Tag 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.

 

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.

My Graduation Speech…for incoming High School Students


Your personal white board is clean. Write on it wisely.

I posted this as part of another post last June 2010. I’ve updated it and gave it is own post. Incoming high school freshman have a clean white board and an exciting opportunity. As a Dad of a college junior and a high school junior, it is so clear how choices made as an incoming Freshman high school student (not to minimize a foundation for self management and personal accountability that was established years ago) play a significant part in how the student graduates. This isn’t based on just my two kids, it is based on observing them and all of their friends and classmates. So based on my observations, along with my experience in the work world, I offer the following graduation speech for those moving from junior high to senior high school.

As you aim for high school, you have an incredible opportunity before you. Think of this time as a clean white board. I don’t mean to suggest your past doesn’t matter. Your past is a part of your future . If you perceive your past as positive, you can choose to carry those thoughts forward. If you consider your past to be less than you desire for the future, you can make choices about that too. You see, you have choices you are making right now.

But let’s test your perception of your past. Close your eyes. think about your first kiss (if that has happened already). Your favorite book you’ve ever read? Your favorite TV show… and movie? How do you see your parents? Your teachers? Your coaches? Your grades? Your study habits? Your desire to be involved?

All of this is going to impact your future. If you see your past positively, it will serve you well as a foundation for the future. If your past was personally less than ideal, it can serve you well as a motivator for creating that better future for yourself. Either way, the future is totally in your control – others do not have control of your future – only you do.

Even though you’ve taken several history classes already, you relate most easily to events that have occurred in your own past – your own past is like a drop of water in all the oceans of our great world. What that means is, don’t let your personal experiences limit you. Don’t let your current self perception dictate what you do tomorrow. The majority of teenagers feel inadequate and insecure. Some show their insecurity through shyness. Others through egotistical behaviors. This insecurity comes partially from being intelligent and partially from giving too much power to the concern for others’ perceptions. The intelligent part refers to the fact that you recognize your current ignorance about yourself and the world around you – that’s smart.

Giving too much power to others comes from a lack of sense of self. A lack of self understanding is easily changed. The more you do…that is, the more activities you engage in – especially outside your comfort zone, and the more you do for others, will give you a better sense of self. If you choose to disengage or to follow others rather than lead yourself, you’ll still get a sense of self but it won’t be accurate. Also, personal development experiences will come along slower and they will probably not be as beneficial.

Give yourself permission to study and enjoy learning world history. To give you an idea of how important history is, place yourself into the future, let’s say about 30 years. Today becomes the past. Your entire high school experience has already happened. Now let’s say you are extremely successful 30 years into the future. How did that happen? How did you become extremely successful? Was what you did in high school a part of why you are so successful 30 years out? Did any world events during your school years frame your thinking and shape your motivators? Now that you are successful, how do you define success?

As you emerge into adulthood, life experiences will be overwhelming at times. For some of you, that time has already happened. If your life has been hard already, I salute you and send you a big hug. I promise you will be rewarded. For all of you, you will experience tough times and overwhelming events through your entire life. It isn’t a matter of “if” you have a hard life. You will have a hard life. Let me say that again. “You will have a hard life.” The real question is “how will you lead your life?”. Will you see your life with happiness and gratitude? To answer the question for myself, my life has been a journey. Not an easy journey. I’ve come to realize that hard work isn’t good or bad. I’ve chosen my view of acceptance of life’s hard work. I’ve also developed a great appreciation for what I do and for so many people that have been in my life.

So, what’s your opinion?

Does money create happiness? Click on the link to answer the survey question.
Answer with either yes or no or I don’t know.

I think my happiness increased the most when I stopped judging and started learning. Do you judge your classmates? Or do you learn from your classmates? Do you judge your teachers or learn from them? Do you judge your parents or learn from them?

There was a time I thought I wasn’t very intelligent. It was during my elementary and junior high school days. I learned many years later that I had many intelligences and in fact some were much higher than average. Instead of being egotistical about my abilities, I am humbled by my abilities. I also see everyone else with the same colored glasses…each of you are extremely talented and above average.

