How To Approach College Admissions After the Scandal

My Ideal College shares how to approach college admissions after the scandal.

It’s been a week since the college admissions scandal first made the news. When I first heard about it, I didn’t want to believe it. I thought something can’t be right. I couldn’t imagine actresses like Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin would bribe and cheat to get their kids into college.

Then I heard about the recordings and what was documented from them.  I realized this was true. Was I shocked this happened? No, but typically parents would give a large donation to a college to ensure their child’s admittance to a specific college. While technically it’s legal, it’s still not ethically right to do. But as I have learned college is a business, and they need to make money.

Now more in-depth investigations start, lawsuits abound, and parents and high school kids are left wondering what do we do now. Most likely there will be some changes made to the college admissions process.

Parents, I know some of you have your heart set on your child going to your alma mater or another school because of its name. But guess what? It’s not about what you want, it’s what’s best for your child.

One of my favorite articles to come out of this scandal is from NPR, “Does it Matter Where You Go to College?” In the article, they site Gallup research that found college selectivity did not correlate at all with later satisfaction in work or fulfillment in life. As NPR reported in 2014, “Those percentages did not vary based on whether the grads went to a fancy name-brand school or a regional state college, one of the top 100 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings or one of the bottom 100.”

Forcing your child into a path that is not their own will only lead to anxiety, frustration, dropping out, and possibly debt. College is stressful enough without the pressure from their parents. You can check out my article about college stress here.

In my interview last fall with a Linda Dennis, a college application specialist, she shared that kids who declare a major in the application process and show they have already taken steps towards that career can have an advantage. It shows they are serious about that career. In light of the scandal, I think this will play a more significant role in the college admissions process. Colleges will be paying closer attention to why the child wants to attend their school. It’s transitioning to more than just the overall reputation of the school but how the specific major will help them towards a career.

Some kids determine from an early age what their career path will be and they go for it. Most kids have no idea what they want to do. You may be thinking, how can a teenager determine what career they want, since their interests change so much at this time? This is not true. In each of us, there are inherent traits and interests that are well formed by high school age. It may seem the child’s interests change because they can only identify those interests through their experiences. A good career assessment can help identify those traits that kids may not necessarily be aware they have or able to process those traits into actual jobs.

What are your thoughts on the college admissions scandal? How has it changed your thinking about your child’s future? Tell us in the comments below.

My Child’s Journey – The How and Why of His Career Results

The past few weeks, I have been sharing my child’s journey to find his ideal college. I started with what his dad and I thought would be jobs he might find enjoyable and fulfilling. I also listened carefully to his ideas. Next, I had him take the Harrison Assessment. He is 16 and this is his first time taking an assessment like this.  Certainly, he is still growing and changing, but the results were consistent enough to process and produce a valid report.  

The difference between what careers we thought would be a good fit and the assessment results.

The image here shows what careers we thought might fit him before the assessment and then what the assessment told us. Wow, what a difference, right? Something with computers and music seem to be the closest match. However, I don’t think Donnie or I would have considered, on our own, these potential careers for him.         

Let’s look deeper at why the assessment picked these careers for Donnie and why the others would not have been a good fit. In my last blog, I mentioned that research shows if your job contains at least 75% of what you naturally like to do, you will be THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL in that job or career. That is what this career assessment, Harrison Assessments, measures – career enjoyment and behavioral preferences based on enjoyment.

Teacher and Chef were rated at below 20% enjoyment. One of the main reasons is because while Donnie is good with kids and likes cooking, he has no desire to be around kids or food for 40 plus hours a week. Being around kids and food are essential factors to being successful in those roles.

Something with computers is a very broad career interest. There are many careers in sales, quality assurance, testing, fixing, etc. Donnie mentioned he would be interested in majoring in computer science and doing the same type of work his dad does, which is a Computer Support Specialist. Donnie scored an overall enjoyment score of 67.2%, while being a Sound Equipment Technician had an overall enjoyment score of 81.1%. Both require an enjoyment of computers, but what makes the difference in scores? It’s the additional traits that are essential to being successful in the role.

Many career assessments are just interest based. This means they only focus on what the person likes to do. They only ask questions like, “check the activities that describe what you like to do.” That is just one piece of the puzzle in deciding the best job for your child. The other very important piece is traits needed for that career. Traits are comprised of personality, attitude, motivation, work values, team vs. autonomous work, communication, authority expectations, and interpersonal skills.

What are some of the essential traits for a Computer Support Specialist and a Sound Equipment Technician?

