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Safe Spring Breaks

With March comes the start of “Spring Break Season.” What a needed break at this point in the semester (for students and teachers), but we should take a moment to remember all the things we know in our heads but sometimes slip out when we’re having fun. A few things to advise spring break travelers:

  • Research your destination before you leave home. Figure out how you’ll get around, where you’ll stay, safety precautions (can you drink the water?), safe and unsafe neighborhoods, local customs, etc. (The US Department of State is a great place to start to research foreign countries.)
  • Make sure people back at home (like parents) have all your travel info, including flight numbers or driving routes and hotel info.
  • Always stick together. You should never go out alone – stick with your friends.
  • Always stay alert. There are people out there who love spring break travelers to come to their towns … so they can take advantage of their innocence.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption (and watch out for your friends’ alcohol consumption).

You can find more great tips at www.safespringbreak.org. Be safe, and have fun!



Teachers Who Made a Difference

We often hear suggestions to “thank the teachers who made a difference a in our lives.” I was reminded this past week of just how important these “thank yous” are.

The woman who served as my thesis adviser and graduate assistantship supervisor from my master’s days passed away last week after a surprise illness took hold just a few weeks ago. When I returned to higher education (with a job at my alma mater), I went to see her to let her know how my career veered back to her stomping grounds. I hope she understood how much I valued her role in this “veering.” And, thinking back, I hope I conveyed my gratitude for the impact she had on me and my choice of profession.

It can never be said too often: Thank a teacher who made a difference in your life.  And do it today.


An App For That?

I’ve heard of iPhone apps that have some off-the-wall functions, like tracking how long you can hold down a button (really?), supplying suitable sound effects for your daily life, simulating the experience of popping packaging bubble wrap (seriously), or finding the closest public restroom. (Well, that last one could be pretty handy.)

And now the app is headed to college. One app that has generated controversy suggests that it can predict a student’s likelihood of being accepted at a school. A current student and a recent graduate from George Washington University created AdmissionSplash that asks students to fill out a bit of personal information, plus GPA, test scores and anticipated major. The formula works its magic, and the student discovers if the college is a fair, good, or great match, implying the fair, good or great chances of acceptance.

The controversy comes from those who argue that this app in no way accounts for non-numbers-based elements of college applications, like an essays, recommendations from teachers and extracurricular activities.

An exact science? No. An amusing way to pass a few minutes while avoiding that homework assignment due tomorrow. Sure. (More exciting to me are the possibilities for expanding this “matching” app to connect students with organizations that might suit them.)

(See Caralee Adams’ article in Ed Week for more about AdmissionSplash.)

Degree Attainment by County

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an online interactive map breaking down degree attainment by country. You can see how your county stacks up to the national average of 27.5% of adults (25 or older) who hold a bachelor’s degree.

Why is this important? Community and government leaders are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between higher education and the strength of a state’s economy. It should come as no surprise that higher degree attainment leads to higher earning power, which strengthens the overall economy. That higher earning power encourages people to spend more and pay more in taxes.

And if you already have your degree, why is this important to you? A better educated population means a better community. Aside from taxes, having a trained workforce helps legislators attract new companies, which bring with them new jobs. There are other positives for the community: degree earners statistically have higher voter turnout and report healthier lifestyle behaviors.

Well, now what? My best suggestion, no matter who is asking, is to get involved. We need community-wide efforts to recruit students to higher education and to them support their success. Everyone can find a role in that effort. Everyone. Investigate what your community is doing to strengthen education and get involved.

Unusual Scholarships

When I talk to high school students about college scholarships, I usually joke that there is one out there for everyone: the “my middle name starts with an E, I have brown hair, and my high school had an eagle as a mascot,” or “I have visited more than 20 states and my favorite color is blue,” or “my mom is a software engineer and my dog’s name rhymes with …” Well, you get the idea.

There are a HUGE number of scholarships out there—but it is up to students to find the ones that suit their needs. According to FastWeb, an online scholarship guide, American individuals, associations and corporations offer more than $3 billion in private scholarships each year, including recognizable awards like National Merits. A few of the more unusual:

You can check out one of the many Internet scholarship search engines, such as the one run by student lender Sallie Mae, FastWeb.com or Scholarships.com. You also could spend time with books that summarize available scholarships, such as Chronicle Financial Aid Guide. And don’t forget your community; talk to employers, faculty club advisers, coaches and leaders at your church to see if they have any leads for you.

Walking the Talk

January brings talk of resolutions — how we will be better teachers/parents/counselors in the coming year. I was reminded recently of a very simple resolution by an unlikely source: my 3-year-old niece.

My sister and brother-in-law are teaching her to say “please” and “thank you.” And she’s doing a great job, but watch out if one of us “big people” forgets our manners. See, that’s the thing. We can all work together to TELL her to use her polite words, but if we forget to USE them ourselves (or to model for her what we want her to do), than the lesson is lost.

This reminded me of all the things we tell students to be: honest, polite, punctual, considerate, hard-working, prepared. Yet if we end up late and unprepared to class, don’t honor our posted office hours, let our busy schedules get in the way of manners … than our lessons are lost.

As the “big people” in students’ lives, we have to remember to walk our talk. I think that’s a pretty good resolution for 2011.

B School?

This is the time of year that we start thinking about resolutions for the coming year. If one resolution you’ve been considering is going back to school to earn an MBA, this might be the year to make it happen. A November article in Bloomberg Businessweek by Geoff Gloeckler argued that even though the recession has hurt job prospects for recent MBA grads, the future is looking brighter for 2012 graduates (which could be YOU).

Gloeckler offers lots of interesting facts that can help you make an educated decision when seeking your B School, including a raking of the top 30 US schools. Interesting tidbits collected over the past year include:

  • The top schools ranked 1 to 5 are: Chicago, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Northwestern, and Stanford.
  • University of Virginia’s Darden School ranks top in most satisfied students.
  • Students from Dartmouth and Georgia Tech were found the most success in receiving job offers.
  • Brigham Young is listed as having the lowest tuition and fees: $41,120.
  • Columbia is listed as having one of the highest tuition and fees: $107,824.
  • Stanford is listed as the most selective for applicants.
  • The ratio of men to women at Pennsylvania’s Wharton is 3:2, representing the highest percentage of women students.

This article is a great reminder that part of investigating which school is right for you is asking questions about how that school will prepare you for the future you desire. Take time to learn more about the business climate in newspapers and magazines (including Bloomberg Businessweek) to make sure you get the education and experiences you need to be successful after graduation.