We all want to be accepted. Accepted by friends, accepted by family and now, accepted by the colleges where you optimistically sent your applications a few months ago. April 1st, no joke, the envelopes are going to start filling your mailbox, and hopefully many will be big, fat letters of acceptance! While it feels nice to be wanted by a university or five, this situation presents its own challenges. You are now in the position of deciding exactly where you will spend the next four years of your life. These are no ordinary years. These are the years when you are transformed from a kid into an adult, when you will meet some amazing people, make life-long friends, choose a career path, and learn more than you thought was humanly possible. Deciding where to spend this time is serious business, but with some organized thought and a bit of self-reflection, you can make a choice that will lead you to the right school for you.
When you do find yourself in the enviable position of having to choose which college to attend, you may just find your anxiety levels on the rise. Anxiety can cause people to act a little irrationally, so try to be extra organized during the decision process. In an article in US News.com, one mother assisting her daughter to choose where to study suggested gathering all the information from the different colleges in one place. She went on to say, “We used spreadsheets, which helped to take some of the emotion out of the decision. We could see all the variables for each school right next to each other.”1 Lay out the school brochures side by side. Have all the information you need at your fingertips or pinned to a wall. Go back to the original list of attributes you might have used to select the schools you were applying to originally, and ponder again your options. What was important to you when choosing school options becomes even more important now. Go back to that list of priorities and again, revise it, study it, and understand why these where priorities in the first place; this will certainly help put things in perspective.
Things to review can be location, campus activities, academic programs, student/faculty ratios, financial aid offers, prestige, and so much more. Are you a city mouse or a country mouse? Country mouse? Just how happy would you be spending the next four years in the heart of a bustling metropolis? And vice-versa. If you love city living, avoid the rural campuses. You will also need to consider just how far from the family home you’re willing to wander. If you know you can’t survive a Sunday without Mom’s roast dinner, make sure you opt for the campus in the next town, not on the opposite coast. However, if you see heading off to college as your chance to spread your wings, then you may just find that school in a different state is calling your name. Another question you will need to ask yourself is what kind of crowds you can handle. Will you be more comfy getting lost in the crowds of a huge campus, or do you prefer the more intimate settings of a small college?
Once you’ve established your preference for general vicinity and campus size, you need to think about what the school its self has to offer you. If you are dead-set on a particular major, you will obviously want to study someplace that has a reputable department in your chosen field. Many students may have an idea of what they want to be when they grow up, but are open to discovering new possibilities. If this sounds like you, you may want to choose a larger college as it should be able to offer you a wider variety of majors and classes. While you are scrutinizing what academic advantages are on offer, don’t forget to research each school’s extracurricular activities. If you have a particular passion outside the classroom, make sure you find a campus with like-minded enthusiasts.
These days you can garner so much information about a college without ever leaving your favorite chair. Brochures and the Internet are wonderful sources of facts, but the best way to truly know if you’re going to be happy at a certain college is to visit the campus. Of course, this is not always manageable, but if you can possibly arrange a visit, do it! Try to visit during term time to get a real feeling of what campus life is like. Can you picture yourself here for the next four years, or does it feel uncomfortable and foreign? You may want to bring a friend or even a parent for objective feedback.
The reasons for choosing one school over another are myriad, but one pitfall to studiously avoid is basing your decision on where your friends are going; worse yet, enrolling in a school because that’s where your boyfriend/girlfriend has decided to go. Your friends and loved ones are very important, but they should never be the deciding factor for where you will attend university. Choose your school based on what is best for you, not on your attachment to others.
Of course, the final decision lies with you, so spend the next few weeks talking it over with people who know you. Ask your teachers, school counselors and, definitely ask your parents what they think. Seeing as they are probably going to be providing most of the financial backing for this great venture, you really need to include your parents in the process. As a family you will want to look at costs, financial aid offers and scholarships. While top private universities like Harvard and Columbia are enticing, their fees could be prohibitive for some. If this is your case and if you manage to ignore the lure of Ivy League and consider other alternatives, attending a top public school (otherwise called the “Public Ivies”) like University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, or University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among many others, you can save yourself (and your parents) hundreds of thousands of dollars. Knowing that you will not spend the bulk of your working life paying off college debts can be a strong persuader when choosing a school.
