Category Archives: college

Kranse SAT prep course

How an Online SAT Prep Course Saved Us $24,000

Some Background Information

Although I don’t share too many personal stories about the kids (unless they’re hilarious and wouldn’t embarrass them), I have been posting about Luke’s college search process.

As with most things at the Phillips household, Luke’s college search was unconventional since he only visited one school, liked it, and accepted an offer to play tennis there. Done…right? Wrong!

Not So Fast, Kid

The offer included an academic scholarship with the condition of raising his SAT score by 40 points. Without the academic award, we weren’t sure we could afford one year, let alone four.

Since Luke didn’t prepare much before the first SAT exam, we thought he could meet this hurdle with some focused preparation.

Luke is a good student. He gets mostly A’s, some B’s and has a solid GPA. He’s fairly disciplined but needs a set structure from an outside source to keep him moving forward and motivated.

I couldn’t provide this type of accountability or specific coaching for the SAT content. The free Khan Academy site doesn’t provide the progressive structure he needed. I appreciate the free resource but you feel like you’re jumping around a lot. Luke only used Khan a few times before his first SAT exam for that reason.

Enter Kranse Institute*

I had read about an online prep course created by a guy who achieved a perfect score on the SAT after studying the test design and refining his approach to the questions. He appeared on Shark Tank and partnered with Mark Cuban. I have to admit, Cuban’s endorsement influenced my confidence in the course.

Here’s a clip from Patel’s Shark Tank Pitch (before the course was rebranded for new SAT format):

 

 

I didn’t need or expect Luke to get a perfect score-just 40 points for $6,000 a year. I wouldn’t normally spend $349 (with a 30% off coupon) on something like this (like NEVER) but I justified the expense of The Kranse Institute¬†course for a few reasons:

  1. Luke saved us hundreds of dollars by visiting and applying to only one school.
  2. This investment could translate into $24,000 (over 4 years), a huge return.
  3. Having access to the course gave Luke confidence, peace of mind and a goal (watch videos).
  4. Kranse offers a 7-day money back guarantee if it’s not a good fit.
  5. Kranse also offers a 100% money back guarantee if the student’s score doesn’t improve.

We had nothing to lose.

You Already Know He Got the Award!

Luke had received a financial aid award early in January that included the tennis scholarship and a loan approval (don’t even get me started on loans!). At that point, the college didn’t have his best scores. We weren’t sure his January scores (sent to colleges March 2) would get to the right people in time for a decision for additional money.

We were both nervous when he got this second email from the financial aid office.

Financial Aid Award Kranse SAT prep scholarship

We clicked through to his campus account and found this notice waiting for him!

Academic Award Status Kranse SAT Prep

I can’t even express what a huge relief this is and the margin the award gives our family.

Though, Luke and I were impressed with the Kranse Institute course before this result, we can unequivocally endorse it and recommend it to family and friends (and readers we don’t know) ūüėČ

Here’s what Luke liked about the course.

I asked Luke to describe what he thought was helpful. Here’s what he told me:

  • ¬†The videos were short and to the point. I felt like I could learn exactly what I needed for that section or problem without guessing.
  • ¬†I liked seeing my progress as I finished lessons. It gave me a feeling of accomplishment and helped me plan.¬†
  • It was great having access to the lessons anytime from anywhere.
  • The writing videos helped my writing score and skills more than two years of high school English.
  • It helped me stay focused and motivated.

Here’s What I Liked About the Course

  1. Self-motivating. I didn’t have to hound Luke about studying. Luke knew as soon as we purchased the course that he would watch them. This factor alone, was worth the price of the course to me.
  2. Organized. The entire course is well-organized by SAT subject tests (Essay, Critical Reading, Writing, Math; plus a series of videos with general information about test design, changes, format and scoring). Luke didn’t need the essay portion so he could skip that whole group of videos. If he had trouble with a particular concept after completing a practice section, he could easily navigate to and review a specific video.
  3. Solid content. The strategies and samples are direct, relevant and useful. I didn’t review all the videos but I took some time to look at a lot of them and was impressed by how practical and executable the strategies are.
  4. Price. Private tutoring (online and in-person) can range from $150-$200 or more per hour which is unaffordable for us. Other courses can cost $1200 or more. For $349 (with coupon) and with Kranse’s money-back guarantee, it was the most affordable and practical option for Luke’s situation.

A Special Price for My Readers

The blog where I originally read about the course included a limited coupon code which I used to get a 30% discount. I reached out to Kranse and the support team offered the same discount for my readers.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Kranse Institute course including results, an overview, faqs, and the guarantee, here’s the link: Kranse.com¬†.

