The dad sitting by you in the soccer bleachers tells you that he’s not worried about his kids’ college planning—because he’s hired a $5,000 college consultant to engineer the whole thing for him. You wonder, “Is this what parents have to do nowadays? Hire college consultants that cost as much as used cars? If parents don’t hire college consultants, do they shortchange their kids?”
It’s not necessary to hire college consultants—but it can be helpful in some cases.
Here are 10 things parents need to know before they hire college consultants.
1. College consultants vary wildly in quality.
Some are fantastic, and some are terrible. Many high buck college consultants you see on the internet are simply moms or dads who went through the college application process with their own kids last year, and now they see themselves as experts on college planning and financing.
2. Ask a ton of questions before you pay a dime.
Ask lots of exploratory questions about how long they’ve been in business, and how much of their service includes walking you through strategies that really work to get kids through college debt-free. Ask what career planning tools they use to make sure your kid ends up being employable after college.
3. Be sure to ask your prospective college consultant this critically important question.
Ask him or her to explain to you the two huge changes Barack Obama made to the US college financing system on September 13th, 2015—and how those changes will dramatically affect your kid when he or she is a sophomore in college. If your prospective college consultant can’t answer this question, run away and don’t look back.
4. Look for this very good sign.
If a college consultant hands you a copy of the book LAUNCH: How to Get Your Kids Through College Debt-Free and Into Jobs They Love Afterward and says, “We’re going to be walking through the steps in this book together,” consider that a very good sign. It means you’ll have excellent one-on-one support for the journey, and you won’t miss a single debt-free college or career planning strategy along the way. (College consultants, financial planners, and wealth managers who do this can be found on the “Approved Consultants” tab on this website.)
5. Don’t hire college consultants who tell you this:
Don’t hire college consultants who say, “Oh, we don’t worry about career goal at this point. We’ll just get your son into a good college, and then he can take random college classes to see what he’s interested in. We’ll hope it’ll all come together into some kind of career five years from now.”
This destructive advice is a main contributor to students graduating from college, finding no jobs in their fields, and then piling up more student debt returning to college to study something that does actually have career prospects associated with it.
If your daughter is going to love an eventual job as an air traffic controller—wouldn’t you like to know that now? Before she moves into the dorms at a college that doesn’t even have a program for that? College consultants who build their consulting practices around LAUNCH prescribe the best possible strategies for making make sure career goal is known, before colleges are chosen.
6. If you’re feeling anxious or frightened about college planning, hiring college consultants can be a good idea.
A calm, cool, collected college consultant can provide you reassurance that you are indeed on the right track at every step. This alone can be well worth the money you pay.
7. If communication is strained within your family, hiring college consultants can be a good idea.
If it’s difficult for you and your child’s other parent(s) to talk about college topics, or if your teen doesn’t feel like cooperating, a college consultant can provide structure, guidance, and safe space where everyone can be heard.
8. If you’re extremely busy all the time, if overwhelm is a part of your daily life, hiring college consultants can be a good idea.
Meetings with a college consultant will be scheduled on a regular basis, at times you carefully block out on your calendar. This is one way to make sure you actually get around to college planning.
If you’d like to get acquainted with a college consultant, listen to this podcast where college consultant John Hupalo of My College Corner interviews me for 30 minutes.
9. If you don’t have money to pay a college consultant, please, don’t worry.
A smooth road to and through college is not only for the wealthy. You are not out of luck. You are not shortchanging your child. You can figure out every viable debt-free college and career planning strategy yourself, simply by reading one specific chapter in LAUNCH every three months or so as your kids are growing up through middle school and high school.
If you feel you’re late to college planning, don’t worry about that either. You can run to catch up. Just read chapters 1 and 2 of LAUNCH as soon as possible, and you’ll feel on fire and inspired, and you’ll know exactly what to do next. (If you’ve got a kid over age 15 who doesn’t yet know what he wants to do with his life, zoom straight to chapter 13.)
10. If your child will be applying to law, medical, business, or graduate school in the next 24 months, do hire a consultant for that.
The stakes at these levels are extremely high, and strong applications to these types of programs can net a student hundreds of thousands of dollars in free tuition money. I provide exactly this kind of highly specialized consulting at GetIntoMedSchool.com. (Any student can ask me for a super helpful, free phone consultation from that website.)
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What about you?
What has your experience been with college consultants? Do you think yours actually ended up saving you money in the long run? How so? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.
Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time author, academic strategist, and speaker. Her writing and speaking help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report.