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Customer Service Lessons from Steve Jobs via the Business Insider

Social Media: The Eight Stages of Listening by Jeremiah Owyang

Financial Aid Myths and Facts for College Bound High School Students and Parents on Next #CollegeChat

Sharon McLaughlin, a college planning consultant and financial aid expert and founder of  McLaughlin Education Consulting (http://www.headforcollege.com) , will discuss with college bound teens, college students and parents why it is important to know the facts about financial aid and not the myths during the next #CollegeChat on Twitter on November 2, 2010 at 6 pm Pacific/ 9 pm Eastern.

During #CollegeChat, McLaughlin ( http://twitter.com/shashmc) , will dispel the most common financial aid myths including:

  • My parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid
  • Applying for financial aid will hurt my child’s chance to get into a highly selective college
  • Financial Aid is not available for families making over $160,000 a year

In addition, McLaughlin will also address:

  • How to apply for financial aid
  • What financial aid consists of
  • Why it is important to file for financial aid as soon as possible
  • What to do if your parents refuse to fill out the FAFSA
  • How do you consolidate student loans and why is this important
  • What do you do if you can’t make your student loan payment due to a financial crisis

Sharon McLaughlin is a former college administrator with more than twenty years of experience in student enrollment services. Sharon draws her expertise from her work at private and public colleges in New England, both as a college admissions and financial aid administrator. Sharon holds a MEd in Adult Education and was the first professional college planning consultant in Central Massachusetts to receive the designation of Certified College Planning Specialist (CPPS) from the National Institute of Certified College Planers (NICCP). In 2008, Sharon was honored as a “Woman of Achievement” by the Center for Women & Enterprise in Worcester, Massachusetts.

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live bi-monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. #CollegeChat takes place on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 6 pm Pacific/ 9 pm Eastern. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. More detailed information about signing up for Twitter and participating in #Collegechat  can be found at  http://pathwaypr.com/how-to-participate-in-a-twitter-chat . CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

Are You Afraid of Bloggers and Social Media? Maybe You Should Be.

Creative Commons License photo credit: M i x y

Are you or your Brand afraid of bloggers and social media? Well, maybe you should be–especially if your brand is still sitting on the side lines and not listening.  Jessica Gottlieb , a powerful voice on the Internet and a mom blogger,  recently wrote two excellent posts “Five Simple Steps to Bringing a Brand to their Virtual Knees” and  “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers” . Gottlieb is that “Jessica Gottlieb” that started the “#MotrinMoms” backlash on Twitter in November 2008.

Gottlieb expressed her displeasure with Motrin’s ad campaign that she and others felt wasn’t supportive of new mothers and  in a series of tweets expressed that “picking on new mothers is vile.” Her tweets set off a reaction that reverberated across Twitter and then the Internet and finally the mainstream press and it wasn’t until Monday that Motrin finally responded to the moms they were trying so hard to connect with but by then the damage was done http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/11/17/motrin-mothers-groundswell-by-the-numbers/ .In just a weekend, the mommy bloggers had mobilized and expressed their anger in their own blogs, on Twitter, on FaceBook where they created a “Boycott Motrin” Group, on YouTube where they added their own videos, as well as on Flickr. That same weekend the controversy was picked up by mainstream media including the New York Times http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/moms-and-motrin/?scp=1&sq=Motrin%20Moms%202008&st=cse

The title alone of the first post should get your attention if you still think you can sit social media out. In her first post, Gottlieb clearly lays out the steps of how anyone with a blog and or a Twitter account and a handful of followers can take aim at a corporation. Jessica’s steps consist of:

1) Timing is everything: Large corporations close up in the evenings, and many are completely checked out on weekends. If you post something critical of them on a Friday evening, you have a two to three day head start on your buzz versus theirs.

2) Ask readers to take an action and report back: When you post about the evil corporation be sure to ask your readers to do something other than just read. Ask them to call or email (letter writing campaigns have gone the way of the brontosaurus).

