Wednesday’s Parent: Hunting and gathering a college list Part 2

Creating a college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Creating a college list. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

A lot is riding on making a good college list. Your student will be applying to the schools on the final list so they better offer the best chance for student success. It’s so important that Suzanne and I are giving our tips in two parts. Last week’s Part 1 was about general criteria and today’s Part 2 is about refining the list.

Thinking of the college list process as that of gathering and hunting means discovering how well suited each college is to the student and determining where he is most likely to thrive. From over 4,000 schools, many may be ruled out by location, school requirements and college stats. The next step is to find those eight institutions of higher learning most likely leading to student success. These are the ones the student will apply to and be happy to attend.

The definition of student success varies with each student. The key is what each school will do to keep the student on track to graduate and obtain the academic/extracurricular experiences she desires. They should include:

  • set time to graduate
  • short term goals
  • long term goals

Could there be more or less than eight final schools on the list? Yes, but be mindful there are hefty application fees that do not go towards paying the college tuition bill. There should be enough schools to provide the student with options. Once those admission offers are extended, he will be reevaluating based on his own student growth and the college’s financial aid awards.

Here are five ways parents may help their child find their college matches:

  1. Visit A visit to a college campus accomplishes two major things. It judges the fit of a good on paper school and provides that intangible and very personal sixth sense gut reaction of yea or nay. (Warning – parents may have a totally opposite gut reaction.) Parents may help their students with a “collegecation.”
  2. Categorize Parents may help their students organize their college list. Counselors often advise placing schools into three groups: safety, target and reach. These categories are based on school requirements and student credentials to determine likelihood of admission. By going further, students will focus on nuances to pick a school based on its own unique flavor.
  3. Connect Social media provides a multitude of ways for students and parents to learn more (pros and cons) about the college, other prospective students, current students, alumni, and professors. For parents, many schools have social media and website information devoted to parents and families as well as a parent association. Sometimes parents of college students serve as college promoters so it is helpful to consider the source of all info.
  4. Rank The amount of information acquired from college research is staggering. Parents may help their students create spread sheets to organize the info according to what is most important to their child. This is about creating a personal college rating system based on pros and cons for your student to attend.
  5. Support The parent role here is to support your child because if she is not vested in the college experience, she won’t do her best. This may lead to a waste of time, money and energy. Listen more than speak to encourage your student to analyze the facts, understand his emotions, and make good decisions.

Read Suzannes’s blog Finding the Best Fits–A College List Part 2


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer 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!

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 to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: 7 Shakespearean steps to good decision-making

7 Shakespearean steps to good decision-making in the park by Wendy David-Gaines

7 Shakespearean steps to good decision-making in the park by Wendy David-Gaines

Life is full of choices and the quality of life depends on the quality of those decisions. One of a parents’s major responsibilities is to teach good decision-making skills to their children. With this ability, students are able to make good NOUN choices – the ones about people, places and things.

Soon your child will be choosing where to apply to college, what he will major in, who she will choose as friends, who he will marry, and where she will live and work after graduation.

Taking parenting advice from Shakespeare’s timeless quotes, here are seven steps to making good decisions:

1. “Past and to come seem best; things present worst.” King Henry the Fourth, Part II  It’s normal to be stressed when faced with an important decision. Take a deep breath and go to your mental happy place to put everything into perspective before making a decision.

2. “This is the short and long of it.” The Merry Wives of Windsor  The first step in making a good decision is to clearly list the options.

3. “There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things.” King Henry the Fifth  Weigh the options carefully by considering pros and cons for each choice.

4. “Thou art a scholar: speak to it Horatio.” Hamlet  Seek advice from experts and those who have dealt with similar experiences when needed. (Don’t forget to let your child know you are a great resource – a parent available to listen and advise, when asked.)

5. “Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Measure for Measure  Doubts and second guessing are common. Don’t let them press you into procrastinating or preventing the making of a final decision.

6. “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Twelfth-Night  Once a choice is selected, commit to it, make the most of it and move forward.

