Tools to Find a College (Pt. 1)
Submitted by Larry Frank Sr. on Mon, 01/27/2014 - 3:00pm
Initial shopping for a college confuses you enough without bedazzling lastminute offers of help for a price. In this first of two articles, here’s what to
watch out for and how to start your own cheaper search.
Recently a college application service approached a couple, who are my
clients, about higher-education planning for their high school junior. Like
most parents in a similar situation, they realized that some 18 months until
tuition comes due is a little late to save more to pay for college.
That’s the hook many private counseling services work on: They can save
you money or find the right school at the last minute for a fee.
These consultancies typically offer such services as application
assistance and college or financial aid searches, as well as test
preparation and reviews of admissions essays.
They work a ripe market. Reads the Amazon page for Start Your Own
College Planning Consultant Business, “a record 21.6 million students
attended American colleges and universities in the fall of 2012. Of those
students, the U.S. Census Bureau says, more than 4.4 million were in the
15-to-19 age bracket, the market primed and ready for the advice
dispensed by college consultants.”
And according to the Higher Education Consultants Association, “You
may have read an article or seen a news report about educational
consultants who charge exorbitant fees for their counseling services.
Luckily, the majority of professional educational consultants offer
reasonable prices for their services. Some consultants offer all-inclusive
packages for a single fee, others will work with families on an hourly
As a parent who searched for colleges for two of his children and as a
financial planner who at one time considered offering these services (until
I saw the hidden agenda), I’m a skeptic. Your prospective college
students’ exploring their own options prepares them better to make a
decision that comes with lifetime consequences.
You the parent must also recognize that someone else shouldn’t do this
important work – especially when college-search professionals often look
at the same resources you can use, too.
You look not just for a college but also for ways to pay for education –
and, before either, you discover the prospective student’s interests and
career leanings. One good kickoff question: Are kids like yours unsure
about their eventual professional interest?
Probably. How would they know what kind of jobs and careers are out
there, since they’re teens still relatively lacking in life experience? Here
you enter the career-search phase. Why waste time exploring schools
and majors that don’t fit your situation or child’s interests?
Online resources can help determine a child’s skills and aptitudes:
K-12 Student Resources from the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. This government site lets your student explore interests,
states’ economic outlooks, job-search terms and what different jobs and
occupations pay. Use the search box to pinpoint such details of a job or
career as wages, training sources, general work environment and others.
EducationPlanner. This site from the Pennsylvania Higher Education
Assistance Agency and its student-loan servicing operations offers high
school students information on careers and colleges – including ways to
pay tuition – with what it calls “simple search tools, clever interactive
exercises and straightforward instructions.” The site also provides
information and tools for parents and counselors.
O*NET Online interest profiler. Your student likes or dislikes various
activities – from building kitchen cabinets to helping people with
emotional problems to managing a retail store – to access interests. Best
advice it gives for both you and your kid: “Try not to think about how
much money you would make doing the work,” and “There are no right or
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. This
great tool for students to see where their interests and personalities fit in
our economy carries no obligation to the military.
Use free career-interest resources already available and save money for
what you really need it for: your kid’s education.
(In part two we examine how to pinpoint colleges and find sources of
financial aid on your own.)
Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.
Larry R. Frank Sr., CFP, is a Registered Investment Adviser (California)
in Roseville, Calif. He is the author of the book, Wealth Odyssey. He has
an MBA with a finance concentration and B.S. cum laude in physics with
which he views the world of money dynamically. He has peer-reviewed
research published in the Journal of Financial Planning.
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