Making The Most Of College

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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

As a child, you probably had any number of answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But, as a teenager and a college-bound student, the answer is not always so clear. You may think you have to decide on your major before you even look at colleges. But did you know that according to the National Center for Education, about 80% of college students change their major at least once during their college career? And, “undecided” is one of the most popular majors for incoming college freshmen. In fact, there are jobs and careers that haven’t yet been invented but will be by the time you graduate college. So, the real question is, “What do you need to know before you embark on your post-secondary path?”

The ancient Greek aphorism, “Know Thyself”, holds true for students of all ages considering their future. Research has shown a significant correlation between happiness and success. While not everyone is passionate about something, everyone is unique. The earlier you learn what makes you tick, the earlier you will be able to make informed decisions and plan a clear path to your future.

Enter career assessments and career exploration. Career assessments can measure a person’s personality, abilities, interests, strengths, skills and values. They can be taken at various stages of a person’s life: as a high school or college student or later in life for those seeking a career change. While personalities seldom change, people’s interests, skills and values can develop and change as they grow and have real-life experiences.

As college advisors, we strongly recommend that high school students take a series of career assessments as a sophomore or junior in high school as they are the starting place to begin the college exploration and planning process. Once students learn about the occupations matching their results, they can begin the process of career and college major exploration. Many students discover occupations or college majors they’ve never heard of. Even if a student is certain they want to be an engineer, for example, they may discover that there are other occupations that hold more interest and utilize the same abilities, skills and knowledge that engineers possess. While all paths may lead to Rome, many paths can lead to a student’s first choice career interest.

A high school student’s next step in career exploration is to research their various occupational interests to determine employment prospects, wage and salary outlooks, skills and values necessary to perform these jobs, as well as the education and certifications required for these occupations. When a student has narrowed down the list to their top occupations and corresponding post-secondary paths, they have an academic direction for their the college search.

We believe that using career assessments and exploration to determine your areas of interest rather than to find a particular career or major is key to the college search. Students tend to enjoy this process of self-discovery and are often relieved and less stressed about their college planning. Parents appreciate learning about the opportunities that are available to their children, and we are happy to see our students become one step closer to finding their best “fit” colleges.

If you would like some assistance with your college search process, contact Lynne today for a free 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 Just Submitting an Application isn’t Enough

Frequently I find students applying to too many colleges. They think there’s some underlying mathematical equation that says the more colleges you apply to, the greater your chances are of being admitted to one.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Especially with the more selective schools that sit atop the various sets of rankings and which are releasing decisions this week. If your profile as an applicant doesn’t match up well with what the school looks for, or if the school tends to reject 90% of their applicants, no matter how many schools you apply to, admission isn’t likely.

So, what are students to do?

The first thing I tell my students to do is to get beyond this ever-growing obsession with brand names. In my experience, what you do with your college experience is more predictive of your future success in life. It’s not the name of the school or how highly they were ranked on US News or Forbes. In fact, in most high profile professional fields a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. You’re going to need a master’s degree, a lot of experience, or more, and that’s where you should be more focused on name brand recognition.

It’s about where you finish, not where you start.

The second thing I tell them is to build a college list that is focused more on quality than quantity.

I tell them they should be applying to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight.

Regardless of the number, what matters most is how much effort a student puts into connecting with these schools prior to applying. When a student has matched themselves up well with a college and then does the right things along the way such as visiting, sitting in on a class, interviewing with an admission counselor, meeting with a professor or coach, attending special visit programs or an open house – when some combination of these factors happens, the student learns so much more about how and why the school fits them and admission becomes much more likely.

Why?

Because demonstrated interest matters more now than it ever has. Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. There are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications that stand out in a crowded field.

Opportunity can and will present itself in many forms and, you know what? There is opportunity everywhere, not just at an Ivy League school. So, no matter where you go to college, remember that it’s about investing yourself in the experience and making the most of this time to launch yourself into your life.

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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Courses and Activities – Making Good Choices

Dobler College ConsultingThis time of year, I find myself in conversations about courses and activities for the upcoming year. These are interesting discussions as students and I debate the merit of their options as they try to make decisions that make the most sense for them.

