Tagged: military education

College Student Debt 101

Posted by Christine A. Shelly
2012_average_student_loan_debt_militaryauthority.com copyStudents in the United States spend more on higher education than those in any other country. But something is wrong with our system when an overwhelming majority of graduating seniors are carrying significant debt and an equally overwhelming number of students don’t graduate at all. In the graduating class of 2012, 70% carried student loan debt with an average of $29,400 per student. Two-thirds of all graduating seniors entered the workforce with hefty bills to pay right away. But there are some resources and options available to students who need help paying for school. Students who are serving, have served, or are married to a member of the armed forces have tremendous education benefits to draw upon. For those who haven’t finished getting a degree, there are options like online education that allow you the flexibility to work full or part time and go to school on your own schedule. According to a study by Georgetown University, in 2012 employees with a Bachelor’s degree or higher earned twice as much as those with some college/associates degree or a high school education (or less). By the year 2020, it’s predicted that at least 65 percent of all jobs will require at least some college education. And even though the job market can seem scary, an average four-year college graduate experiences less unemployment and earns a larger salary than someone with no degree or a two-year degree. In 2012, the unemployment rate for high school graduates was 17.9 percent – more than twice that of college graduates. Earning power aside, there’s a lot to be said for learning: confidence, an expanded social circle, exposure to new and different ideas are all very positive things. It might be tempting to balk at the idea of spending or borrowing money to go to school, but an education is a far better investment than nearly anything else. Sources: http://goo.gl/UIWDR5 http://www.businessinsider.com/most-inefficient-education-systems-2013-10 Image credit: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/highly-educated-highly-indebted-the-lives-of-todays-27-year-olds-in-charts/283263/ #studentloans #studentdebt #onlineeducation

The College Application Process for Servicemembers

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com college application process for militaryYou’ve made the decision to apply to college. Congratulations!

But now what? Like many students, you probably have a lot of questions. Questions like:

  • How many application forms do I really have to fill out? 
  • What kind of information am I expected to provide to schools?
  • And if you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves, or a military spouse, you’re probably wondering what other surprises are lurking in the application process for you.  

This post will bring a little dose of reality to what can become a very surreal process for many people.

First of all, the average complete college application is usually made up of about seven components. I say “about” seven because not every college requires every component. We’ll talk about each of these seven categories, because they’re the ones that most schools require. 

  1. Forms/Fees 
  2. Transcripts (High School, any transfer credit, military experience/training) 
  3. Test scores (SAT/ACT/unique tests)
  4. Recommendations
  5. Essays 
  6. Portfolio/Auditions – for performing arts majors 
  7. Interviews



About 500 colleges use an online application form called the Common Application. This is exceptionally helpful if you’re applying to half a dozen different schools and they all use the Common Application – you enter your information once, select the schools you want, and you’ve completed one step for all six of your schools at once.  Time saved. 

Before you fill out your application form(s) you’ll want to review them to determine what (if any) information you’ll need to collect from your parents. You’ll also want to find out what your high school or service branch will send directly to your potential colleges – if they won’t send transcripts or records on your behalf, you’ll want to make arrangements to send them yourself. 

Also good to know: the admission application is not the same thing as the financial aid application (or application for military education benefits). Those are two very distinct application processes.

Lastly, even when you use the Common Application, you will need to send each school their individual app fee, which can be anywhere from $35 – 100 each. Military students, military spouses and veterans may qualify for fee waivers or reimbursement through their education benefits, so if you fall into either of those categories be sure to double-check. Sometimes a school may not come out and say they’ll waive veterans’ applications fees – you have to contact the admissions office directly and ask.

Continue to the other 6 components…


Read more from Christine and if you’re a student, tell us how your college application process went in the comments.



College Application Reality Check





What is the #collegeapplicationprocess like for members of #USArmedForces?

The Best Education Advice I’ve Never Received

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com education advice ive never receivedA new school year has begun in most parts of the country. And since September 11, 2001, the start of the school year also provides a poignant reminder of freedom, democracy, and all that we hold dear. While it is true that the educational system in our country is in need of improvement in many areas, we can’t ignore the fact that few places on Earth provide the freedom to pursue the number and variety of educational and professional opportunities we have here in the United States.

