Today I would like to welcome guest blogger, Kenneth Waldman, freelance writer and content creator at essay writing service EssayMama.com. He is here to give some tips on essay writing.
Writing an essay is extremely difficult if you do not have a good knowledge on the topic. Writing is also very challenging if you don’t know how to properly structure your essay, how to add annotations, bibliography or how to perform editing. It takes quite some preparations until you can finally sit down and write your essay.
If you want to get a good grade, then you need to spend quality time on preparations before even writing anything. So let’s check out a few quintessential factors to remember regarding how to write a really good essay.
Brainstorming for the perfect topic
If you are allowed to write on any topic, you need to choose something that you are really knowledgeable about. Sit down and start your brainstorming session. Think about your hobbies, your favorite books, things you are most interested in, news you like to read about the most. Something will ultimately come to you mind, and from there you can narrow down your brainstorming and come up with the perfect title.
Brainstorming often times starts with a single word. Then, from that word you will come up with a sentence, and that sentence will take you towards a story. Brainstorming is the technique used by the most creative ad makers out there, so use it because it will help. The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers some really interesting resources pertaining to essay writing.
Plenty of research
Before you sit down to write anything, you need to spend long hours on research. Only this way will you be able to concentrate all your knowledge and come up with a nice essay. If you don’t have enough knowledge on the topic, you cannot possibly write 500 words about that topic. However, if you will read enough information, you will assimilate the basics that should be developed in your essay.
Get online and start reading magazine articles, peer reviewed journals, and even a few novels that are relevant to your topic. As a source of entertainment, you can also watch relevant documentaries and movies that will add to your knowledge base. Find out more on how to do research for an excellent essay here.
Drafting is essential
Drafting, or prewriting is indeed important. Before you start writing your essay, you should add on paper important sentences, phrases and notes that will help contouring your main essay. Scribble on paper, draw if you have to, and be creative- make a draft that represents the rough sketch of your main essay. When you sit down to writing, you just need to use this draft, and it will guide you to write brilliant essay, quite effortlessly. More information on drafting an essay can be found at this resource.
Planning the general outline
If you have a rough outline for your essay before you start writing it, you will write it much easier. How many paragraphs will the introduction have? How many different topics you will talk about in the body of the essay? How many subheadings you plan to have? What about the conclusion? Is this a persuasive or open-ended conclusion?
You really need to answer all these questions in order to write a well-structured essay and respect the number of words in the directions. Otherwise, you risk writing an essay that is not proportional- too long introduction, short body of essay and so on. Always plan the general outline on paper, with approximate number of words for each section/subsection. Check out this helpful pdf on essay outlines – by the University of Washington Tacoma.
Grammar & style
You need to write a very grammatically correct essay. For this you need to spend some time on checking a few English grammar rules first. Use he available online applications, tools and grammar tests as part preparing to write your essay. Spend some time on revising carefully your grammar, and ensure you will hand in an essay that has good sentences, correct grammar and no stylistic mistakes.
There are many free spellcheckers and grammar tools online. Within minutes you can download them to your laptop, and use them as you write your essay. When you are done, remember to edit and proofread your essay, put it aside for a day…and read it again the next day with fresh eyes. For more tips on grammar, punctuation & style read this.
Practicing before the final version
If this is an extremely important essay you need to write for your college class, you should practice enough. For example you could write 2 or 3 test essays before writing the final version. Such practicing will help make your writing skills more powerful. With practicing, you will be able to write great sentences and paragraphs for your final version, and you will already know what you need to be careful about (such as too many run on sentences, certain grammar mistakes, bad structuring, etc.)
Read out loud your final work
This is the rule of thumb. Many poets, essay writers, screen writers, will use this trick. When you have finished your essay, don’t just hand it in. As a final step, read out loud your essay. How does it sound? Is it interesting? Are the sentences too long? Does the entire piece sound boring? Do you like what you hear? How would you grade it if you were a teacher? Be extremely analytic and objective when reading your own essay. Change the things you do not like about it, and the read it again. Now your essay should be perfect!
It may sound like you need to do a thousand things before you can finally sit down and write. In fact, all these preparations will help you write your essay quite fast and quite well. Don’t struggle on writing an essay of 500 words without having enough knowledge on the topic. Don’t struggle to come up with the sentences, when you have problems with certain grammar rules. Study first and get down to writing only afterwards.
Writing an essay should not be complicated, if you will pay attention to these tasks that you need to perform besides writing proper. Spend enough time on research, and choose research sources that are truly trustworthy and quality sources. You will be able to write an essay that will impress your teacher or even your application assistant in college!
“Don’t worry, I got this covered.”
Everyone has that moment. That moment when you’ve just left the car and are about to step into your house or dorm. Or about to key into your office for another day full of uneventful work. You reach down your purse or pocket for your keys, and are dumbfounded when you grab a full load of nothing. Nada. You may be grabbing that old mint you left in there weeks ago, but no keys. We’ve all had this happen to us at least once, in many different situations and locations, but yet we all react the same way. Based on the Kubler-Ross model, here are the five stages of grief we go through whenever we lose our keys.
Stage 1: Denial- “I didn’t lose my keys”
“That’s not possible!” you think to yourself, as you check your other pockets. “Surely, I must have them.” Despite the fact that we are beings of routine, that we always put our things in the same place in our pockets/purses/bags for the sake of convenience, you believe that this one time, for one reason or another, you decided to switch things up. Why? Who knows? Maybe you were feeling feisty. Maybe you were bored with the direction your life was headed, so you felt that the rebellion of switching up the location of your keys was a minor victory in a world full of predictable mediocrity.
