Posted by: makingcollegework | January 7, 2014

You are not in control

I live in the part of the United States that got hit with what the media are calling “Snowpocalypse.” Consequently, campus has been closed for the last two days, causing cabin fever and 3am e-mail chains.

One e-mail chain in particular came to me this weekend (while I was off of work), and the last two days (while campus has been closed).  This student needed permission for a class, and each e-mail was increasingly filled with anger and accusations.

When I politely explained the circumstances of why she needed permission in the first place, why she is ultimately responsible for having changed her schedule last minute when I got her permission for the class once already, and why really the university was doing her a favor by letting her have permission for a class she technically didn’t meet the requirements for in the first place (hence the need for permission)…her tone completely changed.  She used a lot of “lol” and “hahaha” in her final e-mail, stating that she wasn’t taking it out on me necessarily, but she just gets frustrated when she’s not in control.

Well, guess what…neither am I.

I can’t control the weather.  I can’t put in permissions while campus is closed.  I really don’t even have to respond to e-mails during a campus closure.  

Part of succeeding in the working world, and really in your personal life too, is realizing that you aren’t in control of everything.

I’m a fairly “type A” personality too, but I’ve learned over the years that getting mad because something’s out of your control doesn’t make anything better.  Having to back track from a string of angry e-mails makes you look unprofessional, and it will impact that person’s willingness to work with you in the future.

I admit, I’ve done it too.  But especially when sending e-mails, tone matters.  And once you push “send” you can’t take it back again.

Flexibility is a learned skill for some of us…but you can make an effort to improve both your attitude and your response to unexpected complications.  Take a deep breath, understand that you can’t control everything, and think before you “send”.

Posted by: makingcollegework | November 20, 2013


It has been quite a while since I have posted, so I will dedicate this post to the reasons why…

In the world of Higher Education, Fall semester is crazy, busy, and crucial.  It is the staff and faculty’s opportunity to get students engaged in the campus and their major, and we throw everything we’ve got at you!  From campus events to involvement fairs, we weave a whirlwind of advice and opportunities around our students.  The goal is two-fold: 1. that students will succeed academically their first semester, increasing the statistics that they will stay, complete their degree, and go on to become valuable alumni, and 2. that students will feel connected to campus, increasing the statistics that they will stay, complete their degree, and go on to become valuable alumni.

Students and staff alike will feel a lot more relaxed during the Spring semester (except for those students who didn’t succeed during the Fall, and then they will feel the pressure of Probation).

Click here to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

Click here to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

Meanwhile, I took it upon myself during this extremely busy time to apply, interview, and transition into a new job (crazy, right?!?).  I will post later about the lessons I learned about job-searching and resume-writing, but suffice it to say that blogging was low on my list of priorities!  I am now in my 3rd week in my new job, and I hope to get back to regular posting.

Click to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

Click here to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

My new job is still as an academic advisor at the same institution, but for the School of Business and I am in charge of the Honors Program within that school.  This will, I hope, give me all kinds of new insights to share with you about student populations I rarely worked with in my previous position as a Freshmen/Sophomore advisor.  I will get to share the joys and sorrows of approaching graduation, applying to study abroad programs, and balancing internships with school.  I will get the opportunity to give you an insider’s view of working with student leaders and higher education programming.

Click to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

Click here to go to #whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs

Stay tuned, and good luck as Finals Week approaches!

PS: Per my last post, if you haven’t enrolled in your courses for Spring 2014…DO IT NOW!!

Posted by: makingcollegework | August 15, 2013


It’s that time of the summer when students show up in my office, and I swear it’s like they were sitting in their pajamas yesterday thinking:



Somehow this turns into a discussion (or argument) about how they can only have their classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 11am and 4pm.  Oh, and they’re pre-med so they need all those lectures and laboratories that come with science classes.  Oh, and they could have registered at the end of March, but they were “busy” and then they “forgot” and now I’m all like:



Unfortunately for them, I don’t have a magic wand that suddenly opens up seats in classes where none have existed in months.  They have to settle for wait-listing classes that are full (with no guarantee of getting in), which can impact financial aid and causes significant stress.  Waiting so long also might impact their ability to graduate on time if they can’t get into important pre-requisite courses.  Suddenly, their choices become:



One of the most important skills successful college students have is the ability plan in advance.  From mapping out course requirements to showing up on test day prepared, being able to peer into the future, make sense of it, and create a time-table is essential to a college degree.  

