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15 Grad School Application Tips

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grad school application tips

Assuming you’re an upperclassmen planning ahead for grad school, you’ve already done a lot of college activities leading up to now. Let’s flesh out everything you’ve most likely completed so far because this will serve a point later:

Now, there’s only one thing in the way of getting accepted into grad school: your grad school application.   

The reason I showed you how far you’ve come is because you probably didn’t know exactly what you were doing in each of those actions above, but you eventually got through them. And the same is true in your grad school application.

You might suffer from trying to make your application perfect, but you need to get out of that mindset because it only holds you back. Instead look at this application process as only one more task, and the last task, until the dust settles and you can relax.

By taking action to complete the grad school application tips I laid out below, you’re bound to complete an excellent application that impresses the admissions committee. Next stop, hearing you’ve been accepted, and then celebrating.

15 Grad School Application Tips

1. Be absolutely sure why you want to attend grad school

I wish I didn’t have to write this, but too many peers I know went to grad school because they couldn’t find anything better to do. That’s enough foolish reasoning in itself. So when you add the years of your life and tuition spent on a career you’re not exactly interested in, it’s like lighting part of your life and your money on fire.

Before you apply and commit to grad school, do yourself a favor and reflect on these questions:

  • How interested are you in the subject material and learning environment?
  • Do you truly need this graduate school program to reach your career goals or are there other routes?
  • Are you going to be happy in this program and field?
  • Are going to grad school for yourself, and not for anyone else (like your parents)?
  • Does it make sense to go to grad school next year, or is it smarter to take time off gaining work experience and money?

If you get tripped up by a question, then carefully take a step back to reconsider if grad school is the best option for you. Potentially it’s not and that’s ok, because it’s better to know now than when you’re too far down the road and it’s too late. I set my mind on law school through my freshman to junior year, and then senior year I reflected on my personal and professional goals, and decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer after all.

But if all systems are still a green light after considering those questions, then continue on applying with confidence.

2. Craft a list of grad schools and programs where you’re going to apply

Choosing where you want to apply may seem easy at first, but it can get difficult. When you consider where you see yourself getting accepted, where you want to work after graduation (as many grad schools place people in their immediate region), and total cost of attendance, the waters get muddy.

To create a list, you can do a simple internet search while using your test score and GPA to get a good idea of where you will get accepted. Write down what schools stand out, and make a note of some reach and safety schools. This way you cast your net wide and mix in applications to some safety schools, target schools, and reach schools.

Finding a grad school that places alumni in a location you prefer is extremely important. If all your friends and family are on the west coast and you love it there, then it’s probably not wise to apply to all east coast schools. Because once you graduate, it’s likely you’ll get a job on the east coast.

For example, although the University of North Carolina might be your dream school at this point, if you hate the south and living in North Carolina, then it’s not the best grad school for you.

Lastly, keep in mind tuition and cost of living when creating your list. You won’t have a specific comparison of cost until scholarship and financial aid notices are received, but an internet search will give you a baseline figure.

3. Start your applications early

I’m sure you already know this (but in case you don’t), applying to grad school takes a good amount of time and effort. When anything involves considerable time and effort to complete, it’s always wise to plan ahead.

Because if you try to get this done last-minute, you’re more likely to be stressed and make mistakes. A rushed job could cause you to forget to ask for recommendation letters or entirely miss the application deadline.

Or if you procrastinate to the last day and then a technical problem occurs, you have no grace period to call the admissions office and get it straightened out.

And of course these mistakes will get you rejected and you don’t want that. You’ve worked too hard to jeopardize your future because you started applying to grad school too late.

When you start this process early, the quality of your work and your mental health is elevated.

4. Create a schedule for application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, and financial aid deadlines

Before you eventually get lost in trying to make your resume or personal statement perfect, you should first make a list of all the important deadlines.

If you use a calendar, add the application, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines. If you don’t own a calendar, create a document and type in these dates by order of soonest to latest. Then print this out and stick it to somewhere in your room that will remind you each day.

Knowing what application deadlines are due for each school can make it clear of where to apply to first and where you can wait to do a little later.

