The Liberal Arts Major: All in or hedge your bets?

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The Liberal Arts Major: All in or hedge your bets? This is a difficult question, but one we hear often. It has been my experience that parents typically prefer that their student either select a professional program major or a liberal arts major with a clear trajectory to graduate school and employable skills. Students, typically prefer to major in some combination of what they are interested in and what their parents aren’t! Imagine that. Now, since it is not possible for me to provide a linear response or “rule of thumb,” to this question, please forgive me as I wander around the issue a bit.

First, a refresher: The “Liberal Arts” include the arts (e.g. Music & Dance), sciences (e.g. Biology & Chemistry), humanities (e.g. Language & Philosophy), and social sciences (e.g. Sociology & Psychology). They do not include professional majors such as Nursing, Business, Engineering, Social Work, or Education. Majors in the liberal arts emphasize speaking, writing, and critical thinking in the context of an interdisciplinary curriculum. Professional majors emphasize the acquisition of employable skills aligned with the requirements of a specific profession. Of course liberal arts programs do teach some employable skills and professional programs do teach speaking, writing, and critical thinking. Remember that each college’s “Core Curriculum,” required of all majors, is somewhat of a mini-liberal arts curriculum. Are you confused yet?

The linear answer to our question and one that parents of students interested in a liberal arts major is….okay, you can major in “insert liberal arts major here”, but why don’t you minor in “insert professional minor here” (Business Administration is a frequent selection)? We’re not a big fan of this “hedging your bet” approach.

So what to do with this? We recommend getting creative and looking for some combination of majors/minors/certificates/elective courses that collectively align themselves with the student’s academic strengths, interests, and goals while balancing the acquisition of theory and applied skills. Think “synergistic.”

So, what does that mean? Perhaps the best way to make sense of this is with an example. So let’s look at one.

Example: Consider a strong student who took modern dance from Kindergarten through their final year of high school. This student performed in numerous programs and shows and envisions a future as a professional dancer. Other interests include photography and video (usually in the service of dance performances). The parents are legitimately concerned about shelling out thousands of dollars to educate their student in a field in which very few are able to carve out a reasonable living, if they can find work at all. At CBA, we would recommend examining majors, minors, and careers in Dance, Digital Media, Interactive Media, Video Production, and other related majors/minors. We would recommend a set of colleges that excel in these areas and coach the family to meet with faculty and student majors in each of these areas at the colleges they visit. We would suggest that they ask each faculty member they meet questions such as, “Tell me about what your graduates are doing now;” “What are the specific skills you teach in your program and how do your graduates use those after college;” “How do you help your students connect with professional ________ outside of the classroom;” and, “Tell us about internships your students have completed and how you help them get these opportunities.”

It has been my experience that, in the end, a creative, expansive, exploration process aligned with a student’s interests and strengths, balancing theory and applied skills, leads to informed decisions and few regrets. If you are not using us, consider orchestrating something similar for your student. None of you will ever regret it. Just avoid pre-conceived notions and trust the process.

I’m hoping no one caught that I never answered the question! Thanks for joining us on the trail today. See you next time!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: Lake Erie’s Ghost of College Hall

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College Hall

Lake Erie College’s historic campus is located in Painesville, Ohio. If you are interested in things that go bump in the night, this campus is for you! A center for paranormal activity, Lake Erie College claims to host apparitions in various locations across their beautiful campus. As much as we would like to share all the stories, this post will explore only one.

Legend has it that sometime in the mid-1800s when Lake Erie College was an all girls school, a student named Stephanie had begun her studies. Somewhere along the way, she had an affair with a professor and became pregnant. When he refused to marry her she became depressed and, on one fateful evening, hung herself on the fourth-floor bell tower of College Hall, the oldest building on campus.