The decision is tough. However, there is something good to be said about it… The schools that accepted you most surely found that you have a great fit with their environment and what they had to offer. So it’s mutual, you like them and they like you; they think you will be successful there, that’s why they accepted you. This is a great start. At this point, you are ahead and there is a great chance that you will thrive in the next step of your life, if you have the right attitude towards your studies and making the best out of this opportunity.
With great deliberation and endless discussion, you will eventually whittle your choices down to one. If you are like most students, once you have accepted your place at a college, you will wonder if you really made the right choice. The answer is, ‘yes’! Oh sure, there will be bad days, and classes you hate, and boring professors, but you will find these annoyances wherever you go. By the time you have selected your place of study, you will have given it serious thought, spent hours in self-reflection, spoken to people who count, and weighed your options. Pat yourself on the back. You have followed all the right steps towards making an educated decision and now you are ready to go make the next four years the best experience of your life.
1 Mayfield, Julie and Lindsey. 7 Tips to Make a College Decision as a Family. USNews.com (24/03/12)
You are a unique human being with a story to tell. You are more than just the application forms you have sent out to college admissions offices. You are you and there is only one real way to separate yourself from the thousands of other college applicants – attend an interview. Not all colleges offer interviews, but if you have been asked to attend one, be sure to accept the invitation graciously. If your preferred college does not offer formal interviews, try to arrange an informal chat session with either someone in admissions or in the department where you hope to study, and then start preparing to stand out in the crowd.
Every year, college admissions offices receive thousands upon thousands of applications. Most of these are comprised of impressive transcripts, high test scores, and cleverly composed essays. But there is so much more to a student than what appears on the standard application. The college interview allows you to show your true personality, and it helps both you and the admissions officer decide if you and the school are well matched. When you attend an interview, not only are they learning about you, but this is your chance to learn more about the school.
The key to a successful interview is to prepare then practice, practice, practice. The Internet has a plethora of websites listing the questions you are most likely to be asked. Bear in mind that you have not been invited to the interview to be tested, proven wrong or embarrassed. You shouldn’t feel nervous (easier said than done!), but you also don’t want to be so relaxed you neglect to take it seriously. As soon as you have been invited to attend an interview, make a list of possible questions, write out the answers and practice with anyone who is willing to help. Ask whoever is “interviewing” you to provide constructive feedback. Are you making eye contact? Do you say “Um” at the start of every sentence? Have you answered a question clearly? Are you too stiff? The more you practice, the less nervous you feel and the more impressive you will appear during the interview.
The first thing you will probably be asked is, “Walk me through your résumé.” Your answer should take no more than 3 to 5 minutes. They will expect you to describe your achievements in reverse chronological order, starting from your most recent accomplishment and working back in time. Before attending the interview, be sure to review your application essay as you may be asked to talk about the content. There is also a good chance you will be asked a “situational” question (“Tell me about a time when…”) and this should be answered using the STAR methodology. First describe the Situation you found yourself in, then talk about the Task or plan you conceived to deal with the situation. Next describe the Action you took and then finish with the Result.
The interview will last 30 to 60 minutes (try to avoid watching the clock!) and then it will be your turn to ask some questions. Do your research, learn everything you can about the school, then prepare three questions that show that you have put some thought into the matter. This is your chance to prove that you know enough about the school to know it is a good fit for you and you are interested in learning more. Make your questions thoughtful and specific. Take this opportunity to learn new information that is not provided in the catalogue or on the website. You will not only discover more about the school, but you will definitely impress your interviewer.
A college interview, though it may seem a bit daunting, is actually a wonderful opportunity to shine. Unless you are a painfully shy person and you know that you will crumble in this situation, make the most of your interview to show the school that you are a perfect fit. This is the time to tell your story, show that you are serious about attending the school and convey your best qualities. Be sure to dress well, arrive on time, be confident but not boastful, and always be polite. After the interview, you may even want to send a thank you note. Though it does not always guarantee you a letter of acceptance, the college interview can be the deciding factor for the powers that be. This could be the most important 30-60 minutes of your life. Go in prepared and well-practiced and take this opportunity to stand out in the crowd and talk your way into the college of your choice.