Whether these skills come naturally, or you have to work hard to develop them, you WILL need to learn how to plan.  Your future boss will not remind you to show up prepared to Friday’s meeting.  He or She will not create your 12-month sales plan and then coach you every month or two on how to implement it.

Everyone plans and organizes in a different way.  You can use a planner and color-code the different aspects of your life.  You can use a calendar or organizational app on your phone.  You can enlist the help of a mentor to keep you accountable as you develop your skills.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, but this skill MUST be conquered if you intend to earn a college degree and work in a professional career.  Now go and:


Posted by: makingcollegework | August 2, 2013

Golden Ticket

A college degree is not a Golden Ticket into Willy Wonka’s magical factory of “satisfying” and “high salary” jobs.  Having a piece of paper might open a few more doors, but it doesn’t mean you get to walk through them.



Here are some of the reasons students come to see me:

  • “I just want to graduate as quickly as possible…what degree let’s me graduate soonest with the credits I already have?”
  • “Can I just have an associates degree now?”
  • “What are some easy classes I can take?”

These students don’t fully understand why they’re in college.  It’s about the KNOWLEDGE they are gaining and the EXPERIENCE they should be seeking out that makes having a bachelor’s degree so valuable.  These students look so forward to graduating and getting a good job, that they are ignoring the entire point: TO LEARN.

Furthermore, those who make it to graduation (barely) don’t understand the life-long learning their bachelor’s degree was supposed to inspire.  Think about these quotes from this article titled “Job Picture Looks Bleak for 2013 Grads”:

  • A survey of 500 hiring managers by recruitment firm Adecco, found that a majority—66 percent— believe new college graduates are not prepared for the workforce after leaving college.”
  • “Forty-three percent of managers said spelling errors on resumes can automatically disqualify a graduate from being interviewed.”
  • “Businesses want people in a chosen field but they also want people who can read and write and who are cultural literate,” said Jonathan Hill, an associate dean for special programs and projects at Pace University.
  • “College students must take courses in the humanities like English classes as well as focus on science and math,” Hill said. “Otherwise, graduates are going to have a tough time in the job market.”

Graduation doesn’t mean you STOP learning.  Graduation means you have learned how to learn, and that you seek out opportunities to continue expanding your knowledge and abilities.

Alternatively, many people can accomplish this WITHOUT a college degree:



Several of my uncles have achieved financial success without a college degree.  Their paths weren’t easy, but now they make MUCH more than I do (and I have a Master’s degree).

One joined the military, then got into sales, built his own business, and continues to balance a successful repair business and a lucrative sales job.  The other uncle, at one point, was sleeping in a Post Office at night, and now works very hard for a lucrative technology company that installs programs for hospitals.

I am an academic advisor, and school has always been a love and strength of mine.  However, college really isn’t for everyone…but KNOWLEDGE is.  

Learn.  Ask questions.  Read books.  Try new things.  Work hard.  Be reliable.

Whether you do these things with a college degree or without, you can be successful.  The diploma on your wall is largely useless if you also ignore the commands above.

Posted by: makingcollegework | July 18, 2013

5 Reasons Students Fail

Check out my guest post on!

“Liberal Arts Survival features guides, interviews, news, and advice to make your liberal arts degree work for you.”

Posted by: makingcollegework | June 27, 2013

“Do you want fries with that?”

I  read the Summer 2013 issue of my Ball State alumnus magazine today and was excited to see a familiar face discussing a familiar topic: the value of a Liberal Arts degree.  The chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, David Concepcion, wrote a fabulous article titled, “I majored in philosophy, Do you want fries with that?”

In May 2008, I graduated with a B.A. in Religious Studies, double majored in Spanish, and minored in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.  I earned a Liberal Arts degree in the WRONG way!

I didn’t job shadow.  I didn’t network.  I didn’t do internships.  And after graduation, I was not practiced in selling the skills I DID gain from my Liberal Arts education.

I struggled to find a job…and finally landed one as a Physical Therapy Aid for $13 an hour.  (After 5 years of college, I laundered and folded towels, put ice packs on people, and placed the correct weight of dumbbells in front of people…all for $27,000 a year!)

In this era of trying economic times, more and more students are scoffing at the value of their General Education requirements or Liberal Arts degrees, and are insistent on earning a degree that points to a very specific career.  Trouble is, getting a degree in teaching, and then being a teacher for 40 years is more the exception than the rule these days (I have nothing but anecdotal evidence to support this).

