Advice from someone smarter than I am
July 1, 2015

Ian Welham on Words of Wisdom


If you missed it the first time, I’m repeating one of our most popular posts — words of wisdom I wish I wrote but didn’t.

Here’s some life advice from 90-year-old Regina Brett from Cleveland. It’s called “Lessons Life Taught Me.”

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Does This Add Up?
June 29, 2015

– Ian Welham on a “likely letter”


I sometimes kid or tease accountants and CPA’s for narrow thinking.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing but the highest respect for CPA’s – we work with them all the time. The vast majority are consummate professionals, Plus, hey, I was trained as one myself – except in the U.K., the professional designation is called Chartered Financial Accountants instead of Certified Public Accountants.

What I find exasperating is when I meet an accountant who can’t see the forest through the trees. For example, when she can’t see the merit of paying $500 extra in taxes today in order to reduce a college bill by $4,000 tomorrow. Or counsels a parent of a 16-year-old to put money into a 529 Plan. That kind of misguided advice is unfortunate (and can be costly to the parent).

So given my penchant for occasionally rebuking accountants, you can enter this in the ledger under ‘Life’s Wonderful Ironies’ …

One of our college planning articles was added to the website. is a site started by and facilitated by the New Jersey Society of CPAs. As such, you might expect it to be a little on the dull side. Actually, the opposite is true. It’s quite a varied and interesting site. Not to mention useful. All sorts of topics are covered, from how to pay down debt to how to appeal your real estate taxes to helpful tips on retirement relocation. There’s a ton of free information available. They break it down into life stages to make navigation easy.

Our article is in the “Parents and Children” section, under the title, The 4 Most Common Mistakes Parents Make That Cost Them College Financial Aid (and How to Avoid Them). Here’s the link:

If you read it, let me know what you think. And if you like the website, hug an accountant.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


The Dirty Little Secret of America’s Top Colleges and Universities
June 25, 2015

Another school year has ended and student loan debt is in the trillions! Colleges and universities are sitting on billions of dollars in endowment money, and college students are being saddled with huge amounts of debt.

For example, Harvard has an endowment of over $36 billion. That’s bigger than half the world’s economies!

Harvard could give away a $50,000 scholarship every hour their regular classes are in session and still not exhaust the year-over-year increase in their endowment fund. But of course, they don’t. Why?

Yale has a $24 billion endowment. Princeton and Texas over $20 billion. Stanford’s tops $21 billion.

Why are colleges and universities allowed to sit on mountains of cash while they continue to jack up tuition costs?

Seventy-five colleges and universities have over $1 billion in their endowments, and get a free pass on taxes. Why are they not required to pay their fair share?

Why are they allowed to stockpile money with no taxes due and no consequences? How are they allowed to push up costs to $250,000 per student for a 4-year degree – and still get preferential tax treatment?

Sure, a portion of the endowment money goes to fund campus operations and some scholarships. But lots of it doesn’t get used at all. It’s just invested to make more and more money…

What really is shameful is there are thousands of families with amazing kids who are going to be saddled with crippling student loans for decades. At the same time, elite schools continue to pocket billions in endowment gains while enjoying tax advantages not available to individuals or businesses.

With odds like this stacked against parents, it’s more important than ever for families to understand the financial aid system — to get merit or need aid so their child doesn’t have to pay full price for college.  

With elections on the horizon, this is a topic on the agenda of politicians.  Both parties are addressing the escalating costs of college as well as the increasing, out of control, amount of money in student debt.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for Washington to save the day. If you’re a parent with a child planning to attend college in the next five years, you need to get to know the formula all colleges use to determine how much money your family will have to pay.

As a Parent, What Are Your Options?

