The dumbest way to apply to college

Were you a fly on the wall in my office, you might notice a pattern when I meet with prospective clients.  These sessions usually follow a certain format, more or less.

Family sits down, kid looks nervous, perhaps a little awkward and somewhat unsure why his parents dragged him in.

Small talk ensues, e.g. “I’ve been watching your videos and webinars, I didn’t realize how tall you are!” “Can I eat 12 of those Hershey’s Kisses?”   Or, “Where’s the bathroom?”

Then we get down to brass tacks.  I start asking questions, admittedly of the loaded variety, because I can’t help it.  If I had to chose the most loadiest, it would be this bombshell:

“So, what are you thinking about majoring in?”

Granted, at first blush this may seem, be a little unfair.  How could a 17 year old know what the H-E-double hockey sticks he wants to do with the next 40-50 years of his life?  Most kids are just trying to get through each day.  Same for adults, come to think of it.

But let me make a suggestion to you, mon ami:  If you FAIL to think about this question, it could cost you.  Big time, Big League and maybe even Bigly.

Consider these gruesome statistics:

  • 50% of children who graduated college two years ago don’t have a job that requires a college degree.  Say hello to Uber Eats, your new boss, and mom and dad’s basement.
  • Student debt is 1.5 Trillion and growing.  So are defaults.  That’s a huge hole to dig out of, which I can tell you from personal experience.
  • 80% of kids change majors.  On its face, this is fine.  However, if you change twice, thrice or whatever the word for four times is (“frice?”), and you’re probably adding an extra semester – or three or four “bonus semesters” – onto the tab.  At 30-75 G’s a pop, per year, pretty soon we’re talking real money…rapidly exiting your bank and savings accounts, retirement accounts or interest you’ll shell out to line the coffers of high fee, high rate college lenders.  Blech.

Yesterday I met with a girl who answered my Loaded Question by telling me that she wants to pursue a career in the medical field.  We chatted for a bit, then I asked her about her favorite subjects in school.  And, what she likes the least. Guess what she hates?


Uh oh.  Do you smell what I hear?

I’m no doctor, but I’m reasonably certain that classes like chemistry are pretty, pretty important if you want to go into most medical fields, particularly the one we were chatting about (which I refuse to name out of respect for the student’s privacy).

To compound things, her preliminary list of colleges were not all reputable in her intended major (which is also extremely common).

“OK,” you might be thinking, “How can a 17 year old possibly decide on a major?”

The answer lies in the question. As in, knowing the RIGHT questions to ask.

In our “P4” process, the first P stands for Planning.  Meaning, we start with Backward Planning, to focus on WHY you’re going to college.  And the RETURN ON COLLEGE INVESTMENT, to avoid huge debts, feeling like cr-p about yourself and subterranean dwelling back home post-college.

We give each child a 30-40 minute assessment, different than anything they’ve ever done in school, that is designed to tease out their “wiring” in an objective, scientific manner, compared to 3 Million plus others who have done the same since the 1960s.

This assessment happens to be deadly accurate, in my professional and personal experience.

Professionally, we’ve put a few hundred clients through this phase of our program over the past five years.  Personally, Pearl and I have each taken it, and so have three of our four kiddos.

All but a mere handful of students have thought the results were amazingly accurate.  I find it a little spooky.

But that’s not really the value.  To be candid, sometimes this feels like a parlor trick.

The REAL value is what happens next:  our career counselor, who happens to be a former college admissions officer and high school guidance counselor, then compares these patterns – which are OBJECTIVE data (compared to a parent telling a child “You should be a lawyer, you argue so much!” Dumb, because the best lawyers find consensus, they’re not adversarial) – and COMPARING these patterns to the best information about careers available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources.

As in which careers are projected to be in growth mode, neutral or shrinking.  This isn’t easy work, but it’s necessary.  Can YOU tell me what careers will be hot in five years?

How ’bout this one:  five years ago, could you have told me what careers or trends would be hot now?

Before you brag about how you predicted the rise, fall and whatever of bitcoin, CBD oil or other bright shiny objects, be honest:  companies like Uber and Air BnB didn’t even exist a few years ago!  Now AirBnB has a bigger market cap than Hilton, which is in the same business but actually owns real estate, and has about a 100 year head start on AirBnB.

The upshot of our assessment:  six, eight, 10 or more careers and majors leading to those careers where your child can 1. make a living, i.e. get off mom and dad’s Full Ride Scholarship, and 2. where they have a shot at LOVING what they do for a living.

In other words, a lucrative career that doesn’t feel like work!   Can you imagine what that would feel like?

THEN, and ONLY then, will I “back into” a set of colleges reputable across a CLUSTER of perhaps four or five of these best fit careers and majors. Because changing majors is OK, if it happens within OVERLAPPING majors that don’t require an overhaul of credits, and related delays/expense.

To take a 30,000 foot view:  we do things BACKWARDS, by starting with the end(s) in mind, then reverse engineering how to get there.

Contrast this to how guidance counselors, or other college advisors, for that matter, help.  They BLOW OFF this requisite thinking about the next 40-50 years, and focus solely on an artificial four years of your child’s life.  Well, hopefully only four. 🙂

I’m not blaming them, because they’re just not equipped to do this.

But the problem is that if you ignore the What’s Next Question, it’s about as dumb as obsessing on getting to the airport, but not caring where the plane is going! 

You see where I’m coming from by now, n’est pas? (How many French words is this guy going to use in a college article?)

If you agree that this approach makes sense and want to learn more about our program, great. We’re happy to chat.

If you do not, that is also perfectly acceptable. I don’t judge, and I certainly don’t claim to have any monopoly on the only right way get a child ready for success in college, and in life.  This is just what i have learned to be true. There are other truths besides mine.

But I hope this piece introduced to you a DIFFERENT way to think about things.

You can book a free College Strategy Session with us (me or someone on my team) here:


There’s a short application to complete, so we can weed out the families who will not be a good fit, for example, those with “uncoachable” children, and families who don’t see the value of our approach and are attempting to be cheap on the way to success.

Thus wrappeth my deep thought for today.


-Andy “P4 and After” Lockwood

Leave a Comment