Pro-Active vs. Pro-long Debt

Once again, the issue of student loan debt is in the news.  The angle this time, universities suing students over unpaid loan debt.  But what continually goes unaddressed is the fact that nationally, students change their majors 3-5 times and each “change of the mind” results in approximately one semester of extended time for degree completion.  Multiply that times 3-5 and you have gone from a 4 year graduation plan to 6 years spent on a 4 year degree.

Determining a career path and choosing a “good fit” college require tremendous effort and diligence.  I am continually baffled by human nature.  We spend hours searching for the perfect car or house, but typically far less time picking a career or college.  Often we are simply influenced by where our friends go, what our parents do for a living, or the latest craze on TV and in the media.  So it is no surprise that 60-85% of Americans dislike their chosen field of work.

But there is a far better method.

  1. Read the linked article – click here
  2. Determine if you will be proactive or risk being a National statistic
  3. Contact me for a proactive approach for a great college fit and career direction

Part of the problem with student loan debt is the fact that university costs are rising.  But you don’t have to fall into the trap of the 6 year graduation group and go broke in the doing.  And you don’t have to fall into the 60-85 % of disillusioned American workers.  Love what you do!

  1. Go with a purpose
  2. Get a great experience in college
  3. Make a career out of something you love and are Naturally inclined to be successful

What action will you take today?


As a teenager, we all dream about the moment we take ownership of our first vehicle.  We spend hours calculating how we can make it happen; the jobs we’ll do, counting the change or dollars, making those deposits and monitoring the savings account until the day we finally make that first purchase.

Then we reach our twenties and begin dreaming about that first house or townhouse.  We spend hours calculating how we can make it happen: the jobs we’ll do, making those deposits, establishing credit lines and finally making that first purchase.

For both of these big investments we take “Ownership.”  When it comes time to make the big investment in a college or vocational education, we need to be just as diligent and committed.  We need to take Ownership.

There are so many articles about the rising cost of college tuition, the affordability issues and the decreasing funding for financial aid or even performance incentives through state programs.  But what is not being addressed is that fact that you can avoid some of the pitfalls by taking Ownership early.

If the National average is to change majors 3-5 times, and changing majors equals increased numbers of semesters and dollars spent, then it seems reasonable that having a more defined idea about one’s future career endeavors would increase the probability of an on-time graduation and diminished need for additional education expenses.  Taking Ownership means you take action.

The Highlands Ability Battery is a wonderful tool to help chart a course, to take action.  Did you know that by the time you are approximately 14 years old, your Natural Abilities are defined and measurable?  Imagine if you knew what they are, how they match with identified professions and combined that with a methodology to assist in learning about those professions so that you are prepared to choose a major.   You take Ownership – you take action.  That way, when you go to college you don’t waste semesters, exceed your budget, and you graduate with a meaningful degree in something you enjoy and it’s marketable.

Ownership is powerful.

Their Rankings vs. Your Rankings

There are plenty of opportunities to read up on college rankings.  U.S. News, Princeton Review, TIME, Yahoo and the list goes on for those who provide annual updates of the best in the Nation.  However, it is important to recognize that the terms of measuring the “best” are different for each of the groups analyzing the data.

Some of the rankings published are based on graduation rates, faculty resources, and student retention while others are based on student selectivity and alumni giving.  There are lots of combinations and criteria used so it’s important to understand why an organization identifies an institution as #1.   If you use rankings as a guide for creating a list of colleges of interest, are you considering the ranking criteria for those institutions?  Even more important, are those the same criteria that are important to you?

Making sure you get a good fit college experience is grounded in making sure you do your homework and address your own rankings of colleges and universities.  Along with using the criteria of those published in high profile media, have you considered your own desires for social preferences, cultural experiences, geographic location, academic opportunity, athletic opportunity and financial impact?

Just like the statement, “apples to apples” it is important to evaluate your list of colleges and universities with a similar ranking system so that you thoroughly compare all of your opportunities and desires.  This is important both on the front end of the process of college search and on the back end at the time you are making a decision and there are multiple acceptance letters to be considered.  Will you let emotions drive your decision, or will you evaluate one more time?

Critical Questions for Funding a College Education

This week we have a Guest Blog written by Mike Dailey, owner of College Authority in Connecticut.  Mike has 25 years of experience working with families and college funding strategies.  He has spoken at many high schools and brings great insight to the college process.  While he is based in Connecticut, the Internet makes business anywhere a reality.  I hope you will enjoy his perspective and expertise!

Financial aid is a critical piece of paying for college for most families, and even if it is not, why are you spending unnecessary dollars?  Unfortunately, paying for college can be an extremely complex and convoluted process with colleges having different financial aid forms and filing deadlines. On top of that, there are formulas used to determine a family’s eligibility for federal aid and a college’s need based financial aid and non-need aid, scholarships and grants.  Colleges typically do not explain how the formulas are derived but they can easily be determined college by college if you know how to look up their aid statistics. Knowing this information puts the family in the driver’s seat to understand their aid eligibility and to appeal their aid package if they feel they have been shorted.