As you can see in the image, the essential traits for each role are fairly different. The only overlaps are Analytical and Takes Initiative. How do we know these are essential traits for these roles? Because the key criteria for each role is based on research Harrison has done over the past 30 years on what leads to success in hundreds of different jobs.  Each role has been researched by high, mid, and low performers in those roles.

Now that we have pinpointed some careers for Donnie, the next step is to research the outlook for this career, salary, and where he would find this type of work. Would he have to move somewhere he doesn’t want to live? All of these are deciding factors in choosing a career.

Would you like to find out which careers would give your child the most enjoyment?  Contact us to learn more at

My Child’s Journey to His Ideal College – The Results

Deciding the best career for your child is the first step in picking a college.

Last week I shared that I have a 15-year-old son, Donnie, whom we are trying to help find his ideal college. I shared my stories of the different activities and interests we have provided him to help see where his interests lie. I am sure as a parent you have done the same as well. You can click here if you missed that blog. 

After years of providing different experiences, I could see Donnie as a teacher, chef, photographer, maybe something in music, or something with computers.

How do we pick the right career with such a wide range of interests? Even if we just focus on computers, there are so many different jobs. The job Donnie would truly enjoy may not require a computer science degree.

I had Donnie take the career assessment that I have all my clients take to help them identify careers they will enjoy.

Research shows that if your job contains at least 75% of what you naturally like to do, you will be THREE TIMES MORE SUCCESSFUL.

When you see that statement, it makes perfect sense. They only way to find those jobs is to take an assessment. You are not going to find it just by talking with people. The assessment I use, Harrison Assessments, is able to match people to jobs based on this research.

So what jobs did the assessment match Donnie to? His top four jobs are:

  1. Sound Equipment Technician
  2. Multi Media Production Specialist
  3. Lighting Technician
  4. Film Editor

Donnie’s natural interests fit best with these jobs. Each of the jobs listed are researched by people in those roles. We know what traits are needed to be successful in those roles and traits that might derail success. It’s all researched, backed information.

I might have said being a film editor would be something for Donnie to pursue without taking the assessment based on the one class project I mentioned in the last blog. I never would have guessed the other three jobs the assessment picked for him. How could I if he never had any kind of experience or activities in those areas?

Guess what his scores were for the jobs like teacher and chef? They were in the 20% range of him actually enjoying those jobs. I don’t want to even think about the money I could have wasted if he pursued education in those fields. No doubt, after a year or two, Donnie would say, “Mom, I hate studying to be a teacher (or chef). I can’t imagine having a career in it.”

In my next blog, I will share Donnie’s specific traits that matched well for his identified careers and why teacher and chef were not good matches for him. What traits does your child have that you think would lend well to a specific career?  Tell us in the comments below.

A Career Decision That Turned into $80,000 in Debt

Career decision that turned into $80,000 in debt.

A parent shared with me that her first child, John, always wanted to be an anesthesiologist. Ever since he was in middle school, John was sure that was the career he wanted. The parents felt confident about his choice because that was what he wanted to do for so many years. So, their son went to college to be an anesthesiologist. But, a couple years into college, he realized he didn’t like anesthesiology. There were parts of the studies and the career John didn’t love. He just wasn’t interested in pursuing it anymore. He had a side job in sales that he really liked and decided to change his major to business. John now has a career in sales that he loves but is in $80,000 in college debt from starting his path in anesthesiology.

This parent contacted me because they wanted to make sure they didn’t make the same mistake with their second son.

How can you as a parent help your child avoid the same mistake? When they say, “I know what I want my career to be in. I am sure of it.” How can you feel more assured of their decision? Here are some easy tips for you:

  • Tip 1: Have your child talk to people currently working in their career of interest. This is an excellent opportunity for your child to find out what it’s like to work in that field. They can find out the schooling required, what a typical day is like, and tasks that are part of the job that they may not like so much. I recently connected a student interested in voiceover acting with someone in that field. It turns out there is a voice actor convention in a few weeks where she can attend and learn more.
  • Tip 2: Find out what courses are required to achieve a degree in that major. If John had done that, he would have realized much sooner that he didn’t want to be an anesthesiologist and wouldn’t be $80,000 in debt.
  • Tip 3: Have your child take a career assessment. This is very beneficial for kids who have no idea what they want to do, or if you want to make sure your child is picking a career they will enjoy.  There are many different career assessments. You want to make sure your child takes one that is linked to data based on actual jobs.  Contact me at if you want to learn more about using a career assessment to help your child.

