Our College-Prep Expert Interview series gives parents and students an opportunity to meet an expert who can help them on their college-bound journey. We ask each expert how they got into the business of college-prep, why their work is so important and to share their biggest tips and tricks!
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Catchphrase: B.A.M! B-Always Motivated!
Why we interviewed Shelia: She is passionately committed to helping students pursue their dreams and avoid student loan debt. Shelia uses the power of social media to share scholarship opportunities and encourage students to win!
Let’s start with the big question, what do you do?
I am the founder of B-Forc! providing personal college prep and scholarship coaching for parents and college bound students (I will bring the B-Forc! Plan to you. If you have students, I will travel). Through our social media presence B-Forc! Nation and iTeenKC aka iTeenGlobal, we connect parents and students locally, nationally and globally with the resources needed to pursue scholarship pipelines (opportunities) we find and share often.
How long have you been working in the college-prep world?
I have been sharing scholarship information for over 12 years. I started out sending emails, but the email list grew to 800 people. However, I have been coaching parents and students through the college prep and scholarship process since 2011.
How did you get into this work?
The journey and purpose was initially for our daughter. My husband and I started the college prep journey when she was in the 8th grade. Although she was attending schools that provided the basic college prep resources, we wanted to be knowledgeable, proactive and persistent in securing a successful college and scholarship journey for her (above what we were receiving from the schools). As passionate parents starting the process early was a logical and strategic necessity for her success.
Very early in the game, we discovered the importance of an academic resume. Building a stellar resume was the first phase, along with finding pre-college opportunities for her to explore her potential college major interests and possible college choices.
By the time she was a junior in high school, we began pursuing scholarship opportunities. After she won her first $10,000 scholarship from Kohl’s Kids Who Care, our scholarship formula and process took off. When she graduated from high school she walked across stage with $250,000 in scholarships from varies resources.
Her scholarship winning success inspired our community to seek us out for assistance. At the time, our daughter had participated for two years in the UMKC Summer Scholars Program for aspiring teens interested in Med School. They hired me to create and facilitate a college readiness and scholarship prep program for their parents, whose high schoolers attended their College Prep Saturday Academy Program. This awesome relationship and venture that lasted four years was the birth of B-Forc! The Bound for College Readiness Program.
In the past five years, as of May 2016, the students I have personally coached have won collectively $2.5 million dollars in scholarship money… the B-Forc! Plan works and every year I strive to ensure the plan is new and improved.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your experience?
The importance for college bound families to become a team in prepping for college and scholarship wins. I learn to evolve, change my own parenting style from being a helicopter mom (that do-as-I-say kind of mom) to becoming a parent coach for our daughter, which was an important lesson I experienced and embraced. In order for her to be successful, I had to change my parenting approach. I had to become not only her life coach for the college journey we were preparing for, but a scholarship coach to motivate and continually encourage her success and a winner’s attitude. We became a team. Today, this concept and parenting skill is shared as part of the B-Forc! Plan for the college bound parents, guardians and families I coach. Helping them embrace the team concept and understanding the end game is #TeamNoStudentLoans.
Why is your work so important?
These three words: student loan debt, which is a global epidemic that is affecting the fiduciary future of many college students from the recent past, the present and the rising cost of a world class education will impact many. My deepest concern is that the cost and fear of debt will discourage future bright minds from pursuing a college education. I often say, no one’s college dream should become a “Dream Deferred” and a student loan should be a last choice not a first option. So, I share, show and tell all who want to know, what I know, for them to potentially be scholarship rich and not student loan debt poor.
Who is your typical client?
The clients I personally coach are parents and/or college bound students (rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders). They range from the academically brilliant to those who may have struggling test scores and grades. I have successfully coached ESL/ undocumented students and via my Facebook page I have advised international students and college students with their scholarship process as well.
What have you found your clients struggle with the most?
Staying motivated, being diligent to applying for the scholarships, especially when the win hasn’t arrived…yet.
What is the most important piece of advice you give them?
The college dream, discussion and exploration needs to start as early as middle school. B-Persistent! B-Determined! B-Encouraged! B-Prepared! and throughout everyone’s college prep and scholarship process, always B-Lieve! in your potential to B-A Winner! It is true, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.” – Zig Ziglar
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with families on the college-bound journey?
As you well know there are a lot of great tips to help guide the process but here are two B-Forc! Tips:
Tip #1: Before you commit, you must go see where you want to be. All colleges look the same size on the internet, of course this will depend on the size of your monitor and everybody posts their best selfies including colleges.
Tip #2: College bound students should use their summers wisely. Choose at least one summer pre-college program or camp during high school; the experience can prove to be priceless. Volunteer in the community for network building, community support is valuable “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know or who knows you” also work on your scholarship applications.
What is your favorite college-prep resource?
First, let me testify that there are a lot of wonderful resources available. For scholarship resources and more, I love Cappex.com. They have been my favorite go to scholarship website for 10 years and a part of my B-Forc! Plan for the students and parents I coach. Another favorite is MyMajors.com and now ScholarPrep, your product is something I truly wish was available 10 years ago and is a valuable tool in helping parents with the college prep process and for students to build organization skills which will prove to be vital for their college journey.
What is one thing that makes what you do unique?
One word, Me! My passion, my faith, my love for what I do, the B-Forc! Plan… I love what I do. As a College and Scholarship Prep Coach I am so into the game, the success of it for my parents and students. You didn’t ask this question but my motivational theme song by DJ Khaled for years has been “All I Do is Win, Win, Win” … every coach has to have a theme song for the team…right?
What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
It’s hard to have favorites, I like to do many things, just don’t have enough time. But if I had to pick I would say binging on Netflix or Redbox movies. I also love a good book, from history to a great mystery. No favorite genre – I’m just drawn to great writers.
Anything else we should know?
I have a life motto I refer to daily that inspires me to do what I do, “A candle loses no light, by lighting another.” I hope to encourage others to share what they know, the success of their college journey and valuable scholarship information. As for me, I’m always ready to light another candle.