I am here today with Christen, who has an amazing story. She is a genius at finding scholarships to pay for her college tuition. Now, she has amazing programs where she helps other people do the same.
Her success is kind of crazy, like her videos that have gone viral on TikTok, which we’re going to get into. Christen, I’m going to let you introduce yourself a little bit better and more thoroughly, and then I will launch into my million questions.
So with that, who are you? What do you do?
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How Christen Got Started
Well, I am a college admissions coach. I take the stress out of applying for college. Essentially, I help families.
You can narrow down your list of colleges to apply to, we complete college applications together, I proofread college admissions essays, and assist with financial aid. But my favorite part is definitely helping with finding scholarships.
My own scholarship success story started when I realized, as a high school freshman, that if I wanted to be able to afford college, then I would have to win scholarships.
So I started finding scholarships and applying in ninth grade and didn’t stop. And I won my first scholarship as a junior, which kind of lit the fire underneath me to want to continue applying. I told myself, well, if I can win one, certainly, I can win more.
I really strategized finding scholarships, how I applied, and which ones I applied to.
It worked, because to date, I have won over $900,000 in scholarships.
Oh my gosh. So crazy. Okay. So back up a little bit, because here’s my high school story:
Didn’t know what I wanted to do, didn’t know what I wanted to do, didn’t know what I wanted to do, didn’t know what I wanted to do. Got to my senior year. And at even mentioning that I might go to college, my parents, who were divorced, both separately said to me, “If you want to go to college, you figure it out.” And so I’m wondering, as a ninth-grader, how did you find the motivation and the education to know, “Oh, I would like to go to college and I’m going to have to pay for it, and I’m going to find scholarships?”
How did you get to that place?
I am a first-generation college student.
No one else in my family had ever even gone to college. But I was always fairly smart, and I knew that that was the next step for me. I don’t really think any teenager ever really knows what they want to do. I just knew I wanted to go to college and I would figure it out there.
So at the time, I thought I wanted to do radiology. I had a friend who was a little older and she took that route. And I’m like, “I think that’s great. I can do that.” Later down the road, I actually started volunteering in the hospital. This is after I was in college. And I’m like, “This is terrible. I don’t want to do radiology. This is not what I see myself doing every day.” So I did change my major into just biology. And even after I graduated with a biology degree, I was still like, “Well, now what?” I didn’t see the end in sight.
When you have the thought of college, so many families are like, “All right, let’s just figure it out.” But you can’t wait until you’re a senior to figure it out. It’s a process that has to start before then.
That’s really what I help families do now: by the time you’re a freshman, sophomore, at least let’s start considering what college you want to go to. The bulk of scholarship money comes directly from the colleges you apply to. So I knew, okay, well, I wanted to go to a college that will offer me a lot of scholarship money.
Although I probably could have applied, and I imagine I likely would’ve been accepted to some of the Ivies and the more competitive colleges, I had my sights set on which colleges would I be a great fit for as well. I just created a strategic college list, and I ended up getting multiple full rides.
And when I was able to stack that with state grants and federal aid, and then outside scholarships and local Garden Club scholarships, real magic happened. After my tuition was covered, every semester that I would have extra money in the account, in my college bursar account, they would send me a check for it.
So essentially, I got paid to go to college.
So then when I graduated college and I was like, “What do you want to do?” I’m like, “The only thing that I really liked about college was applying to college.”
Okay. So you got $900,000 in scholarships. I mean, you didn’t get paid all of that money in your pocket, or did you?
Okay. I’m like, were you a millionaire in college? I love that. Wait, can we do that now as adults?
It is possible. So there’s no timeline on an education. There’s no timeline on scholarships. It is possible.
But I got multiple full rides; each of those are let’s just say roughly $100,000 each. Once I picked one school, then the rest of that money went away from those other schools.
And then on top of that, there were some national scholarships like Coca-Cola, Horatio Alger, Walmart. Those are big ones. Well, some of those have stipulations that they cannot be paid out to the student. Some of them could be paid out to the student. As well as the smaller scholarships that I won throughout my community, those were also sent to the school and they didn’t have a stipulation that they couldn’t be paid out.
Some of those were also annual, so the money just kept coming. I was also working part-time, and I had no concept of money. I just knew that I didn’t want to take out student loans and I had to find a way to do it. So I went to school full-time and worked part-time and just put everything in an account. And then when I graduated, I was like, “Wow, this was nice. I did it.”
Figuring Things Out After Graduation
So you got a degree. I think a lot of people experience this with a degree. I ended up getting a degree which is totally useless to what I do now. It has a purpose, but like many people, it’s like, oh, now what do I do? How did you get into, “I want to start charging money to help people do the thing that I did?” What led you there?