Whether this marks the start of your first or final semester, the beginning of a new academic year can bring on a case of the butterflies (or worse). Many students experience anxiety and stress about their educational path and future job prospects. After more than a decade’s worth of experience in higher ed – and my own learning adventures – I have two pieces of advice that you aren’t likely to get from your education officers or even from your family.

Don’t be a follower.

You’ve probably been told by many well-wishing people “follow your passion.” Or, “follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.” Although it sounds wonderful, this kind of advice is better suited for relationships than for your education and future work.

In today’s economy, simply doing what feels good isn’t a sustainable practice – it can lead to frustration, accumulating debt, and a string of broken dreams. Plus, if you’re a working adult with a family to support while you go to school, you have responsibilities that you can’t simply shirk to follow your own interests.

Instead – bring your passion with you. Whatever you do, give it 110%. Find something to love about whatever you’re doing and give it all you’ve got. Look for the opportunity to share your passion with others and leave your own unique mark.

Strive for harmony, not balance.

“Work/Life balance,” as blissfully ideal as it sounds, is something that everyone seeks but few accomplish. It’s an incredibly popular topic that has everyone from CEOs to bloggers weighing in with their opinions and ‘how-to’s.’

Be careful about setting yourself up to achieve someone else’s idea of a balanced life. What works for them may not work for anyone else. Struggling to achieve an unrealistic ideal adds unnecessary (unhealthy) pressure.

What I would propose instead, is to strive for harmony as opposed to balance. Think about those televised singing competitions – sometimes a group is asked to sing in harmony together. It works well for some groups; others, not so much. In some groups, each of the singers wants to extend their 15 seconds of fame so badly, they sing over each other and refuse to yield the spotlight. The result is a musical mess that hurts to the ears.

Accept that there will be times when one aspect of your life takes priority over another. One area of your life will “sing lead” for a while and the others will support it and make it shine. You are the only person who can decide your priorities – your “lead singers,” if you will. Too many lead singers and you get a train wreck of a song. Too many backup singers and the music doesn’t really shine. The challenge is in making sure the right voices are singing lead at the right time.

The decision to earn your degree is one of the most important you can make, and if you’re reading this, you very likely already understand that. No matter where you are in life – whether you’re a working adult, a veteran, a military spouse or recent high school graduate, as you move forward in your educational pursuits and your professional career, you will be on the receiving end of all kinds of well-meaning advice. I hope the two pieces of advice I offered will help guide you toward achieving your goals. Best of luck to you as you begin the fall semester.

I’d love to hear from you. What kind of education or career advice has helped you? What do you wish you’d known when you started out?









Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Obama Proposes Radical Reform of College Financial Aid

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com obama college financial aid reformThe President has outlined a proposal for a sweeping reform of how federal college aid is allocated, which could affect what schools students can afford, after about 2018.

The problem of inadequate returns on college aid has been attracting Congressional scrutiny for some time. Outstanding student loan balances now top $1 trillion and they are still growing, yet a substantial portion of Americans now in their mid-20s and even older have not graduated with a degree. Among those who have graduated, a substantial number are defaulting on student loans, or barely getting by because of a deeply depressed job market for young graduates.

President Obama introduced his plan while speaking to a college audience yesterday in Buffalo, New York. Obama’s plan would tie student aid to a series of metrics on which colleges must compete against each other. Examples would include default rates, affordability and cost, scholarship availability, graduation rates, earnings of graduates, advanced degrees attained, percentage of students receiving Pell grants, and the like.

The Administration plans to push to make the new system effective in 2018, giving colleges a chance to improve their ratings in these key metrics. The extra time will also give federal officials a chance to refine their criteria.

The Obama Administration suggested that extra resources would go to schools that did well on these factors. Specifically, students enrolled at schools that rank high according to the new criteria would receive more generous Pell grants and lower interest on student loans.

Additionally, the President called for taxpayers to fund a bonus for schools that demonstrate that they actually graduate a high percentage of students have received Pell Grants in the past.

