The Most Important Thing About High School? It’s Not Grades

Many families mistakenly believe that the most important thing about high school is getting good grades—so students can “get into a good college when they graduate.”

Not true.

What is the most important thing about high school?

In my work as an academic strategist, I’ve found that the most important thing about high school is forging the academic tools necessary for the college or vocational training that comes afterward.

 

I told one underperforming student this: “Imagine college as a place where you have to pound nails into boards, one after another, as fast as you can. Bam! Bam! Bam bam bam! High school is the place where you create your hammer. If your hammer’s put together sloppily out of string and glue and spitballs, you’ll find it difficult and exhausting and painful to pound nails in college.”

Can students “get good grades” and still miss it?

Too many high school students have figured out how to game the high school system enough to get decent grades while still not learning important skills, such as 1) putting away electronics and listening carefully in class, 2) taking thorough, complete handwritten notes, 3) seeking help when confused, and 4) using a calendar or a to-do list to make certain that assignments and test studying are done thoroughly and on time.

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Grisham NAILS IT in this Novel About Law School Debt

In March of 2018, I spent 12 days on vacation with my family. On the plane and on the beach, I read a fantastic John Grisham novel that contained a surprise for me that made my hair stand on end. What was it? The principal characters were all coping with horrific law school debt.

I’ve spent my entire professional life getting college students and grad students to careers they excel at and love with zero student loan debt. I spent years researching and writing a book on this subject. I can tell you, Grisham’s research on this topic is right on the money. He nails it.

law school debt

BEWARE. Law school debt has the potential to destroy your kid’s life.

I am not overstating this. Students who attend law school are at frightening risk of not being able to earn enough afterward to pay even the required minimums on their law school debt and interest. Law students from elite law schools who land the “big time” jobs will still struggle to pay—many times while working grueling 80+ hour workweeks that can feel more like indentured servitude than a great, fulfilling career.

Don’t fool yourself. It’s possible to get a great, fulfilling, high-paying professional career while avoiding law school.

Pages 133–151 of my book explains exactly how parents can use three career assessments to figure out what that great, fulfilling, well-paying career might be for their teen or 20something.

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My Best Debt-Free College Interview Yet

Listen On Your Drive to Work Today

To listen to my best debt-free college interview yet, click here.

Be sure your sound is on.

Short on time? Listen to 9 selected clips from this interview by scrolling down here

Listen while you’re driving or getting ready in the morning, and you just might change the life of a student you love.

free college

In March of 2018 I was interviewed by Andy Earle, a Loyola Marymount University researcher who focuses on parent-teen communication and teen thriving and flourishing.

I’ve been interviewed many times since my book LAUNCH came out in 2017, but this interview is by far the best. It’s the best produced, the most in-depth, the most inspiring, and the most informative.

To listen to the entire interview, or to quickly listen to just a few select clips, click here.

You’ll feel a growing sense of hope for the teens and 20somethings you love.

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8 Reasons Google’s Managers Are Wildly Successful

Back in 2009, researchers in Google’s People Innovation Lab spent an entire year finding the answer to one question: “What makes managers wildly successful?”

Managers

According to this Inc. article, Google put all the resources at its disposal into data-mining “performance appraisals, employee surveys, and nominations for top manager awards.” In the end, Google statisticians had gathered more than 10,000 observations about managers—across 100 different variables.

Interestingly, Google’s research on managers is 100% applicable to parenting.

Whether you manage employees during your work day—or a house full of teenagers at home, the answers Google uncovered are applicable, inspiring, and encouraging.

Here they are. Google’s 8 qualities of great managers, listed in order of importance:

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Oh, No — I’m MARRIED to Student Loan Debt

What to Know When Your "I do" Includes "I Do Intend to Pay."

If your spouse has student loan debt, what does that mean for you and for your financial future?

What can you do now that will keep you safe throughout the decades ahead, even if something bad happens?

