Are you among the thousands of students who will visit colleges this summer?
Visiting a new place and imaging living there for four years can be daunting. Chances are you, like many of your fellow students, have never been as completely on your own as you will be the fall after your high school graduation, so it is important to check out some of the places you are considering. One great way is a visit to the school to find out if it’s a good fit for you.
How to get started
The best time to visit a prospective college or university is during a middle-of-the-term week, so you can observe typical day-to-day campus life. Figure out when you and a parent or other interested adult can get away from school and work, then contact the school to make appointments with a financial aid counselor and the admissions office. Most schools have information on their website for prospective students that includes how to set up appointments and tours.
And don’t forget your own special interests—you may want to visit when you can watch the spring theatre production rehearsal or a lacrosse team practice. Don’t plan to visit during homecoming week or during exams (many students and staff will be too busy to spend time with you). Remember that people you want to visit with might be unavailable during winter or spring break.
For Boise High School senior Frank DeAngeli, volunteering is about making a difference in the world.
“I recognize it seems ludicrous for me to claim my volunteerism in a small Idaho city is changing the world,” DeAngeli said. “It only takes one stone thrown into a body of water to create ripples. if enough stones are thrown, eventually the body of water will be diverted forever.”
With Idaho now ranking second in the nation for volunteerism, it’s proof that volunteers in the Gem State are making a difference.
As college costs continue to rise and families find they need help paying for school, the search for financial aid becomes more important.
If you or your child needs college financial aid or funding for postsecondary education, now is the time to step up your search. February is Financial Aid Awareness Month in Idaho and across the country, and there are lots of resources to support your quest.
The application required at most colleges – FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an essential form for requesting financial aid. A completed FAFSA is required for federal scholarship and loan agencies; most college and other postsecondary school financial aid offices. The sooner after Jan. 1 an application is received, the greater the chances are of receiving aid that’s given on a first-come, first-served basis.
What’s it like to be your own boss? Can you come in late, take vacation any time, hire other people to do the hard work?
Sorry, no. The truth is when you own a business, you probably work more hours than you did before – and work harder than anyone else in your company. At the same time, the rewards of self-employment can be great and as an owner, you will likely be doing the kind of work or producing the kind of work product that is meaningful to you.
What’s it like to work for yourself?
People who own their business wear a lot of hats. Usually the business starts out small, sometimes with no other employee than the owner. The owner works at a dream job, but may also be the bookkeeper, supply and inventory clerk, marketer and salesperson, receptionist, IT expert – and janitor. He or she is on their own to solve problems, develop new ideas, stay motivated and keep the business running. For some people, this is exactly what they want; for others this may sound overwhelming. (See Is self-employment right for you? in the Idaho Career Information System (CIS).)
Part one of this article covered the impact of economic pressures on the changing enrollments at colleges and how to increase the number of high school graduates who will go on to postsecondary education.
Not Ready for College
American high schools are graduating many students who are not prepared for college and consequently, much less likely to complete college than their better-prepared peers or take longer when they do graduate. According to the College Board, which writes and administers the SAT examination used by colleges to access candidates’ readiness for college, about a quarter of Idaho’s high school juniors who took the exam in April 2013 were prepared for college based on their scores in critical reading, mathematics and writing. The ACT, another exam commonly required for college entrance, showed only 26 percent of Idaho students hit benchmarks in all four categories—English, reading, mathematics and science.
To compete with other states and globally, Idaho’s economy needs a skilled workforce. Postsecondary education is the key to developing those skills to innovate and thrive. Education also helps raise the quality of life of workers who receive schooling as well as for their families. Recognizing rising skill levels for many jobs and the importance of higher education in making the Idaho economy competitive, the Idaho State Board of Education set an ambitious goal for 60 percent of Idahoans 25 to 34 years old to have a degree or certificate by 2020.
To achieve this goal, Idaho’s public schools must increase student enrollment and retention. But they will be facing some headwinds. Throughout the United States colleges are under economic pressure, and a growing number of private schools are likely to face bankruptcy as pressure mounts as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities,” dated July 25, 2014.
Global competition is intensifying. The United States was the world leader in educational attainment until the 1990s. In recent years, many countries have been producing degree-holders at a higher rate. In 2011, 42 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 had associate, bachelor’s or advanced degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. lagged South Korea’s 63 percent, Japan’s 58 percent, Canada’s 56 percent, Ireland’s 48 percent, Britain’s 48 percent, Norway’s 47 percent, Luxembourg’s 46 percent, New Zealand’s 45 percent, Israel’s 44 percent and Austria’s 43 percent. In the United States, the public-private balance of expenditure on postsecondary education is nearly the reverse of the average across other OECD countries. In the U.S., public sources provide 36 percent of spending on higher education while the other nations average 68 percent.
It’s becoming more common for employers to favor job candidates who have soft skills over those with only technical skills. While technical, job-related skills can usually be taught, soft skills are more difficult to learn.
In a recent soft skills workshop at the Idaho Department of Labor’s Meridian office, a panel of four employers was asked the following question: If you had two job candidates, one who had eight out of 10 technical skills and was equipped with noticeable soft skills, and the other had 10 out of 10 technical skills but exhibited poor soft skills, who would you hire?
The panel members, made up of human resource professionals, hiring managers and business owners, unanimously agreed: They would hire the candidate with stronger soft skills despite the fact the other candidate had more technical skills.
So what are soft skills and why are they so important when searching for and maintaining employment? According to the panelists, the most desirable soft skills for employees to exhibit include: ability to stay on task, solve problems and show up to work on time; a positive attitude, dependability, effort and an aptitude to work with others and handle stress.
Education and the workplace are increasingly linked. Employers want better-trained workers. Workers want better-paying jobs.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of every four adults had a college degree in Idaho in 2012, a significant increase in the last generation. But the educational level of adults nationwide has been rising at a much greater rate since 1980.
At the same time, nearly 61 percent of Idaho adults including college graduates had obtained education beyond high school, an increase of nearly two thirds since 1980. But while that was three percentage points higher than the nation, the number of adults with postsecondary education has risen 80 percent since 1980.
We know that jobs and the workplace have changed over time. Do any of these notions about your future sound familiar? If so, think again. Don’t let out-of-date attitudes get in the way of your future career success.
Myth: There is one perfect job for me.
Reality: Focusing on finding a single, perfect career is limiting. If you’re like most people, you will have several jobs and careers in your life, and each will have positive and negative aspects. Furthermore, your job preferences are likely to change over time as you gain experience, skills and self-knowledge. Keeping your options open is a position of strength, not weakness.
Idaho’s Career Information System is not just for kids. The free, customized online tool also helps adults stay on a solid path toward a successful future while they are in school, training or pursuing a new career.
Students and adults with career plans are more likely to stay in school, pursue a higher education and once they enter the world of work, see greater promotional opportunities. Accessing Idaho’s Career Information System is free and can help both parents and children:
Understand how interests and strengths connect to the world of work
Define a career path
Decide areas of study to pursue in middle/junior high, high school and college
Find the training, education, knowledge – and money – necessary for following their dreams.