• 6 Books to Boost Your Communication Skills



    I received an awesome email from a reader the other day.

    Before reading 11 Practical Ways to Sharpen Your Communication Skills, she thought being a good communicator was all about having the right genetics or personality. When she realized it’s possible to learn communication skills, an entire realm of possibilities opened up.

    As a result, a fire was lit under her. She’s now enrolled in a public speaking course and sent me an email asking for a list of great books on the topic.

    What about you?

    Are you motivated to improve your communication skills too? If so, here are six great books to help you boost them. These books will help you learn from the best, cultivating top-notch verbal communication skills which will set you apart.

    1. Made To Stick

    by Chip and Dan Heath

    If you wonder why even the best ideas can be quickly forgotten, this book is a fascinating study of the topic. Written by a brother duo, Made to Stick is filled with interesting stories of successful strategies on how to make ideas more memorable and “sticky.”

    2. On Speaking Well

    by Peggy Noonan

    Noonan was a speechwriter for Dan Rather and Ronald Reagan. This instructional book simplifies the process of public speaking with the seasoned wisdom of an expert who has helped leaders and presidents get their ideas out to the world.

    3. How to Speak, How to Listen

    by Mortimer J. Adler

    This book recommendation came from Ryan Yamane, Accelerated Pathways' Vice President of Academic Partnerships and Product Development. An “oldie but goodie,” this book has practical application for anyone—from executive to student to parent and everyone in between!

    4. How to Win Friends and Influence People

    by Dale Carnegie

    This one might seem like a no-brainer, due to its classic status. No list of books on communication would be complete without it, so here it is. Aptly named, this book discusses how to “express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people."

    5. Writer's Guide to Powerful Paragraphs

    by Victor Pellegrino

    Written and oral communication are closely related because paragraphs are the building blocks of successful ideas. This book helps you begin to structure ideas more effectively.

    6. Tongue Fu!: How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict

    by Sam Horn

    Funny title and cover straight from the 90s aside, this book is “exceptionally good for working on improving verbal communication skills,” according to one of our Accelerated Pathways coaches.

    Now that you have your list—where to begin?

    Before you get all excited and order every book off this list, It’s important to remember learning verbal communication doesn’t happen by osmosis. You don’t get better by buying books on Amazon and putting them on your shelf. You have to actually read them. Better one book actually read than six collecting dust on your nightstand.

    And don’t forget you also need to develop your new skills with real, scary practice.

    Whether through a local speech and debate club, Toastmasters, or a public speaking course, you need an outlet where you can receive constructive criticism as you’re applying what you have been reading about.

    By listening to the wisdom of experts and then putting into practice what you learn, you’ll be well on your way to being an excellent communicator!

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  • 11 Practical Ways to Sharpen Your Communication Skills



    “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.” - a 16-year-old boy to Sherry Turkle, psychologist and sociologist studying technology and its effects.

    Scary, right?

    With texting and social media allowing communication to happen without even opening our mouths, it’s no small surprise that “verbal communication skills” is one of the top things employers look for in a new hire.

    In fact, verbal communication is number four of the top ten skills employers most want.

    According to Turkle, “Face-to-face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters.”

    There’s no doubt verbal communication is important. But in an age when it’s much easier to pick up your phone and send a faceless text than to drive to a coffee shop for a face-to-face conversation, we don’t get much practice.

    How can you sharpen those much-desired verbal communication skills in the 21st century?

    Here are some ideas to get you started:


    1. Turn off your phone and computer for 30 minutes a day.

    Go on a walk, take a nap, cook a meal, meditate, or simply do nothing.

    2. Strike up conversations.

    Next time you stand in line at the grocery store, talk with the person in front or behind you instead of hopping on your phone.

    3. Read good books.

    Simply reading will boost your vocabulary, build your attention span, and, through example, help you articulate your thoughts more clearly.

    4. Focus on listening to others.

    When you have a conversation with someone, intentionally listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next.