Whatever the reason, you decide to check every nook and cranny of your person, even going so far as to check the very same pocket again! Surely you must have not dug deep enough the first time. Maybe you’ll find it there the second time you look. Right.
Stage 2: Anger- “Why did I lose my keys?!”
Once you’ve come to the startling realization that you have, in fact, lost your keys, a surge of anger kicks in. First, you blame yourself. If only you had checked before you left the house. If only you had them in your hand the whole time, then you would always know where they were. If only.
Then, you blame others. You quickly think back through your day to figure out who is to blame for this scathing revelation. Your friends who invited you to dinner, giving you a chance to lose your keys there? The cashier who forced you to pay for your groceries, making you reach in to pull out money, taking out your keys in the process? Your significant other, whose couch may have decided to devour the contents of your pockets, never to be seen again? There are just so many to blame, and so little time!
Stage 3: Bargaining- “Maybe I can still find them”
Still holding on to that last glimmer of hope, you immediately begin to problem solve. The situation is not truly lost, or so you believe. Perhaps you can retrace your steps. Surely, you’ll be able to remember exactly where you last saw them. Maybe you still have time to run back and grab them.
This is usually the time when you wonder whether or not this is an issue that’s big enough to concede to a higher power. If you are the religious type, is this a prayer-worthy situation? You wonder if God would appreciate you using His time for something as trivial as losing your keys. Even if you are not religious, this is about the time when you wonder if this was some sort of predetermined plan for you to lose your keys, some sort of cosmic fate that would result in this scenario regardless of what you did. This is the time when you wonder what you can do to change your fate, to undo that which has been so unjustfully done.
But then, you get the startling realization which leads to…
Stage 4: Depression: “I won’t find my keys. My life may be ruined.”
All hope is lost. You’ve finally realized that you are not going to find these keys in time to open this door. Your life, just like your passage through this door, has come to a complete halt.
With nothing else to do but wallow in your own thoughts, you begin to wonder what really happened to those keys. What if you dropped them somewhere public? What if someone found them and now has access to all of your personal things? They can get into your house, your car, and that love locket your bff gave you when you were 14.
And what of you? Where do you keep the spare keys? Now you’ll have to go to the locksmith to make yourself another copy. Do locksmiths even exist anymore? You’ll probably have to spend hours at Wal-mart having to locate the locksmith section to make you a key copy! Dang it, are they in housewares or electronics?!
As your thoughts into your keys’ future spiral out of control, you are finally ready to move into the final phase:
Stage 5: Acceptance- “I lost my keys, and that’s okay.”
Finally free of despair and resentment, you finally come to terms with the departure of your keys. You realize that sitting around, moping, is not going to get you into that door. Now is the time to call that friend or family member who holds your spare to come get you. Or to call campus security to let you back into your dorm. Or wait for a nice enough colleague to arrive at work to use their master key to open your office. Regardless of what happens, you know you are going to be late. Late to work, late to that meeting, or even late to bed. But that’s okay. You’ve realized that at this point, there is nothing you can do to change your fate, but to get that door open somehow and solve your key problem later. You will live to see another day, and likely lose another set of keys.
It’s the question we’ve all had in our minds as soon as our brains were capable of thought. Which type of intelligence do we prefer, book smart or street smart? Learning through traditional, organized education or learning important life lessons through trial and error and tough love?
When hearing these terms, what do you think of? For many, the stereotypical book smart person is usually some type of nerd or geek, adjusting his or her glasses while burying his or her head in some type of book.
Likewise, those versed in the arts of street smarts are usually thugs or those who grew up on the “street”.
The truth is, being book smart and street smart has a lot more to do than just your upbringing and personality. It has a lot to do with your preferred learning style, and which way you perceive the world.
Some people are analytically intelligent (or book smart). This type of intelligence is used to recall or recognize, analyze, evaluate, and judge information. In other words, your traditional school-type of learning. Someone, usually a teacher or instructor of some kind, will disseminate information through oral or written methods, and you will learn. Simple, right?
Well, that’s because at its core, it is. Analytically intelligent people love to learn and are good at learning. They are organized, prepared, and will always have back-up plans for everything they do in case something goes wrong. Let me illustrate an analytically intelligent person using one of my favorite shows of all time, Leverage:
As the video shows, Nate has a plan for just about every single thing that can go wrong in an operation. Is this you?
According to this article, people with more analytical intelligence tend to have the following traits:
The more you learn analytically, the better your tacit knowledge becomes, or your method of learning. For example, say you are taught that 2 + 2 = 4. Through analytical learning, you are taught that by a teacher, as well as the logic involved with coming up with that conclusion. That’s how you build analytical intelligence. It’s pretty easy to remember that 2 + 2 = 4. But what about 3 + 3? Or 4 +5? You can’t realistically memorize every math problem. That’s where tacit knowledge comes in. Using tacit knowledge means learning why 2 + 2 = 4, then being able to apply the same concept to other math problems.
Sure, your teacher can tell you the answers to all of these, and even how to solve the answers for all of these, but unless you practice it yourself, figure out the nuances, you will never be able to do the problems without your teacher. This is why basic arithmetics is repeated over and over in elementary school, having students doing problem after problem after problem. In addition to learning through repetition, students learn the patterns, the trends, and the applications of these problems into other problems. Tacit knowledge involves finding a learning method that works best for you.
