your child wants to change some of the goals she/he set earlier on.

It is your child’s future, not yours! It is your role to separate your innermost desires and wishes from that of your child. Help them reach their own dreams.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, professional career and executive/leadership coach and creator of the nationally recognized program Career Coaching for Students™ . Career Coaching for Students is available as a district-wide high school program and in group and on-one-one offerings through certified career coaches throughout the United States, Canada and other countries. Contact Carl Nielson at carl@successdiscoveries.com or call 972-346-2892 to discuss specific needs. Or visit us at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Is FastWeb Worth the Trouble?


FastWeb has done a great job of marketing. Even this not-so-complimentary article is giving them publicity. The saying “any publicity is good publicity” fits when trying to assess the value of FastWeb and other “for profit” Internet marketing portals. Stick with me to the end of this article for some excellent resources.

Working through the FastWeb site, I quickly found the volume of personal information requested to get going—from the student’s prospective major to grade-point average and ethnic heritage and much more – was a marketer’s dream come true. Steve Boyce, director of marketing for FastWeb (which started as an independent company but was acquired by the job-placement site Monster.com in 2001), explains that it’s necessary to link relevant scholarships to applicants. If customers agree to release that information, FastWeb shares all of your data with third parties (who pay them good money for your data). According to the FastWeb privacy policy, recipients include “data aggregators” and marketers compiling lists to sell to colleges, for-profit vocational institutions and even the military.

Before seeing the scholarships, the site required me to click “no thanks” to offers from survey companies, online universities and U.S. Navy recruiters. Boyce says that FastWeb tries to maintain a proper balance between users and advertisers who fund the business, but the pushiness of the ads gave me the impression that FastWeb knows that its users won’t bail because they’re desperate for college funds.

Once you get to the scholarships FastWeb finds for you, how many are really worth pursuing? Put aside for a moment the esoteric nature of some of the grants, like the $1,500 scholarship for duck-calling. The Internet’s instant access to information about potential awards, as well as the desire of sites like FastWeb to list thousands of opportunities, has led to an abundance of what are called “promotional scholarships”. These are very inexpensive marketing strategies for a company to woo customers under the guise of kindness to a worthy young person. Since FastWeb doesn’t rate the quality of its scholarships, the listed scholarships are positioned as just as valid as more-traditional, less-exploitative grants. There also seems to be know real way to confirm a scholarship was ever awarded. It would be nice if there were a clearing house that certified the scholarship and verified the money was actually paid out. (Boyce says that the site is working on a system to identify and explain the promotional scholarships.)

Donald Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University, says that applying for scholarships found on FastWeb and similar sites isn’t worth the effort for most families.

Scholarship Success - Money is Out There!A case in point is the Coca-Cola College Bound Contest, brought to you by the Chuck E. Cheese pizza operation. The winner gets $25,000 toward a college fund. To qualify, you are asked to register for the “Chuck E-Club,” thus opening one’s IN BOX to a stream of offers from the company. (Tucked in the bottom of the Web page was a link that allowed you to enter the contest without joining the club.) According to Chuck E. Cheese spokesperson Brenda Holloway, more than 1.6 million contestants signed up for the contest. She doesn’t specify how many of those joined the club (typically in contests, the majority of entrants take the suggested path), but did say that the club’s population rose. That’s hundreds of thousands of new Chuck E. members, at a nominal cost to the company compared to other types of marketing. And only one person receives a scholarship. They’ve redefined the saying “one in a million odds”.

Many of the FastWeb offers ask entrants to write essays—in the aggregate, students spend millions of hours creating themes that will pay off to only a very few. Sometimes the assignments appear to be a form of indoctrination, like the ones offered by the Ayn Rand Institute to expound on issues in “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged.” Then there is the $250 prize given to the best essay based on the themes of the book “High School’s Not Forever”—a gift offered by the book’s authors.

One of the more ubiquitous scholarship sponsors on FastWeb is a company called Brickfish, which often asks students to compete for small grants ($500 or less) by making a video or blog post involving a consumer product that pays Brickfish to run a marketing campaign. “Offering a scholarship program sends a positive message, one of good will,” says Brickfish CEO Brian Dunn. And though college costs are high, modest prizes are sufficient to get the reaction Brickfish wants. “Oddly enough, people react better to smaller amounts-—they think they’re more likely to win,” Dunn says.

