THE SJ CHILDS SHOW

Episode 272-Navigating the Voyage from High School to College: A Guide for Students and Their Families with Shellee Howard

May 14, 2024 Sara Gullihur-Bradford aka SJ Childs Season 11 Episode 272
Episode 272-Navigating the Voyage from High School to College: A Guide for Students and Their Families with Shellee Howard
THE SJ CHILDS SHOW
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THE SJ CHILDS SHOW
Episode 272-Navigating the Voyage from High School to College: A Guide for Students and Their Families with Shellee Howard
May 14, 2024 Season 11 Episode 272
Sara Gullihur-Bradford aka SJ Childs

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Embark on a critical exploration of how individuals and students can successfully transition from high school to college, with Shellee Howard from College Ready guiding the way. You're promised a treasure trove of insights on early planning for college readiness, beginning as early as middle school — a strategic approach to choosing the ideal college environment, and the financial gymnastics of balancing savings and aid to sidestep debt. This episode is a navigational beacon for parents plotting their child's academic voyage and students setting sail toward their educational horizons.

Steering through the currents of educational transitions need not be a solo journey. Our conversation charts a course through the choppy waters of guiding children and teens, with an emphasis on the power of open-ended questions and the critical juncture of the summer before ninth grade. Particularly for those youngsters who shy away from future-talk, we outline how to weave these pivotal discussions into the fabric of daily life. As they paddle through the grades, we highlight the landmarks for preparing a robust college application and nurturing a thriving student ready to conquer their next academic chapter.

As the compass points towards college readiness and financial resources, we unveil the quest to help a million families send their children to dream colleges devoid of debt's shadow. Not only does this episode unpack how students can dazzle in the admissions arena, but it also casts a light on the treasure trove of scholarships—just last year, students snagged $23 million. Furthermore, we introduce empowering platforms like empowereducation.world and futurenow.com, equipping parents and students with the maps and tools necessary to navigate the educational odyssey with confidence and community support.

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Embark on a critical exploration of how individuals and students can successfully transition from high school to college, with Shellee Howard from College Ready guiding the way. You're promised a treasure trove of insights on early planning for college readiness, beginning as early as middle school — a strategic approach to choosing the ideal college environment, and the financial gymnastics of balancing savings and aid to sidestep debt. This episode is a navigational beacon for parents plotting their child's academic voyage and students setting sail toward their educational horizons.

Steering through the currents of educational transitions need not be a solo journey. Our conversation charts a course through the choppy waters of guiding children and teens, with an emphasis on the power of open-ended questions and the critical juncture of the summer before ninth grade. Particularly for those youngsters who shy away from future-talk, we outline how to weave these pivotal discussions into the fabric of daily life. As they paddle through the grades, we highlight the landmarks for preparing a robust college application and nurturing a thriving student ready to conquer their next academic chapter.

As the compass points towards college readiness and financial resources, we unveil the quest to help a million families send their children to dream colleges devoid of debt's shadow. Not only does this episode unpack how students can dazzle in the admissions arena, but it also casts a light on the treasure trove of scholarships—just last year, students snagged $23 million. Furthermore, we introduce empowering platforms like empowereducation.world and futurenow.com, equipping parents and students with the maps and tools necessary to navigate the educational odyssey with confidence and community support.

Support the Show.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the SJ Child Show, where a little bit of knowledge can turn fear into understanding. Enjoy the show.

Speaker 2:

We know that millions of talented neurodivergent individuals are struggling in the workplace. My name is Jeannie Love. I'm a neurodiversity consultant. From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, we are addressing barriers and creating empowering environments for all minds to thrive. Whether revising job descriptions and HR policies or providing education to managers, let us customize a strategy to support a high functioning culture in your workplace. Reach out and schedule.