The President’s plan also called for more accountability on the part of students. Obama’s proposal would make students show periodic progress, expressed as a percentage of completion, toward a specific degree before the student could receive additional federal assistance.

Veterans may also benefit from a proposal, also outlined within Obama’s plan, to encourage colleges to award credits for professional experiences, life experiences and on-the-job training.


Pay As You Earn

The President also expressed a desire to expand ‘pay-as-you-earn’ programs. These programs tie student loan payments to income. The more you earn, the more you can afford to pay on your student loan. The president’s plan calls for a cap on student loan payments equal to 10 percent of a student’s income.

Critics of the plan are already lining up. Some of the points raised in objection include:

  1. Basing the criteria on graduation rates creates a perverse incentive for colleges to game the system in the worst possible way: By lowering standards.
  2. It would take a new bureaucracy to administer the program and maintain the ranking system.
  3. The rankings could take schools serving remote or hard-to-serve communities and put them out of business altogether.
  4. The system could unfairly penalize colleges that serve nontraditional students. For example, older students with more established, full-time careers are more likely to get sidetracked from their degree program by familial responsibilities and professional opportunities. These could well cause them to withdraw from a degree program through no fault of the institution.
  5. The very fact that the federal government is creating necessarily arbitrary ratings criteria invites the possibility of rent seeking, manipulation and cronyism. Key members of Congress could manipulate criteria to favor colleges in their own districts, for example.
  6. The plan seems tailor made to route federal dollars to traditional state colleges with largely liberal faculties and reliable Democratic Party donors at the expense of colleges in the private sector, who often hire part-time instructors who are actually working in their fields, and who are less likely to be political allies of the President.

Another more indirect criticism is that it won’t matter how good a job these colleges do creating qualified graduates if the economy is not creating jobs to employ them.

At the same time, Congress also has a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure an adequate return on money committed to providing financial aid. Colleges with inordinately high default rates or that do not produce graduates commensurate with the amount of money invested are not providing a great ROI when the same dollar can be awarded to another student with a better shot at success and eventual repayment of the loan.



The President has little authority to accomplish this on his own: At some point, Congress will have to pass legislation for the President to get what he wants. Such an occurrence is not likely as long as the House of Representatives remains under GOP control. 

The Online Study Group Survival Guide

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

militaryauthority.com online study group survivalMost people don’t do their jobs completely alone – even if they office alone. Real life requires interaction with people, whether electronically or face-to-face. An important part of online education is learning to connect and work with others via Internet technology.

In case you were wondering, that’s why your high school teachers assigned those group projects. And that’s why you’ll often find group work as part of your post-high-school education. Because learning to get along with people is one of those life skills that takes lots of practice. When you can work with people to achieve goals, you’ll be able to work your way up that career ladder.

If you’ve been assigned to a group that you think may be made up of one part normal, two parts devil spawn, keep reading. In this post, we’ll take a look at some common personality types that make study group dynamics interesting. We’ll offer some tips for surviving and succeeding – and none of our tips involve exorcism of any kind.

The Ringleader.

There’s always one in any group: a natural leader who oozes charisma and quickly takes control. This person usually has a great “big picture” view but can often miss the details. The Ringleader thrives on being the group’s spokesperson because they may enjoy hearing themselves talk. They like to “help” the rest of the group by delegating tasks.

The key to working with this person is to make the most of his or her natural abilities and love of the limelight – but don’t let them overlook key details and don’t let them shrug off their share of the work. Sure, they can read the details of the project out loud for the rest of the group. But make sure, along with the rest of your team, to spell out specific roles and responsibilities, due dates, and any other important details up front to keep things fair for everyone.

The Introvert.

Don’t let this person’s quiet, well-mannered demeanor fool you: this is somebody who knows how to get things done, who usually has a very well-informed opinion and tends to be a major asset to any group.

Make your group an inclusive, safe place to participate by setting “no wet blanket” ground rules up front. When introverts feel welcome to share their thoughts and opinions, they’ll often shine. This personality type can be  a significant asset to any group – independent, hardworking, often with brilliant ideas. They’re just not particularly forthcoming with them. Don’t pressure or bully them to share – just be inclusive and they will usually surprise you.

The Cantankerous.