How do I know that? You see, I’ve been running a quasi-experiment for 30 years without really knowing it. In my work as a consultant to corporations, I help CEOs and managers select the best person for a particular job or position in those companies. In all of my work, I never measure IQ or “intelligence” to  predict how well a particular candidate or employee will perform. What I measure has more to do with something you already have right now. Your personal talent.

Your talents are already established. All you need to do is add a little ingredient called passion. Of course you need Life Skills and knowledge and use your moral compass. But with passion, your talent, knowledge and a solid foundation in specific life skills guided by a moral compass will take you to a successful future – I guarantee it! Without passion, the other stuff won’t matter much. Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t smart enough. You are smart enough – regardless of your grades today. What will count most is that you find what excites you and that you always act with integrity. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive. For success to find you requires you finding what excites you. There are many paths. You will take several of them to find your success in life. You can do it by chance or you can take control. Either way you’ll get there. For example, you’ll probably have the opportunity to do some career exploration in your Freshman year. You can blow it off or see it as an opportunity. One choice is a slower path than the other path. But in the end it is your choice – to take control of your life or not.

In closing, remember the words stated by many including Quarterback Drew Brees at the Loyola University New Orleans, 2010 Commencement: “Love what you do. You will know it when you find it. Enjoy the journey.”

Now is the time to invest in quality research about you – who you are, what you want to do. You are at the beginning of your journey. The white board is clean. Create the journey that fits you.”

Link to Drew Brees’ speech: http://www.loyno.edu/news/story/2010/5/3/2115

I hope you found this entire article helpful including the links to the full commencement speeches. More 2010 commencement speeches are available at http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/03/commencement-graduation-speakers-2010-leadership-speech.html. Also, if you are in search of an effective student career exploration program, please visit http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net.

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), a global organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. We offer a high school program and college program. Are you past the college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

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


SPECIAL OFFER AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE
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.

Insights for Parents: The Pressure of Choosing a Career


As a parent of a college student and a teenager in high school, one of my biggest questions in my mind is “Am I helping my children with the right information and career guidance?”  Am I helping them understand their unique talents, skills, behaviors and motivators and translate these into identifying a career path that is motivating and fulfilling for them?  

I’ve worked with many teenagers, high school and college students for several years and have gained a few insights. As a full time management consultant, executive coach and executive & student career coach and as a parent, I’m sharing “insights” that I hope are useful to parents. The focus of these insights is specific to parents of teenagers (or college students) who are struggling with helping their son or daughter with career guidance.  So instead of this being advice, please consider these, at best, my insights. 

Here are a few points to consider to reduce the pressure of Career Guidance: 

  1. Be a good listener. Listening with open ears and an open mind is one of the most powerful ways you can help your son or daughter. Listening means “not talking, telling or judging”. Listening means asking open ended questions to learn what is in the mind of your son or daughter?
  2. Observe and create an awareness of their talents and skills. Become very observant of your teenagers skills and talents in their day to day activities at home, schools and in social gatherings. Open ended discussion around these observations creates a heightened awareness among the teenager. This new awareness also motivates them to explore and learn more about these talents and skills on their own.
  3. Be understanding. Choosing a career is a process of exploration and takes time and effort. When helping your son or daughter explore their own talents and the potential careers that will be a good fit, don’t push for an immediate decision, it has to evolve over time in the mind of your child. Choosing a career is not a healthy objective in the short term. A better “parental objective” is to support your son or daughter in exploring their interests, attitudes, motivators (self awareness) and the careers, industries, companies and people that might help them “find” their place in the world. Developing a strategy that ensures they are positioned to pursue the best career for them is an admiral goal and a less frustrating proposition for you and your child.
  4. Approach career exploration as a fun journey. The journey is as certain as life itself. To make career exploration fun means eliminating all of the things that makes it not fun. We parents are very good at telling. Please don’t tell when it comes to career exploration. Parents are very good at sharing their opinions. Please avoid sharing your opinion until your teenager asks for it. Offer support in whatever way your son or daughter wants that support. Remind yourself often how intimidating an exercise this is for son or daughter. Remind them that you were totally blind about careers, that you had no idea how to go about exploring and choosing a career when you were their age and that you were intimidated by the thought of “choosing a career”. Help them create an environment that puts them in control. Within that general guideline, do not allow your son or daughter to put it off (a natural occurrence when we feel intimidation, fear, and incompetent). With little effort, they can learn a lot during the high school years that will put them way ahead of most college students.