After her death, students began to report seeing her glowing white figure in a fourth floor window of College Hall. They claim she peers out the window, perhaps in search of her lost lover. The floor was often seen illuminated by dim, flickering lights late at night and students below spoke of hearing footsteps and occasional wailing from the floor above even though it had been closed and locked tight. Service workers entering the floor were occasionally frightened enough to refuse to ever return. Even TV paranormal ghost hunters investigated the fourth floor. One took an interesting photograph – check out the circled fourth floor window in the picture above.

As if that wasn’t enough, students claim that Stephanie occasionally leaves College Hall in search of entertainment. There is a cracked mirror in the Social Parlor in the nearby Morley Music Building. Stephanie has occasionally been seen walking out of the mirror, dressed in eveningwear, on her way to an evening performance. After curtain calls, she returns through the mirror from whence she came.

So, if you ever visit Lake Erie College, plan to take in a performance in Morley Music Building. Perhaps order a beverage and wander into the Social Parlor. Check out your eveningwear in the standing mirror on the far side of the room. Just don’t be disturbed if someone else is looking back at you. On your way to your car after the show, glance over your shoulder at the 4th floor of College Hall and bid Stephanie a good night.

This is our last Ohio college ghost story for this Halloween season. We hope you have enjoyed the ride. Next year there will be more thrills and chills as we feature four more tales of the paranormal from our Ohio colleges. Happy Halloween!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: Kenyon’s Greenhouse Ghost

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“The Greenhouse”

Kenyon College, located in the quaint village of Gambier, Ohio, has long been known for its excellent swimming and diving programs. In 1935, Charles Shaffer donated funds to construct a state-of-the-art aquatic building on Kenyon’s campus. “Shaffer Pool” opened in January of 1936 and contributed to Kenyon winning a number of Ohio Conference swimming and diving championships in the years to follow. The building had a conservatory style roof, which earned it the nickname of “The Greenhouse.”

Legend has it that some students became a bit preoccupied with seeing how high they could launch themselves from the highest diving board in The Greenhouse. On one fateful evening, one student apparently launched himself high enough that he smashed through a glass pane in the roof and, after nearly decapitating himself, fell into the pool below.

While administrators at Kenyon can find no record of such a student or incident, other students, faculty, and staff argue differently as they believe this student really never left. Over the years, most of the reports of what later became know as the “Greenhouse Ghost,” were told by custodians and safety officers. Their encounters typically occurred well after normal working hours. For example, the sound of a body impacting the water followed by thrashing sounds was commonly reported. When officers investigated or turned to face the pool, they would see disturbed water, but no one in the pool. Then, upon turning around again, they would see a set of wet footprints along the walkway leading away from the pool. Others would report that they would hear the sound of a diving board bouncing not once, but three times. Upon turning toward the board, they could see the board vibrating, but no one near it.

In the 1980s the building was converted to a dance studio. During construction the pool was drained and covered over by a false floor and the conservatory roof was replaced with a wooden, beamed roof more appropriate to its new use. Unfortunately, the Greenhouse Ghost never got the memo as the activity continued.

Staff members continued to tell stories of late night encounters when they would become sensitized to the presence of the spirit. Some nights they would hear footsteps behind them as if they were being followed. On occasion they would, once again, hear the sounds of splashes and bouncing diving boards. Even more unnerving was the periodic appearance of wet footprints across the dance studio floor.

Paranormal experiences in “The Greenhouse” are still reported to this day. So, if you ever visit Kenton College, you might stop by Shaffer Dance Studio, stroll across the dance floor, close your eyes, and listen. Then, just before you leave, look back over your shoulder for any wet footprints on the floor. You never know!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: Ohio Dominican’s Mysterious Visitors

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In 1868 the Sisters of Saint Mary of the Springs, a Dominican Order of Catholic Sisters, moved from Sommerset to Columbus, Ohio. A benefactor had donated land to the sisters in the hope that they would build a Catholic School in Columbus and educate his five daughters. Work was immediately begun on the new school, which opened in 1871. While donations and other funds had been sufficient to pay for the building, the sisters had to borrow $10,000 at 8% interest to furnish the new academy.

