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The College Major Debate: 4 Points to Steer Teens in the Right Direction


college majorParents raise children, and often help pay for college educations, so they feel they have a right in lending their advice regarding selecting a major.

However, it’s the child’s future at stake, so they should have a say regarding their interests and passions.  Yet, the wise know that not every diploma earns a good salary, so in order to steer children in the right direction, parents and students need to consider the following.

Gain Experience

A young high school student may have a great science teacher that inspires the child to study chemistry in college.  Yet, the charisma of a teacher does not guarantee a student’s future success in an industry.

It’s important for aspiring workers to gain experience in a field, whether that means working a part-time job through high school or doing volunteer work while earning college credits.  Students often switch majors, and it’s a person’s prerogative to change interests as they mature, yet college credits cost.  Students need to do all they can to complement theory with actual experience in a given field.

Speak with a Professional

Who better to ask about a profession than those with current jobs?  Students benefit from keeping contact with a professional within a field of interest and inquiring about college workloads, job opportunities, and daily tasks regarding the profession.

Some have grand illusions about making a lot of money doing a job they never actually performed.  Speaking with a professional helps align insinuation with reality and can either help fuel or diffuse a student’s interest.

Choose a Practical Minor

Some tell students not to worry about how much money they will make in the future, but it’s practical to think about the eventual value of your time and money spent.  Those who choose majors due to love and not money benefit from selecting a more practical minor area of study.

That way, if the philosophy degree doesn’t materialize into much on the job market, a minor in business helps get an entry level position to begin a career.  In an ideal world, students would make great money doing what they love, but in the real world, it’s important to prepare for the actual job market.

Get Help

The dialogue about choosing a major should involve other parties aside from the parents and student.  An objective third party can steer students toward goals while maintaining the latter’s happiness.

Professional services provide resources like these templates and give advice about college majors and chosen industries.  In addition to high school and college career planning services and counselors, professionals are available who have the insight that helps students and parents make the right decisions.

It’s difficult to understand that the choices you make now will influence your lifestyle and happiness in the future.  But, it’s important for students to focus on the decision of choosing a major (and minor!)  Speak with those already working, gain experience in a field, and seek services that help high school graduates make present decisions that help benefit the future.


Jim Hearne is a high school counselor and busy dad of four. When he has the time, he enjoys helping others by sharing what he has learned over the years. Look for his helpful posts mainly on career, education and job blog sites.

A Tool to Master the Dreaded Application Essay


college essay toolThe college application season is now in full swing and if you listen closely enough, you might be able to make out the tap-tapping of millions of seniors across the globe writing their application essays.  If you happen to be one of those students or a parent of one, I’d like to introduce you to Edswell, an application essay management tool that makes the whole process a lot easier.

So…what does it do? First, it gives you all of the application essay and deadline requirements for a student’s college list, in one click. Required, optional, supplemental, program-specific…all of them.  Students often spend days or weeks getting all of this information, now they can get it in a few seconds.

Second, it provides a beautiful essay management system that automatically organizes, syncs, and version controls every draft (built on Dropbox).  Instead of creating a folder and filling it with files, users simply click on the school and essay they want to work on – all drafts are viewable in an attractive feed-style format.

Third, it allows students to easily invite anyone to review a draft.  Reviewers do not need an Edswell account.  When the edited version is sent back to Edswell by a reviewer, it is incorporated into the feed for that essay, where differences between drafts are automatically highlighted.

Finally, it allows parents and counselors to track student progress.  Sometimes seniors need a nudge…Edswell gives the nudgers the information they need to make it happen.

You can give the platform a try for free for 30 days, no credit card required to sign up.  Just visit http://edswell.com and click “Free Trial.”  Oh, and for those interested in more information, there’s a short video walkthrough on the website.

I’d like to end with a salute to the seniors who are undertaking the not-insignificant task of memorializing their narratives, stories, and experiences in their application essays.  And Sam, if you’re reading this, I think it’s okay to start your Common App essay with “What’s a BA without a good burrito?”


alex thalerAlex Thaler is the CEO of Edswell and the author of “The Art of the Personal Statement.”  He received his BA from UC Berkeley and JD from University of Pennsylvania.  In his non-existent spare time he enjoys woodworking and dreaming about moving to Hawaii.

Wednesday’s Parent: Choosing Courses to Impress Colleges


coursesHelping your college-bound teen choose the right courses is one of your most important jobs as a Parent College Coach. Along with your teen’s high school counselor and after doing a little research, you should be well prepared to guide your teen in choosing courses that will challenge them academically. There is no substitute for a solid academic, college focused education. Your teen’s transcript will be the cornerstone of their college application and college admissions counselors weigh the content of that transcript to determine your teen’s ability to handle a rigorous college course load.

A college education builds on the knowledge and skills that your teen has acquired during junior high and high school. Most selective colleges with the highest admission requirements look for students who have taken challenging science and math courses beyond the basics. Basic computer skills are essential, along with three or four years of a foreign language.

Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

Many high schools offer AP (Advanced Placement) courses and exams. AP courses are college level courses in approximately 16 different subjects helping students to prepare for college level work while still in high school. After the course is completed, your teen can take an AP test in the subject and many times receive college course credit. There is a difference between Honors classes and AP classes. Honors classes are advanced classes. AP classes and AP Honors classes offer the opportunity for testing once the course is completed. Having these difficult courses on your teen’s transcript communicates that they are up for the challenge of college and they can successfully complete college-level courses.

Dual Credit Courses

Many schools also offer an opportunity to take Dual Credit courses. A dual credit course is a college course taken by a high school student for which the student earns both college and high school credit at the same time. Some courses are taught at the high school campus during high school hours while others are taught at local colleges during the day, evenings, and weekends. By participating in the dual credit program, it enables your teen to make substantial progress toward their college degree before finishing high school. Students who begin taking courses in their junior year can earn thirty or more college credits by the time they graduate from high school if they also take summer classes at the college. It is possible to earn sophomore status even before they start college full time.


