5 Steps to Charting Your Own Course

chart your course

The important people in your life – your parents, teachers, etc. – they want the best for you, right? They probably have specific ideas about what “the best” means and how you’re going to get it.

But what do you want? Success and fulfillment in life come from discovering and following your own path, rather than plodding down the one someone else determined for you. But planning your whole entire life? Well, that’s a massive load of pressure.

Create Steps

When you’re faced with an enormous project or problem – like plotting a course for the next 80% of your life – the best approach is to break it down into little, manageable tasks. Then just focus on one at a time.

Here are some steps to help you “carpe futurum” – seize your own future:

Step 1 – Start with a Good Attitude

It’s easy to get down on yourself. But a little confidence – even if you have to fake it at first – goes a long way. When you’re thinking about your future, it’s imperative that you approach it with a sense of optimism and positivity.

You’re already a step ahead – you live in a land of opportunity. With a little work, almost anything is possible. Remind yourself that you deserve to accomplish everything you want to accomplish.

As former President Barack Obama said in a Back-to-School speech to students on September 8, 2009: “No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny.”

Step 2 – Listen to Your Heart

If you’re like most people, there’s a constant stream of babble in your head, and some of it doesn’t always make sense. But amidst the chatter there are dreams and aspirations and ideas. There’s also a deep intuition that’s often called “your gut.” The trick is to create a filter that lets you drain off some of the clutter and focus in on the kernels of genius, passion and inspiration that can ultimately guide your major life decisions.

Block out periods of 10 minutes, a few times a week (maybe right before bed) to slow down and quiet your mind. Ask yourself what inspired you that day. Where were your successes? What made you happy? What ideas would you like to follow up on?

Step 3 – Find the Perfect Combo

Your ideal future career might be a fusion of what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about. Finding that perfect combo might take a little experimentation. Even if your schoolwork doesn’t always seem pertinent to “real life,” it can help you zero in on your strengths.

As President Obama said in that same speech, “Maybe you could be a good writer… but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.”

As you tackle your school subjects, don’t just focus on getting decent grades. Focus on what you found interesting about what you learned. What sparked your curiosity? What did you have a knack for? What gave you a sense of accomplishment? Somewhere in your day-to-day experiences you’ll find indicators for your future. Even a passion for computer games – or sketching, or animals, or anything – may help direct you toward a promising career.

Step 4 – Try It Out

“Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

~ Thomas Jefferson

Once you’ve identified some of your strengths and passions, pursue them. Dig deeper. Seek out people with similar interests. Find mentors. Perhaps you can volunteer in the field, or find an internship. Or you can try a summer program that enables you to get hands-on as you “test-drive” your potential career.

Don’t be afraid to change direction along the way, as you discover new things. Remember this is your course, and you aren’t chained to any one specific outcome. Don’t resist new impulses, just because they don’t seem to jive with your pre-determined plan.

Also, don’t be afraid to fail. As President Obama mentioned in his speech, “JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team… But he once said, ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’”

Step 5 – Paint a Picture

Once you’ve discovered your strengths and passions, start to fill in the fuzzy lines with colors and details. Those “colors” include your priorities and values, as well as your goals. Paint a clear picture of what you want your life to be, and understand what it entails.

Then make little, everyday decisions that fit with and enable that perfect life. Again, you’ll be breaking the bigger project down into littler steps. If your day-to-day decisions complement and advance the attainment of your perfect life, you’ll find that life starting to develop, almost by magic.

If you think luck plays a bigger role in success than anything else, contemplate these words from President Jefferson, “The harder I work, the more luck I have.”

Don’t Give Up!

There are bound to be set-backs or course-corrections along the way. Just remember to keep that positive attitude, and don’t give up on yourself. Find your passion, and then develop the skills and experience that can turn passion into a gratifying and rewarding life of accomplishment.

Helpful Resources:

  • To read: What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens, by Carol Christen and Richard N. Bolles, designed to help you discover your passions, skills, potential college majors, and dream jobs.
  • To explore: The Own Your Own Future website, with specific tips on making your college dream a reality.

Reference: https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/chart-your-own-course


Forget Camp – Career Exploration is this Summer’s New “Must Do” Activity

Blood Pressure Students

Out with campfires, sing-alongs, and lousy mess hall food. In with mock trials, surgical simulations, and authentic experiences on college campuses. More and more, students are looking at career exploration as a more impactful way to spend a part of their summer.

