I work with all kinds of families and all of them come from different backgrounds and live under different circumstances. One of the most frustrating misconceptions out there about college planners is that we only work with the “elite” and “wealthy.” There are planners out there that certainly market to that key demographic and perpetuate that stereotype. The price for Dr. Kat Cohen and her team at IvyWise can cost upwards of $30,000. Steven Ma from Think Tank over in San Francisco has a retainer starting at $800,000. As in any field, it doesn’t take much for a few standouts to paint the entire profession with one broad brushstroke.
Families also think that their students have to be superstars in order for any planning to be beneficial. I have many families that come to me embarrassed because their student only has a “B” average and a 24 on the ACT. I can see the shame on their faces. Little do they know that with even these modest academic metrics, there are a lot of great colleges that would present themselves as great options. Not only are there colleges that would admit these “sub-elite” students, they would actually pay them substantial scholarships. So many families fail to see this and settle for a community college or an average in-state college option.
I think college planners like me can work with almost any family. Every student deserves a shot at the best college experience possible and the help they get is very limited at best in their high school. I have yet to meet any student or parent that feels they are getting adequate help from their teachers or guidance departments for college planning. I would encourage any parent to at least consider talking to a college planner to see if working with one makes sense.
Here a some of the people that came onboard with me just last month:
1. Derek lives with his grandparents because his father died before he was even born. His mother’s circumstances with drug addiction and other medical issues has rendered her legally unfit as a parent. Derek is bright, but unfocused with his academics and currently has a 2.8 GPA. Derek’s grandparents are struggling financially and do not know how they are going to fund his education. A few weeks ago, they learned about our college planning process and decided it was time to make a change. I met with Derek and he saw the opportunity and decided it was time to make a change.
2. Ashley’s father has a thriving legal practice, but finances are still tight and he is a little behind on his retirement savings. They also have another daughter that is 2 years behind Ashley. Ashley and her parents have a very clear idea of what majors she wants to pursue, but they are overwhelmed with all of the college choices that are out there. She has a solid handle on her grades and her initial test scores, but still needs help.
3. Carlee’s father is still recovering from a failed business venture and there are two students that need to get to college. Mom also works full-time and Dad is getting back on his feet. The timing is just a little off because the looming specter of college costs is threatening to set them back financially quite a few steps. They hired me to help them navigate the financial intricacies of college while making sure that Carlee gets the best help possible with picking the right college that they can also afford.
I don’t see any sense of entitlement or elitism here. These families and many more of the families I work with have more in common with the people on your street than they do with families with millions using their wealth and power to game the college admissions system. Like I said in an earlier blog, we are new. There is still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there, but people should begin to accept the fact that there are great college planners in this industry that are working in this field for all of the right reasons.