7. “What’s past is prologue.” The Tempest  All decisions have consequences and the future is filled with possibilities. Be ready to follow this Shakespearean plan all over again to make the next choice.

There are many other fine quotes from Shakespeare and others to inspire good decision-making. Let me know your favorites.

Jump over to Suzanne’s blog chock full of more parent tips to teach teens how to make good decisions.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer 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!

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 to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Parental peer pressure


Peer Pressure, Photo by sillygwailo

If your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it? 

I agree with Suzanne that “(t)his is a classic parental adage.” As with other proverbs, this one applies through the ages. I mean it relates when we say it to our children as easily as when our parents said it to us. I also mean it still holds true for us as we age.

Peer pressure is universal and timeless. Although experience is a great teacher, adults still can be affected. If the decisions are minor or not dangerous, bowing to peer pressure may not be such a big deal. But sometimes decisions can directly or indirectly impact our children.

Keeping up with the Joneses is the adult version of the bridge adage. If you base decisions on what’s popular, peer pressure has cut another notch on its belt. Our choices can also present learning opportunities for children. Here are a couple versions of examples I faced:

For example: Let’s say you’re in the market for a new bracelet. You’re all set to buy one you have been admiring and then you see friends and celebrities wearing something else. It’s a style you saw earlier but rejected because the other one was more appealing to you. Yet wearing the trendy one will make you feel part of the in-crowd. Which do you purchase? The one you really want or the one that everyone else wants and thinks you should want, too?

Now let’s say your child was with you during the whole shopping experience. She knows how much you want the first bracelet. She also watches T.V. and has seen ads for the second bracelet. You both have noticed friends and family members sporting the latter. Which do you purchase?

Or this example: It’s time to select an extracurricular activity for your not so athletic child who loves to draw. There is a new after-school art program but his not so artistic friends are playing together in a soccer league. Or you have a choice of schools but your friends are enrolling their kids in the one furthest from your home. What do you do? Do you sign your child up based on his best interests or by the interests of others?

Sometimes what others do makes us rethink our own position. That’s fine as long as peer pressure doesn’t substitute for good judgement. Unfortunately, this can happen during the college process.

Your child may want to choose a college based on where his friends are going. A relative may urge her alma mater. A sibling may push a famous college ranking list.

You may want to boast about the colleges on your student’s list, those she got into, and the one he chose to accept admission from but bragging rights shouldn’t be part of any of these decisions.

Researching colleges, forming a college list, visiting schools (collegecation), applying to colleges, and picking one to attend is about finding the best higher education for your student, not choosing the most popular. The stakes are too high leading to future achievements and success.

So go ahead and research schools together, note others’ opinions and listen to trusted advisors. Then together make objective decisions based on the subjective best interests of your child. It won’t be easy but as Thomas Edison said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” And that’s the makings of another adage.

You have my take on parental peer pressure, now read on for Suzanne’s Straight Talk about Peer Pressure.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer 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!

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 to and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Collegecations

Take a collegecation, Photo by Philip Taylor

Take a collegecation, Photo by Philip Taylor

If you enjoy mixing business with pleasure then you are going to love visiting colleges. It’s the best way to check student-college fit and get a vacation. I call the trip a collegecation (family vacay + college visit).

Why visit
You wouldn’t buy a house or car without checking it out so why wouldn’t you be a good consumer about another expensive purchase? Colleges are in the business of education and the product they offer are campuses, housing, food, courses, other students, professors, programs, activities, job/grad placement records, retention rates and other stats in a specific location. It’s going to be up to the student to use what’s available while earning a degree. During a collegecation, students can see what the opportunities are and how they relate to the best chance of future success.

Three part plan
It’s time to take your college list on the road and plan your collegecation. Get ready to pack your bags with a camera (or a smartphone), comfortable walking shoes and school appropriate clothes.

1. Select a time
Decide how much time you have for your collegecation and when you are going. Determine how many schools you can visit on this road trip by allotting at least day and a half at each college location plus your travel time to get there. (Refer to Step Three for best travel dates).