Use the coupon code “SAVE30NOW” at checkout for 30% off the regular price!

If you decide to try the course, I’d love to know if it helps!

 

*This post contains affiliate links.¬†I was so impressed with the Kranse course and was referring so many friends that the company invited me to become an affiliate. If you purchase the course through my link or apply the special coupon code above, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you (in fact, you get a discount). It’s a win-win-win and helps cover the costs of the site. Thank you.

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Room & Board When You Choose Not to Go To College

Gary Vee quote about winning

Hannah still lives at home. I’m fine with that at least until she would have otherwise graduated from college (2020). She’s anxious to get out on her own as soon as she can. I’m guessing by the end of summer (2017) she’ll have her own place.

She’s looking at really nice (and expensive) apartments. The range is anywhere from $800-$1200 per month. She wants 2 bedrooms. She pictures herself having an extra room for a studio. She doesn’t want a roommate.

I can feel you rolling your eyes already. You’re probably thinking how spoiled and unrealistic it is for a 19 year-old to spend so much on her first apartment. Shouldn’t she find the cheapest apartment or a roommate? Shouldn’t she learn what it feels like to struggle and live in a crap hole? Who does she think she is?

If that’s your reaction, it’s interesting that you don’t say the same about Hannah’s friends who spend almost as much for student housing even when they could commute. (Or choose a college close to home in order to save money by commuting).

Your brain comes up with all kinds of rationalizations that make the on-campus living expense acceptable and desirable over Hannah’s situation.

Let’s Compare for Fun

For this scenario, let’s assume that Hannah finds a 2 bedroom apartment for $1,000 plus some utilities (water and sewage is included in the rent but she’ll have to pay for gas/electric, internet and cable if she wants it and food).

Room and Board at local colleges range from $10K-12K or more. For the sake of this thought exercise, we’ll say $11,000. So, a little less than $1,000 per month. That includes meals. Except most parents complain that they have no choice about the meal plan or extra food allowance. Use it or lose it. So, I think that balances out. I know plenty of kids who never eat in the cafeteria so someone’s paying for their Chipolte-it usually ain’t the student.

“Rent” vs. “Room and Board”

  1. I won’t be paying Hannah’s rent or other expenses. Plus my household expenses will likely decrease when she’s out of the house (those 40 minute showers aren’t free).

Many parents pay for tuition plus room and board, drain their retirement funds or take out loans…for 4 years or more.¬†Plus they still pay for their kids living expenses during summers and breaks for the entire 4 years.

2. Hannah won’t be borrowing money for her rent or other living expenses. By the time she rents a place, she’ll have an emergency fund saved up in case her expected income doesn’t cover her rent, utilities, food and car expenses. Hopefully, she won’t need it and still have $5,000-$10,000 saved.

Most students borrow to cover the cost of college including room and board. (Avg. debt in PA $37,000)

3. Hannah can choose where she lives, how much she wants to spend and who her roommates will be (if she wants/needs them).

Most students have limited choices about dorms and roommates. Good luck getting a single.

4. Hannah will learn how to budget and pay her own bills.

Most college students are oblivious to the costs associated with student housing. There’s no reason to budget except maybe for parties and pizza.

5. Hannah will learn over the course of the year whether the cost of the apartment is worth it to her. If she finds herself scrambling to pay rent or is stressed by her workload to maintain the lifestyle, she can always find a cheaper place, a roommate, more clients or try to raise her prices. That’s a lot of valuable experience. I could lecture her about all that but nothing beats learning by experience. She also might try Air B n B to supplement her rent expenses.

Some college students get an apartment near campus to save money on student housing but still borrow for it or their parents pay for it. Most students I know don’t write the checks for rent and utilities. I’m not criticizing, just saying they aren’t learning this skill.

6. Even if Hannah struggles to pay for her own place more than she expects, I think the thought of returning home will spur creative solutions to maintain her independence.

Most college students move back home after graduation. Many are forced to live with their parents even after they find work because student loan payments are so high. 

I certainly don’t want Hannah to struggle with rent because she bites off more than she can chew but I’d rather she get a feel for it now. It’s best to make mistakes with money when you don’t have dependents or a 30-year mortgage.

I’ll worry less about Hannah’s safety if she lives in a nicer place (maybe that’s not rational). I’ll certainly miss her but am excited for her to take this step. I’m all for her trying different things while she’s young and isn’t burdened by a lot of financial responsibilities.

