What employers want from college grads

This Forbes article shares the results of a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) that asked hiring managers which skills they found most desirable when recruiting from the class of 2015 (both undergrad and graduate programs).

The top three:

1. Ability to work in a team structure
2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems (these were tied for #2)
3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization

I can’t imagine a better place to learn those skills than on a college campus that fits you, whether or not it’s prestigious.

Worth remembering

The 4th of July is a good time to remind the college bound (and their parents) that the United States has not only the most coveted system of higher education in the world, but also the most open and accessible. There are over 2,000 colleges and universities from which to choose, the average acceptance rate is 75%, and there are billions of dollars in financial aid available. Best of all, you don’t have to attend a famous, highly selective, or expensive college to reap all the benefits. It’s what you do while you’re there that will be most important.

Happy fourth!

Act your age

Parents see the world differently than teens do. Wisdom and perspective come with more years on the planet.

But parents, remember that the average age of a college admissions officer is much closer to that of your kids than it is to yours.

Admissions officers are in the business of evaluating teens—their accomplishments, their lives, their stories, etc. They expect teens to behave (and to present themselves) like teens. And they hope that parents will remember that they are not the applicant, but the parent of the applicant.

Everyone will enjoy a more successful, less stressful college admissions process when everyone acts their age.

Natural habitats

Arun sent our counselors a link to this video of Caltech’s annual Ditch Day. As he puts it, any student interested in Caltech can watch this video and know instantly if it’s the right school for them.

What if every college had a similar video featuring their happy students doing what they do, a unique video that could cut through all the collegiate marketing noise and show potential students what life on campus is really like?

Too many colleges try too hard to appeal to everyone. Their pitch seems to be that no matter what you might be looking for in a college, “We’ve got it!” But that only leads to meaningless marketing-speak on college websites, in their promotional materials, and from their tour guides.

Caltech’s video is a good reminder of just how powerful the message can be when a college has the confidence to be authentic, to appeal to those who are most likely to appreciate them, and to resist the urge to be all things to all prospective students.

Yes, embracing that focus might be easier for a school like Caltech, as they actually are different from pretty much every other college.

But colleges are inherently interesting places with equally interesting students inhabiting them. The branding experts, glossy materials, and tested marketing messages will never be as effective as celebrating the natural habitat that the students create themselves.

Free webinar: Guide to STEM programs

If you’re considering pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) program and would like to learn more about what your life might be like during and after college, join us for the following free webinar:

Guide to STEM programs: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Thursday, July 9
5 p.m. – 6 p.m. PST (8 p.m. – 9 p.m. EST)
Reservations are required: Click here to RSVP
*Attendance is limited to the first 200 registrants*

About the presenter:
Meredith Graham has worked as an associate director of admissions at the College of Engineering at Cornell and as an academic advisor at Purdue. She has a degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster and today is a Collegewise counselor in Columbus, OH.

We hope you can join us.

Five steps to get more done in less time

1. Start earlier than you need to.
2. Give yourself less time to complete it (create an artificial deadline if necessary).
3. Eliminate distractions like phone, email, and interruptions.
4. If it’s a big project, break it into smaller parts and start by attacking just one.
5. Use momentum like fuel—the more you add, the farther you’ll go.

Being profound without trying

Annabel Monaghan is right—many colleges share a similar piece of advice that most teenagers have great difficulty following—write a college essay that will “capture your true and authentic voice and reveal the essence of who you really are.

So let me put that advice a little differently—write a college essay that will help the admissions officers get to know more about you in a way that they couldn’t from your application alone.

Working at McDonalds, making dinner for her single dad, standing up on a surfboard for the first time, losing multiple elections, playing guitar in a garage band, hanging out amid the chaos in the kitchen of a Greek family with five kids—these are all real essays I’ve read, and they all captured their true and authentic voices and revealed some essence of who those kids really were.

And the best part? None of those kids asked themselves, “What story can I tell that will reveal the true essence of who I really am?” Instead, they just thought about their lives and shared something that mattered to them, and did so in their own words, without regard to whether or not it would appear impressive enough. Without the pressure to write something so innately profound, they actually did capture the essence of who they were. They were profound without trying to be.

No seventeen-year-old can be perfectly encapsulated in 500 words, and no college expects you to do so. So instead, use your essay to give the admissions officer some insight into you, your life, what you enjoy, where you struggle, etc. What would you have a lot to say about if someone asked you to share it? Start there.

If you write about something that matters to you, if you stop worrying about what will sound impressive and just write something that sounds like you, you’ll capture your true essence. And you’ll probably be profound without actually trying to be.

A chore or a joy?

A chore is an unpleasant but necessary task. Any pleasure to be found is almost always after the chore is done. You might like having a clean bathroom, and you might feel good knowing that the task is behind you. But I’ve yet to meet someone who finds joy in the act of cleaning their bathroom or who looks forward to the next time they will clean it.

For many students, preparing for college feels like a chore. Taking difficult classes, studying for the SAT, running for offices and doing community service and racking up accolades—it starts to feel like a three year progression of tasks that are unpleasant but necessary to get into college.

One of the best ways to take back some control of the admissions process and to be more successful when you apply is to drift towards those things that feel more like a joy than like a chore.

Favorite subjects and teachers, activities a student genuinely loves, hobbies that are pure fun without regard for their perceived college application gravity—the more a student pursues and celebrates those things, the fewer parts of the process will feel like chores (and the more energy they’ll have to complete those necessary chores that remain).

No, it’s not going to be all fun, all the time (my father likes to say, “It’s called ‘work’ for a reason—if it wasn’t work, they’d call it ‘vacation’”).

But the most successful students we work with at Collegewise have subjects, interests, and activities that light them up when they talk about them. They amplify those things that make them happy. And while they want their chores done and behind them, for everything else, they’re looking forward to the next time.