We begin each relationship with an assessment of where you need the most guidance. There are dozens of moving parts to this process and we want to support you where you need it the most. Every student’s situation is different!
Our sophomore and junior students enroll in our Core Program. If you are a Senior, you are headed for our Boot Camp – the pieces to the process are the same, but your timeframe is much more sensitive.
You will work in partnership with a College Planner who will guide you as accomplish the following:
- Create a strong career plan
- Research the best programs that match the career goals you identify
- Develop a strategy that minimizes student loan debt
- Prepare you to successfully navigate and complete applications
- Learn how to find trustworthy scholarship sources
- Educate you and your family regarding financial aid and funding resources to pay for college
We are headquartered in Columbus, Ohio and offer many group workshops to our student families. We also have students from coast to coast, and utilize tools like Skype to facilitate our work together.
You Have Options & Resources for Paying for College
Your investment in higher education is a life-changing investment. Some students graduate with debt as big as a house payment! Our College Planners help you develop a base of knowledge so you can better understand your options for funding college.
Did you know that the way one family pays for college may not be the best strategy for another? Your situation is unique, so the combination of resources that you will use to pay for college will be different as well.
The funding sources available for funding a college education include:
- Internal Scholarships & Grants
- External Scholarships
- Student Work Study/Jobs/Internships
- 529 College Savings Plans
- Life Insurance
- Roth IRA’s
- Student/Parent/Private Loans
- Tax "scholarships"
Saving and Paying for College
Trying to figure out the best way to save for and pay for college? Discover the many funding sources available and the in’s and out’s of financial aid. Part of our work includes:
- Understanding the basics about financial aid
- Learning how to measure a university’s financial strength
- Identifying internal and external sources for scholarship money
- Preparing you for conversations and planning with your Financial Planner or Tax Accountant
- Understanding the most effective way to appeal Award Letters
Questions You Should Discuss With Your Financial Advisor
We highly recommend (and maybe even insist!) that you work closely with a Financial Advisor to identify the best savings strategy for your family’s college and retirement planning needs.
- Do I have the right investment strategy to fund college for my children?
- What are the best options available for saving money for college – what am I missing?
- Are there recommended changes that I should make to my investment portfolio in order to qualify for the maximum amount of financial aid?
- Are there tax benefits to my funding strategy?
When should we begin planning for college?
You should begin this process between the closing of your student’s sophomore year and the beginning of their junior year. That leaves approximately 18 months to work through the academic, career, financial and fit factors that are evaluated during this hectic time of life. Not all families begin on the same page – so it’s also about making sure you have the time to get everyone rowing in the same direction. The goal is to make a family-based decision with your student safely in the driver’s seat.
How can we maximize the amount of financial aid we receive?
A tough question that is answered differently for each family. Three important factors come into play here. First, you need to understand how funding and financial aid works – both at federal and individual university levels. Second, you need to know how your family’s assets and income will drive the calculation of your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). Third, when financial aid is officially awarded, you need to know how to negotiate properly. Following the process, understanding your financial strengths & weaknesses, and building relationships with admissions and financial aid will set you up for success
My student is focused on one dream school. How do you help them expand their options?
It sounds simple, but it works. Help the student create their own case for why this school is the best fit for them. Through research and evaluation your student will naturally have to defend or expand their position. Telling them they have “look at other options” sometimes sounds like you don’t understand them, when in fact you are trying to help them make one of the biggest investment decisions of their life. You wouldn’t buy a new car without a test drive or doing a bit of research – and the best insight usually comes from test driving another car or two! Helping your student explore other options is a key component to building their confidence in this process.
Advice Parents Would Give You Based On Their Experience!
1) Don’t borrow money you have saved for retirement to pay for college.
This action has implications that cannot be reversed. When you reach the age of retirement, you will not be able to take out a loan to fund your living expenses! It will be time for YOU to move in with the kids. Ouch!
2) Cautiously take on student loan debt for college – this includes you and your student.
Federally subsidized loan debt can be the best option, but make sure that it aligns with your overall budget. Not many students and families can recover from taking on five and six figure debt loads.
3) Don’t get duped into taking on debt through university parent loan programs.
There are no current regulations on how much debt they will allow you to take on, and we have yet to see restraint on behalf of the institutions. Talk about the next debt bomb…we know families who were offered $30k per year in parent plus loan debt in order to “close the gap” on a financial award letter. Yikes!
I’m overwhelmed with starting this process! Where should I begin?
No wonder you are overwhelmed – investing in a college degree has become a complicated and demanding process. Not to mention fitting this work on top of your academic commitments, work schedule, extracurricular demands etc. The answer is straightforward. There is indeed a step-by-step process to help your prioritize and manage everything you need to do to make a college selection decision. The secret is to begin early. Give yourself the time to tackle the testing, career planning, essay writing, program research, college visits, applications, budgeting and finding scholarships! To wait until your senior year begins is without a doubt a daunting prospect.
I don’t test well – should I take both the SAT and ACT? And how will my scores affect my college search?
You will be surprised how you feel after taking each test. The structure, timing and questions will be markedly different. Typically you prepare for and take each test, and upon your scoring results decide which test to prepare for and take a second time. Resist the urge to torture yourself and take each test three to four times. Your focus should be on getting the right preparation for the test – and the choices are not all created equal! Taking an online prep course, attending a course at your high school, or hiring a tutor are three options that you should consider. One size does not fit all! Also remember that your performance on these tests is a part of your application, not the whole picture. Each university weights your testing performance differently, and you can find schools that take a more balanced view of your portfolio into consideration.
I have a dream job in mind. How do I figure out the best school to attend?
Good question! First, we would challenge you to authenticate your career goals. Creating opportunities to gain insight and exposure to a profession will help you search for the best academic program. The work world is changing at such a high rate, and we encourage you to learn a great deal about the field or industry that you are finding interest. Once you really dig in to your career interests, maybe what you thought was a good match for you turns you on to another, more fulfilling profession.
I have no idea what I want to “be when I grow up.” How can you help?
First things first. This is a terrible question! And we know you get it often – especially during this time of your life. There are a handful of licensed professions that require a specific degree, like medicine, teaching, law, accounting or engineering. The vast majority of positions do not. We usually don’t begin and end our careers in the same job, or field for that matter! We’ll help you concentrate on the talents, skills, interests and passions you have now to identify where you should begin your professional life. Once you gain experience, your path will evolve based on industry, career field, and personal changes in your life. The pressure to figure it all out is unnecessary – but identifying where you’ll begin before you invest in a degree is critical.
I am a home-schooled student. Will I experience any disadvantages during the application process?
You are not necessarily disadvantaged, but will need to clearly document your education experience – especially academic rigor. Most home-school communities do not have a guidance counselor to help shepherd the application process, so staying organized and on task during the admissions processes is critical.