Freshman Orientation

Here at The Unbranded Student, we are committed to helping students find a college that works for them and their goals. One important thing you need to do to ensure that college helps you achieve your plans is you need to finish and get that degree. That is why we are starting our very own Freshman Orientation. Every day for the next 40 days we will have a quick tip up on our YouTube channel. These tips will help you get the most out of your college experience and finish with that degree.

Watch the first video now and check out the rest of the series.

Creating A College Plan

When talking to High School students, we encourage them to not only systematically set up a college search process, but we also ask them to create a plan for succeeding once they have chosen which college they will attend.

One key to developing a successful plan for college is to have the end in mind. Understanding the job or type of job a student is shooting for after college allows students to identify the skills needed for that career. They can then use their college experience to help position themselves for their future career.

In addition to better preparing for your future career while in college, having a plan in place will help students to make an educated decision if and when they decide to change plans. As students they develop skills toward their career they can decide if this is something they would like to continue to pursue.

Have you created your career plan? Spend some time thinking about how college can help you to launch a successful career.

College Rankings Don't Matter

You should ignore college rankings. Seriously. It might be helpful to have a general idea of where schools fall on a ranking, but those reports are so broad that they are not helpful. Understanding who you are and what you want to do with your life is a much more important guide to choosing a college than looking at a college rank.

Figure out who you are and what you want to major in first. Then look specifically at how the universities you are targeting run those programs and majors. This will me much more helpful than a generic number from US News and World Report.

Learn to ask for what you want

As we visit high schools and talk to both students and parents a common concern always arises. They want to know how they are going to afford college, or how much college is going to cost them. This, of course, isn’t a question we can answer for them on the spot, but there is general advice we do give.

The most important advice that many people ignore is to always ask. If you don’t think you can afford to go to a school, but you otherwise think it is a good fit, why don’t you examine the aid that they offer and see. It never hurts to ask. This advice goes for everything in the process. A recent article discusses how simply asking for fees to be waved can save you a significant amount of money in the college application process.

Schools might not give you the answer you want, but it never hurts to ask. And if you cast a wide enough net and you pursue all the scholarship and grant opportunities available to you, your likelihood of finding a college that is a great fit at a price you can afford goes way up. And the good thing is, you only need to find one.

College Fairs

If you are a high school student right now, it is almost college fair season, and you should take advantage of the opportunity. College fairs are one of the few times that you can easily talk to a representative from a variety of colleges all in one room. This makes it easy to compare. To take full advantage of the opportunity, you want to come prepared. While the representatives from each college have the goal of recruitment, your goal is different. You need to find out what is the best school for you. To do this, you have to know what you are looking for before you walk in the door. Have your college plan in place. (Our book can help you with that) Below are some questions to help you get started.

College Fair Financial Questions

What is your average financial aid package?

What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants?

What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet?

What is the average merit award?

What percentage of students receive college grants?

What is the average college debt that students leave with?

What work-study opportunities are there?


Other Questions

What do you do best?

What are the best two college majors you offer?

What support services do you provide students like me?

Can I walk on the tennis team?

Do I have to live in the dorm freshman year?

Can I bring a car freshmen year?

What time does the school transportation shut down?

Do provide mentors to students?

What is your job placement rate?

Where is the career center on campus?

Who are your biggest corporate recruiters?

We are excited to be speaking to parents and students at HEB ISD this week. If you would like to have Unbranded Student speak to your school, group, or classroom contact us at

The College Return on Investment (ROI)

A lot of the discussion around college is very focused on exactly how much money graduates make as soon as they shake the college president’s hand and walk across the stage to receive their diploma. That’s fine. You should be concerned about what job you get after college, but you also have to take the long-term view. You have to think of earning potential over your lifetime when you get that degree. In addition, these effects are additive because in recent years marriage patterns have shifted so that individuals with college degrees are more likely to marry, and when they do, they often marry partners who have college degrees. On average, here’s what you can expect to make in a lifetime based on your level of education:

·       High school diploma: $1.2 million

·       Bachelor’s degree: $2.1 million

·       Master’s degree: $2.5 million

·       Doctorate degree: $3.4 million

·       Professional degree (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Dentistry for example): $4.4 million[1]

Since the above is so abstract, I have re-created the lifetime earnings for the different educational levels in the chart below using boats earned as the metric instead of dollars. Each boat is worth $500,000 of earnings.


