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Message to Adults Who Help Students with College Application Essays: Bite Your Tongue and Say “Good Job”!

Holly Bennetts, president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling, sees countless students break down in her office because a trusted adult in their life said a personal statement for their college application was not good enough.

“The student takes that as ‘I am not good enough,'” said Bennetts, a high school counselor Mercy High School in Farmington Hills. It breaks her heart.

I see this too, and it makes me sad. I am a college essay writing coach, and I do not understand why so many adults think it’s acceptable to second-guess a student’s essay topic, polish the essay or even write a college essay for them.

Last summer, I worked with a student who wrote the most compelling story about learning how to find her way. She has a terrible sense of direction, and she gets lost all the time. However, she’s smart and resourceful and figured out a way to never be late, even if she gets lost. On the day of her first job interview, she left her house 30 minutes early, giving herself adequate time to get lost. Guess what? She got lost. And she made it on time – with a minute to spare.

This student knows herself well and is comfortable with her strengths and weaknesses. Her story showed insight and maturity. It showed she is dependable, and implied that she will be on time for work and class. I loved it. I told my pals at colleges and high schools about it; they liked it, too. I was so proud of her. Then, I got a note from her mom, saying her high school counselor wanted her to write about living with diabetes. She told her the essay about getting lost was not very good.

The mom hadn’t yet read the piece, but she trusted me when I told her it was amazing. It answered the prompt, illustrated something meaningful to her daughter, and showed reflection. I asked her how her daughter responded to the counselor’s comments. The mom said she was confused and felt terrible. I emailed the student, telling her how great the essay was. But it was too late.

There wasn’t much I could do to make the girl feel better. An adult she trusted diminished the work she had done and said silently, “You are not good enough.” I’m sure the counselor had the best of intentions; she might not even realize how her message resonated with the student.

This time of year, we are busier than ever. We do our best to keep our students calm as they endure the daunting college application journey. With the first early college deadlines just weeks away, our students and their parents are feeling the pressure to get into the nation’s top colleges; the competition is tougher than ever. That’s not because students are smarter or more qualified than they were five or ten years ago. It’s a simple matter of impossible math.

Year after year, more students apply for the same number of available spaces at the most selective schools. Think Ivies, Michigan, Northwestern, MIT, Stanford, U-C Berkeley, Vanderbilt, Rice, University of Chicago and Cal Tech. It is impossible for every student who applies to get in.

If you want to really help a teen thrive and feel good, try to get some perspective. There’s no need to question or criticize a beautiful and effective essay after it is done, especially if the student has expressed pride and feels good.

Well-intentioned or not, too much help and negative feedback is unconstructive and can be emotionally damaging to a 17-year-old who is already stressed from the college journey. It’s insane out there. I see it firsthand, year after year.

In a college essay, students are asked to do something many adults rarely do: reflect on their life experiences. Our students work hard on their essays, and when we coach them, we push them as far as we can and encourage them to reflect as much as they can. Sometimes, the final product is a bit raw. Other times, we see a sweet story that highlights how sensitive and caring a student is. My favorite essays are perfectly imperfect, just as they should be. They sound like the teens who wrote them.

Why all the fuss? There’s a disconnect between what colleges want and what others think they want. Many adults want polish; colleges want genuine stories showing how the students think. Often, parents want the stories to demonstrate leadership and initiative; colleges want the students to show insight about any trait they believe best represents them. Parents, favorite teachers and school counselors sometimes think they know what their kids’ stories are; colleges want to know what’s meaningful to the student, not the parent. When adults help too much, the message to kids is negative: you are not good enough.

If you are still worried, consider this: the increasing competition for the top brand-name schools is actually good news for all of our children. There are 5,300 two-and four-year colleges in the U.S. They recruit. They offer scholarships. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you might find a prize in a school you did not know existed.

Please, Mom, Dad, Counselor, Favorite Teacher, just acknowledge that you are worried and bite your tongue. Help the young people you care about feel good about themselves.

Kim Lifton is President of Wow Writing Workshop, a strategic communication and writing services company that specializes in college and graduate school admission essay coaching and professional training for counselors and independent educational consults. For more information, visit WowWritingWorkshop or email

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Multiple AP classes. Sports practice. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. SATs and ACTs. College tours and applications. Extra-curricular activities, internships, and clubs. It is no wonder that with so many options and obligations pulling them in so many directions, students are emerging from high school with increased levels of stress, lack of direction and reduced confidence in themselves. There is a constant demand of being pulled elsewhere, a desire to be everywhere and a resulting “fear of missing out” somewhere.