Immediately address the biggest thing you must worry about when your spouse has student loan debt.

spouse has student loan debt

Think, for just a minute, of the unthinkable. What if your spouse dies, leaving you with a mountain of student loan debt that you have to pay off? Are you doomed? Or is there something you can do now to get out of paying thousands back all by yourself later?

To understand what your risks are and what you can do now to protect yourself and your family, be sure you’ve read the article I’ve written entitled “What Happens to Student Loan Debt When You Die?

Take all the safe, legal steps you can to free yourself from your spouse’s student loan debt now.

You don’t have to get a divorce in order to accomplish this. Just do the following six things as soon as you can:

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What Happens to Student Loan Debt After You Die?

No parent wants to consider this — but what happens if one of your children runs up $80,000 in student loan debt, and then perishes in a car accident or dies of cancer? Will your grief be compounded by having to make years (decades!) of student loan payments, until the student loan obligation is paid in full? Every parent needs to be clear on the answer to this question: “What happens to student loan debt after you die?”

The answer is scary, but — there’s great hope for those who can plan ahead just a bit.

What happens to student loan debt after you die?

First, the good news, then the bad news.

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The 5 Essential Elements of Wellbeing

In their book Wellbeing, authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter outline what they call “the five essential elements of wellbeing.”

Wellbeing

Think about your kids as you read this list:

Physical Wellbeing

Social Wellbeing

Community Wellbeing

Financial Wellbeing

Career Wellbeing 

I think it’s fascinating to look at what happens in the spaces where two or more elements of wellbeing overlap. There’s great joy, for instance, in having a career—however humble—that gives you financial stability enough that you can give money away to help others who need help with their physical wellbeing.

And for teens and 20somethings, even if they temporarily have very limited money and zero career stability, they can still increase wellbeing by partnering with others around them (social) to do projects that help others (community).

According to Gallup research, this can actually be a faster route to happiness than going to an Ivy League university! (See the article I’ve written on this subject here.)

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That Local State University May NOT Be Your Bargain Option

Many parents have only one strategy for lowering college costs. Send the kid to the local state university.

But is your local state university actually your bargain option — considering all the factors involved?

state university

The hidden costs of state university nobody talks about

At many state universities, it can take even the most diligent students six years to earn a four-year bachelors degree.

Why? Because classes are full, so students struggle to get into the classes they need to graduate.

A state university education can be like buying a plane ticket, walking down to the gate, and then not being allowed to board — over and over and over again — because the plane is overbooked and every seat is taken.

Two extra years in state university can end up costing your kid a staggering amount.

Read the article I wrote here on how two extra years in college can end up costing students $300,000 in extra tuition, interest, lost full-time income, and stunted retirement savings. Plus, of course, a huge number of students get discouraged before the six years are up, and drop out — leaving college with a boatload of student loan debt and no college degree.

Yikes.

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Should Teens Take College Classes in 11th Grade?

Is it a good idea for teens to take college classes in 11th grade?

Increasingly, school staff at both public and private high schools are saying yes, and are working to create new and better ways for students to do so — often at state expense, which can save parents thousands on eventual college costs.

Private education, especially, is benefitting.

Private high schools have the flexibility to create innovative in-school programs where students as young as 11th grade are able to take real college classes for real college credit during the school day, while still having the full, enriching high school experience.

Innovation like this works out well for parents, schools, and students. Parents find it easier to pay private school tuition when they know their future college costs are going to be lower, schools are able to brag that many of their students are graduating high school with as much as two years of college credit already completed, and students who are ready to achieve can dive into real college work as soon as soon as they’re ready for it, efficiently earning college credit and high school credit at the same time.

college classes in 11th grade

AP classes declining in popularity 

For years, high schools offered Advanced Placement (AP) classes in an effort to help high achieving students earn some college credit before age 18, but in recent years, concern about the AP program has caused its popularity to plummet. Fewer than 50% of students who take AP courses actually receive the promised college credit, and that makes AP the least dependable way to earn college credit in high school. (This Atlantic article goes so far as to tell parents bluntly, “AP classes are a scam” and “AP students are being suckered.”)

Students who take real college courses in high school enjoy 7 significant advantages:

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