Almost immediately upon opening, the new academy faced an income shortfall and was unable to make loan payments. As the bank prepared to foreclose, the sisters prayed to St. Dominic, for help in the form of “hard money.”

The winter of 1871 was brutal and central Ohio lay under a blanket of snow. One evening a terrible blizzard pushed into the area making travel difficult. It was on the worst night of the blizzard that a dark, horse-drawn sleigh made its way up the gravel road leading into Saint Mary of the Springs Academy and stopped at the front door. A well-dressed man and woman stepped out of the coach, walked up the snow-covered steps, and pounded on the two large wooden doors demarking the entrance to the Academy. Two sisters responded and invited the strangers inside. The visitors explained that they had come to inquire about enrolling their two daughters in the Academy. Since they expected to travel abroad, they offered to make cash payment for a year’s board, tuition, and other expenses. The sisters accepted the daughters on the spot, knowing that these funds would be sufficient to cover past due bank payments and prevent foreclosure on the Academy. Documents were completed and the sisters were paid. This was happy ending to a dire situation. The academy became current with the bank, enrollment increased shortly thereafter, and the Academy was safely on its way.

However, as you might have guessed, there is more to the story. The two daughters who were to arrive at the school in January never materialized. Furthermore, all attempts to contact the parents proved futile. It seems that their address did not exist and no one in their hometown knew them. Even more interesting; on that fateful snowy night; the one that saved the Academy from financial ruin, none of the local livery stables recall providing services to the coach or its occupants. It was as if they had come from nowhere and departed to the same.

Saint Mary’s Academy has evolved over time and is now known as Ohio Dominican University. The institution has endured a number of financial crises during its life, but has always found a way to thrive. It seems ODU enjoys its own set of…. Guardian Angels.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges: The Haunting of Otterbein’s Theatre

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Otterbein University’s nationally recognized Theatre Program has offered countless actors and actresses their professional beginnings, however some believe that it also offered one student a final curtain call. As the story goes, a young aspiring actress and student named Twyla became despondent after learning that she had been passed over for a part that she had hoped to earn. Following a period of depression, she decided to end her life as theatrically as she had lived it. One evening, upon returning to the theatre, she climbed to the light fixtures above the stage and jumped 30 feet to her death.

Administrators claim there never was a Twyla at Otterbein, but some students and faculty aren’t quite so sure. In fact, over the years, many have blamed Twyla’s spirit for everything from power outages and cold blasts of air to missing lighting cues and disappearing stage props. Others have reported hearing Twyla crying on quiet nights in the theatre. Some just claim to “feel her presence.” In past years, students repeatedly reported slipping on the very spot where Twyla was reported to have hit the stage when she fell. One evening a noose was said to have suddenly appeared hanging from the lights above the stage. Of course Twyla received the credits that night!

So, is Otterbein’s Fritsche Theatre really haunted? We can’t say for sure, but if you ever attend a performance, you might consider remaining in your seat for just a few moments after the room empties and the lights dim. If the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and a rush of cold air passes, perhaps it’s just Twyla nodding to you as she exits stage right!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Ghost Stories from Ohio’s Colleges – This year’s journey begins!

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Morley Music Building at Lake Erie College

Now that we are past our bout with Indian summer, the road ahead reveals a landscape more vibrantly colorful and distinctly brisk. It is during these beautiful fall days leading up to Halloween that we fondly recall all the campus ghost stories we heard as we toured Ohio colleges. Some campuses boasted multiple spirits; others had formed paranormal investigative student organizations; and still others defended their campus as “the most haunted campus in Ohio.” We took notes.

Before it was over, we realized that these stories were more than simple frightful tales – they told us about the college’s history; its values; its best academic programs and athletic teams; its most historic buildings; and even its core values. We hope you will be scared and inspired!

