Today’s jobtalk is with the founder of College Info Geek, Thomas Frank, who’s never been east of Chicago. Frank has figured out how to make the most of his college experience and is dedicated to helping other students do the same.
Title: Student, Blogger
Major: Management Information Systems, Iowa State University, graduating in 2013
When did you start College Info Geek?
I started it in the summer after my freshman year at college – it’s been about 2 years. I was working as an orientation assistant – those are the people that give tours to the college freshman and help them get started at college. It’s the best job ever for college students. Most freshman can’t get an internship right after their first year, so it’s the perfect job to do.
I learned so much about my college and so many college tips, that I really wanted to write about it for one of my favorite blogs, hackcollege.com. They were looking for writers, so I applied, and they rejected me. But I had this article that I had written for them, and I wanted to have it published. So I started my own website.That’s fantastic. I like how you didn’t allow that rejection stop you. It’s interesting to me too, that you like writing, but you’re also a techie guy. How and when did you develop your writing skills?
Part of it is because of my mom. I was homeschooled halfway through 3rd grade, and my mom was a great teacher. Once I got to high school, I took honors English classes. My district’s program was very good. And I really learned how to write in my 11th grade English class.
Tell me a little bit more about the trajectory of College Info Geek. Did you have a plan when you started?
I didn’t know much about blogging when I started. All I knew was that Hack College posted a lot, and I figured that I should post a lot too. I got one other person, who had been my coworker and friend, to write for the site.
Eventually, my first contributor moved on, and I got some others. But as time has progressed, I’ve been supplying 95 percent of the blog’s content. About a year after I started College Info Geek, the site was getting no more than 100 hits per day.
That May, when I was home from college, I decided to build a desk in my room that would allow me to house my giant desktop computer and two monitors that I had. So I got an idea to build a desk that hangs from chains from my loft bed. I took pictures of all the steps I took to build it and blogged about it. Crazy enough, Lifehacker picked it up and posted it. That’s what put College Info Geek on the map.
Before that happened, did you ever question whether or not to stop blogging?
Oh yeah. I went back-and-forth on whether or not to keep doing it. Some months I only posted two times. But I figured that I was building a writing portfolio and doing something worthwhile with my time, so there really wasn’t a reason to stop.
How much time do you devote to College Info Geek?
It’s almost a full-time job.
Do you get 8 hours of sleep a night?
I do now. Last semester I was only getting about 4 hours of sleep a night. I was running this site, I had a part-time job, and I was a resident assistant.
What made you decide to take on all of those jobs?
I had this goal to graduate without any debt. When you’re a resident assistant, your meals and room are paid for, so it really helps to save money.
But I ended up having to say to myself, “Okay, I’m not focused right now. My time is split among too many things, and I need to focus so I can become really good at what I’m doing.” So I cut out the jobs because I’m most passionate about College Info Geek.
When you started college, did you know what you were going to major in?
Yes, I did. I started out as an MIS major, and I still am. I did that because I was a computer geek in high school and also was part of a business club. It seemed like a no brainer to study MIS. When I started college, I thought I wanted to be a systems administrator. Now I don’t want to do that at all because I did it for an internship. I interned in a networking department for a big company.
I think it was really important that I got that experience. I tell people that they should get out there and try to do what they think they want to do as soon as possible. That way they actually know if they like it instead of just thinking that they might like it.
What didn’t you like about networking?
I thought that I would be physically working with network technology and getting to walk around a giant corporate campus. What it turned out to be was sitting in a cubicle for 10 hours a day; I was just in a gray box and it was clock-in, clock-out. It didn’t feel fulfilling. I can’t knock the company. The company was great, and I had great coworkers. But I couldn’t get passionate about documenting changes I was going to make to a proxy, then making the changes – that was the job.
After you graduate, will you be running College Info Geek fulltime?
That’s the plan. By that time, I’ll also have completed a book. I’d also like to speak at other colleges.
Aside from writing for the blog, what else goes into running it?
There’s a lot that I research and try to experiment with in terms of getting people to engage with the site; there are technical things that I work on; and I’m learning how to make money from it because I want this to be my job.
Did you hire anyone to help you with graphics?
I do everything on the website, but I didn’t design the logo. I held a contest soliciting logo designs with my favorite 2 college success books as the prize. I got about a dozen entries, and that’s how I got my logo. And, of course, the winner now has her work displayed.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
Colin Wright’s Exile Lifestyle is great. He’s a guy who travels to a different country every 4 months and lets his readers vote on where he goes. Blog of Impossible Things and Nerd Fitness are two other blogs that I read.
What advice do you have for other people who want to start something up?
Get started. When I started blogging, I didn’t know anything about it besides the fact that I could make a website and post content. Take your ideas, start fleshing them out, start trying to do them because you are going to learn much more when you are in the thick of it and you have to get things done.
Have you ever had a day when you were struggling to find an idea to write about?
Definitely. I keep a huge list of ideas in Evernote, and every time I think of an idea, I add it to my list. If I wake up one day and don’t feel like I have anything to write about, I just go to that list and find a topic.
What’s been your favorite college class so far?
My speech class. I took two, but the second one was for professional speaking, and I liked that the best. Because of that class, I learned that I love public speaking.