3) Track and share the momentum: Set up a google alert. If you’re asking people to say #xyzstinks then you will want updates as quickly as possible so that you can support people who write #xyzstinks. As people are writing be sure to share it in public forums like Twitter, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg.

4) Go multimedia: Really, multimedia doesn’t mean internet, TV and radio. Multimedia (in our frame of reference) means text, audio and video. Post your message to your blog, to cinch, and to YouTube.

5) Get redundant: Stay on message and repeat it ad nauseum. I recognize that after a day or so it’s unlikely that you will care any longer, but stamina is everything. Constant blog posts in every blog you contribute to are key. Repeat steps one through four tirelessly.

As a PR professional, I recommend that companies pay attention to all of these steps but also take a closer look at step 1 –“Timing is everything.” Companies still naively think that if they have bad news that they are required to release they need to drop it on Fridays after the Stock Market closes. Depending on who you are and what you have to announce that just won’t fly anymore. You may think you are  pulling a fast one on the traditional press that follows your company but you won’t be pulling a fast one on the bloggers that work 24/7.  In addition, the tradional press may also spend the weekend digging up more to include in their story. And like Motrin, you might end up with quite a mess on your hands before the weekend even wraps up.

Maybe you might be thinking that since your company is B2B you don’t need to worry about a possible “groundswell” catching up to your company. Sure you want to bet on that? Jessica’s steps can be used just as easily to target B2B companies as easily as they can be used to target B2C companies.

If her first post gave you pause, then her second post “Six Tips for Brand Managers Who Might Be Afraid of Bloggers”  can serve as a road map to get your company moving. Gottlieb recommends:

1. Build Social Capital early and often: The best way to make sure you never have a big problem with bloggers is by participating in their discussions before the drama.

2. Do not hand social media over to interns: Interns are adorable, and I recognize that businesses need them for things like answering phones and fetching coffee. However, when your intern is in charge of your facebook page you’ve just handed the keys over to someone who was probably delivering pizza last month.

3. Monitor your brand round the clock: Small businesses do it, because they have to. You need to also. It doesn’t have to be one person, but at the barest minimum a google alert with YourBrandHere and boycott, sucks, or criminal as a keyword will keep you informed of a tempest brewing.

4. Respond truthfully: One big criticism of of the Motrin fiasco is that the apology wasn’t sincere (authentic).

5. Don’t participate if you don’t have the resources: Really. I honest to goodness recommend that brands stay out of social media if they aren’t going to make it part of their business. Do not set up a facebook page and then let it sit there. If you want to protect your name online buy your URL’s, take your twitter ID’s and just park them. Don’t invite a conversation you won’t show up for.

6. Just be yourself. Social media isn’t about your brand, it’s about you.

Building social capital is critical and without it you won’t be able to build a good relationship with the community your business needs. It doesn’t mean pushing out non stop information about your company and products. It means “listening” first to the discussions in the communities you are looking for a home in. It then means offering useful information to that community or better sharing the information of the other community members first.

I also “love” that tip # 2 recommends that companies not turn over social media to interns. In the last year I have heard a number of companies –including PR companies– either talk about their plan to turn “social media” over to an intern or who have already done it and it always leaves me aghast. Just because an intern has been on FaceBook longer than anyone over 25—and that is because it was originally a college only community– doesn’t mean they have the expertise of company, customer, products or the industry you are in.  Would you really send your intern in to close a deal with a potential customer you have been chasing for years or to represent you to the technology reporter you want so badly to cover your company? Then why would you do it in social media?

One other tip I would offer is “transparency”. Gottlieb mentions in tip #4 being authentic—truthful. It is also important to remember in social media that people don’t want to talk with a logo. They want to talk with a person. If you’re tweeting say who you are right up there in your profile. If you have to talk behind a logo try to persuade management to add your name on the Twitter page so your followers can more easily engage with you.

Read the full posts. They are excellent.

Still afraid?

