Thomas Frank is a web developer and online blogger. Frank graduated from Iowa State in May of 2013 with a bachelor’s in management information systems. When he was a freshman, he created his website, collegeinfogeek.com. He made the website with the intention of helping other college students succeed in both their academic career and their career after college graduation. Frank focuses his blogging on student debt solutions, helping students learn faster and personal branding. Frank borrowed around $15,000 in student loans, and was able to pay them off by the time he graduated by working on campus and running his website.
Do you have any advice for current college students?
I would tell college students to take every opportunity that comes in front of them. They also should meet a lot of people. Students need to figure out their goals, they think their degree will get them a job, but if you fail to actively set and pursue your goals, that won’t happen. Students need to think about not just what career they want, but the salary they want to earn, the lifestyle they want to have, the environment they want to work in. Students need to tailor their goals so they can start to head in the direction they want.
How were you able to accomplish what you did?
I was always focusing on my goals. When I came to college, my goal was to sit in a corporate basement with basically 100 other people and be a huge nerd, which is definitely not what I am doing now. My parents instilled the work ethic in me, but I was always actively seeking out experiences. Before I even started classes my freshman year I got a job at the Solution Center. That was a great experience because I had to find solutions to people’s problems even if I had no idea what their problem was, I had to figure out a way to fix it. I also always gathered all my resources. In high school I spent time reading college advice, I even came to Ames and wandered Parks Library and on my first day of classes at Iowa State I had links to Google Maps to all my classes.
If someone wants to follow in your footsteps, but does not know their way around a computer, what should they do?
I bought a domain, buildapersonalwebsite.com, and I wrote the guides on that website from start to finish, assuming the students using it would not know anything about starting their own website. All the person would have to do is follow the instructions and then use their new website however they wanted, whether it just be to post their resume or post original content and start a blog. I also list a lot of books on my website that I have mostly read all the way through. They are filled with a lot of good advice on succeeding in college.
What was the best decision you made in college, to help your future?
Starting my blog was the best thing I did for myself when I was in college. I originally applied to write for a different website, but they didn’t want me. I decided I had this article I wrote for them that wasn’t going to be used so I published it on my own website and it worked out really well. My job at the solution centerwas also extremely beneficial to me, and I would advise students to get a job on campus. Working on campus gets you skills that would be hard to gain without having that opportunity. I worked at the solution center until the middle of my sophomore year when I started working as a web developer in communications, I was also a Cyclone Aide, worked at the career center, worked in the Lagomarcino research center, and was in a lot of different clubs and committees.
When did you start making money from your website, and how did you manage to pay off $15,000 in student loans by the time you graduated?
It took me two and a half years to start making money off the website. About a year and three months ago I started the tutorial on how to build a website, and the hosting website I sent people to I learned I could make commission off of. Whenever someone uses my article’s link to use their website I make a commission and I started making enough money combined with my other jobs that I could pay off my student loans.
Some students have to borrow a lot more than $15,000. What kind of scholarships did you have?
I was a Carver student, I won the Principal Scholar Award, I won the Federated Insurance Award twice and the Pappajohn Entrepreneurship Award twice also.
You sound like you were pretty busy in college. Did you have interest in picking up a double major or a minor while you were in school?
I actually added a speech minor my junior year, and realized instead of taking all of these extra classes I would rather speak at events instead, so I dropped the minor. I was also in the Honors Program, but dropped that, too. My first two years I really piled on as much as I could because I thought all I needed to do was really bolster my resume. Once I started to focus on my goals, I reevaluated the things I was involved in and did what was best for me.
Running a website has turned into a full-time job for you. How do you relax?
I really like to travel, I’ve been to Japan twice, I read, I like to bike, rollerblade and go hiking.