In the end, your child’s career decision may stay the same, and that is great. You will have more confidence in their education and career path.  After following these tips, your child may decide they want to pursue a different career that is more aligned with what they naturally like to do. This is great news because you potentially saved yourself and your child future debt from heading down the wrong path.

It’s a win-win situation.

Does your child a have an interest in a career but doesn’t know anyone in that field? Feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to try to help connect them with a professional in their area of interest.

How You Are Sabotaging Your Teenager’s Success

Last week I shared ways to help your teenager take more initiative through my interview with Meg Lee. Meg has 20+ years working in all levels of public education and is a co-author of Mindsets for Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. You can click here if you missed that blog.

How parents sabotoge their teenagers success.

In my discussion with Meg about how to help my boys, I realized there are some ways I am unconsciously sabotaging my teenager’s ability to take initiative.

Here is what I learned from Meg. Often when kids are very shy and lack initiative they have experienced a lot of over-supporting from home.  It is worthwhile for parents or guardians to take stock and really consider…

  • Do I speak for the child? 
  • Do I give him or her enough time to answer before I do it? 
  • Have I always been a safe fallback when the child didn’t take care of something himself or herself? 

While it is not easy to start releasing control when a child is a teen, it is necessary and important to do so.  Meg advises parents to have a conversation with the child and say, “I’ve been speaking for you sometimes when I should have waited and let you say what you thought, so I am going to be mindful of this and try to do better.  Let’s brainstorm together some of those times when it is difficult to know what to say and I’ll talk you through them so that you can handle them on your own when it happens again.”

I took Meg’s advice and had a discussion with my teenager. In our discussion, I found out that my child was frustrated when I did speak for him at times. I would jump in because I knew the answer right away when all he needed was a little more time to process the information. We also talked through a discussion he needs to have with one of his teachers that he was resisting.

Having initiative is a key skill in life. It’s a trait in almost every single job out there. If your child doesn’t have a certain level of initiative, it will hamper their success in most careers.

Here is one last tip from Meg that I want to share. She is an advocate for no screens and no headphones in the car. Why? Because the car is one place where kids tend to open up and have conversations… provided that we don’t allow them to whittle the time away playing a game or watching a show on their phones.  In the hustle and bustle of family life, having a sacred “no screens” zone in the car is a way to build peaceful time to be together.  Or be bored… which is also a good thing for the growing brain!

What do you think of the no screens or headphones in the car? Tell us in the comments.

The Best Way To Work With The High School Guidance Counselor

Last week, I talked about how it’s not the guidance counselor’s responsibility to fully prepare your child about their future.  It’s the parent’s responsibility. You can click here to read the blog if you missed it. I did have one parent comment that it’s the child’s and parent’s responsibility. I fully agree, but as parents we have to sometimes provide our children with advice on how to move forward. Especially if they have no idea on what they want to do for their future.

Guidance counselors can provide great insights to help your child's future.

One way to guide your child is to have them reach out to their guidance counselor. They can share resources, provide insights about some options, and make sure your child stays on track to graduate. The guidance counselor wants your child to succeed.

Encourage your child to start meeting with their guidance counselor in their freshman year of high school and then meet another 2 – 3 times throughout the school year. The counselor will be able to provide the best guidance, the better they get to know your student.

Before your child has a meeting with the guidance counselor, have them formulate the questions they want to ask. Here are some possible questions:

  • What’s the best way to plan my high school courses for the college I want to attend?
  • What career tools does our school offer?
  • When is the PSAT scheduled? What study services does our school offer?
  • When do I need to consider dual enrollment?
  • Would dual enrollment be a right fit for me?
  • When and where are college fairs offered?
  • Does our school provide college tours? When?
  • What are the best schools for the career I want to go into?

Encouraging your child to meet with their guidance counselor not only provides support, but also encourages them to start thinking and taking ownership of their future

Parents, make sure to attend any parent nights at your child’s high school. They give key information about graduation requirements, testing dates, college fairs, and more. Also, check out your school’s guidance counselor page on the school’s website. It can include key dates and reminders.

If you are interested in knowing more about dual enrollment, check out my series of blog posts about it. Our local high school guidance counselors provided great insights into what to consider and how to determine if it’s a right choice for your child. You can click on each link to go to the specific blog.

What questions do you have for a school guidance counselor? Post in the comments below.

College is not always the best option for child. Learn how to explore other options.

What To Do When Your Child Isn’t “College Material”

College is not always the best option for child. Learn how to explore other options.