Why is career exploration important? First, students are facing an amazing amount of complexity and change in the workforce over the next 10-15 years. Almost 50% of the careers that will be available to today’s students do not even exist today, which means early exposure to emerging careers is key. Second, in many school systems around the country, career readiness activities are “scattershot”, with emphasis on activities (career fairs, interest inventories) that lack depth. Instead, students should not only get a chance to learn about different careers, but actually get a chance to “try” them with hands-on learning opportunities. Finally, students should have a direction and a plan for where they want to go with their careers. This should be based on an understanding of what they’re passionate about, but also on a clear understanding of the steps required to make a career goal a reality.

Career exploration programs help to address these needs by enabling students to discover what they’re passionate about, by giving them authentic “hands on” experience to determine what a career field is really like, and by equipping them with a plan that they can use to make their career goals a reality. A great example is the Envision Intensive Law and Trial program held at Stanford University. At this 10 day summer program, high school students learn about law careers directly from professors at the Stanford Law School, and work as teams to participate in a simulated mock trial – held in the actual courtrooms of the San Francisco Superior Court. What they leave with is not just an amazing summer memory, but a viewpoint as to whether law is the right career for them, informed by immersion into the field.

Many career exploration programs take place on college campuses, so students can begin to get an authentic view of what college life is like. Just as importantly, students have a chance to bond and connect with other high aspiring students like themselves.

So, as students prepare to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century career landscape, summer career exploration programs promise more purpose than a traditional summer camp, while not sacrificing any of the fun. The food’s a little better as well!

Reference: https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/forget-camp-career-exploration-is-this-summers-new-must-do-activity


5 Things Millennials Need To Understand About Money In 2017


 Posted by: Broke Millennial®

This piece originally ran on Forbes 

We all know to pay yourself first, have an emergency fund, you can snowball or avalanche your way out of debt. There are plenty of personal finance clichés and idioms, and for good reason. For the most part, though worn out, they’re true. This list, however, is not generalities. It’s five things you – as a millennial – need to understand about money in 2017.

1. Other people will be happy to spend your money

There’s no Hallmark card to convey “Happy You’re Getting Married, But This Destination Bachelor Party and Wedding In Another State Is Too Rich For My Budget,” because it feels like bad manners to turn down such invites. So the mid-twenties to early-thirties seems like an endless cycle of birthday parties, bachelor parties, bridal showers, weddings, baby showers and not to mention Kickstarter requests, brunch dates and happy hours, which drain both your bank account and, often, vacation time.

Here’s the secret: other people are happy to spend your money for you.

It may be your best friend’s/cousin’s/college roommate’s special day that only comes along once in a life time (or so they hope), but it’s a day that will be on repeat for you. Participating in a wedding, while an an honor, can cause a slow creep towards danger zone for your bank account. This leads to either a wildly awkward conversation or ignoring the problem and just financing the expenses on a credit card.

Don’t do the latter.

2. Just using one investing or savings app isn’t sufficient

Using apps to automate your financial life, increase your savings and start investing became all the rage in the last few years. There’s nothing wrong with using apps to give your money a little boost – but you shouldn’t solely rely on them to get the job done.

Digit is one such app that works well to help save money you probably weren’t going to tuck away in the first place – but it shouldn’t be your only means of saving. Digit, which is free to use, typically pulls money from checking to Digit savings in increments of $5 to $50. Speaking from my own experience, Digit saves me an average of $110 per month. It’s not an insignificant sum, but the annual total is around $1,320. That’s a nice supplemental amount to fund a travel savings account or emergency fund buffer – but saving a percentage of a paycheck before it even hits checking (automating) should still take priority.

Update 4/11/17: Digit is no longer free to use. It now charges $2.99 per month — so just up your automated savings yourself and avoid getting charged to save your own money.  

Acorns is an app with the tagline “automatically invest life’s spare change. Anyone can grow wealth.” The app gets connected to your credit or debit card and rounds up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the change into a diversified portfolio of ETFs ranging in risk based on your tolerance. Unlike Digit, there is a fee to use Acorns just like nearly any investing platform. It starts at $1 a month and increases to 0.25% per year once your portfolio hits $5,000 or more.  While it’s a strong way for a millennial to start investing if they wouldn’t otherwise be proactive, just contributing your spare change isn’t enough. You could use Acorns to set up reoccurring investments, but moving beyond the spare change program alone needs to be your goal in 2017 in order to make a real impact.