You’ll end up turning your frustration into fun and excitement when you watch your son or daughter talk, act and succeed with passion because they own their career choices. This way they not only find their career choices, but are very excited about it and motivated to go the extra mile to succeed. 


Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.   Carl speaks to groups on request and offers parent webinars and seminars for communities. 

If you are looking for true career guidance for a student, check out http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out resources and services at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.    

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?


As a corporate management and organizational development consultant with over 25 years of hiring, firing, training, coaching and development, I find a mixed population when it comes to people with clear, passionate career direction and those without that clarity and passion. My observations and various academic, corporate and government surveys suggest more people fall into the latter category. Yet those in positions of authority within the secondary and higher education career guidance field seem satisfied with the status quo.Is it time to revamp career guidance in schools?

What has changed over the past 30+ years in career counseling in most schools can be summed up in three letters: WWW. Schools are now offering students an online portal to career information. Most of these programs offer personality assessments that point the student to Holland codes.  So if that is an appropriate assessment for students, how many employers use Holland code type assessments to match people to jobs? My informal scan came up with zero. 

Why revamp career guidance in schools?
I’ve listed some reasons (goals and rewards) that support an effort to revamp career guidance in schools.

  • Higher student self-esteem
  • Higher academic achievement across all student populations
  • Better choices for higher education
  • Shorter time in higher-ed (a change in majors delays a student by at least one semester)
  • Lower student loan debt
  • Higher quality workforce
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Improved society
  • Higher personal income
  • Higher quality of life
  • and greater employability in a passionate career

Career Guidance redefined.

Career guidance starts with bringing self-awareness to the student. This is minimized by schools, or, if attempted, counselors use personality assessments with relatively low validity and reliability. The typical public school administrator thinks they do not have the budget to consider highly reliable, valid assessments and properly conduct counseling or coaching with each student. As one administrator explained, “we need to leave something for the parents to do”. Colleges and universities are found to have very few resources as well. Many continue to use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as the tool of choice for expanding students’ self-awareness.   

With solid self-awareness, a valid connection needs to be made to career possibilities. Most students get off the train at this point. They didn’t find the “personality assessments” valid (face validity is critical) and found the career suggestions from the assessment report made no sense. The reality is that making the talent-to-career connection requires the help of a professional career coach or a well-developed career coaching program that guides the student through the process.

From initial investigative research to in-depth career analysis, the ability to research careers has been improved drastically thanks to the Internet. However, left on their own, students find the Internet is a rather large, disorganized information bank that has the potential to get the researcher distracted or totally lost and confused. Students don’t need a Google list of Internet resources or school marketing website disguised as a career guidance site. Internet resources need to be found, evaluated, vetted and categorized in a way that allows the student to stay focused with their research and avoid chasing links to questionable or low-value content.

Career research can’t be defined by Internet resources. At some point, the student must meet people in careers of interest, interview these people, go on job shadowing ventures and get internships working for companies that employ people in his career of interest.  There are several other strategies students can take to learn and identify career choices. Most students don’t complete any of these steps. A very few might do some of this.

Researching ideal careers is half the battle. Today’s students lack skills such as decision-making. Life skills that are learned early support students as they go to college or enter the work world. Life skills are just that, skills learned by experiencing life. However, our culture has changed significantly in the past 30 years. Students do not live in an environment that enables them to develop these life skills the way kids did 50 or 100 years ago. Yet school administrators and parents seem unaware of programs they can use to introduce students to key skills required for success. What are the key skills found in highly successful people? Here is a short list of 18 skills. Which of these aren’t needed to be highly successful? 

