How To Decide If College is Right for Your Teen

I’m Not Forcing My Kid to Go to College

During my commute this morning, I was listening to a local radio show. Typically, I only half pay attention to it as I’m driving. BUT, this morning they were talking about a subject that made me pull over and dial in.

The host, Bert Weiss, shared that many of his friends are talking their kids OUT of going to college. This concept was mind-blowing for Bert. He had never thought about it because, like many of us, we were told, “you are going to college!”

Bert said there seems to be a trend of parents really taking a look at their kids and what they want to do in life. One of the hosts then mockingly said, “because I don’t want to pay for it.” This is the statement that made me pull off the freeway to call in.

While I wasn’t able to get through to talk to the hosts, here is what I would have said….

It isn’t about not wanting to pay for college. It’s about, do you have to? Parents are starting to take a hard look at the numbers:

  • Almost 40% of students who start college never graduate with degrees.
  • Six years is the current measurement standard for getting a four-year degree.
  • Unemployment and underemployment rates for college graduates is at an all-time high.
  • Total student loan debt is over 1.5 trillion dollars.
  • Over 30% of student debt is past due or under forbearance, accumulating crushing interest.

So yes, as a parent, I am going to take a closer look at what the options are for my teen to get an education.

Think about when you bought your home. You didn’t just look at a couple of houses and purchased one. You probably spent hundreds of hours looking online, then many weekends touring different ones. Why did you do this? Because buying house is a HUGE investment.

College is a HUGE investment of time and money! Parents and teens need to treat it like you are buying a house. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Help your teen identify careers they are interested in.
  2. Find out the job outlook and salary of those careers.
  3. Research the education needed for those careers. There are companies that are no longer requiring a university degree for some of their top jobs.
  4. Pick the best option for your teen.

Of course, each of these steps has more to them for you to map out. Go to my website and get my free action plan to help keep track.

You can click here if you are interested in listening to the whole discussion on the Bert Show about this topic.

My Ideal College shares how to help your teen through the college process

Are you guiding your teen in the right direction?

I recently had a worried mom, Ruth, reach out to me. She said “Our daughter Hasana is a junior at UGA. She says she hates her classes and wants to drop out. We want her to get her degree, but we are at a loss on how to help her. We have already invested thousands of dollars into her college education.”

As a parent, I felt my stomach turn. No parent wants to hear this from their kid. All the hours and MONEY! spent finding and applying to colleges. You thought you set your teen up for success.

I spoke with Hasana. She. shared with me that her parents wanted her to get a degree in computer science. Her dad is a network engineer. There are many jobs in that field, and the salary is good. So, Hasana decided to pursue that career. However, after she started college and began taking classes, she realized she really didn’t like working with computers that much. Quite frankly, she was miserable and feeling very lost. Hasana also felt like she was letting her parents down.

As parents, we have the best of intentions with our teens. It’s our responsibility to help guide and teach them to become responsible adults who can live on their own and work in a career that they thrive in. However, our good intentions and guidance may be doing more harm than good.

How can you avoid the struggle and overwhelming stress Hasana and her parents are experiencing? Here are some tips:

  • Say to your teen, “Be honest with me. Do you feel like I am pushing you in a direction that you don’t feel is right for you?”
  • Make sure to pause after you ask this question. Give them time to process. If they say yes, then…
    • Talk with them about why, specifically, they don’t like the career path.
    • Ask what careers are they interested in and why? Keep an open mind, and don’t dismiss a career because you perceive it to not be fruitful.
    • Work with your kid to research the job outlook and salary of those careers. Get a clear idea of what the future and path is for those careers.
    • Find professionals in that field for your teen to have an informational interview with to learn more about the career. Many professions have organizations that you can contact for referrals.

Hasana’s mom shared that working with me really opened her eyes. She had no idea how much she and her husband were pushing their daughter in a path she really didn’t want. Getting a degree was something that was very important for Hasana’s mom and dad. Now, they are open to other options and degrees. Their relationship with their daughter is better too, now that they have more open conversations about the path she wants to take.

Could you use more guidance on how to get your teen on the right path? Email me at laurie@myidealcollege.org to set up a complimentary strategy session.

Picking a college is like Disney+

How Picking a College is Like Disney+

Picking a college is like Disney+

I have been waiting for months for this week to come. The launch of Disney+! Opening the app on my TV felt like I was opening a present on Christmas morning. All the movies that have been in the Disney “vault” were finally at my disposal – Mary Poppins, Dumbo, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. OH MY! I was so excited that I posted about it on Facebook.

Then guess what happened….

I froze. I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t decide. I spent a good 30 minutes just delving into the app to see what was there. I would start a movie but then decided I wanted to watch something else and then I would switch again.

There were too many options. I had so many interests that it was hard for me to decide which movie or show to watch.