David makes the following great points about the value of a Liberal Arts education:

  • “[Liberal Arts] doesn’t prepare you for a career, it prepares you for all careers.”
  • [Employers] of the nations top private and nonprofit organizations ranked the ability to effectively communication, apply critical thinking to complex problems, and connect choices and actions to ethical decisions among top qualities they look for”
  • “it is rare to find employees who have curiosity, intellectual humility, and persistent-mindedness.”

Yes, you can get a B.A. in Religious Studies and struggle find a job with pay much higher than minimum wage, like I did.  David even agrees that, “the value of any degree is based on each graduate’s ambition and decisions.”  

I was NOT an ambitious college student and made some poor decisions…though I don’t necessarily regret my choice of major.

However, I’ve also seen students fail semester after semester, pursuing a degree that doesn’t fit their personality, skills, or long-tem goals…all in pursuit of a “guaranteed career field” and “plenty of money.”  I’ve seen students burnt out, academically dismissed, 2-3 years into their studies with no end in sight…in pursuit of a career their mom said was “stable” and “guaranteed.”

The Lesson: Pursue your passion, choose a course of study based on your abilities and long-term goals, and utilize the career planning resources on your campus to be able to articulate those clearly.  Then get out of the classroom and practice your critical thinking skills in volunteer positions, internships, on and off campus jobs, and campus organizations.


The electronic version of this article (Summer 2013 / Vol. 70 / No. 4) will be available on this website, though at the time of this post it currently is not:

Posted by: makingcollegework | June 3, 2013

Helicopter Parents

You should know, that once you are a college student, even if you’re not 18 years old yet, your college record is completely in your control.  Legally, the university you are attending cannot reveal your student record to ANYONE without your written consent.  (Google “FERPA”)

You should also know, that when you allow your mom or dad to call, visit, insult, e-mail, or otherwise overly interfere in your college career…the higher education professionals at that university WILL make fun of you behind your back.

This article explains, using social science research, why letting your parents think for you is actually damaging to you in the long run:

Helping or hovering? When ’helicopter parenting’ backfires.

Here are some examples of students I’ve met (and their parents), and what not to let your parents do:

  • I spent 45 minutes with two parents and their daughter (who barely spoke 10 words the whole time), as they explained to me how unfair it was that she got a D+ in her Human Biology class and thus would not be accepted to Dental Hygiene school.  Apparently, it’s not fair that there’s only one professor who teaches this class and her teaching style did not match their daughter’s learning style.  (Meanwhile she got a “C” in Chemistry, and wasn’t competitive for Dental Hygiene in the first place)
  • I got an e-mail once from a student I had been e-mailing back and forth with and it said (from the student’s personal e-mail), “We need to know what classes he should take so I can register him for classes.”  Not only was his mom reading and responding to his e-mails, she was registering him for classes too!
  • I’ve spent 3 hours total with a man who’s daughter is still in high school.  He came by himself the first time, and asked 1.5 hours worth of questions about health care majors and transferring from another institution if she decided to stay close to home for the first few years.  When he came back, and brought her with him, he spent 1.5 hours asking MORE questions…and she sat there and texted on her phone.
  • I saw a student once who was approaching her 3rd year in college.  She couldn’t decide on a major, and was miserable in every major she had tried.  After talking with her for a while, it turns out her passion is teaching young children…she has even done job shadowing and took some classes related to teaching at her high school.  She had wasted two years being lost and frustrated…because her Mom wouldn’t let her be an Elementary Education major because there “aren’t any jobs in teaching right now.”
  • I helped a student move some classes around for his semester because one class got cancelled.  The result ended up with 14 credits instead of 13 credits, but his divorced parents had agreed to split the cost of his tuition and each parent had already paid.  He was on the phone in my office, in tears, as he called one parent and then the other trying to navigate who would pay for the extra credit.

As you get ready for your New Student Orientation this summer…be prepared to start the process of choosing YOUR life, exploring YOUR career, and understanding YOUR academic requirements.  Your parents might be paying for college, or letting you live with them rent-free, and I hope you draw on their wisdom and life-experience.  But at the end of the day, you are in charge and your advisors and professors will expect you rise to the challenge and start taking responsibility for your life.  Your future employers are looking for you to be capable professionals who can evaluate information, make confident decisions, and take on tasks without having your hand held.  They do not want you to show up to your interview with your mom (or your cat):

Posted by: makingcollegework | May 22, 2013


New Student Orientation season starts in less than two weeks, and universities all across America are preparing themselves for the energetic, exhausting season of welcoming new students to their campus.