3. Yes, those small purchases are actually adding up – but not why you think

You’ve certainly heard about the latte factor by now. As a lover of lattes myself, it’s an obnoxious attack on the frothy milk and espresso beverage – but it’s not entirely wrong. However, it’s not the latte itself that invokes the wrath of personal finance gurus. It’s the act of routine, mindless spending. The easiest way to nix mindless spending is that dirty b word: budget. You can still have some of your small (or occasionally large) indulgences when factored into your budget, but big or small spending without constraint keeps you in that dreaded paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle.

At the bare minimum you should know your cash flow – how much is coming in and how much is going out.

4. Physical buildings aren’t necessary for keeping your money safe

It’s nearly 2017 and we’re supposed to be digital natives and yet scores of millennials still feel anxious about using an Internet-only bank. Using a traditional brick-and-mortar bank is not going to keep your money any safer than an Internet-only bank like Ally, Charles Schwab, USAA or Capital One 360. Not to mention Internet-only banks tend to offer more competitive interest rates on savings accounts and provide lower fees on checking accounts. Wondering “how do I get my money out”? Some online banks belong to a network of ATMs like AllPoint or Star while others reimburse ATM fees you’re charged at any bank. Just be sure your bank is FDIC insured and you’ll be getting the same level of protection as a brick-and-mortar establishment. Plus, doesn’t it make logical sense that a progressive online bank would be more on top of its security game than some of the old school brick-and-mortar types that still have crappy websites? Just a thought.

5. Saving is important, but negotiating is critical

Personal finance articles often extoll the virtues of saving (this one already did) but this isn’t the only important money skill on the road to wealth. Your ability to negotiate has a significant impact on your lifetime earning potential. Some even claim you could be losing out on a million dollars or more over the course of your career by not learning how to negotiate early.

You don’t have to start with the biggie of walking into your annual review and asking for more money. Instead, try calling up your Internet or cable provider and negotiating to get a lower price point on your package or a perk if you stay at the same rate. Small experiences help get you prepped for not only potential rejection with little on the line, but how to counter in a negotiation.

When you prep to go into your boss’s office or get on the phone with a client, it’s important to have proof of why you deserve a raise and a specific request in mind. Don’t just accept a 3% raise to adjust for inflation. Show your boss how you’ve improved, what you’ve brought to the company, compliments you’ve received from co-workers and clients, metrics that back up your tangible contributions to the company. Also come in armed with the knowledge of how much someone in your position, living in your city, makes at your job. Then make the specific ask of how much of a raise you’d like. The worst your boss can say is no. It might ding your pride a bit, but it’s better than staying mute.

Image from Unsplash

Reference: http://brokemillennial.com/2017/02/16/5-things-millennials-need-understand-money-2017/


Best STEM Discoveries of 2016

solar panel

At Envision we love STEM because of its potential for improving lives and solving some of our world’s biggest problems. Considering all the impressive advances made by scientists and technologists this year, it was difficult to identify just one top discovery for each STEM field. We won’t insist that our picks are the best, but they are undeniably cool.


For centuries man has wondered if we’re alone in the universe. Or, if we ventured beyond our solar system, could we find a new home? This year scientists discovered a habitable planet, Proxima b, orbiting Proxima Centauri, just over 4 light-years away. This relatively “close” neighbor appears to have a surface temperature that would accommodate liquid water, and thus could potentially sustain life.

Meanwhile, physicists confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, defined by Gizmodo as, “vibrations in the fabric of the universe – light-speed ripples in spacetime.” National Geographic celebrates this discovery because, “gravitational waves can act as a new way of seeing otherwise invisible objects in the universe, such as … black holes.”


Although the cyborg stingray, an engineered marvel of metal, silicone and living tissue, swam its way into our hearts this year, our favorite technological advance is probably the high-efficiency solar panels produced by a new factory in Buffalo, NY. The factory, capable of producing a gigawatt of solar capacity per year, is expected to change the economics of residential solar power, making this alternative energy more accessible to all.


For engineering’s top innovation, we’re intrigued by the groundbreaking scientists in Iceland who captured environmentally-harmful carbon dioxide emissions and turned them to stone, instead of releasing them into the atmosphere. What if we could use our CO2 as a building material, and help counter the greenhouse effect? We’re keeping an eye on this fascinating development.

