As we approach the end of the calendar year, high school seniors that have not started applying to colleges are starting to see that it might be a good time to start. But even procrastination is no excuse to make a poor decision. Even if you feel like you’re behind the curve, so to speak, now is a good time to research and learn about where you want your future to go. As you ponder if, when, and where to attend college, consider these three checkpoints.
Deliberate: the mistake that many incoming college students make is that they don’t clarify their destination before they board the train. In other words, students go to college without knowing what they want their future and career to be about. Deliberate on your purpose, and find the best path (not just the quickest or most popular) to take you to your destination.
Decide: once you’ve decided what you want to do with your life, find a college (or a career) that fits that purpose. Once you’ve found that college, research the financial aid that they offer and being to apply for as many private scholarships as you can find.
Do: do what you were made to do. Don’t take no for an answer. People, organizations, and employers appreciate persistence. Even with regards to college, don’t take no for an answer.
A final note: college is a financial minefield. Don’t jump into it without proper protection, preparation, and training.
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To order his book for only $10, click here.
Zachary is speaking at the TEDxYouth@GreaterNashville Event on November 19th, 2011 at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Tickets for the all-day event are on sale for $10 ($12 at-the-door), and can be bought here. Please email email@example.com for more information. We hope to see you there!
Good morning readers! I recently received this question and wanted to answer it for all of you; I think it’s something that all college students think about.
“How important is class size when choosing a college? I want to be able to talk to my professors if I need help and I’ve heard that I can’t really do that at large colleges.” –Student in Lexington, KY
First of all, your relationship with the professor will depend on your willingness to open up to them. In other words, you have to learn to be a suck up – a teacher’s pet, if you will. From this point forward in your life, things will be a lot more competitive. Scholarships, college, jobs, and promotions – you have to find a way (preferably a legal and ethical one) to get ahead of the pack, so talk to your professor. Your relationship with a professor is not dependent on how many other students listen to their lecture.
The bottom line is this: most students rarely care to speak to their professor, so if you make an effort to connect with them, the professor will be much more likely to remember your name. If you’re doing your homework and giving good effort in your work, they will be far more inclined to assist you. Generally, professors are required to have “open office hours”, which allows students the opportunity to ask questions and acquire knowledge outside of the classroom. In fact, I would venture to say that most people that teach for a living are elated when a student wants to gain more knowledge.
There are always a few bums in the lot; there will be professors that would rather watch soap operas than help you with your homework, but perhaps the most important thing to remember when you are trying to get the attention you need is this: you are the boss. Your tuition pays their paycheck. Professors are obligated to help you, because you’re paying them for it. (Read this article to see how much you really pay your professor to hear them talk.) If all else fails, send emails and make phone calls until you get the meeting that you want. Persistence is often the best way to get what you want, and if you genuinely want knowledge, no university or professor should have the audacity to turn that away.
Do you have questions about college or financial aid? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. He can be reached at Zachary@freemoneyplease.com.
Debt is like a brown bear. Dangerous, unforgiving, vicious in any capacity.
The only difference between debt and a brown bear is that one of them hibernates for part of the year. I’ll let you figure out which one that is. Over sixty percent of college students will drop out before graduation, leaving them with student loan payments and no degree. There are almost twenty million college students in the United States and over half of them will graduate with a student loan debt of at least $10,000.
Of course, with the unemployment rate steady at over 9.0%, the chances of finding a job go down, and covering that debt becomes a challenge – the kind of challenge that leaves you with no food on the table. Consider how much debt you’re willing to take on (hopefully none), and stick to that. Choose an affordable school that won’t leave you running from the momma brown bear of debt.
The last thing that anyone wants to do is punch themself in the face. With tuition rates across the country steadily increasing at an average of nine percent per year, there are few controls that students have over the financial choices of a university. However, there is plenty of control available in their own decisions.
Today, I want to share with you a story that, I hope, will convince you to heavily consider how much money you’re planning on spending to attend school. In the interest of confidentiality, I’ll refer to him as Dr. Smith.