Does your teen feel this way about their future? They know at some point, they need to make a decision about what to do after high school.  But they have so many interests, and there are too many options for careers (some they may not even be aware of). It’s all just so overwhelming.

Some teens have their career and life plan figured out, but they are in the minority. Research shows that one out every ten students will change their major at least three times. I hear the sounds of money being flushed down the drain when this happens.

So how can you help your teen feel not so overwhelmed and keep your money from going down the toilet?

Ask your teen these questions:

  • What are your favorite subjects, and why?
  • What classes do you wish were offered, and why?
  • Do you find joy working outside or in an office?

By answering these three questions, your child can start googling jobs that incorporate their interests. For example, they could search jobs that include math and working outdoors. It gives them a starting point to find out if it’s something they want to pursue.

We’re here to help you and your child choose the right career path and major the first time around and avoid flushing money down the drain.  Contact us at 678-761-3550 or support@myidealcollege.org.

Teens need to connect with others in careers they are interested in pursuing.

A Simple Way to Help Your Teen’s Future

I was chatting with a mom whose teen attended my College and Career Action Planning workshop. We were discussing the careers her teen chose, which were Architect and Graphic Designer. Both of these careers matched her interests. Plus, the job outlook and salaries were in line with what she wanted.

The mom wanted to know how she can help guide her daughter in pursuing each of these careers. I shared how I encourage teens to talk to professionals in those job fields. But there is one BIG obstacle in doing this. Your child’s network circle is limited to their friends and peer groups. The chances of them knowing someone in a career they are interested in is minimal.

This is where you come in. Parents are WAY more connected than their teens. Here are three easy actions you can do today to help your child.

1. Go through your contacts.

Check your email addresses, phone numbers, Facebook friends, and LinkedIn connections. See who might work in your teen’s chosen career OR may know someone who does. Tell them your teen is considering a specific career and ask if they can talk to them. I haven’t found anyone yet who isn’t willing to help a teen with their future.

2. Find professional organizations.

Just about every career has a professional organization. For example, in Human Resources, there is the Society for Human Resource Management. There’s one for Emergency Medical Technicians, Lawyers, Welders, Educators, Salespeople, and so on. Have your teen Google “Professional Organizations for…” and insert their chosen field. Your teen can reach out to that organization and ask to speak with someone about that particular career. Some of these organizations may also have scholarships for teens pursuing that career path.

3. Contact me.

I am happy to connect your teen if I know someone in their chosen career. I have connected teens to lawyers, accountants, talent scouts, athletic trainers, etc. One of my favorite finds was for a teen who was interested in being a voiceover actor. It turns out that I know a few. With that connection, the teen learned there was a voiceover actor conference coming to our town. AND they had a special portion of the conference planned for young adults considering that career.

I never charge a fee to connect your teen with business professionals. I get pure joy in being able to help them make a connection that can change their life. If you’d like me to help your child, email me at laurie@myidealcollege.org.

Making connections are important for not only learning about a career, but they can also lead to internships and jobs. Once your teen finds someone to chat with, the next obstacle is, “What do I ask when I meet with them?” I can help you out here. Click here to get my Informational Interview Questions. I have several questions that they can pick and choose from to ask.

Are you interested in being someone a teen can contact to find out more about your career? Let us know in the comments below, and we will reach out to you.

Colleges do look at your teens social media when they apply.

Yes Son, Colleges Do Look at Your Social Media

I attended Parent Night at my son’s high school last week. These types of events are a great opportunity to chat with guidance counselors, learn about how to help your teen with the college application process, and upcoming events like financial aid, which is a MUST for parents. Check out my article, The Best Way to Work with The Guidance Counselor, for more tips.

The topic of social media came up during Parent Night. While there has been a decline in colleges checking an applicant’s social media, many schools still do. Is your teen willing to take a risk and post something that could affect their future?

I recently saw this quote:

What should your teen consider when using social media? Here are some do’s and don’ts to share with your teen regarding social media:

DON’T

  • Share images of people drinking and smoking, even if you are not
  • Post a bunch of selfies – you may come across as narcissistic
  • Discuss issues or drama you have with your peers
  • Follow people that you would not be ok with your parents’ meeting
  • Use a questionable handle or profile name, like @hotgirl. Friends will think it’s cute; prospective colleges will not

DO

  • Share fun projects you are doing at school
  • Post photos participating in volunteer activities
  • Post images participating in sports, scouts, or other positive teen group activities
  • Follow people whose careers interest you
  • Follow colleges you are interested in – it can give insight into the culture of the school

Posts should show the best of your teen. For example, my son shares the music he likes and the meals he cooks for us. Side note: He makes an amazing carbonara.

And while not all colleges check social media, guess who else will….

Their future employer. This could be for part-time work or even internships.  According to a career builder survey,

70% of employers check social media as a screening tool for whether or not they will hire someone.

