College Experience

An Ounce of Prevention

An Ounce of Prevention

A positive transition to college life has many factors and a student’s health and safety is primary to that experience. Here are some helpful tips on available resources and practices to ensure if emergencies arise, everyone is prepared.

How to Handle Roommate Conflicts

After all is said and done, you and your roomie are going to face typical roommate conflicts, whether you’re just getting to know each other or have been friends for ages. It’s unavoidable, and it definitely isn’t the end of the world! The important thing is knowing how to handle issues so that they don’t escalate into major conflict and cause you extra stress.

How to Major in College Touring

Many articles have been written offering advice about how to get the most out of your college tour, but they are commonly written from a one-tour-fits-all perspective. I’ve come to believe that there are actually three levels of college tours and, as students become more familiar with what different types of colleges have to offer and more certain about what they want from their college experience, they should approach the tour with different outcomes in mind. College Touring 101: The introductory Course 

I love college tours - and I go on a lot of them - but I would estimate that a third of what I hear is the same at almost every school I visit. There's a lottery system for housing, there's a blue light system for safety, there's a swipe card for use in the dining hall, and everyone gets to keep their mailbox for all four years. I encourage you to make your first two or three visits to ANY college just to get the patter down and to learn about the features almost all colleges share. The purpose of the first round of tours it to get an overview so that you'll be better able to focus on how colleges differentiate themselves.

Before the tour: Create a fairly broad list of colleges to visit – don’t make your criteria too specific too soon or you might rule out some excellent options.

HINT: You don’t need to travel far for this round of visits; find schools in your area.

During the tour: Listen carefully. Some of what the tour guide talks about may not make sense to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re probably not the only one who doesn’t understand.

After the tour: Think about what features of that type college appealed to you and what features really didn’t appeal to you without concerning yourself with whether or not you will ultimately apply to that specific college.

College Touring 201: The Survey Course

Once you are able to recognize the features that most colleges share, for the next round of tours you should visit colleges that more closely match your interests and emerging preferences for size, location, major, extracurricular activities and so on. But don’t narrow the list of schools too much yet – you still want to cast your net broadly enough to see how a school a bit bigger, a bit more rural, a bit more pre-professional, or a bit more liberal feels to you. Try not to make any assumptions until you’ve had a chance to see for yourself. The goal of this round of tours is for you to be able to articulate which specific features, qualities, and programs are important to you and why.

Before the tour: Don’t schedule visits at more than two colleges in a day. Plan to attend both the tour and the information session whenever feasible.

HINT: It can be prudent to sit near the door during these early information sessions. While some sessions are studded with valuable information, others can be painfully tedious. If you’re not finding the information being shared to be particularly useful and enthusiasm is waning, slip out.

During the tour: Ask your tour guide questions about what it’s like to be a student at that college. Look at what is being posted around campus, find out what happens on the weekends, learn about the school’s traditions. Try to get a sense of the culture of the college.

 HINT: About halfway through most of the tours I’ve been on, people stop asking questions. At that point, I move up to the front and engage the tour guide in conversation. They have a wealth of first-hand information so don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the college from a student’s perspective.

After the tour: Make time to take notes about what you saw. Very quickly your college tour memories will become indistinct from one another.

HINT: Bring a pack of ruled sticky notes with you. After the tour, go through the viewbook and, where a picture triggers a memory about an important detail, write that down on the sticky note and post it next to the image. That way, when you try to remember which college had the rock climbing wall and which had the amazing theatre, you’ll be able to trigger your memory both visually and verbally.

College Touring 301: The Independent Research Course

By now you’ve visited many campuses and you have a much clearer understanding of what you are really looking for in your ideal college and you are narrowing your list. Now you are ready for some really serious college touring – the type where you look in every nook and cranny, ask hard questions, and evaluate carefully how well the program suits your abilities, interests, and goals. The purpose of this final round of tours is to determine whether the college is a place where you would flourish and thrive.

Before the tour: Do a lot of research. Write down questions about those things you need to know more about and identify the parts of the campus that you want to see and the people whom you want to connect with.

Specifically, if there is something that is going to make or break your college experience (being able to have your own radio show, being involved in an a capella group, getting academic support) this is the time to explore those opportunities and resources.