In the field of experiential education, we talk about the known outcomes of students finding passion, developing resilience and expanding perspectives on their gap years. These are all true and exciting results of this kind of living and learning. But I would argue that currently the single most important outcome of a gap year is students making a commitment, any commitment, to themselves, for themselves, to something, maybe anything. A commitment or decision that is made freed from academic pressures, familial demands, and social measures of how many likes, followers, friends or thumbs up s/he receives.

Harvard Law student Pete Davis gave a compelling commencement speech in which he talked about the “infinite browsing mode” that plagues this generation which keeps clicking through their options, afraid to choose and commit to any one thing. He goes on to share that the radical act is to make a commitment – be it to a cause, a community, a profession – and thus deepen focus, relationships, and values. I couldn’t agree more.

The students that I meet and speak with around the country are kind, curious, capable and inspired young adults with many interests and skills. These same students will often also hesitate to prioritize what they most want to do on their gap years – they are afraid to commit, they are afraid of what they may miss if they do.

A gap year can do worlds to transcend this infinite browsing barrier. It begins with a thoughtful planning process, one that encourages students to reflect on their strengths, interests, and goals. With time and good question-asking, students can and will prioritize 2 or 3 of those. Then, once on the gap year, students will experience for themselves the very real results that occur when they focus their time on their specific goals: they meet like-minded peers, they encounter inspiring mentors, they develop applicable skills and knowledge, and they have invested enough time to have a holistic experience within a singular area. Returning home and reconnecting with their college friends serves as the ultimate confirmation, where gappers realize how versed they have become in a particular topic, region or skill with absolutely no regret about “what else they could have done.”

I want gappers to challenge this generation’s persistent FOMO. I want them to understand that calculated decisions and commitments stand to bring them greater skills, relationships, and confidence. When they make such commitments, we see gappers emerge with the passion, resiliency and perspective that we have come to expect … but most notably with a stronger sense of agency in their own decision-making, a more refined list of skills and interests, and a tangible sense of the value of seeking depth over breadth.

Jane Sarouhan is Vice President of the Center for Interim Programs, the premier gap year counseling organization in the United States. Jane has been working in international and experiential education for 25 years. She spent a decade instructing student groups in Africa and Asia, and another decade developing admissions procedures, pre-departure trainings, experiential education curriculum, as well as risk management protocol for gap year programs. Now she travels and speaks around the country, promoting the gap year on a national level, while still advising families one-on-one to help create the gap year that best suits each individual gap year student.

STEM Careers are hot! You might want to let your students know about Careers in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

For many working chemical engineers, the question of how they became interested in that course of study and in that profession is often answered in the same way — “I was always good at chemistry and math, and at some point along the way, one of my teachers or my counselor suggested I consider studying chemical engineering in college.” Chemical engineering, and the related course of study biomolecular engineering (which integrates concepts of biological processes with traditional chemical engineering), can both be challenging majors in college, but students who are willing to pursue them will find a diverse range of career options and opportunities awaiting them. Today, chemical and biomolecular engineers are sought for their particular expertise and knowhow and their deep problem-solving skills in a range of traditional and non-traditional industries. These industries include chemicals and plastics production, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals discovery and production, food-and-beverage manufacturing, the discovery of more environmentally friendly industrial processes to minimize air, water and solid pollution and more. Chemical and biomolecular engineers are on the forefront of efforts to meet society’s big, global challenges, related to clean air and clean water, sustainable fuel and energy sources that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and more. If you have any students that have an interest in chemistry and math and are looking for a challenging yet rewarding career to pursue in college this might be a path to explore.

The recently published book, “Careers in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering,” by Vic Edwards and Suzanne Shelley (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, 2018), features 10 chapters that describe these two majors and the many rewarding career options and industries that welcome chemical and biomolecular engineers. Importantly, the book also includes in-depth, first-person-narrative profiles of 25 working chemical and biomolecular engineers — a diverse group of male and female, older and younger, black, white, Hispanic and Asian engineers — to give students, parents, teachers and guidance counselors an “up close and personal” view into the lives of people who have chosen these majors and are enjoying intellectually rigorous, socially conscious and highly lucrative careers, advancing along both technical and managerial tracks. They discuss their work and educational experiences (in terms of both triumphs and challenges), and share wisdom and recommendations for students pursuing these two dynamic disciplines.

This book is available in hard cover, soft cover, E-book purchase and E-book rental. Here is the link to share with your students:

Benefits of Gap Time Over Time: A Personal Reflection

In the last twenty years, much has been written about the benefits of taking gap time:


•learning outside the classroom

•pursuing areas of interest

•immersing in different cultures

•cultivating leadership skills

•being of sustained service

•gaining clarity regarding college studies or potential career paths

•producing higher GPAs in college (proven research)

What has not been sufficiently addressed, given the relative youth of the US gap year field, is the benefit of taking gap time over the span of a lifetime. There is a germination process that does not necessarily come to fruition at the close of a student’s gap year. This unfolding continues beyond the immediate excitement and the “aha” moments of learning, beyond the transition into college or a first job post college.

