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Author: zol Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 8174  
Subject: College Planning Class Date: 7/12/2014 7:54 PM
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We just received direct mail inviting us to the college planning class offered by http://www.freecollegeplanning.org
They claim to be a non-profit organization and say the presenters are affiliated with college planners and CPAs. Sounds like a seminar where you get to sign up to get a personalized plan not likely to be free.

I was wondering if anyone here has experience with them and is willing to share the good/bad/ugly.

- zol
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Author: 1poorguy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Recommended Fools Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8140 of 8174
Subject: Re: College Planning Class Date: 7/12/2014 10:33 PM
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I've never heard of them (which doesn't mean much!). A quick google didn't turn up anything specific about them. No one has reviewed there here:

http://www.webutations.info/go/review/freecollegeplanning.or...

They also don't show up on charitynavigator (many 501c groups do).

Apparently they are registered with the IRS and donations are deductible.
http://501c3lookup.org/free_college_planning_inc/

It might not hurt to check out a seminar. But if at any time they ask you to buy something, leave (and report them to the IRS). In trying to check these guys out I found stories of other college planning entities offering "a special price" for coaching services (payable that day or the price goes away).

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Author: zol Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8141 of 8174
Subject: Re: College Planning Class Date: 7/13/2014 12:54 PM
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Thanks for the heads up! I signed up and plan to attend. I'll report back what I learn.

- zol

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Author: zol Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8174 of 8174
Subject: Re: College Planning Class Date: 8/18/2014 7:20 PM
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I went to the college planning class and I'm glad I did. I actually wished my kids and spouse were there too. They gave us a boatload of information regarding the academic and financial positioning of the student. Some highlights:

Academic positioning:
- Help student prepare for ACT/SAT. GPA is also important.
- Compare scores to published scores from the schools to determine where the student falls: bottom 25%, mid-range, top 25%?
- Determine programs of study the student may be interested in. If undecided, identify 2-3 and make sure the schools of interest offer all of them.
- Ask what are the most important admissions criteria and how are they ranked.
- Show interest in the schools by visiting website, campus tour, talking to individuals (financial assistance, department head, coaches, etc). Not all schools track demonstrated interest but may pick up on it in the essays submitted for that particular school.

Financial positioning:
- Explained the different types of financial assistance offered: grants/scholarships, loans, work study.
- Many schools claim they meet 100% need but it may be in the form of loans.
- Colleges compete with other colleges for students. So they encouraged applying to 6+ colleges since they will see where else you may be applying and offer better aid.
- The expected family contribution (EFC) depends on income and assets. But not all assets are counted for all institutions. If the college uses only FAFSA, home equity is not included. Some colleges have other forms that may include home equity for EFC.

They offered a 1:1 consultation for a free FAFSA review. I used FAFSA4caster to determine our EFC before going to the meeting. At the beginning of the meeting I asked, point blank, what could he offer to reduce it. Since I had not provided any of the details of our finances he gave me a couple of examples of previous clients. He mentioned redirecting some of our liquid assets into retirement products that would not be included in EFC. He didn't mention the products but pointed me in the direction where I could find the information.

At the consultation, he also provided a reference to a book that talks about all the methodology that he was teaching: "Paying for college without going broke" http://www.amazon.com/Paying-College-Without-Edition-Admissi... I just got an old copy of the book from the library and I've read more than half.

The free class and free consultation was to eventually get us to sign up for their college planning services. As a long-time Fool I'm more inclined to learn about all this on my own rather than pay for help. But sometimes there is value in having a neutral third-party help your teenage kid understand that you don't select a college for their sports ranking...

- zol

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