I was under the impression that being as educated as possible would lead to great doors being opened for me, and I was right, in a way. Doors were opened for me that would have never been opened if it weren’t for the level of my collegiate education, but what I failed to see in the process of receiving my education was that the cost was simply insurmountable. After high school, I was influenced to attend a private university because it would help me to attain the prestige that I desired, so I went without any question whatsoever. Cost didn’t matter because I was convinced that a degree would get me exactly what I wanted. Once I got through the first level of college, I went to another private school to attain my master’s degree, and after that, yet another private university to attain my doctorate degree.
As far as being educated goes, I’ve done it all. I have published many works and met incredible intellectuals, but there is just one problem: I have so much debt that the only way that I will ever get out of it is by my own death. Sure, I love what I do, but the burden of the cost is so great; my wife and children live in another state, I fly back during summers, if I’m not teaching, and Christmas break. The only chair that I could find open in the subject area that I was given my expertise was here, a thousand miles from the people that I love.
In retrospect, my life would be much different if I didn’t have $250,000 in loans that I’ll have to pay every day of my life for the rest of my life. I love teaching, but the burden of debt is so heavy, not even my life insurance policy will cover the cost of my education once I die. I wish that there were something that I could do to change my situation, but I’m paid a teachers’ salary, even though, by many people’s standards, I am highly qualified. I wish that I had considered another path, because I honestly believe that I could have gotten exactly where I am now with more affordable degrees. Prestige only goes as far as your pride will let it, and that pride will cost people dearly.
I agree. Students in the U.S. graduate with an average of $10,000 in student loan debt. Our national student loan debt is over $850 billion, and growing at exponential rates with no sign of slowing…ever. Not only is this loan burden tough on Dr. Smith, but it’s tough on the economy. If you have an issue with the growth of the economy, listen up. Unemployment rates are higher than ever and test scores are lower than ever. We’re also spending more money on school than we ever have. Maybe we need to reconsider the way that we do things.
Dr. Smith is an incredible person. He is brilliant and intelligent, but he is stuck. The only way that he will get out of his debt is by his own death. How depressing is that? As clear-thinking students, it’s important that we consider this kind of thing before we sign a loan paper. Dr. Smith didn’t, and now he’s paying the price. I sure don’t want to be in his shoes.
Consider your future as you prepare. Don’t punch your future in the face.
I am blessed with the opportunity to sit down with many people, young and old, wise and unwise, to discuss all sorts of things. I’ve certainly learned a lot since I started authoring, blogging, and speaking – probably more than I’ve actually taught. But one trend that I’ve noticed as of late is particularly alarming: the overwhelming majority of people in my generation lack any sort of understanding about their own purpose, goals, and desires in life. Why is this a problem? Because they buy the college “boarding pass” without ever bothering to define their destination. And it ain’t cheap.
If you think about the basic concept of traveling, you see that there are many different options. There are planes, trains, cars, boats, bicycles, horses, buggies, dolphins that swim out to rescue you at sea, and of course, human legs; you can get pretty much anywhere you want, any time you want. But I’m sure you’d agree that just getting in a taxi and driving around until you find your destination is a much more expensive option than knowing in the first place.
To illustrate my point, let’s hypothetically say that you buy a plane ticket. You wanted to go to Los Angeles, but you didn’t tell the ticket agent, so you just got on the flight to Dallas because “that’s what everyone else was doing.” Well, toss a rock and call me Nancy! Not only did you waste your money on a plane ticket to somewhere you didn’t want to go, but you’re stuck there with a bunch of people who are in the same predicament as you: clueless and stuck. And hey, you could have avoided this completely if you had simply defined your destination in the first place.
I’ve spoken many times with bestselling author Dan Miller, and one thing that he always says is this: if you want to be successful, you must do what you love to do. It sounds like such a simple concept, yet how many students attend college with any sort of idea of what they want to do with their life? The average college student changes their major five times before they graduate, if they even make it that far.
With the incredibly diverse culture and economy that we are blessed to live in, we have the opportunity to be whatever we want. We can be astronauts, mechanics, chefs, firefighters, soldiers, doctors, lawyers, writers – anything. We all have a different destination, yet we are all told to take the same road – college – whether it’s the best path to our destination or not. It is a super-expensive and dangerous toll road; don’t get on it without an idea of where you’re headed. Don’t make the mistake of making college your destination, either. For many, college is but a glorified lawnmower that slowly gets one from Point A to Point B…some of the time. If you don’t believe me, go down to the coffee shop and see how many college grads are working there.