Honorable mentions in engineering innovation go to the Tesla car that can drive itself, Shanghai’s extra-green skyscraper architectural technology, and, because we always yearn to go where no man has gone before, NASA’s Juno rocket, which has successfully achieved orbit around Jupiter.

Math and Medicine

You may not think “Math!” when it comes to milestone discoveries, but remember: Man couldn’t build a self-driving car, an eco-friendly skyscraper or a record-setting rocket without some serious math skills.

Did you know that prime numbers are essential to modern cryptography? Our pick for the coolest math discovery of 2016 is the new, largest prime number, with a whopping 22,338,618 digits. The software used in this discovery is running on a global network of CPUs peaking at 450 trillion calculations per second.

At Envision, the M in STEM is a multi-tasker, standing for Medicine as well as Math. We couldn’t write an article on the top innovations of 2016 without mentioning the genetically-engineered immune cells, now used to save the lives of cancer patients, as well as to keep food from spoiling. This year’s other amazing medical achievements include virtual reality software for med students and surgeons, interoperability between health providers, and advances in anti-aging drugs, prosthetics and artificial retinas.

To read more about the amazing discoveries of 2016, check out these great sources:

10 Amazing Scientific Discoveries from ListVerse

MIT’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies

NatGeo’s Discoveries Worth Celebrating

11 Greatest Engineering Innovations from Popsci

Top 10 Medical Technologies from Medical Futurist

Reference: https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/best-stem-discoveries-of-2016


Book Review: They Don’t Teach Corporate in College

Book Review: They Don’t Teach Corporate in College

Author: Alexandra Levit

Length: 240 pages

Intent/Focus: A must-have guide to success in the corporate world, for college students, recent grads and twenty-somethings readying themselves for career success.

What You Will Learn: Tips for traversing the corporate world with professionalism and panache – and coming out on top.

Why We Recommend It: They Don’t Teach Corporate in College aligns with Envision’s mission to provide students with the resources for college and career success. This book helps high school students better understand the corporate environment as they prepare to make their career aspirations a reality.

Summary: This most recent edition of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College reflects the unique needs and challenges of new grads and twenty-somethings who want to make a difference right now, but need deeper insight into making it happen. Published in September 2004, this book is currently used as a text in corporations and universities across the country.

The 10 chapters in this book cover a wide range of important guidelines for inexperienced job-seekers as well as any young person focused on career management. The title of the book summarizes its value, since, as the author points out, the corporate world is nothing like academia. “You come up against rules no one ever told us about.” Written from the perspective of a wise older sister who doesn’t want you to learn the hard way, the book provides personal anecdotes and specific tips for success.

Here is a quick summary of the chapter contents:

Chapter 1: Find Yourself. Find a Paycheck – finding occupations that match your skills and interests
Chapter 2: Congratulations. You’re Hired – creating a good first impression at your new company
Chapter 3: Working the Crowd – work relationships, mentorships and office politics
Chapter 4: Be the Master of Your Plan – goal-setting and showcasing your accomplishments
Chapter 5: The Purposeful Workday – managing your workload and business communications
Chapter 6: Check Your Attitude at the Door – combating negativism and staying motivated
Chapter 7: People Management – getting along with coworkers
Chapter 8: Moving Up in the World – scheduling and maximizing performance reviews
Chapter 9: You’re the Boss Now! – how to be a good manager
Chapter 10: Exit Stage Left – how to leave your current employer without burning bridges

Other sage advice found in the book:

  • Landing your dream job by avoiding the HR black hole
  • Developing your professional image and reputation
  • Becoming your own public-relations machine
  • Learning the real meaning behind corporate lingo
  • Dealing with corporate reorganizations
  • Navigating the office social scene and practicing cringe-free networking
  • Combating negativity and coping with difficult personalities

The Reviews

In his article in Quintessential Careers, educator and Ph.D. Randall S. Hansen said, “The book is well organized, written with a breezy style, and packed with some great advice. I also love the many vignettes from younger job-seekers who have faced the many challenges Levit highlights in the book.

Daniel H. Pink, author of another recommended book, Drive, said, “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College is too good to be given only to the twenty-somethings. Anyone who’s feeling lost and overwhelmed in cubicle country can benefit from reading this eminently practical book.”

In the many 5-star reviews from readers, we see quotes such as:

“[The author] gives the reader confidence and a new outlook because she does not just provide comforting words. She elucidates her point with concrete examples.”