So after college, I was unsure where I would fall in the biology-science sector. My husband had this dream of starting a security camera company. And I said, well, great, let’s do that. That’s what we did together. He’s an entrepreneur at heart. I ran that from home, and he did all of the field operations. And I think that was part of his dream – to have this successful family business.
But that wasn’t part of my dream.
So it was going great, and it was my first full-time job, my first real job, I guess. But it didn’t bring me joy. I mean, if you ever worked with your partner before, you realize it’s 24 hours a day. At midnight, you’re like, “Did you make that callback? Did you make that deposit?”
One day I was like, “I want to do something else.” He said, “Okay. Well, what does that look like?”
In my community, a lot of people know me as the scholarship girl, and so he was like, “You should pursue that.”
But I thought I couldn’t just start my own business.
How would I just start my own business? We did that once already. So, I felt compelled to find another company to work for first.
It was a nonprofit; we would go to local public high schools and mentor low-income students to make college and career choices. And I was getting emails late at night from parents and students saying, “How can we work with you one-on-one? We have a lot more questions than in a group setting at school, and I would like some of the questions answered.” And that’s when I realized, okay, this is it.
It started as Crescent City College Consulting.
I was focused on just New Orleans families. Meeting one-on-one to guide them through creating a college list or choosing a major, completing applications, brainstorming essays, and finding scholarships.
And quickly, when the pandemic happened, like most businesses, I had to bring it online. Once I did, I realized I was inundated with not just local people, but people from all over the US and the world. I have students from India, students from Peru. They’re all over.
I realized, okay, well, how can I make this more of a digital space? That’s what the last year and a half has been: how do I transition this new baby business onto online?
What do people want from me? What you think you want to sell in the beginning is not always what people want to buy.
Yes. Oh my gosh. That is a summary of entrepreneurship in the beginning. We have all these ideas which are genuinely good ideas, but you have to connect it with what the person thinks that they want to buy. That’s the nature of marketing.
Awesome. So you started getting clients, people just started asking you. You started turning it into a real business. And then how did you and I originally connect?
Finding a Coach
I had been looking for a coach. Being a solopreneur is kind of lonely.
There’s two different types of people in the world. There’s the people who have internal thoughts and dialogue with themselves, that you can come to realizations by yourself. And there’s people like myself who are like, I have to talk it out. Hash it out, ask me questions. I’ll get to the bottom of it as I’m talking it out with someone. And I needed someone to talk it out, someone to point me in the right direction. I had felt like I was just throwing wet noodles at the ceiling to find what would stick, and I was running out of pasta noodles.
We call that the spaghetti approach.
It is very much a spaghetti approach. And sure, some things stick, and some things stick a little longer. I was just struggling.
I just silently followed in your group for a while. And when you were offering the Small Audience Sales System course, finally, I was like, okay, maybe this is my opportunity to figure it out.
I consider my audience kind of small. I think I have 1,500 in a Facebook group and about 1,500 on Instagram and 1,500 in an email list.
So how could I really bloom this?
And what I wasn’t expecting from that was the mindset stuff that you put in it. I know you say the word “woo.” And at first, I was like, “I don’t see how this will help.”
Yeah. But you went through the process anyway.
So, you found the Small Audience Sales System and came in there. We have so many crazy results in that program. The first thing we teach people is mindset. And they’re like, “Well, I just want to sell high-ticket sales.”
You had some crazy results, even from week one. And I know you wanted to pull out. So tell me, what started happening with the mindset stuff? We just had probably 10,000 things happen in a very short period of time.
Yeah. So I run three businesses. I have three children.
That’s like six businesses.
Things get crazy.
I run my life with a color-coordinated Google Calendar, and a handwritten to-do list that is always right next to me.
So, I got the mindset deck. And I had put them next to my bed and I said, you know what? I’ll just go through them. Every day, I’ll flip to a new one.
I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it.
There was a few that I really found stuck out to me, that every time I would come across those, I was like, “Ooh, here’s my favorite one,” which was funny because at first, I was like, “Who needs a good mindset to run a business?” But all of us need the right mindset to run a business.
One of the mindset cards that I think set me up for success says, “I am courageous. I take positive action despite my fears.” That stuck with me, because I have never really liked videos of myself. And I had been telling myself I need to do a live video on my Facebook group. I think I have to do TikTok or Instagram Reels in order to be the face of a brand. I always envisioned creating this brand, but I never wanted to be the face of it.
But as I’ve started trying to build my business, I realized people didn’t want to buy from a brand. People want to buy from people. They want to know who they’re talking to before they send money your way. And that’s just the truth. So I realized, well, I have to put my face out there.