As you begin to plan your teen’s high school curriculum add any electives that might interest them: art, music, theater arts, JROTC, computer science, and business to name a few. If they are interested in pursuing a college education in theater arts, they should definitely add Drama to their curriculum. My daughter felt like that was what she wanted to do after high school. But after taking a few Drama courses, she realized it was not for her. It saved us thousands of dollars in the long run because she would have had to change majors in college and most likely increase the time of attendance. Letting them experiment in high school will also cement their interest and help in choosing the college that is best suited for their specific interest.

Your teen’s high school counselor should be able to offer additional help in the selection process and answer any questions you might have regarding specific college course requirements.

Read Wendy’s Post: High School Courses and College Admissions


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

Join @pocsmom and I tonight with a #WednesdaysParent version of #CampusChat at 9PM ET with guest Nicole Lentine (@nlentine), Admissions Counselor at Champlain College, Co-Host of Admissions Live on the #HigherEdLive network discussing “How to Choose High School Courses.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

App Tuesday: Apps to Help Students Act During Critical Situations


apps for college studentsFollowing this week’s Mom-Approved Tips: Going to College May Be Deadly, here are some apps to help students act during critical situations to go along with the conversations you should have with your soon-to-be college students. These apps won’t solve the problem, but they can help save a life.

Apps to get help if needed

Circle of 6

iPhone and Android -Free

The Circle of 6 app is designed to help college students out of potentially dangerous situations. On the app, users should connect the phone numbers of up to six close friends. These should be classmates, roommates or trusted individuals in the area. In uncomfortable situations, users can safely and discreetly send a mass message for help. By pressing the car icon, users send out a text complete with your current GPS location. Your safety network will get your message and pick you up. Tapping the phone icon will send out a message that says, “Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption,” to the six preset numbers. For true emergencies, students can call 911 from within the app. The app’s chat icon links users to information online about healthy relationships.

On Watch

iPhone and Android – Free

This personal safety app lets college students alert friends and authorities immediately in emergencies. There are six app functions: calling 911 and friends, calling 911 only, calling campus police, the “Watch my Back” setting (timed alert that must be disabled with passcode), contacting friends, and the “I’m here” setting. When you walk home and want to let friends or family know you’ve arrived safely, the “I’m here” setting does just that. The “I’m Here” text, call 911 only and call campus police functions are free with the app. The emergency friends, flashlight and alarm functions are available for a $2.99 fee. The complete package is available for $4.99 a month.

Apps to help deal with stress

Worry Box 

Android – Free

Have you ever wished you could put all your worries in a box, leave them there, and walk away? The Worry Box app may let you do just that. The app functions a lot like a journal: Write down your thoughts, anxieties, and worries, and let the app help you think them through. It will ask questions, give specific anxiety-reducing help, and can even direct you to help you reduce your worries and anxiety. It is all password protected, so you can feel safe sharing the details of your stresses.

Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM)

iPhone and Android – Free

The Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) app from the University of the West of England can help you regain control of your anxiety and emotions. Tell the app how you’re feeling, how anxious you are, or how worried you are. Then let the app’s self-help features walk you through some calming or relaxation practices. If you want, you can connect with a social network of other SAM users. Don’t worry, the network isn’t connected to larger networks like Twitter or Facebook, so you won’t be putting your feelings on blast.

Apps to deal with depression

Operation Reach Out

This lifesaving app for iPhone and Android was developed by the military to prevent suicide. Recorded videos and menu options help users assess their thinking and reach out for help in crisis.

T2 Mood Tracker

Tracks symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and general well-being.  Another excellent app developed by the Department of Defense National Center for Telehealth and Technology (see their complete list), for Android and iPhone.

Mom-Approved Tips: Heading to College May Be Deadly


college may be deadlyYes. I said heading to college may be deadly. At the risk of being a naysayer and offering a negative image, recent news confirms my concern. At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. That’s by no means an epidemic, but it is something parents should address with their future college students.

In an article by Inside Higher Ed, “Lives Cut Short”, the stories of these tragedies is discussed:

At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. The deaths have cast a shadow over the campuses on which the students spent too little time, but they’re also a cross-section of the kinds of issues and decisions facing freshmen as they begin their college careers — and of the choices some young students may not be prepared to make. Even colleges with the best approaches to educating students about mental health issues may have very little time to reach those who may be vulnerable.

Why is this happening?

You’ve lectured them. You’ve warned them. You’ve taught them right from wrong. But have you prepared them to face what waits for them at college: stress, extreme peer pressure, and abundant alcohol?

During senior year you are so focused on getting in to college, that often the most important discussions get shoved to the back burner. We cram those discussions in on the trip to move in and neglect to offer our kids advice on how to deal with the difficult decisions involved during those first few weeks of college.

“It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, dean of students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

What tools should you give your student before he leaves for college?

Discussions about the dangers he will face in college are great—start there. But discuss the “what-ifs”:

  • What if everyone around you is binge drinking and wants you to join in? How will you respond?
  • What if you see someone who is obviously overindulging? What should you do and who should you tell?
  • What if a student tells you he’s suicidal? Where can you go for help?
  • What if you witness dangerous behavior? What should you do?
  • How do you recognize alcohol poisoning—how much is too much?

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that it’s not going to happen to your kid. Every school is a party school. Alcohol is readily available, especially to freshmen who consider it an “initiation” into adulthood to get when their parents aren’t a factor and they are free to abuse without repercussions. Sticking your head in the sand won’t help you or your student. Discuss the “what ifs” before freshman year.