So what exactly IS a “college planning consultant?”

What is a college planning consultant? And why would my kid need one? In my day, we didn’t have that kind of thing…

…My son has a 4.0. He certainly doesn’t need college planning help…

…My daughter knows exactly what she wants to major in. So, what would a college consultant do for her?

…Our family makes too much to qualify for need-based financial aid. I doubt a college planner could save us any money…

…Is college planning like that thing those rich celebrities were involved in? With William “Rick” Singer and Lori Loughlin?

Have you ever thought any of the above statements to yourself?

If so, you’re  not alone. College planning is definitely a young industry… and it’s just starting off mostly for necessity.

It’s being bred out of the fact that YOU, the consumer, are basically being asked to buy the equivalent of a house for your 18 year old.

Or, your child will be asked to take out loans the equivalent of a house to pay for college. At just eighteen.

(And no, it’s not like the college admissions scandal. What that dude did was illegal. A good college planning consultant will never promise you admission into any university. A good college planning consultant will instead help  you find your best career path, and the best school for that career path. More on that later…)

But I didn’t use a college planner when I went to school, you think. They didn’t even exist then. Ahh. Times are different. Were you being asked to spend $150,000 (or more) on your education at the time? Nope.

Again I’ve said this before–name something you spend that much money on and you DON’T consult a professional to make sure you’re spending your money wisely. To make sure your investment is worth it. I say “investment” because that’s exactly what this is. You’re investing tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars for your child to be able to produce a measurable income to support him or herself after graduation.

Hence why college planning is a thing and you probably do need it. It’s a newer and small industry, though, so many families still don’t know they need it. Some high school guidance counselors don’t know their students need it. (But the truth is, the average high school guidance counselor in Ohio can only spend about 9.5 minutes a year discussing college with each student. So, a college consultant working with one of their students could really be helpful to their work too.)

A good college planning firm should establish a measurable outcome for something that has never before been measured. I’m talking about the value of a degree in terms of salaries and marketplace demands. This is what you’re paying for when you’re paying for college, folks.

And since college planning is such a young industry, this is what you should be focusing on when you’re looking for a college consulting firm. That way you can be sure you’re not getting scammed or wasting your money. I know that’s a fear out there for many, many parents–because again, this is a young industry and parents don’t know what they should be looking for.

So how can you, as a parent, tell if a college consultant you’re considering is really going to be a big waste of money?

1.) A good college planner knows the financial aspects of higher education. He or she knows the truth–that it has little to do with need-based gift aid numbers (like most people think). Rather, it has to do with schools’ endowment structures.

Knowing the financial aid histories of schools is imperative for a good college planner. If a college planning professional walks up to you and says, “Oh my gosh, we’ve got this miracle scholarship,” or something like that, just stop. There’s no magic pill. It’s just does this company know their industry? Just as you’d expect your Realtor to know your market, or your accountant to know your tax laws.

In the same way, you’d want your Realtor to save you money (either selling your home for the highest possible price or helping you purchase a home for the best possible deal). You’d hope your accountant will know tax laws to save you money there. And you’d expect your college planning consultant to help your child get the right school at the right price, so you don’t overpay and so your child graduates with the best-possible income for his or her field.

That last part was important–the part about your child graduating with the best possible income in his or her field. That’s why the second tip is so important too…

2.) A good college planner knows how to do solid career development work with a student. That is probably 65-70 percent of our process. And it takes a year, sometimes longer, to work with a student through degree sets. I’m not talking about just continuously adding options; I’m talking about vetting through options effectively through research time and knowledge.

This is why it’s so important for students who think they know what they want to study to work with a career planner. Most kids know general fields of study–but did you know that many universities have more than 100 majors? (For example, Ohio State has 177!) Each of these majors covers a specific focus in each field of study…and each of these majors can be paired with a minor to further specify each area of study to result in a different career path.


And that’s how you want to be able to do it. Still, there are college planners out there who will put students through a 15 minute inventory that will spit out a set of majors and tell you you’re done. But that’s simply not how this process works with a teenager. It takes time takes effort. We spend at least 40 hours a piece with every one of our kids, because that’s just what it takes.

So read the Google reviews. Talk to other parents. Have others saved money on their children’s education with this college planning firm? How much? Did their kids graduate with a profitable degree in this marketplace…one that didn’t saddle them with tens of thousands of debt the minute they graduated?

And please, ask any college planning firm you’re considering what measurable outcome their work produces. They should be able to tell you with data and statistics to back it up.

When you buy higher education, you’re entrusting a university with your hard-earned money. You’re trusting that your money is not just well spent, but that it’s being spent to actually prepare your student properly for the next level. And right now, most people are just forking over retirement savings without even asking if it’s being spent wisely.

A good college planner will help you do that–because a university WILL let your child walk out with a $30,000 a year job and $100,000 in debt. But we won’t.