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Educational Consulting

Expanded Services

We’ve updated our homepage to reflect expanded services: we now offer services for high schools, including free group advising sessions (free within a radius), and services for private sector employers who might be interested in putting their new employee orientation and professional development online.

And we continue to offer services for high school students and their parents, college students thinking about transferring, and graduating college students thinking about graduate school. We also offer services for institutions of higher education, including online course and program development — and your institution will own your courses, and your course data, in house — as well as services to improve retention and to help with faculty development.

Anyone interested in any of these services is welcome to reach out to us on our Contact Page for more information. Initial consultations are always free.

Educational Consulting

What about those big tech jobs that don’t require degrees?

There’s been some reporting lately about major tech companies hiring people based on skills rather than degrees. For example, Allana Ahktar’s article “Apple, Google, and Netflix don’t require employees to have 4-year degrees, and this could soon become an industry norm” written for Business Insider makes this point. While this reporting is accurate, I think a little context and nuance is needed here.

First, hiring non-degreed people isn’t a new thing in tech fields. My father is a retired electrical engineer. He last worked for Aerospace Corporation on design for GPS satellites. By his accounts, he’s known people since the 1950s getting engineering jobs without degrees. In fact, he started out that way himself. He discovered through luck and circumstance that he had a knack for electrical engineering design while he was still living in NYC (without a degree), successfully executed several designs, and then relocated to California where he worked as an engineer. Interestingly, once he arrived in California, he had the pleasure of working for a company that was manufacturing a product based on his design — he saw the designs they were working from with his name on it. But, despite already having a job, he still went to school to earn his engineering degree, graduating from Cal State with a B.S. in Engineering.

So before we start talking about “not needing a degree becoming a norm,” we need to know that it has always been a norm, or at least a regular practice. Tech firms have been hiring people without degrees since the 1950s, so it’s no surprise that computer tech firms today are no different. But we also need to know why my Dad went ahead and got an engineering degree anyhow, even though he already had a job. While he knew that he could do the work, he saw firsthand brilliant engineers who were stuck because they didn’t have degrees. They would get a job, get some raises, but then had no professional mobility because they didn’t have a degree: no other company would hire them at the same rate of pay without the degree. And once they hit that point, they quit getting raises. Not having a degree placed a lower ceiling on their wages.

That’s because it’s easier to get hired and promoted if you have a degree. When you’re young, you’re thinking only about getting that first job where you can prove yourself. But we need to think more long term than that. If a company has a choice between two people who look like they can do the same job, but only one of them is degreed, who do you think they’re going to hire? So yes, you can get a job in tech without a degree. But that also places a cap on your wages and professional mobility, because you know the answer to that question. Given two equally capable people, the degreed person will always get the job first.

And that’s not just true in tech industries, but across the boards. That’s why a 2002 federal government study confirmed that people with college degrees earn 75% more over the course of their lives than people with just a high school education: “A 2002 Census Bureau study estimated that in 1999, the average lifetime earnings of a Bachelor’s degree holder was $2.7 million (2009 dollars), 75 percent more than that earned by high school graduates in 1999.” By 2009, that gap increased from 75% to 84% more in lifetime earnings.

Yes, getting a degree matters. Get that first job if you can. But start working toward that degree while you’re working at the job too.

Educational Consulting

Asking for Recommendation Letters

If you’re a high school student thinking about college, or a college student thinking about graduate school, you’re probably going to need to ask current or former professors for letters of recommendation. As someone who has both requested and written many of these letters for former students and colleagues — and I still get letter requests — I have a little advice to offer when requesting letters.

  1. Allow at least a month. Ask for your letter of recommendation at least a month before it’s due. Give your recommenders time, especially if any of them are instructors in the middle of a semester or, worse, near the end of one.
  2. Let them know when the letter is due. A specific deadline always helps.
  3. Remind them of who you are in your initial request. If you’re not currently in a class with your recommender, provide your full name and remind your letter writer which classes you’ve taken with them during which semesters when you make your request.
  4. Once they agree, thank them. If your recommender agrees, thank them for it right up front.
  5. Provide them information. Provide them information that will help them write their letter, such as…
    1. That list of classes you’ve taken with them during which semesters and the grades you received in their classes.
    2. Your complete transcripts to date. You don’t need them to be official.
    3. Reminders of past work. If you wrote a great paper for them, or presented a really good project or thesis, remind them of it, maybe even sending a scanned copy of your graded work (so yes, keep that around).
    4. Information about your plans. Tell them what schools you’ll be applying to and what majors you’re interested in, and why.
    5. Your current résumé.
  6. Listen to their advice. I can’t think of anything worse than requesting a letter from someone then refusing to listen to their advice about the job market, majors, schools, etc. They may have information that you need, and regardless of the advice you’re given, your decision is always your own in the end.
  7. Don’t be afraid to send reminders, especially as it gets close to the due date. If your recommenders are instructors, they’ll be busy and may need the reminder. Be polite.
  8. Ask for letters from different people. Get letters from former instructors who have evaluated your academic performance, former or current employers or managers, and former collaborators on any work that you’ve done, especially if it’s creative.
  9. Ask in person if you can, and if you do, schedule an appointment or meet during scheduled office hours. Don’t just grab them in a hallway. However, sometimes email requests are necessary due to location. Recommenders with good memories of you won’t mind. If you do ask in person, be sure to follow up by email. Don’t forget, everyone’s busy.
Avoiding Student Loan Debt, Cost of Degree, Educational Consulting, Majors and Areas of Study, Return on Investment

New Video Added

I’ve added a new video explaining our services and how they differ from other consulting services. We’re not just interested in college admissions, but in how college can help you attain the life that you want. We’re not just experienced in admissions, but in financial aid, instruction, course and curriculum design, and student advising. Watch the video to learn more.