My College Journey: Education Empowers

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If you believe the odds, there’s almost no way I should be here. My mom and dad, who survived World War II bombings and refugee camps came to the United States with 20 bucks, one suitcase and without the ability to speak, read or write English. Although they never even had the opportunity to attend high school, they saw education as the way for their five children to learn how to make a better life for themselves and for their own families in the future.

My College Planning Journey

I’m Kevin Krebs, founder of HelloCollege, the largest college planning company in the Midwest.

My parents empowered me through their support, guidance and work ethic.  My dad mentored by example. He was an intense, gruff bricklayer who woke at 5:15 a.m. and was never late or missed a day at a job he did not like. He took his responsibilities seriously and worked hard to accomplish whatever task was in front of him.  My mom, who passed away last summer at the age of 88, was a kind-hearted, caring lunchroom manager at a school for special needs children—and she loved every minute of it. She challenged me to set lofty goals, reminded me to try my best every day and provided unwavering encouragement that boosted my self-confidence in ways that she could never have imagined.

My parents believed I could achieve anything that I could dream of doing in my life.  I attended the most ethnically diverse grade school in Chicago, Hibbard Elementary, with kids from more than 50 different countries and 90% of us coming from low-income households. The classrooms were overcrowded but I was a strong student blessed to have some amazing teachers who cared for their students as a whole and pushed me individually.

I tested into Lane Tech High School, a magnet school with over 4,600 students, known for its combination of strong academics and athletics. With dreams of attending and playing sports at a Big Ten university, my best decision was surrounding myself with a great friend group that was equally aspirational and motivated. Before you knew it we were seniors heading off to college.  I earned a full scholarship to Northwestern University where I played quarterback on the football team and pitched for the baseball team while my friends left for UChicago, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and CalArts.

Although arriving in Evanston as a broke,  first-generation college student should have been intimidating socially and academically – especially with the time demands of playing two sports – it actually made me more focused and determined. I often thought of my parents’ sacrifices and perseverance, especially when writing countless papers under tight deadlines or pulling all-nighters studying for finals.

Northwestern’s liberal arts curriculum and quarter system exposed me to a wide variety of courses that broadened my view of the world and honed my critical thinking skills. I had never studied that hard in my life but I will always be grateful for the incredible professors that shaped my future. I graduated as a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection with high hopes but without a job.

Although I had great grades, I was totally clueless as to how the real world – especially the white-collar professional world – worked. My parents’ friend network was comprised of plumbers, cleaning ladies, and carpenters, not investment bankers, Fortune 500 business executives or Chicago Tribune columnists. So, I did what lots of unemployed college graduates still do – I took out nearly $30,000 in student loans and went back to get a master’s degree.

A year later, I graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and  I thought my dream job of anchoring ESPN’s SportsCenter was surely right around the corner. Nope. Unemployed again, this time with a Sallie Mae student loan payment hanging over my head every month.

So there I was at the age of 25 with no job, a boatload of debt and an immense feeling of frustration. How did I get here? How in the last eight years of my life did I not have a guidance counselor, academic advisor, coach or anybody else tell me what this was going to be like and how it might turn out?

I founded HelloCollege to help students and parents pave a path to college while also helping families be mindful of the escalating costs of higher education. I’ve spent the last 20 years daring to ask, what if there was more “real” in the College Admissions Process. Since starting HelloCollege, my team and I have had the pleasure of successfully sharing our college planning and career readiness workshops, curriculum, and guidance with more than 10,000 families.

We look forward to using our expertise to assist over 250,000 students to successfully navigate the college admissions process.  Come join our movement, where students just like you have gotten into the college of their dreams by using our S.A.F.E. method. We are on a mission to shape the next generation of scholars into being graduates who complete school in four years, without immense debt, and with a well laid out career plan.

This post is dedicated to my late mother Mrs. Ursula Krebs and my 89-year-old father Mr. Karl Krebs.

HelloCollege, Goodbye Stress!

Kevin Krebs

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