Choosing A Major

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Why You Need To Explore Your Major

Dobler College ConsultingWhen I work with students, we always have the conversation about potential majors pretty early on. Not because I expect them to have a plan for the rest of their lives ready to be laminated and hung up on a wall but because I want to know what they are thinking about and why. I’m a firm believer that the first steps to a happy and successful life are grounded in identifying your VIPS.

If you don’t know what your VIPS are, check out this post I wrote a couple months ago.

Once you have a good handle on what you’re good at, what you’re most interested in and why it has meaning to you, narrowing down the endless possibilities of majors is easier. Note that I didn’t say it’s easy. Just that it’s easier to do.

Picking a major is never easy. Especially when you have your whole life ahead of you. In fact, what you end up doing as an occupation 15 or 20 years down the road may not even exist today.

Because of this, I often tell students not to worry too much about what their major is. Granted, if a student is interested in pre-professional programs like nursing, education, accounting or engineering to name a few, then yes, choosing the right major is important. But it must match up with your VIPS if it’s going to be the right choice. There are plenty of articles out there talking about majors with the highest starting salaries and majors who will have the most lucrative careers. Go ahead and read them and let them help inform your decision, but please don’t think that just because a major has the potential to lead you to a high paying career that it’s automatically the right one for you.

Let’s say you read one of these articles and find out that computer engineering is a hot major right now. Graduates are earning upwards of $70,000 right after graduation and since you’re good with computers, you think this is a good choice for you.

Not so fast.

First, look up computer engineering programs online. Pay close attention to what the program is designed to do, what kinds of courses you will have to take and then ask yourself if it still sounds good. If you’re psyched about taking Calculus I and II and two courses in General Physics your freshman year, then you might actually be on the right path. But if it doesn’t sound so great, that’s when you have to head back to the drawing board and think a little more about your VIPS and how they might help you find majors and career paths that make more sense for you.

Another great way to find out if you’re cut from the right cloth is to do a job shadow or informational interview.

In a typical job shadow you’ll spend a few hours or, if you’re lucky, an entire day with someone who does what you think you want to do. You get to actually see what a day in the life of a professional in your intended field is like. In fact, this is probably one of the smartest things you can do to start clarifying what it is you want to do with your life. Work through your family, friends and teachers to identify individuals who could host you for a job shadow.

If you can’t secure a job shadow, an informational interview is a great back-up. Think of a job interview where you have to answer questions about yourself, why you want the job, what you can bring to the table and why the employer should hire you. Now, turn it around so that you get to ask someone questions about what they do, what they love and hate about it, where they went to school and if their degree helped prepare them for their job. Cool, huh?

At the end of the day, do some homework in your intended majors. Talk to people who are doing now what you think you want to do in a few years. Ask honest questions and really listen to the answers. I promise you it will be one of the best things you do for yourself on this crazy journey.

If you have any questions about choosing majors, your VIPS, securing job shadows or informational interviews, please use the comment section below.

You can also email me directly at for help with any aspect of your college search and application process.

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5 Tips To Make Sure Your Senior Year Matters

If you’re a high school junior, you’re just starting the second half of your school year. You just wrapped up midterm exams and hopefully they went really well. Strong grades in competitive courses are one of the most important factors when admission counselors are reviewing your application. In fact, for the umpteenth year in a row, admission counselors around the country have identified them as THE most important factor according to NACAC’s State of College Admissions report.

Which leads me to my post for today.

Knowing that your courses and your grades really matter in the college admissions process, it is so important that you make the most of the courses your high school offers. As you prepare to work with your counselor on your senior year schedule, keep the following five tips in mind:

1. Continue taking courses in the five core subjects: English, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign languages. If you’ve already taken three years of a foreign language and would rather not go into a fourth, make sure you double up somewhere else

2. If you’re taking a couple honors courses this year, work on getting into an AP course. If you’re already in an AP course or two, keep that trend going. Now is not the time to take it easy.

3. Consider your eventual major and enroll in courses that compliment your brand. Graphic design major? Sign up for graphic arts. Nursing major? Sign up for AP biology or anatomy and physiology. Engineering major? You need to be in calculus. Pick courses that will get you started on the path towards your major.

4. Get the full credit for your courses. In other words, if you’re taking an AP class, sign up for the AP test and do your best to do well on it. A score of four or better can earn you transfer credit at most colleges. If you’re enrolled in an Early College Experience (ECE) course, make sure you sign up for the college credits. Strategies like this not only ensure you make the most of the academic opportunities available to you, but transfer credit can also help reduce the cost of college in the long run.

5. If you live close enough to a community college, check out the courses they offer which may be related to your major or even just your interests. Currently, one course at a Connecticut community college will cost you $482, or just over 1/3 of the cost of one course at a state university like UConn or 1/8 of the cost at a private school like Fairfield University.

However, none of this really matters if you don’t put in the time and effort to do well. Take good notes, ask questions in class, study the material and actually learn it.  Your grades will reflect the effort and you will be so much more prepared for college and your professional life that follows.

Have something to say? Use the comment box below or email me at If you think this makes a lot of sense, consider sharing it with someone you know.

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Don’t Let Assumptions Lead You Astray

My seniors have most of their application work done and my juniors are starting to explore programs, potential job shadows while trying to get a grasp on just how much college is going to cost them.

