Wednesday, September 2, 2015

8 Traits of Amazing College Students By Alex Herzog Ed.D.

If you are going to follow the pack.. follow this pack!

Well, its that time of year when folks of all walks of life start standing college.  Whether you retaking classes for enrichment, increasing your job skills, seeking a degree or all of the above, there is a formula to being successful in college.  If you follow these 8 traits of amazing students you too will walk away with not only a solid college degree but also important job skills that will be the foundation for your career.

1.  Amazing students are self-driven to achieve their goals and education.
Amazing students are empowered through self-motivation to drive their education.  They show strong desire and motivation to complete their education and not just complete it, but allow it to transform them into something better.  They don’t quit especially when facing overwhelming odds.  In advance of taking classes, know what you want from your college experience.  Explore careers that interest you and set some goals you have in life.  The results of this exploring and goal setting will help you get back on track if you veer off the path.  Think about what your plan B might look like when plan A is not possible.  Too many students quit when they hit an obstacle when all they really needed to do was to have a plan B and implement accordingly. 

2.  Amazing Students go to class and read the syllabus.
Although you might think.. Duh! You would be surprised how many students find themselves in trouble early on in their academic career. Amazing students go to class and if for some reason they can’t go to class they are communicating with the professor and also asking what they might have missed.  You are paying for your education; get the most out of it by going to class. Also, amazing students will read the course syllabus and mark important due dates and test dates in a calendar.  They read the instructors policies and expectations.  This document should be viewed as a contract between you and the Instructor.   Keep it safe and follow it closely.       

3.  Amazing students do the work.
Going to class is just not enough.  Amazing students will do the work expected of them.  They take good class notes and then rewrite those notes by the end of the day.  Studies show that students retain learned material at higher rates if they rewrite their notes before the end of the day they took them.  You could also rewrite them by typing them.  Although studies show that typing notes up by using a laptop or iPad shows lower retention than if you had handwritten the notes. 

Also, as you read the material, write down questions related to the topics you are reading.  Bring them to class and be sure to ask the instructor.  It speaks volumes to instructors that you are engage in the class and making an effort to learn the material.  Showing that kind of effort can easily turn a “B” into a “B+”! 

To get a head start during the summer and winter breaks, find out what the instructor is planning for the course in terms of reading material and start reading.  Having a base of knowledge before going to class will help you better understand the lectures and have an overall better learning experience.

Amazing students also connect with classmates and join or form study groups.  If you are assigned a group project, be active and do your share of the work.  Working together in groups is an excellent experience and can help reinforce learning that will benefit you beyond a letter grade.    

In my career in higher education, I have heard every excuse one can come up with to avoid doing the work.   Nothing worth getting is ever done so easily.  Make an effort and you will gain much from the experience.   

4.  Amazing students get involved.
Service learning is a higher education buzzword that means applying what you learned in the classroom to the regional community.  Professors take their classes out in to the community and have students apply what they have learned to find answers or solve a problem.  For instance, the chemistry professor that has his class test for lead paint on the homes of the local community.  If your class isn’t doing something like this, ask the instructor if an activity like this could be arranged. 

Getting involved in college can take many forms.  Amazing students will join clubs and organizations that surround activities that they enjoy.  Involved students can apply skills learned in the classroom and develop new ones like running a meeting or conflict resolution.  These soft skills are often essential to navigating the real world and sought after by employers.  Students in Student Government or elected type student leadership positions will often receive scholarships and or stipends for their time and effort too.

5.  Amazing students seek to understand the differences among us.
If you want to achieve success after college, you need to understand that we all come from different backgrounds and upbringing.  Amazing students make an effort to be culturally competent.  They make an effort to connect and make friends with students coming from various backgrounds and cultures.  Technology makes the global workplace a reality for even small businesses.  Learn how to socialize and communicate with different cultures so that you can be a valuable asset to your organization. 

6.  Amazing students know where the money goes.
Amazing students are aware of the costs of college.  They value the experience and the investment they are making in themselves.  However, they are smart to avoid excessive student loans and seek out scholarships to help pay for their education.  Amazing students will work 10-15 hours a week while taking classes and learn to manage their money.  They will refrain from getting a credit card and minimize student loans to avoid going into debt.       

7.  Amazing students work to stay healthy.
Staying healthy is at the core of an amazing student’s daily activities.  Stay active by getting involved in college intramural sports or clubs that conduct regular outings like a hiking club.  Be careful of what and how much you eat at the cafeteria.  If you don’t know what the best food options are for your, ask the dining hall staff for a food guide and plan your meals ahead of time.  If you just don’t know, use the Internet to learn what the best food options are out there for you.  Pizza and burgers are ok in moderation but should not be eaten everyday!    