Let me illustrate the concept of tacit knowledge through another Leverage clip:
Even though Parker was being taught the art of persuasion one way, she managed to reach the same solution using an alternative method that worked for her.
Now, practical intelligence (or street smart), is learning through experience. You can’t be taught the kinds of lessons you learn through practical intelligence. Let me illustrate with an example. Your neighbor bought an expensive car. How much did it cost?
What was your answer? Now go and ask that same question to your best friend. Now call up your parent and ask them the question. Now go ask a stranger on the street (be cautious of pepper spray!). Do you think you’ll all have the same answer? Why not?
We all know what a car is. We were all taught what a car is through analytical learning. We also know what “expensive” means. It means “a lot of money”. But how much is a lot? Can a teacher “teach” you how much “a lot of money” is? Well, he or she certainly can, but that is completely subjective. Their idea of “a lot” is based on their experience of money. Something that they learned through experience.
People with high practical intelligence are adaptable. They learn from their mistakes, like the child who put his hand on a hot stove. They learn what works and what doesn’t. Once again, let me use a Leverage clip (seriously, they should be paying me for this), to showcase a person adapting to their environment when faced with a sudden crisis.
Sometimes there’s just no time to plan. You have to think quickly and use the tools around you to solve a crisis.
According to the same article mentioned earlier, people with high practical intelligence:
As you can see, intelligence is divided up into two areas: analytical and practical.
Lower levels of analytical intelligence simply allows you to learn through teaching, which most people can do once they start school. The higher levels of analytical intelligence involves improving your tacit knowledge, or your ability to learn more complex concepts using learning techniques you’ve acquired through life (such as using a more effective way of studying for a test after understanding how you learn best).
Lower levels of practical intelligence allows you to learn on your own. You do this automatically as a child when you learn to walk, as well as when you learn that crying and throwing tantrums as a young child gets you what you want, but then gets you a spanking when you reach a certain age. Higher levels of practical intelligence involves using these learned experiences from your past to adapt to situations in the future, such as knowing which way to take an organization as their new CEO based on strategies you’ve used in the past that worked and those that didn’t.
So which one are you? Are you more book smart or street smart? This little quiz is fun and gives you an idea of which way you skew.
So how do you use this information to do well in college? Here are some tips:
Improving Analytical Intelligence:
– Go to class!
– Not only study, but find a great studying technique that works for you
– Do the readings for assignments. This isn’t high school; the readings will help you in the test
– Don’t be afraid to ask questions, use tutors, and visit your professors in their office
– Read! Not just your textbooks, but read for pleasure. Fiction or nonfiction, doesn’t matter! It keeps your mind working and alert, allowing you to become a more efficient learner.
Improving Practical Intelligence:
– Join on-campus clubs and organizations
– Lead on-campus clubs and organizations; you won’t believe the amount of skills you’ll learn as a leader
– Apply for internships
– Use your college resources such as mock interviews, resume critique workshops, and life skills classes (if offered)
– Network! If you go outside your circle of friends, you will learn so much about the world. College is a salad bowl of cultures and customs. There is much to experience by leaving your comfort zone and making new friends and connections.
Twas the night before finals, in the dorms they all sat
Not a student was partying, not even the frat.
The books all piled up to the top of the room,
Only 12 hours left ‘till they head to their doom.
The freshmen were cramming it all in their heads,
Not a single Facebook status was left unread.
My roommate in her pj’s, and I in my slacks,
Trying to find a way to relax.
When out in the hallway there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the chair to see what was the matter.
I opened the door to a delightful surprise,
My friends were leaving to get burgers and fries.
I said to myself, “It’s early enough,
And studying while hungry can be a bit rough.”
So, I put on my coat and I put on my shoes,
And we went to get food, some snacks, and some booze.
After a ride into town, and a little bit of fun,
I came back to my room, a quarter past one.
Less than eight hours to go before my exam,
And three different subjects for me to cram!
I grabbed my first book and as I sat on my desk,
I said, “There’s no way I can work in this mess!”
So hyped up on sugar and lots of caffeine,
I put down the books ‘till the room was all clean.
I looked at my clock and saw it was three,
I cried, “How could this happen to me?”
“I really hope they offer extra credit!”
Is what I posted on Twitter and Reddit.
And then, with a buzzing, I felt in my pants,
I just got a Snapchat from my buddy in France.
He was studying abroad and his finals were done,
He sent me a pic going down a ski run.
Depressed and distraught, I went back to my book,
It was an e-version that I bought for my Nook.
The miniscule font was driving me insane,
And searching for the settings proved to be a pain.
Fraught with pure anger and in such disarray,
I did the unthinkable and tossed my e-reader away!
It hit my left bedpost which cracked the display.
I let out a sigh. “This just isn’t my day.”
As I sat at my desk and worked on some math,
The undercooked meat I ate unleashed its wrath.
Propped on the toilet I held on for dear life,
As I let out a fudge bomb that stung like a knife.
Though tired and stressed, I still studied some more,
while trying to drown out my roommate’s snore.
Ticking and tocking teased that damn clock,
As if poking fun at my mental block.
But I studied and studied every chapter and section,
Memorized my terms to the point of perfection.
There was really no more I could do to prepare,
But to show up to class with a hope and a prayer.
Later that morning, I sprang out of class,
With a skip in my step, with a notion I passed.
“What do we do now?” asked my friends in delight.
“Well, my finals are over, so to all a good-night!”