Although, I recommend applying as early as possible for each school because that seems to be your greatest chance of getting accepted. And it’s before all the money is depleted for scholarships and financial aid.

Filling out the FAFSA, scholarship, and grant applications aren’t fun, but for those who will get money because of it, the time is more than worth it.

5. Connect with current or former graduate students to gain insight

To help you with both the admissions process and to potentially narrow down your list, it’s a great idea to connect with those who already walked in your shoes. Call up current or former graduate students that you know and ask for their advice on any questions you may have.

Reaching out to professors could be helpful too, because it’s likely they know about the process or know someone who will be knowledgeable about it.

And if you’re undergrad is like mine, current grad students (or school representatives) will visit your campus in a booth at an event to share more about the program and what it offers. I’ve found these events helpful because you can ask good questions and get unique insight that isn’t available online.

6. Pay the application fee, upload test scores, and undergrad transcripts

This grad school application tip is obvious, but it’s necessary because often it’s the little things that students miss because their mind is focused on other tasks.

Since test score results can be a waiting game too, especially if you did a retake, I recommend uploading those to your application as soon as they’re available and fresh in your mind.

Also, sometimes it can take around 30 days to get your undergraduate transcripts released, so don’t fall behind the ball on this task.

Given you complete these steps early, it gives you positive momentum before the more challenging aspects of the application process.

7. Use your resume to tell your story

The personal statement is a great way to show who you are and let your personality shine through on your application. But, don’t underrate your ability to tell your story through your resume, too.

A resume that reads like a fact sheet is boring and unimpressive. But, a resume where each line points to a common overarching theme about you is where you can stand out from all the other resumes.

To tell this story, make every word on your resume count, quantify your results (example: Sold 135% above my annual quota) because numbers support your value, and customize your resume to better fit the grad school.

While the 10 resume mistakes I laid out in this post are referring to job applications and not grad school, many of these mistakes and resume solutions will give you insight to improve your grad school resume.

8. Ask professors or professionals for an excellent recommendation letter

A little unknown secret to most applicants is that they have considerable influence over the quality of their recommendation letter. That’s right, your fate doesn’t rest in the hands of a professor who could potentially have a bad day and give you an average to below average reference.

Your preparation and communication will determine how excellent your recommendation letter turns out, and this is good news because you can control those two elements.

To be prepared, start thinking of possible references as soon as possible. What classes did you do well in? What professors know you best from your major? Who have you had multiple classes with?

Do the same with your work references, except I’ve found that professors might hold more value to the admissions committee. Anyway, these kinds of questions should bring you a list of options.

If you’re currently in their class or working for them, bust your butt to go above and beyond expectations, knowing that you’ll make it easy for them to write you a great letter.

When communicating your request for a rec letter, it’s key that you’re very clear with them on what you want. Specifically ask if they feel comfortable writing you a detailed, excellent recommendation letter. Stress how important specific letters are in the eyes of the admissions committee.

(If they seem hesitant about it, then say you appreciate their consideration, but you’re going to ask some other people instead.)

Then say you’ll make their job easy by providing your previous work, resume, transcripts, and whatever else they need.

The works because the odds are high that the people you’re asking are extremely busy, so you improve your chances by expressing how easy you will make the process for them. They also know you’re serious and appreciate their time, which will earn you big bonus points because most students don’t go the extra mile.

Lastly, don’t forget to mention their deadline and how they should turn it in. As I said before, they’re probably extremely busy, so this extra work could slip their mind if they aren’t aware.

Now that you have the general idea, this blog post has all the specific details and word-for-word scripts you can use when asking for a recommendation:
The Ultimate Guide For Requesting A Letter Of Recommendation For Grad School

9. Write and rewrite your personal statement

Your best shot to be seen as an interesting and unique candidate by an admissions committee is through your personal statement. (If you do interview, then this document becomes second but still holds heavy weight.)

Your hard factors like test score, GPA, undergraduate school, and program show one side of you. But they don’t show your personality and ability to work well with others. And the issue is the committee won’t know how amazing you are if you write a boring personal statement that reads like a fact sheet.  