Once you know what you want to do with your life, pick up Free Money Please and learn how go to college for free. You can achieve exactly what you want to do with your life, and that may or may not include college. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the common college toll road is going to automatically lead to your success. You’ll get where you want to go when you make the arrangements yourself.
One of the most common thefts in the United States is time theft. Whether you spend a little too much time at the water cooler or you just pee every ten minutes, we are all guilty of a little bit of time theft. But perhaps no entity is guiltier of this than colleges and universities. Let me be clear: what I am about to share is a widespread epidemic, not an isolated event.
According to The College Board, the average cost of tuition in the United States is $3,805 per semester for public, in-state schools, and $13,647 for private schools. So let’s say that Carolyn attends the public school and Mike the private. All of these costs are broken up according to a single semester.
$3,805 $13,647 Tuition
$1,400 $1,400 Books
$3,000 $3,000 Room and Board
$1,200 $1,200 Meals
$9,505 $19,247 Total
Let’s assume that both students take a full load of classes. Regardless of how many hours the student chooses to take, many universities will only charge up to twelve hours credit. So let’s say that Carolyn and Mike are full-time students, taking twelve hours; they each have four classes for the semester. If we do our math under the assumption that there are fifteen weeks in a semester, then each week at college will cost Carolyn $634 and Mike $1,283.
We stated earlier that they each take four classes (twelve hours total, each class is three hours) so that means that each class, regardless of how many times it meets per week, costs Carolyn $158 and Mike $321. Let’s say that they both take all four of their classes on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule; it costs Carolyn $1.05 per minute to listen to her professors speak. Mike? He pays $2.14 per minute. Wow, right?
Here is the frustrating part: most professors will only introduce themselves during the first week of classes and rarely teach relevant information; they never use the entire class period. It’s very common to go to class for only thirty minutes the first day and then have off. What does that cost? Well getting out of her classes early the first day cost Carolyn about $50. It cost Mike about $96. But we’re happy about it?
We get excited when our professors cancel class for a dentist appointment or “personal day”. Missing a class at all, whether its cancelled or we just choose to skip, costs Carolyn $79. It costs Mike $161. I’m not sure why no one ever talks about this, but I’m pretty sure if a hundred students got ripped off of $161, the university would have a riot on their hands. Universities still gather revenue off of missed classes. One class of one hundred students will gather revenue of about $16,000 per day for a private college.
Maybe it’s a good thing no one thinks about these things; colleges would be in legal battles constantly. I don’t remember signing a contract that allowed the theft of time to be permissible in my college experience.
Moral of the story: Colleges can be con artists. Hold them accountable for teaching information for the duration of class and information that is relevant. You’ll get out of your education what you put into it, assuming there is information to be had and your university and professors have an obligation to make up time to you that you paid good money for.
Some days I think it would be wiser to self-educate on Wikipedia all day long for free down at Starbucks.
For more information about Zachary or his book, please visit http://www.freemoneyplease.com
After a summer-long hiatus, I’ve returned, and with an unfortunate reminder: its time for college. Americans buy hundreds of dollars of merchandise for dorms and apartments, buy school supplies and pay tuition bills, not to mention all the other fees that must be forked out simply to exist on a college campus. Let’s explore a few examples of the robbery that we’ve so blindly come to accept.
The Wellness Fee – This fee, common on college campuses across the nation, is vague and ambiguous – and that’s intentional. So, what exactly is a “wellness” fee? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not health insurance, it’s not medical care, and it’s not free Band-Aids. While those categories would be admirable, typically, wellness fees are used to provide items such as contraceptives, generally through organizations that can more discreetly distribute them, such as the Student Government Association and/or Student Health Center. I’m not saying that every school does this, but it’s certainly worth a little investigation for those parents who would prefer that their hard-earned tuition payment be used for treadmills and spin classes rather than condoms and birth control pills.
The Green Fee – This fee is not for the putt-putt course on campus, folks. Rather, this common college fee is a great example of the political agenda of many institutions. While almost every college or university has recycling options available on campus, many schools are now introducing a fee that requires students to contribute money to the recycling effort. While I appreciate the idea behind it – kind of – this fee has no redeeming education value whatsoever; asking a family to pay an extra $50 per semester to have the ability to recycle old homework is border-line unethical, especially when tuition rates are increasing by an average of ten percent per year.
