There is one thing you need to know: not all college planners or planning platforms are created equal. There are a lot of full-time wealth managers doing part-time “college planning” and they are out there for all the wrong reasons. They do college as an “in” or as a “lead generation tool” for asset accumulation and a complete look at the family’s books. The family thinks they are getting college planning and instead they are getting a full financial review. I am just not one of those planners and it is frustrating to be lumped-in with the rest of them. Like I said before, this job doesn’t come without its challenges but it also has its own rewards. I want to spend time this week talking about what makes us different and 3 things last year that really made my job as a college planner worth it.

1. You really help a lot of people that just aren’t ready. When you spend the time to teach families how colleges work and when you provide them with a roadmap, it’s one of the most rewarding things in the world. I was in a meeting just last week when the lightbulb went off for a parent as to how they were going to pay for 2 college educations. Her eyes began to well-up with tears. I know this sounds a little sappy, but it is very satisfying when you help families solve a problem that they thought was unsolvable. I am amazed at how many so called “advisors” do not even come close to properly preparing the family for college expenses.

2. We open up the whole world of colleges to families and students. So many families start with 2 or 3 colleges at the most. We help families start with ALL of them. We help families uncover some of the best colleges they don’t even know about. So many families pick colleges by sticker price. When I show a family that the right colleges can actually come down on price so that “expensive” colleges actually cost the same (or less) as “cheaper” in-state options, it’s life-changing. Showing a family that they can pick a “better” school instead of the “cheaper” one is truly rewarding. I know it sounds too good to be true, but you only need to ask the families that have been through it.

3. You really get to know a lot of great people. I work with so many great families. When we consider college selections and you help them arrange their finances, you can’t help but get to know these people on a very personal level. They confide in me. They talk about their goals, their dreams and their fears. It’s hard not to get emotionally invested in all of these situations. When we stick the landing with the college planning, it makes all of the hard work and emotional investment worth it. How did your college experience shape your life? Who were the influential people that helped you get there? Being a part of this process for so many families makes me feel like I am making a real difference. What else could you possibly want from a job?

This was definitely a worthwhile exercise. I can get bogged down in the daily details, but it’s nice to step back and look at the big picture of what we are doing as college planners. Reading this blog makes me sound overly sentimental, but I just don’t know how else to explain my point of view. Hopefully you will understand my motivation and intentions if we ever cross paths. I want you to undesrtand my point of view if you ever consider working with me on your college plans. I’ll re-visit this blog regularly and see if any of my feelings have changed over time or if they will stay the same. I look forward to another year!