Tag 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. If you make a purchase or use the coupon code, I receive a commission at no additional cost to you and you still get the discount. I appreciate it. If you would rather not use the affiliate link, close your browser and navigate right to the site.

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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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Dear High School Guidance Counselor….

school yard

original image credit: Francisco Galarza via unsplash.com

I know it’s your job to “guide” students. I get the impression that you believe it’s your job to direct them toward college-no matter the expense or their interest in going.

I understand you met with a group of Juniors the other day during their English class. You had them enter their email addresses on a site that asked them a litany of questions to help them decide what to study in college.

Is it true that you told the kids who don’t plan to go to college to reconsider? Did you also tell them not to answer something stupid (your word) like “be a nanny” on questions about their plans after high school?

I won’t take that remark personally even though my daughter has told you on several occassions that she plans to nanny when she graduates in order earn money to pursue other goals. You probably weren’t interested enough to learn that she’s a gifted, conscientious and engaged child-care provider who loves to be with kids of all ages. She tells them stories, plans projects and crafts, invents games, fixes meals and reads with them. In short, she’s happy when she’s with her younger cousins or small clients. I think hers is an excellent plan that will provide a lot of flexibility. Before you go there, no, she doesn’t want to be a teacher. She doesn’t want to watch 25-30 kids at a time, just a few.

My daughter has a keen understanding of her interests, skills, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. She’s lucky that she doesn’t need a computer program for that. My guess is that lots of kids know these things about themselves but when they try to communicate them to you, you don’t really listen to them. Instead, you dismiss their ideas and try to pigeon-hole them into a pre-defined, acceptable major or career.

Being a nanny isn’t “stupid”.¬†High-quality child care is a valuable service. Responsible and experienced providers are in demand and can earn a lucrative income and unique experiences all without the burden of debt. Many full-time nannies can earn more than their college-educated peers and enjoy benefits like free housing, meals, transportation (including discretionary access to a car), all-expense-paid vacations and paid vacation time.

My daughter and I have spent a lot of time discussing how she can develop her interests and skills to create a career, multiple streams of income and a lifestyle that she chooses.  Regardless of whether someone else regards it as successful, acceptable or adequate.

The job you decided to mock is irrelevant. My point is, it’s unprofessional and narrow-minded to dismiss certain occupations or paths to a fulfilling life. Your job is to support students and help them find every resource available to pursue an idea, a vocation, a career or a dream even if it doesn’t align with your idea of a respectable profession. Steering a diverse group of students down one, narrow path doesn’t serve them, even if it does serve your ego.

Did you know that 40% of students drop out of college without a degree? Do you think maybe they were steered toward college as the only option by people like you? ¬†Yes, I’m suggesting you’re partially to blame. Do you ever advise students who are unsure about their future to work for a few years or go to community college?

Did you know that some of your students borrow as much as $80,000 for an undergraduate degree? ¬†The average student debt for a college education is $37,000. Do you think that’s advisable? I don’t.

One more thing. Quit sharing my kids’ email addresses with colleges and military recruiters. Even kids who are interested in college don’t want to be spammed by them. My kids know where to enlist if they decide to go that route.

I was tempted to email you about this recent presentation but decided against it because my children are insulated from your narrow views and I realize I will not change your mind or your tactics. They know they have my support and encouragement to pursue any path or no path and work until they figure something out. Some will likely go to college but probably not with much assistance from you.

Yours truly.

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Why I Regret Starting a 529 Plan for My Kids

why-not-to-save-in-a-529-plan

Let’s be clear: I don’t regret saving for the kids’ future. I regret limiting that fund for college.

Like many young parents, Mark and I were anxious to start saving for college. A 529 plan was the no-brainer option at the time. The fund grows tax-free and as long as the money is used for a “qualified education expense”, the interest is never taxed. There can also be state tax deductions for contributions.

So, here’s why I regret saving in a 529: There are so many valuable and practical ways to learn outside of college that can’t be funded by a 529 without paying taxes and penalties on the interest.