The Parking Fee: While many high schools across the country charge $10-20 per school year to park on campus, colleges are taking it to the next level. Average costs for a parking permit range from $50 to $200 per semester at any college or university. As if five-to-six digit tuition prices aren’t enough, students are being required to pay an additional $400 per year simply to park their car while they attend class, if they can even find a spot.
Textbooks: Face it: textbooks now fall under the category of “fee”. In past years, it has been easy for students to shop for their textbooks outside of the university bookstore system. Shopping outside of the school bookstore saved me about $1,000 in my first year alone. However, colleges are starting to see this gap in the revenue stream and have begun a process that monopolizes the industry and makes outside shopping nearly impossible. Colleges are working with textbook manufacturers to create “custom editions” that are supposedly “tailored” to fit the needs of a specific university. What this really means is that they change a few words around to make a legal difference between the custom edition and the standard edition. This gives universities the incentive to use the custom editions because they, in turn, make a share of the profits of the custom edition. This means that when students finish their class for the semester, they can’t sell their books to anyone at another college or even the same college. The editions of textbooks are updated so often that even new, unopened textbooks are becoming outdated. Yet it is a requirement to purchase these books, which you can only get from one source. Sound a bit like a monopoly?
If I may be so bold, America, we need to ask more questions and hold institutions accountable. If you feel compelled, investigate. If you don’t believe me, research. Call the college or university and see exactly how they spend their (your) money. I guarantee you that it’s not as responsibly as we’d like to think. If we desire our finances and education to improve, we need to pay more attention to the educational vacuum being shoved into our pockets.
Article Written by Zachary Freeman, Author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. He can be reached at Zachary@freemoneyplease.com.
Need money for college? Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid is available today for just $10 in the FMP Store, located here.
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“Get outta the way! Get outta the way! She is in labor!” yells the doctor as he sprints towards the delivery room. As I leap out of the way, I hear a baby crying. Chase has welcomed her first child, Debt, into the world.
Once upon a time, there once was a lovely, popular, beautiful lady named Chase. She was full of promise and she was very wealthy; she seemed perfect in every way. Sadly, she was also what one might call, “easy”. Everyone wanted her, and everyone got her; she had no requirements or restrictions. She constantly tempted people, whether rich or poor, and even convinced some of her lovers that all of their wildest dreams would come true if they would just use her. She even offered money, rewards, and gifts to her lovers so that they would use her more frequently.
She was constantly getting in students’ pants, and sometimes she even snuck into their parents’ as well. If only they knew that this girl was trouble! That sneaky, tempting, plastic girl just inserted herself everywhere she could find a spot and no one seemed to care!
After a while, people started to get the idea that maybe Chase was getting around and sure enough, she turned up pregnant. Who impregnated poor Chase? Why, you did. Everyone that used her did. You, when you bought that new pair of jeans at the mall; that frat boy that supplied the alcohol at the party last night; the young married couple that bought the extravagant honeymoon; the teacher that needed car repairs to get to work; all of Chase’s lovers impregnated her with debt.
“Well, that’s unfortunate for Chase,” you may say. But in reality, she’ll be just fine. She doesn’t have to pay for anything – you do. You see, Chase’s parents found out about what you did to her, and they’re mad. They said that, if you didn’t pay her back for all that you used her for, plus extra, they are going to take everything that you have and send you to jail. You’ll be broke – and in jail.
So, congratulations, new parent. Enjoy your new baby. Its fat and ugly and horrifying like Frankenstein. Unlike any other child, you want to get rid of this Debt kid as soon as you can – and forever. You don’t want it showing up twenty years down the road at the Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family there! “Oh, I didn’t tell you? I have a kid…”
Moral of the story: Debt would have never been born if you hadn’t fallen for Chase. Chase was used. Chase was abused. And after Chase became impregnated with debt, she took all that you had, and left you with nothing. If you haven’t met Chase, don’t. Save yourself for something better. Besides, you can’t afford that expensive and unfaithful Chase chick, and she sure isn’t the kind of lady you want around to manage your money.