Between now and January, seniors will be submitting applications and financial paperwork will need to be filed with your institutions of choice.  Have you considered these questions:

  • How to make college affordable regardless of our income level
  • How to maximize our family’s eligibility for college financial aid
  • What are the little known funding sources available even if we don’t qualify for need based aid
  • What to do we do if the value of our 529 college savings plan is down by 25-40%
  • How do we pay for college without sacrificing our retirement
  • How do we pay for college even if I lose my job in the next 12 months
  • How do we determine exactly how much money we’ll need to pay for college expenses
  • Are there colleges that offer the best shot of getting a good financial aid package
  • Is it possible to attend an expensive private university for less than the cost of a state college

Feel free to email us for a complimentary phone consultation by visiting our website:

I want to say a special Thanks to Mike for sharing some of his expertise and taking the time to provide some very important questions for consideration.

College Search

This is a really critical time for juniors and seniors in high school who are college bound.  Juniors need to be actively engaged in a plan and a process of managing timelines of tests and prep programs, exploring options and building their “Full Student Package.”  Seniors, you are applying to colleges and universities.  So, for all of you, I encourage you to visit the CollegeWeekLive website and explore colleges and universities that are part of the site.  As a site member, they provide great tools for students and parents as well as virtual tours, live chats and tons of information.  It’s free so sign up today!

The clock ticks and calendar waits for no one.  Don’t miss an opportunity!  Capitalize on your options.  Need help understanding options and clarifying direction?  Contact me.

Preparation as a Determining Factor in the Duration of Your Degree

When we set out to buy a car, we do our homework.  We check websites for best deals and dealers, price special features, and determine in our mind what our budget will be and the kind of vehicle we can afford.  Part of the equation may even be determining how long we intend to keep and use the vehicle, how serviceable it will be, and how much satisfaction we will get out of using it.

Actually, college is a similar investment.  We do our homework, compare schools, tuitions and, unfortunately, while we may think we budget enough for college, changing your mind on a major can completely change the financial picture.  The national average indicates that students in college change majors 3-5 times.  And although a bachelors’ degree typically only requires 4 years of college, the national average for students’ indicates they require 5.8 years.  Changing majors changes the duration of your degree and has huge financial impact.

Preparing ahead of time can make all the difference in the world from your performance in college classes to the amount of money invested in attaining a 4 year degree and even to the level of satisfaction with the chosen field of study and eventual career.  Preparations can begin as early as middle school and most of them take almost no time to invest beyond what you already do.  But you do have to be organized and have a plan.  Obviously the closer you get to junior and senior year in high school the more you need to be doing and the amount of money you invest becomes more demanding.  After all, tests, college visits and many activities include costs.

Good preparation can save time and money both in high school and in college.  So when you think about getting that college degree, have you thought about how much you are willing to invest in upfront costs of time, effort and money to save thousands on the back end?

Plan Ahead for All Around Success

When you eval­u­ate the cost or invest­ment in some­thing, some­times we humans can be a bit short sighted.  So when it comes to eval­u­at­ing the cost of a col­lege edu­ca­tion and your invest­ment of time, you want to make sure you invest well and pro­vide good mar­ketabil­ity for your­self.  You also want to reduce the poten­tial of debt after graduation.

There is an excel­lent arti­cle, The Best Val­ues in Pub­lic Col­leges that ranks 20 of the best uni­ver­si­ties and rea­sons for the rank­ings.  I point this out because there is an addi­tional fac­tor to pay atten­tion to in these num­bers and it isn’t printed.  The last col­umn on the chart iden­ti­fies “Aver­age debt at grad­u­a­tion.”  This is important…many states, like Florida, offer aca­d­e­mic schol­ar­ship dol­lars to in-state stu­dents based on GPA.  But even with those dol­lars, the “Aver­age debt at grad­u­a­tion” for stu­dents at Uni­ver­sity of Florida is $16,013.  Maybe your most eco­nom­i­cal and major spe­cific insti­tu­tion isn’t in-state.  Look at all of your options.

By doing some work up front, you can explore careers, majors and schools that are inter­est­ing, make sense and are a nat­ural fit for you.  That’s where I can pro­vide you excel­lent guid­ance and steps to cre­at­ing an effec­tive plan for col­lege and career direc­tion.  Those steps help to lead you to a great col­lege experience, on-time grad­u­a­tion with a mean­ing­ful degree that is mar­ketable in a career path geared to your sat­is­fac­tion and reward.

Get­ting the biggest return on an edu­ca­tional invest­ment means:

  • Grad­u­at­ing on Time
  • Reduced or No Stu­dent Loan Debt
  • Mar­ketable Degree
  • High Degree of Sat­is­fac­tion in Career Path

Click here for more infor­ma­tion on cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful high school and col­lege to work­place plan.

Click here for the full arti­cle and table – The Best Val­ues in Pub­lic Colleges.

Click here for evidence that Loan Debt isn’t just for the younger student.