Speaking of wet blankets – if there’s a blanket of any kind to be thrown, there’s usually one person who will pitch one at everyone with both hands. This person may not have learned many social graces, or, they just plain don’t care whether they make anyone uncomfortable. They have a negative attitude and are often disrespectful to the point of distraction from the group’s purpose. At the extreme, they spew hateful, offensive commentary and bully others in the group.

Often times, when someone is pushing boundaries in a group, it only takes one or two people to publicly call them on it in order for them to back off, buckle down and participate appropriately. Sometimes, though, you will have to power through in spite of this person’s toxic behavior. Don’t let it affect you or sour your group – stay positive and productive. Plus, it’s always a good idea to make sure you are aware of your institution’s policies on bullying. If you have the option to remove unproductive bullies from your group, remove them. If not, make sure to have backup coverage for the assignment your wet blanket is responsible for so you don’t get left high and dry.

The Free Spirit.

This person is usually very passionate, well-intended, and possibly easily distracted. What they lack in structure and discipline, they make up for with enthusiasm. But unfortunately, enthusiasm doesn’t drive results.

The key to getting something accomplished when working with the free spirit is to provide structure where there isn’t any. This means someone – say, the ringleader – will need to provide reminder emails when tasks are due or break down an assignment into small to-do lists. Most importantly – the free spirit should be held as accountable as the rest of the team for getting the job done.

Learning to achieve goals as a group is a major part of learning how to win at life. And it’s something that you will practice for the rest of your days. Every group or project team is different, but there are always some archetypal personalities that come into play whenever there’s a group of people involved. These are just some ideas for dealing with the various types of personalities you may encounter.

Have you had any opportunities handling any of these types of people? What’s worked for you? Share your experiences here.


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Homeschooling in the Military 101

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com homeschooling in the militaryMilitary schoolchildren have a lot of challenges. They are frequently forced to relocate every three years or so, thanks to PCS moves. They also, however, have access to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) the federally-run school system that provides K-12 education for military families both in the U.S. and OCONUS.  These can be terrific alternatives, but they aren’t for everyone. Some military parents choose to homeschool their children.



Is it legal?

Yes, homeschooling is generally legal, though some states impose more regulation and oversight on homeschooling parents than others. Some host nations may have laws concerning homeschooling that you should be aware of, as well.


Are their subsidies available? 

While the vast majority of active-duty military family’s children live on or near a military installation served by a DoDEA school, there are occasionally situations where this isn’t the case. If that describes your family, you may be eligible for a subsidy to help support your homeschooling efforts, via the NDSP, or Non-Defense Schools Program. This program provides financial assistance to military families outside Canada and the United Kingdom whose children don’t live within a reasonable commuting distance from a DoD school. You can use the money to enroll your children into a local private school, an approved virtual school, or you can use it to finance a home-based education program for your children.  The subsidy can be as much as $5,700 for grades K through 8 and $7,700 for grades 9-12.

Homeschoolers are not eligible, however, in the following cases:

  • K-5 in the United Kingdom 
  • K-12 in Canada and Australia 
  • Areas served by a DoDEA school



Basic eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Sponsor must be a military service member serving on active duty and stationed overseas on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, or?A civilian employee of the Department of Defense who is employed on a permanent full time basis, assigned overseas, and is either a citizen or a national of the United States;
  • Sponsors must be authorized to transport dependents* to or from an overseas area at government expense, and
  • Sponsors must be provided an allowance for living quarters in that area.
  • Sponsors must be assigned to a location outside the commuting area of a DoD school.

*School-aged dependents are defined as an individual:

  • Who is the child, stepchild, adopted child, or ward of a DoD sponsor, residing with the sponsor, and is eligible for other command sponsorship services, postal services privileges, and?Who meets the host nation age requirement for kindergarten, and
  • Has not completed secondary school and will not reach his or her 21st birthday by September 1 of the current school year (or February 1 in the southern hemisphere); or

Between 3 and 5 years of age with developmental delays and disabilities may be eligible for services if they meet the DoDEA special education criteria.


What expenses are reimbursable?

