What Should Students Eat Before Testing?

If you’re about to take the SAT or the ACT, or a final for a class, or the LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, or GRE exam–and you just want fast advice on what to eat before testing, zoom to the bolded type below, now.

It was my happiest phone call of the day. “Guess what!?!” said the excited voice on the other end of the line. “I did it! I got my scores back–and I got a 514 on the MCAT! The 91st percentile! Better than 91% of the population! I am ecstatic!”

“Whoo hoo!” I almost shouted. “I knew you could do it! I’m not surprised one bit!”

This happy phone call was a far cry from the call this same girl and I had had the previous April, when she’d contacted me in tears to ask for my professional help with her med school application. On that day she’d told me in a quavering voice that even though she’d done the best, most thorough MCAT prep she could and had scored high on multiple practice tests, she’d pretty much bombed the actual MCAT exam. “Now I’ll have to pay a ton of money to take another MCAT class,” she said, trying not to cry. “It’ll take me months to prep for the MCAT all over again. My med school application won’t be in until late–”

“Hold on,” I said.

“What did you eat before testing?”

eat before testing

“Eat?” she’d said, bewildered.

“Yes,” I said. “What did you eat that day? Do you remember?”

“Well,” she said, “I don’t usually eat breakfast–but I think I had a plain bagel, and some orange juice. Why?”

Over the next 30 minutes I explained to her how what she ate and what she didn’t eat before testing likely affected her testing experience. I suggested that she sign up to take the MCAT again, as soon as possible, with only minimal additional prep, and simply eat better on the morning of the test and during the breaks. The result? The overjoyed phone call you read about above.

What to eat before testing

In the 23 years I’ve been doing med school admissions consulting at GetIntoMedSchool.com, I’ve had this same discussion with hundreds of pre-med students.

Here’s the nutrition advice that has proven to be a game-changer for every one of them.

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“Push Your Kid into Electrical Engineering!” (Really?)

Recently, I was contacted by a freelance writer hoping to guest post on my blog. Her article was essentially a long list of reasons why electrical engineering is a great career for students to consider.

electrical engineering

The writer provided several great reasons for students to consider electrical engineering, including these:

  • Electrical engineering can be an excellent part of an interdisciplinary career that also includes chemical, civil, petroleum, mechanical, software, or biomedical engineering.
  • Electrical engineering can be applied to work that involves signal processing, control systems, robotics, microelectronics, and more.
  • Electrical engineering pays well, and career prospects in electrical engineering are good. (Just take a look at this excellent information page that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides on the subject of electrical engineering.)

I refused to publish the article, and here’s why.

My reply to this writer said:

“Ella, it’s clear that you have worked very hard on this article about electrical engineering, but I’m sorry; I cannot accept it for use on my blog.

In everything I write, I stand against pushing kids to certain career goals unless three specific psychometric assessments indicate that the child would be naturally good at that career as far as personality, interest, and strength bent. I go into detail on exactly how parents can access these assessments and figure all this out in chapter 13 of my book.

I can’t publish anything encouraging students toward one certain career. What if the parent reading the article has a child who is a born artist, and that child will be miserable and a failure as an electrical engineer? Thank you for your effort here. I hope you can get it published somewhere else.”

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In Just 5 Minutes — Change Your Future Grandchildren’s Lives

grandchildren

Last year, I climbed a mountain in Zion National Park.

My husband, the avid hiker, gave me a set of hiking poles and these instructions: “When you start to feel exhausted,” he said, “just concentrate on your next step. Where’s the next, best place to put your foot? Carefully put your foot there, and before you know it you’ll be at the top.”

Many of us get through parenting in this exact same way.

Exhausted, we survive day-to-day by focusing on the bare minimum required next step in our parenting journey. Just getting through until bedtime, or until Saturday’s soccer game, or until the next school break. We limit our thinking to the immediate, the urgent, and the short-term—because that feels productive. It feels like we’re getting somewhere.

In truth, taking just 5 minutes to look at the long view can be exhilarating.

When I was climbing that mountain in Zion, the moments that took my breath away happened when I stopped, lifted my head, and looked out over miles of sheer cliffs and valleys, all the way to the misty distant horizon.

Taking 5 minutes to look toward the parenting horizon can be both exhilarating and transformative.

For 5 minutes right now, think, “What could we as a family do this year, that could impact our descendants 100 years from now?”

Is there something you could do now related to education, to money and debt, or to moral and spiritual development, that could pay off for generations to come?

Our culture is currently plagued and limited by a short-term thinking mindset. You don’t have to be.