If she can manage to afford a beautiful apartment in a city that she loves and is close by, I’ll be happy for both of us!

 

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Another Scary Student Debt Story

student debt

I spent hours at a time with Mark at his physical therapy appointments. I would see the same young “techs” whose job was to set timers for people in the pool, restock towels and pillow cases on the tables, check patients in and out, schedule appointments, etc.

Never wanting to pry but ever curious, I struck up a conversation with one kid who proceeded to tell me a pretty terrifying story.

He went to Pitt, having graduated at the top of his class in high school. As an avid high school athlete, he planned on physical therapy as a career. When his grades started to slip during his sophomore year, he knew he would never be accepted to PT school but still pushed ahead to finish his degree. He finished in 5 years due to an inability to schedule required courses and graduated with…..wait for it…..$120,000 in student loans. His monthly payments are more than $1,400 for the next 10 years! The more young people I talk to, the more I realize that this kid’s experience is pretty typical.

His parents are helping him with the payments but he’s still working two jobs to pay what he can (usually not half). He has no plans to move out any time soon. He enjoys free room and board at home plus access to a car and his parent’s cell phone plan. He doesn’t feel great about it but he is grateful for the safety net. He can’t afford to do anything with friends but doesn’t have time to anyway.

He’s hoping to refinance for a longer term and a lower payment but he doesn’t earn enough at either of the jobs to qualify yet. Side note: Neither of the jobs requires a degree, including the PT tech job. He’s been unable to land a job that pays more where his degree might be required. He’s thinking about a certification as a PT assistant but isn’t sure he would earn enough to make a significant difference and he worries about piling more debt and interest on top of his existing loans while they’re in deferment. He doesn’t think he could handle both jobs and classes at the same time.

Before you tell yourself that he wouldn’t be in this situation if he had kept his grades up and pursued a PT degree, remember that graduate school likely would have cost at least another 100k, maybe more.

The median income for a licensed physical therapist is anywhere between $60,000 and $86,000 (depending on where you live and what table you look at). According to one loan repayment calculator, he would have to earn $113,000 (assuming 15% of gross monthly income toward loans). The top 10% of earners in the field don’t even make that, let alone in their first 10 years. Sure, he could make less and dedicate a higher percentage of his gross income toward student loans but his total debt after graduate school might be double what it is now.

I wish kids would start telling their stories instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed by their debt. Parents and students get on a fast-moving train toward what they think is a successful career that takes them underwater instead.

I don’t know what the answer is except to say “no” when a school is steering a kid toward crushing levels of debt. It just isn’t worth it.

If you would like to share your own student debt story, I would love to hear about it. I really think it could help people make better choices about school, work and life. Click the “contact” tab at the top of this page and include “My Student Debt Story” in the subject line of your email.

 

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The Search for College Scholarships

college scholarships

[This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. My review of the books in this post are my own opinions].

I’m in “find-money-for-college” mode.

Since Luke committed to Cleveland State University, he’s been preparing to take the SAT again¬†and I’ve been doing research on scholarships to minimize the amount he’ll have to borrow.

In this post, I’ll discuss three resources that I’m using to organize the search.

First, I bought two inexpensive ebooks that offer a systematic approach to searching and applying for scholarships. Both are quick reads and have similar strategies, so either would be helpful.

“The Scholarship System” by Jocelyn Paonita


The author provides a step-by-step approach to find money, organize your search, plan and write effective essays and other tips and strategies. The book includes worksheets to help you plan along the way and to minimize repetition and back-tracking.

 

“Confessions of a Scholarship Winner” by Kristina Ellis

 

Ellis has an interesting story. Although she was eligible for scholarships that don’t apply to many students (immigrant parent, father passed away, low-income household) her approach is very similar to Paonita’s.

Both authors insist that students can qualify for scholarships regardless of grades, class rank or SAT scores. Both Ellis and Paonita give practical advice about how to make an application stand-out and highlight a student’s interests and attributes even if they don’t seem significant.

For example, Paonita suggests using certain power words in the essay and Ellis suggests opening an essay with a story instead of repeating the question as a thesis statement.

“The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017” by Gen and Kelly Tanabe

 

I bought this book after reviewing an outdated version at our local library. Some amazon reviewers complained about how it’s organized (for example, all state-specific scholarships are in one section rather than separated by state). I was able to skim the descriptions fairly quickly to eliminate scholarships that don’t apply and note ones for which Luke might qualify.

