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The Value Of Identifying Your VIPS

VIPS“What are you thinking about majoring in and why?”

This is a question I love asking students.  It appears to be a very simple question on the surface, but can get at something much deeper. While some students are very undecided and have no idea what they want to do (which is okay – really, it is), most are able to talk about one or more ideas they have. They want to major in engineering or nursing. They want to be a teacher or go into business. They have a feeling for something but they’re not entirely sure why.

And regardless of whether they have an idea or not, the table has been set to explore what I call their VIPS – Values, Interests, Personality-Style and Skills. These are the attributes students need to explore and understand better in order to have a successful college admission experience. Yet most students lack an awareness of their VIPS. This is never clearer than in conversation with current college freshmen who say, “I’m not happy.” When I start asking questions to get to the root of the matter, the same themes pop up:

They don’t know what really matters to them.

They haven’t thought about how their skills and abilities match with their major.

They don’t understand what careers or skills a particular major will afford them.

At the end of the day, so many students just don’t know what they want out of their lives. And while I don’t believe in the pressure of having to choose a course in life right away, students have to be encouraged to explore their VIPS.  They need to be pushed to reflect on their successes and failures in life, the moments they have enjoyed and the ones they have dreaded. They need to understand what makes them tick so that when it does come time to choose something, that choice is a well-informed one.

Why? Because I’m a firm believer that if you do more of what you love, if you invest your time in the things that matter the most to you, if you delve deep into the subjects you are both interested in and good at, you will find success in life.

High school students need to focus on identifying their VIPS and then use this information to launch their college search. Along the way, they can seek out job shadow opportunities so they can try something on before committing to it. They can identify individuals to interview so they can learn more about a professional field and what it takes to do well at it. And in the long run, they are essentially “branding” themselves by focusing on the things they love to do and creating opportunities to do more of them.

Your college experience should be the first leg on what is a life-long journey of being someone who is really awesome at what you do. Tap into the things you are good at, the things you love to do and the things that are most important to you and that journey will be even better.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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So You Want To Be A Music Major?

college admissions consultantThis fall, I’m doing something different with my blog to spice it up a bit. I’ve invited several admission counselors from around the country to contribute posts about topics they feel high school students and their families should be paying more attention to as they go through the college search and application process. As much as I like to share tips and advice, why not get it straight from the horse’s mouth? 

Today’s post is the third in this series and it’s by Reuben Councill, Associate Director of Admissions from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania:  

While the college search process is always an involved one, music majors definitely have a few different aspects to consider.  While there are certainly schools where you can major in music without taking an audition for entrance into the degree program, I think the vast majority of potential music majors will choose to attend a program that has an audition requirement.  Proper preparation is key to a successful process and I am happy to give you some points to consider.

First and foremost, you need some professional assistance.  If you are not already doing so, you need to have lessons from a private instructor who is a specialist on your particular instrument or voice type.  This person will be in the best position to help you prepare an audition that will showcase your strengths and allow you to have the best options for acceptance into a variety of schools.  If you need help locating a suitable instructor, good references include your high school band or choir director, professional musicians from a local orchestra or choir, and music professors from any colleges or universities in your area.

Second, you need to decide on a list of potential music programs.  Most students will audition for a variety of schools – some more competitive than others for program acceptance.  As a prospective student, it is important for you to be in contact with each department or school of music for which you plan to audition.  While requirements will be similar, you need to be sure that you are preparing exactly what each program expects to hear from you at the time of audition.

Third, it is important to evaluate the type of degree offered by each institution you are considering.  Without going into too much detail, as a performance major, you can expect to see Bachelor of Music in Music Performance or Bachelor of Arts with a performance emphasis.  A significant difference with a Bachelor of Music degree is that the student will receive a much more in-depth curriculum particularly regarding theory and history requirements within the music major.  However, the Bachelor of Arts can be the perfect degree for someone wishing to complete a dual major with a truly rich musical experience.

