First, we should start with some great news from Amber.

Amber: Hi everyone! I recently found out that I have been awarded yet another scholarship, this one from AEG at O.co Coliseum (the hospitality services of sorts for Oracle Arena and O.co Coliseum) and it’s worth $10,000!! 🙂 Yes, that means that my entire first year of college is now paid off (cue my giant sigh of relief). I cannot express how relieving and exciting it is to get an email or call saying that you’ve been awarded a scholarship; you can FEEL some of that college weight being lifted off your shoulders (and no, I’m not talking about the Freshman 15… unfortunately that’s actually a real deal thing).

It is a great reminder that the time you invest in your degree and paying for your degree PAYS off. Pun intended. And it could be more like the Freshman 30…

Last time we talked more broadly about thinking of college and paying for college as an investment. The next steps discuss precisely how to do that.

I start most seminars by asking the participants to complete the following sentence: I will be successful if… I would like for you to do this now, before we get into the topic. You can relate your answers to college or career or life in general. Think of five ways to complete that sentence. And actually write it down.

Once you have finished that, those items on your list are absolutely non-negotiable. As you think about college, keep referring back to your list to make sure whatever you are thinking about either fulfills or aligns with those items. When I started my business, I wrote, “I will be successful if I spend a majority of my non-working time with my son.” When things come up, that is likely the non-negotiable that I look at first. I have others related to using environmentally-friendly products and ensuring services are available to those in need as well. I wanted to give you those examples after you created your own so that you can think of what truly matters to you.

Amber: I kind of have the same thing for myself, in terms of academics and just in general. Mostly it just involves me focusing on my work and getting it done, because I know that the payoff will be beneficial to me. Being able to see the bigger picture and down the line per se is integral in being successful. You aren’t going to gain any ground or confidence or accomplish much if you don’t visualize your goals.

The one major secret that I use to make sure that everyone can afford college is based on one understanding: the more expensive the school is, the more financial aid it gives and the easier it is to get a job after. That’s it.

As an example, Stanford costs around $50,000 per year, at the moment. But you will get out in four years, meaning $200,000 for that degree. Stanford also gives 99% of its students financial aid, aid that is not in the form of a loan. Students who need the money receive 75% in aid that they do not have to pay back. That means at most, for those who need it, they would have about $50,000 to pay back. UCs are about $30,000 per year, at the moment, but normative time (time to graduation) is five or six years, meaning it could be $180,000 for that degree. Unless one receives one of the prestigious scholarships from the school, one’s bill is going to be just that: $180,000. And with announcements coming recently about tuition increases, the cost of a public degree in California may surpass those at the private schools.

Most people then lean to transferring from a community college. The percentage of successful transfers in California is extremely low, around 13%. A successful transfer is one who enters a community college with the intention of transferring, and then enrolls in a four-year college and actually graduates from that four-year college. One may spend two or three years at the community college and spend very little, but then transfer to a UC and spend another four or more years, during the four or more years that tuition is increasing. For those students who opted to go that route, they often take longer and save very little, if anything.

With all of that said, my goal is to get students into private colleges.

Amber: Private colleges are so amazing with how much financial aid they are able to disperse. It’s great because you can still receive a quality education and not have to sacrifice your first born child per se to be able to do so. I agree with Ms. Hoy that the whole transfer from a community college thing, while popular, does not yield much success. I have many friends and colleagues who have chosen this route, and unfortunately they are the ones who end up in the biggest rut, and also end up being those who try and work 2 or 3 jobs to try and survive their 20’s. Don’t end up like those people. But by the same token, find the best fit for you. It is your education, after all.

Be aware, not all private colleges are alike. The reason Stanford can provide that kind of aid is because their endowment allows them to. Leland Stanford created the university and the endowment to support it with the idea that money would never prohibit students from learning. I’m not weighing in right now on how true that is, although you can guess my opinion from previous posts. The point is that there are a lot of private universities but only some have endowments to support giving out that much aid. When students talk to me about their college lists, this is one of the first things that I look up.