Now that I have a list, I’ll organize them on a spreadsheet (as suggested by The Scholarship System) and include application deadlines, scholarship amounts and other basic information.

I discovered a few things while reviewing the scholarships in this book. First, many scholarships are available to undergraduate students, graduate students, even PhD.s. Other scholarships target younger students so it’s a useful resource for many years and it’s clear that a student should continue to pursue scholarships throughout his college and grad school years.

The other thing I noticed is that there are dozens of scholarships for female engineers, amateur and HAM radio operators, students interested in food service/hospitality/travel industry, to name a few.

I found at least 20 scholarships for which Luke is eligible. In a future post, I’ll write about the application process and how we prioritized our efforts.

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SAT Prep for the 21st Century

 

SAT prep expertNow that Luke has committed to attend Cleveland State University, he’s obligated to raise his SAT scores to qualify for the academic part of the scholarship on the table.*

Since he didn’t prepare at all the first time around (procrastination), Luke’s pretty confident that any prep will bring up his score.

I didn’t want to take a chance, though. I had read one guy’s story about how his son used an online course for only 3 weeks and scored perfect on the SAT.

Krause Institute perfect SAT

Enter Kranse Institute SAT Prep Expert

I know, sounds like B.S. and I don’t expect Luke to obtain a perfect score but as I did more research into the course designed by Shaan Patel, who perfected his approach to the test and studied the test design for a perfect score himself, I was convinced that Luke could get some value from the videos.

Luke has been using the course for one week, here’s what I like so far:

1. I don’t have to nag him

This, in itself, is worth the price of the course. I catch Luke reviewing the videos without any prompting from me all the time.

2. The videos are short and concise

The course is organized to address one area at a time (obvious) and each video within the subject covers one concept or strategy. This streamlined approach minimizes confusion and easily allows the student to measure progress and identify trouble spots during practice.

3. The interface is aesthetically pleasing

Let’s face it, our kids are visually engaged 24/7. The video course has the benefit of graphics which in-person, paper-based study aids don’t.

The slide graphics are pleasing to the eye and don’t distract from the concept or strategy. This makes the whole process appealing and less stressful. ¬†In short, it’s easy on the eyes.

Shaan Patel (the course creator) teaches all the lessons. His voice is soothing and natural.

4. It’s convenient

It’s great that Luke can login and watch a video at any time of the day or night from anywhere. He enrolled in a prep course at our local high school last year but had to miss a few classes (Saturday mornings from 9-12 for 6 weeks) for tennis tournaments and prior commitments.

While showing up consistently and going over practice questions in a group setting is better than nothing, the class setting wasn’t efficient or personalized.

The Kranse format allows Luke to review concepts that he consistently has trouble with and skim videos that cover concepts with which he has less trouble.

5. Time

The course is designed to take 6 weeks. Students have access for up to 18 months which is plenty of time if your student plans to review the course to retake the test.

Patel advises using official college board questions (his reasoning is sound on this) but he gives you the best strategy to approach each type of question.

6. Price

At $499, the course is a fraction of the cost of other popular SAT prep courses and boasts an average score improvement of 368 points (210 on the new SAT format), including 7 perfect scores among its students.

Kranse offers a 7 day 100% money-back-guarantee (useful if you purchase the course and the student doesn’t even crack it open or doesn’t feel it would be a good fit). They’ll also refund your money if your student’s score doesn’t improve, no questions asked.

Quick sidebar here: In our case, the cost of the course is easy to justify. Luke saved us hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in travel and application expenses by making a choice after one visit. Improving his score could translate to at least $6,000 a year. The college won’t be affordable at all if he doesn’t meet that 40 point improvement threshold. Stakes are pretty high and worth a couple of hundred dollars for us.

A Special Offer for My Readers

The blog where I originally learned about the course offered a limited time/availability 30% discount code. I contacted the company and obtained 50 coupon codes for a 30% discount for my readers.

If you purchase the course and enter the coupon code “SAVE30NOW” on the checkout page, you’ll get $149 off the regular price.

 

* Update: Luke raised his score but not enough to qualify for the academic scholarship. Boo that.¬†He got it! As long as he maintains a GPA of 3.0, they’ll award him $6k per year! We both still feel¬†KNOW that the course helped him get organized and focused and gave him a framework for studying. It also helped him know he did everything he could. He thought the Kranse strategies were solid and he even thinks he learned more from the videos than in his 11th and 12th grade English classes. He knew he didn’t do as well on the math section and thought the questions were harder.¬†

**This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through a link, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

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