College Funding Starts With The Student

College planning is an enormous undertaking which requires action, careful planning, and realistic analysis.  Despite the challenges parents and students face there is a method to the madness.  While there certainly are different schools of thought on how best to go about this, our process is the result of 20 years’ experience, scientific analysis, and common sense. 

A College Plan Starts With The Student

When I first started college planning in 1998, I put together some of the most intelligent and financially sound 4 year college plans to date.  The number one plan saved the family over $150,000 and added a projected $300,000 to their retirement plan.  So why did it turn out to be a disaster?  Both their students were miserable at the school they chose.  One student even dropped out the first semester of their junior year.  Additionally, both students changed their major.  The outcome of these changes resulted in a total of 12 years of college over an 8 year period.

The Hard Facts About College Graduation Rates

The case above is not uncommon.  In fact it happens more than you might think. Here are the cold hard facts about graduation rates in America:

  • According to the NY Times, 1 in 3 students will transfer to another school.  Most of these transfers will require additional courses to be taken that didn’t transfer from their first school.
  • Eighty percent of college-bound students have yet to choose a major.
  • According to an msnbc article, “50 percent of those who do declare a major, change majors — with many doing so two and three times during their college years…”
  • According to the College Board, five- and six-year students are not uncommon. Roughly 40 percent of those who start a four-year degree program still have not earned one after year six.

All of this is very bad news for parents.  With the average state school costing around $22,300 and college inflation averaging 6 – 8% annually, the cost of the sixth year of college is roughly 32% higher than the first year.  Take a look at the illustration below.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6
$22,300 $23,638 $25,056 $26,560 $26,560 $28,153

Percent Change:                    32%   increase              
Dollar Change:                       $7,542              
Total Cost of 6 Years:            $155,560                   
Cost Of The Extra 2 Years:    $57,995

How To Curl-Tail These Statistics

$57,995 is a lot of extra, unnecessary spending!  The good news is there are things we can do now to help give our children the best opportunity to graduate in four years.  Before we take a look at some basic concepts of how a person works, how they learn, and how that relates to finding a college and major, let’s address one fundamental question:

Will College (or the “Best” College) Make My Student Successful?

Here’s a list of people who never finished college:

  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Carnige
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Dave Thomas
  • And the list goes on and on.  

College gives students something yes.  And education is one of those.  Do a Google search however, or read countless articles and studies of what factors determine one’s success in life; you’ll find “going to college” is on the bottom of the list, if it’s there at all.  You will however, find character, who you associate with, the books you read, one’s attitude, and determination on the top of those lists. 

Don’t get us wrong. Education IS very important!  Certainly we’re not suggesting education isn’t.   What we are saying is “did you go to college” is not the underlining factor in what makes successful people.  There are no statistics suggesting Harvard graduates make more money or are otherwise more successful than someone who graduates from a state school at half the price.

So what are we suggesting?  That the college experience is more than just learning facts and definitions.  It’s a chance for dependent children to grow into productive adults, establish a sense of who they are, and provide an environment to help them thrive and achieve their full potential.  That being said, let’s see how this plays out scientifically.

Masnlow’s Theory of Hierarchal Need

In 1943, renowned psychologist Abrams Manslow developed a hierarchy of personal needs.  This model is the de facto used by many industries to help determine the cause of unhappiness and depression amongst their employees and associates.  The model essentially states that when these needs are not met, the natural tendency is to shrink.  The pyramid below illustrates the 5 tiers of a person’s journey toward self-actualization.


I know many of you are asking yourselves “What does this have to do with my kid and college?”.  The answer is simple.  If your student is not getting their intrinsic and personal needs met within the environment they live, they will not be able to grow.  Harvard might be the more pristine school they get accepted to, but it’s not necessary going to provide an environment that helps your student thrive.  Where you student attends school, or rather, the environment which that school provides, is critical to a profitable harvest of their mind.  We see students every year who get around the wrong people, develop unproductive habits, and come home with their tail between their legs. 

The point we’re making here is that where your student lives is just as important has the education they receive.  This leads us to our next point:

Your Student Has Their Own, Unique Personality

We’ve all heard the clichés “He’s an A-type personality” or “They’re a Red”, but what does it all mean?  Just like we measure temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius, we have different scales or methods to measure a person’s personality type.  The current leading method was developed by the Myers-Brigg Foundation.  While we don’t have time here to provide an extensive look at the 16 different types of personalities, what we want to bring to light is that, while we are all different, we do have reasonable categories to help us determine the environment and careers that individuals are MOST LIKLEY to excel in. 

This is really where students should start!  Before researching careers, majors, or college selection, students should take some sort of personality profile.  In fact, the majority of business and large corporations require personality tests before hiring persons of reasonable position and income.  They understand that no matter how intellectually and educationally qualified one is, if their personality doesn’t fit the job description the probability of temporary employment is significant.

So how do we work systematically work through an admissions process to provide the greatest opportunity for success? 

  1. Discover your student’s personality
  2. Discover your student’s interest and the way they think
  3. Pair their interests with the personality to find a career
  4. Find the major that supports the career
  5. Find the college that has that major and meets the student’s intrinsic needs (Maslow’s hierarchy)
  6. What a minuet?  What’s This About How A Person Thinks?

There is the concept in general psychology know as brain hemisphere, or the left brain – right brain where the left brain provides the “logical” component, and the right brain provides the “creative” component.  While each side of the brain will use both components, there is a distinct and measurable “primary” way a person thinks.  Below is a simple illustration to help with this concept:

Left Brain

Looks at Parts

left-brain right-brain

Right Brain

Looks at Wholes

This new information has brought considerable change in the way education is being presented, even at grade school levels.  For the most part, education appeals to those students whose brain is primarily logical, focusing largely on mathematics and science.   In recent years, there has been a big push to provide an education to the right brained students, whose natural talents evolve around creativity, the arts, and innovation.

Putting It All Together

In this article we took four critically important concepts to provide our children with the BEST CHANCE to graduate in four years.

  • College (or a specific college) doesn’t make a student successful, but it can provide an environment for them to grow into a productive person.
  • While everyone is unique, we do have models and categories for measuring basic personality traits.  We can use these to help us determine which colleges and careers a student will most likely succeed in.
  • Manslow’s model states that a person’s intrinsic and physical needs must be met in order to thrive.  This model, along with your student’s personality type can help us determine colleges that your student will be happy with.
  • A person is often left-brained (a logical thinker) or right-brained (a creative thinker).  We pair this with the personality profile to further determine a good career path.

This is our first step in the systematic approach to college planning.  Yes, it does take work and time to determine your student’s traits, but skipping this step is doing a great disservice to yourself and your student.  We strongly encourage you and your student to go through this process and sincerely look into careers and colleges that line up with these concepts.

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