Tag Archives: student success

What to do after you receive the college acceptance letter


Receiving an acceptance letter from a college is an important moment not just for the applicant, but their family as well. Jeffrey Brenzel, ex-Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University says many families have no idea what to do when the acceptance comes in. Getting an acceptance, though joyous, can also leave you a little bewildered on what you should do next. An intentional decision-making process will ensure your happiness and success.

Here is an optimal step-by-step approach to what you should do after receiving the acceptance letter.

1. Wait for letters from other colleges

If you have applied to more than one college, it is best to wait and see if you get a response from a college you prefer over the current one. Colleges start sending out letters by mid-March and for most colleges, the National Candidates Reply Date is in May. However, make sure you go through the documents and check the stated deadline.

2. Compare costs

If you have received an acceptance letter from multiple colleges, conduct a cost comparison. Do not look at just the tuition fees, but take into consideration other expenses such as cost of food, cost of living in the city, transportation, hostel fees, cost of books and any other expenses you might incur. Do a comparative analysis and discuss it with your family. Take into account the loan amount you plan to take.

Subtract any confirmed grant or scholarship money and be sure you are able to meet the net expenses comfortably. Ask yourself, “Can I afford the cost or do I need to pick up a part-time job? If I have to work, can I juggle my studies and the job, without compromising my grades?”. Keep in mind, if you perform very well in your freshman year, you may be eligible for a scholarship for your sophomore, junior or senior years, but don’t be dependent on that happening.

3. Re-visit the campus

Hopefully you have already visited the campuses where you’ve applied. Make sure you re-visit your top two choices. These days students apply to multiple colleges, and therefore, it becomes difficult for admission officers to assess how interested the applicant actually is. If you visit the campus and show your interest, this acts as an important factor for your candidature.

As per a survey conducted by The National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2015, a very important factor for freshmen were a student’s demonstrated interest. According to the survey, this is what the admission officers look for:

“The top factors in the admission decision for the Fall 2015 admission cycle were: grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, overall high school GPA, and admission test scores. Among the next most important factors were the essay, a student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, and class rank.” – NACAC

Let us break these down so you can perfect your score in all these areas and up your chances you securing your seat, because some colleges do rescind their offer if their conditions are not met.

  1. Grades, admission test scores, class rank and teacher recommendation- These can be achieved by dedication, discipline and perseverance.

  2. Overall high GPA – Getting accepted into a college should not make you lose focus on your high school grades. Most letters have a conditional clause which indicates your overall GPA needs to be a minimum for the acceptance to stand valid. Declining grades or disciplinary actions can cause the colleges to revoke the offer. So do party after getting your letter, but get back to work soon after!

  3. Admission essay – Writing an admission essay can be tricky. While this essay is supposed to bring out your thoughts and is a platform to state your personal goals, but remember the essay needs to be professional and succinct. If you are not too sure about how well your essay reads, contact the best essay writers and take their assistance to improve your essay writing skills.

  4. Your demonstrated interest – As stated above, visiting a college campus not only substantiates your interest to the admission officer, but also gives you a lot more information about the college. It is advisable to attend a class so you can know about the quality of instructors, or attend a regional event on the campus, or just spend a day to get an overall feel about the campus. Ask yourself, “Do I envision myself coming here every day and liking it?”. See if you fit into the campus “politically, religiously and geographically” as suggested by Robert Franek, Vice President- Publishing, Princeton Review.

4. Internship opportunities

Check out the different internship opportunities offered within the major at your accepted colleges. Also ensure they offer the majors you are interested in. Choose a college that scores high on these two factors as they determine an important part of your growth.

5. Connect and investigate

Kiersten Murphy, Director, Seattle-based Murphy College Consultants says you need to be a “great investigator“.

Some good avenues you can check to know more about the college, apart from visiting the campus, are:

  • Check out their blog. This usually speaks volumes about the college culture.
  • Find out how many students return after the freshman year.
  • Find out how many students graduate.
  • Talk to current students, alumni of the college and staff from the college.
  • Connect with people in Facebook groups, LinkedIn and other social media communities.
  • Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor. Chances are they may have additional information and useful insights.

While it is a great idea to connect with people and get their thoughts, but be discerning and know how to differentiate opinion from fact.

