We first met Jordan Schanda of ScholarPrep through Instagram. Her business’s goal is to assist students from freshman year of high school until the college admissions process is over. We quickly clicked the “follow” button after realizing that ScholarPrep is run by this 26-year-old and her mother, Christina.
After Jordan shared our article “How to Afford College when the FAFSA Doesn’t Foot the Bill,” we found out that aside from running this awesome business, Jordan is also a full-time sustainability coordinator and full-time master’s student. Needless to say, we just had to ask, “What’s your college story?”
Q. Let’s start with the big question: What is ScholarPrep?
ScholarPrep is a comprehensive planning and organizational system that ensures students are prepared to compete for college acceptance and the scholarships they need to pay for their education. The ScholarPrep® Organizer covers every section that a student will encounter in a college or scholarship application. For each section, it provides valuable tips and information, helps students set goals and track the information they will need to fill out applications, and also keeps college application materials organized.
Q. How did you first discover the need for ScholarPrep for high school students?
My mom and I created ScholarPrep based on our personal experiences with the college and scholarship application process. I was a very motivated student, so when it came time for me to fill out applications my senior year, I was very excited to take on that challenge. Unfortunately, I quickly became frustrated. I knew I had been involved, but I couldn’t remember all the details of my activities, like the times I [had] volunteered my freshman year. So, even though I was very successful, receiving about $50,000 in scholarships and grants, I found myself saying things like “I wish I would have known this…” or “I could have received even more money if I would have done that…”
At that same time, my mom was serving on scholarship review boards. She discovered what students were doing wrong and which parts of the applications they were struggling with the most. [She] was shocked when several scholarships went unawarded because not a single student applied. She quickly realized that there was a wide gap between students who knew how to fill out applications and those who had no idea what was involved.
We decided that there had to be a better way for parents and students to prepare for the application process without stress, without getting overwhelmed, and without missing out on opportunities. So, my mom and I began writing down all of the lessons that we learned because we knew that my little brother would be going through the same stressful process in just a few years if we didn’t find a better way to help him prepare.
We created ScholarPrep to empower students to make informed decisions about their lives after high school and to help them gain self-confidence by engaging in the planning process and determining their own futures. Learning the value of planning, organization, and education; taking initiative; giving back to the community; developing their interests; and pursuing their passions will ensure that they will find success and fulfillment in life.
Q. How have you balanced starting a business and going to college?
It has been really difficult at times, especially [since I am] also balancing my business and school with a full-time career that I am also very passionate about. I am lucky to have a great support system that I can turn to for advice and support in all of these areas in my life. Also, having my plate full has forced me to develop processes for managing my time and staying organized. I have also had to cut out certain things from my schedule, like TV.
Q. Has being a student and full-time employee hindered you in growing your business or helped you?
I think it has helped and hindered. Sometimes it feels like my other responsibilities keep me from being able to focus on my business as much as I would like. However, I think it has also forced me to be very intentional about how I spend my time when I am working on my business. I have to always make sure that what I am working on is the best use of my time. I think it has helped me more effectively use my time and energy.
Q. What has helped you in maintaining your schedule? Do you have any tricks to keep yourself on task?
I am a devoted Google Docs user. I have experimented with a lot of different strategies for staying organized and managing my to-do list. Ultimately, keeping a running to-do list in a Google Doc has been the best way for me to stay organized. This allows me to glance at my tasks and update my list from anywhere. Since I have the iPhone app, I also make sure everything is scheduled on my Outlook calendar, which is synced directly to my iPhone. As far as managing my to-do list, I sit down at the beginning of the week and prioritize everything that needs to be accomplished that week. I then break those goals down into smaller tasks and schedule them on a particular day of the week. I spend about 10–15 minutes at the end of my day checking in with my list and moving things around as necessary.
Q. What have you found your clients struggle with the most?
Most parents and students struggle with understanding when and where to start the planning process. Unfortunately, most wait until junior or senior year to start thinking about preparing for college, but often that is too late. We want to reach families as soon as students graduate eighth grade to start a conversation about preparing for college so that they don’t miss out on any opportunities.
Q. What is the biggest piece of advice you give them?
Start early and find a way to stay organized! Proper planning and preparation is the only way to ensure that students will be prepared for the application process, without missing out on opportunities and without any unnecessary stress and frantic scrambling their senior years.