To my mind, the germination seed is the experience each student has of choosing and creating his or her life for a year. Like gaining fluency in a language, there is fluency derived from practicing making and owning decisions from a core pivot of interests rather than an outer shell of oughts and shoulds. Instead of being run by “I have to do this. I’m supposed to do that. What will people think?” there is a shift to “I choose…” Choosing from the core is the beginning of personal power and, in this respect, gap time is not simply a break in one’s life but rather something that becomes woven into the very fabric of one’s being. It becomes a way of being.

From personal experience, having taken two gap years before college in 1980 and during college in 1983, I can say with certainty that the places I traveled, the people with whom I connected, the setbacks and triumphs I navigated, have stayed vividly with me despite the passage of time. They have become part of my way of being. Four months in Hawaii doing aquaculture research evokes the smell of island flowers along with fish and shrimp tanks I had to clean. I recall conversations with coworkers who had been in Vietnam or chose to head instead to Canada, eye-opening revelations regarding the war’s direct effects compared to hearing news or studying it in history class. Three months in Greece offered coursework connected to the culture and I still love speaking modern Greek (poorly) to this day. India and Nepal yielded experiences of intense cultural differences with the accompanying reassurance that human beings really can connect across potential language or living style barriers. And I learned from Appalachia not to assume that the mindset of Americans is that of an urban east coast dweller. After exploring the world as a traveler for extended months compared to weeks as a tourist, I knew I could handle myself in the unfamiliar. The result is an ease with continuing to step into new experience throughout my life.

I believe that early gap time exploring encourages us to avoid fear-based decision-making and, as a result, we retain more of a sense of freedom and possibility as we move through later life stages.

Holly Bull is the President of the Center for Interim Programs. Check them out at or e-mail her direct for any questions you may have regarding Gap Year Programs at


Information for your students about alcohol addiction and abuse

The vast majority of people who need treatment for alcohol abuse do not seek it. Part of the reason that many people choose not to get help may be the blurred lines between socially acceptable drinking and alcoholism. The seeds of future alcohol abuse are often planted in high school when students feel peer pressure to drink with their friends.  created a guide that provides comprehensive information on topics like, alcohol assessments, the rehab process, and the different types of treatments that are available.

The first part of the guide covers alcohol addiction:

Alcohol abuse is prevalent in the U.S. – one in four Americans had at least one binge drinking session in 2016 (four drinks for women, and five for men). According to the the most recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), at least 30,772 deaths (excluding accidents and homicides) in the U.S. were directly attributable to alcohol in the same year. The NCHS also counted nearly 20,000 alcohol-related liver disease deaths in 2014.

Those with an addiction to alcohol are clinically diagnosed with an “alcohol use disorder” (AUD). AUD is a chronic brain disease characterized by a lack of control over alcohol use despite negative social, occupational, and health consequences.

Some of the dangers of heavy drinking include: liver, heart, and brain damage, lifelong harm to an unborn child, and depression and violent behaviors. Reduced productivity, far-above-average health care expenses, and other economic costs result in hundreds of billions of dollars lost annually in the U.S. from alcohol abuse.

It covers what is alcohol abuse, statistics, effects, dangers and current research, and most importantly how and where to get help.

The second part of the guide covers rehab and recovery:

In 2016, one in four Americans drank heavily at least one time during the year (heavy drinking is defined as four drinks at a time for women, and five for men). Additionally, there were over 30,000 deaths in 2014 directly involving alcohol.

Unfortunately, only 20% of those who abuse alcohol will ever get help. Part of the reason that many people choose not to get help may be the blurred lines between socially acceptable drinking and alcoholism. While any usage of illegal drugs is considered a problem, a certain amount of alcohol usage is considered normal and acceptable. For more information about how much alcohol is safe to consume and how to tell if you or a loved one qualify as having an alcohol use disorder, read our guide to alcohol addiction.

While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most-well known method of alcohol rehab, there are other options that are often more effective for those with a serious problem. For instance, many people are not aware that medications for alcohol addiction exist. Read on for a complete look at how to get help for an addiction to alcohol.

It covers the basics of rehab, assessments, detox, therapy, aftercare, finding rehab and taking action.

Please share this with your students as it can definitely educate them on this growing problem.

What Students Need to Know About Student Loans Before Setting Foot on Campus

The latest statistics about American student loan debt is unnerving, to say the least. There are 45 million people currently carrying student loan debt and the average borrower from the Class of 2017 graduated with an average of $28,288. Is this what’s in your future should you decide to get a student loan to further your education? It doesn’t have to be.