8.  Finally, amazing students makes the most of their time.    
Amazing students plan their time.  They make a schedule and keep to it.  They plan for the work, studying and more importantly the plan their fun time.  General study rule is to plan at least two hours of study time for every hour you spend in class.  With a 15 Credit hour load, you should be studying about 30 additional hours a week.    

No matter where you got to college and what you plan to study, follow these traits of amazing students and you will find that success is within your reach.  I always tell my kids, its not enough just to do the job, you should strive to do the job well.  Follow the path of amazing students and you too will be amazing. 

Life After College for Student Leaders By Alex Herzog Ed.D.

Change is a hard concept to endure.  Moving from full time college student to full time workforce is a tough transition.  It can be twice as hard if you were a student leader!

Were you the big cheese on campus?  You might have been the President of your campuses student government or maybe your were the Vice President.  You knew all of the college’s trustees by first name and they knew your name too! You might have had the President of the college’s ear whenever you saw them on campus or when you just walked into their office.  I bet you had their cell phone number too!  It’s also likely you had your own office and attended all the college’s foundation events.  Oh and you were always offered seats in the Presidents box but you always declined them to sit in the student section… but not for the whole game.  Students on campus knew who you were and respected you.  Professors were delighted to have you in class and often would recruit you to take their class.  

It’s been a few months since graduation and after several interviews you got yourself a job, but its likely not the one you were expecting to have.  You do have your own cubicle but trying to talk with your manager is almost impossible without an appointment unless you have some sort of food bribe.  But, you aren’t discouraged yet.  As you were preparing to graduate, you were persistent and armed yourself with many reference letters from administrators and professors that all but state you cured cancer in your spare time between classes.    

Reality is slowly sinking in.  You are realizing that you aren’t in college anymore.  You are part of the 8-5 work world that you so often laughed at, silently swearing to yourself that it would never be you.   I bet you are starting to miss all that those connections and experiences you had during your college days.

Don’t fret.  This scenario (or perhaps something similar) happens a lot in the lives of former student leaders.  You had commanded the respect of many or those you revered but now the reality is sinking in that you are starting over.  But starting anew can be a good thing.  

Think back to your first days when you were in your leadership role on campus.  What were those great skills and qualities that you exhibited that earned you respect and credibility?  Those might include motivating others, staying in the office long after others have left, relationship building with other student leaders, team building, communication, engaging new students and creating a buzz about your vision just to mention few.  

If this sounds like your situation then here is what you need to do.  Use what you know has helped you be successful before and apply it to your new work environment.  You have a proven track record for success and that is probably why you were hired in the first place.

First step, take some time get to know your supervisor.  What are their expectations, likes and dislikes, favorite sports teams, favorite place to eat..  get to know them!  Next, know the company you work for.  Read the employee manual; memorize the vision, mission and company values.  Next, put in the time in the office.  I suggest coming in before your supervisor and not leaving until they leave.  Stay busy throughout the day and take initiative.  Show them you are an invaluable asset.  When you see an opportunity to improve a process, take the initiative and offer your expertise.

Its sounds easy but it’s not.  It takes dedication and you will be forever always thinking about the next better job.  However, you shouldn’t forget your passion.  Keep it in mind and take time to work towards the skills you might not have, that you might still need to develop. Keep a journal and document your thoughts and what work you are doing to move towards your passion.  Keep dreaming big but stay grounded in the reality of your dream. 

Based on my years of working with student leaders and keeping good connections with them after college, has shown me that former student leaders find their groove quickly and are often very successful in their chosen endeavors.  Starting over sucks, but trust me when I tell you to trust in your skills, capabilities and instinct.  Go the extra mile whenever you can, good things will happen.  I have seen it happen many times you just need to be patient and keep learning!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Community and Technical Colleges are a viable option?

When I think about the traits I really like in people.. being a straight shooter (someone who tells it like they see it) is one trait I admire.  It is more than simply speaking your mind, its more speaking what you think but thinking before you speak.  Making an argument with solid data and also offering up viable solutions.

One such guy is Mike Rowe from the popular show "Dirty Jobs" and more recently his new show on CNN, "Somebody's Got To Do It."  He's a straight shooter.  I've watched this video before and then happened to watch it again.   I found it even more interesting the second time.  Being a good parent means that we push our kids to be more or do more in life.  That is one of our jobs as parents, but it s a big job!  Teaching those skills and abilities to help our offspring become better.  My Dad's vision for his kids was simple, he wanted his kids to have it better than he did!  Which in my view is a noble pursuit.  Something I often think about for my own kids.  I jokingly share with my kids that they can be anything they want to be after medical school or law school.  I too want to be able to say that my kids are a success because they achieved a professional status in life.  There is nothing wrong with that thought process.. right?      

