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4 Sites You Wish Were Around When You Were Applying To College

4 Sites You Wish Were Around When You Were Applying To College

Fzzzztt!  Sparks are flying out of my computer like it’s the 4th of July, and after a few seconds the plastic around the keyboard begins to transform into a molten soup of graphite-colored pudding.

I work with high school seniors and counselors. As my laptop spirals down into an epic – and literal – meltdown, I can’t help but wonder what this sort of catastrophe would have meant for the college applicants of the past (i.e. before the year 2000). It would have been horrendous. Fortunately, the advent of cloud-based apps solved that problem.

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But what about the basic challenges related to building a decent college list, finding essay requirements, finding scholarships, and preparing for standardized tests?

Those challenges have not gone unnoticed by the educational technology community, and thanks to the innovative work of a handful of enterprising organizations, the college application landscape is changing in spectacular, mind-blowing ways. So….without further ado, here are four college planning sites you wish were around when you were applying to college:

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1. Zoomita

This application essay management system is truly revolutionary. Zoomita’s arrival has made the hardest part of the college application process a lot more manageable- and its free.

  • What does it do? Students create a college list. Then Zoomita reveals all of the required, optional, “sometimes required”, and program-specific essays for that list. Zoomita is also a sweet document management system that organizes all essay drafts in chronological order.  The concept of a doc management system without files or folders is….awe-inspiring.
  • Why is this important? Essays are the most time-intensive, anxiety-provoking part of college apps. Zoomita cuts through all of that like a samurai sword through tissue paper.
  • Social? Students can invite anyone to review a draft, much like Google Docs. The Zoomita team is also building a crowdsourcing system with anti-plagiarism technology that will allow students to get their essay reviewed by anyone on the app.
  • Drawbacks? We really want to see the crowdsourcing stuff. Please build that already.

2. Raise.me

Microscholarships. The coolest…thing…ever. Even better, it’s free.

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  • What does it do? High school students automatically earn scholarship money for getting a good grade in a class, participating in an after-school activity, volunteering, etc. Raise.me essentially rewards students for things they are already doing, and helps incentivize students to keep up the good work. Brilliant.
  • Why is this important? The cost of college is a major roadblock for many students and families. This site lowers the price-tag for college, while incentivizing exactly the type of behavior that makes students more attractive as candidates, and helps them succeed in college. Whoever thought of this is a straight-up genius.
  • Social? Most of the app is organized around individual performance, but students can earn additional scholarship money by inviting other students to the platform.
  • Drawbacks? Hard to think of drawbacks, other than the fact that the scholarships are not actual cash in your pocket, but are deductions from the cost of attending college.

3. Khan Academy

This online course juggernaut has an entire section dedicated to standardized test prep, and another section dedicated to college admissions. There are tons of exercises and practice materials available here, free of charge.

  • What does it do? Students take classes, watch videos, and browse exercises to develop their test-taking and application-building skills.
  • Why is this important? College applications in the United States favor students with a higher socio-economic status. Khan Academy is helping to level the playing field.
  • Social? Each lesson includes a thread where students can ask questions, provide comments, vote on responses, etc.
  • Drawbacks? It’s pretty hard to complain about free, high quality test prep.

4.  Big Future (College Board)

The publisher of the SAT offers a suite of college matching, career exploration, and financial aid resources on its Big Future website, free of charge.

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  • What does it do? Students can search for schools by type, location, majors, test scores, and a variety of other factors. Students can then create their own college list from the search results. The site also includes videos and articles on a range of other application-related subjects.
  • Why is this important? Applying to college is really about finding the right match. With close to four thousand U.S. colleges to choose from, it is nearly impossible for students to find all of their potential matches without the help of college-matching apps like the one on Big Future.
  • Social? Not really.
  • Drawbacks? It would be nice if the financial aid information for each college broke down average tuition by income.

It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. Who knows what the next 10 years holds? I can’t wait to see.

Featured photo credit: COD Newsroom via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

Have you ever thought of yourself as a problem solver? I’m guessing not. But in reality, we are constantly solving problems. And the better our problem solving skills are, the easier our lives are.

Problems arise in many shapes and forms. They can be mundane, everyday problems, or larger more complex problems:

What to have for dinner tonight?

Which route to take to work?

How to fix a project that’s running behind schedule?

How to change from an uninspiring job to a career you’re really passionate about?

Every day, you’ll be faced with at least one problem to solve. But it gets easier when you realize that problems are simply choices. There’s nothing ‘scary’ about them other than having to make a decision.

