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How Millennials Are Doing College Wrong

How Millennials Are Doing College Wrong

Many millennials are doing one thing wrong when it comes to college. Can you guess what it is?

Sleeping through class and not doing homework? Taking out way too many loans and knowing nothing about them? If you guessed the latter, then you’re right! Millennials are taking out more in student debt than they can handle. And when it comes to repayment, they are clueless. According to a survey by Citizens Bank, 45% of those surveyed didn’t know what percentage of their salary went towards loans and a shocking 15% didn’t even know how much they owed in student loans.

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In the past decade, the number of students in debt hasn’t gone up much (about 5%), but the amount of debt they are in has doubled. This is in part to ill preparation before and a lack of knowledge of the funding that goes into paying for college. Most recent graduates regret taking out as much as they did and some say they wouldn’t have ever gone to college if they would have known how expensive it really would be.

Student Debt

Student debt is also adding up for this younger generation because parents are relying on PLUS loans to pay for the remainder of college expenses. Students can only take out $31,000 for their entire undergraduate education, but parents can take out as much as they want, even if they know they won’t ever be able to pay this off. Their children then feel like it is their responsibility to pay it off, and debt goes into the $100,000 range. Preparing for college is more than just getting good grades. Educating yourself on the types of loans and repayment options should be the first step. There are many other things you can do before, during, and after college as well to make your higher education a reality without drowning in debt.

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Starting young is the most beneficial way to be able to pay for school. Get a part-time job after school or in the summer and set a chunk of your paycheck aside for a college fund. If a job isn’t possible for you during school, like it is for some people, work your butt off in school and get ahead. Many high schools offer AP classes that give you college credit if you pass the test or classes that are offered through the college at your high school. This can put you semesters ahead and cut down the time it will take to get your degree.

Scholarships

Getting good grades or being involved can get you scholarships — AKA free money. You don’t have to get scholarships only from the college you are going to or only in a certain area (i.e. academics). Dip into scholarships from different organizations for different interests. There are hundreds of organizations that offer scholarships for all sorts of things. From being part of the National Honor Society to just being tall, a quick Google search will help you find the perfect scholarship for you. It won’t come easily, but there are plenty of options for you to apply for. The more money you can rack up in scholarships, the less you will owe back after college.

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Avoiding debt doesn’t stop once you get into college. There are four years where work can be done to avoid debt. Continue looking for scholarships. Things change while you are in college and you might find yourself qualified for more scholarships than you were when you came to the school.

Budget

Find ways to cut down on costs so you don’t need as much in student loans. This could be as simple as staying close to home in order to live at home for a few semesters or even taking a semester off to work and save up. Renting or buying used textbooks can also save you from many unnecessary expenses. While spring break in Cancun might seem like part of the college experience, it’s not. Cutting down on luxuries like this for four years will cut down on debt drastically.

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Part-Time Jobs

There are plenty of part-time, flexible jobs that are perfect for college students. Being an Uber driver only takes having a car and a license, and you can pick when you work. It can be as simple as signing up for medical transcription training online and spending nights converting recorded medical notes into text. You may not spend college with the most glamorous job, but at least you won’t be as in debt as your roommate who spends his weekends playing video games.

Paying off Student Loans

After college, there are a couple of options to get out of debt fast. Understanding the different repayment options is key to paying off Uncle Sam in a few years. There are options that allow you to pay a fixed rate and be paid in full in 10 years or there are options that work to your income. Some loans even have forgiveness programs where you no longer have to pay after a certain amount of time if you meet the criteria.

Understanding your options and what you can do to save money at all points of your college career is vital to being able to get out from under your student loans soon after graduation. If you know what you are doing beforehand and not just winging it with your loans, you’ll be out of debt and into that new Toyota Corolla LE and four bedroom house in no time.

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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