6. Get social

Attend a local alumni gathering. You will not only get to meet people and make friends, but many times these early connections can lead to future job prospects. Once you’ve accepted and are told who your roommate will be, reach out to get to know them. You can also discuss who would bring what for sharing in your dorm room. Don’t put this off to the day you show up on campus!

7. Don’t be passive

Most colleges appreciate if the student stays in touch with them throughout the admissions process. Keep them informed about your latest grades or updated GPAs. It is also wise to have your teacher or high school counselor send a letter, but do not assume they will do it on their own. Take the initiative to approach them and request them to do it. Any letter of recommendation from your teachers has a lot of value.

However, some colleges have a handful of admission officers and bombarding them with frequent updates can be annoying, and might even hurt your chances of acceptance. But this is a recommended way if you are planning to get into a small college.

8. Ask for an extension, if required

If you need some more time to arrive at a decision, write a letter requesting for an extension. If you do get it, use the extra time responsibly to make the decision. Do not make the mistake of sending deposits to multiple colleges to buy time. This is not only unethical, but colleges might retract their offer if they find out.

What should you do if you receive a list letter from a college?

Receiving a conditioned acceptance letter (aka, wait listed) can be difficult and leave you frustrated. In such cases, it is advisable to go ahead with some other college where you received a confirmed offer. Do not pay any deposit fees to be on the wait list. Talk to your high school counselor or college advisor to discuss an action plan and get more clarity on the way ahead.

Hurray! You have chosen the college! What’s next

Read all their documents and make a list of what you need to send them. You will need to send:

  • forms completed thoroughly and correctly
  • your letter of acceptance and confirmation
  • the deposit
  • letter requesting financial aid, if any
  • any special needs or disability requests, if applicable

Write to the other colleges

Do not forget to write to the other colleges you received acceptance from to let them know of your decision. Write them a grateful letter thanking them for their acceptance and declining your interest. This will help the admission officers sort out their list and contact the wait list candidates to join them.

Use an intentional decision-making process to choose the best college for you, one that you will be happy to be a part of, and that will help you achieve your professional goals, but remember to be realistic with your expectations. Keep in mind what Brenzel, Yale University, says – “Remember above all else that no college is going to be paradise, and that all colleges have something outstanding to offer you.”

Meenakshi VenugopalMeenakshi Venugopal is a guest blogger and the co-founder of Hashtag17, a company that specialises in web designing and development, graphic designing and social media marketing. When she is not working on projects with her clients, she guest blogs on education, technology and management. She is a contributor on Entrepreneur and JPost.

Livia SusanLivia Susan is a business manager who recently started Lifesaver Essays after being a freelance research and writer for over 6 years. She has helped numerous companies and individuals with their web strategy, social media strategy, content, blog posts, and much more so their companies could establish an identity of their own. With the start of her own education company, Lifesaver Essays, Livia plans to make education better and easier for students.

Why college students succeed. The answer may surprise you.


CoveyJobPassionRoot cause for college student success? We all hear statistics thrown around about all kinds of issues. What is the true root cause of student success?

When it comes to students, college attendance, choosing a major, changing majors, time-to-degree attainment and student debt, there appears to be a correlation between clarity of personal goals and quality of decision making skills at the high school level and the length of time in college, student success and student debt.

But no one is focusing on root cause of student success. They are simply studying what is happening in the general college student population or causes of student failure. In one study, students got it right: it is all about MOTIVATION.

Even a Google search for “Why do college students succeed” produced 65 million hits for opinion articles that were basically “tips” on how to succeed based mostly on study habits. Studying root cause for success is more elusive. Asking students and faculty what causes student failure starts to get at the root cause.

“In short, according to the college students who participated in the study, motivation is the leading cause behind students’ failure or success in completing schoolwork. Motivation influences students’ attitudes, study habits, academic readiness, and so on.” Higher Learning Commission, 2014 Collection of Papers, conclusion of 2011 study of students opinions for success and failure

According to faculty who responded to the survey “Why do students fail?”, the number one reason (37% – 40%) for college student failure was “Not Ready for College“. Other significant reasons listed include Lack of Effort (11% – 13%), Lack of Motivation or Interest (9% – 14%) and Failure of Educational System (14% – 24%).