I am in a Facebook group for my local school district. Parents and teachers post items ranging from promoting school events to asking various questions. While most posts get a good number of comments and likes, there was one that got the most I have ever seen – a total of 178 comments so far and still growing. Here is what the mom posted:

“My child has no academic desire. I realize school isn’t their “thing.” What are trades do your kids do? Where do they work? Are they happy?”

This mom is not alone as seen by the many comments written for the post. Her questions are ones that many parents have. Just because your child isn’t “made for college” does not mean they won’t have a happy, fulfilling career. They are good, well-mannered kids who have a different path.

There are kids who go to college because it’s what we expect, then realize maybe they didn’t pick the right path. This is why 30% of kids change their major in the first three years of college and why 40% go to  college for 6 years and don’t even earn a college degree.

I understand why many of us have the mentality that our kids must go to college. That was what was expected when I was growing up. The pathis you go college right after high school. However, times have changed:

  • For some kids going to college is right for them
  • There are also many trade jobs that need to be filled and pay good money
  • There are teenage entrepreneurs who already run a successful business

The point is there are many options. We all have our unique path. It’s no longer the mentality of you must go to college after high school. My son is talking about taking a gap year. This concept of a gap year was unheard of in my teenage years. If you search the internet, you will find many successful people who never graduated from college – Ellen DeGeneres, TedTurner, Mary Kay Ash, Jay Z, and yes, even Steve Jobs. Click herefor a list of 100 successful people without college degrees.

What I loved about the Facebook post is that the momrealized that they needed to create a plan: if not college then what? Benjamin Franklin said

“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

This is very true when it comes to your child’s future. It’s our responsibility as parents to help our kids find their path. If we don’t help them plan, they will float through life trying to find their “passion.” Some may say that is just a part of life. But this could also mean that your child is still living at home at age 30 with college debt. I think many parents do not want this for their child or themselves.

Here are some steps to help your child plan:

  • Take a career assessment – This is a fast-pass way to help your child narrow their choices. There many free ones out there. Most importantly, make sure you use one that can accurately match your child to the careers that are the best fit for their natural traits, tendencies, and preferences – like the one I use. You can click here to see sample reports.
  • Write out action steps – once you narrow down the career choices, write action steps to move them towards a specific path. Steps may include talk to people in the career, find out the job outlook for that career, identify the education path for that careers, etc.

You can check out my other blogs about different options – Why Trade School is a Viable Option For Your Child and Tips for Avoiding the Costly Effects of Changing Majors.

As a parent, I know that sometimes our kids have a difficult time listening to us. That is one reason why many parents come to me for help. Kids will listen to advice better from someone else than their own parent. Even if it’s the exact same advice. Click here to schedule a strategy session with me. We can talk about your challenges in how to help your child plan their “ideal college.”

Are the highest paying jobs the best path to success

Are the Highest Paying Jobs The Best Path to Success?

Our kids are in high school and we know we need to have them get serious and answer this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As parents, it’s our responsibility to guide our kids in thinking about what they like to do. We may start searching the internet and read articles with titles like “The Best High Paying Jobs for the Future” or “High Paying Jobs Without a College Degree.” The lure of a high salary can be a driving factor but, like any job, there are pros and cons. It makes me think of thephrase “nothing in life is for free.” The same applies here. The job may pay ahigh salary but there is a reason for that high salary.

An air traffic controller’s annual salary is $122,000. On the surface, it sounds great. $122,000 a year to sit in a room and direct places where to go. Yet, being an air traffic controller has been named one of the most stressful jobs to have. Why? Because air traffic controllers have the responsibility of juggling various planes landing, taxing and taking off at the airport. One wrong move puts people’s lives on the line. Bad weather adds to the complexity and stress of the job. For some people, they would see these challenges as invigorating. While others are thinking the stress is not worth the money.

Are the highest paying jobs the best path to success

My friend, Sam, became a lawyer. The average lawyer makes $118,000 a year. The salary and excitement of being in a courtroom and defending people for their rights is what drove him to this career. While he did enjoy the salary, what he didn’t realize is that lawyers actually spend very little time in the courtroom. Most of the work a lawyer does is mundane tasks such as researching and preparing legal documents. Also, most lawyers make themselves available to their client 24/7. Because of the mundane work and overtime, the salary was not worth it to him and he changed careers.

There are many jobs out there that pay well but have downsides. You might enjoy reading this article: “You Will Hate These Jobs But Love the Money.” There are jobs in this article that I never knew existed. For example, a Deer Urine Farmer. I bet you can guess why someone would hate that job but also why it’s one of the highest paying jobs.