Happy Wednesday to all!
Today I’d like to share with you a funny leadership video my wife and I made to demonstrate a leadership model I created called MICE. It was made for a class project, but I feel it’s relevant enough to this blog to share. Hope you enjoy! (No actual mice are involved in the making of this video)
Leadership is a constantly evolving concept, changing as people discover new, more effective ways to lead others. However, with all the different ways people tell you how to be a good leader, you don’t hear much in regards to how to be a bad leader. Makes sense, though, right? Who in their right mind would waste their time learning how to be a bad leader?
Ever got told by your parents never to put your hand on the stove? For many, a parent’s wise words of wisdom are enough to deter a curious youngin’ from going any further. However, there will always be the child that needs to put that hand on that stove, and let the stove’s burning vengeance teach that child a lesson about never doing it again.
Similarly, learning about bad leadership is a good way to avoid it. No one is perfect. We all tend to fail at leadership every now and then. But by understanding our failures, we have a better opportunity to correct them.
A study on wisdom research by Dr. Robert Sternberg called Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish describes five fallacies, or an argument that exercises poor reasoning, that deter them from being true great leaders. These fallacies have very complex names, and even more complex descriptions that makes it hard to differentiate them from each other. So to help understand them, I will describe them using famous TV and movie icons that use them.
1. Unrealistic Optimism Fallacy
Leaders who fall under the unrealistic optimism fallacy think they are so smart and effective they can do whatever they please. They believe they can surmount any obstacle because they are smart. For those who have seen the Dreamworks movie Megamind, you’ll know that Megamind is a villain in Metro City who has dedicated his life to taking it over and defeating their resident hero Metroman. Despite the fact that Metroman is faster, stronger, and more charming than Megamind, he believes that his intelligence is enough to defeat him and rule the city.
Don’t fall for this fallacy. Don’t let your intelligence in any particular area corrupt your way of thinking and believe you can look down on others. Just because you believe you are smarter than a cashier doesn’t give you the right to give them a hard time when they input the wrong price on an item you are buying. Likewise, just because you have an opinionated, uninformed friend spouting out ignorant political statements doesn’t give you the right to be rude and consider yourself better than them. We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and a little bit of tact goes a long way.
2. Ego-Centrism Fallacy
People who use the ego-centrism fallacy think that only they matter, not the people around them who rely on them. An example of this would be Lex Luther. His history with Superman has been one of a deep-rooted rivalry, similar to Metroman and Megamind above (possibly because one was inspired by the other). Lex Luther is a selfish man, whose hatred of Superman stems from the fact that he is more well-liked and overall a great person. People love him and he is famous. Not being one to want to share the spotlight, Luther constantly attempts to take down Superman to boost his own ego. Luther dreams about being the one true power in Metropolis, having people serve him and worship him like a god. Despite the fact that he has money and followers (after all, he does own a large corporation), it’s not enough. His efforts to grow his corporation and provide services to Metropolis come second to fulfilling his own desires and wants.
As a leader, it can be very easy to make leadership all about us. Once we’ve done a couple of things right and gained recognition for our efforts, it’s easy for it to go to our heads. When placed in a role of authority, always keep in mind the end goal, and why you are doing such task in the first place. Once it becomes all about you, you have failed your followers and teammates and should take a look at your priorities.
3. Omniscience Fallacy
People who exhibit the omniscience fallacy often think they know everything, and as a result, lose sight of their own limitations. Like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory, they often overestimate their abilities. This fallacy, while similar in scope to the unrealistic optimism fallacy, differs mainly through intent. In the unrealistic optimism fallacy, there is malicious intent involved with the intelligence. Being smarter means you can downplay others and do whatever you want.
The omniscience fallacy, however, is driven by good intentions. A smart person using the omniscience fallacy is only trying to help by using their knowledge in a particular area. However, they truly believe they know more about the subject than they actually do, and as a result, give the wrong advice. Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical physicist, knows a lot about many things. However, his knowledge isn’t limitless, especially when dealing with social situations, yet he treats them as if he know all about them. What results is hilarious situations where Sheldon tries to form logical conclusions about situations that don’t necessarily require logic, but instead customs and norms (like mentioning a girl’s promiscuity directly to her face in an effort to compliment her social skills, for example).
We’ve all been guilty of helping a friend on his or her time of need by offering “valuable” advice, even if we are not qualified to do so. I’ve seen a single girl (who’s never dated anyone) give another girl relationship advice, or a stressed person telling another person how to stop stressing.
The most dangerous part of this fallacy is the fact that we think we are doing a good thing by offering advice we are not qualified to give. We can do more harm than good by incorrectly diagnosing someone’s cough and headache as a cold by keeping them from seeking medical attention if it’s something worse. We are driven to form relationships, and it feels good for both parties when one party helps the other. One gets helped, and one feels good by being relied on to help. It’s okay to help others, just be aware of your limitations and have the courage to say you don’t know what to do (and help them find someone who does).
4. Omnipotence Fallacy
People who fall under the omnipotence fallacy think that they are all powerful and can do whatever they want. Again, this is similar to the unrealistic optimism fallacy, but instead of using your smarts to get what you want, you use your power to get what you want. The prequel trilogy of Star Wars (as well as the original trilogy) chronicle Anakin Skywalker’s transition to the dark side. This fallacy is made most apparent in the third movie, Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin fell in love with Padme, but being a jedi did not allow him to marry her. He knew he was a powerful jedi, and his corruption came as a result of him attempting to use his power to be able to be with her.