“This is a great resource for anyone entering Corporate America… One might think the information is ‘common sense’, but too often we don’t use common sense until someone makes the ‘light bulb’ go off. Alexandra does this beautifully!”

From a college professor:

“Alexandra Levit is right on the mark with this book. I have incorporated this book into my class discussions and the students will be more prepared for the corporate world because of it!”

About the Author

Alexandra Levit is a former nationally-syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current writer for the New York Times, as well as the author of several books. She consults on leadership development and career and workplace trends on behalf of American Express, Deloitte, DeVry University, Intuit and PepsiCo, among others. An American Management Association Top Business Leader for 2014, she was named Money Magazine‘s Online Career Expert of the Year.

Reference: https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/book-review-they-dont-teach-corporate-in-college-for-students


Five Interesting STEM Careers

Five Interesting STEM Careers

An education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) offers students a bright future. This well documented and encouraged learning path holds promise for a great career in science, research, medicine, technology, and much more.

Some students may wonder which careers are hot right now in STEM. We did some research online and found several promising career paths for students who show an interest in STEM.

1) An Engineer of Almost Any Variety

The top four paying STEM careers for recent graduates are all engineering based, according to Forbes. They are, in order: petroleum, nuclear, marine, and chemical engineering. Oh, and number six on Forbes list? You got it, another form of engineering—aerospace.

Now there’s a great difference between a nuclear and a marine engineer, but nevertheless the point is the same: engineers are in great demand in most fields.

2) Information Technology and Security

Information Technology and Security

Monster and WorldWideLearn had a different take on the most popular STEM career out there. They put their belief behind information technology, with a focus on security in particular, as the number one career path. The career path is expected to enjoy a 36.5% job growth rate by 2022, according to WorldWideLearn’s research.

3) Health Practitioner

STEM Jobs listed health practitioner positions as six of its top ten jobs. Whether a surgeon, a general practitioner, or a dentist, there’s a great need for medical professionals, particularly health practitioners. Some might say that healthcare may not be the most popular STEM discussion these days, but it is one of the highest in-demand STEM sectors.

4) Software Developer

Software Developer

Another popular STEM job focuses on software development and creating the networks, systems, and applications that make our world go round. USA Today listed software development as its top career for STEM, thanks to its cushy salary and strong job growth.

5) Statistician

No one made this job cooler than Nate Silver, who successfully predicted the 2012 presidential election using data. From there, Silver paralyzed statistical analysis into his own media property. The widespread proliferation of big data creates great need for statisticians. As US News and World Report says, making decisions based on data gives the statistician the ability to play in any sector.


Reference: https://www.envisionexperience.com/blog/five-interesting-stem-careers


101 books for college-bound kids

Take a respite from the rush and chatter of modern life and spend time with a masterpiece. Even better: entice your teen to join you. Choose a book together and take turns reading it aloud, or track down the audio version and listen to it during your next road trip. This book list, compiled by the CollegeBoard, includes classics your student should read before (or during) college. But don’t use the “s” word! Instead, let your child know that these aren’t just classics, they are tales of romance, war, adventure, and courage, and that — while they won’t love every story — a few are sure to become beloved lifelong companions. As author Italo Calvino wrote: “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

Middle school books

Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage
Dumas, Alexandre The Three Musketeers
Golding, William Lord of the Flies
Hurston, Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
London, Jack The Call of the Wild
Miller, Arthur The Crucible
Morrison, Toni Beloved
O’Neill, Eugene Long Day’s Journey into Night
Orwell, George Animal Farm
Poe, Edgar Allen Selected Tales
Remarque, Erich Maria All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond Cyrano de Bergerac
Stevenson, Robert Louis Treasure Island
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels
Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Welty, Eudora Collected Stories
Wright, Richard Native Son


High school books

Author Title
——- Beowulf
Agee, James A Death in the Family
Austin, Jane Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert The Stranger
Cather, Willa Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore The Last of the Mohicans
Dante Inferno
Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore An American Tragedy
Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo Selected Essays
Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Faust
Hardy, Thomas Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
Homer The Iliad
Homer The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House
James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong The Woman Warrior
Lewis, Sinclair Babbitt
Mann, Thomas The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
O’Connor, Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find
Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Proust, Marcel Swann’s Way
Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
Roth, Henry Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William Hamlet
Shakespeare, William Macbeth
Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles Antigone
Sophocles Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Thackeray, William Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David Walden
Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
Voltaire Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith The House of Mirth
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia To the Lighthouse

9 tips on how to be a good college parent

Tips on how to be a good college parent
Emory University psychology professor Marshall Duke has given speeches for more than 30 years to nervous parents preparing to leave their children at school. Here are his tips to help parents leave their children behind and let them move into their own new adventures. (The Washington Post)

Emory University psychology professor Marshall Duke has given speeches for more than 30 years to nervous parents preparing to leave their children at the school. His last speeches to parents happened at orientation recently, but his wisdom should continue.