So start brainstorming ideas that truly allows the committee to get to know you on a deeper level. Assuming your topic is up to you, here are some questions that could lead you to finding what to write about:

  • What is the most unique, unusual, or impressive trait about you?
  • What are you interested in and passionate about?
  • What do you hope to gain from this particular school/program?
  • Are there any specific professors that you would be honored to learn from?

Be careful to not fall into the trap of writing a personal statement that you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Your traumatic childhood experience, ambitious goals, or achievements don’t ring well when they’ve seen the same thing repeatedly over the years. Get creative, honest, and show who you are without telling.

Once you have an idea, start writing for 15 minutes with no expectations. Just see what comes of it. If it’s trash, throw it away. If it’s good, build on it. No one created a masterpiece on their first draft.

Once you finish your first draft, have a trusted professor, or multiple professors, review it and give you their critiques (maybe the same one you asked for a recommendation letter). I do want to warn you, it can be difficult when working with multiple professors who have competing ideas about what to do and pull you in different directions. Working with one professor can be more productive for this reason.

After other people review your personal statement, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and revise your document. I know many students who entirely ditched their initial work to start from scratch for a different course, so don’t be alarmed if this happens to you.

You’re not done yet. Realistically and to do it right, a quality personal statement is going to result after multiple drafts and revisions. This process is a main reason why it’s necessary to get started as soon as possible on your grad school applications.

10. Triple check your entire application for accuracy

If you don’t get accepted because other applicants had better numbers than you, you can deal with it. But if you get rejected because you made a dumb error on your application, that’s going to make you furious.

When you’re this close to the finish line, it’s time to be diligent. Here’s a review of everything to check for completion. Did you:

Pay the application fee?

Meet the application deadline, as well as the scholarship and financial aid deadline?

Upload your undergraduate transcript?

Attach your most current resume in the correct format?

Confirm all your references submitted their recommendation letter?

Check to confirm your standardized test scores are already, or will be, sent to the schools where you applied?

Remember to meet the minimum and maximum word count for your personal statement, and submit it?

When you’re absolutely positive everything is accurate and you’ve addressed everything ask of you, follow the specific directions and hit submit. One last tip is to remember that each grad school isn’t the same, so their applications may be different. Take it slow, and you’ll be fine.

Once you’ve submitted your application, the following five grad school application tips will help you remain calm and busy during the waiting game.

11. Remain patient

The waiting period can seem like the hardest part of this entire process, which is ironic because it requires no actions. But don’t forget that these decisions take months at the earliest.

Admissions committees have to review each applicant and then compare them among each other. This usually involves multiple professors and committee reviews before group discussions and a final decision that sorts applicants into an accepted, waitlist, and rejected pile. Then they have to crunch the numbers and determine how many students they’re admitting this particular year and a host of other factors I won’t bore you with.

However, after you submit the application, essentially everything is out of your control. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to spend months in an anxious mood, getting angry every day you check your email and don’t hear anything.

Instead of engaging in this negative approach, you can direct your energy in much healthier avenues, which I’ll cover in the following steps.

Learning the ability to control what you can control, improve each day, and be patient is the making of success

12. Prepare for potential interviews by practicing

If you’re fed up with waiting and feel like you need to do something that could potentially improve your admission chances, you can practice good interview skills. Many grad schools require, or offer, interviews, so it’s in your best interest to not underestimate the weight of the interview process.

Because many admissions committees use interviews as the deciding factor on whether students with borderline numbers get accepted, put on the waiting list, or rejected. Or when they’re torn on who to accept and reject between a small group of students with a few spots left, they will choose who interviews better.

But, the funny thing is it’s not uncommon for applicants to spend hundreds of hours on studying for a good undergrad GPA, prepping for the admissions test, and filling out applications, while they choose to give zero time to practice interviewing. Don’t let that be you.

If you’re in a scenario where interviews are voluntary, my philosophy is to sign up. Prepare extensively. And then knock the interview out of the park to get your acceptance letter. This assertive move and execution will show positively, while those less confident in their interview ability will pass on the opportunity and usually land on the waiting list.

13. Get busy with friends or activities you enjoy

Another option is to mentally ditch the grad school process entirely and do something you enjoy. Take advantage of this free time to get back into, or start, the activities you had less time for during this busy season.