As your kids identify potential careers, encourage them to make a pros and cons list. What parts will they like about the job? And what parts of the job will they not like? They can search the internet for the pros and cons. Encourage them to talk to people in the field. If the cons outweigh the pros, then the career might not be a good fit and not a good investment of your money for education.

Have you changed careers? What were the downsides, like my friend, Sam, that you didn’t realize until you were in it that forced you to make the change? Tell us in the comments.

What to do when your child wants a gap year

What To Do When Your Child Wants a Gap Year

What to do when your child wants a gap year.

A friend of mine recently told me that his senior high-school student declared he wanted to take a gap year. The dad asked, “What are you going to do in that year?” The son replied he wants to go live with this brother in Colorado. The father then asked a series of questions like “What are you going to do when you are there?” and “How are you going to get there?” The son had no firm answers.

I talked to a mom who has a son in his junior year in college. Like many college students, he realized he didn’t like the major he picked and now doesn’t know what he wants to do. Her son is considering taking a gap year to figure things out.  

With hearing more kids talk about doing this, it got me thinking, what exactly is a gap year? Does a child see it as a year to goof off and put off the inevitable of having to go to college or technical school?

The Gap Year Association defines a gap year as, “A semester or year of experiential learning, typically taken after high school and prior to career or post-secondary education, in order to deepen one’s practical, professional, and personal awareness.”

According to Hagler and Nelson, authors of The Gap Year Advantage, there are two main reasons why kids say they want a gap year:

  • Burnout from the competitive pressure of high school
  • Desire to find out more about themselves

What should you do if your child says they want to take a gap year?

Have a conversation – try to find out the underlying reasons why a child says they want to take a gap year. Here are some possible scenarios I have found in working with my clients:

  • The thoughts of going to a big school is overwhelming to them
  • They are scared because they see all their friends knowing what they want to do for their future and they have no idea
  • They fear they will apply and not get accepted anywhere
  • They have anxiety about the thought of having to pick a career and don’t know what options are right for them

Once you have identified the underlying reasons, you can create a better plan of action. Take a look at my blog post High School Students: These Four Questions Can Help You Determine a Career Path to help them determine a career path. If a technical school is more in line for them, check out my blog  Why Trade School is a Viable Option for Your Child.

Would you prefer to talk to someone about how to help your child? Schedule some time with me by clicking here or give me a call at 678-761-3550. I would be happy to provide a free strategy session to help you determine the best plan of action for your child.

An Insider’s Guide to College Campus Tours

How am I an insider? A little-known fact about me: I am a retired college campus tour guide. That’s me circled with my fellow tour guides, known as the Ambassadors.

The Ambassadors were group of students who had many different responsibilities around college campus including serving as hosts at special functions, making alumni donation calls, and one of my favorites, giving campus tours. I walked prospective students and their parents around the campus and told them all about the school I loved. I would show them the buildings for the different majors, the gym, library, dining hall, common area, dorms, etc. As Ambassadors, we had scripts we would follow, as well as answer any questions. I still remember the biggest question I would get asked, “Where is the beach?” Our school tag line was “UNC by the Sea” yet the beach was 10+ miles away.

Prepare your questions ahead of time – You don’t want to leave a college campus tour saying “I wished I had asked about X.” Think of the questions you want to ask ahead of time and write them down. Both you and your child should do this. I am sure your questions will be different. 

Visit the school at night and on weekends – What is the atmosphere like around the college campus? Is there are lot of noise and partying? Is everyone in the library studying? Are there lots of people walking around or is it desolate? Is campus security around? You can ask these questions during a tour but also take a look yourself to get the real answer.

Ask to sit in on a class or two – This could be a general class and/or one in the major your child is interested in. This is a great opportunity to see teaching styles, interaction with students, class size, questions that are asked, etc.

Schedule time with a professor – This is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about expectations of students, workload, the best way to communicate, how often they are available, etc. If your child knows what they want to major in, they should definitely do this.

Preparing ahead, planning the questions you want to ask, and making appointments with the people you want to see will provide you with a fuller understanding of campus life for schools your child is interested in. Comment below with additional questions you may have or tour tips you’d like to share.

Is your child still unsure about what they want to major in? Being undecided can impact the years they are in school and how much money comes out of your wallet. Set up a complimentary strategy session to ask your questions so we can help. Click here to set up a time or give us a call at 678-761-3550.