7 Things to Consider Before Going Back to School to Further Your Career

By Liz Greene

Despite what you may have heard, a college diploma isn’t the only way to get a decent job. There are multiple professions where you can make serious money without a degree — including working as a web developer, paralegal, or insurance agent. However, many careers that start without the need for formal education can be furthered by adding a degree to your portfolio. When weighing the idea of whether or not you should go back to school, there are a few things you should consider before you make your decision.

going back to school

Evaluate whether a degree will help you achieve your career goals.

The first step is to be absolutely sure that you’re on the career path you want to be on and research whether additional schooling is a necessary to further that path. You don’t want to find yourself several years down the road massively in debt, without the position you wanted.

Know what degree you will need.

If you start without a degree of any kind, a clear place to start would be to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to find out whether a certificate or a degree program is the next step — and which degree is going to offer the best prospects for career betterment.

Decide if the financial investment is worth it.

There’s no doubt about it, going to school is an expensive venture. It’s important to evaluate whether your future salary will allow you to pay off the accumulated educational debt in a reasonable amount of time. Thoroughly research your options before committing to a program. Attending classes at a private university will likely cost substantially more than those offered by a state school or community college. However, depending on the major, the value of getting a degree from a first-rate university might make the additional cost a worthy investment.

Explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Carefully explore your financing options — you might be eligible for special scholarships, grants, or beneficial financing arrangements. Contact your school’s financial aid department for more information, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer a tuition reimbursement program.

Look into transfer credits and work experience

Sometime the experience you have can be one of the greatest benefits. If you earned college credits in the past, check the transfer credit policies at the college you’re considering to see if your credits will apply. Some colleges will accept work experience as well. You can easily shorten the amount of time it takes to earn your degree by getting credit for for the knowledge and experience you have already acquired.

Consider an online/nontraditional program.

Deciding where to attend college is an important step in the process. If you work full time and have a family, you’ll want to find out which colleges in your area provide resources to help nontraditional students earn their degrees — full-time versus part-time curriculums, night classes, etc. A great way to get started is to visit a school’s website and search with the keyword “nontraditional student.”

If the program you’re after isn’t available at a nearby university, an online degree program is something you can consider. Most colleges offer full online programs or blended programs that allow you to do a great deal of the coursework online as well as scheduled in-class time to meet with your professor. However, it’s important not to mistake online classes for being easier or less time consuming. Online classes require just as much a discipline and time management skills as traditional classes.

Evaluate whether you’ll be able to balance school, work, and family.

For each hour you spend in class, you are likely to spend an additional two hours studying and completing assignments. If you have a family, a full time job, and a social life, how will you find time for classes and assignments? Are you and your family willing to sacrifice time together? School commitments will mean additional stress on both you and your loved ones. It’s imperative to consider the impact on your life and whether or not you’re willing to shoulder the burden.

Going back to school can be a massive benefit to your career. Gather your data, gauge your finances, talk to your family, and take the time to make the best decision for your particular set of circumstances — it’s the best way to set yourself up for success.

Liz Greene hails from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene or delve deeper into her internal musings at InstantLo


Heading back to school?  Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students.

4 Must-See Places on the East Coast for Theater and Art Students

By Alison

Summer is almost over. Before the school year starts, you and your theater and art buddies are ready to hit the road for an amazing vacation. Instead of meandering from state to state, plan your trip to include as many cultural activities as possible. Fortunately, the East Coast is home to tons of artistic and theatrical touchstones.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

No trip to the City of Brotherly Love is complete without a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As one of the largest museums in the country, it is home to hundreds of paintings, architecture, sculptures and more from North and South America, Europe and Asia. Spend a day admiring the amazing Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet and famous works by Frido Kahlo, El Greco and Salvador Dali that are on display at the museum. The building itself is a work of art, too. The neoclassical building is modeled after the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The museum is located at the west end of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. You and your friends can either explore the museum on your own or arrange for a guided or walk-through tour.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Exterior of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

Located in the Boston suburb of Worcester, the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts offers something for everyone. The theater, which seats 2,300 people, hosts national-touring companies performing Broadway shows, nationally-famous entertainers and community theater groups. To satisfy both the theater and art fans in your group, the Franklin Square Salon Gallery, which features a variety of art exhibits, is located on the second floor of the theater. This summer’s performances include the 10th Anniversary World Tour of Celtic Woman, Morrissey and the 2015 Miss Massachusetts Pageant.

