Crafting a Debt-Free College Degree
At a very young age he knew where his alliances lie: maize and gold. His bedroom was painted maize and blue, his wardrobe was maize and blue, and he trained as hard as you’d expect from a wolverine fighting at the Big House. His dream was to play football for University of Michigan, and nothing would get in his way.
In high school he proved himself as a superstar, earning varsity letters in three sports & claiming state and national championships in power lifting. He invested in additional practice sessions, coaching, and weightlifting in order to gain a competitive edge for college football recruits. At the same time, he kept his studies up, understanding that academics would be just as critical to his long-term success.
His plan worked. At a personal meeting with Lloyd Carr, Frank was told he had the skills to play, the strength to play, and the passion to play…but not the size. Despite his outstanding performance and top ranking, he was simply 2 inches too short and 25 lbs. too light to play for Michigan. He was invited to consider walk-on status, but received no guarantee for play time and no financial support.
Frank Lietke faced this situation in his senior year at Walled Lake Central High School, and at the time, it seemed devastating. However, after careful consideration and some intentional decision making, he earned a world-class business degree, played college football with great success, and walked away debt-free at the end of your years.
Frank offers the following advice for other high school athletes to consider:
1. Understand the odds. Approximately 5.8 percent, or less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing high school football go on to play football at a NCAA member institution.Eight in 10,000, or approximately 0.08 percent will eventually be drafted by an NFL team. Even if you are good – really good – understand the odds and work a contingency plan just as diligently.
2. Think Three Steps Ahead. Although it’s enticing to choose a school based on football program alone, you must consider the end game of where you’ll be at the end of four years. Selecting a school with well-respected academics will attract top employers and differentiate you in a competitive marketplace.
3. Focus on Academics. Working in the weight room is important and seeing your effort play out on the field can be validating, however, your game can only take you so far. Frank elected to attend Wayne State University, which offered a top-ranked business degree program and a Division II football program. Participating in a smaller football program allowed him to exercise greater leadership on the field, providing added benefits over time.
4. Strive for Scholarships. Don’t assume that you HAVE to have college debt – you don’t! Seek opportunities for both academic and athletic scholarships from several schools. Make your decision based on the optimum mix for your unique situation. In Frank’s case, he was able to combine academic and athletic scholarships together, and walked out of college debt free.Looking back, he believes it was the best decision he could have made.
5. Network, Network, Network. Find every opportunity to learn from others. Be curious and inquisitive. Find successful people who have done what you hope to do and seek them out. Most people will admire your earnestness and will want to help.
6. Do The Things That Other’s Won’t. You will need to roll up your sleeves and work to design the life you desire. “If you want things in life that other people don’t have, you have to do the things that other people won’t do.”
7. Have faith. Never lose faith – in yourself, and in a higher power. You will run into tough times – most of us do – but stay the course and have faith.
Had he allowed his ego take over, Frank may have chosen a large student loan and no game play time just in order to wear the Michigan jersey. However, because he was well rounded in BOTH academics and athletics he was able to craft a custom solution that was fulfilling at the time, and offered many long term benefits.
Story by: Susan Dooley is a professional leadership coach and a guest writer to Scholarpreps. She is also the Founder of Leading Michigan which highlights people that excel in goal-setting, self-discipline, and leadership.