Speaker 1:

This episode is sponsored by Genie Love Neurodiversity Coaching wwwgenielovecoach. That's genielovecoach. Hello, we are live today. I am here with Shelly Howard and she is with College Ready, and I'm really excited to bring this episode live today, which really is new for me. So I hope everybody enjoys it and please you know, leave comments and we'll get to those. If, if people do want to say hello, say where they're from. Also, if you have questions throughout the podcast, please just put them in the comments and we'll bring them up and talk about it during that time. So thank you so much for joining me today. It is my pleasure, I'm excited, I'm excited to talk about this and it's Pleasure. I'm excited, I'm excited to talk about this and it's really good timing, isn't it For what we need to do?

Speaker 3:

For sure, yes, for the ones graduating and for the ones who are going into their senior year, it's all such a crazy busy time.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely Well. Thank you for joining us today. I know that it's afternoon for both of us and it's right in the middle of spring and, oh my goodness, so many things are changing. Let's talk about how we're getting our kids ready for the transition and what kind of steps We'll just start at the beginning. What kind of steps do we need to take? Well, let's start even beginninger than that, introduce yourself, if you will, and tell us a little bit about College Ready.

Speaker 3:

I would be happy to. So my name is Shelly Howard. As she said, I'm the founder and CEO of College Ready. We have been helping students get into college and graduate debt-free for 18 years. We are just starting our 18th application season and it's been an amazing journey. It all actually started with my firstborn and he had big hopes and dreams, and now we're celebrating those hopes and dreams. And we're celebrating those hopes and dreams and we're um, you know, we're global. We we help students from a 3.0 to a 5.0, from need-based to multimillionaires. Everybody is in a state of overwhelm and a shock of how much college costs, so hopefully I'll be able to give you some great knowledge today so you can, you know, make some good choices prior to potentially getting yourself in debt.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and families really need that right now, especially, you know, with the price of everything right and increasing as you go anywhere. You, you see that and and it can be hard on so many families. What are some steps that we should take early on? Let's, let's start there, because I'm sure that there will be people that are not even close to college yet. So what are some goals that we can put in their minds to maybe start that mindset going?

Speaker 3:

Wow, that, really that's longer than the podcast. So most people ask when is the best time to start planning for college? So let's start there, really having those conversations with your children like you would talk about a museum, like you would talk about amusement park. It's part of a conversation of what is our expectations. I always tell families college may not be for everybody, but I think everybody should know college is available if that's the choice. They take conversations when my oldest was in third grade and I took him to tour Harvard and we were visiting family on the East Coast and I said, hey, we're going to go to this museum, we're going to go see how you know the Mayflower did its thing and we're going to go see Harvard. And it's like, all right, let's go. And I remember him walking around just having so many questions why do you go here? And this is amazing. And so just awareness starts very early. When is the best time to really start planning? In middle school? So seventh and eighth grade. They are ready to have conversations about their future, depending on their emotional maturity. We start students as young as seventh and eighth grade because colleges start to look at a student's resume when they promote from eighth grade. So we need to hit the ground running and making sure their very first class in high school is going to set them up for success.

Speaker 3:

On the flip side, families start planning for college, or not planning for college, depending on the situation, sometimes when the child is born. I know that's when I started saying I want to do this and knowledge is important. The 529 plan is not a good plan for everyone, but it's the only plan the government offers. So for everybody going, what do you mean? It's not a good plan, that's the plan I'm using. That is the plan I used. I saved up a boatload of money because I wanted to be that parent and found out that the FAFSA counted against you. So be very careful and gain that knowledge because academically, financially and then they're socially right. Who is your child? Do they want a big football school or do they want a little private school? Starting this process in seventh, eighth and ninth grade, they learn gently how to prepare, versus me fire hosing it when they're a junior or senior.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely, and that can be overwhelming too, because they're all the pressures. Who do you want? Where do you want to go? What do you tell parents? To? That question of kind of like allowing or maybe guiding kids in the right direction without forcing or making it feel pressured.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So if you start those conversations early about what college was like for you maybe the PG version, and if you didn't go to college, maybe some reasons why you would like them to right. So just start that very gentle, because in about middle school people are gonna start asking where do you wanna go to college and what do you wanna do for your career? And some students will say my son knew in eighth grade I wanna be a brain surgeon, I wanna go to an Ivy League school. And it was shocker because I was the first to go to college and there's no medicine in my family. So I to go to an Ivy League school and it was shocker because I was the first to go to college and there's no medicine in my family. So I'm like whoa, where'd that come from? He is now an orthopedic surgeon, so he did not vary much from what he knew in middle school.

