‘Would You Rather…?’ A Text Messaging Campaign on a Mission to Help Students Manage Their Money

DoSomething.org LogoWe’ve all done some weird things to make money. My weirdest job? Working at an events company where I would dress in an elf costume, work the popcorn machine, and shuffle snot-nosed kids through the line to meet Santa every holiday season. At an Easter event one spring, I saw the inside of the Easter Bunny costume head, and was never the same. Every time I got a paycheck from that job, it seemed like it was gone in the blink of an eye. I had no idea how to manage, invest, or save my money.

I wasn’t alone in my lack of finance savvy, and the implications of being clueless about money extend much further than the holiday season. Seventy percent of college seniors graduate with student loan debt, averaging $29,400 in 2013,[1] and 36% of recent college graduates are mal-employed[2], meaning they work in positions that don’t require a degree, like on a wait staff or in the service industry. There is a monumental gap between the average college graduate’s debt and their financial ability to pay – and much of it can be attributed to an inability to understand and make tough financial decisions.

For the second year, DoSomething.org, the largest not-for-profit for young people and social change, is combating that issue and informing young people on financial education through a text-messaging experience in partnership with H&R Block Dollars and Sense. The experience, called Would You Rather, uses text messaging to challenge young people to make decisions about how they’d manage their money and provides real world financial tips. Last year, 44,238 young people participated in the campaign, delivering 62,435 tips to their friends.

Here’s how it works:

  • Teen receives a text message like this: “What would you rather do to save $$? A) Share your spring break hotel room w/ your entire extended family OR B) Not go on spring break.”
  • Teen responds: “A”
  • They receive: Hope the bathtub’s comfy!
  • After this and throughout the game, they receive actionable financial tips relevant to the question, such as: “Going on spring break? Create a travel budget so you come back from vacation with happiness and a tan, rather than regret.”

Teens have the opportunity to send this game to friends, compare answers, and share valuable financial tips directly relevant to their lives. Focusing financial education on short term decisions and small behavior changes with big impact is an effective and impactful way to get young people thinking about their financial futures, even beyond holiday shopping.

This post was provided by Farah Sheikh, Education Campaign Specialist at DoSomething.org, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on March 8th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Fanlala

[1] Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt

[2] Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

What Good Is a Liberal Arts Degree?

Lightbulb over person's face.The colleges that I work with tell me that new students are flocking to get business degrees or specialized undergraduate degrees in nursing, education, engineering, or other majors that “guarantee” a job after graduation. Yet many students enter college without a clear idea of what they want to accomplish in their career, and stress over choosing the right major. As a result, half of all students change their major at least once during their college career, according to Dr. Fritz Grupe of MyMajors.com.

Parents are worried about their children’s choices, too. “What kind of job can you to get with an English Lit major?” is a common reaction.

The fact is that a liberal arts degree remains an excellent path to success, according to statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010 and 2011, graduates with degrees in the humanities or social science actually had average salaries that were higher than those for science and math graduates. It is true that those with engineering and professional or pre-professional degrees made more right out of college, but this margin does not appear to hold up over time.

According to the Census Bureau numbers, by age 56 to 60 the humanities and social science graduates made about $2,000 more a year than the professional and pre-professional graduates.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what the average salary is if you can’t find a job. So what is the story for liberal arts majors? It turns out that even in the middle of this awful economy and job market, recent liberal arts graduates had an unemployment rate of just 5.2%, far below the national average for workers overall. This means that almost 19 out of every 20 graduates were able to find work. And this advantage appears to extend later in your career. In the same period, workers 41 to 50 years old with liberal arts degrees had an unemployment rate of just 3.5 percent, which is only slightly higher than those with professional or pre-professional degrees.

The fact is that our nation’s businesses – large and small – depend on a steady crop of young workers who are needed not for the facts that they learned in college, but rather the skills. Companies need employees with a strong work ethic, the ability to conduct research and analysis of information, problem solving ability, leadership and teamwork skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively both verbally and in writing. These are the very skills that a liberal arts degree is design to teach.