Music Education has a wider range of options.  The three programs most widely available are Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Bachelor of Science in Music Education, and Bachelor of Arts with Music Teacher Certification.  While each can be the means to a successful career as a music educator, the three programs go about it in different ways.  In the Bachelor of Music in Music Education, the music department retains the majority of curriculum oversight.  Most of your practical education courses will be taught by music professors with music specific environments and experiences.  The Bachelor of Science in Music Education still provides a core music curriculum, but the majority of education requirements are handled through the education department.  In these circumstances, music teachers are spending a good deal of time with students from other disciplines in a more general methods environment.  The Bachelor of Arts with Music Teacher Certification provides a general music curriculum and then tacks on enough education related coursework to meet the requirements for state teacher licensure.

Hopefully that is not an overwhelming overview!  I am happy to serve as a resource if you have additional questions.  At Susquehanna University we are pleased to offer a very rich musical experience at the undergraduate level.  We offer Bachelor of Music in Music Performance, Music Education, and Bachelor of Arts degrees in a very well-rounded department that includes opportunities for singers and instrumentalists including a full orchestra and opera program.  Being undergraduate only, students will have a wealth of opportunities throughout their four years without having to compete with graduate students for the best ensemble placements.  Please be in touch if you would like more information.

Reuben Councill currently serves as Associate Director of Admissions at Susquehanna University.  Prior engagements have included Executive Director for the Williamsport Symphony and Coordinator of Music Admissions also at Susquehanna.  As a musician, he performs regularly as Principal Flute with the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free 60-minute consultation. Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.

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Why Your Major Matters….Sometimes

Why Your Major Matters SometimesI’m writing you from upstate New York this weekend. My wife’s grandparents live in Rochester and we decided to take a long weekend to visit them. Following my own advice, I took some time out of our vacation weekend to visit two colleges. Since we were right in Rochester, I chose to take a tour of Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday and then, on our way back home to Connecticut, we plan on stopping off at Ithaca College. My wife is alumna of Ithaca, so it will be nice to see it through her eyes.

While touring RIT on Saturday, I was reminded of an article I saw recently that talked about how it really doesn’t matter what you choose for a major. In most cases, unless you need pre-professional training to be a nurse, accountant, speech language pathologist or an engineer, this is true. Just look around you and talk to the people you know – I will bet that most of them don’t even hold a degree that is directly tied to the work they do. And this brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sometimes, your major really does matter and a recent article in the U.S. News offers several reasons why a degree in a technical field such as computer science, software programming, or engineering really can matter.

According to the article, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over a million new technical positions will be created by 2020. As our world becomes increasingly more driven by technology, data and information sharing, the need for talented individuals who understand how to design, produce, manage and secure these technologies will also increase significantly. In this case, majors do matter. Programs like computer science, information technology, software engineering, computer engineering, and information security can help point you in the direction of an exciting and growing career path. Don’t get me wrong – a degree alone is not going to deliver you to the promise land where you dream job is just waiting for you – having experiences along the way that support your brand as an aspiring technology professional while also showcasing your skills and abilities is what’s going to help you attain the jobs that you want the most.

In other words, you need to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment. You need to be able to show what you can do, not just what you learned. In the world of college, this is called experiential learning and it includes options such as volunteering, research, internships and co-ops. In case you don’t already know, a co-op is a full-time, paid work experience that can offer a student the chance to develop their skills and abilities while making valuable industry contacts.

RIT is a great example of a school where experiential learning is at the core of everything they do, especially in their co-op program, where over 3500 students obtain placements each year. A lot of these students are enrolled in programs similar to the ones mentioned in the article. As early as sophomore year, they are going out into the real world and obtaining valuable work experience and industry contacts. Some of them will complete multiple co-ops and, coupled with a degree that relates to critical needs in the world, these students will find success in their professional lives.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on experiential learning and how majors matter (or don’t matter), please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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