  1. Continuous Learning (try this one!)
  2. Personal Accountability
  3. Self Management
  4. Decision Making (Conceptual Thinking, Theoretical Problem Solving, Role Confidence, Balanced Decision Making)
  5. Goal Orientation
  6. Proactive Thinking
  7. Initiative
  8. Project and Goal Focus
  9. Planning and Organizing
  10. Flexibility
  11. Problem Solving
  12. Persistence 
  13. Creativity Innovation
  14. Futuristic Thinking
  15. Influencing Others (Conveying Role Value, Gaining Commitment, Understanding Motivational Needs)
  16. Interpersonal Skills (Evaluating Others, Personal Relationships, Persuading Others)
  17. Written Communication
  18. Personal Drive

What are the chances the typical high school student is being developed in these skill areas? I think it is time to revamp career guidance in schools? Please leave your thoughts in the comment box.

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.   Carl speaks to groups on request and offers parent webinars and seminars for communities.

If you are looking for true career guidance for a student, check out http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out resources and services at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.   

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

Free Career Counseling is the Most Expensive Option


Yes, we’ve all had that experience where “free” turned out to be the most expensive option. When the risk is low, it is a great first strategy. When the stakes are really high, taking the free approach may not be the best way to go. When it comes to student career exploration, that free career counseling received in high school and college has generated some interesting statistics for those adults now trying to reap the benefits of that career counseling. To be certain, while these offerings may be free to the student and parents, there is a cost for the time and resources assigned. In addition, student feedback and national data suggest traditional career counseling strategies used by most high schools and colleges are not effective.     

US Job Satisfaction Trend

US Job Satisfaction Trend

 

According to The Conference Board, as reported January 5, 2010, of 5,000 households, finds only 45 percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 percent in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted. “While one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. “Through both economic boom and bust during the past two decades, our job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend.”     

The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) to job security (down 17.5 percentage points) and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality, and extrinsic rewards. 
Trend Percent by AGE of US Satisfied in Job

Satisfaction Trend by Age

 

“Challenging and meaningful work is vitally important to engaging American workers,” adds John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board. “Widespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.” In fact, 22 percent of respondents said they don’t expect to be in their current job in a year. “This data throws up a big, red flag because the increasing dissatisfaction is not just a ‘survivor syndrome’ artifact of having co-workers and neighbors laid off in the recession,” says Gibbons.     

Chart 4 on the left makes a strong statement. Those in the workforce under age 25 (group most recently having received career counseling as a student) are the most dissatisfied with their job. That was the case in 1987 as well but the amount of dissatisfaction has changed dramatically. Is there a correlation between job dissatisfaction of the younger adults and career counseling strategies being used by high schools and colleges? All age categories show drastic shifts downward in job satisfaction. Yet, we can assume that within all age groups it is likely there are people that are experiencing very high job satisfaction. Is there a common denominator for those that are experiencing high job satisfaction? The short answer is “YES”. Everyone with high job satisfaction have found the job and career that matches to their passions and talent.     

Is the economy to blame or is the cause more stealth?     

The Stealth Bomber from the movie StealthLooking at the different Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data, earnings were flat for most of 2009. That might explain a dip in job satisfaction in 2009 but not in 1987 – 2008 (Chart 1 above).  A closer look at hourly compensation, manufacturing output and business output do not show a correlation between economic indicators and job satisfaction.     

Real Hourly Comp Business 1987 - 2010 BLS

Real Hourly Comp Business 1987 - 2010 BLS

 

While the 2009 recession could be “predicted” by some of the previous year data, it doesn’t seem to matter what is going on economically. Job satisfaction is dropping. The only data that might give some correlation to the economy is Real Hourly Compensation. From 1987 to 1998 there were wide swings both up and down. Those wide swings could explain a level of job dissatisfaction. From 1998 to 2009 the Real Hourly Compensation shows a steady drop.    

We could easily make a correlation between dropping compensation and job satisfaction. In 2005, we see a high point    

Output per Hour Mfg 1988 - 2010 BLS

Output per Hour Mfg 1988 - 2010 BLS

 

for job satisfaction in the first decade of the 21st century that contradicts the correlation between compensation and job satisfaction. We also see a spike in manufacturing output in 2005 that might suggest that is “the” driver of job satisfaction.    