Donald Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University, says that applying for scholarships found on FastWeb and similar sites isn’t worth the effort for most families. “The real action is in the dollars given by the institutions themselves,” he says. (FastWeb’s Boyce says he has no statistics to prove it, but “anecdotal evidence suggests we are helping students meet their goals.”)

As for my own family’s strategy, my wife has become an expert on completing the necessary FAFSA forms and following the specific college financial aid process that most colleges post on their website. We also keep an eye out for scholarship programs related to our kids activities (Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, Athletics, local/community) that don’t involve competing with FastWeb’s 38 million registered users. We also found Pete Becker’s e-book, The College Financial Aid Game: How to Get Your Fair Share to be a refreshing guide and explanation for how “to get your fair share”.

Like Pete Becker, I found  Linda Byerly, a dedicated volunteer blogger, writes words of wisdom at http://scholarshipcentral.wordpress.com/. You might check her articles out.

We also found an alternative to FastWeb that recognized the issue with FastWeb and other sites like it. KAARME is much more than a scholarship search site but has done a great job of posting scholarships. As their website states, “Kaarme was founded in 2006 by concerned parents with the goal to expand college opportunities for high school students. Their goal is to make college education accessible and affordable by connecting colleges, parents, counselors, and coaches in a safe networking environment, free of charge.

Students, athletes, parents and counselors use Kaarme’s student Resume Builder and search tools to connect with prospective schools and scholarships. Users engage in two-way communication with college admissions officers, coaches, counselors, and scholarship funds. Kaarme provides the world’s most advanced student database and search system for colleges, coaches, and counselors to find and connect with students. Even my high school I graduated from in 1974 is using Kaarme.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is also providing an interesting blog called The College Solution and has a great article titled “Are These Financial Aid Letters Misleading?.

And last but not least, I have compiled a definitive list of Financial Aid and Scholarship books that you can find at Amazon.

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

The College Essay Strategy – Got One?


Student Resource Central - Explore Careers, Choose Majors, Find Colleges

Student Resource Central provides high-quality, unbiased resources for career research, choosing educational options and finding colleges.

The folks at Best Colleges Online asked me to write about or reference their article on 10 Admissions Essay Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make. Before I get to the 10 mistakes (they did a good job on covering the subject matter in the article) let me be clear that Best Colleges Online is funded by those colleges and universities that pay them money. So, finding the best colleges is really a little misleading which is par for the course in most “free”online resources (as is the case with those “free” assessments). Part of the mission of Career Coaching for Students™ is to provide high-quality, unbiased and complete information. The resources that you will find in Student Resource Central™ are stringently vetted to meet our requirements. Students automatically have access to Student Resource Central when they attend one of our workshops or purchase either the Home Study program or a subscription to Student Resource Central.

Now for those top 10 Mistakes Students Make with their Essays:

  1. Spelling and grammar errors
  2. Sending it in Late
  3. Over-sharing personal information
  4. Going over the Page or Word Limit
  5. Flirting with Controversy
  6. Using Cliches
  7. Being too Confident
  8. Being too Humble
  9. Trying to Suck Up to the Reader/School
  10. Not Lining Your Essay Up With the Rest of the Application

What’s the Big Deal About Job Hopping and Why Should it Matter to High School Students?


From all the employment data provided by the Department of Labor, many researchers are focusing on adults in the job market. But what does that same data suggest about the coming work life years for high school students?

We looked at the data from the perspective of being a “guardian” for those that will be in the workforce within the next 5 years. Our insights:

  1. Job hopping may be connected to a rise in depression among adults
  2. Job hopping is an indication of a lack of career direction
  3. Job hopping is extremely costly
  4. Job hopping isn’t necessary

Gen Y has caught a lot of flack for job hopping and for having a bad case of employee disloyalty. Baby Boomer and Gen X managers claim it’s impossible to find good hires from amidst this young generation even with a shortage of jobs and a surplus of job seekers. There might be a lot of truth behind these claims.