While the results of abusing our power may not be as extreme as Anakin’s, there is a danger to being a power-hungry leader. This type of fallacy is more commonly seen in leaders that were placed in the role of leader, though not necessarily earning it. Leadership is a very powerful title, giving the holder of that title a sense of aggrandizement and entitlement. How many of you have placed first in a competition and think that you could really make a future doing that if you wanted? How many of you accomplish your fitness goal and feel all the power in the world?
It’s a great feeling to have, and there is nothing wrong with it if used correctly (such as to self-motivate). The problem is when this feeling of power is used to make yourself seem better than others. It’s a problem when you use this power to do the wrong things, influence the wrong people, and head down an unethical path. Humility is a powerful counter to power. Keep a healthy balance of both to keep yourself in check and stay on task with whatever you are doing. To quote the wise words of Uncle Ben: “With great power, comes great responsibility”
5. Invulnerability Fallacy
Leaders who use the invulnerability fallacy think they can get away with anything, consider themselves too clever to be caught, and even if caught, figure they can get away with it because of who they imagine themselves to be. This fallacy is almost like a combination of the last four, where a person builds an image of themselves that may or may not be accurate. They believe they are special in such a way that they are destined never to fail, doing as they please with no consequences. In the television world, these type of characters are labeled as a “Mary Sue”, in that nothing bad ever happens to them no matter what they do. In television, they call this “force” that protects them plot armor. In real life, however, this is a sense of delusion that must be avoided.
Bugs Bunny is the perfect example of this, as he spent many of his early cartoon years outsmarting rivals such as Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam over and over again, never losing out on a match. Sure, sometimes these fools brought their fates upon themselves by bothering Bugs to begin with, but Bugs didn’t ever stop while he was ahead. For even the most trivial annoyance, Bugs Bunny would constantly mess with them, to the point of getting them beaten, burned, smashed, and in some episodes, even killed. Yet Bugs would come out of the situation completely unharmed.
The only notable exception to this rule is in the “tortoise and hare race” shorts, inspired by one of Aesop’s fables. Just like the fable, Bugs Bunny would get beaten by Cecil Turtle in a literal race, due to Bugs Bunny’s overconfidence in his invulnerability and underestimating his opponent.
We could always use a turtle in our lives to snap us back into reality when we fall under this fallacy. We are not perfect or immune to anything, no matter how much we try to believe otherwise. We do not live in a TV show, where everything will end up working out in the end. Sometimes, there will be sad endings, and we need to learn to live with them and move on.
I feel that this fallacy is the most dangerous because society pushes this one as the “correct” way of thinking more than any of the others, especially to our children. Have you seen an animated movie lately? How many animated movies (meant for children and families) have you seen where the main protagonist does not achieve his goal by the end of the movie? That’s just it, no matter how unrealistic the goal is, that little plane will beat all the other bigger, more qualified planes in the race, or that young woman will find true love by wishing it so, or dog will find its way home by believing hard enough.
Current media is teaching our children that anything is possible if they set their minds to it. That’s just not true. We all are born and raised with different talents, and we should strive to work with the talents that we have. If they attempt to do something that they are not good at, that’s fine, but they should expect the realistic chance of failure trying something that doesn’t fall under one of their strengths (something that’s become increasingly harder to do with snowplow parents who attempt to shield their children from failing).
The best cure for the invulnerability fallacy is to accept failure in your life. It will be a part of many things that you do, and that is okay. With every failure, there will be a lesson to be learned that can be applied elsewhere for successes down the road.
We’ve heard for years about Helicopter parents. You know, those parents that do a child’s science project at school, take control of every PTA meeting, take care of every fundraiser with no effort from the child. However, an increasing trend in the US is the ‘Snowplow Parent’, parents who continue to hover over their child way into college and beyond.
This article on the Boston Globe explains what a snowplow parent consists of, with many frightening-but-true examples. These are just a few snippets of what the article describes as snowplow parents:
Astrid Franco, 21, of Framingham, lived away from home her first two years at UMass Boston and got constant calls and messages from her parents. “I’d be out with friends and I’d get a text from my mom, ‘What are you doing?’ With time, I stopped answering and they wondered why. I felt it was being nosy,” says Franco, now a senior.
In one extreme case of parental over-involvement, a college senior in December 2012 won a protective order against her parents for stalking and harassing her. Aubrey Ireland, 21, told a Cincinnati judge that her parents often drove 600 miles from their Kansas home to the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, unannounced, to meet with college officials, and falsely accused her of promiscuity, drug use, and mental problems.
Her parents, Julie and David Ireland, admitted in court that they installed monitoring software on their daughter’s laptop and cellphone. But they said they had her best interests at heart. “She’s an only child who was catered to all her life by loving parents,” her mother told the judge.
“We see snowplow parents when they come in with their son or daughter to apply for a job,” says Green, whose family owns several restaurants, including West on Centre in West Roxbury. “They say things like, ‘I’m here with my son, Mark, to apply for a bus boy position.’ Mark is standing there not saying a word. We’re thinking if Mark can’t talk to us, how can he interact with our staff and customers?”
The truth is, in my time in college (and working in a college), I’ve seen this type of behavior firsthand. People joke about the fact that elementary school teachers are now being harassed for handing out low grades to students, but the consequences of such behavior are starting to see a societal impact. This new generation of sheltered, over-protected kids are now entering college, and soon, the real world. Many of these students are unprepared to deal with the challenges that life will throw at them, because their parents have always taken care of it for them.