During the tour: Listen and watch carefully. Ask questions. Be fully engaged in the tour.

HINT: I believe that you can tell a lot about the culture of a college by how the students treat the facilities. Watch to see if students are respectful of each other, the classroom spaces, the dorms, the grounds/kitchen crew, the faculty, and the visitors.  This is an important piece of a school’s culture that often goes over-looked. Students who take good care of themselves, others, and their environment are typically good students because they also take good care of themselves and their work. And they are just good people to be around.

After the tour: Leave time to go back and re-visit parts of campus or see the facilities that weren’t shown on the tour. If you have a specialized interest, ask when you schedule your appointment if there will be an opportunity to see those facilities. For example, arts majors should see the studios, athletes (even recreational ones) should see the athletic center, and physics majors should see those lab spaces whenever possible.

Note: Typically on the third round of tours, students also interview while on campus.

Make the most of your college tours – there are things to be gained even from a bad tour. The college process is a time to learn more about yourself and to think carefully about what you most want from your college experience. This is a big decision, so take the time to gather the information you need, even if it means returning to a college for a second visit. The more engaged you are in your college tours, the better your final college list will be.

Parenting Through the College Process

Time and time again parents sit in our office and reflect, “I don’t remember it being like this when I applied to college” and, indeed, the process has changed in some important ways.  More colleges are making standardized testing optional, admissions is increasingly competitive, students are completing more applications, and parents are more involved in the process than ever before.  For parents of college bound students, we offer these words of advice to help make the college process more successful and rewarding:

  • Focus on Fit: Help your student remember that college is first and foremost about the academic experience.  Colleges offer some very enticing options including gourmet food options, dorm suites outfitted with full kitchens, athletic centers featuring state-of-the-art equipment, and cyber-cafes at every turn.  All this is can distract from what should be at the center of their college experience – the academic program.  Help your student assess the quality, breadth, and depth of the curriculum and the level of academic rigor and type of academic support.
  • Accommodate your student’s style: If your student has been a procrastinator for 17 years, the college process isn’t going to draw out Type A qualities.  Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses and proceed accordingly.  If he is disorganized, set up organizational systems.  If time management is a struggle, set up timetables.  If visiting a lot of colleges will be overwhelming, limit the search.  Learning and behavioral styles are hard to change, so play to your student’s strengths and support their areas of weakness throughout the process.
  • Keep your student’s needs primary: Remember, you are not the college applicant.  While your college years may have been the best of your life, that doesn’t mean that your alma mater is perfect for your student.  Support your student’s decision about which college is the best place for them to spend their undergraduate years and avoid the temptation to compare it to “your college.”
  • Listen more, listen better: Starting sentences with “Tell me what you think about …” rather than “I think that…” will encourage your student to open up and will also send the message that you trust and value their opinions. While there are certainly times when a parent should share their perspectives, doing so too often is more likely to shut down conversation than to encourage honest dialog.
  • Allow plenty of time: Applying to college is probably the longest, most involved, and most difficult decision your student has ever had to make. There is also a very complex emotional component to this process – your student is leaving the comfort of school, friends, and family to venture into a world filled with unknowns.  Give them plenty of time and space to research and evaluate the tangible and intangible components of their decision.
  • Focus on the process:  The process of applying to college as just that – a process.  It has a beginning, middle, and an end and each student will go through the process in their own way, in their own time, hopefully taking on increasing responsibility and ownership. Ultimately, this is not just about “getting in”, but about developing self-awareness, clarifying values, and becoming self-sufficient.  When parents become too involved, the student loses the opportunity to go through this very maturing, self-actualizing process.
  • Don’t be afraid to be a spectator: First row seats don’t always provide the greatest view. Sometimes the best place to be is cheering from the bleachers.

The college process provides a unique opportunity in your student’s life to look back and be proud of what they’ve accomplished, think about who they are, articulate what they value, and consider where they want to go from here. Don’t rush the process to get to the finish line – this is an opportunity you may not have again to teach your student many important life lessons. And, just as you will come to know your child better, so too will they come to better know you.




Is the Liberal Arts Degree Passe?

