Prep Talk Blog > November 2010

Provided by Westwood College

High unemployment rates have many aspiring college students thinking hard about which direction to take in their college majors and careers. Recently, teaching and training expert Michael Brandwein appeared on WFTX-FOX in Florida and offered his perspective on hot growth areas and how to choose an educational program.

Brandwein said employers today are looking for ongoing learners with excellent communication, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The days of learning one specialized skill and applying it to a single job function for the duration of your career are gone. Today’s employers are looking for people who can learn quickly and adapt multiple skill sets to a variety of job tasks.

Citing the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, Brandwein pointed out that communication technologies is the second fastest growing job area – healthcare and social assistance is the first. IT training, network systems and computer forensics are all expected to be marketable degrees in the coming decade. Business management and financial occupations are also projected to grow by up to 18 percent over the next 10 years. Brandwein says management and accounting degree programs will be solid educational investments. The healthcare industry is projected to increase as well, with 12 of the 20 fastest-growing jobs in that industry. Healthcare information technology will be a particularly hot field.

When considering a school, Brandwein suggests visiting the campus and sitting in on classes. He also recommends looking into accredited online schools to see what programs are available and asking a lot of questions about any institution you consider. According to Brandwein, in today’s career colleges, classes are smaller and the faculty members are often professionals with years of on-the-job experience. There is also more focus on career services, with college counselors to help you practice for interviews, work on your resume, and network with industry professionals when the time comes.

This content is brought to you by Westwood College, which offers more than 25 diploma, associate, bachelor's and master's programs, ranging from business administration and criminal justice to game art and information technology. Visit for more information.

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Working at colleges and universities, you quickly learn that some questions can only be answered in certain ways. For instance, if I’m asked what TV shows I’m watching lately, I can probably get away with mentioning “Mad Men,” but I’m probably better off sticking to the new documentary on the circus airing on PBS. Or, if I were to admit that I’d been using iTunes to catch up on episodes of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” I would clearly lose some of my credibility (even though, IMHO, it has a great cast and is really well written).

Shameless Plug: Since Mason has a course on zombies and their cultural significance that was featured on National Public Radio, I can at least get away with watching AMC’s new series, “Walking Dead”.

Honesty and Your College Applications

The issue of how honestly you answer questions is a HUGE issue during college application season. There are a few very obvious things you MUST do, such as listing every high school or college you’ve attended, even if you didn’t do well there. Not answering that question fully and completely can really come back to haunt you, as it almost always comes up in other paperwork.

Then you have the generic essay questions, like “Who inspires you most?” In this case, you’re probably better off avoiding naming a despot or serial killer, even if for some troubling reason that is the person you really admire.

So exactly how honest should you be? Well, obviously you want to show yourself in the best possible light, but when does that effort cross ethical lines? For example, one of the most overlooked questions on many applications is “Where else did you apply?”

Now some colleges ask the question for really benign reasons, like they are looking to help you make a good match or are conducting analysis of which schools their applicants consider. It is true, however, that your answer can influence the admission decision. This comes out in weird ways in committee like, “This student has no idea what she wants, so probably won’t come even if we admit her,” or “This student applied to schools he’ll never get into – probably a sure thing if we admit him.” There’s really no way to game your answer, as this meaningless question is a nutty thing to consider in admissions. In fact, the National Association for College Admission Counseling actually suggests that colleges omit the question from applications (but that’s only a suggestion).

Knowing the question's potential pitfalls, many high school guidance counselors actively advise their students to skip the question entirely. This raises a debate among admissions officers and guidance counselors about whether it’s ethical to advise students to skip a question when most applications ask the student to attest that their answers were true, accurate and complete.

I don’t really have advice on this one. On the one hand, I don’t see any way that answering this question can help you in the college admissions process. On the other hand, it seems awful to suggest you start your college process with a lie of omission. What do you all think?

Maybe we can learn a lesson from that source of all wisdom: Television. “Pretty Little Liars” centers on a whodunit story where all the characters talk about how important it is to be honest, and then they all lie about nearly everything. As a result, really bad things always seem to happen. Not that I’d know -- I was busy watching PBS.

Be seeing you.

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Do you think it's fair if college admissions professionals "google" you or look at your Facebook profile during the admissions process?
Yes. If it's out there, it's fair game.
No. If it's not part of my official application package, it shouldn't be considered.
I don't know.
The poll is closed.


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Don Munce