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How Do You Pick a College Planning Specialist?

Do your homework first when picking a college planning specialist.

Talk to parents of students that just graduated from college. Who did they work with when they were figuring out how they were going to pay of college? Talk to your friends. What are they planning on doing to pay for college? Talk to your family.

Get some recommendations.

When I taught a class for the Soroptimist Organization, one of the first pieces of advice they shared was to talk to three people before you hire anyone. It was good advice then, it’s better advice now.

Why is it better advice now? Because everyone (and their dog) is jumping on the college funding bandwagon but not everyone knows the how to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of college.

The Truth is:

College Funding Requires Specialized Knowledge

I had heart surgery a couple of years ago. I didn’t go to my general practitioner to perform my surgery. I went to a cardiologist who recommended a heart surgeon to perform the operation. But since it was HEART SURGERY I didn’t simply take his advice. I talked to people – loooooots of people. I searched the internet, read websites on what I should expect before and after surgery, asked questions of other heart patients. My husband also talked to people and I called both my cardiologist and the heart surgeon several times with questions!

And just like heart surgery requires specialized knowledge, so does college funding.

Why is it important?

Because you got better things to do than attend every college fair at your kid’s high school, spend hours sifting through the volumes of information on the internet and talking with other parents about what they did and got for financial aid. You’d prefer to spend time helping your student pick the best college academically for their interests and best for your family – financially.

In order to pick the right professional, here are some questions to ask a college funding professional.

1. What is your approach to college planning?
2. What experience do you have?
3. What qualifications do you have? Are you a Certified College Planning Specialist?
4. How to do you charge for services?
5. How many clients do you work with?
6. Can you give me referrals to previous clients that have a similar profile to mine?

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to three college planning professionals to interview, many parents prematurely turn their attention to how a college planner is paid as the most important factor for picking the right person.

But more importantly than how they are compensated, is the relationship you are building. In most cases, this is someone you’ll be working with for at least four years (possibly more if you have more than 1 child to entering college) because the financial aid rules and your finances are changing every year.

So you want to like your planner, respect their opinion and feel like the solutions that they offer benefit you and your family.

After that, you can turn your attention to how they are paid. Below are some of the most common ways college planning specialists are paid.

By Fee Alone – This college planner is compensated solely from the fees for their consultation and plan development. It may, or may not, entitle you to on-going services after the plan is delivered. Make sure you ask!

You will find many of the accountants that offer this service work for fees.

Fee/Commission – These college planners may charge a fee to develop the strategic plan for your family and may also be compensated when they implement the various strategies.

The question to ask yourself is whether their compensation is greater than the value you are getting from working with them.

Commission – College planners who work solely on commission are no better or worse than others. Their compensation is based on working as an advocate on your behalf to get you the most competitive product for your situation.

With proper planning and proper knowledge it is possible to lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Whether you are looking at private colleges or state colleges or even if you aren’t sure where you can afford to go, college planning specialists can help!

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