Lesson for students: Want to earn more, have greater job satisfaction and be more successful? Do the work necessary to properly investigate career choices and do the work to set yourself up for success…now. No employer or manager will be looking out for your career.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that today’s young adults will have between 10-14 jobs before they are 38! Currently 1 in 4 workers have been with their current employer for less than a year; 1 in 2 workers have been there less than 5 years. That has to be depressing for those caught in the job hopping cycle.

Lesson for students: What an opportunity to jump ahead of others! Employers reward dedication, commitment and longevity – when combined with performance. If you are in the right career, doing what you are passionate about and stay with one employer for more than 4 years, you’ll be way ahead of those that keep job hopping.

The Late Boomers haven’t learned either. Between ages 18 and 44, the Late Boomers have had an average of 11 employers, which translates into a job change every 2.4 years! How do you get excited about your work when you’re packing up and leaving every couple of years?

Job hopping was even worse among Late Boomer men without a high school diploma. They held an average of 13.3 jobs, while men with at least a bachelor’s degree still had 11 jobs. In the case of women, uneducated ones, in fact, had fewer jobs (9.7) than their degreed counterparts (11.7 jobs).

During the time of life (ages of 18-22) when most people move between school and summer jobs, the Late Boomers held an average of 4.4 jobs. However, they kept moving even at more mature ages: they had 2.6 jobs between ages 28-32, and at ages 39-44 they still held an average of 2 jobs. Among the jobs that 39- to 44-year-olds started, one-third ended in less than a year. OUCH!

Job hopping isn’t simply a Gen Y problem, and any explanation that sites only the character and upbringing of young workers for perceived disloyalty doesn’t match up with the picture painted by the data.

Lesson for students: Don’t let the world choose your path. Be in control. Do the work to set yourself up for success. That starts with true career exploration work. If you don’t have the support you need from your school, go here.

Source: The Total View, Ira S. Wolfe, Success Performance Solutions

About the Author: Carl Nielson is an executive coach, organizational development consultant and career coach. He developed the program, Career Coaching for Students™ for high school students in 2005 which happens to align with 100% of recently published GWU Freshman Transition Initiative guidelines. A college version was just released in June of 2010.

Student Resource Central is Fast Becoming THE Career and College Research Go-To Site


Student Resource Central™, the secure-access part of the Career Coaching for Students™ website is fast becoming THE Career and College Research Go-To Site for students: Incredibly rich with high-quality, high-value and validated content that saves incredible amounts of time for students (and parents).

The Career Coaching for Students™ program is the pride and joy for Success Discoveries (other programs will be coming in time). Because of the depth and quality of the program, the Home Study Personal Edition is $349 (current price) and workshops being offered in various areas of the U.S. range from $500 to $850 per student. While it is worth the price of admission, many families won’t be signing up. Yet, we have an incredibly rich amount of web content for students to use for career exploration exercises, search for colleges that match their educational goals, learn about financial aid, budgeting for college and scholarships and much more. Until now, you had to sign up for the one-on-one coaching or one of the workshop programs to have access to the Student Resource Central site.

We are now offering a $19.95 family license to access Student Resource Central™, the premier career and college exploration resource site. This one-time fee provides access with no expiration. Have more than one child approaching high school? Your username and password will still work next year and the year after. And we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

We wish every student could take advantage of the full Career Coaching for Students™ program. For those that can’t, access to Student Resource Central™ can be the next best thing.

For-Profit Colleges Mislead Students


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On May 4, 2010, we posted an article on this blog and at the home page of Career Coaching for Students™ entitled PBS Frontline Exposes Fraud at For-Profit Schools. Obviously we have to give PBS credit for the story. Now it seems the General Accounting Office (GAO, United States Agency) has published their findings which are both confirming the PBS story and very damning for the “For-Profit Educational Industry”. These “for profits” offer “extensive career planning and placement programs” which has been the enabler for the “for-profit college industry” to secure significant market share in the higher education industry.

