Category Archives: FASFA

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.

How to Have an Effect on Student Achievement


visible-learning-infographic-whatworksinschoolsFirst, let’s put this in context. I am a career coach. I designed a career coaching program, Career Coaching for Students, that I hope is provided to every high school freshmen or sophomore student in the future (I’m not over shooting here am I?).  I am not one to think my hammer is the tool needed for all situations. Student academic achievement is a very complex issue. And ironically, many students would excel if everyone and everything got out of their way.

This article is trying to find why Career Coaching for Students is more effective than what is now offered in high schools and why it has a positive impact on student engagement and achievement.

A very high percentage of students that go through the Career Coaching for Students increase their academic achievement after completing the program. Besides the anecdotal evidence (common sense) that a person who really understands themselves, has identified a potential career that matches their talent design (found a passion) and has developed their own plan for their future tends to be much more engaged – are there more predictive specifics related to why this program works better than other programs?

Osiris Educational in the UK produced an info graphic that reports many statistical findings about what has a positive and negative effect on student achievement. As I examined their data, I became very excited to see many of the strategic pieces in the structure of the Career Coaching for Students program were matching up to the top effects. The authors of the info graphic gave their short explanation of why the top effects work to increase student achievement. I will use their explanations (posted in italics) to form the basis for my comments here.

Top Effects and Why They Work for Career Coaching for Students

1. Self-reported grades/student expectations. This means they are more likely to be successful than other learners as they will be the active element in their learning. Students experience the Career Coaching for Students program like a journey. A coach is not a teacher or parent. We co-create success in examining post-secondary education and career options based on the student’s personal interests. The coach has the methods and tools for the student to quickly identify and learn about high-potential career ideas and engage in research. We don’t leave it to a career assessment listing of job titles found in many assessments. We find the student quickly feels in control and is able to set their own expectations at every step. We just make it easy – it’s all about the student.

2. Teacher credibility. Students are perceptive to which teachers can make a difference to their learning. Teachers who command this credibility are more likely to make a difference. There are two areas of credibility that are crucial to student career coaching. First is the coach’s credibility. It is very difficult for a teacher or counselor whose career has been entirely in the academic world to have a full perspective. Those career coaches that have the greatest credibility tend to have experience in human resource management and/or business management across diverse industries. The second is the assessment’s credibility. Students are perceptive when it comes to reading the different assessments offered through schools. If the assessment produces garbage – or the student perceives the information as less than helpful, you’ve lost the student. Our assessments provide over 40 pages of insights about the student. Our most common comment from students – “This is incredibly accurate.

3. Feedback. Speed of learning doubles following effective feedback. Praise, punishment and rewards are the least effective forms of feedback. Feedback should be just in time, ‘just for me’ information and delivered when and where it has the best benefit. I couldn’t write a better statement to describe the design of the Career Coaching for Students program. Our feedback comes in many forms. First there are the assessment reports (about 40 pages of feedback about who you are). Then there is how to use that information. We unfold the information and integrate it strategically so that the student can connect the dots quickly and easily. ‘Just for me’ is a perfect description of the feedback at every step.

4. Classroom management. Teachers who have well managed classrooms can identify and respond quickly to potential issues and are emotionally objective. Whether we are delivering the Career Coaching for Students program in a classroom or workshop environment or in a more personalized one-on-one setting, the structured approach to “peeling the career exploration onion” with the student enables us as coaches to identify and respond quickly to questions and issues. Remaining emotionally objective has more to do with being non-judgmental about the student’s aspirations. Our approach leaves very little room for subjective reactions to career ideas. We ask great questions that make the student think for themselves. We don’t tell them anything.

5. Parental involvement. Active and positive parents who help students to have high expectations have a positive impact on student achievement. Surveillance or supervision can have a detrimental effect. The Career Coaching for Students program encourages the student to welcome parental involvement and encourages parents to be involved at the right level. Parental involvement is a two-way street that can be more like a slippery climb up an icy road sometimes. Parents who quickly react negatively to career ideas will kill the student’s engagement. We’ve seen it happen more than a few times. Helping the student recover from that slows down their progress. Career exploration is a journey. The student needs to know they are free to explore and will be encouraged throughout the process. With that said, parents have a huge impact on student self esteem and healthy development of responsible independent thinking. We refer often to the program as a “How to make big Decisions” skill development program. It just happens to be focused on career exploration. Parents play a big role here.

6. Cooperative Learning. Students learn better cooperatively than alone or competitively. This form of learning also increases interest and the ability to problem solve through interacting with peers. This one explains why I like the workshop venue. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The student-coach relationship exists to co-create success for the student. Alone doesn’t work – we’ve seen that with the web portal (XAP, Naviance, others) solutions that many high schools subscribe to (see earlier blog article for more about this). In the workshop venue, we see many students with friends in the same workshop. They sit next to each other. Given that career exploration is a very personal exercise, the relationships with fellow attendees in the workshop is very supportive.

The six effects above help to explain why the Career Coaching for Students program is highly effective with all types of students. When it comes to improving academic achievement, I still think the anecdotal evidence is the most valid – that a person who really understands themselves, has identified a potential career that matches their talent design (found a passion) and has a plan for their future tends to be much more engaged – and therefore, much more interested in their own academic achievement.

One of the most frequent comments we hear from parents is “Wow! I wish I had this when I was in high school.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Career Coaching for Students. He is also an organizational development consultant, executive development coach, and creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer – 30-days coaching support with the Home Study coaching package.