In each of the next four blog entries we will offer one of our favorite stories. We begin with the story of “Twyla,” the ghost that haunts the theatre at Otterbein University. Next up are the benevolent ghosts that arrived just in the nick of time to save Ohio Dominican University from financial ruin. Then, on to Kenyon College where we meet the “Greenhouse Ghost” that haunts the old Kenyon pool. We will conclude at Lake Erie College where “Stephanie” haunts College Hall, but occasionally attends a performance at nearby Morley Music Building using a broken mirror as a portal to get there (I wish I had one of those!).

Buckle up – let’s get started!

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Helping your student succeed in college: Balancing challenge and support

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In 1968 Nevitt Sanford published the book, “Where Colleges Fail: A study of Student and Person.” His work was the launching point of a conceptual model that I have long relied upon in thinking about how students transition, grow, and develop while in college. In today’s blog, I want to explain the model and describe how it can be used to help you and your student.

Simply put, Sanford argued that students (and everyone else incidentally) grow and develop when there is some balance between the challenges we face in our life and the supports we draw upon to help us manage them. If the challenges outweigh the supports, we may feel stressed and overwhelmed leading to burnout or shutdown. If supports outweigh challenges, we may feel comfortable but not stretched. On the other hand, if we face challenges outside of our comfort zone, and receive sufficient and helpful support, we are more likely to grow, develop, and expand our capacities and capabilities. Of course this is our goal, so there may be appropriate times to seek support and others to seek challenge.

A couple of observations: First, transitional points in our lives such as losing a job, ending an important relationship, making a geographic move, or…..going away to college tend to be naturally fraught with high levels of challenge. These key touchstone turning points in our lives may lead us into a sense of a loss of control and feelings of uncertainty or even outright panic. In kids, we may call it “homesick;” in adolescents we may call it, “acting out;” and in adults it has been called a, “nervous breakdown.” You get the idea.

Second, while transitional challenges are strikingly evident as they occur, supports often need to be acquired or sought out intentionally.

Finally, navigating these high challenge, transitional times of our lives always takes time. A wise friend of mine used to say, “fake it until you make it.” I think he was talking about the lag between being jettisoned from our comfortable life as knew it into a period of transition and the point when we actually become acclimated to our new circumstances, happy, and capable in terms of the challenges it presents. It just takes time. However, in addition to time, the ability to seek helpful support as needed can make all the difference.

For the student transitioning to college, the most important question relates to how to intentionally seek healthy support until he or she feels “at home” again. In prior blogs I have identified a number of immersive experiences a student can engage in college in order to develop new authentic and supportive relationships (e.g. student organization leadership, social fraternity or sorority membership, participation in athletics, band, theatre, or others) while connecting to their new college. Students can also utilize campus resources by visiting with a counselor, faculty member, or student services staff. Periodic trips home, hosting friends from high school in their dorm, and engaging activities they enjoy can play a role as well.

In terms of your student’s transition to college, you can coach your student on navigating this natural but often challenging process. Normalize it for them – we all go through these times. Assess what you think might be helpful to them. Suggest how they might acquire additional support. Make sure they understand that it will take time – there is no quick answer. Of course, you cannot solve this for them – they must solve it for themselves…with support from others. Welcome to the human condition and thanks for hiking with us today.

Next week I will post our most recent newsletter in lieu of a blog entry. That sets the stage for the lead up to Halloween and the beginning of our series of ghost stories from Ohio’s colleges. Don’t miss it.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Anatomy of a College Curriculum: Free Electives

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In this blog series we have already examined both the Core Curriculum and Major requirements a student must complete in order to graduate. This time, we will look at “Free Electives,” which are the number of remaining credit hours required for a degree (degree = 120 credit hours) that have not been used up in satisfying Core and Major requirements.

