FAQ’s

“What is a Certified College Funding Advisor
and why do I need one?”

A Certified College Funding Advisor can help you improve cash flow and send your children to college without raiding your retirement nest egg or mortgaging your home to the hilt.

A recent national survey revealed three interesting findings about the college application process:

  1. 66% of parents and students surveyed experienced high levels of stress about college applications
  2. 2 out of 3 stated that the economic downturn had affected their application decisions
  3. 85% said financial aid will be “very” or “extremely” necessary

Meanwhile, another study showed that 9 out of 10 families overpay for college. The most common reasons: lack of knowledge… poor advice… missing deadlines or filling out the forms incorrectly.

So it’s clear: the college application process has gotten too competitive, too stressful, too complicated and financially is too risky to try to “wing it” on your own. There’s just too much at stake.

Getting the advice of an educational consultant is a sound decision. An educational consultant is a skilled professional who provides counseling to help student and family chose a school and program that is a good match: one that will foster the student’s academic and social growth. Click here to see case studies.

If you have questions or would like to book an appointment for a no-cost diagnostic evaluation click here.

“Can you get us a scholarship?”

We are not a scholarship fund or scholarship search company. As a courtesy, we provide access to a Free Scholarship search. As part of our services, we will help your child explore scholarship possibilities, as well as help position your child to increase his/her chances. However, it’s important to note: Financial Aid makes up 97% of money helping college students, while scholarships make up only 3%. We concentrate our time and energy where the most money is so that you can get the most help to pay the bill.

“What if we make too much money to qualify for financial aid?
Is there anything you can do for us?”

Many of our clients are “forgotten” middle class families who have been told, “Don’t bother to apply for aid, you won’t get any.” Sometimes that turns out to be true, sometimes not. So #1: we recommend that everyone apply for financial aid. You may be surprised – especially after the strategic planning we’ll help you with.

Even if you don’t qualify for financial aid, there are many reliable, proven strategies we can use to improve your cash flow and lower your out-of-pocket-costs beyond financial aid. Our favorites combine student positioning with financial and tax-planning strategies. For example, because college is paid for with “after tax” dollars, we consider 153 different tax strategies to help reduce your costs.

Rest assured, if we agree to take you on as a client, it’s highly likely that we can help to improve your cash flow and dramatically lower your college costs. If we don’t feel we can help you, we’ll tell you right up front. Our company philosophy is, it’s not worth taking on a client who won’t be thrilled with the result. We only want raving fans because raving fans tell their friends.

“Can’t my accountant or financial planner do this for me?”

Most financial advisors and CPAs are not trained in the type of planning we provide. In fact, we regularly receive referrals from other financial advisors and CPAs because they recognize the fact that what we do is a specialty. Just like a dentist will refer patients to an orthodontist or periodontist.

Most CPA’s are great at basic tax strategies, but when it comes to these tax strategies for college it’s often not something they’ve been trained on. The college tax strategies are a niche, a specialty. It’s important to make sure you work with someone who’s well versed in these 153 strategies. For example, there are times when it’s wise to willingly pay an extra $500 in tax because the strategies that you’re employing will result in several thousands of dollars in savings for college. Business owners, in particular, have huge benefits available to them.

“Is a Loan Considered ‘Financial Aid’”?

Yes. A college or university first determines HOW MUCH of your need they will meet; and then they determine HOW they will meet your need. The 3 possible options are:

  • grants (do not have to be repaid)
  • work study
  • loans

A Certified College Funding Advisor can coach you on how to receive more “free” money and fewer loans.

“Are you a local or national company?”

Complete College Planning Solutions is the central New Jersey affiliate of Professional Education Services, a national network of college funding advisors, CPA’s and professional educational consultants throughout the country (click here for more information). Professional Education Services is a well-established company that has been helping families for over 10 years. Over 92% of our clients stay enrolled their original college compared to the national average of just 51%.

Within our network we share information about scholarships, schools and tuition, and we can call on any of these experts if and when appropriate. For example, we have on retainer one of the nation’s leading CPA’s on college tax strategies to advise clients through the 153 tax strategies we can bring to bare if needed. We also help with career matching and have a personal life coach on staff.