Taking the time to understand your financial situation, your true potential income after graduation, and the full scope of the loan terms are all crucial to paying down debt on time and in full. Unfortunately, many students may not have a clear understanding of what a student loan entails before signing the dotted line. While pursuing higher education it’s crucial to understand the debt that can come with it.

In-School Repayment Options

While attending college, repayment options on student loans come in many forms. It’s always a good idea to get a head start on repaying your student loans but making full payments during school might not be feasible. If this is the case, there are typically alternatives.

Pay in Full During School

Paying off student loans while in school can set you up for financial success in the future. Not only will you get a head start managing money and paying down debt, you’ll have less of an uphill battle paying off these loans post-graduation.

Pay Interest Only During School

If you can’t meet a full monthly payment on your federal student loans, you may be able to request an interest-only repayment schedule throughout your college tenure. This means, you won’t be responsible for repaying the principle, but you will cover the interest accumulating while you study.

Defer Repayment Until Graduation (Grace Period)

For some students, the most important focus during their college degree is the degree itself. They need to put all their energy into school work and graduating. Splitting time between a part-time job and school just to meet a repayment schedule may not be possible. This is when the deferred payment option makes a good choice.

What You Should Know Before Accepting a Student Loan

Student loans can not only make or break a student’s educational future, but it can also significantly burden someone post-graduation. Do you know what you are signing up for?

Know Your Expenses

Even if you are still in school, working with a detailed budget can help you keep track of repayments. If you know how much per month you need on living expenses, you’ll be able to adequately prepare for the debt repayments as well.

Know Your Monthly Payment

When you start making payments on student loans, don’t kid yourself on the monthly amount owed. The average monthly payments are usually a few hundred dollars, can you afford it?

Know Your Financial Future

Many colleges have gotten into trouble for the way they have advertised post-graduation job markets. For example, just because your school states that 90 percent of graduates are hired within the first six months of graduation, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Dig deep into regional sources on job statistics for your career path.

Post-Graduation Student Loan Refinancing

Once you’ve graduated and have a foot in the job market you may be in a drastically different financial state than you were when you first signed up for your student loans. You may be much better off with a new job and a good salary. Alternatively, you may have an entry-level type salary or struggling to find any income at all.

Student loan refinancing is worth considering for both scenarios. Refinancing pays off all chosen loans (federal and private) with a single new loan. This means one monthly payment and one single interest rate. So long as you continue the repayment plan, refinancing can save borrowers thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the loan.

If you expect to have the ability to pay down your loan over a shorter term, you may benefit from a renegotiated and lower interest rate. If you expect challenges, you can also extend the terms of your loan and have lower monthly payments.

Keep in mind that once a federal student loan is refinanced, it becomes privately held. Private student loans typically have fewer protections for borrowers should they enter a period of financial instability. Before choosing to refinance, shop around and know your options.

Andy Kearns is a Content Analyst for LendEDU and works to produce personal finance content to help educate consumers across the globe. When he’s not writing, you can find Andy cheering on the new and improved Lakers, or somewhere on a beach.

Questions About Private Student Loan Cosigners (and How You Can Answer Them for Your Students)

Lets face it, College is getting more expensive every year and many families don’t have the means to pay for it with savings. Federal loans typically don’t cover the entire cost of College so it is oftentimes necessary to fill in the gaps from other sources. Private student loans are one source of funding that is plentiful and available to students and their families. However, most students enrolling in college have little to no credit history, so they are considered risky loan candidates.

To mitigate this risk, lenders may require students to apply with a cosigner to ensure the loan will be paid back. Here is a list of 5 questions put together by College Ave Student Loans that students and their parents are likely to ask a financial aid advisor, along with answers that provide some guidance:

  1. What is a Private Student Loan Cosigner?

A cosigner is a creditworthy individual who agrees to share repayment responsibility for the student loan alongside the primary borrower. This brings assurance that the loan will get repaid in full and on time, should the student borrower become unable or unwilling to make payments
Both you and your cosigner bear equal responsibility for your student loan, so a cosigner is not necessarily someone who is meant to pay your loan bills for you. Rather, it is someone to help you secure the opportunity to make good on your own commitment to repay the loan.

2. Why Do I Need a Cosigner for a Private Student Loan, but not a Federal Student Loan?

Federal student loans are provided and funded by the federal government and do not require a cosigner, while private student loans are awarded on the basis of creditworthiness. Creditworthiness helps lenders assess an individual’s ability to pay back a loan based on their demonstrated financial history.