2. Choose the Schools
Go to your college list. Choose the schools you want to visit in one geographic area given the amount of time you have (see Step 1).

3. Plot the Course
Take out a map (real or virtual) and mark off each chosen college’s location. Plan the trip like a road trip vacation; make note of attractions and special events along the way, in the area of each school, and on campus. Many schools offer free or low cost museums, library and academic collections, hiking trails, gardens, lectures, concerts, theater and sporting events. Also list best dates, prices and reservations needed. Include a fave activity for all collegecation participants.

Check out college and tourist websites for info about what’s happening on and off-campus and details about the area, lodging and restaurants.

Before you go, let the school know of the student’s interest in visiting. Better yet have him make the call to reserve a spot for the family on an information session and college tour.

He can also pre-arrange a solo on campus experience. Your student may have an interview, attend a class, shadow a current student, or spend an overnight with a current student, depending on what the college offers. This will also give the rest of the family some downtime.

Here are some major tips, once you are on the road:

  • Before you go Brainstorm questions your student can ask the interviewer, tour guide, current students, admissions and other college staff. Colleges expect their students to be mature and independent so prepare your child to take the lead.
  • On the way Before stepping one foot on campus, check out the surrounding area. Is it rural, suburban or urban? Does the student like what she sees? She should record her initial impressions and feel free to take photos. As for you, are there places to stay and restaurants to eat when you come for an extended college visit?
  • On campus As you enter the campus, observe the details and make mental note. What are current students doing? Are they smiling, interacting, studying? How does the campus look? Is it well-maintained and easily navigated? Eat in the cafeteria to try out the food. Toss a ball in the college quad for fun. Attend the planned college activities and roam around speaking to staff and students. Does your student feel like it could be home for the next few years? Take more photos to remember which school is which and to revive memories about the visit.
  • Have fun A collegecation wouldn’t be a vacay without some fun activities, downtime and personal space. Take advantage of enjoying while learning more about the college and surrounding community.
  • Before you leave Have your student take a second look. Has her opinion changed? After a good night’s sleep and time to absorb the experience, return to the campus to spend some more time. Have your student take a last look around. Is her final say a school yea or nay?

Read Suzanne’s blog for her take on college visits.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer 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.

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 to and vice versa.

Best way to get a ‘good job’ with a college degree

Finding college and career fulfillment Photo by TheDeliciousLife

Finding college and career fulfillment Photo by TheDeliciousLife

Something is very wrong in the American workplace when almost 80% of employees are ambivalent or strongly unhappy with their job. Worse, those with higher education are more dissatisfied. However, there is a clear way to improve the odds of job fulfillment and finding “a good job.”.

Today, Gallup released a study that shows, “American workers with a college or postgraduate degree are slightly less likely than those with a high school diploma or less to be engaged at work.”

I recently posted 5 surprising results from choosing STEM vs. Humanities major. I included tips for choosing a major based on an in depth personal evaluation of interests, skills and talents.

Yesterday, Career Happiness? First, Discover Your “My Three Things was posted by a person who had several career changes and many different jobs. On TheSavvyIntern blog, Ted Coine gives an introspection plan to jump start college and career.

How “good” a job is depends on the degree of connection between worker and work. How to best find a strong employment engagement starts with choosing a college and a field of study that best matches personal passion and aptitude.

While employers figure out how to make their employees more content, students and job-seekers can increase their own chances for “a good job.”

Read more




5 surprising results from choosing STEM vs. Humanities major

Super students aren't super human (Superman by James Vaughan, x-ray delta one )

Super students aren’t super human (Superman by James Vaughan, x-ray delta one )

“Show me the money I can make,” is the new demand by college students.

The high cost of college and securing a financial future influences parents and the college bound’s school and college major choices. When economic reports show the most lucrative careers are rooted in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields, families pay attention. However, the popularity of STEM has led to five surprising results that prove super students are not super human:

1. Humanities are suffering at all school levels.

2. Student literacy is down with poorer reading, writing, speaking and analytical skills.

3. Many students put in the work hard for STEM majors but don’t get the grades they expected.

4. Many students are dropping STEM because they are not satisfied with their low grades.

5. College becomes even more costly because switching majors often adds extra courses and postpones graduation to meet requirements for new field choice.