Not Ready for College

The student-related factor that both two-year and four-year faculty members mentioned most often was students not being ready for college-level work (cited 231 times, or 38% of responses). Faculty members stated many reasons, including the fact that a significant number of incoming students have poor levels of or a complete lack of academic preparedness for college courses, lack of learning and study skills, and/or lack of organizational skills (including time management and setting priorities). More than half of the respondents cited students’ lack of academic preparedness and poor study skills, note-taking skills, reading, and scientific reasoning skills, lack of experience, and more, without directly attributing responsibility. Others specifically blamed students’ K–12 education for this lack of preparedness. It was difficult to separate these two criteria as both dealt with lack of preparation, rendering students not ready for college work. As one respondent said:

They have not been adequately prepared for post-secondary work and may lack foundational skills (such as the ability to write clearly, comprehend readings, follow instructions, etc.) that interfere with their ability to achieve passing grades. For some reason, many students do not learn these skills throughout grade school and high school, and so when they reach college they are not ready for what it demands.

Still others said that students are “underprepared for college-level work in terms of basic writing, reading and thinking skills. For example, they have an inability to think critically, an inability to express oneself in a written format, and an inability to comprehend the nature of assignments.” One respondent said students have a “high school-rooted misconception that one can pass a course without studying,” and several cited the lack of college-level reading and writing skills and other essential study skills.

One faculty member was very specific in pointing blame: “Many of the students (attending) two-year colleges in large cities come from the Urban Public Schools where they have not necessarily encountered a quality education and experienced a deep understanding of real learning as opposed to externalized and superficial learning.”

Another thought that students fail because they have not been exposed to the “academic rigor of college, or the expectations of college work.” Faculty respondents said many students arrive without knowing how to learn, without having the academic prerequisites, or without having the skill set needed to be successful. Many faculty respondents mentioned that students do not know how to be active learners and engaged in the learning process. A number of students do not realize that college requires a higher level of commitment involving a variety of learning skills, such as deep reading, purposeful study, critical thinking, or even asking for help.

Other faculty respondents said students are not aware of the rigors of their chosen discipline. Students can have difficulty in adjusting their own career expectations. Some students have/aspire to become a physician . . . but they do not realize that it is a very difficult and long road academically. Learning is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration . . . some students have not realized this yet.

Respondents saw insufficient academic skills as closely related to lack of time management skills, often mentioning the two in the same sentence. Faculty respondents said too many students do not know how to study or learn, do not know how to organize their time and set priorities, do not ask for help from their instructors or advisors, and do not use available resources, such as the library and tutors. They most likely lack critical thinking skills and other higher-level learning skills so necessary in college. In short, many of them come from high school not yet ready for college-level work and learning.

It was very hard to separate lack of organizational skills from academic preparedness as a reason for student failure. As a separate subcategory, poor time management and organizational skills ranked second as a major roadblock to student success. Faculty respondents said that students could not organize their priorities. They have work, home, social, and school obligations and cannot organize their time to accommodate all of these conflicting time demands. They do not make a plan that enables them to spend the necessary time reading, studying, attending class, completing assignments, and learning. They do not have “contingency plans” in case of illness, child care, work schedule changes, and so forth. As a result, they develop unrealistic expectations and overcommit themselves:

For the most part, students are unrealistic about the time it will require to do the assignments, readings, and problems. They work full time, have family responsibilities, take a full course load, and do not set aside enough time to concentrate on the problem at hand. They are over committed in terms of their time. The data proves out that college students who work more than 20 hours per week in a job have much lower GPAs upon graduation.

In other words, if students have not planned sufficiently to manage their time, they have not got a Plan B in place. They simply “don’t invest the amount of time required or expected” to succeed.

Several faculty members mentioned procrastination as a problem, “waiting until the one before the last to give ‘the best shot,’ forgetting grades are cumulative.” Students start asking for extra-credit assignments, what they can do to make up what they missed, and so on. In short, most respondents mentioned three major problems under this category: overcommitment (jobs, family, and school), unrealistic expectations about the time necessary to do well in college, and the inability to organize their time effectively. Once they get behind, they can no longer catch up.

Will being passionately interested in a specific and “informed” career goal – in high school – change a student’s perspective about academics that lead to that career, time and priority management and personal accountability?

Will high school students be better able to connect the dots and see the bigger picture if they have a personal career goal in mind that they feel is attainable?

Will a realistic and exciting future vision empower a high school student to demand the academic rigor needed to achieve that vision?