Here are Duke’s tips to help parents leave their children behind and let them move into their own new adventures:

Think about your parting words. The closing words between parents and children are crucial. Whatever wisdom you have to offer, whether it is ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m behind you,’ ‘I’m proud of you,’ say it. If you can’t express yourself verbally, write your thoughts down and mail the letter to your child immediately after you arrive home. Your children will remember your messages and hold on to them.

Your lives will change. Younger siblings may be quite happy to see the older child leave home. I’ve heard stories of younger children who usually have stayed in their rooms suddenly appearing at the dinner table. If the college-bound student is your youngest, you’ll begin to reestablish a one-on-one relationship with your spouse after years of parenting.

You won’t be able to wait for them to come home — or leave. Your child will arrive home with a whole new set of habits, particularly when it comes to food and sleep. When my daughter came home from college for the first time she decided to call her friend at 10:30 p.m. one evening. When I expressed surprise, she said, ‘Oh, I know it’s early, but I want to catch her before she makes plans with someone else.’

Don’t change your child’s room. The student’s room is ‘home base’ – try not to change it very much during his or her first semester away. Freshmen in particular can go through some very difficult times, passing exams, establishing new friendships, surviving in a setting where they are not ‘top dog,’ and often fearing that admissions has made a mistake — that they do not really belong at college. Give them a ‘safe haven.’

When a problem arises, “move like your feet are stuck in molasses.”
The temptation is to intervene when a child calls home with a problem. Remember that many resources exist at college to help students cope with various situations. Express support, but give your children time to solve their own problems—it will ultimately benefit them. Colleges have many safety nets, including resident advisers who are trained to identify and handle just about any problem you can imagine.

Don’t expect the same grades in college that the students got in high school. Perfect 4.0’s (or higher, with AP grades) are commonplace in high school. Very few students make it through a challenging and varied college curriculum with a perfect 4.0. At Emory, for example, there might be only one or two out of a graduating class of 1,100+. Expect early GPA’s to be low and later ones to be better. Brand new college freshmen are actually successful high school students who are at college. They need time and experience to learn how to be college students at college. This takes at least one semester. Be patient and understanding.

Hold out for junior year. As freshmen, students tend to highlight everything in their textbooks because everything seems important. Sophomores highlight several lines on a page as they begin to zero in on the heart of the matter. Juniors just highlight a line here or there. Seniors sometimes highlight nothing — they just write critical comments in the margin and cite other sources of reference. By the child’s junior year you will realize you’re dealing with an expanded and exciting mind. Be patient in waiting to see the effects of the college experience.

Children in college don’t become “college students” overnight. They start out as high school students at college. It takes time to learn how to be a college student — how to study, how to eat, how to do laundry, how to play, how to handle money, etc. Be patient – This process requires about one semester by which time the students will have studied for and taken major exams, written papers, given in-class reports, messed up, done well, fended off the “freshman 15,” drunk gallons of coffee or other stimulating beverages, eaten uncountable pizzas and attended a variety of college events.

Let your child handle problems on their own unless Parents know their children better than anyone else and if they hear what I call ‘that voice’ from their children – the voice which is different from ordinary complaining, the voice that really means the child is in trouble, they should call the college. Don’t come running, just call the college. Good places to start would be the Office of the Dean of Students or the Dean of the College, perhaps the Resident Advisor of the child’s dormitory. No matter who is called, all the relevant people will be notified and help will be set into motion. College professionals are very experienced in dealing with these situations. You encourage your children and support them. Express confidence in their ability to deal with what’s going on and wait for them to work things out.