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No matter what job you’re in, where you live, who your partner is, how many friends you have, you will be judged on your ability to solve problems. Because problems equal hassles for everyone concerned. And people don’t like hassle. So the more problems you can solve, the less hassle all-round, the happier people are with you. Everyone wins.

Why Are Problem Solving Skills Important?

Problem is something hard to understand or accomplish or deal with. It can be a task, a situation, or even a person. Problem solving involves methods and skills to find the best solutions to problems.

Problem solving is important because we all have decisions to make, and questions to answer in our lives. Amazing people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., are all great problems solvers. Good parents, teachers, doctors and waiters all have to be good at solving different sort of problems as well.

Problem solving skills are for our everyday lives.

How to Enhance Problem Solving Skills

Most people believe that you have to be very intelligent in order to be a good problem solver, but that’s not true.

You don’t have to be super smart to be a problem solver, you just need practice.

When you understand the different steps to solve a problem, you’ll be able to come up with great solutions.

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1. Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

Neuroscientists have proven that your brain cannot find solutions if you focus on the problem.[1] This is because when you focus on the problem, you’re effectively feeding ‘negativity,’ which in turn activates negative emotions in the brain. These emotions block potential solutions.

I’m not saying you should ‘ignore the problem,’ instead, try to remain calm. It helps to first, acknowledge the problem; and then, move your focus to a solution-oriented mindset where you keep fixed on what the ‘answer’ could be, rather than lingering on ‘what went wrong’ and ‘who’s fault it is’.

2. Adapt 5 Whys to Clearly Define the Problem

5 Whys is a problem solving framework to help you get to the root of a problem.

By repeatedly asking the question “why” on a problem, you can dig into the root cause of a problem, and that’s how you can find the best solution to tackle the root problem once and for all. And it can go deeper than just asking why for five times.

For example:

If the problem is “always late to work”…

  • Why am I late to work?
    I always click the snooze button and just want to go on sleeping.
  • Why do I want to go on sleeping?
    I feel so tired in the morning.
  • Why do I feel tired in the morning?
    I slept late the night before, that’s why.
  • Why did I sleep late?
    I wasn’t sleepy after drinking coffee, and I just kept scrolling my Facebook feed and somehow I couldn’t stop.
  • Why did I drink coffee?
    Because I was too sleepy at work in the afternoon, not having enough sleep the night before.

So there you see, if you didn’t try to dig out the root of the problem, you may just set a few more alarms and have it beep every five minutes in the morning. But in fact, the problem you need to solve is to quit Facebook surfing endlessly at night so you’ll feel more energetic in the day time, and you won’t even need coffee.

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3. Simplify Things

As human beings, we have a tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be! Try simplifying your problem by generalizing it.

Remove all the details and go back to the basics. Try looking for a really easy, obvious solution – you might be surprised at the results! And we all know that it’s often the simple things that are the most productive.

4. List out as Many Solutions as Possible

Try to come up with ‘ALL POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS’ – even if they seem ridiculous at first. It’s important you keep an open mind to boost creative thinking, which can trigger potential solutions.

Coming from 10 years in the corporate advertising industry, it is drummed into you that ‘No idea is a bad idea’ and this aids creative thinking in brainstorms and other problem-solving techniques.

Whatever you do, do not ridicule yourself for coming up with ‘stupid solutions’ as it’s often the crazy ideas that trigger other more viable solutions.

5. Think Laterally

Change the ‘direction’ of your thoughts by thinking laterally. Pay attention to the saying,

‘You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging it deeper.”

Try to change your approach and look at things in a new way. You can try flipping your objective around and looking for a solution that is the polar opposite!

Even if it feels silly, a fresh and unique approach usually stimulates a fresh solution.

6. Use Language That Creates Possibility

Lead your thinking with phrases like ‘what if…’ and ‘imagine if…’ These terms open up our brains to think creatively and encourage solutions.

Avoid closed, negative language such as ‘I don’t think…’ or ‘But this is not right…’.

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing scary about a problem when you start to adapt my advice.

Try not to view problems as ‘scary’ things! If you think about what a problem really is, it’s really just feedback on your current situation.

Every problem is telling you that something is not currently working and that you need to find a new way around it.

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So try to approach problems neutrally – without any judgment. Practice focusing on defining a problem, keep calm and not to make things too complicated.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Planet of Success: Problem vs Solution Focused Thinking

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