The cost of college coupled with the bleak employment outlook for college graduates has caused many a high school student to feel the pressure of declaring a major that will be “useful” at graduation. As a career coach for college students and graduates, I am often asked the question: is the liberal arts degree passé? Bill Gates recently argued that our country needs to reduce the money spent on liberal arts education as it doesn’t create jobs. Steve Jobs was quoted 2 days later saying that “at Apple, it’s technology married with liberal arts married with the humanities that makes our hearts sing”. In an attempt to settle the issue, a research team from Duke and Harvard surveyed over 650 senior executives. The findings made my heart sing: gaining a college degree made a big difference in terms of employment, but the major and the school selected were not major factors. Our society needs artists, musicians and psychologists as much as we need bio-medical engineers and computer programmers.

My advice to high school and college students remains unchanged: study what interests you the most. Excel in fields in which you have the most passion and ability. Your GPA will most likely be higher and you will enjoy your college experience.

Any field of study today requires that students engage at their school of choice to build a portfolio of marketable skills. Employers want proof that a job candidate can communicate, think analytically, solve problems and work well with others. A strong work ethic and the ability to self manage remain at the top of the list of attractive qualities especially in a lean job environment.

Consider the student who majors in accounting: their mastery of accountancy is a given upon graduation. The ability to communicate, work well with others and a strong work ethic will make them stand out.

College students can build these marketable skills by obtaining paid part time work, internships (sophomore and junior year are ideal), leadership and participation in student organizations as well as volunteer work. Just as students built their resumes in high school for college applications they now have to build their resumes for the job market throughout college. College is a time for exploration; many a college student changes major and career interests as they explore the options open to them.

Still undecided? Keep in mind that many jobs that are now seen as commonplace did not exist 5 years ago—social media, forensic accounting and video gaming to name a few. In fact, 40% of the jobs being done in the country did not exist 10 years ago. It’s virtually impossible to predict where the jobs will be in 5 years. It’s all the ability to learn and be flexible in this fast changing world.

Written by: Susan Kennedy, Founder of Career Treking

Why everyone should consider a Gap Program

Special Gap Year Programs Benefit ManyGap year and gap semester programs have always been very popular in Europe and are quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. For some students, this hiatus from the lock step march through their academic careers provides a timely opportunity to tackle new challenges, pursue passions and become more self-confident, self-sufficient and self-aware through travel, work, study and community service. These benefits of a gap program are well-recited, but there are less obvious yet equally compelling reasons to take advantage of this experience.

Spray and Wear: One size fits all

Fashion in a Can: The Clothes you can Spray On Well, I usually like to keep my blogs more pressing and pertinent topics, but on this rainy Friday afternoon this piece in Forbes about sprayable clothes better held my attention than the more timely article about "How the ACTs have caught up with the SATs".

Just the idea of "spray and go" clothing makes me smile - no more worrying if the pants are too snug, the skirt too short, or the shirt the wrong color. Sprayable clothing opens a world of fashion possibilities. The best part for me -the inventor was probably one of those hard to teach kids who never followed the rules, thought outside the box, and walked to the proverbial beat of his own drum. And look where he is now. So, to all of you who are frustrated by children/students/friends who are insist on drawing outside the lines, know that one day they may find a solution to a problem you didn't even know you had. And get rich doing it.

College - Don't Go! (Yet)

Research Suggests a 'Gap Year' Motivates Students We are finding that the college seniors we work with are increasingly interested in taking a gap year before they go off to college. Recognizing either that they really aren't ready to take full advantage of their college experience or that this is a once in lifetime opportunity not to be missed, they are exploring possibilities from traveling around the country to volunteering abroad to working at the local pizza shop to save money for college expenses. Generally it's a good idea to try a few different things during that gap year rather than just one, but focus on experiences that will build confidence, teach skills, give broader exposure to the world, and create opportunities to explore interests.

Math that Everyone Could Use

Tufts Students Learn to Numbers Crunch At Tufts University, students are learning how to figure out credit card debt, decide whether it makes better sense to lease or to buy their new car, and even how to balance their checkbook. Designed for those non-math types, this seems like a course that would be valuable to anyone.

What does "class participation" really mean?