About the author

Ian Welham is a nationally known expert on getting into and paying for college. He is co-author of the best-selling book CASH FOR COLLEGE, and is the founder of Complete College Planning Solutions. Mr. Welham and his company have been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Kiplinger’s, and many other publications. He’s served as the college expert on AOL Finance, and has been a guest on numerous TV and radio shows across the country. Thousands of families have attended and benefited from his live workshops. His most popular webinar, “Fast Track to College: How to find the right-fit school and pay for it without going broke,” is running this week.


How likely is this?
June 25, 2015

– Ian Welham on a “likely letter”


One day, one of our client families received a strange letter from the University of Virginia.

The letter was addressed to their daughter, a high school senior who applied to UVA, among other schools. The return address said Department of Admissions. It was a dreaded small envelope, so the parents feared it might be a rejection letter.

They held it up to the light, trying to see if they could make out any words. This was all they could read: “The Committee on Admissions has reviewed…” Not a good sign, they thought. Most admit letters start with the word, “Congratulations.”

The only thing that gave them hope was the timing of the letter. Most admit/deny letters don’t arrive until the end of March, and this notice landed in their mailbox the first week of March. Why, they wondered, would the University of Virginia go out of its way and make a special effort to reject their daughter early?

They scratched their heads… and waited anxiously for their daughter to come home from school.

During dinnertime, they handed the letter to their daughter. Trying to sound casual and cavalier, Mom said, “Oh, this came from Virginia today. It must be about financial aid, or some form they still need.”

The daughter opened the letter and started to read. “Huh?” she exclaimed. “What the heck …?”

What she had received was not an acceptance letter. It was not a rejection letter. It was…

A “likely letter.” Also known in the trade as a love letter.

If you’ve never heard of a likely letter – or seen one – visit our blog. I wrote a blog post about them that includes the actual letter from UVa. Check it out at

Warmest wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


The 3 Biggest Lies About College Financial Aid
June 23, 2015

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog post is a reprint of a recent interview. We hope you enjoy it.

The 3 Biggest Lies About College Financial Aid

College Funding Expert Ian Welham spills the beans in this exclusive interview

Ian Welham and his company Complete College Planning Solutions have been featured in the NY Times, Forbes, AOL, Newark Star-Ledger, Channel 11, and on many TV and radio programs. Over the past 6 years, he’s advised more than 5,000 families how to cut college costs. Amy Morgan interrupted his hectic schedule for a candid interview.

Ian on Radio_1
When the media need an expert opinion on the best ways to pay for college, they call Ian Welham – here on the radio.

AMY: With the economy still on shaky ground, are parents more worried about funding college?

IAN: Parents come to us stressed out and discouraged, not knowing how they will pay for college. Plus, they are bombarded with misinformation.

AMY: Is that where your free online webinars come in?

IAN: Exactly. We try to outline the issues that families can expect to deal with and the key steps and deadlines they will face.

AMY: Where do families typically go wrong?

IAN: Most parents believe the college’s sticker price determines what you pay. That kind of thinking has led many families to substantially overpay for college. It’s possible to pay less out of pocket to attend a top private college than a state school.

AMY: What’s another misconception out there?

IAN: Many families believe that if they make over a certain amount of money — say $120,000 — their child won’t qualify for any financial aid. The truth is that income is one of only 7 factors that determine how much aid is awarded — a fact that traditional financial planners often don’t know.

AMY: What about accountants – can they help fill out financial aid forms?

IAN: CPA’s know the tax code, but they are not trained about financial aid. We’ve seen families making $150,000 or more who forfeited thousands of dollars in grants and scholarship aid because they didn’t know it was even possible — they didn’t know the rules.

AMY: The whole process sounds overwhelming.

IAN: Right from the sophomore year, there is just so much going on. It can get overwhelming. School guidance counselors do as much as they can, but are often burdened with other duties and can only do so much in the financial area.

AMY: You have a knack for taking a complicated subject and making it seem simple.

IAN: We break it down into simple, step-by-step pieces to help students get into the college of their choice with a solid financial aid package, regardless of family income.

AMY: In your webinar you talk about appealing a financial aid award. I didn’t even know that was possible.