Go to happy hour with your friends, spend a night just hanging out watching Netflix without any responsibility, or take a mini-road trip. These will help your mental health and offset any stress.

Or you can use this time to better yourself by working out and eating healthier to improve your physical health, which also protects your body from stressing too much.

Whatever you do to stay busy, experiencing breathing room outside of the grad school admissions process will be healthy and help you move forward when you hear if you’re accepted or rejected. Speaking of rejection?

14. Be ready for rejections

There’s a very realistic chance that some program is going to reject you (or maybe they all will, I don’t know). Be ready for it and recognize it doesn’t mean the end of the world or your life is ruined. Getting rejected can be counterintuitive as it turns into a good thing for your future.

Because there’s no doubt in my mind that success and failure are linked together. No one is pitching a perfect game in life, and the best at what they do have failed the most.

So use this rejection to gain perspective and improve. Maybe you need to apply to a wider range of grad schools. Maybe it’s best to take a year off and gain work experience or study more to improve your admissions test score. These are some examples of many different insights that you wouldn’t have gained before getting denied.

My philosophy is you can’t fail when you look at failure through a positive mindset.

15. Focus on your true goal

As much as the whole grad school process can consume you, it’s refreshing to mentally take a step back and refocus on what matters most.

Unless you’re a nutjob, your true goal isn’t to get accepted to a certain grad school. Your true goal is to become a doctor, dentist, lawyer, speech pathologist, professor, etc. In times of stress during this process, look past grad school and focus on the career you love doing.

Although I admit some grad schools give you a better chance to get your dream job than others, regardless it’s still important you don’t mistake your true goal (your future career) with a stepping stone goal (a certain grad school).

After reading more than 3,400 words, that’s it! If I was you, I would bookmark this blog post for later or print it out to use it as a checklist during the application process.

Related: How To Fund Graduated School

Are there any grad school application tips that you think I missed? What are you most excited about for grad school? And on the flip side, what about grad school makes you nervous?

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Career

15 Alternatives To College That Make Complete Sense

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Society tells you it only makes sense to go to college. I disagree and argue there are 15 legitimate alternatives to college you should seriously consider.

See the contradiction? A guy who went to college and is the author of How To College tells high school seniors to reconsider automatically going to college.

My main concern is with people who go to college “just because” and don’t have a specific reason behind their decision.

Maybe all of their friends are going, their parents expect that, or society’s beaten them down with the pro-college message that doing anything else seems crazy.

What pisses me off is many times people don’t need college to accomplish their life goals—studies show that around 25% of college grads work at jobs that don’t require a degree—but they sign a four to six year contract because they think they have to and wind up with a mountain of debt.

That’s so messed up!

I’m convinced millions of people would be better off if they followed their passion from the start and never went to college.

So I believe you have to be clear and intentional about why you’re going to college. And if you can’t come up with that, don’t go and instead do something else productive.

Plus the true cost of college is much higher than you think. Let me explain.

The True Cost Of College

Opportunity cost refers to the fact that when you make a decision to take one action you miss a benefit of another action.

In this case, going to college means you miss out on the opportunity to work full-time.

So if you’re total cost of college after tuition, living costs, and books is approximately $40,000 a year, that’s not the true cost of college. If you could have made $25,000 a year working full-time (a low income for many of the non-degree jobs listed below), then your true cost is $65,000.

Got it?

And since the average student spends six years in college—according to Complete College America and the Department of Education—not four, this makes the true cost of college $390,000.

Doesn’t look very good on paper right? That’s because college is plain and simple not a good deal. It’s overpriced and they’ve raised tuition too high.

It makes me sick that some 18 year olds are signing up for college solely on the fact that the media and society say it’s smart, then are stuck paying off debt until they’re 30.

I want to help people see the light that not everyone needs college and they can avoid this depressing plunge into debt.

Take a look at these very enticing alternatives to college.

15 Legitimate Alternatives To College

1. Work a job

alternative-to-college

Contrary to popular opinion, you can work right away with a high school degree.