    5. Meet one new person at work, school, or social groups each week.

    Learn their name, where they’re from, and what they like to do in their free time. Be sure to greet them by name the next time you see them. This might prove to be extremely difficult, especially for those on the shyer side, but it’s a great way to expand your comfort zone in a “safe” environment.

    6. Create your own boundaries and stick to them.

    Decide which (if not all) face-to-face conversations you won’t allow to be interrupted by digital voices. Work on being fully present. As you start weaning yourself off your phone dependence, your friends will learn they may not get an immediate response from you by text. And that’s okay. Seriously.

    7. Know the limits of communication methods.

    Text messages can be great for short messages like where to meet, yes or no questions, a quick check-in, or a simple note of encouragement. But the higher the stakes the message, the more important it is to use more nuanced methods of communication.


    8. Model a healthy relationship with technology.

    Set boundaries for yourself—when you will or won’t use your phone. By modeling these skills and disciplines, you are not only setting a good example, but also helping your children develop healthy communication skills that will last for a lifetime.

    9. Give your undivided attention.

    When people (especially your children) are speaking to you, put down your phone. Even if you’re an awesome multitasker, listen fully to what they’re saying and carry on a distraction-free conversation.

    10. Declare certain rooms or times of day to be “technology-free.”

    Turkle suggests three “sacred spaces:” the dining room, kitchen, and the car. Find out what works best for your family.

    11. Create face-to-face opportunities.

    Help set up study groups, offer to chauffeur a group of teens to Dairy Queen, or host a volleyball tournament at your house. Not only will this help your student grow their communication skills, you’ll be helping other teenagers get more face-to-face time.

    Growing your communication skills isn’t an overnight process. Nor is there a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution for doing so. But there’s a lot of truth in the old adage, “practice makes perfect,” and that certainly applies to honing your verbal communication skills.

    We can all use a little help in using technology as a tool, instead of something to hide behind. There’s nothing scarier than saying, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

    Let’s work to make that “someday” today, for ourselves and for others.

    If you enjoyed this post, you also might like 9 Best Books to Boost Your Communication Skills.


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  • Dual Credit: How Much is Too Much?


    Dual Credit: How Much is Too Much?

    Dual credit is kind of like kale and Christmas decorations–too much of a good thing is indeed... too much. While your student obviously won’t lose what they learn in their dual credit courses, it is easy to get carried away earning college credits that won’t ultimately apply to their chosen degree.

    Your student will spend valuable time to earn those dual credits (you’ll spend good money paying for them). So it’s important to do what you can to ensure your student has a plan.

    First thing’s first…

    How much dual credit should you take?

    Let’s do a quick breakdown of college credits.

    A typical bachelor’s degree requires 120 credits. This breaks down to 30 each year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior).

    Every single school in the US has different transfer policies (yeah, I know, it’s crazy). Some schools will allow you to transfer in upward of 100 college credits from another institution, but the majority of schools will only allow students to transfer in 30 credits while maintaining freshman eligibility.

    So basically, if your student wants to try for freshman scholarships, 30 is the magic number. If your student is more interested in simply earning as much credit as possible, entering college as a transfer student, it’s likely they’ll be able to transfer in anything from 60-90 credits.

    (Side note: Ivy League schools pretty much don’t accept transfer credit. Period, full stop. If your student is trying to get into Harvard, they’re better off studying for a perfect score on the SAT and doing extracurriculars that will help their application stand out. Dual credit isn’t going to be very useful for them.)

    What type of dual credit courses should you take?

    Within those 30 dual credit credits, your student will want to stick with general education courses. General education is going to include your “basic” college courses that everyone needs to take regardless of major—English, history, psychology, humanities, etc.

    The safest dual credit courses to take are:

    • English Composition 1 & 2

    • US History 1 & 2

    • Psychology

    • College Algebra

    • And Humanities of some sort (Ethics, Art Appreciation, Literature).

