Porcelain Pencils by Katharine Morling

The FBI just announced a sting operation that caught 50 rich and famous parents paying millions of dollars to bribe and cheat to get their under-qualified kids into top colleges (and, mysteriously, some not-top colleges). Last year a magnet school in Louisiana, which had been celebrated for getting poor minority students into top schools year after year admitted to lying and cheating to get the kids in. Read more

Business school applications are due at the beginning of January. Now is the time to withdraw your application.

Because you should not go to business school. If you want to start a company, you should start a company. And if you want to climb the corporate ladder you should do that. An MBA does not help you with either of those goals. Read more

It used to be that internships were just for college kids. But today, the internship is for anyone who wants to do work they have no track record for doing. The internship is learning ground and proving ground for any age. It’s true that kids in college absolutely must get work experience to be employable after college, and an internship is a good way to do that, at any age.

My favorite internship story is when my eight-year-old son got an internship as a stylist and found himself dressing a model.

People in their 30s get internships to make up for lost time in their 20s. And also to land hipster jobs that are impossibly hard to get—this internship at Versace, for example, went for $3200. That’s right. Some internships are so cool that you have to pay for them.

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The advice I’ve given to new grads in the past is to marry rich so you have more options. And don’t go to grad school to get out of difficult choices. Consider moving home with your parents to save money and don’t do what you love.

This is all really good advice.  You should go read those posts, but this year, my message to new grads is that you should make the mistakes I made when I graduated. They were good mistakes to make.

1.  Ask for too much in the interview.
The first job interview I ever had was for the number one children’s book publisher at the time, Harper Row. It was a long shot, but I sent my resume to their New York City headquarters, and I ended up getting an interview – my ten years running our family children’s bookstore was worth a lot more than I realized.

When I got to the interview I didn’t understand that it was my job to sell myself.  I thought that had already been done, and that’s why I got the interview. Read more

One of the things I love most about the advice-to-grads motif is that you learn a lot about the advice giver from the advice. When you force yourself to give short, smart advice, you end up focusing on the stuff that matters most to you.

Sheryl Sandberg, for example, gives amazing graduation speeches, but she always touches on how more women can live the life she is living, and they should aspire to that. That’s what’s important to her. JK Rowling focuses on feeling okay if you fail. It makes sense: she has spoken of how she was on public assistance and suicidal before she was queen of all publishing.

My advice focuses on challenging your preconceived notions. I think this is what I do best, so, of course, I tell people to go out in the world and do this.

Who you take advice from is important. I hate people who are snobs about career advice. You can get great advice from people who are terrible at life. And you can get terrible advice from people with grand successes. The trick is to understand where the person is coming from when they give the advice .

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I have been railing against grad school for a long time, and  I’m starting to believe that you should leave grad school off your resume if you are not working in the field you studied.

Here are five reasons why putting grad school on your resume makes you look bad. (And at the end of this post, there’s a game plan for what to do with any gap you’ll have when you remove grad school from your resume.)

1. Grad school on your resume is a formal announcement of a mistake.
If you are working in the exact field that you went to grad school for, then this advice does not apply to you. But most people do not get jobs that are directly related to their graduate degree. Most people did not need to go to grad school to get a job.

Which begs the question, “Why did you go?” For most people the answer will be that it was a mistake. It was a lot of time and money spent for a degree they didn’t need.

Other people will say they love to learn. This is not a good thing to say because it is not remarkable. At least, not among the people you need to be better than to get hired. Those star employees are learning all the time and do not take time away from work to go to grad school. Are you so stupid that you cannot learn without getting grades? Because this is what it looks like if you say you went to grad school because you love to learn. Read more

If I look back on my blog, I can see that each year there were one or two ideas that just blew me away and ended up dominating my thinking. For example, 2011 my year to be obsessed with school – homeschooling and higher ed, 2010 was my year for disillusionment with happiness research, 2009 was when I started writing honestly about how unglamorousstartup life really is.

I’m excited to think about what this year will bring in terms of the ideas that will capture my imagination. Here are the early candidates:

1. Nature vs. nurture
An important book came out at the end of 2011 that got very little play in the media: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, by Bryan Caplan The title of the book is just awful. Which is probably why it has been roundly ignored. The title should have been Why Nothing You Do As a Parent Matters. That title would have gotten a lot of media coverage, but who would have purchased the book? Read more

The best way to understand earning power—no matter what your age—is to understand the factors that go into it. For example, most people who have careers that are plateauing usually have a learning problem that manifests itself as an earning problem.

And for parents, schooling discussions are really earning discussions. Because you can say that kids with a love of learning are lifelong learners (essential for workplace success today), but truly, who wants an unemployed Ph.D candidate? You don’t want a lawyer who can’t get a job because of poor social skills, you don’t want a kid with perfect SAT scores who marries for money because supporting oneself seems too hard. Every parent wants to raise a kid who is capable of supporting himself and capable of finding engaging work for a stable life.

Here’s how schooling affects earning power. Read more

It used to be controversial to say that college is a rip off. At this point, I think the arguments have reached the mainstream. The problem is that, while some kids win the intellectual lottery, it’s too risky for most kids to skip out on the credentials.

So the question is: how can you make the most of the fact that you are going to college at a time when most people think college does not prepare you for the next step in your life?

Here are seven things you can do right now:

1. If you’re taking out loans, transfer to a cheap school.
Believe it or not, there is no undergraduate degree that is worth taking out student loans to complete. This is true even for the Ivy League: Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton, found that the indicator of whether someone will be a super achiever is not whether they attended Harvard or Princeton, but whether they applied. So the act of seeing yourself as a high achiever is more valuable than taking out loans to attend a high achiever school.

Here are many other arguments as to why you should not take out student loans for college. And Zach Bissonnette wrote my favorite book on the topic. But the bottom line is to figure out how to transfer to a very cheap school right now. Because the biggest thing you can do to preserve your ability to land a job in the future is to keep yourself debt-free now, so you can afford a job that does not pay well. Read more

After yesterday's post, about how stupid grad school is, a lot of people asked, what is an alternative to grad school?

This is a great question.

I see this picture outside my window at least once a month.

I have only a little idea of what’s going on. Should I go to graduate school to figure it out? I could. I could get in. And it’s clear that the next stage in my life will involve some sort of work related to farming. A business. Or writing. Or marketing. But I’m not going to graduate school to learn about agriculture because I have tried going to graduate school to get a jump on my job prospects and it doesn’t work.

When I graduated from college, I was supposedly going to graduate school in history. But I kept writing entrance essays about why I wanted to tell stories about people and history is a good way to do that. And finally, my professor who had stood by me for four years, getting undergraduate research grants for me to study mass movements in colonial America, said, “Forget it. You don't want to be a historian.” Read more