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. For information on booking Mr. Freeman to speak to your group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been blessed with many amazing opportunities in my short, nineteen-year life: I get paid to go to college, I have an amazing group of readers, I was gifted with the ability to think critically (contrary to what my professors may argue), and my heart breaks when I see my peers leaving school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. For those of you who aren’t quite sure where I stand on the topic of modern education, enjoy.
Unlike most, I don’t believe that a college degree is worth the sacrifice of living in a trailer and driving a bicycle to work for the rest of your life. I have been called many things – naïve, young, ignorant, etc. – but this doesn’t offend me. You see, I live in the real world, where debt causes divorce and heart attacks; where student loans, even from Uncle Sam, are poisonous, terrible examples of our blind willingness to acquire unnecessary debt.
In the first edition of my book, I covered the ten steps necessary to improve one’s chances at acquiring scholarship money, and it works…when done correctly. Parents, you must be on the same page with your child in their hunt for money. That doesn’t mean you should write their essays, it doesn’t mean you should fill out their applications, and it certainly doesn’t mean to reward laziness with free money for college. We aren’t ten-years-old anymore; we don’t need an allowance. The entire college transition period is a chance to allow your child to become an independent individual, financially, emotionally, and socially.
I get emails and letters from people who read my book and saw great success. On the other hand, I also regularly hear from folks who received no money for school and think that I’m an idiot. Much like Dave Ramsey, I keep all of my mail. I have no secrets, and I make no guarantees, but I do like to think that I have a healthy dose of common sense.
I would love to transfer some of that common sense to some of you while choosing college. Well, all of you. If you need education to do what you want to do with your life, then go to college. If you desire to make $100 per hour as a plumber, skip school and do it.
I heard a story today that really cooked my beans. Rant time, here we go! First of all, you have to understand that I have sympathy for those who are in tough places. Things happen in life that we cannot control and I get that. But, I don’t enjoy hearing people complain about financial problems after I find out that they got themselves into it by doing something stupid. Its like that one guy in Seven Pounds that asks for a tax extension yet has a brand new BWM registered in his name.
The Ten-Step Guide on How To “Cook Zachary Freeman’s Beans”:
Step One: Go to a college that you can’t afford.
Step Two: Graduate with debt and move back in with your parents.
Step Three: Buy yourself a brand new truck without an income.
Step Four: Spend your spare time playing Call of Duty.
Step Five: Complain because you have no money to spend on “hot dates”.
Step Six: Refuse to get a job because you “can’t find one”.
Step Seven: Refuse to leave home to search because you’re on Level Eighty.
Step Eight: Stop making payments on your new truck.
Step Nine: Ask your parents to make payments for the above stated truck.
Step Ten: Complain to about your situation.
True Story. Here’s a radical idea: work. Get outside, disconnect from activities that waste time, and get your hands dirty. If you’re unhappy with your circumstances financially, fix it.
On a more positive note, I have had the opportunity to see some of my peers working very hard this summer. I know there are plenty of you out there who work very hard to pay for your school, pay your bills, etc. And for those people, I want to extend a great big high five. May God bless all of you and instill a powerful drive and ambition to create a positive financial future for yourselves and future family.
You know, for having a massive deficit, the United States government sure is a generous group of people. They offered a whopping $14.7 trillion dollars last year towards education, yet the cost of university tuition is still rising at five to ten percent per year. Aside from burying our nation’s economy even further, this offering of money towards education in the form of student loans is simply indebting students to the federal government.
Folks tend to believe that, just because the government backs a certain loan, it must be the better deal. Reality check: the government isn’t in the business of making your life easier. They are there to pull revenue, just like anyone else in the loan business. In fact, the federal government offered me $14,000 in loans last year knowing that I already had my education paid for; I didn’t need a loan, yet I constantly got letters encouraging me to sign the paper and get the check.
They entice students with “deferred payment plans” and “low interest rates” but ironcially forget to tell you that student loans are one of the only types of debt that are not erased in bankruptcy. This is a problem. 1 in every 160 people went bankrupt in the United States last year. The United States currently boasts a student loan debt of $830 billion, which, oddly enough, is actually more than we hold in credit card debt. Two-thirds of American graduates will graduate with an average of $24,000 in debt. If you find yourself worried about recessionary economic pressure, maybe you should consider how many terrible debt risks our government is taking by offering loans without asking questions. Maybe less government intervention in the education industry is where we should be heading.