7 Practical Tips on How College Students Can Save Thousands on College

As college students head back to college, many families are struggling with how they are going to meet their college education costs. During a recent session on #CollegeChat on Twitter, Kathy Kristof, (http://twitter.com/kathykristof ) a nationally syndicated personal financial columnist and author of  “Investing 101”, shared a number of tips that can help college students  shave thousands of dollars  off their education expenses.

Check the graduation rate. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what the school’s graduation rate is recommends Kristoff.  “Tuition money is wasted if you don’t graduate and some schools graduate only a few of those who start,” said Kristof. “Private trade schools are notorious for this and they charge as much as prestigious private schools.”

Go to College Navigator, a site operated by the Department of Education, at http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ and look up graduation rates by school.

Make sure to claim your AP credits. Many students neglect to check to see if their Advanced Placement (AP) classes will transfer. Some colleges set deadlines on how long students have to claim these credits. Remember, the $86 students paid to take an AP test can save you thousands in college tuition. As Sharon McLaughlin (http://twitter.com/shashmc) , founder of McLaughlin Education  Consulting, pointed out, “Any course you can be exempt from via AP credit or CLEP will save you the tuition for the course.”

In addition, students who received scores of 3 or higher on at least three AP exams should check with their college to see if they have sophomore standing. If you have sophomore standing and attend a public university you may have saved yourself at least $6,585, the average tuition and fees at a four year public university according to 2008 Trends in College Pricing from the College Board. Students can check out www.collegeboard.com/ap/creditpolicy to see if your AP score may have earned you college credit.

Consider attending Junior College—even for just summer school.  “Junior colleges are the best bargain in education,” Kristof explained. “One year at Pasadena City College costs $600 versus $30,000 at a private four year college. In addition, a kid who can’t get into the school he wants straight out of high school can go to a junior college, get a B average and go almost anywhere in two years.”

Grayson Page ( http://twitter.com/g_page ) recommends that students “look at transfer agreements outlined by four year colleges, check the amount charge per credit hour, check College Navigator for completion rates, and register early.”

If enrolled at a four year college, students should consider attending a junior college for summer school. By attending summer school, students can potentially save hundreds if not thousands off their college expenses. Just make sure to take the description of the course(s) you are considering to your college advisor to make sure they will accept the credits.

Look for textbooks online. By buying books online, students can potentially save up to 75% of the list price of new textbook, and with textbooks on average approaching $1000 per year for students that can be quite a savings. The best deals are on used textbooks. Comparison shopping sites like http://bigwords.com/ and http://BestBookBuys.com can compare prices at multiple online stores instantly including on the cost of renting textbooks. Kristof also recommends that students look into borrowing their textbooks at the college library or even the local public library as well as swapping books with friends.

Sign up for Skype. By having Skype, students can have an online video chat for free, even internationally, if both people on the “call” are online. Most dorms do not have land lines anymore.  If Skype isn’t for you, there are a number of other video chat options. Akil Bello, (http://twitter.com/akilbello) the vice president of Educational Development for Bell Curves, commented that all the “IM programs now have some form of video chat.”

Tauhid Chappell (http://twitter.com/TauhidChappell), a junior at Virginia Tech, also recommends that students get an unlimited text plan for their cell phone service.

Limit Meal Plans. Meal plans can be very expensive and many students won’t use a full meal plan. Suzanne Shaffer (http://twitter.com/SuzanneShaffer) founder of Parents Countdown to College, advised that families “never buy the full meal plan. They won’t use it.”

Kristof recommends that students invest in a fridge for their rooms and stock it with healthy foods. With a fridge, students can forego trips to the cafeteria for some of their meals and get by on a less expensive meal plan. Students may also be able to “work for food” either in the cafeteria or possibly as “hashers” for sororities. Kristof also mentioned that students check out http://groupon.com/ for the best dining deals.

Chandra Robrock ( http://twitter.com/FSUfashiongirl) , a full time college student and part time fashion blogger, suggested  that college students sign up for Twitter and look for deals from their favorite eateries. She also recommended that students know what restaurants offer discounts or specials to college students. “The best way to find out about deals is to check their website directly and sometimes there is a coupon you can print out,” said Robrock.