3. How Do I Know if I Need a Cosigner?

Your lender will let you know for sure, but it is likely you will need one. Recent high school graduates rarely have credit histories and incomes that qualify them to secure private student loans on their own. There is no shame in needing a cosigner, though. In fact, learning about creditworthiness is good practice for building and caring for your own personal credit history, which is vital for securing loans for other investments, like a home or a car.

4. Who Should I Ask to be my Cosigner?

It is important that your cosigner have a good credit score, a solid debt repayment history, and a steady income. The stronger your guarantor’s creditworthiness, the more they can help you secure a lower interest rate, which will affect the total amount of money you owe on your loan. Often, it is a parent, guardian, or other family member who will act as your cosigner. If a family member is not available, consider approaching a close family friend or mentor.

5. What Risks are Associated with Being a Cosigner?

Cosigners are equally responsible for the repayment of the loan, so they are risking quite a bit if you default on your payments. So, keep in mind that you are benefiting directly from this individual’s good credit history and their belief in you, and do everything you can to uphold your end of the arrangement. Your own credit and your relationship to your cosigner will strengthen as a result.
To check if you or your cosigner pre-qualify, use our free credit pre-qualification tool without impacting your credit score.

For more resources and tips check out other blogs by College Ave Student Loans at


Some Great Scholarship Websites You Can Share with Your Students

Finding scholarships for your students can be as easy as them picking up their cell phone and searching in Google. It used to be more difficult to find scholarships but thanks to the internet, students can find scholarships fairly easily.

There are many websites that will allow students to search a database of scholarships according to a variety of factors such as degree, race, religion, gender, special interests, and plenty of others.

Below, you will find a list of some of the best scholarships websites online today. Within each, you will find easy access to millions of scholarship dollars.

  1. offers quick and easy access to over 2.7 million free college scholarships. Over the years, they’ve provided access to scholarships with a total value of over $19 billion since its inception.

This site allows high school students, college students, and returning students access to millions of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid opportunities.

Using is simple and free to use and only takes a few minutes to get started. Scholarship listings are updated every few months and the site offers all types of scholarships.
Registration is simple. Registered users can choose which types of scholarships they’re shown and can opt-in for email notifications about relevant scholarships to a person’s preferences. also offers a college directory and college matching service all at no cost for registered users.

2. Peterson’s

Peterson’s helps students and prospective students for their perfect scholarship(s) through over 5 thousand scholarship providers. This scholarship website provides $10 billion in scholarships, grants, fellowships, prizes & forgivable loans.

Peterson’s provides a simple interface with tools, tips, filters, and a short survey that will tie scholarships to your background, life experience and more.

Peterson’s offers access to a few undergraduate scholarships that are over $100,000 each. At the graduate level, Peterson’s offers over 82 scholarships over $25,000 each. The highest scholarship being offered by Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship at $200,000 per awardee.

The filtering capabilities on Peterson’s easily helps narrow down which scholarships will work for you. The more niche your scholarship, the better.

3. Fastweb

Fastweb was launched around 16 years ago and provides access to more than 1.5 million scholarships totaling $3.4 billion in awards to students over the years. The site has helped hundreds of students to find money for college.

Fastweb is free and easy registration makes it a popular destination for those seeking scholarship money. The site will match you with scholarships based on your strengths, interests, and skills.
Scholarship seekers can select specific criteria for which scholarships they seek such as amount, deadline, and types of scholarships. They also offer links to scholarship application pages.

One thing that sets Fastweb apart from its competitors is that they provide scholarship tips, career advice, financial aid information and resources, and a college search tool. This is truly an all-in-one site for paying for college.

The Fastweb scholarship database is updated every 24 hours or less, making it the most thorough and up-to-date scholarship search website. Once registered, users can choose to be notified, via email, of new or possible scholarship opportunities.


Unigo sets itself apart from the rest of the online scholarships websites. Their robust platform offers plenty beyond scholarships, including jobs, internships, college rankings and profiles, and more.
This site provides around 3.6 million scholarships totaling over $14 billion in awards. Unigo offers personalized results to offer you the best opportunities.

Unigo’s list of scholarships, awards, and grants can “give you fun, unusual, academic, need-based, student-specific, career, and even more types of scholarships.”

5. Chegg

Chegg, formerly known as, is a newer scholarship website that has seen rapid growth due to the simplicity of their scholarship search tools. Visitors can compare different scholarships from all fields and industries.

Chegg is free to use and provides over 5,000 scholarships with a total value of over $1 billion in awards. Chegg is updated frequently so that students can quickly be first to apply.
Chegg requires user registration. Once registered, you can search scholarships that are most relevant to your goals and needs, including your age and stage of education. Registered users can organize and save scholarships for later viewing and application.