The DoD allows you to use NDSP money towards the following expenses:

  • Traditional curriculum textbooks and other supplemental materials as may be appropriate for math, science, language arts, social studies, and other subjects on a grade/age appropriate basis.
  • Instructional CDs/software, curriculum guides, and manipulative materials for math, etc.
  • Fees charged for access to libraries and group participation in athletic, extracurricular, or music activities that are normally free of charge in U.S. public schools. Group participation is defined as a lesson or activity with enrollment open to the public, not a lesson provided exclusively for a family group (see Non-Allowable item h).
  • Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post associated with these activities are not allowable.
  • Fees for curriculum-related on-line Internet services such as study programs, library services, and distance.
  • Required testing materials by either the formal home-study course or other authorized program.
  • Advisory teaching service affiliated with the selected formally recognized home-study course.
  • Tuition charges, shipping costs, lesson postage, on-line Internet and facsimile charges associated with formal recognized home-study course or other authorized program.


What Expenses Are Not Reimbursable?

The general rule is that if an educational expense is ordinarily and customarily borne by parents outside of the Department of Defense in America, then these expenses are not reimbursable under NDSP auspices. Here is a list of expenses that are not authorized for reimbursement, and parents must pay them out-of-pocket:

  • Equipment such as: computers, keyboards, printers, televisions, facsimile and scanning machines, and furniture.
  • Non-course specific CDs, videos, DVDs;
  • General reading materials, reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias, globes), etc.
  • Purchase or rental of items that have broader use than the course being studied (i.e. computers/laptops, computer hardware, calculators, band instruments except noted above).
  • Expendable supplies (paper, pencils, markers) that are normally purchased by parents in the U.S.
  • Parental training in home-study private instruction.
  • Any form of compensation to the parent such as childcare or supervisory costs.
  • Travel and transportation costs at post or away from post.
  • Personal telephone, Internet, satellite, cable or other available communication subscription fees.
  • Fees for museums, cultural events, or performances that would normally be paid by parents in the U.S.
  • Private lessons.
  • Membership in gymnasiums, cultural clubs, spas, and other private clubs.
  • Textbooks, Bibles, workbooks, daily devotionals, or any material primarily for religious instruction.
  • Insurance associated with shipping charges. (Do not elect the optional insurance.)
  • Fees to an independent agency for posting credits and issuing transcripts.



To apply for the subsidy, fill out this brief spreadsheet, describing what materials you plan to be using for each child. 

Next, register with the NDSP program here.

Those interested in home-based education under the NDSP program can find more program information here. A digital brochure of the NDSP program is available here.


State-By-State Homeschooling Laws

Home Education Magazine maintains a state-by-state breakdown of laws as they apply to home education. Note that it is not your home of record that governs your requirements for homeschooling documentation and other regulations. It is your current location or duty station.  

Stay tuned to MilitaryAuthority.com, as we’ll be posting updates and additional information on homeschooling specific to the military community here!

The Five Most Useful Online Degrees for Transitioning Military

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com useful online degrees for transitioning militaryThere’s no question that having a degree can open up job options for transitioning military members. But with the slew of degree options out there, how can service members tell which ones are the most relevant for today’s workplace? Plus, making the transition from military service to civilian life can be stressful enough without adding the added complication of going back to school.

Adding school to your work-life-transition mix can actually help simple things up, especially if you choose an online degree program. Online education programs offer flexibility, access to schools that might not be geographically easy to get to, and the ability to fit school into your life – not cram life around your school.

And if you choose one of these in-demand programs, you are signing up for a competitive edge, not just a piece of paper.


Bachelor’s in Business Administration

Why It’s Hot: Education Dynamics and Learning House’s recent study ranked business administration as the top online undergraduate degree program. Nearly one-third of all online students are studying business administration. Why? Because people want to understand the intricacies and theories of successful business, channel their inner entrepreneur and help improve our straggling economy.

What You Could Study: Business administration majors usually study operations management, economics, accounting, marketing, and organizational dynamics or structure, according to the College Board.

What You Can Do With It: A more appropriate question is “what can’t you do with it?” A wide variety of career paths open up in business and industry with a degree in business administration. Graduates can work in fields banking, finance, manufacturing, product development, human resources, and business analysis, all of which offer opportunities for advancement and professional development. 