Alfred Poor, Ph.D. is a speaker and a writer, and is the author of “7 Success Secrets That Every College Student Needs to Know!” He speaks to high school, college, and corporate audiences about the importance of career skills for young employees’ success at work.

He is dedicated to delivering practical information that you can put to use right away. You can contact him on Twitter at @AlfredPoor, on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/alfredpoor, on Google+ at google.com/+AlfredPoor, or through his website at www.alfredpoorspeaker.com.

This post was provided by Alfred Poor, Professional Speaker and writer, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on March 1st, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Airik Lopez

End Homework Stress with Tutor.com

Tutor.com Logo“I hate this!  I’ll never finish this homework!  I give up!”

Sound familiar? If your child’s Algebra homework (or Chemistry or Calculus, or…) is keeping you up all night, you are not alone.  A recent survey found that almost 50% of parents can’t help their kids with homework because they don’t know the material.  That’s no surprise.  Many subjects are taught differently today and let’s face it most parents haven’t sat in a classroom looking at equations for 20 years.

Don’t stress.  Help is available and it can bring peace back to your house. Almost 30% of middle school and high school students use a tutor at some point to keep their grades up, build confidence and work on their study skills.  There are many tutoring options available to students from small group sessions at tutoring centers to tutors who come to your house and online tutoring that you can access anytime.

Tutor.com has completed 10 million tutoring and homework help sessions online over the last decade.  If you’re thinking about hiring a tutor, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Get Help Early:  Tutor.com surveyed 500 of their math tutors and found that the number one reason students are struggling is because they missed an earlier concept in class. Students fall behind, get frustrated and sometimes give up. Getting help earlier keeps students on track with their class. Often, just a few sessions with a tutor can get great results and keeps the cost down too.

Get Help on Your Schedule: Parents and students are busier than ever before. Work, sports, and other activities keep your child going all day long. Students walk in the door exhausted and the last thing they want is to sit down with a tutor for an hour.  Find a tutor who has flexible hours to meet the needs of your child and your family.  Online tutoring solves this problem by being available 24/7.

Pick the Right Tutor: Here’s what parents should look for in a tutor: passionate about teaching and connecting to your child; experienced in the subject your child needs help in; teaches your child the concepts they need so that they can do the next problem on their own.  Your child should have a good connection with the tutor and feel comfortable working with him/her.

Make Sure it Works: Parents and students often use tutoring to improve grades. If you work with a tutor in your home, make sure you build in time to review your child’s progress with the tutor. Online tutoring captures every tutoring session and emails it to your inbox so you can review your child’s work.

Time to Go Online:  When your child is melting down about algebra homework at 9:30 p.m. and you can’t help it feels awful!  Online tutoring is a great solution since it is available 24/7.  Your child can connect to an experienced tutor who can help teach the concept and the peace in your house.

Once you have selected a tutoring option that works best for your child and your family, check in with your child to see how they are feeling.  And take note of their behavior.  Does homework time seem less stressful?  Do they complain less about school and the subject they are getting help in?   Beyond grades and completed homework assignments, this lets you know that the help is working.  Need more information about tutoring and homework help?  Go to www.tutor.com.

Mandy Ginsberg is the CEO of Tutor.com which helps 6,000 students a night by connecting them to a great tutor online.  She is also the proud mom of two daughters; her 15 year old uses Tutor.com for Algebra II and Chemistry.

This post was provided by Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Tutor.com, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on February 15th, 2014.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: EdTechTimes

Why SAT and ACT Prep Matter, But Don’t Have to Break the Bank

ExamWhile finding an excellent SAT or ACT tutor can give your children a significant advantage when they take their test, finding quality SAT tutors can be difficult at times. Obviously, a good SAT or ACT tutor can have a profound influence on a successfully improved score, but many great resources are available to families that can either complement the efforts of a tutor or substitute for them.