    These courses are required for the vast majority of bachelor’s degrees and are almost guaranteed to transfer to any of them—regardless of major. However, even though these courses are your best shot, there’s still one step you should take before getting started, which we’ll talk about next.

    How do you transfer dual credit courses?

    While the list above is true for most schools, the safest way to transfer dual credit is to do your research and create a dual credit transfer plan before earning said credit. While your student doesn’t have to know exactly what school they want to graduate from, having a shortlist of potential colleges will help you research transfer policies to ensure the dual credit your student is taking will be accepted at their future college. (You don’t want them to end up making any of these 4 mistakes.)

    You can do some of this research online, but to keep things safe, you’ll want to call and talk to a college advisor at each of the school options to find out transfer policies. Ask them questions like:

    • How many outside credits do you allow a student to transfer to your school?

    • (If your student is earning dual credit via AP or CLEP) Do you have a list of accepted AP and CLEP tests with required scores?

    • If I have a dual credit plan for my student, can I send it to you to view and approve? (Or just simply start asking about colleges/classes specifically. I.e. “Do you take English Composition I from the Mt. San Antonio College?”)

    Keep in mind, you can’t just talk to the advisor of the school your student is taking dual credit classes at. Schools don’t talk to each other, and typically the advisor at that school won’t actually know the transfer policies of your student’s future school.

    So before getting started on a course, you need to talk to the school your student is looking to graduate from to confirm their transfer policies. (I’ve had numerous friends in the community colleges in California lose transfer credit because the community college said their credit would transfer, but the state school disagreed. Don’t let this happen to your student.)

    Transferring credit from community colleges to state schools (in the same state) is typically a bit easier than transferring credits from non-related schools. However, I still recommend you call the state school or check their website to understand their published transfer policies. Sometimes even the administrators at these schools don’t know their own policies.

    Pro tip: Accelerated Pathways works with hundreds of colleges in the United States and knows their transfer policies inside and out. The easiest way to do all this research is to let our advisors do it for you! They’ll create a customized dual credit plan for your student with credits that are guaranteed to line up with both your student’s high school requirements and transfer to the school of their choice. Click here to learn more.

    What’s the deal with accreditation?

    The details of accreditation and how it applies to your student are outside the scope of this blog post, but if you want more information, you should check our blog post on the different types of accreditation.

    The quick summary is: like only transfers to like. Since the majority of non-profit colleges and universities are regionally accredited (the highest form of accreditation), you’ll want to take regionally accredited dual credit courses. Bible colleges, tech schools, and for-profit schools have a different type of accreditation and typically the credits earned from those schools won’t transfer anywhere else.

    30 credits is safe, but is that the right number for YOUR student?

    Something to keep in mind: if your student is transferring with 30 credits or more, they will start college as a sophomore. Competition for enrolling as a sophomore instead of a freshman is a lot lower due to high freshman dropout rates, but your student will be joining a class that is a year older than they are and has been together for an entire year already.

    This is nothing your student can’t overcome, just something to keep in mind. Depending on your student, it may be a good idea for them to take a gap year instead of going straight to college. Travel, volunteer, live some life, and then transfer in at the same age and the same amount of credits as everyone else, but a lot more life experience (not to mention stuff that will look great on a resume).

    Earning less than 30 credits is also a valid option. Your student can still begin as a freshman but with some extra credits and maybe graduate early instead.

    There really is no wrong way to do dual credit. There are some ways that will cause transfer issues, there are some ways that are more complicated than others (pre-med, for example), but when it comes down to it, dual credit allows your student learn college-level information AND learn how to interact with professors and peers in a higher learning setting. And that’s valuable.

    Dual credit is worth it

    At the end of the day, transferring credit is always a bit risky, which means so is dual credit. But it’s such a huge advantage for your student to save time and money that most students find it’s worth the risk (especially if they start with a solid plan and understand college transfer policies).

    If you want to make dual credit safer for your student, our Accelerated Pathways advisors are here to help you create the dual credit and college plan they need—along with the transfer guarantee you need for your peace of mind.

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