Bonus: An online Masters in Business Administration is not only a terminal degree, just the act of completing it can give you the real life experience and understanding of what it means to lead a company while maintaining your personal life. That real-time work-life balance experience is priceless, and teaches you what it takes to take the business world by storm.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Marketing manager: $122,720
Financial manager: $116,970
Management analyst: $87,260


Bachelor’s Degree in Education

Why it’s Hot: A second career in education is a viable, honorable, rewarding career for many vets, and studying online is an accommodating way to transition from service to civilian life.

What You Could Study: Online bachelor’s degrees in education teach students about instructional design, education theories and methods, and offer a combination of self-directed classwork with hands-on practice. Online communities also provide a convenient, fulfilling way to connect with other students and share ideas.

What You Can Do With It:  You can take what you’ve learned and experienced and help shape the next generations of students, contribute to education policy by getting involved in educators’ groups or educational administration. 

Bonus: The Department of Labor confirms that the route to a career as a public school teacher is a pretty straightforward path. You earn a bachelor’s degree from a teacher education program, and then pass a license exam.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Elementary school teacher: $54,330
Middle school teacher: $54,880
High school teacher: $55,990


Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Why It’s Hot: Technology changes each day. Nearly every company needs someone who understands it, can create it, wrangle it, or help other people use it. Plus –why study computer science offline? If you love technology, computers, and have a knack for both the creative and the technical, this is the field for you.

What You Could Study: Computer science majors study programming, web technologies, software design and theory, artificial intelligence, system analysis and digital systems.

What You Can Do With It: Network and computer systems administrators, application developers and software developers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Bonus: This is a high-growth field that the Department of Labor predicts will see almost 50 percent increase in wage-and-salary employment between now and 2018. 

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Computer and information systems manager: $123,280
Computer systems analyst: $81,250
Network and computer systems administrator: $72,200


Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

Why it’s Hot:  Companies are made up of people – human beings – and organizations will always need people who understand organizational structure, group behavior, laws and technologies that support human resources.

What You Could Study:  The College Board reports that most human resources programs include coursework in staffing, employment law, performance management, organizational structure and behavior, personnel actions, and payroll management. 

Bonus: The business of human resources is increasingly reliant upon technology. An online degree program offers an opportunity to become adept at some of these technologies. 

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Training and development specialist: $57,280
Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialist: $59,590
Human resources manager: $108,600


Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Why it’s Popular: It’s human nature to be intrigued by the seedy underbelly of criminal activity. Plus, because human nature is not geographically limited, you could be taking classes with students from all over the world.

What You Could Study: Every aspect of crime, criminal behavior, the justice system, and the law. You could take courses in criminology, law enforcement, statistics and sociology.

What You Can Do With It: A criminal justice degree holder could work at the local, state, or federal level in law enforcement, the corrections system, homeland security, or immigration.

Bonus: The qualities that support a successful military career are also some of the same qualities that drive a successful career in law enforcement. You already know you have what it takes to succeed.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Police and sheriff’s patrol officer: $55,620
Detective and criminal investigator: $73,010
Probation officer and correctional treatment specialist: $51,240

*All career and average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics. There could be variances depending upon the level of degree completed.

Ready to get started? Click below to find an online school that’s right for you.


Using Social Media Wisely, part 3: How Social Media can Help You Find a Job

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

Using social media wiselyOver the past few weeks, I have shared some ideas about how social media can enhance your education and how an online misstep can unravel your reputation. Now, let’s examine ways you can go from using social media as a way to keep up with friends and family, to using it to help you find a rewarding job opportunity.

Last year, more than 80 percent of companies were expected to use social media as a workforce recruitment tool (source: www.mediabistro.com). Recruiters use social media to help them reach candidates, not just because it saves them money, but also because they can target a specific job level and reach candidates who might not otherwise apply. And a bonus for transitioning military who would like to find a job far from where they are stationed, or for the military spouse who wants to secure a job while packing up the house for the next PCS move, social media allows job hunters to connect with recruiters around the world.