Once these students leave college, one of two things are going to happen: either their parents are going to continue to do everything for them (such as applying for jobs with them as mentioned in the above example) and then wondering why no one will hire them, or they will finally let them go, once again wondering why their grown up children can’t fend for themselves when buying a house, raising a family, or managing a budget.
What are your experiences with snowplow parents, either as a college student or bystander? Are you friends with one? What can we do to solve this type of problem? Let us know in the comments.
A while back I came across a very interesting article stating 11 rules about life as quoted by Bill Gates. It was very insightful, as they were things that students were not taught in schools. Though Mr. Gates is a pretty smart guy, a quick search on Snopes.com tells us that these rules were incorrectly attributed to him. There are actually 14 rules, and they were written by Charles J. Sykes, author of the 1996 book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, Or Add.
I think it’s a very good read, and something that every college student should read before heading off into the real world. Behold, Mr. Sykes’ 14 life lessons you will not learn in school:
Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teenager uses the phrase “It’s not fair” 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 2: The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it’s not fair. (See Rule No. 1)
Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won’t make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won’t be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn’t have a Gap label.
Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren’t embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.
Rule No. 6: It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it’s on your dime. Don’t whine about it, or you’ll sound like a baby boomer.
Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone’s feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4.)
Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don’t get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we’re at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)
Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.
Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.
Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you’re out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That’s what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for “expressing yourself” with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.
Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.
Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school’s a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You’re welcome.
Read more about it here.
College is a great environment to be in, full of supporting faculty and staff and offering great opportunities to become a responsible adult. What you don’t know, however, is what goes on behind-the-scenes in colleges. Things they don’t want you, as a student, to know about. It’s not that they’re illegal, or necessarily immoral, but that by knowing them, they’d ruin the positive image universities try to maintain.
1. College entrance requirements aren’t as strict as they appear
I once talked to an admissions counselor when I was searching for colleges. She was very friendly, but the pamphlet she gave me was pretty intimidating. “I have to have THAT high of an SAT score?” I thought to myself as I kissed my dreams of being a whatever-it-was-at-the-time goodbye. Reading further, I saw that I had to be involved in a certain number of organizations, had to have this high of a GPA, and had to have so many volunteer hours, among letters of recommendations, full transcripts, and job experience.
The admission counselor smiled, surely relishing in my worried facial expressions caused by my ignorant innocence, and told me not to worry about too much about the requirements. “There’s always exceptions,” she said confidently. She then went on to tell me that as long as I could write an essay explaining why I wasn’t involved in organizations, or getting an adequate score on the SAT or ACT, the university would consider my application.
I’ve learned that this is true of many colleges, save for the Ivy Leagues and the sort. Colleges like to put down rigorous entrance requirements so they can tout that they have the smartest and the brightest, but if you read the fine print, there are many ways to get around the published requirements. See, if universities truly stuck with what they advertised as their requirements, enrollment would be horrible! The funding systems for universities are based on enrollments, so universities strive to get as many students as they can. For this reason, they implement certain “loopholes” to their own policies to be able to admit students who do not meet their requirements.
Go to any university website that you are interested in and take a look at its admission criteria. You’ll see that it is worded in such a way that allows for flexibility in admissions standards. For example, take Oklahoma State University’s admissions page.
First of all, they preface the requirements by mentioning that all students are encouraged to apply, as they take many factors into consideration and individually review each application. Likewise, if you meet one of their listed criteria, you are assured admission. That’s where the wording is tricky. Colleges often make is sound like all their students meet those requirements as a minimum, and they are partially correct. Sure, those are minimums, but only for guaranteed admission. You can still be considered even if you don’t meet their listed requirements. And even then, of the several “minimums” they state, they usually publish the strictest one to make them seem more selective (as was the case at my undergraduate university).
Florida State University’s admissions page is another great example. In this one, they don’t even give you a minimum requirements list. The list they show you is the academic profile of the middle 50% of freshmen they accepted in 2013. So really, all it does is give you an idea of their overall average of the students they admit, which doesn’t really tell you how well your chances are, since the bottom 50% could fall anywhere below that average. Plus, they make sure to include careful wording to say that “applicants who bring other important attributes to the University community may also receive additional consideration.” These may include, but are not limited to skilled artists, musicians, and athletes.
Why do colleges do this? For publicity reasons, mostly. This way, they can state in their advertisements, pamphlets, and national publications that they accept students with these amazing criteria in an effort to attract other students with these criteria. And if you have 5 colleges in one area that accept students with a 24 ACT as a minimum, you don’t want to be the college that publishes your minimum as 18 ACT. It’s just not good for business.
So what does this all mean to you as a prospective student? This means that you should not be discouraged to apply to a college if the requirements seem to strict. If you weren’t involved in extra-curricular activities in high school because you worked full time in the evenings to support your family, that’s fine! Be sure to include an essay with your application that states that. Admission departments in colleges don’t just go down a checklist and pull your application if you don’t meet them all. They look at your application to see how you are as a whole person. The more information you provide with your application, the easier it will be for them to paint a better picture of you as a student.
If they see that you worked to provide for your family in high school, they may see that as responsibility and maturity and would take that in place of your extracurriculars. If you didn’t have very good grades, as long as you can provide a good reason for it and assure them that you will do much better in college, they may give you consideration they may not have otherwise. Now, I’m not saying that you can BS your way through an application and get into college. It doesn’t work that way.