Scholarship opportunities cover a wide-range of opportunities including traditional and vocational schooling and even grad school. The site itself also offers a $1,000 Monthly Scholarship.
This site offers users the ability to search by zip code, cumulative GPA, and more. This allows students to find scholarships provided by local business, foundations, and associations—some of the best scholarships to apply for due to localization.

Once you have found scholarships for which you would like to apply, you can review deadlines and submission requirements. The interface and search tool are intuitive and easy to use. Registered users can also opt-in to receive reminders so they will never miss a scholarship deadline.

6. Cappex

Cappex is a free service that claims to provide “More Than $11 Billion in Scholarships.” Registering can be tricky but well worth it once you’re signed up. The registration process helps narrow down the best awards for you. Make sure to fill out as much as possible. The more information you provide about your college plans, the better your scholarship results will be.

Registrants get total access to college scholarships, college reviews, and tuition and admissions-related information.

This site offers its “What Are My Chances” tool, which calculates your odds of getting into certain colleges before you apply. They also provide a college comparison tool that allows you to add personal notes and rankings. Another helpful tool is the Cappex College Fit Meter which will instantly show you whether or not a college you’re interested in will be right for you.

24 Successful Entrepreneurs who Started with Little to no Start up Money

A study done at Harvard Business School found that 50 percent of all new businesses fail within five years, and 70 percent fail within 10 years. Although the odds are discouraging, they didn’t stop some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world from starting their own companies with little more than good ideas and excellent timing. Some of the names have become well-known while others are relatively unknown, but they all share common traits, such as perseverance and an understanding of human nature. Entrepreneur is one career path your students might consider undertaking so sharing this list of famous people who started their own businesses with very little money and became successful might help to motivate them that they can follow their dream and succeed:

24 Successful Entrepreneurs With Little or No Startup Money

1. John Pemberton
John Pemberton, a drug store owner in Georgia, received a wound in the American Civil War that led to the invention of his French Wine Coca nerve tonic, a less addictive alternative to the morphine he took for pain. After liquor was outlawed under the Prohibition Act, he switched to a nonalcoholic version of the concoction, and the first manifestation of Coca-Cola was born.

2. Henry Ford
Henry Ford had little money when he decided to build the Ford Motor Company, but he had a dream. Ford started his venture with a $28,000 business loan and made the world’s first mass-produced cars. Known for treating his employees well, Ford raised his daily wages to $5 a day in 1914. Equal to $120 in 2018, the sum was twice the amount his competitors paid their workers.

3. Sam Walton
After leaving the military in 1945, Sam Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store for $25,000 using $5,000 of his own savings and $20,000 from his father-in-law. With his brief experience as a manager trainee at J.C. Penney and a strong desire to succeed, he built a business that offered his customers low prices and a large inventory. In 1962, he opened the first official Walmart store, and the rest is history.

4. Bob Evans
Bob Evans started his famous restaurant franchise in the early 1940s with a 12-stool diner called The Sausage Shop. Unable to find sausage that lived up to his standards, he made his own. In 1953, a group of his friends invested in the business, and it grew into four sausage-producing plants by 1957. By the 1970s, it had expanded into other states.

5. Steve Jobs
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were college dropouts when they decided to build computers in the home garage of Jobs’ parents. After creating their first models, they found someone to co-sign a business loan for $250,000, giving birth to Apple Computers. Jobs, who helped create the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, was a brilliant designer. The company floundered after he left in the late 1990s but recovered after his return.

6. Michael Dell
Michael Dell hadn’t dropped out of college when he started Dell Computers, but he left school before he graduated because he wanted to devote more time to the business. His first loan was a $1,000 investment from his family. By 2018, he was among the richest men in the world. When he was 24, Inc. magazine named him “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

7. Bill Gates
Bill Gates wrote his first computer program when he was 13. At the age of 20, his business partner showed him an article from Popular Mechanics about the Altair 8800. The two men recognized the need for a language to interpret the system of the MITS microcomputer, and the seed for Microsoft was sown. Gates, who dropped out of Harvard to start his own company, is known for his philanthropy, especially in the field of education.

8. David Packard and William Redington Hewlett
Hewlett and Packard met in the 1930s while studying radio engineering at Stanford University. With around $500, a used drill press, and encouragement from a professor, they started their business in a one-car garage in Palo Alto. Despite their success and a string of high-tech breakthroughs, the two men stayed on a first-name basis with their employees.

9. John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell
With a job delivering newspapers at the age of 9, John Paul DeJoria was no stranger to hard work. Later, he drove a tow truck and worked as a janitor just to pay his bills. While working for a hair company in the late 1970s, he and hairstylist Paul Mitchell started John Paul Mitchell Systems with a $700 business loan. In 2000, the company opened the first of its hair salons around the country. Today, the former gang member is a billionaire, philanthropist, and owner of a successful tequila company.