IAN: We had a client family that followed our advice and was awarded over $40,000 in free money per year at George Washington University. They were thrilled. But we felt the amount should be higher. So we appealed to the GW financial aid department and the family got an extra $25,000 over four years.

AMY: Some of the numbers you’re discussing are quite sizable. What would you say to those who might be skeptical?

IAN: Well, I would invite them to attend the webinar, which is free, as you know. Once Mom and Dad see how we open doors to admissions and financial aid, they understand. We hand out evaluation forms after every workshop, and most parents tell us this is the best college information they’ve ever heard.

AMY: What is the “secret sauce” that parents miss when they try to do this on their own?

IAN: My staff knows what specific colleges are looking for and can help position students for success in relation to the schools they want to attend. Our financial aid team helps with the all-important and often confusing FAFSA form that is used to determine financial aid. Our students not only have better admission rates, they receive higher merit awards.

AMY: What else happens on the webinar?

IAN: I’ve discovered that 9 out of 10 families overpay for college. I’ve also discovered that most families don’t have a plan to pay for college. Well if you don’t have a plan then I can almost guarantee you will overpay. When you attend a webinar you will see how you can put a plan together where you can use money from other sources first – college endowments, grants, the financial aid system, etc. – before tapping into your own resources.

AMY: This has been great. Thank you for your time.

IAN: My pleasure.

Complete College Planning Solutions hosts a Fast Track to College online webinar every week. The cost for this educational workshop is zero. To request the latest schedule, send an email to


This is SMART
June 19, 2015

– Ian Welham says This is Smart.


What’s better than a full college scholarship? How about a scholarship that provides:

-Full tuition and education related fees
-Stipend paid at a rate of $25,000 – $38,000 depending on degree pursuing
-Paid summer internships
-Health Insurance allowance up to $1,200 per calendar year
-Book allowance of $1,000 per academic year
-Employment placement after graduation

Does such a scholarship exist? Yes, it’s called The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program.

Sponsored by the Department of Defense (DoD), it’s an opportunity for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to receive a full scholarship and be gainfully employed upon degree completion.

In return for free college and cash awards, students agree to work in assigned research facilities at the rate of one year of service for each year of paid schooling. For eligibility requirements and to see which majors are included, go to: .

By the time you’ve completed your service, you’ll have no student debt… money in the bank… the opportunity to work side-by-side with some of the top experts in their field… and valuable, hands-on experience that will impress future employers.

Now that’s SMART.

Warmest wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Dangerous Gossip
June 17, 2015

Ian Welham clarifies dangerous gossip.


Nothing brings out rumor, innuendo and hearsay more than the subject of getting into college.

Everyone’s got an opinion – each wackier and more uninformed than the next.

Unchecked rumors are what cause families to apply for early decision when they shouldn’t… apply to 27 colleges… and get slammed on the college bill because they were told there was no point in applying for financial aid.

When the gossip wheel gets turning — neighbors chitchatting, teens yakking — the distorted facts pile up on top of each other, obscuring truth and reason.

The problem is, hear enough pabulum, and you can find yourself starting to believe it.

Case in point: Last year, one of our brightest and most accomplished seniors applied to 10 elite colleges, three by early acceptance. This student was a gem; I personally believed she would be accepted to any college to which she applied. But for some reason, she was late in hearing from her early-action schools. As the days went by and her friends’ acceptance letters continued to arrive while her mailbox remained empty, doubt began to creep in. Listening to the speculation of prying parents and the views of well-meaning but clueless friends, she began to wonder, “Did I do something wrong on the application?”… “Were my essays off the mark?”… “Did I choose the wrong teachers to write my recommendations?”

It was around this point that I asked her what she thought her chances were at her first early-action school (a very competitive university). “Around 50-50,” was her reply.

Long story short: Her acceptance envelope eventually arrived. Not only was she accepted, but also the admissions department congratulated her for being among the top 5% of all applicants (this school attracts over 30,000 applications). Then other acceptances came in, one after another – including her #1 choice.