Then there is the stress caused by these results.

When varied sources come to these conclusions, it’s time to reevaluate. The sources include research studies from the sciences, reports form the humanities, professor experiences and job authorities.

Read on for more info and how to best prepare for choosing a major.

No knives on planes

No knives on planes Photo by By Alexander Rushing uploaded by Partyzan_XXI, File:Pocket knives.jpg - Wikimedia

No knives on planes
Photo by By Alexander Rushing uploaded by Partyzan_XXI, File:Pocket knives.jpg – Wikimedia

Last April, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) proposed relaxing restrictions on knives, certain sports equipment and novelty bats, allowing passengers to bring these items on board. Prompted by a public outcry, the proposal was abandoned yesterday.

Air travel  is crucial for many parents and their college-bound students. Without this transportation option, certain college choices may no longer be feasible. The college process generates plenty of stress but worrying about personal safety on a routine commute to and from school does not have to exist.

All knives were originally banned for a reason. Unnecessary safety risks are not acceptable.

Read on

What the collegebound can learn from Class of 2013

The graduate. Photo by David Goehring CarbonNYC

‘Tis the season for college graduation and the 2013 class is joining the workforce. What the job market looks like is the subject of the infographic pictured below.

The college-bound and job hunters should pay particular attention to the middle of the infographic for two reasons.

  1. Location College grads often continue to live and work near their college alma mater. The college-bound may want to consider these locations when choosing a college to attend.
  2. Qualifications The 5 top personal qualities that employers seek are listed. These qualities will help applicants achieve goals before, during and after college., the largest online marketplace for self-storage, presents some figures that shed some light on what the future holds for the Class of 2013. Taken from a number of different sources, this infographic should give recent graduates a good preview of what they can expect out there in the real world.

College Class of 2013 Storage Infographic
Produced by SpareFoot. Copyright 2013.

Is college a love match or a consumer purchase?

Love Sculpture at Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA

Love Sculpture at Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA. Photo by By Montgomery County Planning Commission

There are many variables involved in choosing a college to attend. If the goal is to find the best higher education choice out of several thousand possibilities, should students look for their love match or search for a smart consumer purchase?

Parents of the college-bound know the stakes are high. College costs are steep but college grads have a better financial future. Parents want to see stars in their student’s eyes when their college choices are named. They want their child to be happy and excited to take advantage of their higher education opportunities.

Students want to feel a connection with their choice colleges. Initially it may come because the school is a name brand, friends are attending, or the student had a memorable college visit. The college-bound want to proudly wear their college T-shirts. In teen time, a four+ year commitment to earn a diploma represents a huge chunk of their young adulthood and therefor, their identity.

Although they may not be invested in a college decision based on money, the fact is most students take out loans to finance their education. Many parents dig deep in their pockets and also borrow to afford their student’s college bill. The impact of these financial choices may not be felt until after graduation.

Read on for college consumer variables and making a college love match

TSA knife rule impacts college choice

Pocket Knife Collection

Pocket Knife Collection. Photo by Alexander Rushing, uploaded by Partyzan_XXI, File:Pocket knives.jpg – Wikimedia -

Plane traveling parents and the college-bound worried about their safety in the air, on their way to and from college, have a temporary reprieve. Yesterday, the controversial rule to carry small knives on board has been temporarily postponed.

College location is more important than ever. Prospective students typically research campus and local community cultural events, activities, internship possibilities and even the weather. They look up crime stats and talk with campus Safety Officers. Allowing flight passengers to carry small knives on board is one more issue families would have to consider when evaluating the safety of college attendance.

Transportation safety problems could be a game changer when picking a college to attend. Between semester breaks and school holidays, students come home a lot. Many colleges sponsor Family Days and encourage parent visits. Many families rely on plane travel. They are already struggling with increased ticket costs, fewer perks, and delays because of Sequester cuts.

The knife rule change

Read more