We should always say no to debt, even if Uncle Sam is offering it on a golden platter. No amount of education is worth burying yourself in debt for your entire life. My solution: work hard, get paid, apply for scholarships, go to an affordable school, and tell Uncle Sam to shove it where the sun don’t shine, regardless of his begging and pleading.
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. He can be reached at email@example.com.
If you need help finding free money for college, buy Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid here, and feel free to look around on the website for more tips and information on getting through college debt-free!
By Zachary Freeman
Students are elated when they discover that they can choose when to go to class. In fact, most classes don’t take attendance whatsoever, leaving students with the full decision of whether they want to go to class or take a nap. My history class last semester was rarely more than half full, but aside from the toll that skipping takes on one’s grades, I think you’ll be surprised to find out how much money you – or your parents – forfeit to skip just one class.
According to CollegeBoard, the average tuition at an in-state, public university is $3,803 per semester. Meaning that, for an average student with an average class load – we’ll call him “Skip”, for obvious reasons – the cost of learning from a professor is about 45 cents per minute. Skipping just one class, one day costs Skip almost $34. Ouch!
But, let’s say that Skip comes down with a cold and misses all of his classes for the day. Unfortunately, this happens, and it can’t really be completely avoided; but, aside from Mom and Dad being dreadfully worried about Skip’s health, they themselves become sick to find out that they lost almost $135 because of Skip’s one day of missing class. Think of all the stuff that much money can buy!
Let’s just say that Skip wants to go out-of-state to escape the wrath of his parents, where the average tuition is $5,995 per semester. Assuming he keeps the same full-load class schedule that he would have had in-state, it now costs a whopping 71 cents per minute to listen (or not listen) to a professor. Skipping one class costs him almost $54. Now that he took a tuition hike, one sick day puts him $214 in the hole. Heck, for that much money, I would suffer through class vomiting my brains out!
But wait, someone has decided that Skip needs an elite private education so that he can be rich and successful one day. The average private university education costs $13,647 per semester, meaning that Skip pays an astounding $1.62 per minute to go to class. Each seventy-five minute learning session costs him $122. Every sick day costs him $488. Say that skip gets pneumonia and misses a week of class; his illness costs Skip, or his parents, nearly $1,000. Gone. Forever. And with nothing to show for it.
Why do I feel that it’s so important that people hear this message? Two reasons: first, although college may be helpful for success, paying more for an undergraduate education is unnecessary, expensive, and risky. Second, students, you should think twice before skipping a class because it costs someone a lot of money. At a hundred and thirty five bucks a day, the only thing keeping me from going to class is my own death.
The second edition of Free Money Please is releasing in June! In honor of this momentous occasion, we are holding a little contest. How do you win? Great Question.
To win, submit a question of your choice, related to college, financial aid, scholarships, etc. either by commenting on this post (be sure to include your name and email address in a comment) or emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries will be taken until May 1st, 2011. You can submit up to three questions, but you can only win once.
Zachary will select five of your questions to appear (and be answered) in the book. Each of the five lucky folks whose questions are chosen will receive a signed copy of the new Free Money Please and a big ol’ recognition in the June 2011 newsletter!
Let’s help get students and parents ready for college! Question away and good luck!
In today’s economy, its tough to justify spending thousands on a degree, let alone one that you can’t use or don’t need.
Now, tell me if I am crazy or if this is just common sense: if you were a world-class basket-weaver, why would you spend thousands of dollars to get a degree that states that you are now qualified to weave baskets? If you were an incredible singer, why would you pay thousands to have a college tell you that you are a great singer? People like to get what I call, “unnecessary degrees”, and it happens all too often.
On the other hand, we have what I like to refer to as, “jobless degrees”. People study four years of art history at an Ivy League school but can’t find a job after graduation and are saddled with thousands in debt. People get doctorates in economics from big private schools, but are over-qualified for the job or under-compensated if they happen to get it. This trend directly correlates with students choosing a major that won’t help them to get a job upon graduation.