Nearly all recruiters – 98 percent – use social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find candidates. Almost 95% of recruiters have made a successful hire from  LinkedIn. Not only are recruiters actively looking for potential candidates using social media, they are proactively engaging qualified candidates online. So if you’re not using social media as part of your job search, now’s the time to start.

The best place to start preparing for your social media job hunt is with your profile or background pages on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Eye-tracking studies have demonstrated that the average person spends a little less than six seconds looking at a person’s profile. If you want to make a good impression on potential new employers, you’d be wise to make those six seconds count. Post pleasant, professional profile pictures, use keywords relevant to your job search in your bio, and keep usernames simple and free of profanity or otherwise unprofessional language.

Most people use Twitter as an outlet for expressing their opinions on news, politics, or causes that are near and dear to them. Why not use it to get yourself a job? The Twitter search function can help you find recruiters in your industry. Many companies encourage HR recruiters to tweet about job openings in addition to posting them to the usual job boards and advertisements. As an example, Grantham University job postings are strategically placed — and tweeted — to recruit top faculty and staff for the 100% online university. Start by finding a few recruiters in your field — or better yet, identify recruiters that specialize in placing veterans in jobs — and follow them. You’ll likely see opportunities as a result.

Ten years ago, if you were interested in working for a particular company, you had to rely on cold calling for informational interviews if you didn’t know (or couldn’t remember) someone at a particular organization. Now, you can ask people in your social networks to introduce you or even refer you for open positions. Sites like www.InTheDoor.com  or www.BranchOut.com search your Facebook network for hiring companies.

You can also build your influence and your network by writing thoughtful posts about current industry issues and posting them to your LinkedIn page or other networks. Demonstrate your knowledge, skills and expertise so that when someone in your network thinks about your industry, your name is top of mind.

Gone are the days when job hunting meant sifting through the Sunday classifieds with a cup of coffee and a number two pencil. Companies rely on social media to help them find the top candidates – so you have to engage in social media and put your best foot forward if you want to compete.


Have you found a job through social media? Tell us your experience in the comments.


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Using Social Media Wisely, part 2: How to Make Social Media Work for You

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

using social media wiselyLast week, I wrote about some of the ways that missteps in social media can damage your professional – and maybe even your personal reputation. Next, we want to take a look at how you can use social media in a way that makes it work in your favor in two very important ways: Your education and your job search. This week, let’s take a look at how social media plays an important role in your education.

According to a recent study by Pew Research, more than 80 percent of all secondary educators use social media or mobile tools as part of their day-to-day classroom assignments. It’s not uncommon for a teacher to have a delicious.com account to house class-appropriate reference materials, or to use tools like Blackboard as a repository for syllabi and assignments.

When educators do this, not only do they leverage relevant technology, they also help students develop important skills and prepare them for future undergraduate work or career paths. Incorporating social media into daily classroom activities – using channels like Twitter, slide share, flickr, and YouTube® – teaches students the value of sharing, collaboration, and support.

As a 100% online university, Grantham University faculty and students work together via a wide range of social media platforms and technology services. Students are not required to be software developers, but the goal is to make sure that they have a reliable Internet connection and a current operating system. Faculty conduct classes in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. In an asynchronous system, students communicate independently with the instructor and classmates, complete reading and assignments and turn them in at a predetermined deadline. In a synchronous system, students meet via teleconference or chat directly with the professor and classmates.

Community chats, Facebook, and Twitter offer students a way to connect, compare notes on professors or coursework, and provide valuable insight into life as a Grantham student. If I were a prospective student looking at online programs, I would highly recommend taking a close look at these channels. You can learn a lot about a school based on how people talk about it in social media: Are the students respectful of each other and the faculty? Does it support the needs of military students, spouses or veterans? What kind of support is available to students with disabilities?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen is “Be social. Don’t ‘do’ social.” This means that you should take an active role in the development of your own online persona. Ask questions, listen to the answers, and thank people for their feedback. Know your school’s social media usage policies. If you plan to enter a particular professional field, you need to start observing relevant social media usage policies and standards now rather than later. For example, if you’re planning to go into social work, you’ll want to know what professional social workers can and cannot say or do in social media.