Ari Wallach, in this powerful TED Talk, urges us all to transform our children’s and grandchildren’s futures by breaking free of the 3-5 year “short-termism” that, he says, “permeates every nook and cranny of our cultural reality.” Wallach calls us all to practice “longpath” thinking that asks this important question: “To what end?”

What is the purpose in what we’re doing? Where are we going with this?

How will these decisions we’re making today impact our family 100 years from now?

What could we do this year that could pay off in huge ways…for generations?

Carefully consider these words, which I consider to be the most important in Wallach’s TED Talk: 

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5 Reasons “T-Shaped” is Better Than Well-Rounded

well-rounded

From the time students are in middle school, they’re told the big lie. That colleges and grad schools are looking for students who are “well-rounded.”

“Don’t commit too deeply to any one thing,” well-meaning parents and college counselors tell students. “Instead, do a lot of different things. Do as many as you can! Cram your schedule full to bursting! Exhaust yourself! Colleges and grad schools will like how ‘well-rounded’ you are.”

Here are 5 reasons why the “well-rounded” myth makes no sense.

1. Millions of students fall into the “well-rounded” category. It’s nothing special.

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Urgent Financial Aid Info For Parents

Includes a Warning for Anyone Who's Filled Out a FAFSA Form Since 2011

Will your child will be headed to college (or technical school) in the fall of 2017? If so, I have important financial aid information for you.

financial aid

1. If you haven’t done so already, it’s important that you fill out the FAFSA financial aid form right now.

You can make $200,000 and still qualify for help paying for college, but you need to apply now.

2. An important tool that the government provides to help you fill out the FAFSA form is currently off-line.

For the past five years, the federal government has provided a nifty tool designed to help parents fill out the FAFSA form faster and more accurately. It’s called the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT for short). This tool allows those filling out the FAFSA form to click once and have all necessary financial information transferred from their tax returns to the appropriate spot on the FAFSA form — automatically.

Unfortunately, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool has been pulled off-line and will be unavailable for use until (we are told) October 1, 2017.

If you find an article online that says that the DRT will be back “in a couple of weeks,” that is outdated information. The current word is that it’ll be back on October 1, 2017.

3. This means that if you haven’t yet completed the FAFSA for your child who’ll be in college in the fall of 2017, you’ll have to enter your tax info in manually.

It’ll be a little more tedious, but please do it. Doing so now could save your child thousands of dollars in future college costs.

4. You’ll need your 2015 tax information in front of you when you do this. Here’s how to find that information:

A. You may have a printed copy of this tax information in your own personal files.

B. You may be able to get this information from the tax professional who filed your 2015 taxes for you, or from the tax software you used to prepare your 2015 taxes yourself.

C. You can view and download a summary of your 2015 tax form (properly called “a transcript”) at www.irs.gov/transcript. Just click on “Get Transcript Online.”

D. You can have the 2015 tax information you need mailed to you. Request it by going to www.irs.gov/transcript and clicking on “Get Transcript by Mail.”

D. You can also request that your 2015 tax information be mailed to you by calling the IRS during business hours at 1-800-908-9946.

5. Understand why the IRS Data Retrieval Tool was taken off-line.

According to NerdWallet and the New York Times, “The IRS…decided to temporarily suspend the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) as a precautionary step following concerns that information from the tool could potentially be misused by identity thieves.”

6. If you have a child who is currently 19-24 years of age, and you filled out a FAFSA form for him or her in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, or 2016, you need to know this:

According to what the Department of Education and the IRS are telling us, there is a small chance that you may be the victim of tax-related identity theft.

According to the IRS:

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7 Ways to Have the Worst College Visit EVER

Getting ready for a 10th grader’s first college visit? Make sure your family doesn’t make these 7 college visit mistakes.

college visit

1. Pick a college at random, and just go.

Give no thought whatsoever to whether this college will actually prepare your child for a job he’ll excel at some day, and don’t consider at all whether your family can afford it. Just pick a random college and go.

The truth is… it’s wiser to carefully research college options ahead of time, and visit only the ones you and your child know are good fits as far as real world career preparation and affordability. Remember, your daughter may fall madly in love with the first college she visits. You want to be sure it’s a good option.

2. Visit only state universities, because you think they’re cheaper.

The truth is… many students take six years to earn a four-year degree at a state university. Read here how those two extra years in college can end up costing students $300,000 in extra tuition, interest, lost full-time income, and stunted retirement savings. Ask a parent who owns my book how to determine which private colleges might be far better bargain options.

3. Don’t tell the admissions office you’re coming. 

Just wing it. What can the admissions office do to help you anyway? They’ll just give you an unwanted sales pitch, right?