With the beginning of a new year, we make resolutions, think of our goals towards the future and hope for great things to come. One of the tools to make all things happen is a resume. It is a professional way to present ourselves and help others understand our added value to a company, an organization or any entity. It allows us to portray our assets and provide an account of our achievements. A good time to update this resume is in the new year.
Why should we update our resume? If it seems gruesome at this moment to work on remembering all our achievements for the year, imagine six months later, or a year later. Unless you have an outstanding memory, I don’t encourage you to have to remember details a year from now, when you will be recounting what you did in the last two-three years. Finding time to do this will also ensure that the work you will need to complete is just an update, or a facelift of what you used to have. When not keeping an updated resume, you risk having to redo the entire document, at a much higher time and effort cost.
Thinking on your resume also can provide perspective on what you need to accomplish this year to achieve your goals. Understanding yourself professionally seems easier when the information is written, thus, we get a better picture of where we stand currently and where we are going. Sometimes, we see how our career transgression has been not as stable as we would like it to be, and we develop new goals from this thought process.
Having something to look forward to is also important when considering to update our resume. We are ready on the go, as opposed to having to ask someone to wait until we produce the resume. During the year, you might find opportunities and will be readily available to apply if you have updated your resume.
Be prepared for positive change, be proactive and take charge of your situation, to achieve the goals this year. All this can start with an updated resume.
Finding the Perfect Match Between Demand, Skill and Interest
By Claudine Vainrub, MBA
If you are unemployed, a student, or at a time in your life when you are in doubt of your current career path, the time could be right to make a bold move in a new direction. Finding a new career path can be advantageous to you, if you pursue this change with a methodology. In the last few years, many professions have suffered from a recruiting draught while others continue soaring in offers. Often times, I hear CEO’s and corporate decision makers expressing frustration in not finding employees for their openings. The smart thing to do if you are thinking of making that career change is to look closely at the market and draw conclusions.
How do we look at the market and determine which careers are in need of employees? My best friend for these types of searches is Google. We conduct a query on careers in most demand and get 65 million responses! Some of my favorite lists and information for are at U.S. News’ Best Careers for the Year rankings, the Top In-Demand Careers by Yahoo and also 25 Top Jobs by Fast Company. These sites can provide an idea of what options we have. We should look into several of these lists and compare results, ensuring that if we are attracted to a specific career, that it is truly one in demand, as listed in several sources, and not just one.
Although for some this can be obvious, we need to mention that choosing a career cannot be solely a decision we make based on a list. Taking a look at lists of jobs in demand helps us make moves that will stand a better chance of success, in terms of finding a job once we make the transition. However, skills and interest assessments are as important. It would be a great failure to get into a field for which we have little skill or interest just because it is one in demand. We need to find that combination of job demand, passion for the specific field, and skill, which will enable us not only to become good at our new profession, but also devoted to it, as it is interesting to us. Our career becomes our life, as we are drawn to learn more, have it constantly in our mind not out of force but out of real curiosity and fascination.
If these concepts seem a bit unreal, dreamy, and out of tune with reality, it is because you have not yet found the one specific profession that does this for you. There is one or sometimes more than one discipline that will interest us so much that we will want to be in tune with it at any time. It is the one thing that will keep us working until the wee hours of the night, or even wake us up in the middle of the night with an idea that will get us out of bed and into the writing board. Seems ideal, but often times, it is not too clear which is this one right career choice that will entice us to grow exponentially.
How can we find this special interest of ours? One way is to use Personal Branding. This methodology allows us to understand skills, values and passions, our SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), attributes, best roles, and especially, what is our career goal. We define a vision, mission and unique promise of value, and in the process, we are able to distinguish the career path we are seeking. We can also use career assessments, such as the Career Liftoff Inventory and the Self-Directed Search (SDS), by John Holland, among others, to assess interests. The Work Behavior Inventory Assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Assessment can provide feedback on personality types and traits that will allow you to work better in one certain environment over another.
Think Strategically… Although it is a tough job market, with strategy and in-depth analysis on your interests and strongest skills, the right time for a career change can be today.