The average student will change his or her major an average of five times throughout their collegiate career. If you’ve never picked up a copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, I highly suggest that you do. It is a guide made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics that helps people find a job in a field that has great potential for job openings, and it will help you to find out an area that you can find a job that you will love to do.
Find something you love to do in life, but be careful when choosing a major of study that has the potential to leave you homeless and unemployed.
Greetings!: Today, we unveil a new section from the second edition of Zachary Freeman’s Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid, entitled Scholarships Are Your “Escape Goat”, releasing this summer.
In the immoral words of Michael Scott (of NBC’s The Office©), scholarships are your “escape goat”. In fact, requiring your student to apply for scholarships is a quick, silent, and over-their-head way telling of them that you have a hunch that they might fritter away their education and waste your money. Think of college making an investment in your child, just as a venture capital firm would invest in a new business. No good venture firm is going to invest in someone who has gone bankrupt four times to start an organic cat food business! They are going to pump money into someone who they see potential in, with those intangible qualities for success – just as scholarship committees do.
As a parent, you are the scholarship committee for your own money – The Mom and Dad Possible Offerers of Payment (or MADPOOP, for short). Societal pressures tell parents that they are obligated to pay for their student’s education, but in my opinion, there is no reason why any parent should give their hard earned cash to a known failure. Some parents are bold (aka smart) enough to set up a personal interview with their student, as if they are a legitimate scholarship committee.
Answers that should win your money:
- I want to graduate college with no debt
- I’m currently living under a bridge
- I can’t afford to eat
Answers that should get a rejection stamp:
- I will need money to spend on partying/vacations
- I need a brand new car
- My wardrobe is outdated
It is important to manage the risk of investing in your student, just like you would manage the risk involved with an IRA, mutual fund, or any other investment. Sadly, tough love is sometimes necessary. “I’m sorry, MADPOOP will not be awarding you a scholarship this year, better luck next year.”
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As I sat on a painfully long flight across the Atlantic Ocean, my entertainment options were limited; I could either write or skydive (admittedly very dangerous to do without a parachute). But, after a brief nap and an interesting dream about a chicken, my mind gave birth to the following, completely unrelated question: Why are people so excited to spend an arm, a leg, a rib, and their left eyebrow on a college education? In fact, I have heard stories about families taking out a second mortgage to pay for their child’s degree, because they were convinced (by the elite college) that the elite education was worth the massive amounts of debt.
Here’s the way I see it: purchasing an education is just like purchasing any other commodity (televisions, washing machines, pure-bred puppies, etc.) A salesman is always right there to meet you and tell you, “this is the best one”, to compel you to buy it. Colleges are just like used car salesmen: slimy, greedy, and in some cases, big fat liars. They will do whatever it takes to get you to buy their overpriced education, including but not limited to, making ridiculous claims that students (and parents) wholeheartedly believe.
The Top Five Things Colleges Will Say to Get You to Commit (and Why You Shouldn’t Buy It):
- “Graduates from our school are successful” – obviously. Plenty of colleges will show you examples of their successful graduates, but beware. Success is won by those who pursue it; no college degree ever guarantees success.
- “You will be able to have free time here” – free time is a choice that you make. Any college who offers you free time probably doesn’t have much else to offer.
- “We will give you a scholarship boost“– right after they give you a 9% tuition hike. Sometimes colleges are even bold enough to include a loan in your financial aid package. Make sure to read everything that they put in front of you regarding money, including the fine print.
- “You will fit right in” – this one makes me chuckle. How would a college official who has never met you know if you would fit in? This one is getting desperate.
- “We have the best programs in the country” – DUH, they are going to say that! When is the last time you heard a college say, “we are the 385th best engineering program according to Newsweek™?
Is a degree from a prestigious school really that much better? We may never actually know. But there are plenty of professionals that will tell you that companies hire based on potential, intelligence, and skill levels. Strong companies do not hire someone because they graduated from a specific school. If you don’t agree with me, do some research. I have spoken to plenty of extremely successful people who do not have an elite degree, but will tell you that its hard work, not a college, that breeds success. Before you choose a college, do the research for yourself. Remember that colleges are businesses and they are looking to make a profit off of you; guard your wallet so the flying, money-eating, elitist college munchkins don’t steal it!
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. His articles can be seen on www.freemoneyplease.com and he can be reached at Zachary@freemoneyplease.com.
