Ep 16: Getting College Paid For

Jeannie Burlowski, author of LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and into Jobs They Love Afterward, reveals some incredible tricks for helping your teen get an early jumpstart on a college education that is completely paid for by the time they graduate.

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Full show notes

How can undergraduate colleges and universities put a student $180,000 in debt?

What’s the point of paying for a high quality education if it is only going to financially cripple your child? Yes, education is important. It’s totally sensible to want to set your kid up for as much success as possible. But does college debt really have to be part of the package? Isn’t there a way for your kid to have a quality education and graduate debt-free?

It probably sounds like superstition, magic, or witchcraft. Colleges are too expensive for debt-free graduation! Surely only the rich can put their child through college and come out on top, right?

Well, I’m here with an academic strategist who is here to say firmly, and confidently, your child can and will go to college and graduate debt-free. For 23 years, Jeannie Burlowski has been helping students set extraordinarily high goals. Then, she works with them to figure out the fastest way to reach those goals. She is the author of LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College and Into Jobs They Love Afterward. And she has some crazy stories!

Jeannie has made a career of helping kids get from “Joe-blow party schools” into the top med and grad schools in the country! She also has stories of kids that break her heart, who come to her after undergrad and don’t know how to graduate debt-free from med schools boasting up to $180k in tuition costs.

Her biggest grievance when a recent graduate comes to her with debt is, “I wish I could have reached these kids’ parents when they were in seventh grade!” She firmly establishes that the earlier you start preparing your kid for their future, the better.

Knowing how to graduate debt-free doesn't mean getting a full ride to college. Savings plans and financial strategies are all part of her playbook. The most important thing she stresses on the parents, though, is service.

Figuring out how to graduate debt-free starts with prepping your kid to be an outstanding college applicant. Specifically, Jeannie believes kids should be committed to one humanitarian cause and one extracurricular as early as middle school because it pays off in the long run. Service teaches kids purpose, and students with proven purpose are most attractive to colleges. The reason middle school is a good time to start is because pre-teen brains are rapidly developing and absorbing information. More than they have since infancy! Anything you show them at this time is going to imprint on them far more easily. Jeannie says that sixth to seventh grade is the perfect time for parents to introduce purpose to their kids.

Purpose can be an adventure, a cause, or an injustice they can do something about. “If an aunt has died from cancer,” she says, “then maybe do something that does something to fight against cancer.” She’s not asking kids to do ten service projects at once or do things out of obligation or guilt because that would dilute their efforts. Scattered energy and attention are not going to help your child determine how to graduate debt-free.

Further, she says the worst reason to do something is “because it looks good on a college application.” There’s nothing less inspiring to a kid than working to fill out a resume! She doesn’t want kids to look good, she wants kids to be good. Learning how to graduate debt-free means proving to a college that you are valuable and worth investing in. GPAs and SAT scores help, but they’re not nearly as effective as a single, demonstrated purpose.

Jeannie says that you want your child’s focus to be driven and purposeful. Part of finding out how to graduate debt-free is getting your teen to invest time in long-term interests. The longer they spend pursuing specific causes, activities, or extracurriculars, the more they’ll care about their work. If they invest their time and energy into working for the same causes from seventh to tenth grade, they’ll have a long, detailed list of community experiences to write about on their college applications. Their genuine passion for these causes, along with concrete experiences to support what they’re saying, will shine through in their essays. This will make your teen extremely attractive to colleges!

When finding out how to graduate debt-free, you must make sure your teen gains a sense of meaning and significance. Jeannie hopes all kids can believe that what they’re doing is important and can change the world. The fact that this all looks great on a college app is a minor part of the picture compared to everything else the kid gets out of the experience. But she always gets the question, “Why only one extracurricular activity?”

Conventional wisdom might suggest your kid needs as many as eight extracurriculars to look impressive. But that’s just not true! Those don’t actually stand out to colleges. They see so many apps that look the same, packed with endless lists of extracurriculars. If you’re trying to find how to graduate debt-free, know that these lists don’t actually motivate colleges to offer scholarship money.

Even Stanford has started describing the kinds of kids who arrive on campus overworked and lacking purpose as “teacups.” They look so fragile and brittle, and like they might crumble under making the tiniest mistake. “That’s no way to start a life!” Jeannie exclaims.

If you want your teen to know how to graduate debt-free and be a candidate for scholarship money, you want them to prove more drive and leadership in one discipline than the average student. A student who has one thing that they’re good at and interested in going after can prove more purpose, dedication, and commitment than a student who has dabbled in a million different things.

If your child intersects their extracurricular with community service, you’re golden. For Jeannie, that’s when it becomes a slam dunk! If the leader of a school club can lead the club into community service, that kid will stand out amazingly above the crowd. And Jeannie insists that any club can do this.

When figuring out how to graduate debt-free, Jeannie realized that kids don’t have to wait until college to start preparing for life. This is the essence of most of her wisdom. Setting up your child to graduate debt-free involves a lot of preparation, but she is a magician when it comes to motivating kids to take on heavy responsibilities while they’re still in high school. Seriously, this lady is like the Einstein of college finances. In addition to showing you how to graduate debt-free, in this interview we talk about:
  • Setting up savings plans and Roth IRAs
  • Making LinkedIn profiles with your kids as soon as they can (age 16)
  • Early social networking - making your kids keep track of the adults in their life who like them
  • Getting kids to be responsible for their own expenses
  • Teaching kids lessons in financial lack and scarcity - the value of $1
  • Being empathetic towards your child’s mistakes
  • AP Classes versus Dual Enrollment - why one is so much better than the other!
  • Talking to your teen about difficult topics before they leave for college
Jeannie is absolutely brilliant at working out the intricacies of college preparation and explaining how to graduate debt-free. She truly believes all students can and should go to college and graduate debt-free. And she has a boatload of wisdom to back it all up. I hope you tune in to this episode! I learned a ton listening to Jeannie, and I know you will, too!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Jeannie Burlowski
Jeannie Burlowski
Academic strategist, speaker, author of LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward (available at https://t.co/86OlOFaocG)
Ep 16: Getting College Paid For
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