What I’m saying is that you have nothing to lose by applying to the college that you want, even though you may not fit the “ideal” criteria.
Let me tell you that when I started college, all I had going for me was my GPA. Being a first generation student, I had no idea how important extra-curricular activities, volunteer hours, and letters of recommendations from teachers who knew you well were. Plus, I am a horrible test taker and didn’t do very well on my SAT. Still, I made a strong enough case on my application, got accepted, and not only did I graduate from my university, but I was senior class president and gave the commencement speech in front of ten thousand people. All because they decided to take a chance on me.
2. You DON’T have to go to college
I can already hear my fellow colleagues and college administrators yelling at me for this one, but the truth is, you really don’t have to go to college like society makes you believe. I’m sure you’ve heard in high school, in the college you already attend, in TV shows, commercials, and speakers that jobs won’t hire you without a college degree. That it’s not like it used to be where anyone could get a job with a good work ethic and a smile. And yes, it’s true that it’s becoming more difficult for companies to even consider you if you don’t have that degree on hand. Even jobs that didn’t previously required formal education experience are requiring Associate or Bachelor degrees. And that is why you are told very often that you need to go to college to get those lucrative jobs.
But do you see the problem with this? Students everywhere are being told that they need a college degree to get a job that requires college degrees. As a result, more and more students are going to college each year. Over the last 15 years, enrollment in U.S. institutions of higher education at all levels rose from 14.5 million students in fall 1994 to 20.7 million in fall 2009, with most of the growth occurring in the last 10 years (source: NSF ). And what’s worse, over the past decade, the U.S. private-sector has lost 203,000 jobs (source here ).
What this means is that more and more graduates are finishing colleges with degrees, but the jobs aren’t growing with them. As a result, we have tons of people out there with useless degrees working jobs that don’t require anything more than a high school diploma. But colleges won’t tell you all of this, because their goal is to get more students.
As a Student Affairs Professional, I will say that college does a lot more for you than just get you a degree, as I listed on my blog post detailing how college can get you a job without a degree. But still, I stand by the fact that there are some people who do not need to go to college. Are you one of these people?
Let me explain. I’ve seen many students, both as a university staff member and as a student myself, that go to college despite the fact that they are not ready for it. They either do not know what they want to do with their life, or are just not emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility of college life. Yet, these students will start college, get into lots of debt, then drop out their first year having no way to pay back that said debt.
Other people are just not good classroom learners. Regardless of college, it is reasonable to assume a lot of classroom work will be in your future, and some students just don’t do well with that. A friend of mine just could not grasp anything from a classroom, and left college within two months. Yet, he was a masterful electrician and could rewire an entire house with no problem.
Students like these would be better off going to trade schools, where there is more practical learning and they could put their talents to good use. I’ve known many mechanics, plumbers, and carpenters that make a lot of money, and never had to go to college to do it.
What about those students who are not ready for college? Students who don’t know what to do with their lives but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for an education they may not even get use out of? As someone who went to a university with a strong military focus, I would say that the military may be a viable option. Don’t know what to do with your life? If you meet the health requirements and don’t mind some discipline in your life, the military may be a better option for you. I’ve known a few high school students that would gain a lot from joining the army for a few years before going to college. It can be an eye-opening experience, and what’s more, they may have the option of paying for your college once you complete your years of service.
For other students, maybe college is best if you just wait. Work a full time job for a little bit, get a sense of what the real world is like, paying bills, paying your own rent, just generally living on your own. Start college when you feel ready. My sister followed this path, and now she’s in college and loving it.
I don’t believe that college is always the right answer. But not enough people are willing to say that. And why would they? It makes sense that a college recruiter would feel guilty telling you that college isn’t for you. And that’s because they cannot make that decision, nor can I. Only you can. You need to take a good look at yourself and wonder if it’s worth getting into all that debt for the next few years before you dive right in.
For a great illustration of how college may not always be right for you, check out my post on how the movie Monsters University accurately depicts college life.
3. A lot of faculty aren’t trained to teach
At some point during my college career, I decided that I wanted to be a professor. Part of the decision came from the amazing professors that inspired me to follow in their footsteps. Another part came from the horrible professors who made me want to become one to correct their mistakes. Upon looking for grad schools and trying to decide what I wanted to teach, I came to one horrible realization: professors are not trained to teach!
Teachers, specifically for elementary school and secondary school, have to go through an intense program, that includes not only a Bachelor degree, but teacher certification, and in some cases, even a Master degree. They have to learn about classroom management, implementing curriculums, special education, and then student teach for hours and hours while maintaining a teacher’s portfolio assuring future employers that this person knows what he or she is doing.
I was pretty shocked to find out that this is not true with college professors. There is no “professors 101” class or a degree specifically to teach college courses. The way a person becomes a professor is to get a Master degree in a field, and then get a doctorate in that field as well (or a related field). At that point, the person is considered an “expert” in the field and is then qualified to teach a course in that field. However, none of those courses prepare those students to teach what they have learned. This is especially evident in STEM fields, where students constantly complain about engineering professors who don’t know how to teach a concept in a way students can understand, or a science professor who just reads from a slideshow. Sure, they know everything they need to know about their field, but that does not mean they know how to teach it.