Here are the top 10 tips for getting the most out of your orientation day (or days):

1. Read everything in your Admission packet…twice.

I know there are a LOT of pieces of paper in there.  However, some higher education professional spent HOURS collaborating with other professionals to make sure that each piece of paper was CLEAR and contained EVERYTHING you needed to know.  You are starting a brand new educational journey, this is NOT 13th grade.  Read what you are given because it is all important!

2. Study for your Math placement test!

This might be different for every campus, but we encourage our students to prepare for their math placement test.  The MORE you are prepared to be tested on your comprehensive (Algebra-Calculus) Math ability, the better you will test.  A little bit of studying could save you a lot of TIME and MONEY if you test out of unnecessary math classes.

3. Take EVERY placement test SERIOUSLY.

I know it’s summer break, and your head is full of new information.  However, your placement tests (Chemistry, Math, World Languages, etc.) can make the difference of HUNDREDS of dollars and MONTHS of time.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

It is likely that what you don’t understand, others around you do not understand either.  By August, advisors and other higher education professionals have given their Orientation speeches sixteen thousand times.  If you don’t understand something, ask!  DO NOT GO HOME CONFUSED.

5. Set your Attitude!

Only you have the power to decide you are not too cool to have a good time at orientation. Yes, it’s mandatory.  Yes, some of it might not apply to you.  Enjoy the people you meet, Absorb the information you get, and Smile your way into some new friendships.


6. Attend everything with an open mind.

Your new school is the expert on what students need to do to succeed (aka graduate) at their institution.  Your life is about to change drastically…be open to having some of your ideas and thoughts challenged.  This is called MATURITY and GROWTH.

7. Practice trying things you’ve never done before.

Never talked to a representative from the Financial Aid Office before?  Never had lunch with a family from Saudi Arabia?  Never gone bowling at 11pm with a group of complete strangers?  It’s only 1 or 2 days…try something new!  Come August, MOST of what you do will be brand new to you…there’s no time like the present to challenge yourself!

8. Let Mom and Dad go…

You will NOT have Mom and Dad by your side the entire time.  Your new school will CHALLENGE you to make your own decisions.  Getting a college degree is about YOU choosing YOUR life path.  Take the opportunities where you will be separated from your parents as a chance to get used to being on your own.

9. Come prepared with 5-hour energies or Diet Coke!

I’ll be honest…you will be exhausted.  You brain will hurt, you will not get enough sleep, and half the time you’ll wish you could take a nap.  DO NOT stay up late the night before or schedule your Orientation on the day after vacation/trip to King’s Island with friends.  You will need every ounce of energy to accomplish numbers 1-8 above (especially #3!).

10. If anything is left up in the air, finalize it ASAP!

If for some reason, you leave Orientation with anything undecided (Math class, move in date, paperwork not signed, etc…), DO NOT wait until August to check your e-mail and address the unfinished business.  The options you have the day after Orientation will NOT be available to you the day before classes start.  Leave orientation with a name, phone number, and e-mail address of the person or persons who will help you finalize whatever is left to finalize.  Have everything decided and DONE within a few days after Orientation if not sooner.

Please share any stories from your Orientation, share any additional tips, or ask any questions this post doesn’t answer!

Posted by: makingcollegework | May 6, 2013

It’s too late…

Tumbleweeds blow across campus in that tenuous period of time between the end of the semester and the day official grades are due to the Registrar.  Professors are working furiously to grade 300 final papers and input  grades on 500 final exams.  Meanwhile, academic advisors are bombarded with students, suddenly terrified of flunking out of college.

Ironically, these same students weren’t worried about their grades…

  • In January, after the first test they failed
  • In February, when they ignored the Probation hold blocking them from registering for next semester
  • In March, when midterm grades were revealed
  • In April, when the last day to withdraw from classes passed

Now it’s May, and they are begging us not to dismiss them:


Unfortunately, this generation of students was raised in a world where everyone got a trophy, no one got cut from basketball try-outs, schools didn’t allow them to fail, and anything that didn’t go their way was vehemently championed by their well-meaning parents who associated their child’s failures with their own.

There were plenty of times during this semester, when they could have sought help, changed things around, and done what was necessary to avoid academic dismissal.  Once Finals Week rolls around…it’s too late.

Now, all they can do is accept the consequences of the choices they made during the last few months.  To them I say:

Have some pride, and don’t beg and plead to avoid dismissal.  I am not dismissing you from school…I am reminding you of the policies and procedures that were in place before this semester even began.  You failed to follow the rules that require you to maintain a certain GPA, and so you have allowed yourself to be kicked out of school.