Speaker 3:

For other kids, it's actually where they start to feel kind of sad that they don't know. There's some kids who almost feel bad that they have no idea what their gifts and talents are, where they want to go to college, what kind of career. So that's the first place we start. We have to help students really get to know themselves before they can really project to others what it is they want. So we do a lot of self-reflecting, we do a lot of assessments and unpacking, because this is really the first generation that's going to have AI be their competition, and it is a reality.

Speaker 3:

Right, our journalists, our social media is going to AI and right, as we're watching this. So we want our students to know. Their career may not even have a name yet. It may be something that we don't even label yet, or a robot may be doing it in five years. So we have to help them really self-reflect on what do they want to get out of life, who are they and what are their gifts and how are they going to use them. And so it's a. It's a. It's a fun conversation, but it's a hard one to have with your own child.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I can see that happening. Um, I was playing that out of my mind as you were saying that, in fact, and that exactly was a little fearful, but at the same time, wanting to really also show them that you want to support their interests and their strengths and if they do have talents or skills in one way or another. And there's so many, there's so many different types of colleges. Now there's the trades and you know, and, of course, academics and things. So really finding out kind of what your child's interests are is probably the best way to play into their interests.

Speaker 3:

Right, yeah, starting with them and helping them. I asked a student this morning what is your core values? And they looked at me like I spoke another language. They don't teach that in high school and if they don't get it at home, they're not going to really even have a concept until I I'm like do you enjoy spending time with your family? And I will get a big yes or a big no. There's not a ton in the middle. Do you like to travel, do you not? You know, do you like to help people, do you not? And we're starting to just ask simple questions and they're like yes, no, yes, no. And all of a sudden they're like oh, I do have a gift and I do have an opinion and now I can think about my future. So it really is about bringing that self-awareness without judgment, no judgment, that will be huge.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. That's so important in parenting across the board is to really try to show up without that judgment, but more curiosity and like excitement for them to say, okay, like what does that look like? What do you think you know what? Let's look up the wages and salaries that you might be making if you choose this career path. Let's what are the life like skills? Or what about habits? What kind of habits will you might need to pick up to create and foster those things to get you on that path? Good conversations to have.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and they're not used to having them, so they're going to get a little squirmy and they're like. A lot of them will say I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. And so I I encourage parents, don't ask yes or no questions. Ask leading questions. You know when they do something. Well, do you see yourself doing that when you're older? Do you enjoy doing that kind of thing? And that is a yes or a no, but it's a leading question to what's next. Oh, you don't. Well, what about that? Don't you like? And that helps them to start to navigate. What are they meant to do and how do they step into that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. What do you think, as we're now excuse me now entering into this phase of transition into different grades for everyone, what should we be talking about this summer with our kids going into the next grade? Say, we have a middle schooler moving into high school.

Speaker 3:

Right and, as the listeners know, every one of our children is different, so please take that into mind while I'm sharing. It really comes to is your child ready to receive what it is that they should be doing right? We have some overachievers and we have some underachievers, or more mature or less mature. That's the fact. But in general, here's some things that you want to think of as a parent. Number one is in seventh grade, it's time for exploration. It's time to explore leading. It's time to explore serving. It's time to explore. Am I good at math, science, english, history? If they don't know, challenge them gently in each of those areas. Why don't you write a book? And they're like write a book. If there's a lot of resistance, that may not be something that they want to do. Or if you say how can we use you're really good at this, how can we use that? So it's all exploration. Really a great time for them to put their toe in the water and say, hmm, that felt great. Or Ooh, yeah, I didn't like that at all. By eighth grade, it's time to narrow down that and start to think about going into high school. Am I a STEM student, a visual and performing arts? Where are my people. Where do I feel most comfortable? And then going into ninth grade, right, that summer before is the most underutilized summer a student will have. It's the least busy. They will be the best time to serve their community. It's brilliant. Everybody needs somebody. And so if they love little people, it's a great time for them to volunteer at a summer camp, right? They always need support. So think about what that is for a student who loves chemistry. Have them start making YouTube videos about how they have been able to enjoy chemistry and share it with little people who are going to admire that age Like it's the little things that will start to help them pick up momentum.

Speaker 3:

Then, for those who are freshman year, going into sophomore year, it's all about test prep, sat, act. It's all about am I taking the right classes to get into the kind of college I want? Is there an opportunity for me to start leading in community service? Is there an opportunity I can start shadowing people doing the job I think I want to do? So there's so many things they can be doing. That's not what do you want to do and how are you going to do it? And it's not intense. It's like fun ways to figure out life and then then it gets real.

Speaker 3:

So by the junior year they're doing their, their strategy. How are they going to position themselves to get into the college they want? What is their academic rigor, their GPA, what is their test score? How many APs have they done? How many dual enrollment? How many community service hours? How much leadership? How do they feel about writing essays? Like there's a lot.

Speaker 3:

So by the junior year, even if a student wants to go to a local state school, they need to be ramping up and polishing because they start applying to college the beginning of their senior year. It still shocks people to think, well, wait, that's their junior year and I'm like that's the reality. So that is a challenge to get that student up and ready to be able to be in that position of picking a college, picking a major, thinking about where I want to live and what do I want to study, what kind of career If you wait until their junior or senior year? What kind of career if you wait until their junior or senior year? They're going to feel really lost and behind and have a hard time not getting into overwhelm.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And then what about kiddos that might not be interested? When you ask them, what if they say, no, you know that's not something, that that I want to do. And what? What do you say to that child, or you know that parent, to ease them to? You know, so they, they don't feel pressured or judged in the world as well.

Speaker 3:

Right. So, depending on the age, um, let's just say middle or high school, if you, if they don't want to talk about it, is one thing. That means they're terrified. It doesn't mean they're trying to shut you out. It doesn't mean anything negative other than I wish I knew I don't and I don't want to talk about it. That's, that's what they're sending you. So the best thing you can do is to start to gently bring it into their world, not by, like, having brochures under their pillow. That's not gentle.

Speaker 3:

What I'm talking about is you know, what do you? What do you enjoy most during your free time? And if they say, oh, I like hanging out with my friends at the beach, wonderful, so what about the beach? Do you really enjoy? I really enjoy X, y and Z. And you start to, instead of having judgment on oh, great, so you're just going to hang out at the beach all summer, right? You start to say, well, what about the beach? Oh, it's my friends, so you really enjoy spending time? Yes, I love spending time.

Speaker 3:

So have you ever thought about maybe doing community service with your friends? I can do community service with my friends. Yes, you can. Would you like to do something, maybe where you are able to collect sea glass, create jewelry and sell it at a craft fair and then donate the money, what? That sounds really cool. I can do all that with my friends. So do you see how you take from a very eh to a supporting, loving, guiding, and then they're like that's genius. But let's get real, I do this for a living.

Speaker 3:

So when my child says, ah, no, I don't know, I don't want to talk about it, I hired somebody to talk to my children about it. I'm not going to lie. I hired my own consultants to give this information to my daughter, because her and I I would say what about? And she'd say no, without even hearing what I was trying to encourage, right? So sometimes you just have to realize that I don't know about you. But when I was a teenager, my parents didn't know very much, and now that I'm a parent, I'm like my teenager doesn't know very much. So it's just Michael, right? Yes, we get caught spinning in.