So with contradictions in the data, we are left searching for better explanations. Those of us working in the organizational development and human capital management field like to point to the intangibles of work. Within that realm, there is a body of knowledge and hard data that suggests “job fit” is the real “controlling factor” for job satisfaction. This implicates high school and college career counseling programs as not only being ineffective but perhaps detrimental to future job satisfaction.    

Output per Hour Business 1987 - 2010 BLS
Output per Hour Business 1987 – 2010 BLS

So back to the point about “free is the most expensive option”.  When  it comes to career exploration, there are three possible ways to receive free career coaching as a student:    

  • in high school
  • through the government’s military recruitment program
  • at college/post secondary school 

The first  free opportunity comes in high school.
High Schools are signing “career Internet portal site licenses” with companies like Kuder, Bridges by XAP or Naviance to meet state graduation requirements related to career exploration and career planning. Teachers or counselors are providing guidance to the students that ranges from a PowerPoint presentation on how to use the career portal to one-on-one meetings to “guide” the student in choosing AP classes and taking the SAT or ACT exams. English teachers may assign a writing assignment to focus on career exploration. Some high schools like Eugene Oregon’s school district have a comprehensive suite of tangible offerings and a career coordinator to coordinate the offerings. For most high schools, the counselors will say the last thing they have time for is to provide quality individualized (or even group) career coaching. Carol Christen, coauthor of What Color Is Your Parachute? For Teens: Discovering Yourself, Defining Your Future states, “Academia seems to be stuck in the 19th century. They have polarized the discussion into parts that are nearly irrelevant. Research shows that all students do better when they have a plan. A detailed and well vetted plan is as necessary as good grades for success, and that students with a plan go on to and graduate from higher education in greater numbers.”    

ASVAB Wants YOU

ASVAB is the Dept of Defense's Military Entrance Exam

 

The second free opportunity is the Department of Defense ASVAB Career Exploration program.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a timed multi-aptitude test, which is given at over 14,000 schools and Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) nationwide and is developed and maintained by the Department of Defense. The military is offering free career exploration that includes the ASVAB assessment and a full personal debriefing of the ASVAB assessment results. The people providing the assessment debriefing are not career coaches. They are Recruiters working for the military. If you are already considering or want to look at careers in the military, take advantage of this free offer. To access a wider student population (top students), the military has dressed this program up as a “taxpayer benefit that everyone should use”.    

 The third free opportunity is the college career placement and counseling office.
College Placement and Counseling OfficeEvery college or university has an office of Career Placement and Counseling. Trade schools and “for profit” institutions also have a similar office. The “for profit” organizations use the name to cover their true purpose to use the “career counseling” for recruiting new students.    

Like high school, universities and colleges have more of an advisory system in place that is offered to students. Unfortunately, most of these institutions use similar assessments used by high schools – not the kind of assessments used by companies to match people to jobs. Advisors in colleges and universities rely on the student to come to them. Based on college staffing of career advisors, less than 5% of the student population actually utilize the services. The services utilized look much more like a high school offering than actual career coaching. But lately, colleges are introducing classes like those listed at Cleveland State University. An example of a Law School career counseling services video go here. Watch the Career and Job Fair video to see the typical college student admit they did no career planning before choosing a college  major or delayed thinking about career and jobs until their graduation year.    

The best advice I can offer to teens or parents is “find and enroll in a credible career exploration program that takes a career coaching approach”. Do this before you leave high school. Do this before you choose a college. Do this before you choose a college major. Pay for it unless you know someone that will provide it to you for free. If you can’t find a local program, consider Career Coaching for Students™ Home Study Personal Edition. With parent assistance, students who seriously pursue career planning using credible methods can gain an advantage that impacts academics now and avoids missteps down the road.    

The second piece of advice is for students. Take your high school “career” writing assignments seriously. Take full advantage of any career counseling that is offered if you feel it is credible and helpful.  

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), an international corporate organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.    

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. Are you past the high school and college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.    

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC