Last updateWed, 14 Apr 2021 11am

Ask the Experts



The Express Train

My friends are looking to work for big companies after graduation. Should I consider joining a tech start-up right out of college?

When we hear the phrase tech start-up, you think of tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook and Google, which were founded by college students. However, the stats show that over 90% of tech start-ups fail. We assume you do not have the prescience to determine whether your opportunity will succeed or fail. All start-ups seem to be great ideas. Here is what you should consider.

The traditional path for college graduates has always been an entry-level position on the corporate ladder with opportunities to climb it and prosper. But with more and more start-ups emerging, the opportunities with them are boundless.

Working for a smaller organization often requires a lot more flexibility and the ability to multitask. Young companies change direction so you will be expected to adapt with them and learn new skills.

Larger companies tend to compartmentalize people and their hierarchies force you into a specific career path. At a start-up, you could be working on a range of different projects discovering talents that you never knew you had. However, things may not go as planned and things may fail. In a large corporation this could be devastating, but at smaller organizations things often work with trial-and-error.

You gain vital entrepreneurial skills working in a start-up environment, which will be crucial as your career develops. Without the budgets to pay high salaries, you may be compensated in other ways at a start-up. These could include a stake in the company itself, which could lead to a big payout if the company goes public. Loyalty and camaraderie are built by sharing company ownership, explains management at Ocean SEO, because you all have a vested interest in its success and will be motivated by more than a paycheck.

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Facebook Fink

I have personal stuff all over Facebook. I don’t want a possible employer looking at this. How do I clean up my mess?

I sense the urgency in your question, since you will soon be applying for jobs. While you need to remove the negatives from FB, do not overlook the flip side. Your FB account can also be a marketing tool, giving potential employers insight into your character and abilities.

Since you were accepted at college, your FB information cannot be that bad. Admissions officers regularly check out a student applicant’s account. The best way to clean up your account is to never be in this situation. But since you are, here is what the experts recommend.

It is virtually guaranteed that a potential employer will do a search for your name on Facebook. Statistics claim that 45% of companies already do, so the true figure will be much higher. Of course, the obvious solution would be not to use your real name, but this is a violation of Facebook policy. Do not worry, any criminal lawyer will tell you it is not against any law in the U.S. to use a pseudonym online.

The first step, which everyone should do anyway for privacy and security, is to lock down your profile to private or friends only. This prevents the public and anyone without permission from viewing what is posted on your profile. Others should not be able to see your list of friends, as their posts may reflect on you.

Your profile picture goes a long way as this will be publically visible, so choose something that you want an employer to see. You do not need to be suited up, it is not LinkedIn, but try to avoid anything that shows you drinking or partying, any political allegiance, or anything too shocking. In a survey of hiring managers, over half of them identified provocative photos as a reason for not hiring a potential candidate. In the residential real estate industry more than others, your image and reputation are your sales tools. Students must learn in college that your personal conduct is as important as your degree.

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Gigabyte Girl

I know Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. Why don’t I see more women in computer classes?

This is a particularly sensitive question. The doors are open, but many women choose not to enter into the world of computers. What is happening at elementary school through college that may lead girls on a different path?

The statistics speak for themselves with regards to women earning degrees and working in computer and IT related fields. According to the National Center for Education Statistics only 18% of degrees in computer science were awarded to women in US colleges in 2014. The figure has been in decline since the 1980s, with over 35% of computer science majors going to women three decades ago. The gender imbalance continues into the workplace as reports indicate that Google’s tech roles are only 17% female occupied and Twitter just 10%. However, in other job titles, women occupy over 50% of the positions in content development and social media, reveals Ocean SEO.

A large number of women drop out of computer science with up to 30% citing sexism in the culture as the cause. A feeling of isolation will ensue when there is only one female in a male team or class.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology predicts that there will be over a million computer-related job openings by 2024 but only 41% of them filled. Further studies indicate that businesses with a large gender inequality to not tend to be as successful as more balanced organizations.

Back to your question, why are we not seeing more women in computer science? There are three key factors: culture, the way women perceive things, and lack of industry representation. Many believe it all goes back to childhood, when we are socialized by parents and grandparents. Little boys are given cars and encouraged to tinker and little girls are given dolls, which may lead the males onto a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) path into education.

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Going Gap

My parents and I strongly disagree about my taking a gap year. Shouldn’t I be able to make my own decision?

When you ask your parents what you should do with your life, you reveal the answer. You do not have the self-confidence and maturity to make your own decisions. College propels you into the real world and requires you begin to making choices. If you are unsure, perhaps that is exactly the reason why you need a gap year.

Traditionally gap years were taken after high school and before college but a recent trend has seen students taking them during college years. Many have little direction regarding life and careers when just out of school, so they usually abide parent or community pressures and go straight into further education. This can leave you feeling burnt out and overwhelmed, so taking a gap year may not be a bad idea after all. Plenty of suggestions as to what to do can be found on the American Gap Association but we will also look at a few here.

A year out of studies can be worthwhile only if you use it constructively. Most students go travelling and there is nothing better to broaden the mind and your experience. If budgets are a concern, you can work while you are on the road. There are plenty of temporary jobs out there or you can volunteer in exchange for food and lodging. Either way, you will meet new people, expand your horizons, and gain vital life experiences.

Doing national or community service is another way to occupy some of your year out. Volunteer work always goes down well on your resume, it shows your humanitarian side and big corporations appreciate that. You may be able to earn some credits or eligibility for scholarships and financial aid by working with the National Outdoor Leadership School.

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Healthcare Hurdle

Across the country, international students are part of the student body. Do they qualify for Obamacare?

In answering your question, I am trying to surmise whether you are a Trump supporter or opponent. The answer is no, they do not receive it. That satisfies your question, but the issue is much larger: how do international students afford and access health care in the U.S.?

The number of international students studying in America has increased for the past ten years. International students studying in the U.S. has grown 85% in the last decade and their numbers exceeded a million for the first time in 2016. According to the Institute of International Education, the total number of overseas students was 1,044,000 last year, up 7% on the previous period.

The majority of colleges require some mandatory insurance to cover health care which is a major concern for foreign students. Essentially, free health care for international students does not exist.

A visit to an emergency room can rapidly accumulate a bill of thousands of dollars. Campus-based student healthcare services offer cheaper options for routine procedures: infection screening, injuries, birth control, etc. If the college medical staff are unable to administer care, you will be transferred to a private hospital at much greater expense.

International students are exempt from ObamaCare, providing they retain the status of ‘non-alien resident’. However, your tax status changes to ‘resident alien’ once you spend more than five years in the country. You are then subject to ObamaCare and must find a compliant health insurance policy. Students needing gap coverage for another year or two of study find themselves purchasing expensive policies covering all the services required under ObamaCare.

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Let’s Go Clubbing

I was involved with clubs in high school, for fun and socializing. I am thinking ahead about my resume and job hunting. Which are the best groups to join that will help me get a job?

Your question shows that you clearly understand the value of networking for your future. Research studies showed that over 70% of professionals accept a new position with a company where the individual already has a contact. Beyond networking, the experience alone gained from participating in a club, organization or association is educational and valuable.

The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is more relevant today than ever before. A large proportion of industries seek to hire from within before advertising vacancies to the public. Networking has now become an essential part of job hunting, so knowing someone with connections can put you ahead of the competition.

Joining a professional association is a great way to start your networking with like-minded people and professionals in the industry. There are a number of advantages of joining up while still at college, such as meeting other students interested in the same field and getting a feel for the realities of a career in that area. You may get the opportunity to attend conferences, follow industry trends, and read journals to broaden your knowledge.

Most professional associations publish periodicals with updates on latest developments in the field, and there will also be regional events and seminars or webinars to attend. These provide a good opportunity to network and swap web addresses and business cards. Most of the young people joining us have started their careers in a professional association, explains Ryan McCann, real estate agent. Our field in particular relies on long-standing, personal contacts.

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Medical Migrant

Next semester I will be studying in Asia. My parents want all possible medical issues handled before I leave. Are they worrying too much?

The quick answer is that you are not worrying enough. Around 35,000 American students will be studying in Asia during this academic year. Preparing for student travel abroad is a maze of ‘what if’ questions. You have medical insurance, but you do not speak the local language and do not know where to find the nearest hospital. This situation means you did not properly plan in advance.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration when studying abroad: applying for a visa, booking flights, arranging accommodation and researching healthcare risks in your destination country. Medical care and facilities can vary widely, especially in Asia where hospitals range from third world to five star. This variation also reflects in costs, where you can be treated in a backwater hospital up-country for very little or a plush resort-type medical center that will cost thousands per night.

Medical insurance should be your first consideration when living overseas for any extended period of time. Some countries have public healthcare and benefit but most in Asia do not, especially for foreigners. It is strongly advisable to arrange health insurance for coverage abroad before you go. Many of the universities will advise on what type of coverage is recommended and where it is accepted. Many hospitals in Asia are operated like private corporations, profits are the reason they run and their prices will reflect that.

There are a few steps to take in finding the best deal for international travel and study. Find out what your parents are using, as a student you may get a discounted policy under the family name. If the trip is school sponsored, they may have options for health insurance coverage. One of the critical insurance options to have is emergency evacuation, so you are guaranteed to be flown home in a transport chair for reunion with your family or transfer to a stateside hospital. Use some of the comparison websites to check prices with major insurance companies, some will offer specific student travel-health packages. There are also international companies that tailor to studying abroad so compare their policies to domestic ones.

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Two students had a vicious fight in one of the dorms. I heard no life-threatening injuries. Now what happens, the college gets sued?

The tone of this question reflects a larger theme of our modern society: who pays. Political pundits even attribute this phrase to President Trump’s interpretation of foreign policy. Fortunately, you said there were no life-threatening injuries. Since the incident occurred on campus, the college will likely be named as a defendant. Let us overview how laws and judges determine liability.

The legal system is fickle, changing from case-to-case, and state-to-state. We examine three separate cases to highlight these variations and review the parameters.

In the first, a student attacked on a Louisiana campus filed suit for negligence by the university. This comes under a wide sweeping law known as premises liability. The landowner is responsible for ensuring the premises are safe for anyone residing on them. Owners must exercise reasonable care and warn of any dangers or risks. Theoretically, the owner could be liable for accident recovery, lost income, and suffering if they were proven to be negligent.

To comply with this, a University must be aware of the potential for personal injury to students and provide adequate safety and security. In the Louisiana case, it was alleged that the college failed to provide security measures such as fencing and cameras to protect students living on campus.
Switching to California, courts ruled that public colleges do not have a general legal obligation to protect students from attacks or violence from other students. This particular ruling rejected a claim that UCLA did not do enough to prevent an attack on a student by another in the chemistry lab. It was revealed that the attacker had serious mental health issues and was found not guilty under an insanity plea.

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Transfer Two-Step

I know several people that transferred to another college. What is wrong with our school?

Sounds like you are satisfied with college life here and your friends may have felt the same. They are probably not running away, but transferring to another college that better meets their needs. We will give you an overview of transfer statistics and reasons which will surprise you.

Transferring to another college is actually quite common these days, according to a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, around a third of all students transfer. There are a number of considerations for those thinking about a transfer, firstly the acceptance rate of 64% is a little lower than that of first year students which is 69%. The grades at the previous college weigh heavily on the success of transfer acceptance.

Transfer students can also apply for merit aid with 77% of colleges providing merit scholarships. The net price difference may be a large factor in the decision to transfer and there are a number of ways to save money by transferring to another college. However, not all universities have room for transfer students. Smaller institutions with fewer undergraduates leaving will have fewer spots open for incoming transfers, larger state colleges will be easier.

The Common Data Set is a detailed document about the college that includes a range of things such as freshman academic profile and campus safety, but it also includes transfer admission policies that should be consulted. SAT and ACT test scores are not as important according to the NACAC study, the longer you have been in college the less other colleges care about these scores. If the transfer is after just one semester however, most schools will want to look at the test scores.

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Volunteer Vitality

I had more time to volunteer before college. When I get a job, are many companies supportive of volunteering?

We always appreciate a question that is motivated by a desire to help someone else. Volunteers complain about a college gap, where studies overwhelm their schedules and leave little time for community involvement. You should not be surprised to learn that companies both small and multinational often have direct ties to volunteer activities. The media concentrates on corporate financial pursuits, rather than recognizing charitable ones.

Recent surveys have revealed that companies creating a culture of volunteerism in the workplace can directly boost morale, working atmosphere and brand awareness. Employees surveyed however, do not see volunteering as a way to further their careers or develop new skills. Almost 90% of employees taking the survey believe there is a better working environment at companies that sponsor volunteer activities, and 77% say that it is essential to employee well-being.

Despite all of the goodwill generated by such programs, only 38% of workers said that their companies provided access to company-sponsored volunteer programs. Almost 70% said they are not volunteering as much as they would like and 62% cited lack of time as a reason for not doing so.

It appears that employees recognize the value of volunteering and would like to participate more, but are denied the opportunities to do so. The onus falls on the company to raise awareness and availability of volunteer programs.

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And Baby Makes Two

I feel a bit isolated and ignored, because I have child at college. Do I qualify for any help from the school?

We want to discuss your question, because over 26% of U.S. undergrads are raising a child. You are hardly alone in your struggle. Learning from other campus moms, we found the main issue is lack of recognition from colleges to provide: student health services, childcare and financial aid. Finding out what resources and benefits are available will reconnect you to campus life.

Attending college while pregnant or raising a child can pose severe hardships. Over 2-million women between 18 and 24 get pregnant every year. Naturally, most single college parents are women.

Nearly 5-million undergrad students are raising a child. Reports reveal over 60% of women with a child do not finish their degree. Overall, student parents account for over 25% of the undergrad population, and 13% of them are single parents.

With high-tuition and child-related costs, it is difficult to manage at all. There are no special discounts for student parents and raising a child can cost up to $17K per year in some states.

Single women parents at school are one of the most overlooked groups. Colleges do not provide child delivery at student health services, reports Powers and Santola, birth injury lawyers. As of this date, our research could not find any colleges with childbirth services. If you are having a baby, you seem to be overlooked, invisible or ignored.

Institutions of higher education are slow to recognize the change in demographics. Many universities simply do not consider student parents as a financial priority, and most institutions are seeking places to cut.

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