Broadway

An East Coast adventure is not complete without spending some time in the Big Apple. After exploring in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, head to New York City for at least one Broadway show. For example, if you have wanted to see “The Book of Mormon” ever since your theater professor told you how funny it is, now is your chance to do just that. If you have time for more than one show, there are no shortage of entertaining productions on the Great White Way, including classics like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Aladdin” and “Jersey Boys.” Whether you prefer something dramatic or a more avant-garde production, New York City theater offers something for everyone.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The “Met,” as it’s known, is to the Big Apple what the Louvre is to Paris. The museum’s collection of European art rivals anything you will find overseas and includes everything from the ancient Romans to Renoir. The Met is also home to plenty of American classics, as well as pieces from Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. The museum features hundreds of events and programs every month, including lectures, tours and performances.

About the author: Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.

The Secrets of Top Students Back-To-School Giveaway

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

Hey all you students and parents out there!  Since it’s almost back-to-school time, I am giving away a copy of The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.  All you have to do is click here to enter.

Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The 50th eligible entrant will win. This giveaway started Aug 14, 2015 10:16 AM PDT and ends the earlier of Aug 21, 2015 11:59 PM PDT or when the prize has been awarded.

Click here to enter giveaway.

About the book:

The Secrets of Top Students includes tips and techniques that every student should know. For example:

  • What is the first thing you should do when taking a math test?
  • What is an often overlooked place for coming up with a thesis?
  • What music should you listen to while studying?
  • Why is it bad to be a perfectionist?
  • What are the good and bad types of motivation?
  • What foods should you eat to boost your brainpower?
  • How much do top students really study?
  • Should you bring your laptop to class?
  • What are three game-changing learning techniques?
  • And much, much more.

Written in a conversational, down-to-earth manner, The Secrets of Top Students shows you how to maximize your learning and get the grades you want. Filled with innovative, time-saving techniques, this book also includes advice on motivation, the mind-body connection, and technology inside and outside the classroom.

Infographic: Top 10 Trends for Back-To-School and College 2015

The summer is half over! Have you done your back-to-school shopping yet?

Top 10 trends for back-to-school and college 2015

Source: National Retail Federation


Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students for the new school year!

A College Student’s Guide to Creatively Keeping in Touch

By Natalie Posdaljian

Keeping in touch as a college student is vital for maintaining relationships with family and friends, keeping them in the loop and weaving your home life with your college life. Reliable ways of keeping in touch, such as texts, emails and chatting on the phone, can get redundant and don’t always provide the best insight into your life as a college student. Instead, spice up how you keep in touch with your family back home.

student video chat

Video Chat

Video chatting with a laptop isn’t new to the scene nor is it the most creative way to keep in touch. Expand your virtual horizons with the iPad Air 2, which is thin and light enough to take anywhere. Video chat with your family at a public park in your new town or while you enjoy a much needed caffeine fix at your favorite coffee shop. Or, your family can video chat you when they all get together for a birthday party or Sunday afternoon BBQ. Although you won’t get a bite of the cake, you can still chat with all your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Snail Mail

With the speed, efficiency and reliability of technology, it’s understandable why snail mail is a thing of the past. Yes, you have to handwrite your letter, buy a stamp, stop at the post office and wait a couple days for your mail to reach its destination, but that’s what makes snail mail fun. The feeling of checking the mailbox and finding something addressed to you that’s not a bill or advertisement is priceless. Sending snail mail to your family leaves them obliged to write you back, giving you something to look forward to in the mail. You also can throw in a copy of the A+ paper you wrote. Snail mail is especially great for grandparents, who typically appreciate handwritten letters the most.

Vlog

A vlog (video blog) is a unique way to show others what a day in the life of a college student looks like. Whether you keep it private for your family to enjoy or you make it a public YouTube channel, vlogging is in. Model one of your vlogs off a cooking show, with a twist on ramen or PB&J sandwiches. Vlog a tour of your favorite spots on campus, such as where you get your morning coffee, restaurants you frequent, the gym and the library. Or keep it simple and just talk straight to the camera about school, your roommates, professors and anything else that’s on your mind.

Shared Photos

There are so many ways you and your family can share your photos. If you’re looking to keeping it virtual, create a private album on Facebook and make all your family members contributors so everyone can swap photos. Or, use a photo sharing site like Flickr or Photobucket. Take it a step further by sharing developed photos (yes, people still develop photos). Throw just a few photos into that letter you’re sending, or use an app like Groovebook to upload all of your photos for just $2.99 (college budget approved) to send your family a keepsake photobook.

Family Facebook Group

A private family Facebook group is great for quick life updates, such as acing that Calculus exam, or for sharing links to YouTube videos with each other. Having your family in one Facebook group creates a forum full of sharing, likes and comments between the people that matter the most to you. For those statuses or photos you can’t share with your entire following, a private group lets you share your silly selfies or embarrassing stories with those that will love you no matter what.

Author Bio: Destined to be an Armenian housewife perfecting her hummus recipe, Natalie Posdaljian instead chose a life of marine field biology and sriracha. Born and raised in southern California, her veins rush with salty seawater and sunshine no matter where she goes.  When she’s not saving jellyfish from extinction, Natalie is dancing in the shower, knitting on a plane or swinging in her hammock.