Lack of Effort

The next category of student-related issues, ranking third in that area, was Lack of Effort, repeated 72 times, or 12 percent of responses. This category included both Lack of effort and Poor or nonexistent work ethic as subcategories. Many faculty members were disturbed by how many students are satisfied with a grade of C or D instead of working harder to get better grades. A few faculty members stated that even when they give students opportunities to improve their grades by redoing homework, lab reports, or writing assignments, many students do not bother. Some participants stated that students do not exert enough effort and do not bother to find out, either from the instructor or fellow students, how much work is really needed to pass a given class.

Under the subcategory of Poor or nonexistent work ethic, some respondents said that students do not complete assignments but then expect teachers to let them make it up with extra-credit work. Some students expect to pass just because they attend class, and others think that doing ungraded homework is unimportant. Many believe that an open-book exam means they can learn the material while taking the exam. One respondent blamed more than the student: “Work ethic (strengthened by peer behavior AND administration acquiescence) was summarized by the notion, ‘do just enough to get by,’ which is rarely enough to just get by.”

Another said that students expect teachers to excuse multiple missed assignments and absences “based on a student’s circumstances,” which demonstrated a “diminished sense of personal responsibility.” Still another cited a much more serious problem: “They [students] may be collecting financial aid money for living expenses and have no intention of completing a course once they have received all the funds.”

Respondents said failing students come to class late and/or do not show up at all. When they do show up, they send texts or play videos during class or otherwise do not pay attention. They do not read the material before class and do not complete their assignments. Some students do not care if they fail. A few instructors stated that some students do not value education because they do not have to work to pay for it, or if they fail, they can always repeat the course. Bad study habits that worked in high school were also cited more than once; students are unable or unwilling to put effort into learning. This could be due to lack of motivation or inadequate preparation to be successful.

Is lack of student effort or low work ethic a character flaw or an indication the student is disconnected from what motivates them?

By not properly addressing career interest and career matching early in high school, did students adopt a sense of apathy that will continue until career interest and direction are aligned?

Is it possible the student not only lacks a connection to what motivates them but also has a fear of failure that inhibits their ability to pursue goals?

Lack of Motivation or Interest

Lack of Motivation or Interest, engagement, persistence, and “not being active learners” were mentioned frequently in this survey. It ranks third overall, in terms how often it was mentioned, and it was the second most-often-mentioned student-related root-cause factor: 73 times or 12 percent of responses. This category included the following subcategories: Lack of motivation; Don’t-care attitude, or negative attitude; Lack of engagement; Lack of interest, direction, or focus; Don’t want to be in college; and Lack of passion. Some faculty respondents thought that failing students have little understanding of how their education relates to their lives. They do not know what they want in life and have no clear goals as to where they are going. If someone has no idea where they are going, it will likely be extremely difficult to get there.

Other faculty members stated that some college students don’t have a real desire to be in school. Perhaps they are being pressured by family or friends, or perhaps they are drifting in life or repeatedly changing majors.

A few faculty respondents said that even students with passion “often lack the understanding of how specific course(s) fit within the ‘grand scheme,’ especially if they determine (rightly or wrongly) that the course(s) is not on the critical path” to their ultimate goal. Others do not realize the amount of work involved in their majors or cannot decide on a major field of study. Other faculty members said students lack direction, and that “These students attend college with little, if any, goals in mind; education means little to them due to the lack of connection between what they study and their lives.” Finally, a faculty respondent said simply that:

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree is a long-term goal requiring passion, determination, the drive to overcome “hurdles,” and a willingness to do “whatever it takes” to achieve their goal.

If a student comes to college with a clear vision for their future, a vision they have been focused on for at least a year of high school if not since 9th grade, if they see and recognize their talents and interests, if they have created the path for achieving their personal career goals, nothing can stop them. Hurdles become small and student engagement is self-driven.

The statistics are out there. We found the following to be credible references.