10. Craig Newmark
Craig Newmark did not set out to found an internet sensation, but he did. When he moved to the San Francisco area in 1993, the internet was still free of advertisements, and Newmark wanted a way to connect with people. With the creation of his free marketplace with no startup money, the boy who lost his father at 13 and went to school on scholarships discovered a system that would become the popular site Craigslist.

11. Kevin Plank
Kevin Plank grew up in an educated and financially comfortable family, but his academic performance and behavior at a prestigious preparatory school were less than stellar. As a student at the University of Maryland, he founded Cupid’s Valentine, a yearly endeavor that sold roses on Valentine’s Day. He used the $17,000 he earned, along with $40,000 of credit card debt, to launch Under Armour, a company that sells moisture-wicking athletic shirts. Today, he is a philanthropist with a net worth of $500 million.

12. George Soros
George Soros was a Hungarian refugee who fled to England to escape Nazi persecution. He worked his way through the London School of Economics and left Europe for America in the 1950s. After working with several large firms, he started his own hedge fund. He is known for shorting the British pound in the early 1990s, leading to a billion-dollar profit in one day.

13. Tom Preston-Werner
Tom Preston-Werner is a software developer and the founder of GitHub, the world’s largest platform for bringing software developers together. After dropping out of college to develop software, Preston-Werner turned down a lucrative job with Microsoft to work on GitHub. There, he led the company through five years of lean times before receiving a major round of investments. In 2018, Microsoft bought GitHub for over $7 billion.

14. Jan Koum
Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, grew up in a poverty-stricken Ukrainian village. After his family immigrated to California, he discovered computers and became a whiz by the age of 18. In 1997, Yahoo! hired him as an infrastructure engineer. After 10 years, he recognized the possibilities of apps and started WhatsApp Inc. In 2014, Facebook bought the company for $19 billion.

15. Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso turned her love of thrift store finds into a business by selling vintage pieces on eBay. With the money from her sales, she rented a warehouse, hired a small staff, and made her dream a reality. Using social media platforms to attract buyers, Nasty Gal became a success. Six years after founding the company, she received millions from investors who believed in her idea.

16. Yvon Chouinard
Yvon Chouinard, a fashion designer who specialized in outdoor gear and clothing, learned blacksmithing to make spikes for his own rock-climbing career. As he sold the spikes for $1.50 to friends, the demand for his product grew, and he set up shop in his parents’ California backyard. Patagonia, founded in 1973, is now an environmentally friendly seller of soft goods.

17. Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar’s vision of eBay didn’t start out as a massive hub for online shoppers and vendors. It was initially a hobby he pursued in his own home. When his internet service provider required him to upgrade his account because of the heavy traffic on the website, he started charging fees. Later, the company brought in a branding expert who promoted eBay as a place to bring people together rather than a place to hawk goods, and the strategy worked.

18. Daymond John
Daymond John was an entrepreneur long before he founded FUBU, a casual clothing business that sold items he had personally sewn for $10 each in front of the New York Coliseum. Later, he and his mother mortgaged their house to get $100,000 to start the company. While creating the early inventory, he also worked at Red Lobster to pay his bills.

19. Niraj Shah and Steve Conine
Shah and Conine, college roommates from Cornell, started Wayfair in 2002. An online business that sells furniture and home décor, Wayfair grew quickly. Initially, the business only sold storage furniture and media stands from Conine’s home. By 2017, however, net revenue for the company had grown to almost $5 billion.

20. Markus Frind
Markus Frind created a dating website called Plenty of Fish while working alone in his apartment. Before he hired a team or received investment money, the company had already made millions of dollars from online advertising. In 2010, Frind told the New York Times that he worked about 10 hours a week for around $10 million in net profits each year. He sold the business to the Match Group for $575 million in 2016.
21. Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz
Quimby and Shavitz started Burt’s Bees in 1984 with leftover beeswax from Shavitz’s honey business. Using their $200 profit from a junior high school craft fair, they started a candle-making operation that led to $20,000 in sales the first year. Gradually, Burt’s Bees developed a successful line of personal care products. In 2007, Clorox bought them out for $975 million.

22. Nick Denton
Gawker, a blog written by Nick Denton and Elizabeth Spiers, focused on celebrities and media in New York City. Denton founded the website in 2003 with money from the sale of an earlier startup company and ran it from his home for years. In 2008, Gawker moved to a storefront. By 2015, the blog had 23 million viewers each month. In 2018, Gawker sold in a bankruptcy auction for $1.5 million.

23. J.K. Rowling
Joanne Rowling, better known by her pen name J.K. Rowling, typifies the proverbial rags-to-riches story. Her Harry Potter series took her from being a divorced mother on state aid in England to the world’s first billionaire author. As a result of her extensive charitable giving, she lost her billionaire status, but she is still a very wealthy woman.