All of the following occupations don’t require a college degree and some of them pay extremely well:

  • Commercial pilot
  • Insurance sales rep
  • Medical assistant or secretary
  • Criminal detective
  • Physical trainer
  • Loan officer
  • Massage therapist
  • Graphic designer
  • Web developer
  • Computer coder
  • Optician
  • Casino gaming manager
  • Power plant operator
  • Transportation inspector
  • Personal care aide
  • Subway and streetcar operator
  • Farmer or rancher

Obviously you need the skills for jobs like graphic designer and web developer, for example. But this list goes to show that a college degree doesn’t get in your way for most jobs.

And while your peers are paying to learn in college, you’re getting paid to learn on the job. Looks clear to me that you’re winning that deal.

2. Pursue a creative talent

Fancy yourself acting in the big screen, singing on stage, or killing jokes on a set? The time is now to go for it and skip college.

Because the fact of the matter is that it’s easier to support yourself on this pursuit than while providing for a family later on in life.

So give it all you got to become a professional actor, singer, dancer, comedian, or artist in this window of opportunity.

Spend a year auditioning for as many roles as you can and start small to build your skills.

Hustle your butt off for 18 hours a day. Split a studio with five friends. Fight tooth and nail to make your dream become real.

If it’s needed, move to a place like Los Angeles, Austin, or New York.

College won’t help you nearly as much as you can help yourself in these creative fields.

3. Go to trade school

A trade school education can lead to work in painting, woodwork, locksmithing, landscaping, masonry, locksmith, forestry, construction, welding, and other handyman work.

It’s not sexy, but learning a “blue collar” job through a trade school makes a lot of sense when you look at the numbers.

For example, graduates of trade school make $42,000 on average compared to the $48,000 average salary of college graduates.

But when you consider trade school costs significantly less and it generally takes just two years (meaning two more years to make money), the value is through the roof!

If you’re not already convinced this is a bright option, a Rutgers University study found these trade schools at close to 100% job placements. That’s nothing but impressive.

For many of you reading, you can get a fast start to a successful career through trade school.

4. Start a business

So you want to run your own business someday after majoring in business and then working in a Fortune 500 company? Stop there and hold that thought.

Would you be more experienced and business savvy through hearing lectures or by running your own business? The answer is obvious—lessons are best learned through doing.

I’m also convinced that being an entrepreneur offers these very real benefits. Running your own shop will force you to learn to:

  • Develop your critical thinking skills
  • Master time management
  • Overcome objections and make the sale
  • Treat customers with the utmost respect and politeness
  • Communicate with adults and more diverse people than your friends
  • Strengthen your creative muscle through new business and marketing ideas
  • Network with other entrepreneurs
  • Fail fast and bounce back

Plus thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to start a business. Spend $50 to $100 and you’ll have your website up and running.

Then the simple formula to online business success is to find a problem you’re passionate about, solve that problem, and then sell the solution. If the problem affects enough people and is a big enough pain, and your solution is good enough, then you’re in business.

So start small and you will have a chance at starting a thriving business. Don’t try to create the next Facebook, you won’t be able to do it.

And don’t be surprised if your business is profitable or it leads you to a new profitable idea. After all, the guy who sold pet rocks became an online millionaire.

5. Take free online classes

free-online-classes

Want an Ivy League education without forking up $200,000 to pay for it? Free online courses are the solution for you.

Online learning sites like Coursera, Harvard Extension, edX, and others have made it cost-free and simple to get your learning on. All you have to do is sign up and you’re getting a world-class education in whatever subject you desire.

This way you’re getting a feel for what subjects you’re passionate about before wasting time paying for college and switching your major four times in your freshman year.

Many 18 year olds could use this extra time before jumping into college. It’s a shame more don’t.

Or you can forgo college altogether by using the knowledge and skills you learned from these classes.

You can use what you learned to pursue another alternative on this list.

If you’re interested, check out this guide to learn how to study at Yale, Harvard, and other top institutions, for free!

6.Travel the world

You could sit in a stuffy building to learn about South American history, or you could forego college and visit Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires.

Seriously just consider what would happen if you traveled the world for one year.

