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The Automation Era: Choosing a college major Part 3

The other day, a friend of mine showed me an excellent video on YouTube titled “Humans Need Not Apply.” The video is only 15 minutes long and extremely captivating.

And frightening.

Many economists are predicting a shortage of jobs in the near future due to automation.  While you may not be familiar with the term, you are certainly familiar with some of its applications and the human workers it has replaced over the past century.  Assembly-line workers have been replaced by robots, Wall Street floor traders have been replaced by algorithms and many manual labor crews have been replaced by more efficient machines. 

Over the past century, this has not been a bad thing for the job market.  New technology has fulfilled job roles considered mindless and repetitive, thus allowing people to pursue more interesting careers, many of which had been provided by said technology.  Great!

However, many economists believe there is a new automation revolution on the horizon that will not fuel job growth.  In fact, it will do the complete opposite.

Due to incredible advances, which are growing exponentially every day in computer processing power, the jobs at stake are no longer low-paying manual labor careers that no one really wanted anyways.  Doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc. are all at risk.

These are jobs traditionally reserved for people because of the “human qualities” needed to accomplish the tasks of each profession.  I am trying to think of unique human qualities that today’s automated computers cannot replicate, but I must admit, I’m struggling.  A few examples might include a firm handshake, a winning smile, a go-getter attitude and a creative mindset.  These are all great qualities in people, let's be in no doubt about that, and a computer program can’t really replicate any of these qualities…except “creative mindset.” Yup, computer programs are now fully capable of writing and designing their own music, articles, books, buildings, machines and drawings all without instruction or guidance from a human being. If you have read a copy of any newspaper recently, you have almost certainly read an article written by a “bot.”

So, while those first three unique qualities may be great in human job candidates, it is quite difficult to justify why someone would hire a person over utilizing an algorithm when the automated process is at least 100 times cheaper.  These automation programs certainly won’t be perfect…but they don’t have to be perfect.  They just need to be better than us.  For some great (or scary) examples of future automation, Google “self-driving cars” and “Dr. Watson IBM.”

At this point I’m sure you are wondering how this relates to choosing a college major.  Well, as an undergraduate engineering student, I have noticed one, and only one skill that every potential employer raises an eyebrow at: Programming skill.  Whether it is C++ or Java, I have come to the conclusion that every future college students should consider obtaining at least a minor in computer science (or some other programming related field).  This will by no means guarantee future employment, but  will certainly help your odds in a job market that will rely heavily on employees with these skills.

I am not saying automation is good or bad…only that it is inevitable. You might not like the idea of learning how to write computer code, but I have a strong hunch it might be worth it.

Greg App, guest blogger

Wash U St Louis c/o 2018

U of Houston c/o 2016


66.7%:  Choosing a Major, Part 2

The other day, I was having lunch with a good friend with whom I attended Wash U.  During his time there, he studied Earth and Planetary Sciences before attending NC State to obtain his masters in Paleontology.  For those not familiar with this field, Paleontology is the study of fossilized plants and animals.  Dave’s thesis at NC State helped resolve the debate surrounding the phylogenetic position of the large-bodied theropod dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus atokensis from the Early Cretaceous of North America.  While I am still a bit confused as what the debate was (he has tried to explain this to me multiple times), I do understand that he was studying and reconstructing the skulls of carnivorous dinosaurs. 

In terms of job “coolness,” I think paleontologists are up there with fighter pilots, astronauts Navy SEALs, and whatever it is Indiana Jones does (adventuring archeologist who wields a gun? Sign me up).  However, all of these professions have one very important thing in common: They are absurdly competitive. 

Dave informed me that in order to do anything worthwhile in paleontology that will actually put food on the table, obtaining a PhD is absolutely necessary.  It is, however, not sufficient. Not even close.  He continued to inform me that after obtaining his PhD in Paleontology, he would have to be close to the top 5% of his field to have a fighting chance of finding anything halfway lucrative.  To put it mildly, these odds are not encouraging.  Dave was, and still is, extremely passionate about Paleontology. However, he could not come to terms with the idea of pursuing his passion while struggling to put food on the table (a very reasonable concern, if you ask me). As a result, he decided not to pursue his PhD in Paleontology, but in Geophysics.  Geophysics is a field with multiple applications to oil and gas, an industry in which Dave now works as a Geophysicist. 

He explained to me that when deciding on a career, there are three main things one should look for. These are (in no particular order): Things you love to do, things that will pay well and things that you are good at.  The goal, drew explained, is to obtain a job that fulfills two out of these three objectives.  Of course, this involves the job seeker/college student to be honest with what is most important to them.  For example, which of these attributes is an absolute “must have?” Are you content with having a job you love and excel at, but continuously struggling to put food on the table? Is being paid well a must have? If that is the case, you must decide what the greater priority is: a job you love to do, or a job you are good at. 

I am not saying it is impossible to obtain a job which fulfills all three of these categories.  However, in my experience, it is rather unlikely.  I believe this “2/3”criteria is a good first step for incoming college students when choosing a major.  In life, it is very important to recognize what you like…however, it is equally as important to realize what you are willing to sacrifice.

Greg App, Guest Blogger

Wash U St Louis c/o 2008

U of Houston c/o 2016

Passion and Practicality: Choosing a Major

Steve Jobs is often used as a prime example of forging a career with passion, vision and creativity.  There is merit in this.  I think few people would argue against the notion that Jobs’ was the lifeblood of Apple’s image and technological direction. 


His professional biography sounds like a Hollywood movie script. It is a tale of an “outside the box” thinker and the success of his home-grown startup company that would ultimately redefine how people used personal computers. 


However, it is worth mentioning that before founding Apple, Jobs was a technician for Atari. This experience played a vital role in sparking his passion for technology.  But what influenced Jobs to start working at a video game company in the first place?

Simple. He was broke and needed a job.


The founding and subsequent success of Apple was not sparked by innovation, passion, vision, etc.  It rose from one man’s need to pay rent.


When high school students are trying to decide on a college major, they often try to justify their choice by means of interest or passion.  For some students, this method of selection is undoubtedly valid.  However, many incoming college students simply have no idea what subject or potential career they are passionate about…and this is ok.  More than ok, in fact. 


Incoming college freshman need to be honest with themselves when choosing a major.  This is especially true if they do not feel inclined towards a particular academic subject.  This feeling does not mean they are unmotivated or lack a sense of purpose….…it just means they are 17-18 years old and trying to figure out life. 


Over the next several weeks, I will be outlining multiple strategies for students who are in this situation. The mantra of “you have plenty of time to figure out your major once you are in college” is no longer valid.  An increasingly competitive job market coupled with the rising cost of college tuition means incoming students must make the most out of a very quick four years. (Part 1)


Greg App, Guest blogger

Wash U St Louis c/o 2008

U of Houston, c/o 2016



What really makes a college a good fit? Five key elements


Recently I was fortunate to hear a webinar presented by Peter Van Buskirk,  motivational speaker, consultant and former dean of college admissons. He is also the author of Winning the College Admissions Game: Strategies for Parents and Students.


During the webinar, Peter stressed five key points as "good fit" components that help create a best fit college:

1. Academic program of interest. The college should not force freshmen to declare   a major their first year.

2. Style of instruction and environment. Does the school provide the right learning styles for the student? More stadium seating or small round table discussions?

3. Challenges are provided for the next step or level regarding the student's future. Does the career center provide early help? Abundant internships? Grad programs of interest? LSAT, MCAT, GRE test prep on campus?

4. The college community feels like home. Student is comfortable the minute he/she steps on campus and moves into the dorm. Friends are made easily.

5. The college values the student for what he/she offers and brings to the table. Colleges will make this evident during the application process, interviews and campus visits. Usually the student will be in the top of the applicant pool for that admissions cycle.


When college bound students visit colleges this spring and summer, the criteria above should definitely be at the top of their list of their considerations.





 On the Road: Maximizing College Visits


This semester many anxious and excited college bound students will hit the road, visiting campuses in and out of state.  Hopefully most of them have not waited until they are HS seniors to do so.


College visits not only help a student narrow down her/his list and help with best fit matches, but they also help showcase each college's individual personality.  Let's face it: this is the perfect time to compare the good, the bad and the ugly. These crucial visits can also help parents ease into the eventual letting-go process.


While planning college visits, students should consider the following:



1. Check your HS policy regarding taking off for college days

2. Contact college admissions offices/sign up online at least 2 weeks early

3. Surf college websites before registering

4. Check websites for college Preview Days

5. Keep detailed directions to campuses, along with admissions phone number

6. Give yourself buffer time for travel to allow for traffic

7. Be flexible with appointments and plan several choices

8. Need to cancel? Call admissions asap



1. Select colleges to see in clusters (regions)

2. Consider factors which may affect your impressions

3. Time your visit when students are on campus

4. Document all visits and keep contact info

5. Don't foget to take pictures

6. Consider informal vs. formal tours

7. Remember that info sessions are given by admissions officers.....not tour guides

8. Follow correct dress protocol



1. Sit in on the info session before the tour

2. Visit with an admissions officer/regional rep

3. Sit in on a class of interest; visit with a professor in that same area

4. Visit the career center

5. Spend the night in a dorm-- seniors

6. Peruse student newspapers

7. Look at the bulletin boards--notice activities

8. Eat in a dining hall

9. Ask questions of students who aren't guides

10. Browse the bookstore

11. Ask for business cards from college personnel

11. Drive around the surrounding neighborhood

12. Wander around campus by yourself

13. Take that Bench Test: Can I see myself here?



1. Send thank you emails, not handwritten notes, to people who set up your visits or took the time to speak with you

2. Keep admissions contact info for future use

3. Stay in contact with colleges of interest

4. Review all notes taken on visits

5. Discuss your impressions with your parents, guardians and college counselors

6. If you can't visit, check out websites like and


Great times to visit: Columbus Day Monday, Mon/Tues of Thanksgiving week, Presidents Day Monday. Safe travels!





Recommended reads for preparing the ADHD/LD student for college                     


ADD and the College Student by Patricia Quinn

Ready for Take-Off: Preparing your Teen with ADHD or LD for College by Theresa Maitland and Patricia Quinn

College Success for Students with Learning Disabilities by Cynthia Simpson and Vicky Spencer

College Confidence with ADD by Michael Sandler

Coaching College Students with ADHD by Patricia Quinn

Survival Guide for College Students with ADHD or LD by Kathleen Nadeau 

Learning Outside of the Lines by Hallowell, Mooney and Cole

Making the Grade with ADD: A Student's Guide to Succeeding in College with Attention Deficit Disorder by Stephanie Sarkis

Some great books for entering college freshmen and their parents                              


Been There, Should've Done That: 99 Tips for Making the Most of College  by Suzette Tyler

Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years  by Karen Coburn and Madge Treeger


Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College by Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman


What Smart Students Know: Maximum Grades. Optimum Learning. Minimal Time by Adam Robinson


I'll Miss You Too: An Off to College Guide for Parents and Students by Margo Bane and Steffany Bane


Making the Most of Disability Services Visits


Like other college-bound students, those with learning differences or ADHD should make a point of visiting colleges before applying. However, in addition to visiting the admissions office, these students should also make a beeline to the Office of Disability Services, looking for another type of match: support services with the appropriate accommodations for their needs.

Although all colleges are required by law to offer support services and accommodations, the level of support and types of accommodations available to students with learning differences varies widely from campus to campus, ranging from basic to comprehensive.

A visit to the Office of Disability Services is an opportunity to ask about the availability of support and accommodations that will help the student be successful in college by putting him or her on a level playing field with peers.

Here are a few of the most important questions to ask:

How current must my testing be to apply for accommodations?
How many students use your services?
What Assistive Technology (AT) services do you offer? Do you have an AT expert on staff?
What accomodations do you offer? What are the procedures and timelines to receive them?
How many Disabilities Support counselors do you have on your staff? Do they act as liasions?
If a professor is not in compliance regarding the student's needed accomodations, how is the situation resolved?
What is the procedure to get extended time on exams? How much notice is required?  Do  students arrange extended time with professors or through the Disabilities Services Office?
Where do students take exams? Who proctors?
What do you consider the most difficult majors/classes for Disabilities Support students on this campus?
Will I have both an advisor in the Disabilities Services Office and a regular academic advisor? If both, how will the two advisors work with each other?
What is the four-year graduation rate for students with learning disabilities similar to mine?
Do you track students who have used your services after graduation? If so, what do your findings show about their success after graduation?

Two red flags to watch out for when evaluating campus disabilities services:
(1) The personality of the director or staff member is off-putting.  This is paramount since she/he represents the personality of the department.
(2) The college Disabilities Services Office website is not user friendly or is difficult to locate. Or even worse.....doesn't exist.

As with admissions meetings, students should prepare ahead of time for their meeting with the Disabilities Services Office. Practicing the questions they want to ask with a parent or other adult beforehand can be helpful, so that they avoid having to read questions from a script. It is perfectly fine for the student to take notes. Ideally, the student should also meet with a successful current DS student while on campus. Rest assured this process gets easier with each campus visit.

*COPYRIGHT Joy App.  May not be copied or distributed without author's permission.

College Admissions Vocab 101

Can you identify the following college admissions terms? 

Applicant positioning   

Strategic enrollment management                                                                          
Universal Application
Cross app
CSS Profile
Preferential packaging
EA vs ED vs REA
Legacy rating
Application score
Need blind
Need aware
Grant vs loan
Merit award
Open admissions
Rolling admissions

Suitcase school

It might be a good idea for students and parents both to familiarize themselves with the terms above before finalizing college lists and completing applications.  Good luck!


Summer plans already?    
Are you a rising sophomore or junior?  It is not too early to visit college campuses.  Visit enough so that you can eventually compare the good, the bad and the ugly.  Take notes to review later; you will be glad when everything is a blur.  Rising seniors:  You know the drill already, but narrow down your final choices and plan some of your last visits.  Be sure to ask questions that cannot be answered on the college website.

If possible, attend a camp or class on the campus of a college of high interest.  Not only will you get a true feel for the atmosphere, but you will also get to know other like-minded students who could be your future classmates.  Most colleges will take notice that you have gone to the trouble of attending their campus activity for several weeks.

Check college websites for info sessions scheduled in your hometown.  Often colleges use the summer to visit major cities and "market" off season.  This may also be a good chance to visit with admissions reps one on one, which can be difficult during large college fairs.

Rising 10th-12th graders:  Plan your summer carefully, including at least three weeks of meaningful activities. These would include volunteer work, internship, paid job, etc.

Rising seniors: register for the June SAT or ACT if you plan to retake it.  Get those SAT 2 tests over with. Start college apps early........some are already online in June and July.  Check with  individual colleges.

Parents of rising seniors:  If possible make contact with financial aid officers at colleges which interest your teen the most.  Try and narrow the list down to a few.  The FA folks on college campuses can provide crucial information, which will help your decisions in a few months, and can tell you about "institutional" money available.  Familiarize yourself with FA vocab. Figure out your EFC (estimated family contribution) asap.

Parents of rising juniors:  Start doing some of the steps listed above, but don't narrow the search so much.  Develop relationships with FA personnel.  Begin writing your list of questions to use during visits by phone or in person.  It is not too early to have a frank discussion with your teen regarding financial aid concerns and planning.  Now is a good time to brainstorm how he/she can help the family pay for college.  Higher SAT/ACT scores can translate into scholarships/grants for college.

Students:  READ!  Peruse newspapers and check out their op ed sections.  Notice the different writing styles.  Application essays loom and guess what question you will probably be asked interviews? Hint: Giving the anaswe that you haven't had time to read is not advised.

Use a planner/calendar to map out all summer activities, appointments and test prep.

Have some well deserved down time......but not too much!

Words of wisdom from Seniors

"Students should get started as soon as they possibly can. I thought I was in a very solid position having started during the summer before sr year, but I knew people who were completely finished with applications and essays before school began.  Looking back, if I had sacrificed more time during the summer I would have had a much less stressful college application experience.  The people who were done in the summer with essays were also able to apply more easily to more schools early that fall."

"Get started early!  It makes it incredibly easier to get into colleges and apply/receive scholarships.  If possible start by doing a little bit each night in the summer before senior year so it is not so overwhelming."

"A really important part is to stay on top of admissions deadlines and work ahead of time.  Do not wait until the last minute; it will only stress you out and it is not worth it!.  Nothing feels better than when all your friends at school are worrying about meeting deadlines, and you are done.  You will feel very thankful!"

"Start visiting colleges when you're a sophomore.  Don't wait till summer after junior year like I did! Go when classes are in session, not during summer school."

"Do some kind of prep for the SAT or ACT.  Don't take it cold.......important that you have strategies.  Give yourself time to retake them.  Try both tests to see which one will work for you."

"Two words:  November 1!"

"Talk to as many people on campus as possible when you go for visits  It's amazing what you find out from students when walking around."

Joy App
College Consultant

Houston, Texas