When I see young people struggling in todays world because support from their parents to pursue a college education is limited or even non existent, I am troubled.  I've even experienced it where parents who come at it with a different viewpoint, they only want their kids to have it as good as they have had it. Not directing them or even pushing them to be more.  This mentality can limit a young persons aspirations and motivation for a better life.  There are probably some really good reasons, both culturally and economically for this engrained thought but this mentality does impress limits on young people.

But this bring up the question, does not going to to college impede success in life?  If I didn't go to college, what limits would I be putting on my future success?  Can I be better off than my parents were?  Is that notion still possible?

Before you can decide on going to college you really need to define what success means to you.  What does success look and feel like to you? Is it the ability for your parents to brag about you to neighbors about how important you are or how well you are doing financially?  I know we want our parents to be proud of us because we grew up believing in that notion.  The reality is you need to define what success means to you because this decision is really about you.

In my career, I have worked with many college students from all walks of life. Many of those college  students defined success as making money, making a lot of money. OK.. then I would do you plan to make it?  Few had plans like starring on American Idol but most did not.  The funny thing is that I used to give an opening assignment to my classes,  I would ask them to write a two page paper on where they see themselves in 10 years.  Describe in detail your house, your job, your car, your family.. everything you see.  I read those papers and found that that about 80% of my college students did not make money the priority.  Their vision was not to get rich but to find good work, make a good living and have their own family.  They wrote of having a nice house and doing things they love to do.  Making money was important but not the most important thing to them.  Living a good life was the message I received from these students.

Going to college is still a great way to learn new skills and grow as a person.  But if you don't know what you want to do then I suggest that Community Colleges and Tech Schools are a great place to start exploring what you like and what has potential for you to make a career.  It is an opportunity to learn about areas that interest you and then learn how to apply what you learned to make an income. Community and Technical Colleges are designed for you to get skills and get to work or get the foundations and transfer to a 4 year college or university.  For a student just coming out of High School, you need those hard skills you get in the classroom to get the job you want and the soft skills like communication and teamwork to keep the job.  All are offered by your local Community and Technical College and at a reasonable rate.

Now Moms and Dads, please keep reading.  It may be a hard pill for parents to swallow but the key idea for parents is to remember that you should help your kids to be the best they can be.. at whatever they choose to do.  If my son or daughter told me that they want to be a plumber, then I will help them become the best plumber they could be.  When your child selects a career path that may not have a great demand for in the future be engaged with them and talk about what other opportunities are available and how their skills they learned may be transferable given their educational pursuits and attainment.  

I hope you enjoy the video and you gain something from it.  I certainly did.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dreaming big about going pro!

I am all about dreaming big but here is the reality of those that will go pro in sports:

Based on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s own research from last year, a high school athlete’s odds of making the big leagues are minuscule.

High School Athletes who Play Professionally:

Men’s basketball: 0.03 percent
Women’s basketball: 0.02 percent
Football: 0.08 percent
Baseball: 0.51 percent
Men’s ice hockey: 0.10 percent
Men’s soccer: 0.03 percent


The reality is that there is a very low chance that a high school athlete will go pro.  However, you may have the opportunity to use your athletic talent to get a college education.

Talk to your coach about what opportunities exist for you to go to college.  There are plenty of open enrollment types of colleges (2 year and 4 year) that have sports teams that offer scholarships to players.  

Looking forward to seeing you on campus!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Grad School on the cheap!

After amassing $32,000 in student loan debt to obtain a college degree, Ken Ilgunas found a very tight job market for an English / History major.  But he didn't give up and certainly was not going to live with Student Loan debt.  

I admire the guy for taking such an extreme course to further his education.  I'm not sure I could have done it.. maybe with a small RV.

Here's his story from the Yahoo Finance web page.       

Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt

By the time Ken Ilgunas was wrapping up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo in 2005, he had no idea what kind of debt hole he'd dug himself into.

He had majored in the least marketable fields of study possible — English and History — and had zero job prospects after getting turned down for no fewer than 25 paid internships.

"That was a wake-up call," he told Business Insider. "I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour. I was just getting kind of frantic."

Back then, student loans had yet to become the front page news they are today. Ilgunas could have simply deferred his loans or declared forbearance. He also could have asked his parents (who were more than willing to help) for a leg up. He could have thrown up his hands and gone to grad school until the job market bounced back.

Instead, he moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime. And when he enrolled at Duke University for graduate school later, he lived out of his van to be sure he wouldn't have to take out loans again.

"I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I didn't even know what interest was when I was 17," he said. "I just think that's awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives."

In his book, "
Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom," Ken chronicles his journey out of debt.