According to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly two million students attend for-profit colleges, pursuing bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in disciplines that range from cosmetology to nursing and engineering. In 2009, for-profit colleges received more than $20 billion in federal loans and grants. These are powerful institutions that students, the government, and employers have trusted with a significant part of our society’s future. Knowing this information, you can imagine the outrage and shock that accompanied today’s GAO report that implicated 15 for-profit colleges in deceptive recruiting & career planning practices.

Of the 15 colleges tested, four institutions were guilty of fraud in their aggressive and misleading marketing techniques. As part of the GAO’s undercover investigation, four agents posed as prospective students and met with admissions staff for financial aid, tuition, and career planning information. The test revealed the following questionable marketing practices:

  • One for-profit college encouraged an applicant to hide $250,000 worth of assets on a federal financial aid application
  • According to The New York Times, another college encouraged a student to lie about dependents on a financial aid application 
  • Admissions representatives misrepresented tuition costs, quoting the price of classes for nine months instead of one full year
  • Students were provided with false career planning advice. For example, one program mentioned that barbers could earn up to $250,000 annually. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 90 percent of barbers earn $43,000 per year.
  • One admissions representative undermined the financial burden of student loans, implying that defaulters cannot be held accountable for missed payments
  • Admissions representatives engaged in aggressive marketing strategies, pressuring the undercover agents to sign contracts even if they weren’t ready to make a decision.

Although the names of the 15 for-profit colleges remain confidential, the surveyed programs were in a number of disciplines, offering both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in subjects ranging from business to cosmetology. This information coincides with an education record.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of high school graduates from the class of 2009 were enrolled in a two-year or four-year program when surveyed in October ’09 — the highest number in United States history. While this is a figure worth celebrating, it is also indicative of a growing issue – proper career exploration and planning.

How many of these students are making informed career decisions when choosing a program to attend? How many of these students will position themselves to guarantee a return on investment, and how many will drown in debt upon graduation, falling victim to aggressive marketing practices, false career planning advice, and unrealistic expectations about career prospects? Whether or not students have fair access to objective information, they are still responsible for the costs and consequences of their education and career planning strategy.

Of all the concerning questions, how many students, by taking the bait at these fraudulent institutions, are missing out on a career that would have been much more fulfilling and resulted in greater success?

Students have to make adult decisions with real consequences at a very young age. The issue isn’t whether students are mature enough to choose and plan their careers. The issue is around access to solid, credible career coaching for students. As a society, as parents, as teachers, and as students, it is more important than ever that career coaching be provided to all students.

If you’re not investing a substantial sum of money, you are investing a substantial amount of time, so be an educated consumer when shopping for a college. Just as you would compare the economic implications of buying a car, you should compare the economic implications of your degree, college, and program relative to career interests. In addition to looking at rankings, prestige, and marketing materials — regardless of whether you are looking at a nonprofit or for-profit college — weigh the economic and educational return on investment. Our students are our future’s most valuable asset, so let’s position them to be successful.

A GREAT OFFER TO READERS OF THIS BLOG – UNLIMITED ACCESS TO STUDENT RESOURCE CENTRAL™ FOR ONLY $19.95: The Career Coaching for Students™ website has an extensive private area for career and educational research that is normally reserved for our individual and workshop clients. Each resource has been evaluated for its quality, value and ethical representation of information. We call it Student Resources Central™. Due to the new, alarming information about corrupt “for-profit” institutional practices, we are offering the full Student Resources Central site to parents** and students for $19.95 per access license. This is a unique offer and the access has no expiration. If you are a high school administrator or teacher and would like to gain access to the site for all of your students we offer the same price to you also. This one-time purchase provides access with no expiration. To buy an access license go here. Aren’t sure it is worth it? We guarantee your satisfaction* or we’ll give you a full refund and we’ll eat the credit card fees.

*Guarantee will be honored for 30 days. After 30 days we figure you found the site helpful.
**This offer is not available to professionals or organizations that offer career guidance services, tools or products. For more information on becoming a Career Coaching for Students™ Licensed Facilitator which includes full rights to use Student Resource Central  with all of your customers contact Carl Nielson at 972.346.2892 or visit our Coach Facilitator information page on the website.