Your Guide to Visiting Colleges and Universities

college visit

Once school is out summer is a great opportunity to visit colleges and universities. Tours can be overwhelming considering the amount of information that is thrown at you. Additionally, your memories of schools may overlap. There are so many things to consider.

Scroll down to find the link to the College Research Guide!

Before your visit sit down as a family and create a list of the important features you want in a college or university. Then, while visiting you can check off the features, which will be helpful later when comparing schools. Also, before you go it is a good idea to explore the schools’ websites. Write down any questions beforehand. The more specific your questions are the better.


  • Talk to current students and professors. They are the experts and a great resource. =)
  • Venture out on your own: The official tour will take you to specific places, but take an unofficial tour by wandering around campus. If there are any physical features of a campus that are important to you, find them and explore them for yourself.
  • There are no “stupid questions!” Ask away. That’s what your visit is for. If certain information is important to you and will impact your college decision then ask about it. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.

Possible questions to ask students, professors, etc.

  • Why did you choose this college?
  • What other schools did you look at?
  • When do students typically declare a major?
  • How easy is it to switch majors?
  • How’s the food?
  • What is it like to live on campus?
  • What do students do for fun?
  • What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about this college?
  • What are the job and graduate school placement rates?
  • What is the freshman to sophomore retention rate?
  • What is the four-year graduation rate?
  • What percent of students have internships?
  • What are some of the top employers for graduates of this college?
  • What is unique about this college?
  • What are the strongest or most popular majors?
  • Where are students from geographically?


CLICK HERE to access the College Research Guide. You can print the guide and write on it, use it on your tablet, or your phone. The document is in Google Sheets. Simply view the spreadsheet and click on File. Then, click Make a copy. Save it and you can edit it as you wish. Please not if you are using your phone or tablet you may need the Google Sheets app prior to accessing and editing the spreadsheet.


mel professional photo by kateMelanie Black is an Associate Certified Academic Life Coach and mindfulness educator. She is passionate about helping others and learning all she can in the process. With ten years of experience in the field of education, she is determined to help students succeed in school and life. “ One of my goals is to continue to be a humanitarian who helps our local community. I am passionate about my relentless pursuit of knowledge and desire to help others.“


Teaching Teens About Leadership With a Family Vacation

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Photo credit:

Let your teen make some important decisions.

Have your teen research possible destinations and activities for the family. Let them have a say in where you are going and/ or what you will be doing. This will make your teen more responsible and they will take ownership of the family vacation. They will be more likely to enjoy the trip.

If you already know where you are going, let your teen plan out one day or set up an itinerary for the family. Give them resources to help them make decisions. The hard part for parents will be committing to do whatever your teen has chosen. Discuss the itinerary together. You may have to help them work out certain things like transportation and managing time from one place to another, etc.

These are some helpful resources:

Google Maps


Teach your teen responsibility by giving them their own money to spend.

Every family needs to make a vacation budget. This is the perfect time to talk to your teen about how to manage money and allow them the chance to practice on their own. When planning the trip your teen can note how they want to spend their money and how much each item on their list will cost. Have them subtract these things from their total. If they have money left over help them decide how they could spend but don’t tell them how to spend it. If they are over budget guide them on how adjust their plan so that they can stay in budget.

Make your teen responsible for his/her own personal stuff.

Guide your teen in making a packing list of everything they need and want to bring on vacation. They can write it down on paper or use their phone to make a check list. Some great apps for this are Evernote and Asana. Also, the reminders app on the iphone can do this too. Look over their list with them and suggest anything you think they should add. Discuss what kind of luggage to take and predict how long packing will take.

Set expectations and rules before you leave.

Clear communication is important before you leave so that the whole family can have fun and create wonderful memories. To make sure that your vacation goes as planned talk to your teen about your expectations of their behavior. Have a family meeting or talk about it over dinner before you go. Let everyone have input.

Is your teen allowed to go off on their own? If yes, when and where?

Does your teen have a curfew?

What time will everyone need to be ready to go each day?

Family rules such as no fighting, cursing, drinking, smoking, etc.

No one is perfect, but express that you hope everyone understands that the rules are in place to ensure that the whole family has a great vacation.

Let your teen take the wheel.

We learn a tremendous amount from our experiences. If your teen has his/ her license let them drive. This a great chance for them to practice their driving skills.

Address any conflicts.