Be careful with borrowing.  If you need to take out a loan to pay for college, Kristof recommends that students take out federal loans and only up to the point where the federal loans max out. According to Kristof, “Private loans should be used sparingly if at all. To check them out go to http://www.finaid.org/. Borrowing—particularly private borrowing—should be a last resort.”

However, if you have run out of options and still need to consider a private loan, McLaughlin recommends that undergraduates check with http://www.studentchoice.org/ , a provider of private student lending services to credit unions.

Kathy Kristof is an award winning syndicated financial columnist and author of three books “Investing 101”, “Taming the Tuition Tiger: Getting the Money to Graduate”, and “Kathy Kristof’s Complete Book of Dollar and Sense”.  She writes about an array of financial issues, ranging from the impact of legislation to taxes to credit card and financial planning. Nearly 40 million people in more than 50 major newspapers nationwide read her columns, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Kristof also writes the “Devil in the Details” column for CBS MoneyWatch. In addition to writing, Kristof is a frequent lecturer at investment conferences and has also appeared on a variety of radio and television news broadcasts.

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live bi- monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

8 Facts About College Athletics and Scholarships: What Every High School Athlete Needs to Know

Over the next few weeks, 400,000 US college athletes will head back to their campuses to begin another year of college sports. But what most parents and high school athletes don’t realize, according to Karen Weaver, EdD, director of Athletics for Penn State University-Abington and a TV color analyst for CBS College Sports and Big Ten Network, is that there is 22 times more academic aid available than athletic scholarships and Olympic sports scholarships usually are in the $3,000-$5,000 per year range. Only two percent of high school athletes receive an athletic scholarship and only one third of college athletes have an athletic scholarship.

During the latest edition of #CollegeChat via Twitter, Weaver (http://twitter.com//collegeathlete ) and other college professionals and students discussed facts about college athletics. “I’m afraid that most club coaches are selling parents a bill of goods in chasing after an athletic scholarship,” Weaver said. “There can be a lot more availability of academic aid for college athletes at Division III schools which tend to be small private colleges. Aspiring college athletes need to ask themselves what are their priorities?”

Weaver outlined the following facts about college athletics and recruiting during #CollegeChat (http://twitter.com/collegechat):

Fact 1: Four Year Full Ride Athletic Scholarships are a Myth

Contrary to what parents and high school athletes believe, guaranteed four year full ride scholarships are a myth. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) stipulates that athletic scholarships are good for one year at a time and are potentially renewable at the coach’s discretion. Coaches that promise full ride 4 year scholarships are not telling the truth. In addition, if an athlete is injured the athlete may lose their scholarship.

Fact 2: Forget Studying Abroad or Participating in Internships in Most DI Programs

According to Weaver, in most DI programs it is very unlikely that athletes will be able to participate in studying abroad or working in internships. However, in DII and DIII it is more likely that athletes can participate in studying abroad and internships as well as other campus extracurricular activities.

Fact 3: College Sports May Leave Little Time to Study

Generally, when college athletes are “in season” they may spend 15 to 30 hours per week training and playing in games. In addition, they will also be spending a significant amount of time traveling to games. Therefore, when high school athletes are comparing different colleges, it is extremely important that they find out from other players how much time is required to devote to their sport. Make sure to ask about practice time, weight training time, and travel schedule as well as off season training.