This let me be courageous and take positive action.
I said the whole month I’m going to make TikTok videos, so I did. And within my day nine… And I wasn’t even doing anything rough like 10 videos a day. I just said, “This month, I want to take on TikTok.” I started posting some videos, and my ninth video went viral. And when I’m saying viral, I mean hit a million views. And I was like, “Oh, this doesn’t always happen.”
I just want to highlight one thing you said. I think this is so important. Video is not always required for business. Right? Whatever’s in alignment for you, you can make work.
However, when you’re doing high-ticket consulting or one-on-one like you’re doing, video shows you what’s it like to work with this person.
Even though you didn’t love the idea of doing video, you’re a very good speaker and you have a great personality, so you come across great. You knew intuitively that if people could see you and hear you, they would know what it’s like to engage with you and interact with you.
Yes, because when I would book strategy calls, people were like, “Wow, you’re really passionate about this.” And I am. They’re like, “I feel the love for college.”
So I did. I realized I have to step out of my comfort zone.
And I know what I have to do, despite the fact that I don’t want to do it. And so I forget what it’s called. Are you familiar with the term “eat the frog?” And so that’s kind of what I’ll do. I’ll eat the frog. And I’m like, “Okay. First thing I’m going to do this morning is make 10 TikTok videos. That way I have content for all week.”
Eating the frog is like doing the most annoying task first, basically.
I got more email leads in my first two weeks on TikTok than I had the last 20 months growing a Facebook group.
That’s when I said, “It works. I’m going to keep doing this because it works.” It just spiraled from there. So yes, my TikTok handle is @hivecollegebuzz. For a long time, I was like, I can live with the fact that strangers watch my videos, but I don’t know if I could live with the fact that my friends are watching them.
I knew you were going to say that. Everybody’s hang-up is not strangers, like millions of strangers. It’s like, “What if my three friends watch this?”
When they come across it, they send it to me. And I’m like, “Please stop.”
But at the same time, I’ve spent a lot of time writing blogs and posting in Facebook groups, and building my own Facebook group, and trying start Pinterest. These are my spaghetti noodles that I’ve thrown. I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve started a LinkedIn. I’ve tried to do it all.
Once I found something that worked, and for me, that was TikTok, at least for the time being, I’m going to continue to try to capitalize on that.
So then another mindset card that I came across was “I make money every single day” and “I make money in my sleep every night.”
Another noodle that I threw is I created an Etsy shop.
I liked waking up and having sold like, ooh, a $3.99 digital product. I sold three of them in my sleep last night and it’s only $10. Right? But at the end of the week, at the end of the year, it was $10 that took me 15 minutes to make and put online upfront, and now it’s generating more income.
Then another one said, “I allow money to come in easily from many sources.” There’s a statement that the average millionaire has seven streams of revenue, seven different streams of income. So I’m like, okay, how else can I generate income?
So I’ve also now found some affiliate programs. There’s just so much to building a brand that, in the beginning, I didn’t know existed. Right?
I went in with the mindset that I’m going to sit across from a table with a family and we’re going to plan college applications together. And now there’s so many other aspects of the business. I love it because it’s like every day, you wake up, and there’s a new challenge.
Oh, I love that.
That’s such a great way to show people what that looks like and feels like. When you get into business, you’re like, “I’m going to make some candles and sell them on Etsy and it’s going to be great.”
But when you start your business from the standpoint of, “how do I become a seven-figure entrepreneur?” Then you realize yeah, I can’t sit in front of the desk all day. I’ve got to have that money that comes in every night, and I have to have passive income sources, and I have to have either a large audience or a high-ticket offer.
A Million Views on TikTok
I love that your ninth video got over a million views.
Oh, that doesn’t happen? What I like about my videos on Reels and TikTok, at least to date, is that for some reason, they’re pretty consistent, I feel like, because some people either have 30 views or 30,000 views, whereas mine are all in the hundreds. But I would love to go viral.
Yeah. It caused my best month ever. Sometimes I say I owe it all to my mindset. I said, “Oh, I can do this.” And that was my first month in the SASS course. The very next month, I went viral on TikTok, because I stepped out of my comfort zone and recorded a video of my face. And boom, here it was. Still, that is my most-watched video, the most-commented video. It’s just my story of how I’ve earned almost a million dollars in scholarships.
Yeah. It’s a pretty good hook.
That program is called the Small Audience Sales System. At the end of the show, I always say you can go to alisonreeves.co and apply for coaching. And this is one of those offers you can find.
