Monday, March 11, 2013

Completing the FAFSA

Admissions counselors and universities throw the term “FAFSA” around on a regular basis when
discussing tuition and cost with prospective students and families. In case you have been wondering
what the FAFSA is, I’ll share a general overview of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and explain its importance to you.

So what is the FAFSA? Essentially it will determine your “financial need” or eligibility for financial aid from the federal and state governments, and your university. In other words, if you would like to be considered for any federal, state, or university grants, loans, need-based scholarships, or work-study opportunities, you must complete the FAFSA. The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid provides over $150 billion in financial aid to over 15 million students (Federal Student Aid, 2013).

As you and your family prepare to complete the FAFSA, it’s important to note that there are different application deadlines at the federal, state and university levels in order for you to be guaranteed consideration for financial aid. To monitor federal and state deadlines, you can utilize the FAFSA webpage. Make a list of all the universities you have applied and/or
been admitted to and check their websites for financial aid application deadlines.

The FAFSA will gather information about your family’s income and assets to determine your financial need, so your family must have their federal and state taxes filed in order to complete the FAFSA. Although you may think you will not be eligible for financial aid for any number of reasons (perhaps you assume your family’s income is too high, or your grades are high enough), every student and family should complete the FAFSA.

Once you’re ready to complete your FAFSA, go to to complete an online or print application. At this point in your senior year, you are probably tired of completing applications related to college admissions, but this is a very important one and worth the effort!

To learn more about the FAFSA, go to


Federal Student Aid: An Office of the U.S. Department of Education. (2013). FAFSA: Apply for Aid.
Retrieved from

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Finding an Internship

At this point in the semester, most college students are focused on preparing for mid-term exams and counting down the days until spring break. Although it may feel as though summer will never come, you should begin thinking about how you will spend those few months. Completing an internship is becoming increasingly important and the summer months provide a great time to do this. Most large companies have internship programs that they use as an extended job interview and successful students can walk away from their summer internship with a full-time job offer before they even begin their senior year of college. Students with internship experiences are much more marketable to potential employers when they are seeking their first full-time job after graduation. Here are some tips as you begin exploring possible internship opportunities.

Connect with your Career Services Office

Your campus career services office is an important resource for you to utilize throughout your college career. The spring career fairs hosted by your campus will be heavily attended by employers seeking interns for the summer, so don’t miss out on those opportunities. Also make sure to attend other networking events or information sessions that are hosted on your campus. It’s also helpful to set up a time to meet with a career advisor –they can provide personal insight about potential internships and help you prepare your resume and get ready for your interview. If your career services office has an online job board or database, make sure to check that regularly for new internship openings that are being recruited for on your campus.

Talk with your Professors, Advisors, and Peers

The people within your academic department and major can provide excellent suggestions to you as you determine which employers to pursue an internship with. Your professor and advisors will be aware of the employers that former students have interned with and will know which experiences were positive. They may also have personal contacts within the company and have the ability to get you connected directly with their recruiter. Also, talk with your peers to see where they have completed internships and which employers they are currently pursuing internships with. Word-of-mouth can sometimes be very helpful to identify companies that provide good internship experiences, and you may even be able to get a referral from a peer or professor.

Explore Online Job Resources

Perhaps you already have a list of companies that you know you want to intern with, but you don’t
have any personal connections to the organization and they don’t actively recruit on your campus. If this is the case, explore the company’s website and careers page to see if they hire interns and what the application process entails. You may also want to utilize job websites such as LinkedIn,,, etc. Keep in mind that if you are pursuing internship opportunities in this way, you will likely have to complete a lot of applications and may never hear back from companies or have a way to reach out to them personally. Perseverance is important during this process, searching for an internship takes a lot of hard work, but you never know what companies might be excited to receive your application.

Contact Local Businesses

Although large companies are usually more well-known for their formal internship programs,
completing internship with a small business can provide an equally valuable professional experience. If you plan to go home over the summer or stay in your college town/city, explore the small businesses in those areas and contact them personally to inquire about potential internship opportunities. If you don’t know where to begin looking for small businesses, contact the local Chamber of Commerce for a directory of their members.