Going to college?  Give yourself the gift of good grades with The Secrets of Top Students!

Is There a Right Way to Drink? A Healthy Perspective on College Drinking

By Adrienne Erin

Congratulations! You’ve finished high school. Now it’s time to head off to college. Isn’t it great to feel free? No parents and no boring home life. You’ll get to make new friends and have new experiences. And best of all, you’ll get to go to parties. What’s not to love?

It’s a given that you’re probably going to drink at least once in college. Chances are you’ve heard the pep talk about alcohol multiple times already, so you know what’s coming. But the point is: Sure, you can have fun, but it’s important to remember you’re in college to learn. Part of that learning is to gain a healthy perspective on drinking.

There’s a wrong and right way to drink. Which one will you choose?

The Wrong Way to Drink

This shouldn’t really need explanation, but people still abuse alcohol every day. Those who don’t drink responsibly can exhibit reckless behavior such as:

  • pressuring others to drink
  • binge drinking
  • drinking at a very fast pace
  • messing with other people’s drinks
  • driving drunk

If you think you see someone drinking irresponsibly, do your best to stay away from them. Find some new people to hang out with, or leave the party.

The Right Way to Drink

If you’re underage, it’s obviously wrong to drink in the first place. But if you do choose to drink at a party, keep these tips in mind:

Make a plan for how you will get home.

This should be the first thing you think about when preparing for a night out. Know how you’re getting home well before the party.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can have a designated driver within your friend group. If there’s public transportation in your area, like buses or trains, use them. NEVER get into a car with anyone who has had too much to drink, and NEVER drive drunk – even if you’re just tipsy. You’ll pay for the consequences of those poor decisions for the rest of your life.

Pace yourself.

It takes a little while for the effect of alcohol to kick in. You might feel completely fine right after taking a shot, but remember that you’ll start to feel the effect a few minutes after.

Make sure to space out your drinking. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between, such as soda or water, helps keep you from going too fast. Aim to keep a one-to-one ratio with one glass of water for each glass of alcohol. For each alcohol beverage you have, drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

Keep in mind that safe, responsible drinking means no more than one drink in an hour.

For reference, one drink equals one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol, one 5 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer per hour.

Drink with people you know.

It’s a wise choice to stick with your friends while drinking. If you go alone, you could get into trouble and have no one to look out for you. Avoid drinking with people you don’t know that well or don’t trust. These people could potentially be dangerous, or they might run off somewhere else without telling you.

It’s also important to stay with friends who drink in moderation. Stay away from people who oppose not drinking as much, or encourage binge drinking.

Keep an eye on your drink too, especially if you’re with people you don’t know well. They might seem friendly, but they could sneak date rape drugs or something else dangerous into your drink.

Eat something before or during drinking.

If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol quicker. You might also feel sicker. Eating before you go out will help you stay under your drinking limit.

Be sure to eat a meal rich in proteins and carbs. These help to absorb the alcohol.

Know your limits, and measures.

You are the most important person at the party! Your friends may keep a close watch over you, but you also have to take care of yourself. Part of this is knowing your limits. Listen to your body – it won’t take much to figure out how much is enough.

If it’s your first time out, drink at a steady pace to determine your alcohol tolerance. It also helps to drink with friends or people you know well so that you won’t get socially anxious and drink more than you can handle.

You can quantify your tolerance, as well. For example, it could be “three beers per night,” or “two glasses of wine in four hours.”

If you want a fun, harmless way to help you determine what an effect certain amounts of drinking could have on your body type, try this choose your own adventure game.

Know how to turn down a drink.

Drinking is supposed to be a social activity, not a place to show off how much you can stomach. There’s no need to keep up or even accept a drink in the first place.

When you don’t want to drink, decline with a polite excuse. A simple “No, thank you,” should do the trick, but if needed, you can add more. Try things like “I don’t drink,” “I have to drive home,” “I’m the designated driver,” or “I’m pacing myself.”

Choosing Not to Drink is Totally Okay

If you don’t like drinking to begin with, it doesn’t make you uncool in the slightest. You should applaud yourself for steering clear of a night that could negatively impact your health or your life. In fact, there are tons of other alternatives to a night of partying.

You can always stay in and have a fun-filled night with your friends. Watch movies, play video or board games or see what’s going on around campus. Or, check out this list.

College campuses usually have great alternatives to parties on weekends. These can include things like dances, paint parties, movies, social gatherings, speed dating or athletic intramural events.

Whichever you choose, know that there’s a right and wrong way to drink. When you go out, plan ahead of time and be alert. You’ll thank yourself after a long night of partying – and if you do things right, maybe you won’t feel so groggy the morning after, either.