Fact 4: Hiring an Athletic Recruiter Can Be a Waste of Money

According to Weaver, “I am not a fan of most recruiting services. Most coaches do not like the interference.” Instead, Weaver recommends that parents and aspiring college athletes do the work themselves. One place to start is Weaver’s website at http: http://www.intelligentrecruiting.org/ . On the “Resource” link page http://www.intelligentrecruiting.org/resources.html parent and athletes will find an exhaustive list of resources they can utilize to learn more about the recruiting process. High School athletes and parents should also download and read through the NCAA’s “2010-2011 Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete” available at http://www.ncaapublications.com/p-3950-2010-2011-guide-for-the-college-bound-student-athlete.aspx

Weaver recommends that parents or high school students make the first contact with a coach via email explaining why the student athlete is interested in that college. The email could also include a link to the student athlete’s highlight footage on YouTube. Coaches are also interested in a student athlete’s scholastic record including GPA, SAT or ACT scores, AP classes and any academic and athletic awards.

Fact 5: College Coaches start building files on 9th graders and on 7th graders for basketball

If a budding athlete is interested in playing Division I especially, they or their parents need to make contact with college programs they are interested in as early as 7th grade for basketball or by the end of 9th grade. Weaver recommends that parents take the helm of the initial phone contact between coach and athlete but need to turn this over to the high school athlete by the time they become a junior. After all, it is very important for the coach to get to know an athlete and the one thing all coaches don’t want is a helicopter parent.

Truth 6: You Don’t Need to Hire a Professional Videographer to Capture Your Highlights

Save your money and upload your athletic highlights to YouTube recommends Weaver. Coaches don’t want to search through DVDs of recruits when they can simply go online and see the latest clips of an athlete on YouTube.

Fact 7: High School Athletes Must take the SAT or ACT and Meet All Academic Eligibility Requirements

The NCAA spells out in detail the academic requirements for DI and DII athletes at http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/ncaa/student-athlete+experience/becoming+a+student-athlete/division+i+toolkit

But these guidelines should be used only as a starting point for athletes. Athletes that are interested in competing at more academically rigorous colleges, or at colleges that demand higher academic achievement by athletes for admission, need to make sure they are satisfying the academic requirements of those colleges and not just the NCAA. After all, the NCAA and the coach don’t admit an athlete to a college, the Admissions Department does.

Fact 8: College Coaches Send Out Hundreds of Recruiting Letters

Although getting a letter from a college coach can be very exciting and encouraging, aspiring athletes need to keep in mind that coaches send out hundreds of letters like this every year. If a student doesn’t have the necessary grades, they will be dropped from the coach’s list.  In addition, if your athlete is interested in a particular college that has seen them play either in person or via YouTube, they should ask the coach for an honest assessment of the athlete’s chances of making their team. “If you don’t get a straight answer, that should tell you something,” Weaver said.

#CollegeChat is a live bi-monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

2010 College Graduates: How to Land your First Job via CollegeChat

While the job market for the 2.4 million college graduates of the class of 2010 remains torturous, there are a number of strategies graduates can utilize to increase their chances of landing their first job according to Kathryn Marion, a columnist covering the college-to-career transition and author of  “Grads: Take Charge of your First Year after College”.  During the June 29, 2010 edition of #CollegeChat via Twitter, Marion (http://twitter.com/tips4grads ) and other college professionals discussed tips for graduates to help secure their first job.

“The first thing any job seeker should do to begin their job hunt is to know thy self,” said Marion. “When thinking about where you want to go in your career, start at the end, the long term. Work backward and figure out what will get you there. Part of knowing thy self is to truly understand what your values and priorities are.”

Marion recommends the following tips for college graduates:

  • Don’t limit your job search. Cast a wide net and use a number of resources including alumni networks, your alma mater’s career services center, on-campus networks, online job boards, and professors. Megan Wilson, (http://twitter.com/megs0124 ) an Admission counselor at Western Carolina University added, “Students should also make use of their college Career Services office. They can help with leads or even resume and interview tips.”
  • Make sure your online reputation is fiercely protected. One of the first things potential employers will do when you apply for a job is to search for more information about you online. Search your name on Google and see what comes up. Clean up your Facebook posts and photos and register your name (as well as different variations and misspellings of it) as domains. Consider setting up a simple website for free where you can create a main hub of information about yourself.  A good resource to use for protecting your online reputation online and for improving important career skills is http://betterthanaresume.com/ .

