222 Demystifying College Planning with Brad Baldridge

Demystifying College Planning with Brad Baldridge


Want to demystify the overwhelming college planning process? Brace yourself as we have Brad Baldridge, an expert financial advisor and college funding specialist, on board to shed light on the topic.

The landscape of higher education is a complex maze, constantly shifting and transforming. Our discussion helps unravel the subtle yet crucial nuances, from the significance of selecting the right school accommodating individual pathways to graduating within four years.

Tune in as Brad covers:

  • Early planning essentials
  • Team-centric approach to planning
  • Ensuring that financial considerations are covered

Connect with Brad:



Listen to the episode here!



Or watch the episode here!


Like what you heard here?

I’d be honored and grateful if you would head over to iTunes to leave a review and let other female entrepreneurs know what you learned! While you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss an episode.


Megan 00:00
Hello, hello. I have a new guest for you guys today and anybody that has children whether they are, you know, anybodies, older, whatever that you think you may be navigating college one day. You definitely want to tune in here today, cause I am bringing on an expert when it comes to planning both your time and your finances for college. I we just finished recording as, and I'm telling you what I learned, so much that I am already going to be implementing into my monthly and quarterly planning for next year to start helping us prepare for college. So I'm thrilled for you guys to be able to learn from Brad here today. He definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things when thinking about how to plan our time and get ready to navigate college. So let's go ahead and get started.

Welcome to the Work Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the top program and top planner teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and, just like you, I'm juggling hashtag all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. There is another way, when you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity so you can have work life harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you, and if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my work life harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram, at Megan Sumrell, with the word harmony, and my team will send it right over.

Well, hello everyone. Welcome back to work life harmony. I've got a new topic that we've never talked about here on the show today. I'm selfishly very interested in this as I have a student in eighth grade and we get closer to those college years, but today I've got Brad Baldritch here. I'm gonna let him introduce himself in a minute and we're gonna. He is an expert in all things college prep, both thinking about it from a financial perspective and getting prepared for that, but also he's a very good teacher, and I'm very excited for that, but also from a time management, and that's where we're really gonna be focusing our conversation today. So, brad, welcome to the show. I'd love for you to kind of tell everybody a little bit about yourself and then we'll jump right in.

Brad 02:33
Hey, yeah, so my name is Brad Baldritch, I am a financial advisor and I'm a college funding specialist, so I help families plan and prepare for college, and I work mostly in what I would call late stage and we'll explain what that is in a few minutes here. But families in high school trying to figure it all out. There's lots to do and it can be overwhelming, both from what the students need to do and what the parents need to do. So I've been working about 15 years now and launched a podcast and got very involved in again figuring out how college is gonna work, and for a lot of families it's gonna be a lot different than the way their brother-in-law did it or whatever. So it's important that you kind of build a plan that fits your situation and not worry so much about how others are doing it.

Megan 03:19
Great, awesome. Well, I know when we were talking earlier here, before we started, you were talking about the difference of there's the early stage planning versus the late stage planning. What is the difference between the two?

Brad 03:31
Right, so late stage planning is. We're there now, right, We've got kids in high school and we're looking at college and saying, oh, there's lots to do now. We've gotta figure out where we wanna go, how we're gonna pay for it, we gotta figure out the process of applications for admission, applications for financial aid. We've gotta figure out if we're gonna qualify for aid and where the money's gonna come from. And how are we gonna be fair if we have multiple kids. And we gotta do all the legwork like the visits and the research and making sure that high school stuff is on track for our goals, et cetera, et cetera.

So there's a lot to do and I always tell families it's more of a process than what. We're gonna sit down today and we're gonna spend Sunday afternoon, we're gonna hammer out our college plan. It's like no, you're not. You're gonna maybe come up with some next steps and some framework, but then you need to kind of revisit it often as you move through high school.

Megan 04:27
Okay, yeah, okay. So the fact I have a daughter in eighth grade. I've seen some families that I know that have children in seventh grade that are already doing college tours. So I'm like, oh my gosh, am I behind? What is your best advice on when this late stage from a figuring out college when we really start getting into some serious activity with that?

Brad 04:54
Right. So I think it's important to know what we also realize that there's things that parents do and there's things that students do and there's things that you do together and some of the things that the student does or just you do with the student.

well, the student needs to be mature enough for it to make sense. So for a lot of us, that might be sophomore, junior year in high school and a few of us, senior year in high school Cause if they're not ready to do it, pushing your kids to do things that they don't wanna do has always been painful. And try and do the whole college process when they're resisting. It does not make sense.

Megan 05:31
So what are some of those activities that are the parent child together?

Brad 05:36
Right, so yeah, so the parent child together would be things like visiting colleges, figuring out kind of overall budget, deciding what you're going to do around testing and scholarships, how much work are you going to put into it, how many times are you going to take the test, Then piecing that all together so that it's a coherent plan. If the colleges you're visiting require tests, well then you can't say I want to be test optional. I mean you can, but then you got to change your list.

You could either got to change your list or change your test plan. It all has to fit together. If you're on a very academic, high-powered track where you're taking calculus and all kinds of strong math because you want to get in engineering, that's appropriate. But if you're not doing that and you're saying I want to go to MIT, well, guess what? You're probably not going to get there unless you change something. So you got to make sure everything fits together. That's, I think, where families need to start earlier than they realize, I would say even as early as freshman year. And I realized for a lot of families, especially with your oldest, you're getting acclimated to high school, which is a big change. Then I'm saying well, you should be working on college. That's generally not all that realistic, especially from a student perspective, but for parents, you need to start thinking about it, because you may have to think about it for a year before you actually take action.

Megan 06:57
Right, Even you just talking about the difference of what courses they may be taking to map to what their desires are for college, I could see why you probably want to be noodling on that freshman year to make sure that you're getting involved in the right courses or programs there. So, as far as starting to think about that for the parent together with the child, when we're starting to think about getting a shortlist for schools we might want to tour and all of that, when do you typically see families starting that?

Brad 07:30
Generally they do it later than I think they should. I recommend sophomore and junior year.

Megan 07:35

Brad 07:36
Early junior year. I think a lot of families put it off to and again, as parents, the way we did, it was late junior year or even senior year.

Megan 07:44

Brad 07:45
We went and looked at one or two colleges, we picked one and off we went. We just didn't make a big deal out of it. Well, now that it's so much more expensive and we've kind of upped our game and we've figured out that when you and I went to college we'd run into somebody that says well, yeah, I'm on my sixth year, I changed my major three times. They went to college to explore. Well, back then it wasn't so crazy expensive that maybe that was okay. Most families would say no, we don't want a six year plan If we can do it in four. That would be much better. Again, mostly because of the price, yeah, and I think even the colleges have changed some.

Megan 08:21
I know when I went off to school the expectation was and I went to a liberal arts college is that you were going in not knowing what you wanted to major in and you were spending your freshman year and part of your sophomore year trying all the things out to then settle into what your major was. But nowadays, I think a lot of schools that's not how that if you were to wait till your junior year, you may not graduate in four years in order to meet the requirement. So I think there's been a shift in having a little bit clearer plan on what maybe you want to do as you head off to college as well, which terrifies me so much.

Brad 08:55
Exactly, and what you mentioned is still out there, and that's one of the key points, right, if that's the path that you need to take, well then you need to find a school that accommodates that sort of path, because there are many schools now where they're really trying to get people out in four and they have some very defined tracks and that type of thing, and essentially, someone will guarantee you'll graduate in four if you do these things right.

Don't change your major, take the right courses in the right order, as we recommend, and don't drop a bunch of courses or fail out of courses. Then we'll graduate you in four and that's a selling point, so to speak. Well that would be great for a kid that knows that that's what they want. For kids that don't know what they want, maybe you should look for a school that's a little more flexible and has some of that exploratory type of curriculum.

Megan 09:43
Yeah, yeah, awesome Now, with the parent-only tasks, thinking about freshman year, what are some of the things that we should be considering to start thinking about early on in high school, before maybe we're ready to bring our kid into the fold on having these discussions.

Brad 10:02
Right. So I think for parents is getting your head around what it really costs and how you might pay for it and you know again, mostly on the financial side, will you qualify for need-based aid, will you qualify for merit-based aid? In the course I put together, one of our key first exercises is to figure out what a state cost, a state school would cost for your family, because a lot of times the local state school or the flagship state school, if you've got a strong academic kid, is kind of the one that is going to be the price to beat for a lot of families. So if you can go to your flagship school and the average private school or should be average public school is about $27,000.

Megan 10:45
Is that per year?

Brad 10:46
That's per year.

Megan 10:47

Brad 10:48
And that's total cost as tuition room and board books, fees, beer and pizza the whole cost for a typical student at a typical college. So, yeah, all that up, it's $27,000 on average. Most of the flagships are a little more than average. So let's say it's $30,000 in your state. Well, it starts at $30,000, but your student can borrow $5,500, and probably they can work summers and weekends and whatever and make $5,000. So now there's $20,000 left for mom and dad to pay. And maybe you've got some savings, maybe you don't. Maybe you've got a couple thousand a month that you could be saving, maybe you don't. So there's all these different pieces of the puzzle. And then there's loans to fill the gaps and a lot of times now, grandmas and grandpas are a part of the plan or could be.

A lot of times I hear things like well, grandma's got some money for college. Well, how much? Well, we don't know. Well, how have you asked so we can make that in the plan? Do you think she'd answer the question? Oh, yeah, I'm sure she'd be very helpful. We just kind of are shy about it. It's like, well, we're there now, so we really do need to understand. Is it $10,000 a year or $1,000 a year, pay all of tuition. I mean, what is? What is grandma really saying when she wants the help for college?

Megan 12:03
Right, right, and I can see why thinking about that even late stage middle school isn't necessarily such a bad idea. If you're just now thinking about what our desires are for paying for college and how we're going to get all of that in place.

Brad 12:17
Right. And the other thing to think about is there's a lot of situations that get more complicated and that warrants spending more time and effort on it. You've got twins and triplets. If you've got a blended families, where now it's like well, divorced parents need to figure out how to get along, to figure out college. If you own a business, there's opportunities and additional work to do. If your student's going to be a student athlete or might be a student athlete, there's that additional stuff to learn. If you've got a foreign wide kid that says, well, I'm thinking about Texas or maybe California or maybe Boston, let's go visit all those places, oh, really, well, that's some major expense and some major time commitment, where, okay.

And then a lot of these high end students are saying and I don't want to miss any high school, I can't miss AP, this and AP that and all these important classes. Well then, once you pull out a calendar and start trying to block all that in, it's like, okay, well, we can use this spring break for this and we can use this for that. Maybe we'll have to do something on the summer.

Megan 13:17
And again, as you start laying it out and planning it out, it becomes much more obvious where the the choke points are going to be and what, what the problems are absolutely and it's funny the time it when you brought that up of thinking that far out for things For those of you listening that were part of the annual plan of Palooza event in October, you know that's when we're setting our annual kind of big picture plans for the next year.

I would say for those of you that are in this late stage, maybe it's a great time to go back and look at the plan that you built in plan of Palooza to identify with some of those times off, with the spring breaks, the fall breaks, the whatever. Maybe you want to proactively be thinking about how can we leverage that time to start thinking about college, maybe trips, all of that, Because I'm sure there's. You also want to make sure maybe you're not going to visit the school when they're on fall break so that the kids are getting the feel for what it's like when the campus is actually in motion and alive as well. I'm already thinking about how I'm going to be changing my planning starting next year as as we think about this as well.

Brad 14:24
Right. So here's a quick tip pull out the academic calendar of the high school and all those Fridays off and Mondays off. Go to your work calendar and book them off. Lock those off too. Right, because a lot of times people will say, well, I need to schedule this big meeting and it can be on any Friday.

And I accidentally picked the Friday that they have off and I plan this six months ago. There's no way I can move it. Yeah, and I know I just would have put it. I would have picked any other Friday, it would have been fine. But now that I've messed it up I can't fix it.

Megan 14:53
And that's where I think having all those teacher workdays or 40 weekends, that's a great time to use.

Brad 14:57
Exactly. An academic calendar for high schools generally are available.

Megan 15:01
Oh, they're out now for the next calendar year. Yeah.

Brad 15:04
They're putting them together for right, so they're available out there. You just have to spend the time to find them and then coordinate that, and then you know a lot of times and students will also have their busy times, right? I'm very active in this sport or that sport.

Megan 15:15
Right, so exam or something like that.

Brad 15:17
Yeah, springs don't work or falls don't work or whatever.

Megan 15:21
I imagine that maybe you know, even if you went into the school guidance counselor at the beginning of the school year to even get their recommendation on, hey, what are, what are good times with our academic calendar here, that we want to think about knowing exams and schedules, and all of that within a school. I think that'd be a great resource to go to Now when you, when you start your planning process and you're thinking about, you know, getting your short list of schools and all that. Are there any kind of organizational tools that you recommend to kind of try and keep all this information in one place as you're navigating this whole late stage planning process?

Brad 16:02
Yeah, there's a. I mean I have a course where we kind of work things out, but it's not rocket science. I mean, you certainly can use something overthink it. Right, exactly, it's not like you need to have a. You know, go spend the, get the $70 binder or something I mean you can, if that's the way you roll.