If there is an argument between anyone, your teen and you or a sibling, discuss it right away. Get to the heart of the matter and don’t dwell on it. You are on vacation and don’t want to waste time being mad or having anyone in the family mad at each other.

Allow a friend to tag along.

This can be a great opportunity to get to know one of your teen’s friends. Talk to their friend’s parents beforehand so everyone is comfortable. Exchange contact info and give the friend’s parents an itinerary. Be clear about expectations for the trip. The two teens may want to go off on their own. Express the importance of the rules and communication.

Have fun and make some wonderful memories.

Enjoy your time together as a family. Take lots of pictures and enjoy each other’s company. Keep a joint journal of your experiences with your teen. This could be online or written. When you return your pictures and journal would make a nice keepsake. You could put it all together in a book printed through Shutterfly or some other company.


Promoting Digital Citizenship in Teens

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Creating a blog can be an extremely exciting, fulfilling, and educational activity. A blog is simply a regular, written record of your thoughts and opinions on anything – it’s just written online. It’s pretty simple to set up. Click HERE to get great advice from a successful Jacksonville teen blogger about how to get started.

Developing a personal brand is essential to every teen’s future. Branding is an important concept for teens to think about because more and more employers are using the internet to hire people. Additionally, more and more students are applying to colleges and universities and developing a personal brand that includes a blog can make you stand out to admissions. A blog is a creative display of one’s writing and critical thinking skills. It can have a positive effect on the future. Try it! It could be a positive experience and a great summer enrichment activity.

Getting Started

  1. Choose a blogging site such as WordPress or Blogger
  2. Follow the set up process. No need for premium services.
  3. Choose a name for your blog carefully. Make it easy to spell and say.
  4. Pick a theme. Make it look the way you want.
  5. If you want your own URL without the you can do it later for a small price. Don’t worry with that just yet.
  6. Blog away!

Topics for your Blog

  • sports
  • video games
  • schoolwork and studying
  • religious activities/ attending church
  • Music events or music lessons
  • Lessons of any sort
  • spending time with family
  • school activities
  • fashion
  • current events
  • travel
  • summer camp review
  • community event
  • health
  • animals
  • food
  • restaurants

Blogging Tips from Sue Scheff

  • Use your name in the URL when creating your blog. For example
  • Take the time to review your blog settings, including the comments moderation. Are you comfortable with open comments or would you rather moderate them before they are posted?
  • Select a template that is easy to read for potential college recruiters and future employers. Remember this is not about your friends.
  • The Internet is public and permanent – so is your blog. Publish with care.
  • Keep it positive. If you are having a bad day, simply don’t post.

Volunteering for Teens: Resources and Benefits

Every year teens look for volunteer opportunities whether it is to complete required community hours for high school or just to get involved in a cause they believe in. Why should anyone volunteer? Simply, volunteering is good for you. It is good for your heart and soul. According to Teen Life, there are many personal benefits to community service too such as career benefits, college admission benefits, meeting new people and building relationships, improves communication and critical thinking skills, and there are opportunities to apply academic learning to real human needs. I have talked to many teens who think they are too young to make a difference. ANYONE can make a difference! Teens, you have the ability to help others in more ways than you can imagine.

Our local community here in Jacksonville, Florida has a constant need for volunteers. If you are still looking for that summer learning opportunity then, start volunteering. Get involved now! Below are several resources to help get you started. Start making an impact now!

1. Hands on Jacksonville – Start here and make an account. Search for opportunities which are of interest to you.

2. Volunteen Nation – You can search for local opportunities. Additionally, they have scholarship and grant opportunities. Follow them on Twitter!

3. – Love this website! It is one of the largest websites for young people and social change. There are many simple ideas for teens who want to make a difference in their community. Explore their campaigns for easy ways to make an impact.

4. Teen Life – Search for not only volunteer opportunities, but also enrichment programs and college admissions resources.

Local Opportunities for Teens

1. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens Teen Volunteer Program

2. Baptist Health Volunteer Opportunities for Teens

3. Mayo Clinic Volunteer Opportunites

4.  Jacksonville Public Library – Join a teen advisory board! You need a recommendation letter, parental permission form, and authorization for juvenile record search.

5. UF Health Teen Volunteer Program

6. Jacksonville Human Society Volunteering

7. Hubbard House Volunteer FAQ

8. St. Vincent’s Teen Volunteer Program

9. Nemour’s High School Volunteer Program

Student Futures’s goal is to motivate and help students achieve their dreams. Need help preparing for college? Know a teen who is having trouble maintaining balance in their life? Contact Student Futures today to set up an initial academic coaching consultation to learn more about how we help teens achieve their dreams and become masters of their own path to success.