You’ll learn people skills by meeting other travelers and interacting with locals.

You’ll be tested in your travels to navigate the language barrier and unknown living situation.

Most importantly, being outside your comfort zone traveling will help you build self awareness to discover what areas of life are you passionate about and want to explore further.

And you also avoid any future regret for not going. As time flies and you would normally transition through college, a job, and then kids, you may never get the chance to travel the world for an entire year again.

I recommend you do it now while you’re young (wild) and free.

Now if you’re worried about costs, that’s smart to be money conscious but it’s also not a valid excuse.

Because traveling a year is much cheaper than one year of college. And you can work side jobs while you’re traveling—like teach English, bartend, freelance, sell stuff online, and much more.

7. Join the military

Another possible route is to skip college and join the military.

Serving your country is not only a tremendous honor, there’s also a bunch of tangible benefits including:

  • A $35,000 salary with increasing pay the longer you’re in service
  • Receive diverse training that’s transferable to your future career
  • Have your college paid for (not guaranteed)
  • Free health care and almost free living costs
  • Free travel across the United States and overseas

I know a few people who joined the military out of high school and they all love the discipline and organization it gives them.

Of course there are some downsides to joining the military.

You’re not in control of where you’re deployed. You could be placed in a war zone at any time, depending on global events outside of your control. And although it’s rare, there is the risk of death which you avoid in college and these other alternatives.

8. Become a realtor

Whether you find yourself browsing home prices on Zillow for fun or dreaming about making six figures, another solid replacement to college is becoming a realtor.

As long as people continue needing a place to live, realtors who are good at their job will have money to bring home.

According to PayScale, the average real estate agent makes approximately $51,000—again, no degree needed.

But what I personally love about the realtor profession is your income has no ceiling. The more you hustle to buy or sell houses, the more you make.

That’s true meritocracy!

And the process to be official is simple: Take real estate courses (“tuition” costs less than $1,000—much more favorable than college), pass the state licensing test, and then start helping people buy and sell homes.

9. Volunteer

Many volunteer and charity organizations would happily have you join their team to serve with them, no college degree needed.

What’s ironic is some people graduate college to become a social worker or serve in the Peace Corps when they could have started volunteering right away.

If volunteering is your passion, you’re welcome for that four year head start.

Organizations like AmeriCorps, the Catholic Volunteer Network, and the Peace Corps is where I would look first. And a simple Google search of what and where you want to volunteer will give you enough information to start applying.

When you’re drawn toward serving others, you’ll get more out of volunteering than studying subjects you don’t care about in a college classroom. Plus, learning empathy and the value of giving back will serve you the rest of your life.

And Jesus and Mother Theresa didn’t go to college did they? The way they loved people will never be forgotten.

Again, you can always volunteer for a year or more and then go to college if you really think that’ll help your future. Why rush into it when it’s not needed to do what you love?

10. Build an audience with content

take-your-success-2017-goals

This is what I’m working on every single day: Publishing content with the goal of building an audience and providing value to them.

I so wish I started this at age 18 instead of age 21, but it is what it is.

So how is this accomplished? There are only three options to publish content and build an audience:

  1. Start a blog if you enjoy and are best at writing
  2. Start a podcast if you prefer talking
  3. Start a YouTube channel if you like being in front of the camera

Those are the three tried and true methods that won’t go away. My recommendation is to start with one of those and then add another or all three mediums once you’re more established.

Thousands of people are making a fortune doing this already. So the path to success is there if you know how to build a community around you.

Honestly, it’d be wise to publish content whether you don’t or do go to college. Having a personal brand and following you can take with you always gives you leverage in the future.

That leverage can be deployed to build your own business or to win interviews and job offers.

11. Go to community college

If you’re still stubborn and think you need some kind of college degree before you’re qualified to work, have you considered an associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s?

An associate’s degree requires half the time, much less than half the money, and opens doors to some high-quality jobs including:

  • Radiation therapist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Registered nurse
  • Air traffic controller
  • Computer programmer
  • Paralegal
  • Police officer
  • Aerospace engineer

Many of these median salaries are in the high five figures and sometimes six figures—like air traffic controller.