Click here to hear about Duke’s “Parenting a College Student” seminar


10 Things To Do During a Gap Year

Not exactly sure what you’d like to do? Start thinking about it with this gap year cheat sheet…

1. Backpack through Europe

Taking a year off between high school and college doesn’t mean taking a break from learning. Those who choose to backpack it through Europe, or go traveling elsewhere, should use the experience to learn about other cultures, see the world’s great museums and architecture in person, immerse themselves in the history of the locale, etc.

2. Volunteer abroad

One of the more popular choices among gap year students is to take time to give back to society. Often, that involves traveling to an underprivileged part of the world to assist in some humanitarian effort. It can be teaching young children in a poor village, physically helping to rebuild a community ravaged by natural disaster, or assisting the sick.

3. Intern
Some students choose to pursue internships with their dream organizations to get an early look at potential careers, as well as learn the ins and outs of the industry. The key here is to find an opportunity that will truly allow you to gain valuable knowledge and hands-on experience that will dazzle your resume.

4. Language immersion
There’s no better way to learn a language than to immerse yourself in the place that it is used. Forget about taking language 101 in a classroom – these students go live in foreign countries to soak up the culture, and in turn, learn to communicate in the native tongue.

5. Political campaigns

Civic-minded students looking to do something unique during their gap year can take an active volunteer role in a political campaign or work on behalf of some legislative issue. The best way to start is by contacting your local government offices to see if any opportunities exist.

6. Writing or blogging

The cliche is that some students take time off to write the “Great American Novel,” however, a gap year writing project is much more complex than that. It often includes involvement in some sort of service project or travel so that the student can document his or her experiences through writing, art, multimedia, and/or photography.

7. A formal university-sponsored bridge year program

In the tradition of many British universities, Princeton University announced this year that it would offer incoming freshman the opportunity to opt for a “bridge year” in which they could travel and perform community services abroad. Check with your choice college or university to see if any such programs are available.

8. Help at home
For students who wish to perform community service right here in our nation, organizations like Americorps offers just that chance. From disaster relief and elder care, to environmental initiatives and help for the homeless, there are projects available in almost every state.

9. Be an educator
In another effort to do something life-changing, programs like City Year provide students the chance to tutor, teach, and act as role models and after-school advisors to young children in urban environments throughout the country.

10. A combo gap year
You don’t necessarily have to pick one focus for your time off. Many students choose to split their gap year projects in two or even three, not unlike the semester schedules they’d be following in school. So if you’d like to travel for half a year, and then intern the second half, go for it!


Bridging the Gap (Year)


The gap year is gaining momentum in the United States, although students in the UK and Australia have known about it for decades. So what’s taken us so long to figure it out? It’s probably because we’re programmed to think that if we don’t start college right after we graduate high school, our chances of earning a degree diminish. Not so. By taking a gap year before college to explore interests outside of the classroom, you can actually increase your chances of discovering what it is that you really want to do in life and then pursue your college education accordingly.

Of course, a gap year doesn’t mean spending twelve months contemplating your world view from a hammock. It means getting out there and doing something of value, like participating in community service, conducting research, or studying abroad. In fact, choosing how to spend your gap year can take on as much importance as figuring out where you’ll spend the following four years. Consider some of these tips as you decide whether a gap year is right for you:

  1. The gap year should not be an excuse to procrastinate from applying to college. You should still continue with the entire college admission process, then defer admission for a year.
  2. Many colleges and universities are really taken by the idea of a gap year. In fact, some are even encouraging it: Princeton University has established its own tuition-free “bridge year” program involving a public service project abroad that is completed before enrollment.
  3. By taking a gap year, you might find that declaring a major is an easier decision now that you’ve found a discipline or field that you’d really like to pursue. This could actually save you time and money in the long run-it’s not uncommon for students who switch majors to have to spend an extra semester or two in school to complete their degree.
  4. A gap year program will still cost you money for travel, lodging, and other incidental fees, but the price is still thousands of dollars less than a year’s tuition at a private college.
  5. Did you get rejected by your dream school? Spend your gap year taking classes abroad, then reapply and show off your academic enrichment. For some students, it has resulted in an acceptance letter the second time around.
  6. Although there hasn’t yet been any formal research to prove it, MSNBC has reported that colleges around the country find that their accepted students are indeed following through with their college plans after returning from gap year programs. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24260521/

Remember, the “gap” in gap year refers only to the gap in your formal education. If you choose wisely, your gap year program will provide you with an experience above and beyond anything you would learn in the classroom. A successful gap year should leave you refreshed, inspired, and better prepared for four years of college.