“How Much Do You Charge?”

There is no cost to attend one of our Free Community Workshops. Likewise, there is no charge for your initial diagnostic evaluation. You’ll get a list of the services that we offer when you leave (along with our fees), and you can make your decision on your own.

Visiting this website and attending one of our Free Community Workshops gives you the chance to “sample the merchandise.” Every money-saving idea discussed here and at our popular Workshops has already been tested and proven to work. These ideas have already saved parents like you anywhere from $6,000 – $60,000 per child on their family college costs. Is it worth an hour of your time to see what we can do for you?

To book an appointment for a no-cost diagnostic evaluation click here.

“What Do I Get For My Money?”

  1. We help your student find and attend the BEST FIT school for him or her. (Less than half of all college students graduate from the school they entered as freshmen. 97% of our students do.)
  2. We position your student to get the maximum amount of financial aid possible–whether need-based aid, merit aid, “tax scholarships,” or all three–minimizing your out-of-pocket costs.
  3. We guide your son or daughter through the entire college preparation process:
    • choosing a major and a career
    • college visits (the right way and the wrong way)
    • college application assistance (how to put your best foot forward)
    • how to ask for and get the most effective letters of recommendation
    • admissions essay service (professional guidance from choosing an essay topic through final version)
    • the admissions interview (do’s and don’ts that make a big difference)
  4. We look at paying for college in terms of the big financial picture. For example, what good is paying for college if you’ve got no money left for retirement and you can’t pay off your house? Paying for college is not an island unto itself.
  5. We fill out all financial aid forms for you (every year), including the FAFSA form, institutional forms and other required paperwork, saving you several weekends worth of work and aggravation.
  6. We go to bat for you if the college under-awards you for financial aid.
  7. We keep track of what’s due and when to make sure your child doesn’t miss his/her application deadlines.
  8. We relieve you of the burden of 1,001 details and hours of worry and aggravation… saving your family from the stress and strife associated with the college application process, and allowing you to enjoy your last year at home with your child.
  9. What are the things you worry about when your son or daughter goes off to college? Drinking and drugs? Dating dangers? Personal safety? With available instruction in all these areas (and more), we help your student smoothly and safely transition from high school to college, as they go off on their own for the first time.

“What if I’m not from New Jersey?”

We can still help. First, you’re welcome to request any of our free reports, or use our free scholarship search engine. Then click here to introduce yourself. We can put you in touch with a college planner who practices the same strategies that we use. If there’s no one in your area, we’d be happy to work with you.

“What is student financial aid based on?”

The formula for federal need-based aid is based on parent income + assets, student income + assets, number of children in college and the age of the older parent. That’s according to the Federal methodology. CSS Profile Schools (mostly private schools) also consider home equity in their equation, called Institutional methodology.

“Do I have a better chance of getting in if I apply early?”

Most studies we’ve seen indicate that students may enjoy a slight admissions advantage by applying early decision. This is because colleges want to improve their “yield” – the percentage of students accepting their offers of admission. But at what price? You see, when you pursue early decision, you’re limiting your negotiating power. Unless you can demonstrate financial hardship, you’re stuck with whatever financial aid package they give you.

Even if money is no object, we still caution against early decision. Besides the fact that it could be 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 5-6 months between early decision and the following autumn.

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.

“My parents don’t make a lot of money – will colleges
hold this against me?”

Not at all, at least that’s what colleges say publicly. Most colleges and universities claim to be “admissions blind.” In other words, they consider all applications independently from financial aid forms, and decide the merit of the applicant based on ability, not on financial resources.

“Do colleges really care about your senior year grades?”

Yes. With more and more high school students taking AP and Honors coursed, colleges monitor your grades closely, because they see these courses as an indicator of how you will handle college level courses.

In the “old days,” you could more or less coast once your acceptance came through. Today, with the increased competition, colleges are much more strict and unforgiving about “senioritis.” Many watch to see if there’s a falloff or downward trend senior year. They have the right to withdraw their acceptance, and with long waitlist lines, they don’t see a downside in doing so.

“Does the amount I receive in scholarships
affect my eligibility for financial aid?”

Yes, it’s considered and assessed just like an “asset” would be.

Trying to decide if this is for you? Click here

“Can I get a scholarship to cover room and board?”

Most colleges and universities offer R.A. (resident advisor or resident assistant) positions for upperclassmen. An R.A. serves as a kind of “floor monitor’ who maintains order within a college dormitory or residence hall. At some schools you can apply for an R.A. post as early as sophomore year. In other schools you have to be a junior or senior to apply. Most R.A.’s have their room and board covered; at some schools they also receive payment.

Here are the qualifications for R.A. selection at Penn State University:

  • Leadership potential as evidenced by previous leadership experiences, recommendations, staff evaluations and potential as perceived by the observers in the selection process.
  • High level of maturity exhibited in sound judgment, emotional stability, flexibility, and willingness to accept responsibility.
  • Strong interpersonal skills through proven ability to interact effectively with others and as perceived through the selection process.
  • Awareness of and sensitivity to various social justice issues as evidenced by behavior in the hall and interactions with others and as perceived through the selection process.
  • Good conduct standing with the University (not on disciplinary probation).
  • A 2.40 cumulative grade point average is required. A minimum of 12 credits must be earned prior to application.
  • Satisfactory completion of a three (3) credit Counselor Education course and the recommendation of the instructor are required.
  • Preference is given to applicants who WILL be enrolled full-time at University Park BOTH semesters and who will make a commitment to Residence Life for an entire academic year.
  • Preference is given to applicants who have lived in a residence hall for at least one semester, or who have had comparable experience.

“How much time should I give my teachers to write my letters of recommendation?”

The best strategy is to make your requests at the end of your junior year, right before summer break. This way you beat the autumn rush and neither you nor the teacher is under pressure to meet a deadline. This also gives your teacher extra time to compose his/her thoughts, and perhaps write a better quality recommendation for you. This is especially true if you’re trying to get a college recommendation from a popular teacher. The worst thing to do is to wait to the last minute, hand over your request saying, “I need it back in two days.”

“My SAT scores are very low and my grades

are very high. Will this affect my chances of admission?”

It depends on the schools you’re applying to, because each school values requirements differently. In our free community workshops, we show how two schools – Wesleyan University and Holy Cross – evaluate students differently. The top criteria are:

  • GPA and class rank
  • strength of class schedule
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • your essay
  • recommendations
  • extracurricular activities

But how they rank them varies widely from college to college. For example, the top considerations at Holy Cross are class schedule, GPA and class rank, while standardized test results are considered less important. Wesleyan on the other hand, places more emphasis on standardized test scores, while extracurricular activities get less consideration. So a student with low SAT scores and high grades would likely do better applying to Holy Cross rather than Wesleyan. Every college and university has their own formula for ranking selection criteria, and it’s advantageous to know these rankings before deciding which schools to apply to.

“What is a financial aid package?”

Also know as the Student Award Package, this is the financial offer sheet from the college once you’ve been accepted for admission. It can include need aid, merit aid, scholarships, tuition discounts, work-study, internships, loans, etc., and lets you know what your family is expected to pay out of pocket. The most important question to ask the college after you receive this award letter is, “Can I expect this level of financial aid for all four years?”

“If the required GPA is 3.8 and I have a 3.7 should I still apply?”

Yes, I would still consider applying, especially if your other requirements (SAT/ACT test scores, class rank, strength of schedule, extra curricular activities, recommendations, etc.) meet their standards. First, each college rates their requirements differently. For example, GPA might be the top consideration at one college and barely considered at all at another school. Also, those numbers are usually given as a range or a guide, rather than a hard and fast cutoff. You might consider addressing your GPA shortfall in your college essay.

“Do teacher recommendations have to come


from a junior or senior year teacher?”

No. However, the general rule of thumb is that recommendations should come from teachers who know you well at the time you apply. So a 9th or 10th grade teacher is fine as long as your relationship has continued and the teacher can write about you as a student today — not as you were in his or her class two or three years ago (which is not considered apropos).

Copyright © 2011 Complete College Planning Solutions, LLC  -  500 Morris Ave., Suite 205, Springfield, NJ 07081
Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101