Making The Most Of College

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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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How to Make the Most of Your Summer


Chemistry Lab at Susquehanna University

As we near the end of the school year, one question that often comes up is how high school students can best use their summer in preparation for the college application process. And while the answers can vary based on what grade the student is in and what his or her particular interests are, one option I like to advocate for with rising high school seniors is career exploration.

Maybe it comes in the form of a job or an internship. Maybe you don’t necessarily need the paycheck, and you can secure a long-term volunteer experience or multiple job shadows. Either way, I love the idea of students starting to explore where their interests and skills may lead them.

You’re good with numbers but you have no idea what it would be like to be an accountant or an actuary. Maybe you don’t even know what an actuary does.

You’ve thought about physical therapy and athletic training but you really don’t know the difference between the two.

Perhaps, as a young child, you were always building things with your LEGOs but you’re not sure if that interest would translate into a career as a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer or a construction manager.

Maybe you’ve had a lot of ideas about what you might do with your life but you’ve never taken the time to tell anyone, let alone spend some time researching them for yourself.

If any of this sounds familiar, then your upcoming summer is a great way to get to work figuring out just who you are going to be and why it’s going to matter.

How do you get started? First, start talking to your parents, friends, a favorite teacher, or your school counselor about what you’re interested in. Talk to them about some of these ideas you’ve had and that you’d like to explore them further. Find out who they know who might do something similar to what you’re describing. Then, ask to be introduced to this person even if it’s just over the phone. When you do connect with this person, be prepared to talk about what you’re interested in and that you would appreciate learning more about what they do, how they got around to doing it and what they would recommend to a young, interested person like you.

This is called an informational interview. Essentially, you are interviewing the person and trying to learn as much as you can. Once you’ve done that, asking about a job shadow or how you can get involved or learn more is an easy next step. And while they may not have room to hire you, if you can volunteer some hours or shadow a couple times, you may just find out a whole lot more about just how interested you are in this particular field.

And that’s what career exploration is all about – seeking out information, contacts and experience to help inform your opinion about what you want to do with college and 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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Why You Should Be Considering Liberal Arts Colleges

College admissions

Dickinson College

Several weeks ago I wrote a piece on the benefits of liberal arts colleges where I talked about a few aspects that help these colleges stand out as great places for undergraduate students. If you missed it, here it is:

The Benefits of Applying to Liberal Arts Colleges

Over the past couple weeks I have visited several colleges in Pennsylvania that fit this model: small populations, no graduate students and a focus on combining the liberal arts with pre-professional studies. In other words, these colleges are trying to teach students how to think about what they are learning from multiple perspectives. They are preparing them for a rapidly changing world where life is more of a zig-zag than it is a straight line.

Today, I want to share some examples of what students at these colleges are doing that I feel demonstrates the value of what these colleges have to offer.

At Muhlenberg College I had the pleasure of hearing from a couple students who were really doing some outstanding things in preparation for their future careers. A finance and economics double major had interned at the United Nations through the advice and mentorship of one of his professors from the international studies department and will be interning at Price Waterhouse Cooper’s this coming summer. Another student who chose Muhlenberg over Brandeis University and Boston College due to the focus on undergraduate students and more accessible faculty had interned at Covidien after his first year when most of the other interns were juniors in college.

At Franklin & Marshall College I met a student who was double majoring in economics and international studies. After her first year, she was able to work on a research project where she was analyzing economic development in emerging regions in other countries. She’s planning on studying abroad next year to get more involved in this research.

At Dickinson College art history majors are required to curate their own shows. It’s a standard they are held to so that they can demonstrate everything they’ve learned. As a result, Sotheby’s recruits on campus.

At Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, students are being encouraged to begin research in their first year with nearly 30 students in the biology department having been published in the last decade. One student I met, a rising senior pre-med major, had already completed three separate research projects related to her interests in cognitive development and was going to be spending her summer on campus in a research lab for a fourth time.

While these are just a few examples of what students are doing, I feel they represent some of the tremendous benefits at liberal arts colleges. There’s been a long-standing criticism of liberal arts colleges saying they are too focused on languages, the “soft sciences” and the arts – areas which are perceived as less desirable for employment than the traditional areas of business, engineering, nursing and accounting. Personally, I think the criticism is uninformed nonsense. The students I met at these colleges were working hard, they were having life-changing experiences, they were learning how to attack problems from multiple perspectives to produce outcomes that positively affect different people and, most importantly, they were growing and developing as learners and as people.

I’m not sure what’s not to like about that.

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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The Benefits Of Applying To Liberal Arts Colleges

Ursinus College

Ursinus College

Whenever I start working with a new student, I have them complete an assessment for me. I designed the assessment based on a decade plus of working with students as both an admission counselor and an academic adviser and one section focuses on college attributes: size, location, cost, campus atmosphere, etc. As we break down their answers, the conversation inevitably arrives at the differences between research universities and liberal arts colleges. As I advise my students, here are some of the benefits of liberal arts colleges that any applicant should consider.

Smaller Classrooms

Since most liberal arts colleges enroll less than 3,000 students, the resulting class sizes are smaller than what you find at larger, public universities. Instead of passively sitting in a lecture hall with 300 students, you will find yourself in a class with 15-20 students. The classes are more active and revolve around discussion and debate. Professors will know your name and will be more vested in your learning and growth.

Focus On Teaching

Most liberal arts colleges have little to no graduate school population. The key here is that opportunities for research and special projects are therefore readily available for undergraduates. It also means that courses are taught by the professors, not graduate teaching assistants and that you have more access to them to talk about what you are learning and what you want out of your college experience.


A long standing myth is that liberal arts colleges, due to their published cost, are more expensive to attend than public universities. However, liberal arts colleges can cost the same as public colleges due to their ability to award significant merit-based or need-based scholarships. Couple this with the fact that liberal arts colleges do a much better job graduating their students in four years than public universities do, and you could realize significant cost savings.

Critical Thinking

As much as you may want to attend a public university for a specific pre-professional major (though many liberal arts colleges like Ursinus College do offer pre-professional majors), liberal arts colleges are focused on teaching students to think critically, to analyze problems and to develop solutions to those problems. Show me an employer who doesn’t value that in a candidate.

Networking & Relationships

Because the environment is smaller, the relationships which are formed with other students, professors and staff are often stronger, more intensive and long-lasting. Whether it’s being mentored by a professor or forging relationships with classmates that may provide long-term professional opportunities, liberal arts colleges help you develop what you know as much as they help you grow through who you know.

While a liberal arts college may not be for everyone, there are some key benefits to be had. At the end of the day, you have to spend the time to understand what it is you want out of your college experience so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.

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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