Speaker 3:

Well, the only way to step out of that cycle is to do two things either hire a professional for them to talk to your child, because they know there's no judgment there, or to ask and I've done this of my own children, and I've done this of my own children. So if you could do anything or be anyone, what would that be? No judgment, right? And they don't know. And then you're like well, do you understand? That's what we need to help you figure out. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I'm here to say if you don't know, that's okay. But do you want to be here when you're a senior in high school and all your friends are leaving for college or career or whatever and you're like I still don't know? That's the conversation that I encourage parents to have.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and right now I mean college graduation or high school graduation going on. What should those parents be? Excuse me, what should those parents be doing with that age group and transition right now?

Speaker 3:

Right. So you know, when students leave high school they really go three directions. They go I am going to work, that's one direction they go. I'm going to go community college because I have no idea what I want to do and I hopefully somebody there will figure it out for me, and that doesn't work. And then they are like well, okay, I worked really hard in high school, I'm going to go to college and I'm going to be all in and I'm going to figure it out as I'm going through it. All three of those are fine. There's not one better than another. It depends on the child.

Speaker 3:

Just avoiding the subject is the scary part. Or allowing your 17 year old to pick a college based on a location I love UC Santa Barbara and the view from the dorms is legit. But paying that kind of tuition for somebody who wants to be a gardener or a botanist, that's not a good return on their investment. So having a conversation that's like that is great. How much money will that major provide for you when you graduate? Can you pay off your student loans? If you're going to take loans? What does all that look like? How much does it cost to pay for electricity on your own? There's so much right. They're just like well, I just want to live here.

Speaker 3:

Well, what I've always told my kids and my students is the best thing that a parent can do is launch their child into success. Right, that's what parents want. Very few are like I just want to take care of you for the rest of your life Like that's not what I hear a lot of. So a student is like relieved to hear that, but they're not really sure what that means. With my children, I gave them luggage and they quickly figured out what that meant is yes, I'd love you to travel, but I also would love you to start to be successful on your own. And how do I help you get there? That's the conversation. Is you know, if you stay at home and do nothing, I don't know how to cook and I don't know how to grocery shop and I don't know how to put gas in your car. Those are hard conversations.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

It's a parenting thing and I'm definitely not here to tell you parenting advice. I'm really here to let you know that supporting your child in whatever direction, as long as there's a plan. The number one wildest thing this generation is doing is they want to be influencers. Wow, no generation before them ever came through my door and said Shelly, I just want to be an influencer, and it's because they make it look so easy, right, you go online, you're on social media all day, you're having a great time and people throw money at you. Social media all day, you're having a great time and people throw money at you. What they don't realize is there's a business plan and there's a marketing strategy and they're like well, I don't know how to do that and I'm like that is what you learn in college, right? So it's important for families to help students understand that they may not know all there is to know about whatever it is they want to do, and they just want to support them to figure that out.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I love that. Tell us what we would come to you for and kind of what that supports families with the bottom line with that supports families with the bottom line with that Right.

Speaker 3:

So College Ready was established. Our mission is to help a million families get accepted into college their dream school is what we really want and to do it without going into debt. Right now, college has never been more competitive or more expensive. What we're here to do is take away the unknown, and that is the competitive piece. How will your child stand out? It is no longer a GPA and a test score, so how are they going to compete? That is what we specialize in.

Speaker 3:

The second piece is how do we get big scholarships? Last year, in 22-23, our students earned $23 million in scholarships. The money is out there. We need to teach you how to go and find it, and your 17-year-old is not going to do that. So be mindful. They're not ready to buy you a home that's the same cost of college. They're definitely not ready to buy you a car without being involved, and college is way more of an investment than that. So what we help students and families do is we help the student build their resume to stand out to get accepted. We help them to pick the right college list to get the big institutional money. We help them to stand out by knowing what it takes to be competitive. Then we help the family understand what's on the FAFSA, the CSS profile, how to lower their student aid index to receive the big scholarships. So we are the only consultants who do the entire process, because that's what it takes to get into college and graduate without debt.