24. Oprah Winfrey
Born to unwed parents in rural Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey grew up first with her grandparents and was later passed back and forth between her birth parents. She attended Tennessee State University on a full scholarship and worked at a local television station while she was a student. Her career as a talk show host mushroomed after she starred in “The Color Purple.” Oprah later formed her own production company, Harpo, Inc.

These entrepreneurs came from all walks of life, but they all shared a passion for what they loved, a curiosity for learning, and an enthusiasm for reaching their goals. They all became successful even when it meant bucking the system and taking risks along the way.

The article was put together by Initial Lending Group. Check out their post here:

5 Ways to Help Your Students Pay off their Student Loans and Reduce their Overall Costs

Student loan debt continues to be a major problem in the United States. The national student loan debt toll stands at nearly $1.5 trillion. The average student loan debt for borrowers in the Class of 2017 was $28,288, up from $27,975 for borrowers in the Class of 2016.

These numbers aren’t just shocking — they have a real world impact on the graduates who carry this debt. High monthly payments and the prospect of years (or decades!) of repayment can prevent young adults from taking many crucial steps as they start out in the world. For example, many young college graduates aren’t able to move out on their own or purchase a car given the burden of their student loan debt. Some may even put off getting married or starting a family because their student loan debt is just too high.

For these reasons, many graduates have made a commitment to pay off their student loans as quickly as possible. This is a smart decision, as the interest on student loans can add up, and make it difficult to make a dent in the overall amount that you owe. Here are five ways that you can pay down your student loans if you currently are struggling with debt — and reduce your overall costs.

The Debt Avalanche Method

The debt avalanche method is a tried and true strategy for reducing debt, and one that experts say will result in paying the least amount of interest over time.

To use the debt avalanche method, start by listing out your student loan debts by the interest rate from highest to lowest. Then start devoting all of your extra money to the student loan with the highest interest rate, making it your highest priority debt. Keep working at paying down this loan, putting just the minimum towards your other loans as you do. Over time, you will pay off this loan. From there, you can devote the amount that you were paying on that first loan to the next high-interest loan on your list. Your ability to pay off your debts will then “avalanche,” allowing you to pay the next loan off with even more money.

This strategy is the one preferred by many financial gurus because it makes the most sense in terms of money saved. However, it does require patience, as it will take time to completely pay off your first debt and start the “avalanche.” Once you get to that point, you will quickly reap the benefits — and be grateful that you chose this method.

Making Half-Payments Every Two Weeks

If you aren’t ready to commit to the debt avalanche method, consider making your usual payments — but splitting them into two payments every month. While this may seem like a strange way of paying down your student loan debt, it does work to reduce your overall costs.

The secret is twofold. First, if you pay biweekly, you will make 13 full payments in a year (26 half payments), rather than 12 payments. Just by doing that, you are getting ahead of your student loan debt. Second, by making half-payments every two weeks, you are gaming the system in your favor. By making payments this way, you are reducing your loan principal every two weeks, which allows slightly less interest to accrue than if you only made one payment per month.

This could save you money in interest and shave time off your student loan repayment! Just make sure that your student loan payments are applied correctly, towards your balance instead of towards your next bill.

The only thing to watch out for with this option is making sure that you make both payments before the monthly due date. You should also make sure that you don’t mismanage your budget and overdraw your account by accident.

Student Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing offers a way to reduce your interest rate and overall cost over repayment — if you qualify. The way it works is simple. You apply for a new loan with a private lender to replace your existing loans. If you are successful, you are left with a new loan ideally at a lower and/or fixed interest rate. If you can get a lower rate, monthly payments should be reduced.

Refinancing can save you thousands of dollars, particularly if you currently have a high interest rate. However, it is only a good option for applicants who have the credentials to qualify for a low rate. In an application, lenders examine your payment history, credit score, and income to determine what your interest rate will be for the new loan. If you don’t have a strong credit score, you are better off waiting until you improve your finances to apply for refinancing.

Making Double Payments Every Month

Another option for anyone looking to pay off their student loans more quickly is to take whatever you are currently paying on your student loans — and double it. This option will help you pay off more principal (instead of most of your payment going towards interest), which will allow you to get out of debt more quickly.

However, the obvious drawback to this method is that it is only an option for those who have enough cash to do it. For many people, paying double is simply not an option, particularly if you are currently struggling to make your minimum payment. If you can cut out a few extras from your budget and work towards paying more on your student loans, it could help you be debt-free faster.

While getting out of student loan debt isn’t always easy, it is rewarding. These options are just four ways that you can explore as ways to pay down your debt and move forward with your life after graduation.

Andrew Rombach is with LendEDU


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