It’s an interesting time of year because I find myself on pins and needles with the seniors, hoping that we have done everything right and that acceptance letters will come their way shortly. With the juniors, it’s all about exploration and introducing them to the idea that they need to be good investigators right now.

Which brings me to my thought for today.


Don’t make them.


There is so much information to be had about colleges that to rely on something somebody once said as a reason to apply or not to apply is just foolish. I know we all have those people in our lives who tend to know a little about everything, but when this so-called expert on life tells you that you shouldn’t apply to a school because it’s an all-male school (when, in fact, it is not) or tells you that the professors aren’t any good (like anything in life, there are the good, the bad and the ugly but I refuse to believe that the entire roster of professors on any given campus are just the worst in the world) or that there’s no way you can afford it, I say it’s time to find out the truth for yourself.

This is YOUR college application process. Not your friend’s, not your uncle’s and not your parents. Yours. And you need to own it. Use the resources available to you to qualify information before you allow assumptions to lead you astray. Go the colleges’ websites and read up on their profile, their demographics and their majors. Use their net price calculators to learn more about what you might be able to expect financially. Go for a visit and sit in on a class in your intended major. If you can’t visit, check out a virtual tour or read student reviews on sites like Unigo or College Prowler.

Whether you do all of these things or just some of them, whatever you do, just don’t make assumptions.

If you have questions or would like some help with your college search and application process, use the comment box below or email me directly at I would love to hear from you!

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How Much Is That College In The Window?

The other day I was working with a student who ended up learning a lot about the difference between sticker price and net price. The student in question was interested in architecture but assumed that schools who offer the program would cost him too much.  In fact, he was prepared to give up on the idea of architecture and pick a different major altogether so that he could attend a local state school here in Connecticut just to save money.

While this is not meant to be a knock on our state schools (I’m a product of two of them), this is a knock on a system that had so far prevented this young man from truly understanding his options.

I proceeded to pull up the College Board website so that I could show him the difference between sticker price and net price. Since he wanted to stay in the Northeast, we narrowed his search down to several schools in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region. For the purpose of this blog, I randomly selected three schools from the list we generated: Lehigh University, Temple University, and Philadelphia University.

Going by the assumptions the student was making about sticker price, one year of college would cost him $55,515 at Lehigh, $38,935 at Temple and $46,282 at Philadelphia. Each one of them a prohibitive cost. But then I showed him the Paying tab on the College Board website and how he needed to look beyond the sticker price of each institution. Upon doing so, I was able to show him that Lehigh’s average first year financial aid package is $34,773 making their net price $20,742. Temple’s average package was $15,373 bringing the net price in at $23,562. Philadelphia University gives freshmen $28,220 to bring the true price down to $18,062.

All of a sudden, not so prohibitive.

Seeing as how this student’s grades and SAT scores fell within the top 25% of admitted students for each school, it’s a safe bet to say he’s probably going to receive the average package from each school. In fact, he may receive financial aid packages that are better than the average.

Another way to figure out what a school is going to cost you is to use a net price calculator. Colleges are now required to include one on their website, though some are easier to find than others. These calculators will ask you to enter some personal information and will then compute an estimated net price. Not all calculators are created equal so be sure to pay close attention to the breakdown of loans, grants and merit money when you get your net price results.

At the end of the day, as this student learned, it pays to do your homework.

If you have questions about net price or would like some help figuring out how to reduce the cost of college, use the comment box below or email me directly at I would love to hear from you!

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So You Want To Major In The Arts?







Note: I will be conducting a college admissions workshop titled, “A Conversation About College” on November 7th at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more.

Just a quickie today as we prepare to finalize Early Decision and Early Action applications.

For those of you interested in the arts, there will be two events in early November here in the New England area which are designed just for you.

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) is hosting Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs in Boston on November 1st and in Philadelphia on November 5th.

These fairs are designed for students interested in pursuing majors in the areas of music, dance, theater, visual arts, graphic design, among other related disciplines.

Interested students will learn about educational opportunities, admission and financial aid, portfolio days, audition and entrance requirements, and much more by meeting with representatives from colleges, universities, and conservatories who specialize in the visual and performing arts.

If you’re afraid of turning into the starving artist, conduct some research now to see what you can do with a major in the arts.

Not sure if you even want to major in one of these fields? That’s okay too. Here’s a great article from the New York Times blog, The Choice, about how those of you interested in pursuing a career in music don’t necessarily have to declare it as your major in order to be successful.

Learn More at Dobler College Consulting’s College Admissions Workshop

For parents and students who can make it, I will be conducting a workshop titled, “A Conversation About College” on Wednesday, November 7th from 6:30PM to 8:30PM at Sacred Heart Church, 910 Main Street South in Southbury, Connecticut.

The workshop shares strategies to help your son or daughter navigate the college admissions process while eliminating mistakes that tend to reduce their chances of admission. Topics include college lists, online resources, essays, interviews, campus visits, what you need to know about making college more affordable and how to stay sane throughout the process.

All workshop participants will receive informational handouts and will be eligible for discounts off any of my college counseling services.

The workshop is free to the public. Want to come but can’t make it? You can easily get in touch with me to set up a free 60-minute consultation to help address your pressing college admissions-related questions and issues.

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