Returning to those promised resources, here’s a list of 6 free things you can do to help your student improve her SAT and ACT scores:

1.  Watch Jeopardy one night a week as a family. Why? It will expose your child to words she might not know, teach her the type of thinking that goes into crafting standardized test questions, and provide a relaxed and entertaining setting in which she can learn.

2.  Listen to A Way with Words. This curious, once-a-week radio show provides an extensive exploration of various words and phrases. Since the ACT and SAT pull their writing selections from a variety of sources, exposure to the diverse phrases featured on A Way with Words will help your student to navigate those sources.

3. Read one essay or article a week (yes, as a family), and have your child try to pick out the main theme from the work. Beyond that, discuss the essay—how does the author present her argument? You can get selections of essays from your local library or bookstore, or simply peruse the New York Times to find a weekly essay.

4. Try using ProfessorWord as a way to highlight ACT and SAT vocabulary that appears in that reading

5. The SAT Question of the Day and ACT Question of the Day are free!

6. Utilize the best free ACT and SAT resources on the web. If you need assistance with SAT math, give PWN the SAT a whirl. The site is a bit goofy, but most students like it—and the site’s author also has a Q&A section where he responds to SAT questions for free. If you’re worried about ACT and SAT reading or English, The Critical Reader provides great online resources and tips. If you need further practice materials, Knerr Learning Center lists even more.

Wondering what else can be done to improve your child’s score? Well, the books published by PWN the SAT and The Critical Reader offer excellent supplementary resources. However, they don’t cover things like ACT math or science. So your best overall resources are The Official SAT Study Guide and The Real ACT Prep Guide. Even handier than books, though, are mobile apps. Why? Teenagers always have their smart phones on them, so they can train no matter where they are. Virtual SAT Writing Tutor, QuotEd Reading Comprehension, QuotEd ACT Science, and SAT Up are among the most effective. As a side note on other prep materials (online courses, books, or apps), just because people like how easy they are to use doesn’t mean they are actually helping students improve their scores. You want your child prepared for the test, not bursting with unfounded overconfidence! Please keep that in mind when you see glowing evaluations of prep materials.

And, for those of you wondering how SAT studying might work if you were the sole driver of your child’s training, Debbie Stier’s delightful book called The Perfect Score Project is a great introduction to both the SAT and parenting while your student prepares for her test.


Kreigh Knerr is a former classroom teacher who specializes in preparation for tests like the ACT and SAT. Kreigh has successfully worked with students from over thirty countries (and almost every state in the US) and consults nationwide on test preparation and test anxiety. In 2012, he invented QuotEd, a mobile app used by thousands of schools and individuals throughout the world.

This post was provided by Kreigh Knerr, the founder of QuotEd, who was a guest on College Smart Radio “Tackling the Runaway Costs of College” on December 21st, 2013.  Listen to this broadcast on YouTube here.

Photo Credit: Alberto G.

Ways to Utilize High School Counselors

One resource that students often under utilize is their high school college counselor.

One resource that students often under utilize is their high school college counselor.

Finding the right school or college is one of the most important decisions your student will make. When it’s time to apply to colleges, it makes good sense for families to take advantage of as many tools and resources available as possible. One resource that students often underutilize is their high school college counselor. High school counselors have information about college selection, admission tests, college preparation plus education and career options. They are one of the most important resources for student career counseling and college help. Here are a few ways to start utilizing your student’s high school counselor.

Develop a Relationship

Make sure your son or daughter gets to know their high school counselor and let him get to know your student in return. It’s a good idea for them to develop a rapport with the high school’s college counselor because they will be able to give your student information on schools that may be more tailored to their wants and needs. This will also help when your student is filling out college applications and the schools ask for a letter of recommendation. If your high school counselor knows your son or daughter, they will be able to write a better, more personal letter that colleges will value more. They may also be more willing to do extra work for them if they’ve developed a relationship. Continue reading