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My Best, Funniest Parenting Tip

For Parents of Kids Ages 8-18

In this short post, I’m going to share my best, funniest parenting tip.

This one makes me laugh just thinking about it.

funniest parenting

What do you do when your normally good kid turns sassy or disrespectful, or makes a deliberate choice that’s against family rules?

My mom used to make me sit on a hard chair facing an empty corner of our dining room for 20 minutes, and it was excruciating.

I use a different strategy for my kids. 

I make them watch TED Talks.

“Honey, would you please put your phone on the kitchen counter for awhile? Feel free to take it back after you’ve watched 30 minutes of TED Talks. Pick any subject you like! If you can’t get it done today, that’s OK. Any time this week will be A-OK with me.”

The results can be hilarious.

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Two Extra Years in College Could Cost Your Kid $300,000

Here are 7 Proven Ways To Get Through College FAST

When you imagine your daughter’s future, you probably don’t envision her spending extra years in college.

Yet, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 40% of college students earn their bachelor’s degrees in four years. And only 60% of college students receive a degree in six years!

Yikes!

extra years in college

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17 College Majors That Put Kids On the Path to Underemployment

Forbes recently published a list of 17 college majors that carry high underemployment rates.

Grads in these degree fields find it hard to get the jobs they went to school for. They tend to make less money than they should be making, and a lot of them live with this discouraging realization: “I might have just wasted all that time and money I spent on college; I’m not even using the degree I worked so hard for.”

Help your kid stay off of the path to underemployment.

college major

17 College Majors That Tend to Lead to Underemployment:

  1. Physical Education Teaching: 57% grads are underemployed
  2. Human Services: 56% grads are underemployed
  3. Illustration: 55% grads are underemployed
  4. Criminal Justice: 53% grads are underemployed
  5. Project Management: 53% grads are underemployed
  6. Radio/Television & Film Production: 53% grads are underemployed
  7. Studio Art: 52% grads are underemployed
  8. Healthcare Administration: 52% grads are underemployed
  9. Education: 52% grads are underemployed
  10. Human Development & Family Studies: 52% grads are underemployed
  11. Creative Writing: 51% grads are underemployed
  12. Animal Science: 51% grads are underemployed
  13. Exercise Science: 51% grads are underemployed
  14. Heath Sciences: 51% grads are underemployed
  15. Paralegal Studies: 51% grads are underemployed
  16. Theater: 51% grads are underemployed
  17. Art History: 51% grads are underemployed

(This information is based on PayScale data collected from 962,956 workers between 3/21/2014 and 3/21/2016.)

But wait–there’s good news in this Forbes report too!

In every one of these college major fields, some of the graduates are working. A good number of them (in some cases almost 50%!) are employed in their career fields, fulfilling their potential, making money they’re happy with.

What sets the fully-employed grads apart from the underemployed ones?

One thing I know for sure–the grads who completed extensive job shadowing and multiple paid internships in their career fields are doing far better than those who failed to complete these important steps during college.

You can see two extremely helpful posts I’ve written about internships here and here.

If your kid loves a field with low employability, have him or her try this:

Take the advice of Gwen Burrow from Find Your Calling, who tells students: “Ask yourself–do you really need two or four years of full study in subjects like studio art, creative writing, or theater? Is that something you could do with just a few classes, plus practice on your own time?”

Your child could also consider combining the less desirable major with a potentially more lucrative minor. Combine a “health care administration” major with an accounting minor, for instance, or an “illustration” major with a marketing, advertising, or art education credential.

I’m not sure I’d advise your kid to pursue a college major in Studio Art, Theater, or Art History…

Those fields are notoriously difficult when it comes to finding full-time jobs after college.

But I can tell you this. Being strategic about job shadowing and interning can make the difference between depressing, low-paying, motivation-sapping underemployment and a truly fulfilling long-term career that makes perfect sense.

(Many thanks to Gwen Burrow from Find Your Calling for the help she gave me writing this article.)

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“Can I Take a Full Load of College Classes in High School and Still Have a Full ‘High School Experience’?”

Yes.

A 10th grader contacted me recently and asked me this great question about taking college classes in high school.

“Jeannie, I know that you strongly recommend dual enrollment college classes in high school for kids who want to get through college debt-free. I want to do dual enrollment full time in 11th and 12th grades so that I’ll have two years of college done by the time I graduate from high school. But my parents are trying to steer me toward doing dual enrollment only just part time. They’re worried that if I take a full load of dual enrollment college classes in high school, I’ll miss out on ‘the full high school experience.’ What do you think?”

My answer is below. college classes in high school

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