Hough High School -- Thank you!

May 7, 2015

Just finished talking with some of the amazing students of Hough High (Cornelius, NC).  Thank you Donna Davis for inviting us to present at Husky Time.  Here's the memory joggers we left with them as a hand out:

Planning Well is Part of Succeeding Well

  • You are what you eat
    • Your body:  the only one you get!
    • Whole foods more
    • Processed/packaged/fast foods less
    • Food journal record what you eat . . . AND
      • How it makes you feel later
    • Make new food habits (feel better perform better look better)
  • Pick a Destination before starting the trip
    • Career aptitude assessment
    • Earn Money (a job) or Spend Money (college)
  • Always give your BEST effort
    • Be worth more than you are being paid
    • Always continue to learn
  • Plan Campus visits
    • Do not apply if you have not seen
    • Look, listen, ask questions, keep notes
  • Only one option = no real choice
    • Best time to look for work is when you do not need a job
    • Apply to 6 to 8 colleges
    • ½ State colleges & ½ Private colleges
  • Being free means being accountable to your own actions and decisons
    • Communicate directly (you + boss  ///  you + college)
    • They are really nice people
We're here to help you

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Writing a Magnificent College Application Essay: Where to Start

December 29, 2014

There are many tricks of the trade when it comes to writing a great college application essay. I want to share with you a simple task which you can begin now to improve your writing skills. If you are a freshman or sophomore in high school then perfect -- you will have even more time to improve your writing skills so don't delay!

One of my English professors taught his classes this trick. If practiced daily or at least several times a week it really helps to relieve writer's block and to get your creative juices flowing. Ready for the secret? It's called "freewriting". Sit down for 10 minutes a day and write! Write about anything you want. This is not a time to be concerned with grammar or punctuation. Don't concentrate on perfecting your writing just focus on getting your thoughts down on paper. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes straight. It's important not to overthink anything during this task. In time you will find yourself being more creative in your writing, your thoughts will flow more freely and your overall writing skills will naturally improve.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college application essay, essay writing.

College Rankings -- Worth Reading?

November 5, 2014

Different news organizations and research groups publish "Best Colleges" rankings.  What use can you make of them?

  1. Understand their criteria.
    1. Some are more data-driven and, therefore, more objective.  Others are opinion-driven and more subjective.
    2. "Money" uses only data retrieved from the U.S. Dept of Education and from the schools own data, published in standardized format (to make school-to-school comparison easier).
    3. Some focus on outcomes.  For example the "Washington Monthly" ranks schools based on how many graduates enter not-for-profit, public service or government service careers.  Several others include job placement and entrance incomes to rank the schools.
    4. A few rely heavily on student reviews of their own college perhaps the most subjective analysis of all.  Others ask College Presidents to rate their competition.
    5. Somewhere in the fine print you may find the criteria used by each publisher.  That will be a helpful guide to understanding and making use of what you are reading.
  2. Let the lists inform you as to a "type of college" to search out.
    1. The most significant issue with nationally published rankings is how few colleges are mentioned out of a total census of 5,000 6,000 campuses.
    2. For example, a highly rated college in California may be of theoretical interest to a North Carolina family, but a remote practicality.
    3. That school in California, however, does have qualities and characteristics that can be found in similar colleges closer to home.  Your job is to find those other schools.
    4. The criteria of different lists also can help with different aspects of the decision-making process.  Before sending in your deposit to the University of Great-Expense consider (1) post-graduate outcomes, (2) campus culture and (3) net costs.  Those three, critical factors can be drawn from reading a variety of lists.
Thanks to Kim Clark at Money (kim_clark@moneymail.com) and www.ncagonline.org for making me smarter

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as Best Colleges, colleges, rankings.

Filter the Noise -- Hear the Truth

September 9, 2014

"Learning to filter out the noise so you can hear the truth" 

What does the quest for the right college have in common with the quest for good health? 

My email inbox is flooded with "stuff." Weekly, sometimes daily emails regarding different nutrition plans and various plans for fitness fill my screen. Which diet is best? The list and opinions seem endless. Fitness, too -- everyone claims their method holds the ultimate secret. 

I realized none of the information is useful if it isn't implemented correctly. If you choose to follow a diet that is so far out of your comfort zone that you will never stick to it then you will probably not see the results you desire. The same is true for fitness. What is the secret to success? Finding a nutrition and fitness plan that fits you! 

The same principle works with college planning. There is a continuing stream of articles, published daily, regarding the top paying majors and the hottest careers. This information can be helpful to observe current trends in the marketplace. However, it can also be confusing. 

High school students get lots of advice -- most not asked for -- what you should major in, careers that will "make you a lot of money". People's intentions are probably pure, but their advice may not be. Just like with my fitness and nutrition, you have to learn to filter out the noise. 

I recommend: 

  • Choose a life's vocation in a field you really enjoy and are naturally good at
  • Pick a major that folds naturally into that vocational choice
  • Pick colleges that are really strong in that major
  • Begin a relationship with the admissions people at those colleges so they know who you are and why you are interested
  • Give your high school years your very best effort -- you don't have to be a Straight A student to get into college; and a strong work ethic will attract attention. 
Student Services Director

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as how to choose a college, how to choose a major.

College Costs -- Options for paying

August 18, 2014

$24,000 every year that's what one, state-supported university publishes as the cost to attend for residents.  Out-of-state students add another $27,000 to make it $51,000 every year.
How do you manage to pay for that?  Heard of the 529 Plan?  It takes its name from the section of the IRS Code that stipulates its requirements and advantages.  Not a bad plan, in that you deposit money from your take-home-pay (yes after you've had your taxes withheld) into an account that, from then on, will grow without tax obligations IF . . .
That is a big IF. 