I have even heard of organizations deny scholarships based on what they saw posted on an applicant’s social media.

Have your teen take a look at all their social media accounts. Would they be ok if their posts were plastered on a billboard with their face? What kinds of posts are their friends tagging them in?

Encourage your teen to delete posts that do not show their true wonderful self. I have created a free Social Media Cleaning Checklist that your teen can use as a guide. It includes additional tips like checking posts they are tagged in. Click here to access the checklist.

Don't let college planning fall apart - make it happen

Don’t Let College Planning Fall Apart

Don't let college planning fall apart

For many of us, either our teens are already in school or just about to start. Once it begins, we get into the hustle and bustle of our regular routines. We make sure our teens get to school, take them to band or sports practices, and ensure they get their homework done.

Amid our busy schedules, we need to make sure we’re staying on top of college planning.

Here are a few tasks, by grade level, for you what your teen should be focused on now.

Seniors

  • Decide where you want to apply and find out their application deadlines
  • Obtain letters of recommendations for college applications
  • Start drafting the college essay – experts say you should allow two months to do this
  • Get transcripts and ensure the information is correct – sometimes data error happens

Juniors

  • Sign up and prepare for standardized testing
  • Start or update an academic resume
  • Identify which majors you want to pursue
  • Schedule campus tours for the colleges you are interested in  (Use your school breaks to visit a campus when they are in session)

Sophomores

  • Talk to the guidance counselor and consider dual enrollment options
  • Keep track of accomplishments, awards, and recognitions to help prepare for college applications
  • Visit colleges during school breaks to start getting an idea of the type of college you want to attend

Freshman

  • Start identifying careers of interest
  • Keep track of any accomplishments, awards, and recognition – you will need this for your college application
  • Set and keep good study habits

Act on these tasks to make sure that college planning doesn’t get lost in the craziness of everyday life. Your teen’s high school years will come to an end before you know it. Check out our free resources page for campus tour guides.

College planning is tough when you go it alone. It’s much better when you can do it with friends. You provide your house and friends and we will bring food and drink and talk about college planning. Interested in learning more? Contact us at support@myidealcollege.org.

Teens have to determine their future to have a competitive edge in the workforce.

Why Teens Must Determine Their Future

Teens have to determine their future to have a competitive edge in the workforce.

In one of my recent posts, I shared how we help teens identify careers that they will love. This will help them find the right college for them.

Someone commented, “I think we need to stop pressuring kids to pick a path at 18. Take general courses, then find your passion. I was 40 before I finished my degree and determined what I wanted to do.”

I agree we don’t need to pressure our teens. However, the reality is times are very different than when we went to school. 

A friend of mine has a niece, Jill, who was adamant that she wanted to go to school to be a cosmetologist. Jill wouldn’t entertain the idea of anything else. After graduation from cosmetology school, Jill discovered she hated being a hairstylist and the makeup artist jobs were few and far between. Now Jill THINKS she wants to be a teacher.

Her parents have already paid thousands of dollars for an education Jill wants nothing to do with. How can they be confident that being a teacher is right for Jill?

I hear this same story from other parents. They have kids who started down a path that wasn’t right for them and it ended up causing a financial burden. I was one of those kids who didn’t start on the right path. Fortunately, it didn’t create a significant financial burden for my parents as it was more years ago than I want to admit. That is not the case now, as we have seen an all-time high of student loan debt.

The other reality is that the job market is very competitive and people in their 20’s are having a harder time launching their careers than in the past. This means more kids are moving back home after college graduation. A recent study shows that 50% of students move back home after college graduation. Many of these kids plan on living at home for at least two years. You can read more about the study here.

So, while we don’t want to pressure our teens to decide on a career, we have to help them. We can provide them with experiences to help guide them. Kids can only make decisions based on what they see, hear, or do.

If you are not helping your child find their future path in their high school years, you are opening yourself up to costly debt and a child in their 20’s who is living at home and feels lost about their future.

Don’t know where to start? Check out my article, Four Questions to Ask Your Teen About Their Future.

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

How to Get Your Teen to Take Accountability

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

My son woke up and said with a sigh, “It’s the last day of summer vacation.” Then he followed up with, “thank God for weekends.”

As a parent, I am a little sad that summer break is over. I like being able to spend time together and the flexible schedule summer provides.

But I can’t lie, I am glad they are going back. I do enjoy the fact that they are learning new things they can share around the dinner table. They are involved in after school activities that help them discover and expand their interests.

Another bonus with school starting is my food bill will go back down from not having to feed my always hungry teenage boys.

The start of a new school year is like when we watch the ball drop on December 31st. It’s a new year, a time to reflect on the past and determine what your teenager wants to achieve this school year.

