We always get questioned on whether or not we’re a scam. People assume that getting a big discount on college is too good to be true, and anything too good to be true must be a shady business. I’m here to explain to you that this is not the case. In fact, Forbes would agree with me. There are many strategies to get money for college, and if you’re hiring a college planning firm to help… it’s a good decision. They’re the professionals, and they can efficiently provide you with resources to beat the cost of college. You just have to be careful.
There is a lot of misconception in the college planning industry. There are lots of companies out there, and it is true that some of them have less than stellar reputations. So how do you decipher the good from the bad?
7 Ways to Pick the Right, Independent College Planner/ College Counselor
- Experience: How long has the firm/counselor been in business? If you are working with a college planning firm that is new or does not have an established track record, be wary. There are college planning firms out there that pop up out of nowhere, take a bunch of enrollments, and leave mid-way through their clients’ processes. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’ve lost out on money and not received a solid, full service. If a firm has been around a while and is still here… awesome. That counselor or firm obviously has satisfied customers. If they didn’t then, I doubt they would be able to stay in business. People talk and people continue doing business with people they like.
- Credentials: What are the credentials of the staff? If you’re working with a college planning firm, know where they tie into the education scene. We recommend using college counselors who have Masters degrees or certifications in counseling. If you’re looking at college planning firms where the story is “I got my kids into college, and I can help you!” be careful. Where is the training and the up-to-date professional development? How do you know what they’re saying is accurate?
- Knowledge: Does the college planning firm or counselor that you are considering have a Blog? Do they have a Facebook page? Check those out! The good, knowledgeable individuals will have insightful things to say. If you aren’t able to check out their research and expertise before committing, it might be a concern.
- Testimonials: Have you heard good things? This is where it gets tricky. There are so many online review sites, and Yelp takes a ton of heat for their algorithms (I know they filter out our clients’ good reviews…). We recommend viewing more than one site. Check out a few different review forums (Google, Better Business Bureau, Trustlink, etc.) to get an understanding. Also consider who is giving testimonials. Is it just parents? Are students saying good things too? Are there school administrators giving reviews too?
- Software: What client software do they use? We live in a tech world, and college stats and assessments are largely available online. The beauty about the internet is they are updated constantly. Books aren’t updated as easily. If your college planning firm or counselor offers some sort of software/ online login, it shows true professionalism. This firm clearly spends money wisely to ensure their info is up-to-date and that they are giving good service to their students.
- Service: What services does your perspective college planners cover? If your college planner charges a few thousand dollars only for college admission, that might be a worry. If they charge you just to find scholarships, that could be a concern. What are you getting for your investment exactly? You want to know what they’ll provide for you and your child, what topics they’ll cover, what results they expect, etc. This will also help you compare one firm to another, apples to apples. Just what are you getting for your investment?
- Awards: What kind of accolades does this counselor or firm have available to share? A good college planning firm works closely with the community. If there are write ups in the newspapers in your area, if there are awards in the walls of your planner’s office, if there are certificates of recognition around… all a good thing. Know who is recognizing the work of your potential counselor or planner.
These 7 gems are our advised considerations. Know that there is good college help out there, and you shouldn’t pay more than you need to for college. We support hiring someone to help, but hire someone on whom you’ve researched. By using these questions as a guideline, you can help yourself to a good one.
Interested in learning more? Give us a call (661)295-9946!