One last important word of advice is to check with your academic advisor to see if your program
requires and internship, and if so, find out what you need to do in order to gain academic credit for your internship. Although completing multiple internships is never a bad idea, you want to make sure you complete all of your academic requirements to graduate on-time first and foremost.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What Do I Do with My Major? The LinkedIn Game

Contrary to what some people might think, college students do not change their majors as often as
they change their shoes. But there’s no doubt that many students do anguish over making a choice,
fearing that the decision will define the path for the rest of their lives. If only colleges awarded degrees
in “Undecided.”

Your college’s career center can help you with this quandry. Many of them have resources that show the
types of jobs you can get with one major or another. Often, they will be able to point out the skills that
you’ll learn on the way to earning your degree, and how these apply to work in the real world.

But here’s the cold truth; the content you learn on your way to graduation has far less impact on how
you’ll fare in the working world than the skills and experience that you gain. How to think critically
and creatively, how to communicate clearly and effectively, how to complete a task promptly and
thoroughly: these are the lessons that will have the biggest impact on your success.

These good news is that these skills are not tied to one subject major or another. The fact is that
most people end up in jobs that have little or nothing to do with the subjects that they studied as
undergraduates. And yet these people are still successful. And they enjoy their work!

How can you explore what people really do with their degrees? I’ve come up with a way that I call “The
LinkedIn Game” and it’s easy to do. Just start on your LinkedIn home page, and in the “People” search
box, enter the name of a major such as “American History.” Then look at the profiles of the people
who show up in the results. You can check the Education section of their profiles to see what their
undergraduate major was, and then you can look at what they’re doing now.

I tried “American History” on my network, and out of the first five results, only one had something to
do with their major: history professor. The other four included a corporate trainer, a lawyer for a major
insurance company, a family therapist, and an executive with a computer game company.

Play the LinkedIn Game yourself, and explore all the different things that people have done with their
degrees. And keep in mind that over the course of their careers, many people in college now will hold
jobs that don’t even exist today. When I was a Biology major in the early 70s, there was no way to
predict that I would spend the bulk of my career writing about personal computers because they had
not been invented yet.

Your own preconceptions are more likely to limit your job options than your choice of majors will.
So pick a major that you like, work hard to get good grades, and develop the skills that will make you
attractive to employers. At graduation, you will be in a position to become a valuable and productive
employee in a wide range of businesses.

Alfred Poor, Ph.D
Alfred Poor, Ph.D. is a note speaker, writer, and career skills expert. He is the author of “7 Success Secrets That Every College Student Needs to Know!”
He welcomes your questions at:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Heathcare Careers - Not just for doctors and nurses

The healthcare industry is one of the fastest growing and recession-proof industries in the country but it is not limited to doctors and nurses.  Check out this infographic from Westwood College  about great professions within the healthcare industry. (Click photo for larger view)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Spring To-Do List for High School Seniors

Welcome back seniors! You only have a few more months of high school remaining until you embark on your new adventure. While it's easy to get caught up in all the glitz and glamour of your final months as a senior with prom, senior night, graduation, etc., remember that there are still a few things left to do before you hit the road in May.

1. Fill out the FAFSA - The FAFSA is the Free Application For Student Aid. This is the form you will need to use to apply for student loans, grants, and the federal work study program. (For more information on these programs, visit the FAFSA website) You will need your parent(s)' tax information (and yours if you held a job during the year) so be sure to encourage them to file early. The priority deadline is March 15.

2. Take advantage of Spring visit days-  Many schools offer special visit days in the Spring for students still making their final decisions on which school to attend, or even a special day for admitted students to come and meet other students. Check your school's admissions calendar for dates of these events.

3. Register for Orientation - Summer orientation is mandatory at most schools. Register early to secure a date that works for you!

4. Accept/Decline Scholarships - Don't forget to accept or decline your scholarships by May 1 (most schools). You definitely don't want to lose your hard earned scholarship because you didn't accept it in time. Also, many schools are able to re-award scholarships, so if you know you are not going to attend a school, go ahead and decline their scholarships and give other students a chance to be re-awarded.

5. Sign up for housing. - Be sure to check the deadline for applying housing at your school. This one sneaks up on a lot of students!