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!

Summer Jobs for Teens

Show me the money! Teenagers have a big list of things they want. How do we get what we want? We have to work for it. If you want to make some money this summer it’s time to get a job. My first job was delivering a local newspaper. After that I got into telemarketing. Additionally, I did some babysitting to earn extra money. My dad used to offer me $20 to more the lawn too. Then, an additional $10 for edging. After you get a job the biggest challenge is learning how to manage your money, but that discussion is for another time. What kind of jobs are open to teens? Most companies require you to be at least 16 years of age, but there are options for those under 16 too. Click here for a list of Florida companies who hire teens.

Need help making a plan? Need help finding a job, or putting together your resume and cover letter? Need help networking and getting in contact with businesses? Contact Student Futures today to find out how academic coaching can help you achieve your goals and dreams. We want to help you succeed!

Job For Teens:

1. Babysitting

2. Lawn care

3. Fast food restaurants

4. Clothing store

5. Department stores

6. Grocery stores

7. Sporting goods retailer stores

8. Automotive service shops

9. Lifeguard

10. Movie theater

11. Summer camps

12. Amusement parks

13. Pet sitting/ dog walker

14. Golf course worker

15. Car wash

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!


Your Brain on Summer Break

The 2013-14 school year is wrapping up. One of the big concerns now that students are going on break is they are going to forget some of what they have learned this year. Unfortunately, it is a fact that students can unlearn some of what they have worked so hard to accomplish. How do we combat learning losses during the summer? By embracing experiential learning to the fullest! Don’t waste your summer. You will have to go back to school before you know it. Get up and enjoy every day!

First, create a summer bucket list. What are some things you want to do over the summer before you have to go back to school?

1. Writing Practice: Start writing in a journal. Record your summer thoughts and experiences. You won’t regret this. Keep it forever and read it later.

2. Reading: Go to the library. Find a book that interests you. It could be a book about anything! I read a book my senior year in high school and was able to use it my freshman year in college while taking my first English class. Grab a friend and read the same book. Discuss it together. Also, libraries have teen programs with various enriching activities.

3. Math: I challenge you to create a summer budget. An honest budget and then I challenge you to stick to it.

4. Science & Geography: If you have a smart phone you can download the Geocaching app. This is an app that will send you on multiple adventures. Enter your zip code or city and tons of caches will appear for you to choose from. Each cache has latitude and longitude coordinates. Use the GPS on your phone to locate the cache. It is like a treasure hunt, except you don’t keep what you find. You leave it for others to find later. Most of the time each cache has a piece of paper available for people to write their own message and date they found the item. It’s fun to see who has been there before you. Additionally, if you don’t want to hunt for a cache you can set one up yourself for others to find. Grab your friends and go on a treasure hunt!

5. Science: Grab your friends and try a new recipe. Anything! Personally, I would look up recipes containing chocolate. Seeing as it is so hot in the summer you could experiment with fruit and make some yummy smoothies.

6. Social Studies & Science: Go to a park! There are lots of state and local parks around with all kinds of trails where you can go exploring. A lot of the state parks have some fascinating historical information too.

7. Science: Go to the Jacksonville Zoo! There is so much to see and do. Bring a camera and lots of water.

8. Reading and Writing: Research colleges and programs on Smart College Visit. Make an online log of your research through the website. Big Future is another great site to help you with college research. Visit a local college. Walk around and explore the campus.

9. VOLUNTEER! Pick an organization and get involved. Search for opportunities at Volunteen Nation or make an account with Hands On Jax and explore opportunities.

10. Internships: Nemours in Jacksonville offers internships to high school students. This is a great opportunity and an amazing thing to put on any college application. Don’t be afraid to call a business to ask if they have any opportunities available. The worst they will say is no. If you have an interest in animals you could call a local vet office and ask if they could use some summer help.

Ok. Now, there should be no signs of learning losses because everyone is going to go out there and have an adventurous and educational summer break. Student Futures believes in helping students get the most out of their education. Whether a student is trying to prevent learning loss over the summer or prepare for the following school year. Student Futures wants to help students succeed. Contact us today for more information about how academic coaching can help students excel.

Keep smiling and reaching for the stars!