Tag Archives: scholarships

7 Things Any High School Student Needs to Effectively Compete


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Social media accounts.

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

3. Entrepreneurial Freelance projects.

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

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

4. Awards or special recognition.

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

5. Certifications.

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

6. Side projects.

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

7. Volunteer work.

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

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

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.

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.

 

Career Mapping Catching on in High Schools


The article Career Mapping Eyed to Prepare Students for College by Caralee J.  Adams, reviews the current state of high school student preparation strategies for researching and making career choices. I’ve pulled a few quotes and provided some comments and insights into what the reality of today’s efforts are producing.

Secondary schools are becoming more intentional about helping students discover their career interests and map out a plan to achieve them.

This effort is only as good as the foundational approach. As the article suggests, “Finding time during the school day can be a challenge, and the job of overseeing the process often falls on already stretched counselors, according to researchers and program administrators.” The assessments that schools use (see comment further down about Naviance) are not valid and can not be used in the work world to match people and jobs. Students recognize these issues quickly and consequently dismiss the entire exercise as a “waste of time”.

About half of all states mandate that schools help create individual or student learning plans, and most others have optional programs.

A student learning plan is something schools have been providing since student guidance counseling was created. Designing and attaching a student learning plan to a career direction is not something that should be done until high school. Mandating this activity has not created any measurable change that can be associated with increased post-secondary education, higher GPA or better test scores.

Enabling students to make their own plans puts them in the driver’s seat and encourages a long-term look at their course selection so their choices match their career goals, experts say.

The key here is “match their career goals”. A high school student is not equipped to make sense of the assessment results and do not have the necessary knowledge about different career paths to make decisions about career direction on their own. Schools do the best they can to expose students to different career areas but it is a shot gun approach that results in students feeling lost and/or overwhelmed.

Often, districts give students online accounts with passwords to track classes; create an electronic portfolio of grades, test scores, and work; research careers; and organize their college search.

These online accounts, including the one mentioned in the article, Naviance, have been around long enough to measure their effectiveness. Ask any student, and I really mean any student, that attends a high school with Naviance (or other online solutions) and ask them how they used Naviance. The answer I receive is “I didn’t.” or “It wasn’t helpful at all.“.

Schools, meanwhile, have not yet experienced the payback on their investment. As with many education programs, the rollout is left up to districts, creating a patchwork of approaches throughout the country.

This is a great “excuse” for the companies such as Naviance and the school administrators. A person I respect who works with at risk kids and served on a school’s trustee board and knows Naviance very well stated the online solution was “used only to help students get into a preferred college” – not to help them identify and focus on career direction.

Students create plans starting as early as the 6th grade. Of course, they can—and often do—change their minds about their career path. …Typically, a student might have a career-exploration unit in 7th grade. Through an interest inventory, in which the student answers a series of questions about preferences for working, say, with people or numbers, indoors or outside, his or her interests are matched with career clusters and pathways.

Childhood development studies clearly show that a student’s behavioral style and motivators are being established through middle school. The motivators (personal values) are set earlier. Behavioral style is in “wet cement” as students enter high school. The behavioral style and motivators are key to aligning a person’s “talent” to career options. Therefore, serious career exploration and career mapping is not useful until high school. Schools need to use a broader “exposure” strategy until high school. In high school, the focus needs to be at the individual level. That is where true career coaching is most effective. Also, did I mention the assessments used in school are not valid and reliable.

Knowing that high school students today connect best with online materials, the College Board recently launched a new interactive college-planning site, the BigFuture.org. And U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., recently introduced a bill to pilot a project in which students beginning in 1st grade could start portable online college-planning and -savings accounts.

Students connect best with online materials? Give me a very talented teacher and the student will choose the teacher over online every time. The issue may not be the “preference for online materials” but rather a rejection of low quality teaching. With respect for Senator Coons, if we want to make college more affordable, fund the use of career coaching programs like Career Coaching for Students™  that are known to reduce the risk of changing majors in college and provide a student with an exciting personal future view that leverages their motivational and behavioral career match.

Todd Bloom, the chief academic officer for Hobsons, the Cincinnati-based company that produces Naviance, an online career- and college-readiness system, said the depth and breadth of individual learning plans are expanding, and the cost can run less than $5 per student per year. “It’s not a hard sell,” he said. “It’s socially desirable to have that vehicle. ”

And here you have the issue. School boards look at their budget and what they are “required” to provide and see online systems like Naviance as an “easy” solution to implement. Parents that are aware of the offering assume it is providing something helpful. The saying “you get what you pay for” is very applicable here. There is no hard data that shows any ROI on these “low cost” online system solutions like Naviance.

Yet a goal of the program was to increase high school graduation rates and that did not happen, said Jay Ragley, the director of the office of legislative affairs for the state. “It’s difficult to peg why we are not increasing graduation rates. That goal has still eluded the state,” he said, adding that it’s been a challenge to get parents used to the idea of career planning as early as middle school.

Until parents demand and receive better solutions in schools, I strongly recommend engaging a career coach for your high school student – as early as incoming HS Freshman rank and no later than the beginning of the Sophomore year.

Side Note from the trenches: We’ve approached school districts about integrating the Career Coaching for Students™ program as part of a high school curriculum. This program can easily fit into one class per week for a semester with other classes referencing parts of the program throughout the four years of high school. Students have access to the online career and education research tools throughout the four years. The most common statement we received as feedback: “Wow! This is exactly what we need. If we had this, we’d push our “online-only system” to middle school and have this for all of our HS students.” Our response to that: “Great! What is the next step to make this happen?” Reply: “Oh no, we’re too invested in what we have now. To go back to the school board and say we’ve got something better would not work out well for us. And besides, we know we won’t receive more funding to cover a more expensive solution.

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of the nationally recognized program 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.

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