Those numbers might look big to you now, but you have to break it down by month and factor in bills and living expenses. What kind of life do you dream of? What do you imagine for your future? Money isn’t everything, but it is a tool to help create the life you want. Can you have the life you dream of without a college degree?

To learn more about how college work as a tool for your entire life, not just four years of fun, check out our book.

[1] Robert Longley, “Lifetime Earnings Soar with Education,” ThoughtCo., June 4, 2017,

Does your student need a mission statement?

What if there was a way students could feel confident about their college search? If there were one tool that would guarantee students chose the right school for them, how much would that be worth?

 Here at The Unbranded Student, we believe we’ve found that tool, and the best part is: It’s FREE!

 The tool we’re talking about is a mission statement. Corporations, churches, schools, families, and many adults swear their mission statement is an essential key to their success. Stephen Covey explains: “Your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”

 The college search isn’t just about picking a school or a major or that first job out of college; it’s about making a series of choices that work together to chart the course of a student’s life.

 Having a mission statement takes the guesswork out of that process.

 How does a student write a meaningful mission statement?

  •  Relieve the pressure. This doesn’t have to be elaborate or set in stone. In fact, the best mission statements are specific enough to provide meaning but broad enough to change as people evolve over time. Your student’s mission statement doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be thoughtful and genuine. It just has to answer the question: Why?

  • Start with strengths. When students examine factors like their personality, passions, and strengths, they begin to form a picture of who they are. From there it gets easier to articulate why they have the goals, desires, and dreams they imagine for their future.

  • Go to the source. Writing the mission statement is all about boiling this self-knowledge down to the most essential elements. When students explore the universal motivation that drives their desires, decisions, and dreams, they’re able to articulate their life mission. They start to glimpse that one thing that makes them feel most alive.

 When a student begins to articulate that singular mission, that driving force, that ultimate motivation in their lives, they gain an incredible sense of clarity. Faced with a new opportunity or a tough life decision, they look to their mission statement to guide them, to remind them of who they are, what they want, and the why that infuses their life with meaning. From there, finding the right college is within any student’s grasp.

 For more tips on how to help your student write their mission statement, check out The Unbranded Student book and five-week online companion course.

Is College Worth It?

College is important, but you need to understand where college lands in the context of your life. College doesn’t get to be the main character because it’s such a small part of your life. You see, you’ll probably live around ninety years, and college is only four (or six, or eight) of those years.

Care about your college search, but remember that your college choice should set you up to thrive in your next 80 years. Don’t plan for college to be the ultimate four years of your life. That’s a bad plan.

College in life.png

To learn more, check out our book Unbranded Student on Amazon now.

Financing College 101

The college conversation shouldn’t start with how much a particular school costs. For the full story on why not, read The Unbranded Student: Reclaiming Your College Search. The short version is that we’re trying to help students discover which options in the college search are tailored to their specific needs. Only after they’ve done that work should you start thinking about the financing piece. By starting with the question of cost, you close the door on potential opportunities. Realistically, though, we understand that we have to talk money at some point.

 Paying for college might feel like a daunting task. Sometimes it’s even hard to know what a school’s tuition rates are; university websites don’t always offer straightforward information about cost. But knowing your options can ease the stress. Here’s a quick primer to get you started thinking about how to pay for university.

  1.  Start a FAFSA. FAFSA is a free application that current or prospective students submit to determine their eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds. Start a FAFSA here.

  2. Get serious about scholarships. You want to start with the free money, right? Unlike loans, scholarships don’t have to be repaid, so prioritize scholarship funds. Here’s what students need to know:

    1. Start early. Finding and applying for scholarships is a time-consuming and demanding process. You have to search, apply, write essays, get reference letters, and allow time for the review process. So start early and give yourself plenty of time to avoid burnout. We’re helping with scholarships too!