When colleges look for new faculty, they look for several factors, with the primary ones being teaching experience and research/publications. A professor is worth more if he or she is a published researcher, holding some clout in the field, and has the ability to receive grants from several institutions. It shocked me to find out that in many universities, teaching ability isn’t at the top of the list. Now this isn’t true of all colleges. Community colleges and liberal arts colleges put more priority to teaching skills, whereas research and land grant universities will put more weight on research and publications. I actually had a professor tell me that if I didn’t have some decent published research by the time I finished my PhD, I will have a hard time getting any college to consider me.
But what about all those great professors that have a passion for teaching, those that just seem to get it? Typically, it’s a result of experience. Experience is a wonderful teacher, and professors who learn from their mistakes and research effective teaching methods on their own time will likely be better at it than others. Mentoring is also very helpful. Many doctorate students find advisors and mentors that are willing to work with them and teach them the practice of the trade, even sometimes offering teaching assistantships where they get practice before they graduate. This is, however, very dependent on the teaching quality of the mentors.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed that universities are now offering certificates for college teaching. Usually these programs consist of a few courses specifically suited for teaching in a college environment. As far as I know, I don’t know of any doctorate program that requires these to be a college professor, but the resource is there and more and more universities are encouraging professors and would-be professors to get it.
4. Beware of the “weeding out” classes
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I went to a university that was very engineering-focused. Even though I wasn’t an engineering major, I had to take an occasional basic engineering class or two each year. As a non-engineer, I noticed that I was having a very hard time with these classes. At first, I thought I just sucked at engineering. But upon discussing it with other classmates, we came to the realization that it wasn’t that we didn’t understand the work, but that the work was made hard on purpose.
First of all, those engineering 101 classes were huge. Lots of students and only one professor to teach us all. Our professor covered a lot of material in a very short amount of time. Tons. Concepts that, individually, would result in hours of work. Even if I did figure out how to solve the homework assignments, there was no way I could finish it all and do all the work in my other non-engineering classes. At some point, I had to call it quits and settle for the lower grade for that assignment. It made me wonder how those students with four engineering classes in a row got anything done.
What I learned later on was that these classes had an ulterior motive. In addition to providing a “general view” of engineering, they were designed to overwhelm students with varying different concepts to “weed out” the students who were not the best of the best at the craft. Even though I had a hard time excelling at the class, my wife, who was and engineering major at the time, got through those assignments with no problem. Sure enough, she got an A in the class and moved on to the higher level classes.
What surprised me about this the most was that I was generally good at math. I was studying meteorology and we dealt with all sorts of equations and concepts. But for some reason engineering work frustrated the hell out of me, and there was just so much of it. I, like many others, was the victim of a student not worthy to go to the higher level engineering classes, where professors worked at a better pace and were more willing to help you learn the material (as opposed to my class, where I would go to my professor to help me with assignments and he refused to help me in favor of the upper-level students).
Now that I’ve graduated college and have worked in colleges, I notice this for many fields. STEM fields are notorious for this, but I’ve seen this in other fields as well.
Weeding out classes are generally seen as classes where they are designed for students to fail. Large classes where professors throw a lot of information at you in a “101” style class, hoping to scare away all but the most dedicated to the craft, those who will stick through until the end. They offer minimal support to test you to see how well you can take the heat.
It makes sense in the long run, since professors don’t want students who don’t have a chance at being successful in the field. But this is still important information for students who have a passion in a field, but don’t necessarily have the skills to get through those “weeding out classes”. If that’s you, you either need to find another major or prepare for an uphill battle getting that degree.
5. Politics… politics everywhere!
I had a discussion with a friend of mine the other day, who talked about a program at a university that required EMT classes and certification in the curriculum, even though in wasn’t related to the field they were studying. The department head had been struggling for several years trying to remove that requirement from the curriculum. It seems that the requirement was put in there erroneously many years ago, since the beginning of the program, but no one had bothered to take it out. After many attempts, the department head was unable to get the requirement removed. Why? We still don’t know. I don’t think even he really knows.
The truth is, universities are filled with politics, just like any other business. I’ve heard from many people mistakenly believe that academia is a peaceful environment where learning takes place through curious minds exchanging ideas while sipping tea. I’ll tell you that this isn’t the case at all. Faculty and staff at universities can be just as catty and political as any other industry. Grudges among administrators can delay proposals and university changes for months, or even years, as they argue semantics and try to get things their way.
Just like our own US government, implementing changes at the university level can take a really long time as committees meet about this and that, amending the changes and involving others both inside and outside the university. They try their best to keep things objective and professional, but I’ve seen situations where things can get personal, and the personal beliefs of those in power can interfere from any real change happening on the campus. Professors who don’t like other professors will fight for favored courses, or timeslots for courses, or even office hours. Staff members may want to work independently or have more freedom in how they allocate their budgets. A lot of the time it involves administrators implementing new policies which adds responsibilities to departments that do not have the capacity to accept those added responsibilities, resulting in angry and resentful staff.
“So what?” you may ask. “This happens everywhere.” Well, yes, but the difference here is that oftentimes, college students will see the effects of these situations in a much greater magnitude. Political battles in university administration can result in tuition increases, removal of pivotal classes for degrees, removal of faculty, removal of amenities, more regulation to make simple tasks more complicated, and generally a lower quality of life at the campus.
The moral of the story here is that everyone is human, and no one is above making mistakes. Students get screwed over all the time regarding classes they need to take for graduation, grades on courses, residence hall charges, and other issues that may be the result of university politics. Sometimes, there may be no way to avoid them. The best you can do is understand that no one is perfect and mistakes can happen. Choose your battles wisely and fight for the things that matter the most to you.