  • If you do not need it for something else urgent and expensive.
  • If those education costs line up with the approved list of expenses.
  • If your children attend college and spend all of the 529 account.
  • If your plan does well in the stock market.
  • If, when you need the money, the market isn't having a major correction.
  • If you do not mind paying a hefty penalty plus the tax owed if an if happens.
Let's just say, for the sake of conversation, you dodge all of that.  There is still the small matter of once you spend the money for approved college expenses, that's it.  All gone.  Account balance zero.
You managed to save $100,000 for each child.  Each child now has a college diploma and is looking for work, getting married, sprouting your grandchildren, trying to buy a house and all of those hundreds of thousands of dollars you had scrimped and sacrificed to save poof! -- are gone.
What if, instead of filling up that college savings tank full of money, and then draining it dry, you could have collateralized those funds?
What if your children, who earned the diploma, helped pay that all back as part of their future retirement?
In other words, what if your hundreds of thousands of dollars could have kept compounding interest while you used them as collateral to pay the expenses of a college education?

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies, Wealth Creation Strategies. Tagged as 529 Plan, college planning strategies, paying for college.

Tax Deferred = Tax Postponed

April 16, 2014


The link will take you to a splash of cold reality.  And I'm not picking on the current President and Congress.  Since the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1913 tax increases have been a way of life for "we the people."

Tax-deferred accounts not only postpone the tax due, but also the tax calculation -- and you will have no say-so in what that calculation is.

Is your retirement leaning on tax-deferred (that is to say, postponed) accounts?

I am available to discuss with you facts that may change your life in retirement.

Posted in Retirement Planning.

FAFSA - Get on it!

January 30, 2014

It's the time of year to complete FAFSA! (FREE Application for Federal Student Aid) We have included a few guidelines to keep in mind:
1.       The FAFSA must be completed every year. If you are already a student in college don't forget to complete the form for the upcoming year.
2.       You don't have to wait until you file your taxes to complete FAFSA. It is wise to complete FAFSA as early as possible as financial awards are often given on a first come first serve basis. Use last year's tax return to complete the form. You can always make corrections at a later date if needed.
3.       Every student preparing for college should complete the FAFSA regardless of their family's income level. Don't make the mistake of thinking your family's income level is too high. Financial aid can be awarded based on many different factors including number of children in college. Also, in many cases colleges will not give merit based awards unless the student has completed the FAFSA.
4.       Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is the FAFSA is always free to complete. If you find yourself at a website asking for money in order to complete the form then you are not at the official FAFSA website.
Completing the FAFSA is an important step in your journey to college. Having problems completing FAFSA? Are you still not sure where to begin?  We offer a one-on-one consulting session at no cost to you. Contact us today.
Hannah, Director of Student Services

Posted in College Planning.

FAFSA -- Too Important to Take For Granted

July 28, 2015

FAFSA -- Too Important to Take for Granted
Do you want financial aid? FAFSA is essential -- a true "must do" (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Succeed Where It Counts, LLC (www.succeedwhereitcounts.com) considers The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA ) the gateway to every type of financial aid.

FAFSA is also a form. It is web-based, and filled with boxes requesting information you may not have at your fingertips. Here's what SWIC recommends:
At www.fafsa.ed.gov create an account.
Get started on the form, and SAVE IT -- do not submit it.
Make a note of the questions for which you did not have accurate information.
Gather the information and return to the FAFSA form.
Complete the form, and read the "Help and Hints" explanations for every question. Make certain the information you input is the information being asked for.
FAFSA is not due until January of your student's senior year in high school. However, seeing the FAFSA format earlier should be helpful for avoiding mistakes -- mistakes that will cost you money! Just remember, hit "SAVE" and not "submit" until after January 1st.

At Succeed Where It Counts,LLC (www.succeedwhereitcounts.com), we ask our parents to complete two dry runs on the financial aid request. SWIC uses a web-based platform that includes a "College Affordability Shaper." That's where we catch most mistakes about a f Read more

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

$20,706 per year -- where will you find it?

May 4, 2015

A family met with me May 2nd. They asked for help trying to solve their dilemma: how to pay for their child's $20,706 per year college costs.

They logged in to the student's university account. I saw the numbers - $20,706 for the first year. The student has a solid GPA and SAT score. The university is one in the state system, and he is attending as an in-state student.

The parents are not wealthy. They are solidly in the middle of the middle-class. However, that means there was no "need-based financial aid" for which they are eligible.

Their student was offered a federal loan ($5,500 as a freshman). The rest -- $15,205 -- dad and mom have to come up with -- half now and the other half in January.

If you, too, would be scratching your head trying to figure out where to come up with that kind of money, every year, for four, five (or more?) years, join the club.

That is the problem we solve. It helps us to have more than 10 weeks to solve it. Please contact us today. Read more

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Diploma or Career -- what are you seeking?

March 12, 2015

Which do you want a Diploma or a Career?

Probably both, and we agree. What if, after you earn your diploma, there are no career opportunities in that field? Current college students majoring in journalism and communications may be in for a struggle. http://adage.com/article/media/columbia-shrink-journalism-school-media-woes-mount/297557/

Why include communications majors in that? Because what jobs do you think many of those displaced journalists will be applying for? Our approach includes:
Career assessment with coaching
Future vocation opportunities (what experts predict about the job market)
Where those jobs may be and how much they are likely to pay.
Before spending $100,000 earning your diploma do you think it is wise to find out the likelihood of that diploma helping you in the job market? Read more

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as career, college, jobs.

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