Now, not everyone can get into Stanford, or Harvard, or those other schools with the mega endowments. The earlier you are thinking about college, the better you can position yourself to be competitive at these schools though. When I start working with students in middle school or in the ninth and tenth grades, I am working to get them to be competitive for these schools.

The last disclaimer that I will give here before going into how to prioritize is something I talk in detail about in How to Apply to Public and Private Colleges in Seven Steps and will briefly here in Step Five: There are other differences between public and private colleges, especially with regard to Research One (R1) institutions and liberal arts degrees. If you are unaware of the differences, that will read in your application and you may not be a good fit for that school. We’ll talk more about it but for now I’ll just say, know your school.

So far I’ve said that you are aiming for the private college. That is different from you actually attending the private college. Here is the next secret: The courses that you take to be competitive for admissions to the private college are the same courses that will save you time, and therefore money, at the public university. Take the AP courses and take the courses to get you into the AP courses. Not every course will transfer or be used for credit, but previewing a topic area also ensures that students are not repeating courses while in college, therefore saving more money. IB credits are being used by more and more colleges as well, but they must be Higher Level (HL) courses. And you also need to be careful that the college will use the IB diploma or IB exams and that you are working towards that IB distinction rather than what your school may be offering. Here, in terms of prioritizing, taking AP courses should be the top priority assuming that doesn’t conflict with the values on your list. And if does, how can you make it yes/and. In other words, what can you do to take more AP classes AND still be able to spend a lot of time with your family?

Amber: Juggling your academic schedule can be pretty tough. To each their own with whatever courses he/she decides to take, because we all know there is more than one route to a destination. Considering I’m pursuing a Nursing major (BSN), you might wonder why I didn’t take AP Bio or AP Chem or even AP Calc. It was mostly in part because of my ROP Programs junior and senior year, Medical Occupations and Nursing Careers, respectively. I can honestly tell you though, that any credit I could have gotten in AP Bio or Chem (to me, anyway) doesn’t add up to nearly the experience I had with patients day in and day out. With ROP, I found my real niche in the world and what I want to pursue in a career. Additionally, having over 500 hours in a clinical medical setting does look killer on a resume or a brag sheet, but you really do have to find that balance. I’ll be the first one to tell you how great and helpful AP classes are, but make sure you enjoy the material before you spiral yourself into a dark hole because you’ve loaded yourself with too much work that you can barely understand. My senior year I took AP English Lit (I have a strong love for good literature), AP Spanish Language (I do actually enjoy Spanish, as much as I complain about all the different conjugations and when to use them), as well as AP Government and Politics. Having a spark of interest in each of these subjects made them that more enjoyable or at least bearable. Success in high school is necessary for college, but by the same token, I guess my advice here is to do so while still maintaining your sanity as much as possible. Don’t just take every AP class available just to say you did. If you’re a jack of all trades, then you’re a master of none. Unless you’re a 21st century Leonardo da Vinci, then be him by all means.

What Amber may not know is that nursing programs in the state are severely impacted, meaning it could take a long time to earn a degree since so many people would like to be in nursing programs. Since she made herself especially competitive for this degree, she is more likely to complete it in the given time. That’s what everyone should be trying to do regardless of what degree you are earning.

Keep thinking about the things that will help you gain admissions to the private colleges and what will save you time at the public colleges. Here is a list of some things to consider:

-Enrichment courses during the summer in middle school and the start of high school
-Community college courses during the summers in high school, but first those that fulfill General Education requirements
-Creating school-wide projects or initiatives that support academic achievements (e.g. Physics Club, AP Club, Tutoring Club)
-ROP and internships in your passion (while not impacting your AP schedule)

Amber: Colleges really do look for well-rounded students. Yeah, maybe it’s not “cool” to be so involved, or even *gasp* have school spirit, but please, get involved. I was pretty involved in high school and even now I think back as to how I could have been more involved. Don’t be afraid to venture out a little bit or develop yourself further. Certainly the friendships and experiences you will gain out of your extracurricular experiences will give you great substance for those college application essays!! 🙂

To recap: aim for colleges with large endowments OR to save time at public universities by taking advanced courses.

Keep your list and we’ll see you next Monday when we talk about STEP THREE: SAVINGS PLAN.