Experiential Learning

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College Admissions Is Not A Popularity Contest

Definition of collegeLast week Allen Grove, the college admissions writer for About.com, listed the ten colleges whose profiles received the most reader interest during 2012. I happen to really like what Allen does with his college admissions writing. I feel a lot of it is very informative and easy to digest, but I bring this piece to your attention for the simple fact that college admissions is not a popularity contest.

Here’s the list of the top ten colleges which received the most reader interest:

  1. Harvard University
  2. UCLA
  3. UC Berkeley
  4. Cornell University
  5. UNC Chapel Hill
  6. University of Michigan
  7. New York University
  8. Stanford University
  9. Brown University
  10. Columbia University

It’s obvious these are some of the most elite schools in the country and there’s no wonder they are in the top ten. However, what you also need to recognize is that the average admission rate for these schools is 20% with Harvard being the most selective of the group at 6% and Michigan being the least selective at 41%.

Think about that. Columbia, Harvard Brown, and Stanford all reject 90% or more of their applicants. UC Berkeley and Cornell reject 80% or more. UCLA, rejects 75% while UNC Chapel Hill and New York University come in at 70%. Not only are these schools the most popular (at least in this context) but they are also the most exclusive.

While some people would have you believe that you need to attend one of these schools to have a great college experience, you can have a great experience at just about any college. You just need to be willing to make the most of the opportunities available to you.

This is true wherever you go.

Admission to a school is not the prize. If you get in and then spend four years doing nothing but going to class, it will have been for nothing. You need to invest yourself in the classroom. Network with faculty and other students. Get involved in clubs, organizations and other extracurricular activities that have meaning for you. Gain professional experience by interning or working on a co-op. It’s about creating the life you want to have and surrounding yourself with people and experiences that make you better.

This can happen at one of these schools, but it can also happen at a liberal arts college, a state university or even your local community college. Wherever it happens, it happens because of you, not because of the name of the school.

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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Do You Need A Resume?

A couple weeks ago I invited Sharon Epstein, an award-winning essay writing and college interview coach, to talk about tips for awesome essays. If you didn’t get a chance to read the post, here it is. Read it. It’s really good!

This week, Sharon invited me to write about resumes for her blog, Applying to College.

Check it out and, and always, let me know what you think!

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

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A Conversation About College Part II

Last week, I wrote Part I of a series called, “A Conversation About College” which covered some of the more pressing questions that were asked at a workshop I recently conducted at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut. Today, I am sharing Part II with you:Q: We’re not sure what the best type of school is for our son. He might want to be a history teacher, but he’s not sure.As far as figuring out what type of school is the best one, that’s something that comes with time, conversation and research. There are many factors that go into defining what type of school your son will do well at. For example, he should be thinking about attributes such as location, size of the student body, cost, private or public and reputation. Once these bigger ticket items have been identified, he can start doing some visits and online research to see what appeals to him and what doesn’t.  When I work with clients individually, I walk them through developing a college list and this exploration I just mentioned is the first step.

Q: What type of extra-curricular activities are admissions counselors looking for?We talked about this at length the other night, so this may sound repetitive, but the best activities for your son to be involved in are activities that mean something to him and which help complement his brand – here’s a blog I wrote about branding back in the fall that may help shed some light on the concept. Ultimately, you want to encourage him to think about quality over quantity.Q: How important is the essay and the essay topic?

This is a great question because while the essay can be very important, the topic isn’t necessarily what makes it important. What matters in an essay is how you tell your story. An essay really can be about any topic, big or small, but it’s how the student connects to the essay and what they are able to reveal about themselves that matters. A student who can show some depth, who can demonstrate a level of reflection and who can get me to see that what he is writing about truly matters to him is a student who has done a great job with their essay. The best way for a student to accomplish this is to really invest some time in their essay and make peace with the fact that they will write and rewrite several times before their essay is done. In fact, what their final essay looks like may not look anything like the original concept when they started.

Q: We are just starting the college search and our son is a sophomore – where do we start?

For freshmen and sophomores, the focus should be on helping them figure out what is important to them, what their strengths, skills and abilities are and introducing the idea of what college is about. If you go to my website, you will see that I offer a package called the “Early Exploration Package for Freshmen and Sophomores.” Basically, I help students at this stage work through a self-assessment while exploring some long range goals that tie into the college process.

Q: How do we go about figuring out our financial aid & scholarship options?

Again, this is time sensitive for the most part since you cannot apply for financial aid using the FAFSA until January 1st of the student’s senior year in high school. If he or she decides they are applying to any private schools, they may be required to also fill out the CSS Profile. The Profile, however, can be filed prior to January 1st.  While you can’t do anything about filing just yet, what you can do is spend some time figuring out how much all of this is going to cost. There is some detail to this, but essentially you want to know what you will be expected to pay for school so that you have some time to plan. If you go on the College Board website, you can use their EFC Calculator to do just this. EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and is a term you will get to know quite well as senior year approaches. Your EFC is what a college will expect you to pay and it is how they calculate what they will offer you in the form of aid, grants and loans. The higher your EFC, the more you will be expected to contribute and the less aid you will expect to receive. As of this past October, each college and university has been mandated to publish a net price calculator on their website. So, as your student identifies schools where he or she would like to apply, you can use their net price calculator to get a feel for how things might look financially. Here is a blog that I wrote about the EFC calculators.

Q: How to choose a career/major?

This is a great question and one that troubles many students as they work through this process. To be honest, I do some assessments with students to help flesh out their values, interests, personality style and skills – or what I like to call their VIPS. Once you have a good idea of what is important to a student, what they are interested in and what they are likely to do well at, it is a lot easier to present options for majors and to point them in the direction of some useful career exploration. If it turns out that their interests are all over the place, then you want to be looking at schools that offer a wide variety of majors and where a student can start off as an undeclared major and then take some time in first semester to continue their career exploration.

I wouldn’t worry about this issue too much as of right now, especially if your son or daughter is only a sophomore or junior. Over 50% of students end up changing their majors during their freshman year anyway.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome moms out there! I hope you’re having a great day!

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on “A Conversation About College,” please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

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

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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@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

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

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