Fast Facts: IES NCES National Center for Education Statistics

On average, a college degree takes six years, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says, by Polifact Investigative Reporter Tom Kertscher

Digest of Education Statistics, IES, NCES National Center for Education Statistics

Web Tables Profile of 2007 – 08 First-Time Bachelor’s Degree Recipients published 2012 NCES 2013.1500

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates, Indiana University, Project for Academic Success

Here is what we know from our experience delivering the Career Coaching for Students™ program, looking at the statistics and talking with high school counselors and administrators:

  • 99% of students’ parents state “I wish I had this when I was in high school.”
  • 99% of students do not receive adequate or competent career coaching in high school or at college.
  • The average time to complete an undergraduate degree is five years and 10 months.
  • 39% of students completed their undergraduate degree in four years.
  • Student debt is rising and is currently at unsustainable levels for most.
  • Going beyond four years to complete a degree is a root cause for rising debt.

Students who receive the Career Coaching for Students™ program

  • …have a higher grade point average going forward, which we believe is due to greater personal motivation that came from having a clearer and valid vision of a future that they wanted.
  • …are more likely not to change college majors
  • …are more likely to pursue and complete a double major in four years
  • …are more likely to have a summer internship and/or study abroad
  • …experience greater satisfaction and happiness in college
  • …are more likely to graduate college in 4 years or less and have less debt
  • …are employed upon graduating college

Goal of the Career Coaching for Students™ program:

  • Provide students with the ability to make better, high-quality decisions.
  • Bring clarity about self, interests, talents that results in greater self-motivation and personal accountability.
  • Save students money.
  • Increase the potential for success and happiness in life and career.

More information for high school students or college students at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Carl Nielson to Conduct National Webinar – Student Career Exploration Seminar – for student and parent


Better Career Planning Better LifeWe’re calling it an Extravaganza!

Two 3-hour webinars (time will go by very fast), one 1-on-1 personal tele-coaching session (for student and parents), student binder, over 70-page Talent Profile, and much more.

We’re putting everything a high school student needs for career exploration, choosing majors, choosing schools, choosing career options and strategic academic planning into this program. And we’re doing it in an engaging way for students.

No classroom. Participate from the most comfortable seat in your house. Webinar dates have been set: Part One – Sat. July 18, Part Two – Sat. July 25.
To learn more go to http://tinyurl.com/2015studentcareerwebinar

Are you using the Myers Briggs or MBTI for career exploration, career choice or hiring? I Hope Not


Many high schools and colleges use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI to help students in career exploration and career choices. CPP, Inc, the developer and publisher of the MBTI recently posted an article entitled Just What Is the Myers Briggs Assessment Good For? that makes it very clear this is not appropriate and needs to stop.

MyersBriggs

Some Human Resources professionals use the MBTI for hiring and selection. While it is a less frequent use of the MBTI, the use of the MBTI in hiring and selection is putting those companies at high risk for fines and lawsuits. To explain, employers are held to a high standard when it comes to using assessments in the hiring and selection process. The government actually likes companies to use assessment tools – if they are valid and reliable. But companies must use tools and processes that ensure no biases against protected classes. The company must also be able to show a connection between an assessment and predictive correlation for performance in the job. The article states that employers should note that using the MBTI as a selection tool can have dire legal consequences for them. “If a tool is designed for selection, it should meet a certain standard that is held up in a court of law,” according to Sherrie Haynie, a consultant for CPP who teaches MBTI certification programs . “Whereas with the MBTI, we are very clear, that because it’s not a selection tool, you could be held liable as an employer if you use the tool in such a way.”

“The MBTI does not evaluate candidates. It does not predict performance or cultural fit or any of the other criteria by which employers hire candidates” states Haynei. According to the article, “CPP is unhappy with recruiters and HR departments who use the MBTI as a selection tool.” The article goes on to say “Used as a selection tool, the MBTI can be harmful to individuals.”

So if it doesn’t predict performance or cultural fit, should high schools and college career centers use it to help students choose a career or choose a major that is a “good fit”? Can a school be held liable for misuse of the MBTI as a career guidance tool for students?

Haynie says, “CPP has seen a number of employers improperly use the MBTI as a selection tool. Assessment tools for hiring and selection are the kinds of tools that evaluate particular skills or knowledge or abilities, but the MBTI was not designed to judge or evaluate skills or knowledge or abilities (referred to as job matching). ”

CONNECTING AND RESTATING THE ISSUE
As Haynie says, “the MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested employers should use the MBTI to identify employee strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these employees further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

“The MBTI is a development tool, not a selection tool. Interested COUNSELORS AND CAREER CENTERS should use the MBTI to identify STUDENT strengths and blind spots, so that they might help these STUDENTS further leverage their strengths and compensate for their blind spots.”