“I really started the blog to share the frustrations that all of us graduates face when beginning the grueling search for not only the “perfect” job but just a job in general,” said Corcoran. “I have toyed with the idea of simply attempting to get a waitressing job just to hold me over financially until a job in the real world comes along. This process is a complete and utter emotional roller coaster. The point of the blog is not for employers to sympathize with me or offer me a job, but its purpose is to relay elements of my story, and eventually others’ stories, to let grads know we are all in the same boat here.”

  • Network effectively and play often. In order to network effectively, graduates need to join groups which align with your field of work or passions and give as much as possible. Graduates need to have professional profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Graduates should also invest in some business cards with your personal contact information and links to your professional domain. Marion recommends graduates use http://www.meetup.com to find local groups of people who share your passions and career interests. Another good place for networking, according to Sharon McLaughlin, (http://twitter.com/shashmc ) founder of McLaughlin Education Consulting, “is your local Chamber of Commerce. You can attend events without joining the group.”
  • Dress for success. Invest in your professional wardrobe. According to Marion, it is more important now than ever to invest in a professional wardrobe in order to be taken seriously in the job market. Marion recommends job seekers read the book, “Inspired Style!”  http://dld.bz/jdC9 . Fuji Fulguras, (http://twitter.com/campusbound ) a college counselor with Campus Bound, added, “Why is it important to invest in a professional wardrobe? You do not get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
  • Build a personal board of directors. Mentors can be temporary or longer-term; they can help with one task, such as reviewing your resume, or they can be a sounding board for your ideas and concerns. Don’t limit yourself to just one mentor, but create a valuable support group that will help you through all the phases of your job search and career development.
  • Consider an internship. Internships are not just for undergraduate students anymore “Don’t wait for a listing to pop up somewhere. Check the employers directly that you are interested in working for,” said McLaughlin.

“The more internships a student does can help define things the student does not want to do as well as would like to do professionally,” said Fulguras.

Hopefully, the graduate already has an internship under his or her belt before graduation. According to Akil Bello, (http://twitter.com/akilbello) the vice president of Educational Development for Bell Curves, “College students should do internships every summer.”

  • Write down your goals. According to Marion, studies have shown that those people who take the time to think about what they want to accomplish in their lives, write them down, and put that list in a visible place so it’s always foremost in their mind, are the ones who are exponentially more likely to reach their desired goals.
  • Remember that first jobs don’t dictate your entire career path. After you get your first job, remember to continue to network, to interview people for information about what they do, job shadow, and discover a way to align your paid work with what excites you.

Kathryn Marion is the award-winning author of the career and life skills book, “GRADS: TAKE CHARGE of Your First Year After College!”, and a columnist on Examiner.com covering the college-to-career transition and life after college in general. She coaches college students and young professionals on career planning, job search, and life skill concerns, and helps people in all walks and stages of life get published. Kathryn is also the editor of the book series, “The Smartest Thing I ever Did…” The print edition of GRADS: TAKE CHARGE of Your First Year After College! Is available through major online retailers and discounters; the e-book edition is available through www.QwikSmarts.com.

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition should be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat either via http://Twitter.com/collegechat or by entering questions online at the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat.

Award-Winning Career Author to Provide New College Graduates with Tips on How to Take Charge of their Careers on Twitter #CollegeChat

Kathryn Marion, an award-winning career author and columnist covering the college-to-career transition, will discuss tips for college students and new graduates from her book “Grads: Take Charge of your First Year after College” during the next edition of  #CollegeChat on Twitter on June 29, 2010 at 6 pm Pacific/ 9 pm Eastern, Theresa Smith, principal of Pathway Communications and moderator of #CollegeChat announced today.