Plus community colleges have some unique benefits like smaller class sizes, more of the professor’s attention, more flexible schedules, and the ability to work while you’re in school.

For example, you’d struggle to get to know your professor if you’re at four-year state school with 250 people in every class.

12. Get a fellowship or apprenticeship

A fellowship or apprenticeship is so appealing to me (if I were 18 again) because they’re hands on jobs where you’re constantly learning through doing, not by hearing lectures and memorizing.

That’s why some fellowships and apprenticeships are taking form and becoming trendy again.

For example, UnCollege offers a 32 week program that includes a voyage, launch, and internship phase. It’s purpose is to help students learn outside of the classroom through experimentation and mentoring.

And one billionaire, Peter Thiel, questions college to the point where he gives around 20 young adults under age 20 a $100,000 fellowship award not to go to college. Isn’t that interesting?

On the website is the statement, “The Thiel Fellowship gives $100,000 to young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.”

If you’re interested in learning more or applying for The Thiel Fellowship, click here.

Some other well-known fellowships include Echoing Green, TechStars, Enstitute and The Year In Industry.

There are also other interesting fellowships and apprenticeships that are a Google click away. If you’re diligent in searching you can find solid options.

13. Create a non-profit

Want a rewarding and life-changing experience like nothing else can offer? Look no farther than starting a non-profit.

Just like starting a business, I recommend your non-profit’s mission starts small by addressing a local need in your community.

Because you’d struggle to make a difference if you tried to take on world hunger or something as complex as cancer.

For example of decent ideas, maybe your mission is to financial support animal shelters in your town. Maybe it’s to clothe homeless people in your city. Maybe it’s to provide a free summer camp for underprivileged children.

Recruit some people who might be on board and then test the idea in the community. Talk to people or start serving and evaluate the response. Then continue to improve your service and build your team.

If this is your life’s passion, stick with it or take what you learned to found a new non-profit.

And if you do go to college, your resume will be truly rocking doing this—especially if it makes a tangible difference in the community.

For inspiration, here’s an example of an 18-year-old who started a crazy successful non-profit.

14. Write a book

I truly believe every single person on this Earth has a unique story and some important message to share with the world. Sue me for seeing the positives in humanity.

And that means you’re fully capable of writing a book before you turn 20.

What are you passionate about? What do you excel in?

And most importantly, what’s something you know a lot about and it’s popular enough for other people to care? That’s the special ingredient to writing a quality book.

I get it if you want to wait to write your book until you have something more powerful to say or a little more experience under your belt.

But just know there are some young teenagers writing books for people their age and making a killing, specifically 14-year-old Caleb Maddix comes to mind.

15. Coach a team

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Are you a former football, tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming, or golf player? Have you ever been decent at a sport?

That’s about all the qualifications you need to coach a middle school, junior high, or high school team.

For example, some of my friends have gone on to coach club volleyball teams, high school football teams, 8th grade basketball teams, and everything in between.

High schools will automatically pay you in most cases.

And since many parents want no part of coaching, you can offer the local school or parish to coach the middle school team as long as you’re paid a reasonable fee for your time. You just might have to get more creative to get paid when you coach younger ages.

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’re going to have a lot of fun coaching. It’s a way to stay close to the game you love after your time to play has ended.

Plus you get the rewarding feeling of passing down the knowledge you’ve learned and making your former coaches proud.

College Isn’t For Everyone

You have to admit after reading this that college isn’t for everyone.

I mean why would a guy or girl who wants to be a realtor, for example, spend at least four years and at least $50,000 a year at college to delay doing what they love?

It doesn’t make sense and college would only disappoint them with a mountain of debt.

Now the table tilts differently in two situations: your parents are paying for your entire education or you’re 100% certain you need to college to get your dream job (investment banker, lawyer, doctor, professor, etc.).

It’s the debt that really pisses me off so if your parents are well off and can easily take the bill then that’s a different story.

But still, thinking this decision through will get you in the habit of questioning the norm and making the best decision for you, not doing things because other people are doing it.

That will help you win down the road in life.

Always aim to live with intention—especially if you’re deciding about a four to six year college contract.

