YOU are the Success factor, not your College

“If your self-worth is tied to being better than others, you’re headed for trouble.

I am so proud of the seniors that chose to work with me this year - they applied to over 100 different universities all over the United States and the UK. And the best part is that they chose for so many different reasons - it was their decision, influenced by what they decided was important to them and their family budgets.

But, their peers are not always kind. Other students seem to ‘know’ what’s best for them, and yesterday some of them were approached with questions like, “Why did you choose THAT college?”

I was told that some of my students held their heads high and remembered their key reasons. And, if they chose to share, great. If they didn’t, they laughed it off and said it was a great personal decision for themselves and walked away from that person. It’s not easy to handle peer pressure. Really, does their opinion matter? You won’t see most of them in about 6 weeks after high school graduation.

This New York Times article is about understanding that college does not define “YOU”. Success is not a specific diploma. So, as you look forward to your next chapter, whether it’s next Fall or you’re still looking for colleges, keep YOU in mind first. What you define as success is unique, just as you are, so own your decisions and BE PROUD.

How to Evaluate a College Career Center

Ikigai - the amazing intersection of finding one’s purpose in life…where what you are good at and what the world needs collides!

College Career Center - a good center can help your student find their “Ikigai”

A short interview with the Director of Career Services at Colgate University in the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights what Career Services can offer to college students and why a strong Career Center is vital for your student’s success in finding that career and ‘purpose in life’.

What does this Ivy League university offer in their Career Services to help students prepare for their career? 

1-      “Early and often” – Career Services has specific strategies and processes that start with the summer BEFORE freshman year! And they don’t help just to ‘find jobs’ for the students, but Career Services promotes self-awareness and helps students better understand who they were before they began searching for their career paths.

2-      Career services mission – Colgate’s Career Services help students find those on-ramps and entry points towards work. They also help students learn to invent new opportunities for their skills.  

3-      Engagement with Career Services throughout all 4 years of college - 97% of students engaged with the Career Center at Colgate U last year between workshops, internships, counseling and immersion tracks or recruitment programs

4-      Age appropriate Career Services education – They talk to freshmen about their passions, skills and strengths from their first year of college. Career Services helps students understand “who they are” first. As sophomores, Career Services moves into strategic engagement with alumni in programs such as “immersion tracks” or job shadowing opportunities. These are short ‘entrée-ships’ - where students are engaging with alumni and parents to understand better how a liberal arts education translates into career and work.

5-      Sophomore Connection – During the weekend before Spring break ends, all sophomores are brought back to campus and engaged with an alumni and parent conference around Career fair type program. Career Center teaches students how to do informational interviews before they start their interaction with alumni, with ‘reflective components’ to allow students to ‘understand the differences and how they might connect’.

While this career services strategy may not be offered at all universities, there are components you can look for in every college to help you gain these same advantages.

7 Questions to evaluate the Quality of a college’s Career Services:  

1-      Where is the Career Center located on campus? Is it central?

2-      How long does it take for a student to get an appointment with a counselor and do you get to see the same person each time?

3-      What type of alumni engagement is offered through the Career Center?

4-      How many Career Fairs are hosted on campus each year? Are they open to all majors or for specific colleges/majors?

5-      How often are workshops held and what types of topics are offered?

6-      Are there different types of services offered as the student advances?

7-      Who helps with connecting students with internships or other job shadowing opportunities – Career Center, professors in their major, or both? Any formal programs that exist to help this happen?

These 7 questions can give you a picture of what type of career support you will receive for your tuition. It’s vital to your future to ensure the guidance is there as part of your college experience!

How can I have a GREAT college experience?

The answer to that question is NOT answered by saying, “Go to an Ivy League or brand name college'.  But, isn’t that THE prize for all my hard work in high school, you ask? 

Take a moment to read this Gallup- Purdue University poll. In it, note the six key experiences that are vital to college satisfaction...AND strong career options after graduation.

The key is WHAT you do in college, not WHERE you go to college. Another great book to help you understand selecting the right colleges for you: "Where you Go is Not Who You'll Be", by Frank Bruni. Here's a YouTube video with Frank Bruni discussing his key points.   

Take a moment to think about this major investment in your life. Understand what factors are most important when selecting your college list. Before you dive into college, don't just follow your friends and their advice (now you know why the ducks are the picture of choice on this blog post!).

Learn the facts for yourself and discover what is important to YOU. Ground yourself in good information and enjoy your college journey! 

When Should I start Planning for college? NOW.

A well thought out academic plan comes with time. Starting in middle school, plan out your next 3 years+ of your core subjects. By taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade, where will that lead you by 12th grade? If math is your strength, you may find that you will run out of time to achieve advanced math courses by high school. That is why planning out your course schedule, reviewing it on a yearly basis based on your grades and interests, and then revising your roadmap is essential. You can do this on your own, meet with a school academic counselor, and/or call in and outside advisor to help you strategize your options. There are many creative alternatives to maximize your school course selections. There are also summer options at various institutions or with online coursework. And, independent study into your field of interest can show initiative and focus beyond what is offered to everyone in your school.  Focus on your long term goals and re-visit them yearly. Utilize your grades to check in on the reality of achieving that goal and continue adjusting the roadmap to your dreams by finding resources to assist you!

Juniors - College Tips and Tasks

It's Junior year....and yes, you can begin preparing for your college journey in easy and relaxed steps. 

1 - CREATE A TEST PLAN: Take a practice ACT or SAT (all colleges take both, so do not take both tests officially).  Practice tests are often given by your high school or a test prep company locally. Also, there are sample tests online. Do not take an official SAT or ACT 'just to practice'. Preview the test format, practice the questions and the timing, and be ready. 

2- LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Yes, you really should think about that this year. Why? Most colleges will want a teacher letter from this year's teachers.  How do help yourself? Make an effort. Participate in class or ask your teachers to help clarify any confusion. Be proactive - don't wait until the day before the test to ask for help. Teachers are more impressed with effort than they are with a silent and non participating perfect A student sitting in the back. 

3- CREATE AN ACTIVITIES RESUME: Choose quality over quantity. Your school doesn't have anything that interests you? So, GET OUT and look up on Google your favorite subject.  Write a blog (it's fun!) , build a plane from a kit, or learn Orienteering. Point? It doesn't matter. Cull your activities and make time to go deep in what matters to you! 

SAT or ACT?

SAT/ACT – which should I choose?

Yes, choose just one.  Take a sample ACT or SAT this fall and then register/prepare for only one. ALL COLLEGES EQUALLY WEIGH EITHER CHOICE. Where to take a sample test?

·         At your school  (check if the College & Career office will offer one this fall or early spring)

·         Online – ACT and SAT both have samples (SAT – full test, ACT – you have to buy the ACT Test Guide to get a full sample test)

o   Sample ACT questions

o   Sample ACT Writing prompt

o   Sample SAT practice exams through Kahn Academy

·         Local test prep companies -  Compass Prep or Princeton Review also offer FREE in person tests on the weekends at libraries near you for those who can’t concentrate at home. Call and make a reservation.  I do not endorse one company or another, just offering choices!

After taking samples of each, you will notice some differences in the style, pace, and format. Choose one by comparing your ACT and SAT scores respectively on a Concordance chart, like that one offered by Compass Prep.   Save time & money – target your studying and test efforts!