What\'s the Problem with Quiet Students? In the days when I was teaching high school English, I put considerable effort into making sure that my students were actively participating in my classes. It was what I was encouraged to do - students had to be joining in class discussions, offering their ideas and opions, to be engaged in their learning. Over time, it occured to me that this might not be the case for every student. Certainly there are those who, for myriad reasons, choose to sit quietly and listen. Grades bore no evidence that the quieter students were submitting work of inferior quality to those who couldn't put their hands down. So I backed off, found other ways to egnage the quieter students in classroom activities, and focused on creating a classroom where each individual's learning style was respected.

Is providing a low-cost, no-frills education the way to go?

The Olive Garden Theory of Higher Education If ever-increasing tuitions is putting the cost of higher education beyond the reach of the masses, perhaps paring down to the essentials as a way to make college accessible to the masses is an approach worth considering.

Making the Most of Your College Years Congratulations to the class of 2014! You've just started what many consider to be the best four years of your life - your undergraduate college years. While we hope that you will make your academic work the focus of your experience, be sure to take full advantage of all that your college has to offer, both within and beyond the walls of your classroom buildings.

We wish all of you the best of luck!!

The College Layette

Students, Welcome to College; Parents, Go Home A friend called me a few weeks ago to report that she had just finished buying all the pieces she needed for a layette. "For whom?" I inquired, anxiously, knowing that her youngest child was 12. "For Ben, of course" was the reply. I couldn't help but laugh - Ben is 18 years old and headed off to college this week. In just the way she had prepared for his arrival into this world, his college layette included all the sheets, towels, blankets and toiletries he would need to embark on his new life. The important difference being, of course, that his college layette is a gift of the things he needs to start his life away from her, and independent from her.

This moment of separation seems increasingly difficult for parents who aren't ready to say goodbye, even after they have moved their child into their freshman dorm room. Colleges vary in response to this separation anxiety in various ways but many are becoming increasingly clear about when it is time for the parents to leave and for the college to take over in its roles and responsibilities.

Ben is going to be just fine in college - his parents have spent 18 years teaching him how to be self-sufficient, independent, and self-confident. He will stumble, he will make bad choices, and he will recover. But, most importantly, he will do all these things without his parents looking over his shoulder because he can. And on really bad days, he'll have a nice blanket to wrap himself up in.

Williams is the best... or is it???

America's Best Colleges According to a new report by Forbes, Williams is the college that best meets students needs. Having just visited Williams last month, I can tell you that the campus is stunning, the facilities are state-of-the-art, the faculty are very impressive, and their Tutorials Program, based loosely on the tutorial style teaching at Oxford and Cambridge, make this a top-notch place to live and learn. It seems like a no-brainer to encouage students to apply here. And therein lies the rub of these one-size-fits-all rankings. While Forbes evaluated colleges based on ten factors including the students' rankings of their academic experiences, the amount of debt they incurred, their opportunities to distinguish themselves academically, and their ultimate career success, no one ranking can decide for an individual what school should be on the top of their list.

For example, for student looking for a lively weekend scene, the opportunities to be involved in Greek life, or the excitement of cheering on a Division 1 Football team, Williams would fall towards the bottom of the list. And there are other, much more subtle, distinctions between schools that prospective students should make. What type of students thrive here? What is the social/political climate? What does the school value? There are all questions that should be asked of any college, but are factors that will never be included on college ranking lists because there is no way to objectify this data.

So, congratulations to Williams College for ranking Number 1 on Forbes' Best Colleges in America List - you certainly are an outstanding liberal arts college in rural Massachusetts with a very strong math and science program. But, if for those looking for something different in their college experience, don't let Forbes create your college list for you.

Why it's important to learn how to think

Hearing the right notes from a job candidate With the rising price tag on college education and the tightening job market, parents are increasingly concerned about whether or not their son or daughter will be able to get a job upon graduation. Fair enough - with four-year tuition bills approaching the quarter of a million dollar mark, it's not unreasonable for parents to hope that their child will have the skills they need to land "a good job." However, many employers are looking beyond the bullet points on the resume and are asking job applicants questions that tap into their abilities to reason, problem-solve, and be creative. So, while some jobs do require a specific set of skills that can be acquired through course work, internships, and research projects, attractive job applicants also can demonstrate not just what they have learned in during their undergraduate experience, but how their college education, regardless of their course of study, has taught them to think.