We have a discussion with our boys right before the school year starts to help them figure this out. Of course, they say they want to get good grades. But they need to take it one step further to the specific action steps that will help them take accountability and achieve their goals.

We ask our sons these questions to help them figure this out:

  • What worked well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What didn’t work well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you stop because they prevent you from getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you keep doing because they help you get good grades?

These questions are a simple and effective way for your teen to reflect on experiences and decide what things they want to change in order to move forward. It provides them with a level of ownership and accountability for their own success.

Four questions parents can ask their teen to help determine their future

Four Questions to Ask Your Teen About Their Future

My Ideal College shares how you can help your teen identify their future.

Your teen’s high school days seem to be flying by and like me, you are wondering when they will decide their plans after high school. What will they major in?

It can be hard to choose a major if your teen has no idea what career they seem themselves in down the road. Yet, to make a smart choice for the college they need to attend choosing a career path is an important step. A recent study found that 2/3 of college grads struggle to launch their career once they graduate. The third that didn’t struggle knew their major when they applied.

Here are 4 great questions to help your teen start thinking about their future:

  1. What are they interested in? What they are interested in is important in this question. Your teen shouldn’t rely on what others are interested in for them. Right now, they need to focus on truly interests them  – in school, life, your extra-curricular activities.
  2. What talent, skill, or knowledge makes them stand out from others? Do they tutor their friends in math because it comes naturally to them? Have they won awards in high school that could point them toward a possible career?
  3. What are their dreams and aspirations? What is their dream job? What aspirations do they have? What kind of life do they want to be living? When do they want to own a house? Where do they want to live? Do they want to travel?
  4. Where do they see themselves in ten years? Yeah, it’s a common question in an interview for a job but, it should really get them thinking. Owning their own business, running for political office, working in a laboratory helping to develop a cure for cancer?

I wouldn’t advise sitting your teen down and sound like a detective interrogating a suspect with these questions. This will just lead to anxiety, arguing, and pressure for you and your teen.  

Here are some options:

  • Have your teen put these questions in a journal. They can look at the questions daily or weekly and add their answers as ideas come to mind.
  • Put the questions on blank pieces of paper and post in their room. They can draw or write words and phrases to answer the questions.
  • Set aside a weekly or monthly lunch or coffee time with your teen to talk about these questions. Take them to their favorite place, where they will feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Sometimes our teens feel more comfortable talking about their future with other people besides their parents. Many times, our teens will try to say what they think we want them to hear. You might want to find a relative or family friend to have these conversations to help guide your teen.

If you do not have people you can reach out to, schedule a call with me. I would be happy to talk to your teen. Click here to send me an email and I will reach out to you. You can also get additional ideas by checking out my free resource, How Your Child’s Interests Can Lead To Their Ideal College. You can click here to access it.

My Ideal College shares what colleges are looking for in a student's essay.

The Why and How of College Essays

My Ideal College shares what colleges are looking for in a student's essay.

Last week, I provided ideas on how to help your teen when they’re reluctant to write their college essay. I fully empathize with these teens, as writing does not come naturally to me. Remember, the process doesn’t have to start with a blank screen or a piece of paper. You can click here to read my ideas in case you missed it.

Let’s talk about why colleges ask applicants to write an essay.

Think of a college like a business. They bring in candidates for open positions.  For each position, they want to make sure each candidate will:

  • succeed
  • contribute
  • be a positive reflection of the business

The same is true for colleges. They want to see all three attributes from each student they bring in. The only difference is they want students who will be a positive reflection of the college long after they graduate. They also want students who can write well and support their ideas with logical arguments.

So how does a college measure this for each applicant?

Businesses are able to bring in candidates for interviews and ask questions about strengths, values, challenges, and how they conquer obstacles. For a college, it’s not possible to have one-on-one interviews with each applicant. Did you know approximately 1.5 million high school students apply to college each year? Colleges overcome the challenge of learning about each applicant by requiring a college essay.

The college essay needs to help an admissions counselor understand a prospective student’s best qualities. This can be a challenging task for a high school student, especially if the student is shy or has low self-esteem. One way to help your child identify their strengths is to have them brainstorm times when they felt like they accomplished something. What specifically did they do to achieve that accomplishment?  Maybe they persevered, even though it was a tough situation.  Maybe they set out a plan and tasks to achieve a goal, or maybe they were able to influence others to help achieve a goal. All of these are great strengths for a teen to highlight in their essay.

The question colleges use a writing prompt for the essay can vary. Many colleges now use the Common Application. You can click here to see what questions are used. The applicant only needs to pick one question to use for their essay.

Would you like to help your child with writing their essay? Check out our Best Foot Forward Package.  In 20 minutes, your child will receive an ego-boosting report that outlines all of their greatest strengths. They can use the data in the report as a starting point to help them elaborate on what makes them stand out from all the other college applicants.

For more details, email us at support@myidealcollege.org.