THE CONUNDRUM

Students certainly need development. Schools and colleges have limited financial resources for things like assessments. In an attempt to stretch the investment value, counselors have tried to use one tool for many uses. CPP is stating this is not their desire. Yet, there are assessment tools that are certified for use by employers for hiring and selection that are excellent for development as well. And those same assessments are used for career counseling and career exploration. In other words, what schools want and need exists but first, the counselors must let go of the MBTI.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE

Posted on the social media site VOX, Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless is an excellent article among many. You’ll also find there are many academic articles about the questionable validity and reliability of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.

Watch the video: Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Totally Meaningless.

A BETTER SOLUTION

The Career Coaching for Students program uses two assessments for high school students that does an excellent job of helping the student narrow the world of opportunity into a more manageable and relate-able short list of career options in a way that engages the student while developing the student at the same time. The Career Coaching for Students program helps the student from a personal development standpoint, much like the MBTI narrowly does. Parent company, The Nielson Group, uses the same assessment tools with large and small employer clients specifically for hiring and selection (job-candidate matching), adult career coaching, leadership development and team development. All of these assessments adhere to an 8th grade reading level standard.

The particular assessments used for high school students in the Career Coaching for Students program is both comprehensive for development and provides an easy-to-follow proprietary method for connecting career options to personal talent (job fit analysis).

IS IT COST-EFFECTIVE COMPARED TO THE MBTI?

The simple and quick answer is yes. Schools that go all in by using “any” assessment for school-wide use will enjoy a “volume discount”. The Career Coaching for Students program is provided under the umbrella of Success Discoveries LLC, a division of The Nielson Group. “We utilize all of our expertise and tools to provide a one-stop offering for staff development, leader development and student development”, states Carl Nielson, Chief Discovery Officer and founder of Success Discoveries. “We provide state-of-the-art tools for student career exploration and student development and development offerings for staff and administration, all the way up to the school board. ”

This ability to bundle solutions for different constituencies allows Success Discoveries to price all of these services very cost-effectively.

Can Our In-House Staff Easily Learn How to Use a Different Assessment?

The Career Coaching for Students program offers a train-the-trainer and certification program. Administering the student programs in-house with your own staff is very doable. Staff will likely enjoy this and receive much greater positive feedback from students (and parents).

So, if your school is using the MBTI with students, you need to realize it can only be as a personal development tool – not as a career counseling and career selection guidance tool. As with many clients that have gone through the Career Coaching for Students program have stated to me, your student may be frustrated and feel like they are at fault when actually the wrong tool has been applied to the right focus.

Families can purchase the self-directed version of Career Coaching for Students which includes the career guidance binder, Student Resource Central and a personal one-on-one debriefing of the assessments (using telephony webinar tools or Skype). Career Coaching for Students has been enjoyed in most of the United States including Alaska, across Canada and China. The assessments are able to be administered in 42 languages.

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 .

5 Things Lucky People Do


Luck starts with a plan and action“The Luck of the Irish” is an American phrase that comes from the days of the gold rush in the 1800s.  Intolerant Americans figured the Irish people weren’t smart enough to find gold, and blamed their success on being lucky rather than skilled. In reality, America’s early immigrants have time and again proven themselves to be hardworking and smart enough to generate their own good fortune consistently.

We often excuse our own inadequacies by crediting the success of others to luck.  If everyone went at their personal goals with the level of commitment and follow-through as the “lucky ones” the probability of success becomes fairly equal. In baseball terms, the big hitters are simply swinging the bat more often.

good_luck_four_leaf_cloverThe truth is that seemingly lucky people are opportunists. They do things to be prepared so that they are ready to take advantage of the world around them. For them, it’s not about being in the way of good luck or bad. It’s the actions they take to get what Jim Collins refers to as a high return on luck whichever way the pendulum swings. Follow these five tips and you can be as lucky as anyone, no four-leaf clover required.

1. Play to your strengths. So much time and energy is wasted trying to do things you probably don’t do very well. Author and Inc. columnist Lewis Schiff learned from his survey of incredibly wealthy people that they got that way by focusing only on what they do best. Choosing a career that aligns with your personal motivation and talents gives you an advantage over 50% of those currently in the workforce. By knowing your strengths and weaknesses, you will shine where you excel and attract opportunity. You’ll find ways to compensate for your weaknesses, such as delegating or partnering with someone that has your weakness as a strength. Good things come to those who emanate success.