Do not be afraid!  Flunking out of college does NOT ruin your life!  Many people have been kicked out of school, and gone on to lead highly successful lives…and so can you.

No, you will not graduate on time.

Yes, you will have to figure out an alternative plan for next semester.

It is UNETHICAL for me to let you stay in school.  Your academic career demonstrates that you have not set up your life for successful academic progress, and by NOT allowing you to continue to fail or withdraw from another semester of classes, I am doing you a favor (i.e. saving you $$$ and TIME)!  

You have been given a chance, through rude interruption to your life, to REFLECT on your past actions, DEVELOP different habits, EXPLORE your true motivations for earning a college degree, and CHANGE your life so that when you return to school…you can graduate!

Don’t waste your time begging for second chances.  EXPERIENCE the shame, embarrassment, grief, challenge, and time so that on the other side of academic dismissal…you feel the hope, motivation, and confidence necessary to SUCCEED…

…at whatever it is you will do next….

Finally, I leave you with this wisdom from my Dave Ramsey calender:


Posted by: makingcollegework | April 23, 2013

What is college for?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article which provides nine different opinions from presidents of colleges who answered the question, “What is college for?”  

Here is my summary in order of the presidents listed in the article (followed of course by my opinion):

  1. Wise: Colleges must prepare students to be lifelong learners and sufficiently prepare them for a specific career field.
  2. Martin: College is for the development of knowledge…about yourself, about love, about society, etc.
  3. Kinbrough: “Colleges are places where students learn and grow through intellectual collisions in and out of class, with professors, staff, and peers…”
  4. Hitt: “Higher education remains the best way for parents to transform dreams into reality for their children”
  5. Urgo: “College is for students to decide what and how they want to contribute to society, to the economy, to their communities, and to the well-being of their families.”
  6. Lief: “Higher education should be a catalyst for enlightened transformation of both the self and the world.”
  7. Drake: “College is to enable, inspire, and empower students to make a difference in the world.”
  8. Hellyer: “College is for intellectual and personal development, but it must also lead to jobs for the students who are working hard to make an investment in their future lives..”
  9. Pepicello: “College is for creating a pathway to career success.”


#8 says it best.  At the end of 120 credits worth of college courses, the student should be more knowledgeable, professional, mature, wise, and skilled for entry-level positions in their field.

I struggle with this post, because higher education professionals and college students BOTH struggle to find a balance between personal/intellectual growth and being work-force ready.  I’ve spent hours in the last few weeks having painful conversations with students who:

  • Completed a general studies Associate’s Degree at a community college, and still don’t know what career field they want to pursue.
  • Completed several semesters towards a difficult health care major, but their grades aren’t strong enough to be accepted and they have refused to research alternative career paths.
  • Transferred from campus to campus, never completing anything, and now have over 100 credits but are still 3-4 years from graduating.

I understand the absurdity of asking 18-year-olds to choose a career path, and I acknowledge the errors of the institutions who allowed these students to spend so much time being undecided.  However, the reality of higher education is that by the time you have completed 30 credits…you should have a pretty solid idea of what major you wish to complete.  Otherwise, you risk spending money and time on courses that won’t complete your degree.

10. Bumbalough: College should both teach you how to think (this is the reason for Gen Eds and Liberal Arts), and teach you the skills necessary to land an entry-level job.  (I will discuss the misconceived perceptions of what an entry-level job is, and pays, another time)

This is both the responsibility of the college, who makes the curriculum decisions, and the student, who must make an effort to understand himself and where his talents and interests lay.  Your ideal career won’t fall out of the sky…even after 120 credits, you can still be “undecided.”

What you do outside the classroom matters.  It takes most students about 1 year to complete 30 credits.  What can you do in an entire year, besides grow intellectually, to make your dream of a college education something that will also lead to your dream of a satisfying career?  Here are some ideas:

  • Job Shadow (more than one person in the same field, and more than one person in different fields)
  • Informational Interview: ask many different people to sit down with you for 1 hour and discuss their jobs…what does that person like and dislike about their job?
  • Volunteer…in more than one place
  • Career Counseling (many colleges provide this for free)
  • Reflection…journal about yourself and your journey (how can you talk about yourself in an interview if you’ve never spent time thinking about yourself in a productive format?)
  • Read biographies…what do other people’s journeys look like?


You are responsible for figuring out yourself.  No one else can do it for you.


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