He was kind enough to share his story with us this week.

He knew exactly where to go for work. Ken had spent a couple months working at a remote Alaskan truck stop the summer before graduating. So he called up his old contacts and landed a job there as a local tour guide, cook, and basically whatever the locals needed.

"The day after I graduated, I was on a flight to Alaska and pretty much started work right away," he said. "As ignorant as I was, I did know that if I didn't deal with my loans, I'd have to deal with accumulated interest or delinquency or default. I wanted to pay it off as fast as humanly possible."

It was a brilliant move for a 20-something needing to pay down debt in a hurry. "It's 250 miles from the nearest store, room and board were included, and there wasn't any cell service," he said. "You can amaze yourself with how much you can save when you reduce your cost of living. Almost every dollar I made went toward my student loans."

Click here to read the rest of Ken's Story

I'll see you on campus...

How to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

I came across a series of videos from the U.S. Department of Education recently that are aimed at assisting parents and students with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid commonly refered to as FASFA.  The videos are short, approximately 3 minutes each, but full of good information.  
Types of Federal Aid
Overview of FASFA
 How to fill out the FASFA?
What happens next after filling out the FASFA?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Water Cooler Chat with the Finacial Aid Staff

A quick Q&A with the Financial Aid Office at a college near you! 

In my Higher Education career, I’ve heard all too often complaints about the dreaded financial aid office.  Things take too long, they lost my paperwork or I have to provide more paper work, are just some of those complaints.  But don’t give up hope.  Not to defend the office but your typical financial aid office staff will sift through tons of Federal regulations and rules as each student is evaluated for awards.  At some larger schools, that is a lot of students to evaluate.    

Your best bet as a student is to treat them with courtesy, be persistent and ask questions if you have them.  The Financial Aid office staff is there to help you find funding to attend the institution.  This is not the place to go get money to buy a car or a big screen TV.  Use the funding wisely and don’t take more than you need.  When you examine your financial aid package, think twice about whether or not you need that student loan.  Also, I recommend you keep copies of everything you are asked to send in.  You just never know if and when things get lost. 

I had the opportunity to talk with a current Financial Aid Staff member by the name of Tammie P. and this is what she shared with me.         

As the Spring semester winds down and college students are getting ready to leave campus, what things should they do before they leave campus?

Students should come into the Financial Aid office and fill out the 2013-2014 FAFSA application.  Many times there are additional forms needed for verification before Federal Aid can be paid for the next Semester.  Being proactive with this process reduces the risk of starting the semester without your Financial Aid.

Now, what are the forms that need to be filled out again?

Each year prior to starting the Fall semester, students need to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) this allows student to receive aid for the upcoming year.  It is free to fill out.

What happens if my parents earn a lot of money?  Should I even apply for Financial Aid?

Yes, the FAFSA is a central application that not only awards grants based off a family’s need but also serves as a tool to awards loans.  Just because you may not qualify for a Pell Grant does not mean you will not qualify for some type of Federal Aid.  Also the application takes many variables into consideration, for instance your parents may earn a lot of money but they may be supporting a large family or have more than one child in college they are supporting.  Sometimes the financial office will use the students FASFA information for elegibility purposes to award private scholarships with certain criteria.  It is worth the time to apply.

Now for a returning student, are their scholarships I can apply for to be used this upcoming year?

Scholarship application deadlines at most colleges have passed for this upcoming Fall.  It is always a good idea to talk with the Department Head of the area you are Majoring in and ask about possible funding from their specific Department.  Students should check the Financial Aid & Scholarships website and apply for the next year so they do not miss out on that opportunity in upcoming years.

Does it make sense to check-in with the Financial Aid office over the summer?

It is a good idea to contact the Financial Aid office after your final grades for the Semester have posted if your GPA is lower than a 2.0 or you have received any failing grades.  This could affect your ability to receive aid the following semester without going through the Academic Warning process.  The Federal government wants you to be successful in college if they are giving you funding.  That means getting at least a 2.0.  But they also understand that things happen and a system is in place for students to appeal to continue getting Federal funding even after a bad semester.  But, just like in Baseball, three strikes and you are out at most institutions. 

Any advice for students as they get ready to return for classes in the Fall?

Contact the office to check in at least 2-3 weeks before school starts.  Call or visit.  You do not want to wait and have a problem that needs to be resolved before you get your Financial Aid.  It is important to have everything in line so you receive your aid in time to have all of your books and supplies in order to start the semester out on the right foot.

I went to apply for FAFSA and they tried to charge me for it, is that right?

NO, you should never pay to complete a FAFSA after all it is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The correct website is
Well there you have it folks.  Right from the source. 
Hope you to see you around campus!