6. Apply for additional scholarships. - Still looking for scholarships? It's not too late! Check internet sites like Fast Web for opportunities outside your school. Also, be sure to check civic groups in your community and your parents' workplace for scholarship opportunities.

7. Join college specific Facebook groups - Do a Facebook search for groups for incoming students to your university of choice. Admissions Offices often set up groups for incoming students to meet each other before arriving on campus.

8. Research clubs and organizations at your future school - Were you actively involved in high school? Check your university/college's website for a list of student activities and clubs offered. Pick one or two to be dedicated to and get involved. Getting involved early is the fastest way to make friends on campus.

9. Start stocking up on supplies for your dorm. - Moving away from home can be expensive! Start stocking up on supplies you will need in your dorm room now so you don't have to buy it all at once.

10. Thank your Admissions Counselor. Flowers and candy are nice (joking).  In all honesty, Admissions Counselors do their jobs because they love helping students like you. They spend all year looking for the best students for their university and invest time (often away from their families and on unpaid overtime) and effort into helping those students make sure they have all their ducks in a row from the application to scholarship information. Taking time to send a quick thank you email will make them feel like all their hard work for you has not gone unnoticed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Build Your Resume as a College Student

You may not be worried about having a professional resume until you’re nearing your senior year in college and applying for internships or jobs, but it’s very important to start thinking about the content of your resume as soon as you set foot on campus (if not before then). As a student with little to no professional experience directly related to your future career, you may not be sure of what to include on a resume. Your university undoubtedly has numerous opportunities for you to get involved and begin building your resume. Here are some key opportunities you have as a college student that you can incorporate into your resume.

Work Experience
Although it may be a challenge to find a part-time job as a student that directly relates to your major or future career, getting work experience is extremely valuable. Regardless of the nature of your part-time job, you will gain professionalism skills that will transfer to any future career—responsibility, communication, teamwork, time management, problem solving, etc. Many employers who receive a resume from a student with a 4.0 GPA but no work experience will be more likely to hire a student with a lower GPA who has work experience. Plus, it’s a great way to earn some supplemental income during your expensive college years.
Internships provide a great opportunity to gain professional experience that is directly related to your major and future career. They serve as a sort of trial run, where both the intern and the employer can determine if they are a good match for long-term employment. Regardless of whether or not an internship leads to a full-time job, having that line on your resume will demonstrate competence in your field through your efforts in a real-world, professional environment in the industry. 

Organization Involvement
Nearly every employer who recruits on my campus is looking for candidates with leadership experience. There are countless opportunities on a college campus to get involved as a leader—student organizations, housing governance boards (residence halls, Greek houses, etc.) and student government are just a few examples. As a freshman, get involved as a member in a handful of activities and consider pursuing leadership positions as they are available. I became a member of my department’s student organization as a freshman, just expecting to attend meetings and socials, but by the spring I was already appointed as a co-chair for our open house activities. Later as a junior, I got involved in student government and the next year I was elected president of my college council. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there when opportunities like this arise, they will provide tremendous learning experiences and look great on a resume.

Community Service and Engagement
While featuring community service experience on your resume is more important in certain industries such as the non-profit sector, being an involved member of your campus and community demonstrates a strong level of personal responsibility. If you are dedicated to giving back to your community and serving others, you are also demonstrating to a potential employer that you will be a strong contributor to their organization.

Study Abroad/International Experience
In an increasingly global society, having a study abroad or international experience can be an appealing addition to a resume. International experiences expose you to new cultures and languages, and develop your ability to adapt to a new environment.  Gaining a broadened worldview through international experiences is a valuable skill that translates to any career.

Although research might not be a very appealing endeavor to the average college student, conducting research either independently or with a professor can help you become more knowledgeable in your field. Employers appreciate when a candidate shows exceptional interest and expertise in the work of their industry. Even if you have no desire to complete a formal research project, make sure you read professional journals in your field and stay informed about current events that relate to your future career.
Although I’ve focused on the professional benefits of getting involved in these different activities on your campus, I’d be remiss to not mention the personal benefits. My various involvements in college resulted not only in my professional development, but also life-long friendships with other students who I wouldn’t have met if I had gone to class and done nothing else on campus. I also developed mentoring relationships with professors who became like second parents to me during my college career, and continue to be huge supporters in my life.