Nineteen years ago (the year Hannah was born), college appeared to be the only and best way to have a career and wasn’t nearly as expensive. In 1996, 52% of Bachelor’s degree recipients carried student loans averaging $12,000 (which is the same amount I graduated from college with in 1990). Today, at least 71% of college graduates have student loans averaging $37,000.

In contrast to the 1990s, high school students can begin to teach themselves skills that add value to a fast-paced, global economy. College is required for some professions (academia, law, medicine) but isn’t for many others.

Apprenticeship programs, gap years, online certification programs, fellowships, world travel and small business opportunities are all valuable and practical alternatives to college that can’t be paid for with 529 funds without penalty.

¬†They’re one form of university welfare. The other forms are private loans, grants and government-subsidized loans. Students aren’t really the beneficiaries of these forms of assistance when a degree doesn’t guarantee a job or skills that employers say are lacking in most college graduates. (Don’t believe me, read this book about the skills gap).

Hannah graduated from high school and has no plans to attend college. Instead, she’s participating in a program that matches highly motivated young people with a small business or startup willing to train them.

Praxis charges tuition but boasts a net-zero cost because the total payment is less than the guaranteed pay the participant receives from the business partner during the apprenticeship. In addition to skills training, Praxis offers one-on-one mentorship, weekly group discussions and guidance on personal and professional development projects. Every participant has a tangible body of work to show potential employers at the conclusion of the program. The Praxis model has been so effective that business partners now commit to a full-time offer with a minimum salary of $40,000 for participants. No college will guarantee that.

By the time her classmates graduate, Hannah will likely have saved as much or more than they have borrowed in the same time period. She’ll be earning as much or more and she’ll likely be living on her own. Compared to other 18-34-year-olds, who, for the first time ever, are living with parents more than any other living arrangement.

So, what to do with all that money we saved for college? We could transfer the 529 to one of Hannah’s siblings. ¬†We put that money aside for Hannah, though, and frankly, I’d rather see it go to photo equipment (Hannah’s business), studio space, even a car, than an over-priced college.

Even though she’ll pay taxes (at her rate) and a 10% penalty on the interest, we’ve decided to use the money in Hannah’s 529 plan to pay the tuition for Praxis. The interest and penalty combined don’t compare to the interest that most students will end up paying for the lifetime of the loans they’re taking.

I’m not so put-off by the taxes owed because if we had it in any other type of fund, we would have been paying taxes on the interest all along. The penalty stings a little since she’s using the money for a program that has a guaranteed ROI and is tens of thousands less than college would have been.

Hopefully, 529 rules will expand with growing opportunities in our rapidly-changing world that make more sense than college. Any changes will likely come too slowly to help my children.

I’m not sure what will happen when the college bubble finally pops. Likely, even those who opt out will be stuck holding the bag. University Provosts everywhere will continue to receive their bloated salaries or maybe they’ll run for the hills taking their golden parachutes with them.

Rethink opening that 529. There are other ways to save in a high-growth fund for a minor. You can still use that money for college but you’ll have other options.

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Education Revolution!

Sir Ken 2-2Welcome to Day 16 of write31days. Over the hump, so to speak. For this installment of 31 days of Great Ted talks, I have to bring Sir Ken Robinson back for an encore.

Though this presentation isn’t as popular as the first, it is just as poignant and urgent.

Robinson argues that we should revolutionize our model of education rather than reform it (which he views as “simply improving a broken model”).

This isn’t about “privatizing”. I believe public education is already privatized (public money going to huge corporations that control everything in the form of textbooks, testing, testing prep, “technology”, supplies, constant assessment of students, evaluating teachers, food service, “health” initiatives and all manner of “consulting” costs and “studies” before any program, facility or change is implemented).

Recorded around 2010, the exponential infiltration of new technologies affecting nearly every industry and disrupting linearly-oriented institutions make Robinson’s¬†argument even more relevant and urgent. The idea that there’s one linear path to “success” and anyone who takes it will be secure is laughable and irresponsible today-yet that’s how schools prepare students for the world.

Adopting Robinson’s suggestion would allow teachers to teach in the way they are wired and most gifted, instead of conforming to a standardized format. Maybe it’s impossible but worth trying.

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