My advice to them is that their high school curriculum should present as much breadth and depth as possible but that it should also match up with their greatest interests and strengths as well. AP English is a great choice for the student who writes well and wants to be challenged, but is it a better choice than AP calculus or AP chemistry for the student who hopes to be an engineering major?

Admissions counselors will be looking to establish trends in individual subject areas and in a student’s overall academic record.

If you are a nursing applicant, what is your track record in the sciences? If you are a business student, have you taken four full years of math? What about relevant academic electives that your high school offers? Have you taken advantage of them along the way?

You have to read your transcript like an admissions counselor. Pick it apart, honestly assess the strengths and weaknesses and make changes where applicable so that whoever reviews it when you apply, has greater confidence in your ability to pursue the major you have checked off on your application. Just keep in mind that everything starts with your core subjects – English, math, science, social studies and foreign language. With so many college students changing majors, admissions counselors are first and foremost looking for academic rigor across all subjects.

When it comes to activities, the same rule generally applies. If you are an aspiring business major, have you joined DECA or FBLA? If you want to go into criminal justice or paramedicine, have you taken an EMT course and earned your license? Accounting majors, have you shadowed local accountants and learned more about the nuances of their work when it’s not tax season?

Even if you are undecided on what you may want to major in – and let’s be honest, whether you want to admit it or not, that’s most of you – it is better for you to show a depth of involvement in one or two activities that really mean something to you rather than lining up your resume with twenty clubs and organizations that hold little to no meaning for you as you head into your senior year.

Your application and supporting materials should reflect who you are as a student and, more importantly, as a person. Be true to you, invest your time wisely and, when in doubt, make good choices with how you spend your time.

Will all of this look good on college applications? Possibly.

But the greater good here is that you will have gained a greater understanding and appreciation for who you are, what’s important to you and how you want to live your life. There’s a lot to like about that.

If you would like some assistance with your college search or financial aid process, 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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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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Why the Name of a College Really Doesn’t Matter

King's College

King’s College

Last week I was having breakfast with a friend of mine and the conversation rolled around to his two daughters, one of whom is a corporate mergers attorney and the other a nurse practitioner. Both of them are doing incredibly well in their chosen fields and are happy in their lives.

And yet, neither of them attended a highly ranked, brand-name college as undergraduates. Instead, they both went to small, liberal arts colleges where they stood out as academically talented students, took advantage of research opportunities and also benefitted from the mentorship of faculty.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve talked about the value of liberal arts colleges. Here’s two of the posts in case you missed them:

Why You Should be Considering Liberal Arts Colleges

The Benefits of Applying to Liberal Arts Colleges

And since the media and too many parents obsess over brand name colleges as the only path to success in life, I knew I had to share this story.

Both daughters chose small, liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania – Messiah College and King’s College – and both received outstanding scholarships, one a full-ride, due to their academic strengths. With top grades and strong SAT scores, applicants to schools like this are highly coveted and will receive significant scholarships which can often cut a price-tag in half.

Because of their hard work and willingness to seek out opportunities, both daughters were recognized by professors and invited to participate in research. They were able to work closely with their professors and one of them was able to work through organic chemistry in her first semester because her professor was willing to spend the time with her until it clicked. Both were mentored by professors throughout their four years and were introduced to colleagues at other schools which helped lay the framework for summer research opportunities and graduate school – one to Yale and the other to law school at Boston University.

So while both of them ended up at highly ranked, brand name colleges, they did it when it mattered most – their terminal degree that helped place them in their professional field.

I have no doubt that if either or both of them started out at Boston University or Yale, their lives would have been drastically different. At these two schools, they wouldn’t have stood out among the pack of overachieving students who come from around the world. They wouldn’t have been mentored as closely and the research opportunities would not have been as plentiful. And they most definitely would not have saved the money they did.

But yet, they’re incredibly successful. They’re happy. They’re respected by their peers and doing challenging and rewarding work in their fields.

And it all started at two small liberal arts colleges who most people don’t even know exist. I only wish that more students and families would be as open-minded in their college search as my friend and his daughters were.

Regardless of where you go to college, it’s all about how you use the experience to launch you into your life. If you can save money, create impactful experiences by working closely with your professors and find success in your life, does the name of the school you attend really matter?

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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