    2. Search often. There’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for, and databases are periodically updated with new offerings. By searching often and applying widely, you give yourself the best chance for earning those dollars.

    3. Sell your genuine self. Scholarships are competitive. Tell the truth, but don’t be afraid to brag. This is the perfect place to let your best qualities shine.

    4. Submit early. Each scholarship application has a deadline. Mark it down and aim to submit the application a couple days ahead of time so a spotty Internet connection or computer problems don’t ruin your submission.

  3. Check out grants. Whereas scholarships are merit-based, grants are need-based. But because grants are another source of free funds, you want to see if you qualify. Look to the federal government, your state, and your college for available grants. Try this grant and scholarship finder.

  4. Apply for work-study. Federal Work-Study provides part-time work through on- and off-campus jobs to students who qualify. Learn more about work-study options here.

  5. Take out loans. Because loans have to be repaid, we put them last on our list. After tapping into savings, grants, and scholarships, many students find they still need loans to cover college costs. Students should start with federal loans, as they offer benefits over private loans, and with subsidized over unsubsidized to avoid paying interest while in school. FAFSA is your starting point for taking out loans. You can also create a CSS profile to search for institutional aid. Remember, the average debt of graduating college students is around $30,000. (Read our post about whether college is worth it to see how $30k is a pretty cheap investment for the future earnings of a person with a degree.)


Don’t let the high cost of college get you down. Use this five-step process to review your options and make the best choice for you. Just remember, if you haven’t read The Unbranded Student and completed the companion online course, you’re starting out on the wrong foot. College is expensive—choosing the wrong college even more costly. That’s why the book and course start the college search by choosing the right major and university. Then, once you’ve narrowed your focus, you can trust that the time you put into figuring out how to finance it will be well-spent. Wouldn’t it be great if it wasn’t so complicated? Yes! Go to college and become the politician that fixes it for all of us. But in the meantime, get to work!

3 surefire ways students find the right college

Today’s high school students are facing huge challenges to their college search. Too many students follow their friends to school or pick a university with a good reputation or go where they can root for their favorite football team. These aren’t inherently bad reasons to go to a school, but they don’t maximize students’ potential for a successful education.

Students can build a foundation for success by taking a more intentional approach to the college search, but it starts with a shift in mind-set. Here at The Unbranded Student, we believe college is not just an end in itself. When college is the ultimate goal, it sets students up to be disappointed and ill prepared for life after school. But when college is the means to an end, it becomes a tool students use to design the life they dream of beyond university. This is a perspective that not only helps students graduate from college, but also go to a college that is right for them—with less debt, in less time, and on a straightforward path to the life and career they dream of.

Using this approach to the college search, there are three things students must consider before they even think about what school is right for them.



 Students need to know who they are. What makes them unique? What drives them? What are they good at? They need insight into their personality, skills, and interests so they can make an informed choice about the kinds of careers they’ll enjoy and thrive in. Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and the Big Five can be a great starting point. Even the Building Blocks test we’ve developed is a good start. Take the parent assessment here, or access the student assessment here.



Going to college is a great experience in its own right. But to make the most of the educational tools offered at university, students should know why they’re pursuing the course of study they’ve chosen. What’s the driving force behind their chosen career path? Interest and passion for a subject are fulfilling in the short term. But imagine if your student could identify and articulate larger goals through a personal mission statement. They’d have a compass to navigate the bigger life and career questions waiting for them beyond college.



 Once students know who they are and why they’re passionate about their career path, they should be asking what major could best prepare them for that career. When a student identifies the best major for their chosen career path, they’re giving themselves the best possible chance for success to step into the job market after graduation. This allows them to enter the workforce with the tailored knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to land that first job.

Set your student up for a successful college search by encouraging them to do this introspective work. This approach starts students out on the right foot. It’s intentional, measurable, and empowering. Best of all, it’s designed to remove the guesswork.

Finding answers to these three questions will give your student an invaluable head start: self-awareness. Armed with this self-knowledge, they’re ready to make the best decision about what school is right to help them achieve their goals.

If you like this approach to the college search and you’re looking for more tips and tools, check out The Unbranded Student book and the five-week online companion course.