Student Resource Central 10x more useful than ConnectEDU, Naviance, Kuder, Career Cruisin or XAP


The Career Coaching for Students™ program has so much to it. Independent career coaches, high school counselors and college career center counselors are finding the assessments and strategies creating significant breakthroughs. We call this disruptive technology.

This article focuses on one part of the program that other programs minimize. Student Resources Central™ offers students and parents access to the best resources on the web. From career research, choosing a major, choosing a school, financial aid, scholarship research, college admissions and application process to the latest in resume portfolios, this portal to the vast unlimited resources on the web has it all. The website sprinkles advice throughout. The organizational layout enables the user to go exactly where they need to within two clicks.        SRC Welcome Page

Below are screen shots of the main tabs. Each main tab has subtabs that offer carefully selected resources. Click on the screenshot to see a larger view to read the subtabs.

Criteria for a resource to be included in Student Resource Central:

Quality of information. Including the source, we don’t think it helps you to receive bad, biased, out-dated or partial information.

Agenda-free. The recommended resources are not operating a marketing data collection site that will use your personal information to market their sponsors.

Ease-of-use. There are plenty of web information pages. Just do a simple search on one topic and you’ll find millions of pages. Which are really worthy of your time? How much time will you have to spend shuffling through hundreds of pages before you get to the right pages of information? With SRC, you’ll quickly find your way through any webpage we direct you to.

Several great take-action recommendations

Several great take-action recommendations

 

Career Coaching for Students extensive library of worksheets, videos, and more

Career Coaching for Students extensive library of worksheets, videos, and more

The most extensive Career Research portal on the web - and easy to use

The most extensive Career Research portal on the web – and easy to use – including several extensive career video libraries.

Education Research that gives you what you need - like college freshman retention rates and graduation rates

Education Research that gives you what you need – like college freshman retention rates and graduation rates

Straight scoop, how to and information with integrity is what the Financial Aid and Scholarship resources are about. Most scholarship websites are nothing more than marketing websites. Not at SRC.

Straight scoop, how to and information with integrity is what the Financial Aid and Scholarship resources are about. Most scholarship websites are nothing more than marketing websites. Not at SRC.

Writing a resume and developing interview skills are just the beginning. So much for you to leverage including career advice videos.

Writing a resume and developing interview skills are just the beginning. So much for you to leverage including career advice videos.

Using social networking sites is key to career research, getting inside information about colleges and universities, finding internships and landing the first job out of college. The latest in using Portfolios is reviewed with a list of free cloud-based portfolio apps.

Using social networking sites is key to career research, getting inside information about colleges and universities, finding internships and landing the first job out of college. The latest in using Portfolios is reviewed with a list of free cloud-based portfolio apps.

If all of that isn’t enough, Student Resource Central is including the Life Skills for Students™ program too – for the one price.

The good news is that if you’ve purchased the Home Study Personal Edition of Career Coaching for Students or engage one of the licensed facilitators for a one-on-one service or workshop in your area, you receive Student Resource Central automatically. Purchasing the full package is the best way to go.

However, if you don’t want to buy the entire Career Coaching for Students program and receive the cool assessments and student binder, Student Resource Central is available, for a limited time, at a ridiculously cheap rate. The same rate applies for families or teachers wanting to use the resources for an entire class.

After comparing to other offerings, it becomes obvious that those other programs are trying to do the minimum while maximizing profits. Student Resource Central – well – is just simple, common sense that everyone can benefit from.

 

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”, which is found on our resources website.

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.

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

Career Exploration for Students is Like Launching the Shuttle


Student Career Exploration is Like a Shuttle Launch

Launching a career and launching a rocket take the same effort

As Americans, we are fascinated by the launching of space missions by NASA. It is an incredible site to watch a launch. The size of the fuel tanks and booster rockets of the Shuttle tells you just how much energy is required at the early stages of a launch. Once speed is attained, very little is required to get the shuttle into orbit.

It’s the same with an airliner. They burn most of their fuel climbing to altitude.

Momentum is the key to a successful launch. An object in motion tends to stay in motion. And of course, an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

The sad fact is few people ever really get much momentum going in their lives and their work. It looks too hard. And they can’t seem to stick with it long enough to get to the point where less and less effort is required and more and more intended results are achieved.

It’s important to take the RIGHT action for sure. But sometimes ANY action is enough to break the habit of inertia and get things moving.

Whatever it takes to get yourself moving, do it.

For me, reading a book or listening to an inspiring or motivating audio file gets me going. Sometimes it’s a conversation with my business partners or a review of my written goals. Music in the background works, too.

The important thing is to get going. It’s an old cliché but beginning IS often half done. Finishing well may be a valuable attribute, but if you never get started, you never get a chance to finish.

Remember, you don’t have to get it right; you just have to get it going.

Career Coaching for Students™ is a program that high school students (and their parents)  find very helpful, exciting, useful and timely. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top of your class or struggling to graduate. In high school every student is at the same level regarding career direction.

If you are a parent of a high school student, or if you are a high school student with a desire to explore the possibilities of your future, I encourage you to take career exploration seriously. It won’t just happen. Like a shuttle launch, career exploration and career planning take a great deal of exploration,  testing of ideas, work, fuel, resiliency and  people. Of course you could just get lucky.

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 aligns with 100% of recently published GWU Freshman Transition Initiative guidelines. A college version was just released in June of 2010.