Generally speaking, the more Free Elective credit hours available, the better. They are like currency that can be spent on achieving a “Minor,” or focused area of study in an area different from the student’s Major. A Minor typically requires 15-21 credit hours. They may also be used to help a student earn a second or “ Double Major,” or Certificate. Finally, Free Electives can be spent on individual courses that the student chooses to take for fun, interest, or professional development purposes.

Students can maximize their number of Free Electives by selecting Core courses that simultaneously satisfy Major requirements (e.g. a Major course in Economics may also satisfy a Core Social Science requirement, etc.). A student’s advisor can help them maximize these “Double Dip” opportunities as well as plan for how to calculate and spend their remaining Elective credit hours.

Some Majors require only 36-48 credit hours leaving plenty of room for Free Electives while others require 50-75 leaving little room. The student’s goal beyond their Core and Major requirements is to “spend” their Electives to their greatest advantage. Some may wish to add a credential or explore an interesting new area of study by adding a Minor or Certificate. Others may pick and choose individual courses for any of a variety of reasons. Since students cannot control their Core or Major requirements (except for maximizing “Double Dip” opportunities), we recommend that they be more planful and strategic in the use of their precious Free Electives.

Over the next few weeks I will offer a few more blog entries related to student success and then we will hike into our annual “Haunted Colleges in Ohio” series. These are my most popular entries – go figure. This year I have some great tales of fright from Ohio’s colleges to offer, so prepare to strap in for the ride.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

Anatomy of a College Curriculum: The Major

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In our last blog, we looked at how a college curriculum is organized and then looked more closely at the Core Curriculum (General Education) Requirements. In this discussion, we will look more closely at the Major.

In addition to completing a college’s Core Curriculum, college students select a “Major” area of study. Major requirements may vary significantly from Major area to Major area, or between colleges in the same Major area. For example, an Accounting Major will typically be much more extensive (require more credit hours) than a History Major. So, it would be much easier for a History major to add a Minor or Double Major as compared to an Accounting major. Additionally, the requirements for a History or Accounting major may differ markedly between colleges. The tradeoff – the more significant the Major requirements, the fewer electives are available for students to Double Major or select a Minor.

As a general rule of thumb, Professional Majors such as Business, Nursing, or Engineering tend to require more credit hours than those in other disciplines. The reason for this is that Professional Majors are often informed by specialty accreditor requirements, state licensure requirements, or other professional standards that extend required coursework. Students majoring in Art-related disciplines (e.g. Music, Dance, Illustration, Graphic Design, etc.) should carefully explore Major credit hours as these may vary greatly between colleges even given identical Majors.

The Major curriculum is typically composed of (1) Major courses (courses IN the Major area of study); Correlatives (courses outside the Major area of study, but required by the Major), and; (3) Major “Pick From” lists of courses from which students may choose a prescribed number of courses. These courses may be in the Major area of study or outside it and typically allow students to specialize a bit.

So, for example, a student majoring in Accounting would be required to complete a set of Major Accounting courses such as Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Personal Taxation, Auditing, and others. Additionally they might be required to take Correlatives (additional courses outside of Accounting) such as a course in Management, Statistics, Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, or others. Finally, they may be required to select a small number of elective courses from a longer list. These options allow students to tailor their Accounting Major to respond to more specific career objectives. Options might include Entrepreneurial Accounting, Introduction to QuickBooks, Non-Profit Accounting, etc.

Each Major is structured differently and differences exist in the same Major at different colleges as well. This is one reason why, at CBA, we recommend that students and their families meet with a faculty member in each Major they are considering at each college they are considering. In that meeting, the student can ask the faculty member to explain the organization of the Major courses. It sounds technical, but once you hear a faculty member explain their Major course sequence at three different colleges, it will become more clear which college has a thoughtfully designed Major with many options and those that are more rigid and/or guided by tradition.

Next time, we will look at Free Electives and how a student can use these to his or her advantage.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at www.collegeboundadvantage.com .

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