So is college right for you? Only you can answer that.

And before you decide… promise me you will consider all of the options before you blindly go to college.

P.S. If you want help exploring your future options and becoming the best version of yourself, go here.

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College

Skipping Class Hurts Far More Than It Helps

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The excuses for skipping class vary from ludicrous to reasonable.

If you’re feeling super lazy and the last thing you want to do is go to class—hey, it happens—your excuses will lack common sense. You’ll skip because it might rain, you miss your dog, you’re not feeling pretty, or some other laughable idea.

There are also what I call the legitimate, or reasonable excuses.

You want to sleep in longer (or take a nap) instead of going to class because you have to study late at night.

You can read the PowerPoint slides online and get the same information you need without going to class.

The professor doesn’t check for attendance so there’s no consequences if you don’t show up.

You haven’t worked out in weeks so you have to go to the gym instead of class. It’s a fair trade.

You can make a case for these kinds of excuses and others in the ballpark of reason. It’s easy to miss class when you justify it. (It’s easy to do anything when it’s justified.)

But, I think anyone who skips class is misguided.

Because whether you have a legitimate reason or you’re lazy, I’m going to hit you with the truth: skipping class hurts you more than it helps you. Here’s exactly why.

Skipping Class Makes Things Worse

These are the fun problems that come from skipping college classes, in no particular order.

First, rarely is all the information you need for an assignment provided without additional information from a professor. Whether it’s a project, paper, or exam, during class is when a professor often takes time to give context, helpful instruction, and dictate what they’re looking for. If you’re not there, that’s no extra help for you.

Plus, you don’t get any freebie test answers if you’re not at class. You know what I mean, right?

When the professor expands on a topic, then says, “Take notes because this will be on the exam.” Only the people who attend class come away with that helpful insight. (Or when they deliberately tell you a specific question and answer on the exam, only the students there are lucky.)

You also miss when your teacher says, “Don’t worry about this unit, it won’t be on the exam.” If you miss that day, you’ll but putting hours of valuable study time into terms that you don’t need to know.

Many students who often miss class, sometimes only one class, are sure to waste more time trying to catch up than if they went to class. Because not only do they have to learn what they went over in class, they first have to spend time knowing what to go over.

And it’s extremely difficult to get a quality letter of recommendation if you routinely skip class with all of your professors. At best, your letters will be average and bland. At worst, you won’t have any professors agree to write one.

For all of these reasons, and some others I’m sure I left out, if you like yourself, you will go to every class you can.

So while there’s plenty of reasons to skip class and the motivation behind each one is that it will make your life easier, if only for a little, now you know that premise is untrue.

Skipping class makes your life much more difficult and stressful. In other words, going to class makes your life much easier.

You’ll Win When You Go To Class

Did you catch all of that? Although going to class can be a drag at times, just remember the consequences of not going to class are always a losing bargain.

I must say that this entire blog post is assuming you want to succeed in college and not live in constant stress. If you don’t want to do well for yourself and want to skip class, enjoy the stress and good luck to you. (You need it!)

And here’s one last negative. Skipping class when you don’t feel like going sets a bad precedent for your future. Because after you graduate, not going to work on the days you don’t feel like it also sounds good, until you lose your job, lose your income, and become a bum.

College is the perfect time to establish successful habits. Start today by creating the habit of going to every class, regardless of your feelings.

Your college experience will be better off for it.

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College

Podcast Interviews For The How To College Launch

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To promote How To College, I went on podcasts to discuss all the great content in the book.

The hosts and I discussed important subjects like building a personal brand, best practices for mental health, goal-setting strategies, and a bunch of other cool success topics.

The interviews all went well and I appreciated the hosts having me on. Free press is always for me (I’m talking to you Forbes and Business Insider, just waiting by the phone).

I figured instead of reading content, you could listen to a podcast and learn something new:

I’ve been on some other podcasts that still haven’t posted (what are you waiting for people?). It’s all good though.

Just Google search “Brian Robben podcast” if you want to listen to the other podcasts when they go live in the near future, or listen to the podcasts I’ve been on for The Golden Resume and Freedom Mindset launches.

Go crush it today!

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