3 Considerations to Avoid Student Loans

At a time when student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in our nation and the national average is that students coming out of college will owe $30,000 in loan debt, it is important to have a plan before you enter college.  That plan needs to include a plan for financing long before the start of college, but even with a savings plan, there are other considerations.  So whether you have lots or little saved for college, here are 3 considerations when determining your financial capability for paying for a college degree.

1 – Evaluate your own financial resources, schools you are looking at and the total cost of a degree.  That doesn’t mean you start eliminating schools strictly because of cost.  But it does mean that you have to know what resources you currently have, consider any potential scholarship awards for sports or academics, and recognize that some degrees require 5 year programs for a bachelor degree.

2 – Estimate the cost of your education at specific institutions vs. earning potential upon graduation.  If the cost of the education far outweighs the earning potential, perhaps other schools should be considered.  On the other hand, if advanced degrees are part of your plan, then the track record of the sending school is important for getting in to advanced programs and costs for education have to be considered over a longer period of time.  If loans are part of that plan, then it is even more important to evaluate earning potential.

3 – Evaluate your position in the equation of Career Directed vs. No Direction.  Twenty years ago college costs were 400% less and students could afford to “change their mind” when declaring majors.  But now, at the cost of a college education and the risk of spending so much on something you don’t want to work at for 30 years or more, the risks are enormous.  Throw in college loans and there is a recipe for disaster.  It is no surprise that John Hennessy, President of Stanford University, addresses the fact that “debt burden” is a huge issue facing parents and students today and that “I Don’t Know” and “Changed My Mind” are the top two choices for majors as declared by culminating freshmen.  Click here to listen to his 7 minute interview on NPR.

A directed plan that helps you sort out majors can save you thousands of dollars and help keep you on a four year graduation track.  Contact me for help with your plan.

Getting the Biggest Return on an Education

When you evaluate the cost or investment in something, sometimes we humans can be a bit short sighted.  So when it comes to evaluating the cost of a college education and your investment of time, you want to make sure you invest well and provide good marketability for yourself.  You also want to reduce the potential of debt after graduation.

There is an excellent article, The Best Values in Public Colleges that ranks 20 of the best universities and reasons for the rankings.  I point this out because there is an additional factor to pay attention to in these numbers and it isn’t printed.  The last column on the chart identifies “Average debt at graduation.”  This is important…many states, like Florida, offer academic scholarship dollars to in-state students based on GPA.  But even with those dollars, the “Average debt at graduation” for students at University of Florida is $16,013.  Maybe your most economical and major specific institution isn’t in-state.  Look at all of your options.

By doing some work up front, you can explore careers, majors and schools that are interesting, make sense and are a natural fit for you.  That’s where I can provide you excellent guidance and steps to creating an effective plan for college and career direction.  Those steps help to lead you to a great college experience, on-time graduation with a meaningful degree that is marketable in a career path geared to your satisfaction and reward.

Getting the biggest return on an educational investment means:

  • Graduating on Time
  • Reduced or No Student Loan Debt
  • Marketable Degree
  • High Degree of Satisfaction in Career Path

Click here for more information on creating a successful high school and college to workplace plan.

Click here for the full article and table – The Best Values in Public Colleges.

Career Decisions – 3 Family Dynamic Issues

Making career decisions is never easy and especially when it involves and affects other people.  High school students are influenced by parents, extended family, friends, teachers and coaches, and media.  College students continue to be influenced by similar factors and by the growing need to become financially independent.  So what family dynamics influence decision making and how much should they weigh in on the final decision for a career path?

Issue #1 – Time Frame- Every individual manages decision making about a career choice with a different level of intensity and time frame for making their decision.  Within a family, there are no exceptions.  The dynamics can create great tension when the expectations of time frame for making a decision differ among the family members.  Parents get anxious when students appear to fail to get engaged in the process.  Students get frustrated and avoid parent confrontations when pressed too hard.  The gap can grow and communications get stressed.  To reduce the potential of a family melt down, understand the time frame needs of each person involved in the decision.

Issue #2 – Values – Recognizing and respecting the values of each person in the process can lead toward a smoother transition to a decision about a career path.  For some, career decisions and ideas about future success are made on the basis of monetary reward while others place greater value on helping others or protecting the environment.  Legacies within families may influence decisions to pursue medicine, law, education or entrepreneurship.  Each family approaches the process differently, but the stress is common and the need to communicate openly remains the same.

Issue #3 – Finances – Paying for college, a trade school or starting a business all require tremendous investments of time and money.  Expectations within families regarding who pays and how much can create a whole separate set of issues and communication breakdowns.  As a part of the on-going family discussions, talk openly about affordability, scholarships, work study programs and student loans.  Understand the expectations of each person involved in making the decisions.  While finances should not be one of the first decision making hurdles crossed when thinking about a career path and school applications, it should be part of the conversation along the way.  The cost of college tuition, trade school tuition, or starting a business impacts an entire family.

Ultimately, the career path chosen by an individual has to come down to their values, interests, abilities, skills and passions in life.  But the impact on others is far reaching within families and the dynamics in making that decision can create situations that feed effective decision making or paralyze the process.  According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”

Where are you in your decision-making process?  What made the difference for you?  If you need help with the process or determining career direction, contact me.