With college graduates facing a tough job market for the foreseeable future, Kathryn will discuss during the live Twitter #CollegeChat how both college graduates and students can better their chances of landing their first job post graduation.  Kathryn will also respond to attendees’ questions during the chat. Kathryn’s tips for college graduates to increase their odds of securing their first job include:

  • Fiercely protect your good name and reputation. Clean up your online presence.
  • Improve your writing and speaking skills. Start a blog.
  • Play the networking game properly. To play properly, build profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Learn how to manage your time.
  • Build a personal board of directors. Create a valuable support group who will help you through all the phases of your job search and career development.
  • Remember first jobs don’t dictate your entire career path. Continue to network, to interview people for information, and to job shadow.

Kathryn Marion is the award-winning author of the career and life skills book, “GRADS: TAKE CHARGE of Your First Year After College!”, and a columnist on Examiner.com covering the college-to-career transition and life after college in general. She coaches college students and young professionals on career planning, job search, and life skill concerns, and helps people in all walks and stages of life get published. Kathryn is also the editor of the book series, “The Smartest Thing I ever Did…” The print edition of GRADS: TAKE CHARGE of Your First Year After College! Is available through major online retailers and discounters; the e-book edition is available through www.QwikSmarts.com.

New to Twitter?

In order to participate in the chat, attendees will need to have a Twitter account.  To sign up for a Twitter account, go to http:// twitter.com. The easiest way to follow the chat is to use TweetChat (http://tweetchat.com). Simply log in to TweetChat with your Twitter information (email or username followed by password) and then enter in CollegeChat without the “#” and you will be placed into the chat room with only those participating in #CollegeChat. More detailed information about signing up for Twitter and using TweetChat can be found at http://pathwaypr.com/how-to-participate-in-a-twitter-chat .

#CollegeChat is a live monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition can be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat via http://Twitter.com/collegechat , by entering questions online on the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV , or by email. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat .

1st #CollegeChat: Bestselling College Author Provides 10 Tips to Cut the Cost of College

Although the cost of paying for college is eclipsing many families’ budgets, by doing their own research families can dramatically reduce the cost of college according to Lynn O’Shaughnessy, higher education journalist and author of the new ebook Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Price of a Bachelor’s Degree. During the first session of  #CollegeChat on Twitter, Lynn shared 10 tips from her new book that can potentially save college students and their families thousands of dollars.

“What’s become apparent to me is that families devote a lot more time to stressing about college than actually evaluating their options,” said Lynn O’Shaughnessy. “I’ve run into plenty of parents who seem to know where their children will attend school before they ever visit a single campus. I have no idea how much time the typical family spends researching colleges, but I do believe that it’s not enough. I believe that these tips from my new book can help steer families into helping their children make great choices for college that will also spare their budgets.”

Lynn recommends the following ten tips to shrink the cost of college:

  • Cast a wide net. According to Lynn, some of the best deals for college may be time zones away. 35% of students attend school 50 miles or less from home but in-state schools aren’t always the cheapest. Sometime private schools are better deals than public schools. Lynn recommends families and students look at Forbes magazine best college rankings for ideas for potential colleges http://bit.ly/9SrzuF and also recommends reviewing http://www.zinch.com/ and http://www.cappex.com for college ideas that can be outside the box.
  • Check out colleges’ graduation rates. Fewer than 60% of college students graduate in six years which can dramatically impact a family’s bottom line. An excellent resource to start researching 4, 5, and 6 year graduation rates is http://collegeresults.org/ . Lynn also recommends reviewing the list of schools from US News that have highest 4-yr grad rates http://bit.ly/6iazP. Graduation rates among similar type of schools can be all over the board so always compare candidates before selecting your final school.
  • College sticker prices are meaningless. Do not discount pricey private universities because they usually have the best financial aid packages. Most state and private colleges discount prices. Private schools average tuition discount is 53.5%. State schools average tuition discount is 15%. 2/3rds of students at public and private schools receive grants (free money) from their colleges. Unfortunately, 59% of students say they only look at price tags when shopping for colleges http://bit.ly/98Kc84.
  • Consider schools with the best financial aid packages. A good place to start is the list of 51 schools that Lynn compiled based on a study that researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Amherst College presented at the latest College Board Forum:  http://bit.ly/6JWpfs . In addition, check a school’s Common Data Set to measure its generosity here: http://bit.ly/3gTYMN .
  • Understand what falls under the umbrella of financial aid and what the differences are. Grants, loans and work study make up a typical financial aid package. Use the College Board EFC Calculator to determine how much a college will expect a family to contribute at a minimum: http://bit.ly/fFtpP . Also, check a school’s financial aid profile on http://CollegeBoard.com to see what percentage of financial need a school typically awards.
  • Apply for financial aid regardless of your income. Most people assume they won’t qualify for financial aid, but most families do. Families that make $200,000 or more may still qualify for significant need-based aid at pricey colleges. Some very affluent families – making $150,000-$200,000– can qualify for need-based aid at $50,000 plus schools. Affluent families would not qualify for need-based aid at state universities.
  • Look for merit scholarships. 82% of students at private colleges receive merit scholarships. Check out http://www.meritaid.com for scholarships from the schools themselves. To capture the best discounts, look for schools with a good academic fit. Try to look for schools where the prospective students would be in the top 25%-33% of applicants in grades and test scores. Private scholarships are the smallest source of college cash, but the myth persists that this is how to pay for college.
  • Teens can win academic scholarships despite mediocre SAT/ACT scores. More than 830 colleges and universities are SAT/ACT optional. You can find the list of schools at http://fairtest.org/ . There is no need to submit scores to test-optional schools and typically this won’t hurt scholarship chances. At plenty of schools, B students receive scholarships and at some schools everybody gets break in the price. For these schools, grades and strength of high school classes are more important than test scores when schools are awarding money.
  • Beware of reach schools. A reach school is one where the student has little chance to get in. It is the opposite of a safety school. The danger of reach schools is that they give little or no financial aid or scholarships to students who barely get in. They often reserve best cash for top 1/3 to ¼ of new freshman class. Students will fare better with financial aid if they select schools that are solid academic matches. Students should check student profiles in college guides like Fiske, Princeton Review, CollegeBoard.com and College Navigator. Schools will often “gap” kids who barely get in with poor aid packages.
  • Limit borrowing to federal student loans. Students should not borrow more than the $27,000 that is eligible to them through Stafford federal loans. These loans have built-in repayment protections: http://bit.ly/a0Vv6d . In addition, students should go through their college for the loans. Private loans should be an absolute last resort. Here are tips on borrowing: http://bit.ly/aD8D87. Borrowing federal loans is also safer now because of the new federal income-repayment program. A great resource for student loan information is http://projectonstudentdebt.org/ . The maximum federal Stafford loan for freshman is $4,500; for sophomores it is $6,500; and for juniors and seniors it is $7,500 each year.

Lynn is also the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller. She regularly writes about college for CBSMoneyWatch, for US News, and at her own higher-ed blog – TheCollegeSolutionBlog. She has shared her college advice in such media outlets as Business Week, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Associated Press, The New York Times and Money Magazine. The higher-ed journalist gives presentation about college strategies at schools, financial firms and corporations. Lynn also provides private consulting services for families who desire help in navigating the college process.

About #CollegeChat

#CollegeChat is a live monthly conversation intended for teens, college students, parents, and higher education experts on Twitter. Questions for each #CollegeChat edition should be sent to Theresa Smith, the moderator of #CollegeChat either via http://Twitter.com/collegechat or by entering questions online at the CollegeChat Facebook page at http://ht.ly/1XIqV. CollegeChat can also be found on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/collegechat.

About Pathway Communications

Pathway Communications is a Los Angeles based public relations and social media consultancy that has helped put both emerging small and medium sized companies targeting a number of industries — including higher education, financial services, bio-technology, manufacturing, technology and e-commerce –on the map and at the forefront of the conversation. Pathway Communications’ clients have stretched from the Silicon Valley to the East Coast. More information can be found at http:// pathwaypr.com, by phone at 818-704-8481, or by email. Pathway is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pathwaypr.

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