How To Cope With The Transition From College To The Working World

By Thomas Maurer

Coping With Uncertainty

graduation student  open arms to welcome the worldwide jobFor some graduating students there is a rush to get out of the confines of academia and into the working world. For others there is an element of uncertainty and apprehension.

College was a place where you were your own boss and the thought of being forced into the rat race is abhorrent.

While the world has always been an uncertain place, there is a strong argument that it is more uncertain than it has been in recent decades, especially for college graduates. It is no longer as simple as getting into a good college, getting good grades, graduating, getting a good job and settling down, even if that was what you wanted in the first place.

The economy is uncertain, good jobs are harder to come by and the competition is fierce. We all want meaningful and rewarding work but at the same time you need to make sure you first have the ability to make a living. It may be that you have to take a menial job while you wait for your dream career.

Unfortunately the uncertainty doesn’t end there. Once you are making some money you have to be able to protect it, as inflation, taxes and student loan repayments eat into your earnings. There is a very real fear that once you actually get a job you will feel like you can’t leave, chained to the paycheck that you need to pay your student loan and ever increasing living costs.

By comparison the college lifestyle seems like a dream. You were essentially your own boss and while you had some hoops to jump through and requirements that you had to meet, how you went about doing all those things was up to you. The loss of freedom in moving to a 9 to 5 job, with a boss, can be a hard adjustment to make.

While those fears are very natural and well-justified, the direction of your life is in our own hands. You can make decisions that will lead you down the path to a deadening soul, or you can make decisions that lead to freedom, flexibility and the rewarding career that you want.

Life is what you make it, so while you should acknowledge the challenges and uncertainty, don’t let it weigh you down. Focus on the upside and you will benefit from the all the wonderful opportunities in the world.

Embrace New Opportunities

The world and the economy changing is only bad news in you are inflexible and unwilling to adapt. The last two or three decades have seen people abandon the notion that you should have one career for your whole working life. It is now perfectly normal to have three, four, five or more career changes throughout your working life.

This is now changing again, where the idea of even having a traditional career in the first place is optional.

Flexible work arrangements, digital nomads and freelancers with clients all over the world are going to become the new norm. Thanks to the Internet it is possible to avoid getting a “regular” job at all. It takes a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, but commuting online or starting an internet business is not a pipe dream, it is a legitimate and perfectly reasonable goal.

The global economy is still adjusting to the emergence of half the world from communism. People in those countries are willing to work for very low wages compared to the West and this has resulted in a lot of business moving East and a shifting of wealth and power to Asia.

What this means for you, the new or soon to be new graduate, is that traditional opportunities may be limited to you in North America and Europe. But opportunities abound in China, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries. Developed Western economies located in the Asia Pacific region such as New Zealand and Australia are also well placed to benefit from this transition.

If you are flexible, adaptable and willing to think outside the box then you can take advantage of these possibilities.

There is also the opportunity of geo-arbitrage. This means earning money in more valuable Western currencies by working online, while living in an emerging economy, such as Thailand or Chile, where prices are cheap, your purchasing power is greater and therefore standard of living is higher. $1000 a month goes a long way in a place like that.

Get Out There And Do Something

While the college classroom is familiar and comforting you aren’t actually productive. You learn but you don’t create or do. The chance to actually be productive and do something in the world is very exciting and beats the monotonous drudgery of the classroom.

Learning is important but human beings are designed to make, create and do. The thing that scares people is being stuck doing something you don’t like, working in a job you hate, for a boss that you don’t respect. This can happen for a period but eventually you will find something satisfying if you hustle hard enough.

While it may be daunting and uncertain moving from college into the working world it can actually be very liberating.

Doing something useful and contributing to a business or an organization is very satisfying and you can take pride in your paycheck, which is the reward for the value you have provided.

Embrace The Freedom From Structure

The lack of structure in life can be challenging at first. When all your friends graduate and go off in different directions and move ahead in life at different speeds, it can be disconcerting. But the trade-off is that the freedom and possibilities and endless. Going to college ties you to a specific location for a number of years and limits the possibilities for income – this will no longer be your reality.

It grated on me when people told me that the world was now my oyster, but looking back on it they were right all along. There have been some periods of employment where I have felt boxed in and enslaved, but they have always been temporary and voluntary. It has been easy to walk away and fly half way around the world for a new adventure.

At the end of the day the only constant thing in life is change. You went through a big change moving from high school to college and you will go through a big change again moving from college to the working world. But it won’t be the 40 years chained to a desk that you fear. The world is an exciting place full of opportunities.

Life inevitably goes on, so you might as well make the most of it.

Author Bio: Thomas is interested in helping students get through college maximizing their potential with the minimum of stress. He writes about study skills and stress relief at www.mellowstudy.com