Did you think I forgot about all of you?

It's been a while since I published a blog. It's been pretty busy this time of year with a lot of high school seniors making a mad dash to the finish with their college plans. Despite this being the first week of January of 2016, I have appointments with three families with high school seniors this week.

It's still busy, but I wanted to share with you an email that I got recently. In this email, a school paper was attached. I am working with Sean, a high school junior. Mom and Dad were happy with the work I did with Andrew, his older brother, so we go together a few months back to get Sean started. During some conversations we had recently, Sean was surprised at all of the negative comments he got from his guidance counselor about working with a college planner. (This happens a lot. Why? I may never know). You see, Sean actually saw the work that I was able to do with his older brother, so he had first hand knowledge of what our team was truly capable of and what we were all about.

Sean took it upon himself to make me the subject of his school paper in an effort to dispel some of the misconceptions that are out there about college planners. All I can say is that I am flattered. I must have made an impression. Sean gave me permission to publish his paper on my blog, so I pasted it below in its entirety. Thanks Sean!



Sean L.    

Mrs. L.

AP English Language/Composition

What is a college planner?

With college around the corner, everyone is panicking. Where is the best place to start? Some would say it is best to start by achieving a high standardized test score, others would improve gpoint averageestnd the corner,rade point average, but what some do not know is that professional help is available. It is definitely not free, but this professional help - college planners, admission counselors, financial aid planners, etc. - will ensure that the student goes to the right college for the right reason.

One reason why college planners help so much is because students need individual attention. Students need an informed, professional mind to walk them through the entire admission process. Timothy Lee, president and director of educational services for the Independent Education Consultant Association (IECA), believes IECs provide “the kind of individual attention necessary to make an informed decision.” Lee emphasizes that because public high school guidance counselors have more students and bigger priorities, they cannot give students enough individual assistance. Lee adds that guidance counselors are responsible for scheduling as well as other social and emotional issues that teenagers face, and they are not as helpful as IECs when it comes to college.

Students cannot do everything on their own, which is where college planners come into play. College planners help students in many ways. In a personal interview Danny Umali, a full-time college planner, provided information about students not going to college for the right reasons. Umali emphasizes some students need major reality checks. Umali has worked with students who wanted to attend college for the wrong reasons: sports team, or a significant other. Umali makes sure his students know what needs to get done and ensures they head to the right school.

College planners provide the necessary individual attention students need to make an informed decision. Despite their expenses, college planners provide direct attention to students’ needs and will guide students to an ideal college. Umali agrees with Lee that college planners give the amount of attention students require.

Umali helped a student named Thomas Brown. His family was not sure if Thomas had the grades or test scores to receive any aid. Because they made too much money, Brown’s family also feared that they would not receive financial aid. Umali was able to help research the best colleges in-state and out of state for Brown, and Brown was accepted into eight of the nine he applied to. Umali also worked with a student named William. With his father incarcerated, and his mother unemployed with a drug addiction, William did not have much support related to college. While his grades were desirable, the same cannot be said about his test scores. With a low ACT score and graduation just months away, Umali was William’s last hope. They were able to find William “an almost zero-cost option”, working together.

Umali asserts the most influential part of his job is helping students consider colleges they never considered before. Umali has a wide range of colleges he knows about just off the top of his head, and has access to portfolios of so many more. Ninety percent of students Danny has worked with have graduated from college. With cost being the biggest reason against college planners, Tim Lee has detailed that costs are usually less than three percent of tuition.

Carolyn Lindey, director of financial aid at Northwestern University, points out in “How to Avoid Financial Aid Scams” that “consultants charge for advice you can get for free.” By focusing on the advice part of an IEC’s job, this article fails to recognize what else college planners do. They do not just sit down and tell students what needs to be done, they talk with them, become allies, and research the perfect school with resources the college planner has access to. While endorsing Lindey’s commentary, Kim Clark from Time magazine adds that it does not take much to become a college planner, that all college planners are not professional, and being a college planner is likely a part-time job. While Clark has indicated that this is true for a portion of college planners, the evidence does not apply to all. Umali’s company does college planning full time, and even if the IEC does not work full-time, they still provide more help than a student can get from a guidance counselor, like Lee commented. In Barbara Booth’s article from CNBC, Lloyd Thacker, a former admissions counselor, thinks kids will succeed wherever they go, and it is not worth dropping thousands of dollars. However, a college planner can be serious help in determining where “wherever” is. After all Umali was able to do that for William and Brown.

College planners cost a lot of money. Although they give some advice that may be obtained at no cost, they provide the necessary individual attention a student needs, and can give students much needed reality checks. There is nothing wrong with a little extra help.

Booth, Barbara. “How Much Would You Pay to Get Your Kid into Harvard?” CNBC. 12 Nov. 2014. 30 Oct. 2015.

Clark, Kim. “College Aid: Don’t Take the Bait.” Time. Time Inc. Jan. 14 2013. Nov. 1 2015

Lee, Timothy. “Do You Need an Independent Educational Consultant?” IECA. IECA. Nov. 1 2015 .Winter 2006.

Lindey, Carolyn. “How to Avoid Financial Aid Scams.” Grants and Scholarships. The CollegeBoard. Nov. 1 2015

Umali, Danny, Personal Interview, 28 Oct. 2015.