With the soaring cost of a university education these days, many parents wonder how they can get their teens free college tuition at a top school.
To get answers, I sat down with academic strategist Jeannie Burlowski. This lady is like the Einstein of college finances.
Her day job (the one she works when she’s not writing books and speaking at conferences) is literally coaching college students to set extraordinarily high goals for themselves, and then strategizing to help them figure out the fastest, least expensive way to get to those goals.
If your college student daughter wants to go to Johns Hopkins for med school and get a PhD at the same time, for example, your family might hire Jeannie to figure out all the steps to make that happen—with an emphasis on getting it all done as inexpensively as possible. Most often without scholarships.
Because inexpensive is one of Jeannie’s primary focuses, she’s written a book specifically for parents of kids and teens who’ll one day be going to college: LAUNCH: How to get Your Kids Through College Debt Free and into Jobs They Love Afterward.
LAUNCH has become one of the most well-respected books on this subject (it’s the go-to reference book for financial planners and college consultants) because Jeannie isn’t just about doing college cheap, she’s about doing it debt-free and so effectively that it results in a great, satisfying career after college is over.
So, when it comes to landing a free college diploma for your teen, she kiiiiinda knows what she’s talking about.
Avoiding Undergraduate Student Loans
In her grad school and medical school consulting practice, Jeannie’s seen students who graduated from four years of college with over $180,000 in student loans. This kind of debt is crippling.
Her advice to parents is clear: DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN to help your kid avoid taking out undergraduate student loans. No matter your income level, if you strategize well enough early on, you can get your teen through four years of undergrad without borrowing a dime.
During her 23 years working as an academic strategist, she’s developed some extremely creative strategies to bring the cost of REAL, high quality, high value college down, down, down, down…down to such a bargain basement level that even ordinary families can have it 100% paid for by two – four years after the kid graduates from high school.
So What’s the Secret to Free College Tuition?
Well, Jeannie says you need to be very careful here because the idea is to get your teen a GOOD education that leads to a real job after college. Landing your teen free college doesn’t do any good if the education he or she receives is sub-par.
So she suggests that your goal should be to get your teen a debt-free college education, not necessarily 100% free college tuition.
Um…what’s the difference?
Jeannie explained it to me like this:
“Everything you purchase that has high quality and high value has a cost. When you purchase something that can literally change a family’s life for generations, it’s going to have a significant cost. That just makes sense. But if you take a number of very strategic steps early on, you can completely sidestep paying the sticker price for college—even if your family makes too much to qualify for financial aid and your kid’s not getting any scholarships.”
I was surprised to hear that there are tax breaks for parents of college students that can save them thousands. Who tells parents about this? Savvy parents are finding out about them in Jeannie’s book.
In this episode
Jeannie reveals a few of the trade secrets she has uncovered over the past 2+ decades. This is not hard stuff to apply and the benefits are astronomical.
For example, teens often hear this about AP classes: “If you do well on the test at the end of an AP class, you’ll get college credit for that subject!”Really?
Is that statement really true? In reality, less than half of teens who take an AP test are actually awarded the promised college credit. Jeannie says that there’s a far more effective way to earn college credit in high school, and she covers it on pages 91-96 of her book.
Debt-Free College Education
Of course, one key to getting some free college tuition money is to land merit aid awards from colleges and universities. Merit aid is free college money that does not ever need to be paid back, and your child can be eligible for it even if you have a million dollars in the bank.
The problem is—many parents assume that students have to be geniuses with perfect GPAs and test scores in order to get merit aid. “Not so,” Jeannie says. “The key to getting merit aid is to get your teen started early (in middle school and high school) focusing in on fewer activities than most students do, in greater depth than most students ever have time for.”
Commitment and depth to fewer activities can impress admissions offices into offering these students loads of free money later.
What kinds of activities are we talking about here?
It’s all covered in this episode.
And as an example of how to use these techniques with your own teenager, I put together a word-for-word script for you to get through to your teen FAST about any issue.
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2 Quotes from
9 Clips from
CLIP 1 (1:33)
The Biggest Myth About Undergraduate Education
Jeannie works with countless students who wasted tens of thousands of dollars following this faulty advice.
CLIP 2 (2:58)
Help Your Teen Find a Cause to Care About
Yes, it’s one of the best ways to get into a great college. But there’s an even more important benefit…
CLIP 3 (1:34)
How to Get a $72,000 Scholarship by Playing Video Games
Even with a terrible GPA your teen can get free college tuition money from universities using this technique.
CLIP 4 (3:11)
What to Carefully Write Down Starting When Your Kid is 12
This simple strategy will help your teen score prestigious internships and jobs later in life.
CLIP 5 (1:34)
Why Your Teen Should Get a Roth IRA Immediately
Here Jeannie describes the benefits of an IRA–and how to convince your teen to open one up.
CLIP 6 (3:33)
Teach Your Teens how to Budget Their Money
This is a difficult thing for many parents to teach, but Jeannie has a trick to make it simple.
CLIP 7 (1:03)
How to Respond When Your Teen Gets Bad Grades
You don’t need to point out the obvious. Instead, Jeannie recommends starting off with empathy.
CLIP 8 (3:01)
Are AP Classes are a SCAM?
There is actually a much better way to get free college credits in high school. Jeannie explains it here.
CLIP 9 (2:00)
Having “The Talk” with Your Teen
Jeannie lays out what to say to your teen about sex, drugs, alcohol, and other problem behaviors.
Jeannie is a full time author, academic strategist, and speaker. She is the author of LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College and Into Jobs They Love Afterward, a 344-page book that clearly lays out the easy-to-follow steps parents need to know about when working toward their most important life goals for their teens. Jeannie’s work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report.
Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can find her online at JeannieBurlowski.com and follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.