Speaker 1:

Wow, that is a big mission and thank you, thank you on behalf of lots of families out there. And how many students have you had come through? Do you have a number on that?

Speaker 3:

Close. Interesting enough, the day after I set my goal of a million people, I was featured on Fox 5 News and I hit my million audience right, yes, but I didn't get to help them individually. They I gave them knowledge, but I couldn't count it because I don't feel like I had a good met metrics to see if I would accomplish that. Yes, so after 17 years of doing this, we've helped literally hundreds of thousands of families, but I have not counted each and every one of them to get to my million mark.

Speaker 3:

We are now tracking that and this year alone, even with the FAFSA still not releasing our students, are up to 7 million in scholarships, and so we know that it's working. We know that students every one of our students gets into college and gets scholarships Everyone, we know that to be true. And now we're tracking at what college and how much and where that student's going and what was the return on investment? And unfortunately that's a private. What was the return on investment? And unfortunately that's a private thing that we can't share, Of course yes, but it is millions and it is so exciting.

Speaker 1:

Wow, how does that make you feel as just kind of knowing that you started this spark and have helped so many families with kids reach their goals?

Speaker 3:

spark and have helped so many families with kids reach their goals. Yeah, so my superpower, my gift, is giving and it's leading others to give. So I'm actually more proud of my students and what they've accomplished than what I have done. You know, we started College Ready, started an organization, a nonprofit, to help children get educated all over the world, and last year, 37 of my students built three schools in Uganda and supported an orphanage in Oaxaca. Than anything, because I believe that if every 18 year old graduated high school with community service under their belt, that our world would be that just that much better. So the mission is bigger than just getting into a name of school. It's bigger than the millions of dollars we've saved families. It's launching kids to be successful in life and not being strapped by debt.

Speaker 1:

That's amazing and it's so hard for people to understand that those resources are out there until they hear this type of information and they know that those resources are out there. So we really appreciate that. I totally see that all the time with families, you know, just not knowing that there are financial resources, scholarships, grants and for all sorts of family situations, and so, yes, taking advantage or trying to find somebody that can consult you in that process is such a great, great blessings for families out there. Where can everyone go? Well, as you can see, it's been scrolling across the bottom of the screen, but talk to us about what the website looks like and kind of how they can navigate that and where they go to get all the good information.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely so I would encourage them to look at two websites. One of them is Collegereadyplan P-L-A-N dot com, the company's Collegeready, but I had to put plan in there because without a plan, is planning to fail, and so it's very important that, no matter where you're at, it's never too early and it's never too late. So if you go to that website, you can have a ton of free resources. You can show up at our webinars, where I just share all of this information on how, and then, if you're like, hey, I need support, I even gift you a 30 minute discovery call. The second one that I would encourage your child to really look at is called empower education dot world. It is where our students are leading other students to create change in the world, and anybody can sign up, not just a college ready student. I'm just leading them to lead others, lead others, but it is a beautiful way for them to get in and empower students to help other students to provide education all over the world.

Speaker 3:

Okay, the the letter R spelled out future N-O-W dot com. This will help you to see what you can do. Say you're a parent, you're like I've got this. I really want to help my child do this. It is a place to help the parent navigate the process. So if you need help, we have college ready plan. If you want to do it yourself, we have see our future now. And if you want your child to take part in community service, we have empower education. We're here to support your family.

Speaker 1:

Oh, shelly, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful conversation with you today and I appreciate your time and going live at the last second we but it was, it was wonderful and what an amazing service and I hope that, uh, you know, thousands, millions more will will take this and um see the success for their children and child their children to come. So thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

It's been my pleasure, happy to support.

Preparing for College Transition
Navigating Transitions With Children and Teens
College Readiness and Financial Resources
Supporting Education and Empowering Students