Financial Aid 101

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.  When is the best time to start getting serious about college planning?

A.  Conception (hah!).  OK, the real answer is as follows…

Look, you’ll do much better in this process if you don’t blow it off and you take it seriously. The earlier you start, the more options you have.  The more options you have – i.e. choice of colleges,
assets arranged in a manner that will optimize your eligibility, etc. – the better you’ll do in the process.

Conversely, people who “blow it off” do much WORSE than those who plan.

Second half of sophomore year of High School is the best time to get serious, because it leads to the junior year – i.e. the most critical year in terms of the “body of work” that your student
will present on an application.  I’m referring to classes taken, extra-curriculars, the whole ball of wax.

Q.  Does this stuff work?

A.  Yes.  We’re choosy about whom we engage with, turning down potential clients whom we can’t help in a meaningful way, or who aren’t a good for other reasons.  Check out some of our testimonials.

That being said, different techniques work for different people, which is another way of saying that not every strategy works for everyone.  And the results described on our materials are not typical. Your results may be worse  – or better -than those mentioned on this website.

Q.  Do I really need someone to “coach” me on the college admissions and planning process?

A.  No, you don’t – your kid can get into college without any help.  But if you want to shorten your learning curve -i.e. avoid making costly mistakes (the “error” in “trial and error”), retaining a coach – or investing in our group coaching program – is something you should seriously consider. Hey, even Tiger Woods has a coach (for golf, not marital relationships)!

But check out these facts and decide for yourself whether you want to go it alone or have an experienced, knowledgeable, handsome (OK, I’m getting carried away)  professional in your corner:

According to the College Board, private four-year tuition and fees have increased 263% from 1981 to 2011.   For that same period, public tuition and fees have increased at 359%!

The nation’s most expensive schools grow even more popular, year after year.

Harvard University charges $52,650 for the 2011-2012 year. But 34,950 high-school seniors still applied for just 1,655 places. Competition includes foreign students, athletes and legacies.

Notre Dame charges $55,260. 16,547 students applied for just 4,019 places.

Kaplan Test Prep charges $4,799 for 16 two-hour sessions.

Is it worth almost $5,000 to “buy” another hundred points on the SAT?  Maybe.

Our clients usually see  a return on their investment equal to a multiple of the fee to retain our services, by way of scholarships and grants.

Q.  Who are you and why the heck should I pay attention to you?

A.  I’m an attorney-turned-“late stage” college finance consultant.  I got into this field because of my own horrible problems with student debt.  You can read more about my background if you want more info (or if you’re having trouble falling asleep).

Q.  Your fees are higher than another guy we heard of. Why?

A.  Just like any product or service, price varies.  We are not the lowest priced option but we are not the highest-priced choice either.  Some of the “lowball” options are frequently insurance-licensed salesman, looking to generate a commission by recommending an insurance or financial product (this is rarely disclosed before the client retains the advisor).  The theory is that they don’t need to charge a fee for their ‘expertise’ because a larger commission awaits them when a client purchases a financial product.  We do not hold any financial licenses (although Andy used to as far back as 1999 when he served as in-house counsel to a publicly-traded broker-dealer in Miami) and are comfortable because we don’t feel any potential conflict when advising clients.

Q.  Should I even bother applying for financial aid – I make too much.

A.  You should.  There is no bright-line income test that dictates whether or not you’ll qualify.  But not everyone qualifies for need-based financial aid.  But there is a sizable chunk of
funding available via the endowment-based award system, awarded without regard to income or assets.

This membership gives strategies that seven-figure-earning families can use to cut their college costs, too.  This kind of family can qualify for merit-based awards, that are NOT reserved
exclusively for Straight-A kids who cured a deadly disease last summer, either!

Q.  My daughter, Brittany/Jordan/samantha/Carly/YouGetThePoint is interested ONLY in Ivies.  I heard they don’t give money.  True?

A.  Tell Brittany/Jordan/samantha/Carly/YouGetThePoint two things:  1.  The Ivies tend to be the MOST generous with need-based aid;  and 2.  Even “slam dunk” candidates get rejected so she’d be smart to supplement her list of Ivies with non-Ivies too.  She may even get more money offered to her!

Q.  Why didn’t my CPA tell me about this?

A.  College finance has nothing to do with the tax code.  It’s based on a body of regulations promulgated by the Department of Education – separate and apart from the IRS rules that fall under the purview of the Department of the Treasury.  It’s a specialty.

Q.  Why didn’t my guidance counselor tell me about this?

A.  Generally speaking, guidance counselors are overworked and should not be expected to understand the regulations behind the financial aid rules.

Q.  Will the college financial aid office help me?

A.  Colleges are businesses. They want more of your money, not less.  It is theoretically possible that they will help you pay them less, but do not hold your breath. Although I have
occasionally heard of reasonable, humane financial aid officers at some colleges, you’re best bet is to understand that, from an institutional standpoint, they are not “in your
corner” by any stretch of the imagination.

There’s no Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, either.  Sorry.

Q.  What colleges will this work for?

A.  All colleges that participate in the financial aid system, namely ALL colleges you can think of.

It would be silly for me to list them, simply because it would look like a shameless way to trick the search engines to send people here who wanted info from those respective colleges….hmm, wait a minute!

  • Harvard
  • Yale
  • Princeton
  • Dartmouth
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Cornell
  • Columbia
  • Brown
  • Amherst
  • Williams
  • Wesleyan
  • Duke
  • Stanford
  • Haverford
  • Middlebury
  • Trinity
  • Vassar
  • Hamilton
  • Bates
  • Wellesley College
  • Syracuse
  • Boston College
  • Villanova
  • Providence College
  • University of Scranton
  • Boston University
  • Northeastern
  • Northwestern
  • University of Chicago
  • William and Mary
  • Gettysburg
  • Bucknell
  • Vanderbilt
  • Tulane
  • High Point
  • Muhlenberg
  • University of Michigan
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Virginia

OK, that was shameless…

Q.  Does applying for financial aid hurt my chances of admission?

A.  The stock answer that 99% of colleges give is no, it will not hurt them.  That being said, there are instances where admissions officers admit that they give an occasional nod to a “full-pay” child, particularly in today’s financial environment.   My sense is that, although this may be true, most parents get too hung up on this and should indicate they are applying for financial aid if they need financing.