2. Prepare in advance. Unlucky people often get that way because they’re reactive and unprepared for whatever comes. The college student who chooses to organize and follow a self-study program so they can take and pass a difficult certification exam outside of their course work – just so they are better qualified to secure a key summer internship – are expecting to be successful. They wouldn’t consider themselves lucky when the internship offer comes. Some people consider planning to be useless because everything changes and you can’t predict the future. The point of a plan isn’t to follow it no matter what, it’s to establish a structure for smart decision making that allows you to succeed no matter what the future might bring.

3. Start early. Some people seem to have more hours in the day. They get that way by planning projects in advance – this gives you the extra time you need – and then using a disciplined approach to allocating time on a consistent basis. Make promises to yourself using integrity to hold yourself personally accountable. So many people only want to put their energy into things that provide immediate gratification. The most fortunate people I know are the ones who planted seeds early and took the blind leap of faith that the investment in time would be personally rewarded exponentially.

4. Connect with as many people as possible. The key to success is access to opportunity. Access comes from influence. If you aren’t meeting people of influence regularly, your ability to access opportunities is limited. In a way, your network of influencers becomes your following. The bigger your following, the more opportunity you are being exposed to. The only way to build a big following is to provide value to many people. You have to provide the sort of value that will cause people to think of you at the right time. Influencers take great joy in knowing a wide range of people and recommending or connecting others. Being open and making yourself available to be known is a kind of value. Are you creating that kind of value? If not, figure how you can. Being an influencer isn’t important, being of value to influencers is critical. If you want more luck, you’ve got to break out of your cocoon.

5. Follow up and be of value. Opportunities often come and go because people don’t respond in a timely manner. I’m constantly amazed when people ask me for something and I respond immediately only to never hear from them again. I make it my business to know and recommend only the best ideas – whether to family, friends, colleagues or clients. That takes work – which I am always glad to do. I believe that following up is often more powerful and impressive than the act of initiating. I have learned to become wary of those that use me for my ideas and never seem to see the need to be of value to me. To be of value to me is simple. It could be as simple as letting me know you followed my advice and the outcome (the value of letting me know I was helpful). On a bigger scale, in a business context, it could be that you recommended me to someone that would benefit from my services (The Nielson Group or Success Discoveries) or, if you were in a position of authority in an organization, and recognized how I could help, that you made it a priority to introduce me to those stakeholders that need to know I exist. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to be seen by others as a user. User equals looser in the end. Following up is simple.

May you be so lucky to have people in your life that follow up. So start creating your own luck. Now.

Look Past the Now to Understand What You Should Be Doing Now


Advice for both high school and college students

Students who can see the future will be more successful doing things nowAs a student, it is absolutely normal to be focused on the here and now. You may even think you have no capacity for anything else. If you have clear academic goals for yourself, achieving a good GPA, active in a few extracurricular activities, etc. you are certainly on the right track. Things may seem to be going very well.

One of the areas we focus on in the Career Coaching for Students™ program is networking. In the high school version, we introduce the concept of networking to find people in the career of interest. Students are assisted in finding and holding informational interviews to learn about a particular career. In the college version, we go much deeper. Career informational interviews are still important but just the beginning. Networking has a much bigger role to play in your success, perhaps as much as the high GPA you are working so hard to get. If career centers are bringing in employers hungry for your skills and knowledge you may see networking as unnecessary and time consuming. If you take that approach, you are most likely cutting off 80% of job opportunities, including internships that may be within reach if you were to take networking seriously.

For high school students, use career exploration as a reason to do the networking. Adults in careers that you are interested in are very willing to talk about what they do. Once you get to college it won’t be so easy to get that interview. Many will think you are just trying to get a job.

Look Past the Now

J. T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of CAREERREALISM.com and nationally syndicated career expert posted a blog on LinkedIn titled No Job Posted…Send Resume Anyway?  She is speaking directly to people in the work world who are actively looking for a job. The question a reader presents is fixated on the resume and how to submit it. Ms. O’Donnell tries to educate you to the barriers that will stop your resume from getting seen. She recommends a different approach that most don’t follow. Look at what she is saying and see how you can be doing the “planting of networking seeds” now so you have a high-quality network later when you need it.