I thought, if this cream-of-the-crop student can be convinced that she was a barely middle-of-the-road candidate, it could happen to anyone.

My advice: beware the scuttlebutt. Be vigilant against the rumors… If you’ve done the work and followed our guidance, chances are good you’re going to be fine.

Warmest wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Helpful Resources
June 11, 2015

Ian Welham gives 2 valuable free resources


Just a quick note to remind you about 2 valuable free resources that are available to you here on our website.

The first is the free scholarship search engine.

Feel free to use it to locate those “off the radar” scholarships that pay $500 to $2,500 and don’t have much competition. You’ll find it in the right-hand column below the newsletter archive.

The 2nd resource is our extensive library of college planning articles (right below the Scholarship Search box).

One of the more recently added articles is called, “Ways to Get Free Housing at College.” That brings the total number of articles to over 30, including, “How to Get a Head Start on the College Process” … “The Busy Parent’s Guide to Paying for College” … and “The Real Scoop: Who Gets in Where,” among others.

I hope you enjoy and make use of these helpful, no-charge resources.

Best wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Whither Early Decision
June 8, 2015

Ian Welham “Whither Early Decision”


Parents frequently ask me about early decision, wondering if applying early decision improves your odds of acceptance. The conversation usually goes something like this: “Suzie really wants to go to Princeton, so we’re applying for early decision. We hear the odds of getting in are higher with early decision.”

Let me ask you: Would you buy a house for list price, as is? When you buy a new car do you walk into the dealership and say, “I’ll take it, whatever the sticker price says”?

That’s exactly what you do when you choose early decision. You’re contractually obligated to accept whatever financial aid package they give you (or not give you, whichever the case may be). You have no negotiating power, and zero options.

Even if money is no object, I still caution against early decision. Yes, I have seen studies indicating that students may have a slight admissions advantage by applying early decision (due to the fact that colleges want to improve their “yield” – the percentage of students accepting their offers of admission). But at what cost?

Besides the fact that it’s the most expensive way to pay for college, early decision means you’re locked in to that one school. You can’t change your mind. I’ve got news for you: kids do change their mind. Lots can happen in the 7 months between September and May. One of my daughters had based all her college plans around staying close to home. But at the 11th hour she decided to attend the University of Miami (and was deliriously happy there). She never could have made that choice had she applied early decision to one of her early top choice schools.

On the other hand, early action decisions are not binding. Early action students have the option of saying yes to an early acceptance, or delaying their decision until hearing from other schools. This is a smart way to go, especially if you’re looking to get an early ‘Yes’ under your belt to relieve some of the pressure.

Best wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Beware College Kremlinologists
June 4, 2015

Ian Welham warns beware of college kremlinologists


Next to the cost of college, perhaps the topic that most obsesses parents is, “Will my child get into the college s/he most wants?”

I’m sure it’s true in your New Jersey high school – it’s certainly true in mine – there’s a cabal of parents who devote considerable time and thought to handicapping students’ chances for acceptance. Their sources may be suspect, but their convictions are steadfast. I call them “College Kremlinologists” for the amount of intrigue, spying and delicious speculation slewed between and amongst them.

The only problem is, they’re often wrong.

For all those inquiring minds who want to know – but don’t want to play College Kremlinologist – there’s an article in our library I think you’ll enjoy. Called THE REAL SCOOP: Who Gets Into What College, the piece details the school-by-school results of six, real (mostly New Jersey) high school students. No speculation – the actual results.

There are plenty of eyebrow-raising surprises. Meet the young woman rejected by Duke but welcomed by Harvard . . . the teenager turned down by Ramapo College but accepted by Seton Hall . . . the student denied by Georgetown who’s happily attending Amherst.

Take a look behind the curtain. There’s no cost to look. To see the article, click here:

Best wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor

(973) 467-0101


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Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101