Learning to Focus
But you learned other things in the SASS course too. One of the things we teach there is focusing, which is something that you’re talking about now. It’s like, for now, just putting your energy into TikTok. Was there anything else that you wanted to share with listeners? What are the things that led to this clarity of having your best month? The practical tips that you can share, if you have any.
I love to create content, but I hate marketing it. That’s part of it.
It’s almost like how many freebies, how many offers, what else can I offer? I have all of these great workbooks, programs, courses, freebies. I had trouble sending it to my audience, showing people like, “Look at this.”
So I’d be like, instead of that, let me just make something else.
I went on down this rabbit hole of just creating new offers to the point that there was just too much.
I realized, right now, that what my audience wants most are personalized scholarship searches, where they fill out a questionnaire I’ve created. It asks things like where do you live? What is your nationality, your religion, your interests, your college major, what awards? And I compile a list of scholarships and put it in a spreadsheet for the students so that they can easily apply to them. I’ve realized, over time, that they get lost in the search. There’s expired ones, there’s broken links.
A lot of them, I don’t want to call them scams per se because essentially, they pick a winner, but it’s like sweepstakes where they’re really fishing for your information just to sell it to someone else. So to avoid those, even though they’re quick and easy, you would rather be one of 200 quality candidates for a scholarship that you need an essay for rather than one of 200,000 that just needed your email address.
Parents were like, “How can you get my kid to apply for scholarships?” And I’m like, “Well, here’s a list. These are some great options.” I’ve even had parents like, “Well, how can I pay you to just apply for them?” I’m like, “Well, there’s an ethical line there that I cannot cross, but I’d be happy to provide you with a list to make it easier.”
That’s been, honestly, my biggest seller. And that was something I had never dreamed of selling. Literally, after the 12th person was like, “Can you just do that part for me?” I finally said, “I guess I could. Yeah. I don’t see why not.”
Just trial and error has really built the business.
Yeah. I love that so much. And so what are you focused on now and how are you focused on growing?
Right now, I’ve actually joined a small-business female accountability group.
There’s four of us, where we check in with each other with a Zoom call monthly. We have our big-picture goal for the next six months, and we break it into each month, what are we doing? To where we even check in a daily priority like today is content-batching day or today is actually “get my taxes in order and bring them to my CPA” day. Just to hold yourself accountable for what your to-do list is.
So right now I am actually creating an accountability membership for students where we could come in and meet together and discuss where are you at? What do you need help with? I would like to bring in monthly test prep. Once again, I am creating a new offer. But I feel like this is what is needed at this time for this summer, for the next batch of my students rolling in.
Yeah. I love it. And how are your Etsy sales going?
It is kind of a double-edged sword. And now, there’s an Etsy strike going on right now, of course. All Etsy sellers are on strike. I’ve enjoyed the passive income. Sometimes I feel like I dabble and spend a little too much time there and it is not my biggest income-generating stream. One month, I only made $25 and I ended up owing Etsy 75 cents. And I’m like, how does that even work? So I’m not saying don’t go all-in on Etsy, but maybe just make it one of your options.
Yeah. The offers you’re selling on Etsy, are you selling them digitally on your website too?
They’re not linked to my website. I actually use some of them as a freebie on my website as to what I’m selling on Etsy. But I do back-to-school signs, first-day-of-school signs. I have some graduation announcements. I have some class of 2022, class of 2023, coloring digital mandala, calming coloring sheets. There’s a few different things. Like I said, it hadn’t been my focus. It was my intention to be one of the offers on the side panel of my blog, just somewhere else to drive traffic, essentially.
Where to Find Christen
Yeah. I love it. You have such a cool story. I’m so excited to see you continue to grow, grow your revenue streams. So if you guys want to know more about what Christen’s doing or you want to refer people over to her and learn how to get a million dollars worth of scholarships, you can go follow her @hivecollegebuzz on TikTok. And what’s your website?
It is hivecollegebuzz.com.
Very good. Any final words of wisdom you want to share?
Yes. Stop throwing noodles at the ceiling. Find something that sticks and stick with it for long enough to see some progress.
Because that had been my biggest downfall for a really long time – just hopping from platform to platform, idea to idea. And once you just stick with something long enough, it will work.
Yep. That advice, for everyone listening, is the advice that will get you all the way into the high multiple six figures. That is the key: first of all, self-belief. And second of all, whatever works, just keep doing it. Whatever works that you enjoy, keep doing it over and over again. You get different problems in your business the closer you get to seven figures. And then above that, you have different problems. High multiple six-figure advice here from Christen. So go follow her. Christen, thank you so much for sharing your story. And we’ll talk to you very soon.