Many people would love to know what the key to success is. Unfortunately, I cannot confidently answer that, but I can tell you what the answer is not: debt. When speaking, I always make it a point to set out the lone ground rule of my deposition: debt is bad. According to Dave Ramsey, the number one cause of divorce in America is money problems. In fact, most couples that are successful in avoiding money problems can attribute their financial stability to early financial planning. What does this mean for the young student getting ready to start their financially independent life? DON’T ACQUIRE DEBT, AT ALL COSTS.
Ever since the birth of credit, people have decided that it is okay to buy things that they really cannot afford, including college educations. People build up this idea that the deciding factor between their future success and future failure is some piece of paper with some ink on it from some college that has had a lot of people receive that same piece of paper before you did. Don’t get me wrong; knowledge is the key to success, but debt is not.
Today, I share with you the short story of a successful publishing company vice-president, Successful Man A:
Successful Man A went to community college, transferred to a public in-state university, and became an executive that makes a high six-figure salary. When asked about his opinions on education, he simply stated that people spend too much.
Did Successful Man A become successful because he got an elite education and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars? No. He became successful because he got a good education and had the personal skills required to land an important, well-paying job. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight, but you better believe that his current employer was far more excited about the skills that he brought to the table than the name on his undergraduate degree.
A big ol’ number on the bank account balance statement is commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful things on Earth. Money quickly becomes an ugly, wart-covered, fire-breathing, baby-panda-eating monster when that big number becomes negative. Cultivate personal skills, not personal debts.
Remember that Bill Cosby show, Kids Say The Darndest Things? When it originally aired in 1995, I was only four years old and, as far as I knew, these “darn” kids had a completely accurate view of the world. “Why is this funny?!” four-old-Zachary said to himself (yeah, I’m using third person). My parents laughed heartily, not only at the baffled look on my face, but because kids in general are just so clueless. Kids don’t know any better!
High School Students: You don’t know any better, either. Unfortunately, turning eighteen doesn’t turn you into a wisdom-filled adult overnight. Look, I graduated from high school last summer, and I can tell you firsthand, high school students don’t know anything about the way the world works. They never think about the fact that a container of laundry detergent costs an hour of wages, until they have to do their own laundry. They don’t think about having to eat Ramen for a week, until they run out of cash. Many of them don’t have an understanding of the concept of having nothing, until they get out on their own, and have nothing.
The Point: Save some money while you can in high school, so that you can live on it in college. Simply living life is far more expensive than you think.
Sometimes I can’t help but ask myself, why is college so expensive? How can tuition can be increasing by thousands of dollars per year but colleges still have to cut programs and staff? Governments, families, and students struggle with these questions constantly, but the answer lies in the simple truth of fundamental economics.
Boring language time! If we look at the college “business model” from a supply and demand mindset, we can better understand the answers to all of our college-related financial questions. Colleges rely on income from the private investor (parents and students) as well as the federal government (which is actually broke). Colleges are suffocating; let’s take a moment to explore why.
Economic laws state that when a certain commodity (in this case, a college education) is in great demand (which it is), the price rises (which it is — nearly 9% for me this year). The idea works on the premise that people who cannot afford the commodity (the education) will not buy it (just like anything else — TV’s, cars, boats, etc.). In a perfect free market economy, the declining customer base would cause the prices to actually decline; colleges would have to find a way to compete and provide a better price and higher quality product, or as institutions, colleges and universities would fail. BUT, because the industry is so heavily reliant on federal funding and regulated to federal standards, the prices continue to increase. The problem here is actually not the colleges at all.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CREATES THE ILLUSION THAT EVERYONE CAN AFFORD COLLEGE (with federal money, of course).
The reason that college costs are rising is that people still buy the education that they cannot afford. People have a common misconception: they think that a college degree brings financial success automatically, when in reality, it buries most people in debt for years. Because students don’t have to foot the entire bill (thanks to the government), colleges are struggling; they never receive enough money to cover their costs from the federal government, who uses money from education to fund other projects.
So, although I often talk about taking advantage of the opportunities that the federal government offers, financially speaking, you should never rely on them to finance your entire education. One day, that money will be gone and, as it turns out, that may be the best thing that ever happened to the quality and price of education in America.