Social media is a way of life for most people, and it’s become so ingrained in life that we forget sometimes what a truly game-changing tool it can be. It’s a phenomenal way to work with people all over the globe, letting people not only communicate, but share resources, tools, and ideas. When you use it carefully and deliberately, it can help you prepare for the educational and professional world.


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.

Using Social Media Wisely

Posted by Christine A. Shelly

Social Media bubble smallNewton’s Third Law of Motion says that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. If Newton were alive today, he might add a corollary to this law that says for every action, there’s a corresponding Facebook update, Instagram photo and Tweet. 

Social media is, without a doubt, one of the most revolutionary things to happen in communication since the telegraph. It’s changed the way people connect, the way we behave, the way we purchase or participate, and even the way we learn. In fact, a 12-year study by SRI International for the US Department of Education demonstrated that online students outperform students in a face-to-face classroom.

We are no strangers to technology here at Grantham. Our classrooms combine cutting edge technology with leading curriculum to create an affordable education that fits with your life – not the other way around. With technology usage in the classroom now starting as early as kindergarten, it’s no surprise that generations of students are truly comfortable with the interactive world in which we live. But  are we getting a little too comfortable?

Remember Lindsey Stone, the young woman who thought her inappropriate sense of humor would buy her a “get out of Facebook jail free” card when she posted a photo of herself in a disrespectful pose in Arlington National Cemetery? Ultimately, she was fired from her job with LIFE (Living Independently For Ever), a non-profit organization aimed at helping individuals with disabilities.

Or how about the Domino’s pizza employee who posted a questionable (to say the least) video of himself on YouTube and was subsequently relieved of his job?

Lindsey and the Pizza Guy are just a couple of a growing number of cautionary tales. Not only can a social media misstep cost you the job you already have, it can make it harder for you to get a job in the future. According to Mashable.com, a little more than eight out of every ten employers reviews candidates’ social media profiles before extending a job offer.  Whether or not you “friend” them, a hiring manager is very likely to check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn profiles. So what do they look for? The answer might surprise you.

First of all, if you’re NOT on any social media pages, that can be a red flag for an employer. Especially if they are a prominent local or national brand. Like it or not, social media has blurred the lines between professional and personal – you and your behavior reflect on the people who hire you.

And if you’re not participating in social media, there’s usually only a few reasons why: 1) You don’t know how to use it (not a good argument for being hired); 2) You have no desire to participate (which means you wouldn’t be a brand advocate in social media channels); or 3) You have something to hide (deviant or illegal behavior, financial troubles, etc.).

Suppose you are on social media. Are those photos from last year’s New Year’s Eve party going to eliminate your shot at winning a good job (or promotion, or acceptance to college)? The answer will vary from employer to employer. There are a few simple ways to preserve your professional and your social dignity while you participate in the wide world of social media. Jobvite published this infographic that paints a pretty clear picture: recruiters aren’t just looking at your resume; they’re looking at your online presence.

A few tips to avoid becoming the next cautionary tale everyone talks about include:

1) Assume nothing is private. Ever. If you wouldn’t show it to your elderly aunt, it might not be a good idea to post it on the Internet. Never post anything you wouldn’t want to appear on the evening news. (Just ask Lindsey Stone.)

2) Watch out for hot-button topics. It’s wonderful to be passionate about a cause, but the Internet can behave a lot like a great big dinner party – which means controversial topics can turn sour on you very quickly. Unless your long-term career goal involves advocating for a specific cause, you might consider keeping political, religious, or otherwise controversially-themed posts offline.

3) Know and apply the social media policies and guidelines that are in place at your job, your school, or any other organization in which you take part.

4) Use the privacy settings on every site. Make sure you’re clear about who can view what. Just remember – privacy settings are not infallible, so don’t let them be a stand-in for common sense.

Freedom of speech is a cherished part of our Nation’s Constitution, and I would not advocate censorship or dishonesty. It’s a good idea to think about the Internet the way you might think about getting a tattoo. Whatever you put out there today, you will have to live with forever. And when you consider the growing social net each of us casts – from friends, family and colleagues to employers, congregations, future in-laws, future children or even grandchildren – it’s wise to use discretion whenever you post anything online. 


Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.