Megan 16:20
Everyone listen. This is not an excuse to go buy another notebook, right, right.

Brad 16:26
Any sort of note app, or I mean for my kids it was just a three ring binder where, with blank paper in it, we'd write down notes and say, all right, well, based on what we did today, here's what the students are going to do, here's what the parents are going to do. Then the real trick is to have that meeting three weeks later and say, well, did you do this and do that? Well, no, okay, well, when are we going to kind of moving the ball on a regular basis and whatever works? A lot of times, if you tied into your work calendar or tied into however you run your life, you probably want to put college into what you already have versus start another system for most families, absolutely.

Megan 17:03
Yeah, I'm thinking for those of you listening that are in the top program you could start thinking about what things belong either on your weekly checklist or your monthly or your quarterly checklist to go into your planning process. One of the tools I talk about a lot that's free from it. If you want to keep it digital, I could see creating a Trello board for college. Managing the whole college planning process could be great because, again, you could share it with your kids. Tasks could have dates and reminders and it'd be a central hub for the whole family to work from. I'm already starting to think about maybe I need to create a template for that for the Trello board as well. Now, if you had to give and I didn't tell you I was going to ask you this so if you need more than one, that's fine. But thinking about families in that late stage planning, what would be your top one or two tips to help them prevent like last-minute panic or overwhelm as they're navigating college planning?

Brad 18:05
Really boils down to starting early and just doing it. There's a challenge, of course, where the student needs to be ready, as we've already mentioned, where you're not going to go down visits with a freshman perhaps, or certainly an eighth grader or younger and do anything meaningful. But if you just intentionally say, well, we're going to have to visit some schools and you can do what I would call preliminary visits, we're just going to go check out a campus and it's a local campus. There's a lot of visits that you could do on a Saturday or Sunday to your local college. I've taken my daughter and she's my third now, but I've taken her to a couple of the local things. She's adamant that she's not going anywhere near home I say that's fine.

You don't have to go to the college, but I'm not dragging you all over the country just to go to a basic learn about college visit where they talk about how it works and where they talk about. This is what a nursing major does and this is what a physical therapy person does. You can learn that at any college, even if it's not one year.

Megan 19:06
That's really smart. You could leverage some of the information gathering, even if it's a school that maybe isn't on your list but it's there and easy to start getting information on stuff that would spread across schools. That's a great thing.

Brad 19:17
Exactly. They have a great program and it's on a Sunday, so we don't have to miss school or work. Again, it's a 20-minute drive or it's an hour drive. You spend three hours learning. That's about as much as a student can take often and then you go home and talk about it a little bit and then you're done. Then you do that a couple of times to where again, for a lot of families, when you start getting into the mix of well, do you want a big school or a small school, a student will stare at you and say I don't know. I mean, what is a big school? What's the difference?

Megan 19:49
What does that mean?

Brad 19:50
I've never seen any of things. I've never seen a college, really, in sports I went and played on one of their fields once, but I wasn't paying attention to the college.

Megan 19:58
The difference of a small school in college is still way bigger than their high school, so they don't even understand that frame sometimes.

Brad 20:06
Yes, exactly Sometimes. But sometimes there's really small college I mean, this college is at 1,000, where high schools are at 3,000. Again, it's just this process where it's a learning process for everybody and if you start earlier and spread it out, they're just a lot less pressure. And you know there's. I get calls every year with parent.

You know like right now in the fall, I'm getting calls from parents of seniors going oh my god, we got to figure this out and we're way behind and how we gonna pay for this, and it's like and we kind of call them the hair on fire crowd where yeah, yeah and we can help, but Most of the time it'd be like you know, you really could have done that, called me a year ago and this would have been a much easier right, because we're really behind the eight ball now and I think for a lot of families they don't realize because it's gotten more complex and there's all these different programs out there and all this stuff to learn.

Megan 20:58
That's the thing is. If you don't, I don't even know what I don't know yet, and so giving yourself that space and time to uncover. Now I know you have a lot of Incredible tools, courses, etc. Tell everyone a little bit about how you support families that are ready to get some help with this.

Brad 21:17
Yes, so I have a website taming the high cost of college, dot com, and you can go there. We also have a podcast of the same names. There's about a hundred and some episodes there of all kinds of college related great resources there, for sure.

We've got a free newsletter. We've got things like the scholarship guide for busy parents, where you know the goal of that Mini course is not to teach you how to get scholarships, to teach you what you need to understand about scholarships so that you can then decide Well, am I gonna go down that path and how hard do I want to work at it? Because scholarships could be a huge project or it could be. Yeah, we're just gonna skip it and focus on something else. And how do you make that decision?

For a lot of families they just run out of time and that's why they don't do scholarships as an example. But if you do want to do it, you know getting involved and learn about it and then you can decide if it's the right path. And it's a great idea for many families, but certainly not all you know. So those types of resources we've got cost of colleges by state, where you can look up not just the full price, the list price, but a lot of these schools offer scholarships and other discounts where you know a $70,000 school Might only cost thirty thousand For families with this type of income right which, wow.

Now you say, wait a minute, the state school is 30 and this school is 30. Now I Can pick the one I like Because the price is relatively the same, and that's no accident, by the way. I mean, a lot of schools realize they're competing with that flagship state school and they, for some, they might have to be, you know, similarly priced or they're just not gonna attract students.

Megan 22:55
We're not gonna get the students oh, this is so good. I tell you what you got me motivated to think about when I'm gonna be doing my planning for 2025, because we'll be, you know, all the daughter in high school. Then To start thinking about what are the things that my husband and I are gonna be doing that year. Instead of potentially waiting, tell you what I would have thought was oh, we'll start thinking about it junior year of college. And now I'm realizing there's a lot of things we could be doing behind the scenes.

Exactly to that junior year.

Brad 23:25
So this has me feeling like a Different view on all of this, which I really appreciate exactly, and especially the, the parent only stuff will be the financial stuff, the budget, the, what's this? You know talking parents talking. What's our philosophy? Yeah, a lot of times we'll have one parent this is well, my parents paid for everything and it was great. And then another parent might say, well, I had to do this, work my way through school and all that kind of stuff. And I've had parents say things like well, we're just not gonna help, I work my way through school, they can work their way through that's what they're gonna do, yep.

Wrong most school, you know again, because it's so much more expensive. You know, show me a student that can raise, you know, 25,000 a year to pay for college right it's possible, but those kind of kids are rare and If you have one of those kids, great.

But usually when you talk about the Kind of the middle-income families right where the kid says you know, when they're 12, they hit, that iPhone's cool, and then one shows up and then the next they say you know, I know you're tired of dragging me around all these events and sporting.

Megan 24:31
Well, I'm 17 now car, yeah you know life would be so much better.

Brad 24:35
And mom and dad like, yes, I think we'll make that happen because it will make our life better. So that bad happens. And then, well, a lot of students think, well, mom and dad are gonna shake the same money tree. And Well, ah, here's college, because I'm student doesn't understand. There's a difference between a thousand dollar phone and a ten thousand dollar car and a hundred thousand dollar education. Absolutely. The typical student says they're all big numbers. I've not ever seen any of them. They're all the same. And as far as I can tell, it's mom and dad's. You know, it's not even a problem in their mind. They're just saying mom and dad's taking care of it, don't have to worry about it, you know. So, again, you know getting into all that stuff Earlier so that you have some time to figure it out and recover, you can be a unified front as you're heading into the the kid involvement, which I think is exactly and it needs to be realistic, right?

You can't say things like, well, they're just gonna pay for it all, that's your solution, and then, when you get to the end, realize that they can't afford to pay for it all. A lot of good now.

Megan 25:35
I know we talked a lot here today. You know about more of the time management and that planning. But also I want all the listeners to know you know Brad has a Inmense expertise in the financial side of that with. That just wasn't part of our conversation today, but please know that that is a a incredible resource for you. I would definitely got in the show notes the link to your website as well as the podcast. So definitely, if you guys are in that you know you've got those teens 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade and if you've got a junior haven't started thinking about it, I would say, definitely pop over to the website and and start thinking about how, what you want to add into your plans. So this has been immensely helpful for me. The timing was good, selfishly. So again, thank you so much for being here today. We really appreciate it.

Getting on top of all things time management, organization and productivity Doesn't have to stop just because this episode is over. If you want one tap access to all of my training and current top podcasts, go to the app store or Google Play and download the pink bee app. It's one word the pink bee. It is jam packed with simple yet powerful tips and strategies to get you out of Overwhelming and end to harmony. And if you have a question you want me to cover on a future episode, go to iTunes and ask your question in the podcast review section. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a five-star review.

Overwhelmed? Frazzled? Tired of your calendar controlling you?

You are in the right place! Sign up for my free, on-demand training and learn how to gain control of your time no matter what life throws at you!