There is a recipe for success. It is top-secret, completely secure … and entirely hidden from prying human eyes. Even those that have made it all the way to the top can’t express in words exactly how they’ve turned straw into gold. How they’ve turned an apartment-based operation into a multi-million dollar company. How they’ve turned a simple idea into an icon. Or even how they’ve gone from secretary to CEO. They can guess. They can assume. They can ponder. But no one knows this recipe, the ingredients involved, or the directions for preparation.

Beyond the super minds of the world like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, or the movie stars like Reese Witherspoon and Angelina Jolie, most successful people will tell you their success started from somewhere. In many cases, that somewhere is college. Ah, yes, the institution of higher education that, by nearly all social, logical, and statistical data, leads to a better life. Regardless of the controversy today surrounding student debt, student loans, and high unemployment rate of college grads, for those that pursue worthwhile degrees, what does make success? Why is it that some people end up having their shoes shined and some do the shoe shining?

All the best equations and best success calculators say that it’s you. You’re the one that paves your own way. You’re the one that brands your name into the fecund earth. And while all that may be true, college gives you a head start on that branding. The real question than is which college can give you the most bang for your buck?
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Blogger Natalie K., a high school junior from Colorado, will be sharing some of the issues teens today face with YALSAblog readers…if you’re a young person who would like to write for the YALSAblog,‘ let us know!

As a junior in high school, I am constantly hearing college jargon: “scholarships”, “accepted”, “declined”, “in-state”, “out-of-state”. Say any one of these words to someone in my grade, and they will instantly have loads to say.

But ask my peers about a path after high school separate from college, and their lips will go still. A large part of society today views college as the one and only option. It is as if it is the solitary key to unlocking a bright future.

What society fails to realize is that there are other keys. There’s the jagged, brass vocational key. ‘ There’s the shiny, silver military key. There’s the bronzed apprenticeship key. And there’s even the sharp, copper job key.

Realizing that there are other options out there besides college will be a large step in moving away from America’s steep descent into debt. Youth aged 18-23 can make a contribution to society, rather than spiraling downward with college debt with expensive loans and a degree they can’t put to practical use after four years.

There is a common misconception that a college degree will equal a better life, but this doesn’t always prove true anymore. College students are graduating now with a hole in their pocket and a hole in their resume where a more worthwhile degree or more practical experience could be. Meanwhile, many pupils that chose a track separate from college often end up, four years later, with more money than they left high school with…

Ultimately, the door to the future fits all kinds of keys: Jagged, silver. Copper, bronze. Expensive, inexpensive. In-state, out-of-state.

The real question for teens is: what will your key be?

Happy February! Here are some interesting happenings, research, and innovation that you might want to share with your patrons. As always, leave comments if you have any suggestions.

  • Programs such as the It Gets Better Project have made teen suicides, especially those related to homophobia, a more pressing issue. But is it reaching middle school-aged teens and tweens? A new study shows that many teens who have made suicide attempts made their first ones before high school, which means new approaches to mental health and wellbeing need to be taken earlier. U.S. News and World Report did a writeup of the study, which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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A few days ago I posted about why it is important to give teens a chance to have fun while learning. In that post I mentioned that in my work I was finding that there didn’t seem to be a “next big thing” to get excited about. It’s true, I am still looking for that next big thing, but that’s not to say there aren’t some good new tools that I’ve discovered that are great for you and teens to know about. These include:

  • unigo logoUnigo is a five-month old web site that uses real-live students to create content about what life is really like in college. These first-hand accounts (primary source really) give teens who are considering college information that is different than what they might receive via a college tour, in a college catalog, or in a brochure. The site has a useful search feature so potential students (and their parents) can look for specific programs, types of students, interests, and so on in order to discover exactly what an institution has to offer. Read More →