The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid By Zachary Freeman


So You Still Haven’t Applied? Don’t Panic.

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  To order his book for only $10, click here.


Get Your Tickets for TEDx Youth Nashville

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 for more information.  We hope to see you there!

FMP Team

Class Warfare in College

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!

Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid.  He can be reached at

Debt is Like a Brown Bear. Schrute Knows Best.

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.

Punching Your Future In The Face

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.




Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid.  He can be reached by emailing  Follow FMP on Twitter and Facebook!