She starts her article with a quote from a reader:

In one of your webinars recently you said go straight to the companies and avoid the postings. My question is: Do you make sure that a company is hiring or do you just send your letter and resume and hope for the best? Some companies do not accept resumes if they don’t have a specific job opening.

The answer is “no.” You shouldn’t blindly submit your materials. But, not because a company won’t accept them. They will. However…

Here’s Why Your Resume Won’t Get Seen…

When I tell people to go straight to the company, what I mean is there’s no point in applying online unless you have someone you know in the company who can walk your credentials into the hiring manager and ask them to pull your resume from the thousands they’ve received online and take a closer look. Yep, I said THOUSANDS. Today, applying via job boards is the easiest way to look for a work – so, everyone is doing it. Yet, it also happens to be the least effective method for getting noticed. Why? The ATS (applicant tracking system) employers use to gather applications automatically screen you out for not being an exact keyword and experience match for the job. Still, people continue to waste hours upon hours filling out online applications only to be shocked and disappointed when they never hear back from the employers. They say to me, “But J.T., I was perfect for the job.” I respond, “Yes, you and hundreds of other people.” The reality is your chances of making it through the online process and into the hands of a human being are only slightly better than you winning the lottery.

Effective Job Seeker Rule #1: Submit Resumes to Actual People

Want to improve your odds of getting noticed by employers? Only submit your resume and cover letter to human beings. How? Network and connect with employees of the companies you desire to work at. Then, when a job gets posted you are a match for, instead of going into the ATS blackhole, you can reach out to your contacts and see if they can help you get your credentials in the hiring manager’s hands. There’s a reason 80%+ of jobs today are gotten via referral – it works!

No Job Posted? Even More Reason to Network

When there’s a company you’d like to work for but they’ve no jobs posted, you’ve got an opportunity to prepare for the day they finally hire for your skill set. You can start the networking process now with employees and get to know first-hand what it will take to eventually earn a position at their company. Better still, you may learn about the “hidden” jobs at the company. The ones that are open but not posted anywhere online. While sending a resume to HR will likely end up in the circular file. (a.k.a. trash can), connecting and having meaningful conversations with employees will result in you being fully prepared to fast-track your resume to the right hiring manager.

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.

Survey Identifies How Students Choose Their College or University


Infographic_TrendsinHigherEd204 university counselors in 33 countries took part in an IE University survey designed to pinpoint the interests and preferences of the upcoming generation of university students with regard to study abroad and most popular degree programs.

The survey shows students choose a university mainly to gain training and skills for a future job, and choose a specialization because they feel there is job market growth in that field. When asked about the main reasons for choosing a university, counselors cited:

Main drivers

  • Prestige
  • Location

Secondary consideration

  • Scholarships
  • Content

These findings suggest there is either a lack of appropriate guidance at the high school level or students are dismissing better advice for how to choose a college or university.

With the percent of students changing majors 2, 3 or 4 times, taking 5 years to complete a 4-year degree and student retention and graduation rates dropping, students need to take a smarter approach to choosing a college or university.

The fact that students list prestige as the #1 consideration creates immediate risk for the student. By not considering newer institutions, that may actually be way ahead of their more traditional and prestigious counterparts, students are missing out on some possibly better choices. But even if your needs are best served in one of the more traditional universities, the most prestigious option may not have the best program for your area of study. Prestige alone is not a good reason to choose a college or university.

The best order of consideration and prioritizing that has been shown to produce the best choice (high satisfaction with choice, retention, graduation in expected time frame) for the student is:

  • Determine career interest(s)
  • Determine education requirements for the career interest(s)
  • Create an education strategy (choice of majors, field of study)
  • Research and identify colleges/universities or vocational learning institutions that are leading in the chosen field(s) of study (a high level of prestige for the specific subject area)
  • Rank findings to create a short list of institutional choices
  • Conduct on-campus visits to all short-listed choices
  • Make the choice

With the cost of higher education so high, a one-semester course correction costs thousands of dollars. By following a smart strategy for decision-making, students can avoid that unnecessary added expense and be much happier with their choice. But it requires students to change the way they think about school choices.

Carl Nielson is an organizational development consultant, executive development coach, career coach and author of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and the  Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads. Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer.