Introduce Yourself!

I am eager to get to know everyone who is taking this class!hello-my-name-is

One of the neatest parts of this class is that it has attracted professionals from across the country. Your classmates include individuals from such states as Washington, New Mexico, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Maine, Virginia and California.

I’d love for you to introduce yourself by using the Comment box below.

This is the ONLY lesson that I’d like you to use the Comment box at the bottom of the lesson.

In all other lessons, I’d like you to use The College Cost Lab Forum link rather than the comment box. You’ll see the forum link at the bottom of all the other lessons. This is the first time I am using the forum for my professional class.

Here’s why I’m asking you to use the comment box for this lesson:

I have a tremendous number of comments from professionals who have taken this course previously when the comment box was the only way to share. It can be illuminating reading what they wrote, which is why I preserved the comments.

Please Share

Here are some suggested questions to get you started:

1. Where are you from, how long have you been in the college niche and in what capacity?

2. What are your biggest challenges as you help families with their college decisions?

3. What do you hope to get out of this course?


Let's Connect

Leave a Reply

  1. Hello everyone,

    My name is Amy McVeigh, and I’m an IEC working primarily in Indiana and Michigan. I’m relatively new to the business, though I’ve been helping children of friends for years. I decided to transition into educational consulting full time when I discovered that I enjoyed the work I did with students much more than I did my ‘real business’ in instructional design and performance improvement consulting. I’m finding many overlaps between the two careers. I completed my certificate program through UCLA in March, and have attended NACAC and HECA events.

    I was so excited to discover your work, Lynn. Given my background in training, I have a strong desire to effectively teach my families how to obtain and utilize important information related to the college search process. But I find there’s either too much information, or it isn’t well presented, or there isn’t enough information. So I love your straightforward, well thought out, and generous approach.

    I just finished doing a week long application workshop for my clients, and so I’ve been very focused on that. But now I can turn my full (well, almost full!) attention to building my knowledge and skills in this arena. Thanks, all!

    1. Hi Amy,

      Great to hear from you! I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone who works in Indiana in my course. Your previous profession sounds fascinating. I know I could benefit from performance improvement!

      I can appreciate your frustration at being able to gather reliable information that you can use to help your clients. I think it helps that I am a lifelong journalist and also someone who wrote about personal finance for many years. The money side of college fascinates me and unfortunately is usually treated superficially by other sources.

      Thanks for joining the class. I know you will learn a lot!

      Lynn O.

  2. Hi all, I am Peggy Jenkins. I am the Founding Director of a non-profit called Palouse Pathways which provides college and career information and inspiration to students in the inland Northwest on the Idaho/Washington border. This area is called the Palouse (named for native grasslands) The Palouse includes many rural communities, with a fair amount of poverty and the constellation of problems that poverty brings. It also includes two universities — Washington State and University of Idaho. Palouse Pathways has a Facebook Page (feel free to check it out or join where we discuss college topics and try to build the “college going culture”. And we host presentations and workshops to help families explore colleges, college financing, etc. We work with the local schools and universities to support their efforts.

    I have just about completed coursework to obtain a college and career counseling certificate from UCLA extension. I hope to do a practicum with the counselors at one of the local high schools in the next school year.

    I work for Palouse Pathways on a volunteer basis. In my day job, I do research and writing for attorneys throughout the US (mostly from Hawaii where I used to live and practice law). I have a son who is entering his senior year at Olin College of Engineering in Needham Mass, and I am the head of the Olin Parent Advisory Board.

    Support for students and families — particularly those whose access to information and resources is limited — is definitely my passion.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      I find it amazing that I’ve had several people in my courses from Idaho!

      I applaud you for volunteering to help students in rural communities that are often overlooked! I am sure this course will help. And I want to remind everyone that you can use my financial aid slides and modify them in anyway that you’d like including slapping your name on them. You can find the slides in the Bonus Material lesson.

      Congratulations on your son attending Olin. Getting into that school is quite a feat! I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on Olin.

      Lynn O.

  3. Hello everyone – I am Audrey Slaughter, an independent college advisor located in the San Francisco Bay area (Walnut Creek to be exact!). I have been part of the college advising office at Northgate high school for 4 years, then decided to make my training official by completing the UC Berkeley College Advising program. For those of you considering this program, it was SO worth the time and it was wonderful developing a network of friends through the in person classes! While finishing that program, I did pro bono work at another local public high school with a significant number of 1st gen. college bound students.

    My biggest challenges – I want to develop tools to help parents of middle/upper income levels with B+ level students to better understand how to “shop” colleges. This area is sadly so locked into the ‘name brand’, and it takes a financial aid cold shower for them to realize that those colleges come at a steep price, if their student can even get into one! I need a step by step process to educate them on their options and why it’s important.

    My second challenge is to get better acquainted with tools to help 1st gen students learn the financial options out there for them and how to approach it starting early in high school. This is to help with continuing pro bono work locally.

    I hope to learn better ways to simply keep families organized in their financial aid education process. It would be great to streamline that part of my business, as I am finding that part to be the most challenging and time consuming aspect of being an independent advisor.

    I also admire your social media presence, Lynn – you’ve done a terrific job at getting your name out there as a great financial aid resource. Thanks for this course!

    1. Hi Audrey,

      Welcome to the class!

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the UC Berkeley college advising program. That one is unique because it is in person!

      You touch upon a huge issue – getting families to look beyond the name brand schools. It is hard enough for A students to get into these schools and it will be almost impossible for others unless they have a strong hook such as athletics or being a legacy and even then the odds will be against them. These families should also be looking at colleges and master’s level universities where admissions odds aren’t as tough as those at research universities. Most students at master’s level schools and colleges receive tuition discounts.

      That’s awesome that you are doing pro bono work. I have included some advice for first-gen and minority students in the lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities in the module entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II. There is plenty of other information in this course that applies to these students too.

      In the lesson you’ll see a Hechinger Report article about a challenge for first-gen students that doesn’t get much press – summer melt. They get accepted to college, but never make it there. These kids need so much help after they have committed to a school. Here is the link to the article:

      Lynn O.

  4. Hello
    I am the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles. I am very interested in finding as much information as possible on how to assist families in understanding the college application process, specifically the best ways to approach financing their child’s education. I look forward to participating in this course.

    1. Welcome to the class Kathy!

      I have a fondness for girls high schools. I attended an girls high school in St. Louis, as did my sisters and my daughter attended the only girls high school in San Diego – Academy of Our Lady of Peace. There are many girls high schools in St. Louis, which is why I was stunned that there is only one in San Diego.

      You will learn a lot about the financial side of college in this course. You may also be interested in a post I wrote during the winter about Catholic universities which tend to be give out poor financial aid.

      Here is the link:

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. My name is Priscilla ONeill and I live in Southeast Michigan. Summit Scholars is my own business and I have worked with high school to college students for nine years. The biggest challenge is helping parents understand the real cost of college. Many parents are stuck in the 90’s thinking that paying for college will not be that bad, they are not ready for the 40-50k a year sticker price. In this course I hope to get a better understanding of our current state of affairs when it comes to families paying for college.

    1. Welcome to the class Priscilla!

      I agree that some parents are living in an alternative universe when it comes to paying for college. I think affluent parents, in particular, assume that their bright children will win huge scholarships to their dream schools. As you know it isn’t that easy!

      Lynn O.

  6. Hello all,

    I’m finally getting around to this intro after an extended family vacation visiting my wife’s parents in far northern Minnesota. The fishing was great! Hold the mosquito jokes. I’m a somewhat new IEC based in Santa Barbara, CA. I received a College Counseling certificate from UCLA about a year ago and to this point I’ve only done pro bono work with the children of friends and family. I’m married with a 14 yr old boy and a 12 yr old girl.

    Educational consulting is a completely new career direction for me. I’m a scientist by training (hydrogeology), and that is what guides me to the niche group I want to help – those kids interested in pursuing STEM degrees and career paths. My wife and I are self-identified nerds and our kids have nerdy qualities too. We’re so proud.

    During the course of my UCLA program I surprised myself with how interesting I found the whole financial aid system. As I’ve learned more and more about the entire college selection and admission process, and talked with folks going through it, it’s clear that for many families the cost of college is the elephant in the room. They know it’s sitting there in the corner, but it’s hard to face because the numbers are getting so scary. There is a lot of anxiety about how they will pay for everything. How does financial aid work? Will they qualify for grants, scholarships, work study? What kind of loans are out there? How much will they have to borrow? Can they afford their kid’s dream school? Should they forget the privates and look only at state schools? Should they borrow against the house? (NO!)

    So that’s why I’m taking this course. I want to collect as much college cost knowledge as I can so I can be the best adviser I can be and help them as much as possible. It was so much simpler when I was in college!

    I want to mention that I first learned about Lynn during my UCLA classes. Her articles were often cited and her book was recommended. I first bought the digital version but, being an older fart, I soon realized I really absorb the information much better when it comes from a tangible book in my hands, so now I have both. Cheers.

    1. Welcome to the class Kevin!

      I bet northern Minnesota was lovely and very green! We could use some green scenery in SoCal.

      Congratulations on getting the counseling certificate from UCLA. My course will be a very good supplement to the UCLA program because it focuses so intently on the financial side of college. You will learn more about all the topics that you cited above. I am so glad to hear that my work was mentioned often in your UCLA classes!

      I like books you can hold in your hand as well! You can’t line a bookcase with Kindle books!

      Lynn O.

  7. Hello,

    My name is Ann-Marie Meacham and I am the parent of two daughters. Kayla is going to be a senior and Julia is going to be a sophomore at a small catholic school in San Jose, California. Thankfully, we have a great counselor but I really wanted to be involved with the process for our daughter. A friend of ours from San Diego gave us this book and I am finding it all to be a wealth of information. Professionally, I am a non-profit consultant and work with a local high school educational foundation to raise funds for educational and co-curricular programs. Thank you for this invaluable information!

    1. Hi Ann-Marie,

      Welcome to the class. I am glad you are finding my book helpful! I think you will learn much, much more in this class! I think you will also find this course beneficial for your work with your educational foundation.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  8. Hi everyone. My name is Hallie McFadden. I am an independent college counselor in Chattanooga. Well, a newbie, actually. (I am also a lawyer and swim coach, but this is much more fun!) My partner and I have started a business as independent college counselors here and launch this fall. We both have lots of experience with students. I have gone through this process with one of my own children and am starting with my second child. They have been my guinea pigs, along with my nephews and friends of the family (hint: don’t do this with family – it is SO stressful). We both have traveled extensively this summer and met with many different admissions and financial aid officers. We are in the process of getting certification and are trying to learn everything we can. We are the only independent college counselors in our city of approx 400,000 (metro area). It is a highly underserved population in this field. I really think the financial aid factor is one of the most important things my clients will look to me for, and want to develop, if not an expertise, at least a very good working knowledge and resources to whom I can go to ask for help! That probably means most of y’all. Looking forward to learning and reading your input!

    1. Hi Hallie,

      I am stunned that you and your partner are the only independent college consultants in Chattanooga! What an opportunity!

      You will see that many professionals taking this class agree with you that addressing the issue of paying for college is critical. And the type of parents who seek advice from a consultant are hardly immune from worrying about college costs. In the course I offer for parents, I’d estimate that the majority are high-income families who are stressed about how they are going to pay for expensive schools. Of course, one of the answers is to throw a wider net and not just look at brand name research universities! This is a topic that i cover in the course lessons and in The Ultimate College List Builder, which you’ll find in the Bonus Material section.

      Welcome to the class!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  9. Hi Lynn
    Thanks for offering this class. I am Regina Gerrato,and I have a varied background as a college counselor. I have worked in community based programs with first generation students, as a high school counselor with international students and in private practice in San Diego for the past four years. I would like to do a presentation of financial aid at our school and was hoping that this class would help me to identify some key points. My experience relating to a families interest in paying for college has really varied. My background is in mental health counseling and working with ADD students, so I have a particular interest in working with learning disabled kids. Some of the kids in our present high school also have these issues. Its been a real challenge to find schools that can support them and work within the families budget since these kids usually have low ACT scores and low grade point averages. I have had some luck in working with the CSU programs in that there has been some grant money for TRIO programs, but as you know, these programs often loose their funding, so its back to the drawing board for more research and looking for a “B” plan for families. Its also difficult to advise a family to look at a private college that offers the best fit and optimal support for their student, if its out of their price range. The other scenario I come up with a lot is divorced families and single moms. As long as I can offer options, I know I am doing my job. Sometimes families do decide to go with the more well known school, but at least I know I did a good job in finding that merit scholarship, and presenting as much information in a clear format. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Regina,

      It’s nice to have someone else in the class from where I live!

      I can help you with the financial aid slides. Everyone in the class can use a collection of financial aid slides that I’ve parked in the Bonus Material lesson. You can put your name on the slides and modify them in anyway that you wish. To make it more convenient for you, here is the link to the slides:

      You must download the slides to use them.

      It is going to be difficult to find schools with good financial aid for students who have a lot of need and mediocre grade point averages and test scores. I would urge you to read the lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities that is in the Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II.

      It won’t be nearly as difficult for students with average stats who have money. Colleges love students who can pay full price or close to it. Keep in mind that nearly 89% of students who attend private colleges and universities don’t pay full price. That means B and C students can get money. I’d urge you to read The Ultimate College List Builder (in the Bonus Material section) that discusses what type of schools give the majority of student – and in some cases all of them – price discounts.

      Also check out my lesson on divorce and financial aid in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid Formulas.

      Lynn O.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  10. Good Afternoon Everyone-
    My name is Tabitha and I am a parent of a senior student in Granada Hills, CA. I am actually a nurse and really want to be a part of this experience for my daughter. We are trying to do the responsible thing and figure the finances and choices out together. I am very grateful for Lynn’s class and I look forward to learning a lot.

    1. Hi Tabitha,

      Welcome to the class. I am glad you are learning all you can now since it’s crunch time for you and your daughter! This course will help you become an educated college shopper.

      Lynn O.

  11. My name is Patti Bostwick. I’m currently the Director of College Counseling at the Roeper School, an independent school for gifted and talented students in Birmingham, Michigan. Roeper was founded by George and Annmarie Roeper who escaped the holocaust and wanted to create a school that would help ensure there would never be another holocaust. These students have strengths ranging from the arts to athletics and this year the 42 of them went to 28 different colleges. 47% of the students are at Roeper on a scholarship.

    I previously worked from 1986-2006 at a public high school (until it closed, “merging” with the other high school in our community.) I also worked for 4 years at a private Jewish high school.

    I also have been working as an independent consultant since 2006 and planned to have it be my main retirement career except that I have been lured out of retirement twice to work in private schools.

    I also have worked as a counselor/academic advisor at Oakland Community College part-time for 23 years.

    I have 2 daughters and 7 grandchildren, ranging in age from 3-15. My oldest granddaughter is entering her sophomore year in high school, so I am once again approaching the college admissions process on a personal as well as professional level.

    I’ve been a counselor for a long time and have visited well over 200 colleges. I also have noted over the past 20 years college tuition tripling and quadrupling while family incomes have not. I remember a time when a student could work over the summer and pay for their next year’s college tuition. I remember financial aid workshops that touted the ability for students to pay their college loans over 30 years, like a mortgage, and 2008, when students discovered they may not be able to get a job that would allow for that to happen.

    As colleges costs have risen I have observed a widening gap between those who can afford college and those who can’t, and people in the “middle class” who, without merit based aid, for years have tend to populate the state universities while those who could write a check and really strong and needy students could go to the private colleges. I have noticed some colleges that gave no merit based aid when my daughters were looking at colleges now do, but even so, prices have risen so much that even with merit based aid or in state tuition college costs are daunting.

    I first heard Lynn speak at the HECA Conference in New Jersey, and had a “Bus” conversation with her as well. For the first time, I thought there might be someone who could actually help us find a way to deal with college costs and help deal with the mystery of college “affordability.” I’m excited to have this opportunity! Patti B

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for joining the class. That’s very impressive that you’ve been in this field, in one capacity or another, for so many years. I wonder if I’ll still be in this niche by the time I (hopefully) have college-bound grandchildren.

      The students at your private school will enjoy more advantages than many others. Colleges do favor rich students and also low-income students who have managed to attend private high schools. Colleges are more interested in admitting impoverished students if they have done well at rigorous schools.

      Low-income students who are minorities are more desirable than those who are white. That’s because schools get brownie points for accepting minority students even when these children come from affluent households. That said, rich students enjoy the biggest affirmative action boost since they greatly benefit from need-aware (also known as need sensitive) policies. At some point each admission season, schools will start accepting students based on their ability to pay for school.

      You are very right about the price of college far escalating parents’ incomes. It’s really tragic.

      Lynn O.

  12. Hi, Lynn, my name is Linda Kapala and I’m from Oak View, California. I work in Ventura. About 7 years ago a parent volunteer and I decided the senior class was not getting sufficient college information. The counselors were doing their best and AVID helped a limited number of students. We put our heads together and produced a Senior Guidebook. It had a very positive reception, but produced even more questions and queries for further help. For three years I co taught college bootcamp with my friend and then after that we choose for various reasons to go our separate ways. Since then I have given four different sets of classes and provided mini-course free during our extended Library hours at our school. I found that I really enjoy this work and began working towards my Independent College Counselor credential through UCIrvine. I only have a couple more to complete. I have been aware of you and your information for some time and decided that it was time to continue my education with you. I’m so impressed with the information you provide and know it will help me grow in my position. This year I might only do classes through school (extended library hours – for free) as I have a few health challenges to get behind me. Also, I too have a facebook page and a webpage and these definitely need some work.
    Looking forward to learning and growing with you. Thanks.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Welcome to the class! It sounds like you have been doing great work at the school and I love the idea of the senior guidebook, the mini course and bootcamps. After taking my class, you can update it (if you have time and the inclination) with the information you learn in the next few weeks. As you’ll see reading through this thread, there are people here who have graduated or are going through the UC Irvine program.

      I wanted to mention that you can use all the handouts and share them with your clients and families that you’ll find in The College Cost Lab. That should help!

      Lynn O.

  13. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Alice Carberry and I am an IEC working with 3 others in Ohio but moving soon to Boston. I am a member of IECA and took the consultant course through UC-I. I just moved to Ohio from Puerto Rico last summer and have lived out of the continental US for the last 12 years. I find my clients in Ohio are much more concerned about financial aid and less about name brand schools than my International School clients. Even though I have taken Lynn’s class before, I feel like I need Lynn’s help to get better at this facet of the admissions process.

    My husband and I just finished putting three children through University and have the loans to show for it. With Lynn’s help, I hope to help my clients make better financially informed decisions than my husband and I made with regard to school choice.

    1. Hi Alice,

      Welcome to the class! I bet that’s a real culture shock moving from Puerto Rico to Ohio. I also find it interesting that the families from Puerto Rico are more interested in brand name than those in Ohio. Your observation regarding people’s interest in the money side of college Is right on. At least that’s my observation.

      I’m curious where your children attended college?

      Thanks for taking the class again!

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn we are within two weeks of moving so things are really hectic here. We have actually lived in PR, Germany, Ontario and then back again to PR in the last 12 years. I taught in schools in PR and Frankfurt so have been with a lot of international students who, I in my experience, come to the US mainly for the brand-name schools. It has been a big adjustment here in Ohio.
        Our oldest son went to Colby as a biology/math major and is now at UNC-CH for MBA, our middle guy went to UPenn for bioengineering and is now in medical school in NY, and our youngest just graduated from UPenn in English and is in training for Teach for America in NYC. We are still paying off undergrad and our kids are on their own for grad school. One interesting thing… even though our kids are older and living on their own, grad schools still ask for the parents to fill out a FAFSA. When are the parents ever off the hook to pay for schools?

        1. Hi Alice,

          Thanks for the update. Congratulations on your very accomplished children! I wish your son luck in Teach for America. My son just finished a year in a teacher residency program (I highly recommend them!) where he got his master’s degree and taught at an urban school in Denver. It was the hardest year of his life! If you’re interested, here is a link to a post that I wrote when he graduated:

          Grad schools can ask about parent financing, but the federal aid is all loans anyway. The exception are the Teach Grants, which my son got.

          Lynn O.

  14. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Anne Weisholtz, and I have been working since 2008 as an independent college counselor in Tenafly, New Jersey. Before that I was a high school English teacher for 33 years, the last 19 of which were at a Modern Orthodox yeshiva where I also worked as a College Guidance Counselor during my last four years. Then I did the IECA Summer Training Institute, and joined IECA and HECA, as well as NACAC and NJACAC/

    In the school college guidance office we didn’t involve ourselves at all in the financial components of the process, and for a while when I started as an independent I told all my clients that was the one part of the process I didn’t do, so I would refer them out if they wished. Then I read your very helpful book, Lynn, and began to incorporate some of what I learned, but the majority of my clients have acted as if costs were no issue for them. In some cases this was probably legitimate, but in others it was probably foolish. It’s been frustratingly hard to convince most of them to seriously consider attending schools where they qualify for merit aid; they all seem to be most interested in the “reach” schools.

    As a former English teacher, I’ve always felt most comfortable working with essays and least comfortable working with numbers. Lately I’ve been referring my families to the financial aid data on Guided Path, and I’ve done all the financial aid workshops and webinars I could, but I have to admit, I’ve frequently felt somewhat lost – too lost even to ask intelligent questions. On the other hand, your webinar, Lynn, was crystal clear to me, so I jumped at the opportunity to take this course even though I was out of town last week and will be away again one week at the end of August. I’m looking forward to listening to the recording of the first webinar and then catching up with everyone!

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for joining the class. I am glad you found the webinar “crystal clear!” I have a lot of teachers in my extended family, which probably explains why I enjoy trying to explain the financial side of college in easy-to-understand ways. I should add that the good news is that understanding how to make college more affordable doesn’t have to be complicated.

      I think there are plenty of parents who pretend that cost isn’t an issue when it really is. I believe this problem is particularly acute on the East Coast. I believe when parents truly understand their options, they are more likely to expand their searches. And that is a good thing!

      Lynn O.

  15. Hi everyone! My name is Gloria Calderon and I coordinate a college prep program for a non-profit in Chula Vista (in Southern San Diego!). I’ve been working with low-income first generation youth for about 4 years now, most of them with very low EFCs. However, I’m experiencing that many of my current students are right above the financial aid cut off so they don’t receive grants but their families cannot realistically afford to support them through college. I’d like to learn more about helping these working class families and in general, strategies to help families prepare for college expenses. I’m also interested in learning more about how to have conversations with families about borrowing loans. I’ve experienced that my families are afraid of loans and have seen students go to community college because they did not want a $2,000 loan. I’m also looking forward to connecting with other professionals in this field as I have much to learn. I’m planning to complete a certificate program but I’m unsure which one to choose.

    1. Hi Gloria,

      Thanks for taking the class!

      One thing that parents need to know is what the cut off is to qualify for the Cal Grant, which is the main source of financial aid in California. The Cal Grant covers the tuition/fees for the UCs and Cal States and roughly $8,000 off the price of a private school in California.

      Here is the link for the income qualifications. The income ceilings refers to parents’ income not their adjusted gross income:

      You’ll see on the income qualifications on the document also.

      People need to know that if a student doesn’t qualify for the Cal Grant, he/she will almost certainly pay full price for a state school in California. So people need to compare the price of a state university elsewhere or a private university anywhere in the country.

      I think Hispanic students are more likely to attend nearby. Sometimes finances make this the only smart decision, but not always.

      Low-income families are also less likely to borrow, but that can be a bad idea. Students who can’t borrow are more likely to start at community colleges part-time. Unfortunately, it is less likely that students will earn degrees from community colleges going this route
      . One thing that low-income students need to know is that they should file for financial aid. If they file the FAFSA, they can obtain the Pell Grant (assuming they qualify). If they get the Pell Grant and attend community college, it is a very smart idea to go full-time to school. With the support from the Pell, they can attend school full time which will definitely increase their chances of graduating.

      Low-income families should not be afraid of reasonable debt. I think students are safe borrowing from the federal direct loan program. (Please see the lesson on these loans). If students graduate and have a low paying job or none at all, they can qualify for the Pay As You Earn program that allows you to pay back your student loans based on what you are earning rather than what you owe. There are also other federal safety nets.

      On the other hand, borrowing too much via the federal Parent Loan can be scary. Please see the lesson on this loan.

      Lynn O.

  16. Greetings Lynn and classmates,

    I am a college consultant based in Seattle, Washington. For the past two years I have been working with a range of students: students from China who are here for high school; high school students (or parents!) needing extra support; and low income, first gen students through volunteer work with an organization called College Access Now. I completed the UCI certificate program in March and am now working to expand my practice.

    I have run into a number of families who prefer to avoid talking about finances. I am hoping this class will give me the tools and help me feel more comfortable bringing up the issue, then encouraging and supporting them to do the work up front to figure out the best way to balance a good education and their available resources.

    1. Hi Julia,

      That is quite an eclectic group of people that you work with!

      I think something that will be quite helpful for your families who prefer to keep their finances private is to ask them to generate their expected family contribution with an EFC calculator. Parents are far less likely to consider the request for their EFC intrusive. For those unfamiliar with EFCs or EFC calciulators, you’ll learn all about them in the module, Your Families’ First Step.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  17. Hi everyone, my name is Marcia Bernstein I live in Maryland and am a business owner that specializes in Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning. With the ecomony changes, College Funding is an important part of Retirement and Tax Planning.

    I am excited to take this course from the best teacher plus become part of the group. In this way I will be able to assist my clients with information from people dealing with the same questions and concerns on a daily basis.

    I look forward to becoming an integral part of this forum.

    1. Hi Marcia,

      Welcome to the class Marcia! I think it’s really important for financial advisors to learn about the financial side of college. I don’t see how financial advisors can advise their clients holistically without this piece of the puzzle.

      Lynn O.

  18. Hi everyone. I’m Annette Davis. I recently finished up my cc certificate at UCLA and am starting my IEC practice in San Jose, CA. The more I get into this field and work with students, the more I am convinced of the need to help families deal with the cost of college. Though the fin aid course at UCLA was quite good, I have been greatly helped by Lynn’s clearly articulated, practical approach and helpful tools. I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge in this important area so that I can better support the families I work with. There’s so much to learn and I am excited to get going!

    1. Welcome to the class Annette! I am glad that you found your way to my class! As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this forum, I’ve had plenty of people take the UC counseling courses as well as my mine. You are right. Families of all incomes need to grapple with the financial side of college. Pretending it will take care of itself is not an answer1

      Lynn O.

  19. Happy Weekend, everyone! I’m Jenny Buyens, an IEC in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. I’ve been counseling students since 2009, a member of IECA and HECA, and recently completed my IEC certificate online from UC-Irvine.

    My name should look familiar, Lynn, as I’m an ardent fan of yours, quote you often, follow you in social media, and have taken your class before! There is so much to learn, and I am an eager student. Happy to be aboard!

  20. Hey everyone! My name is Emily Vandagriff and this is my first year as the College and Career Advisor at a private school in Hunstville, Alabama. I am looking to learn any/everything throughout this class in order to best help my students finance college. That is the number one question I am asked when meeting with families.

    1. Hi Emily,

      Thanks for joining the class! I love having someone from Alabama in the class.

      I’m not surprised that paying for college is the No. 1 question from your families. I promise you will learn a lot!

      Lynn O.

  21. Hi! I’m Sandy Lawrence, an IEC in Augusta, GA (No, I can’t get you tickets to The Masters golf tournament….) I have been an independent consultant for 13 years and was formerly the Director of Guidance & College Counseling at an independent K-12 day school. I am a member of HECA, NACAC and SACAC and attend conferences and college tours regularly ~ I consider that some of the “perks” of my job.
    I’ve seen a lot of changes in the search/admission process during the years I’ve been doing this and some with the most impact are financial. I am really eager to learn all I can to help my families through the money part of the process.

    1. HI Sandy,

      Thanks for joining the class. That’s funny about the Master’s. I bet your city is mobbed during the big golf tournament.

      You are right, there have been a lot of changes in the admission world and the biggest revolve around money.

      Lynn O.

  22. Hello I’m Gina Ney, a College and Career Advisor from Lafayette, CA. I previously worked in Career Management with MBA students at Berkeley-Haas School of Business. I transitioned to working with high school and undergrads in 2012 while working on my Certificate in College Admissions and Career Planning from Berkeley. Over the past three years I have worked and/or volunteered at four different public high schools, and now am going FT independent.

    In my opinion, most parents (and students) completely underestimate the financial piece of college. They imprint or get fixated on certain schools, and think the money piece will work itself out later. I am very excited to be learning new tools to help families understand how financial fit is just as important (if not more) than the other factors in the college selection process.

    1. Welcome to the class, Gina!

      I’ve had some people in my previous classes that have taken the Berkeley program. I’d love to know what you think of it. And does this program have some in-person courses?

      I think you are so RIGHT about how parents underestimate the financial piece. You summed it up perfectly. And that’s why your role is so important. You can bring some reality to the process for these families!

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn,
        In answer to your question: I went to the Super ACAC conference in Reno last May and met lots of people who had gone through the Berkeley CC program and the impression I got was that the entire series of courses is in-person. Many of them recognized old classmates in the sessions (and several of the presenters who taught within the UCB program), while I didn’t recognize anyone because the UCLA program is entirely on line. But I did meet one former classmate when I recognized her name on her tag.

  23. Hi everyone!
    My name is Eileen Restrepo and I’m the Career and College specialist at Thomas Jefferson High School in Washington. I’m entering my eighth year there. My biggest challenge has been of course helping students with the financial piece and getting them to understand their options. I’m really looking forward to this class.

    1. Hi Eileen,

      Welcome to the class! The challenge you face is a huge one for many, many people who share your job title. I am confident that you will learn a tremendous amount in this course to help your families!

      Lynn O.

  24. Hello Lynn and everyone! I am Teresa Theofanos Collins from the Richmond, Virginia area. Before staying at home with my children, I was an academic advisor at University of Maryland University College and an admissions rep at Kennesaw State University. I have always loved the College environment and jumped in enthusiastically to help my twin daughters a few years ago in their search process. I liked it so much that I then decided to pursue my IEC certificate through UC Irvine and I am almost finished. Just in time, as I will be an “empty nester” this fall as my son is an entering freshman. Yes, that is 3 in college at the same time (for the next two years), in three different schools!

    Lynn, I purchased and read your book a few years ago and found it quite helpful and have continued to read your blog. Even though I took a financial aid class at UC Irvine, it was just the tip of the iceberg. This year was the first time I had to complete the CSS Profile and I am ashamed to admit that I made a mistake on it, that we did not catch right away and it negatively impacted my son’s financial aid packages. It is a long story, live and learn! But I like the practical way you present your material and hope to learn from your ideas and methods. I hope to be able to pass this information on to my clients.

    1. Hi Teresa,

      I am glad you are in the class! I have had many people in my course take the University of California, Irvine, program that is designed to help individuals who want to become independent educational consultants The UC programs, which are offered at the Irvine, UCLA, Berkeley, Riverside and San Diego campuses, are not designed to provide detailed information about the financial side of college.

      Sorry to hear about your PROFILE mistake. Unfortunately, mistakes are the FAFSA and PROFILE are common. My friend Paula Bishop, a CPA in Bellevue, WA, who is a financial aid expert said she has never see a PROFILE completed by parents that didn’t contain at least one error!

      Wow. Three children in college at once. At least your EFC went down considerably! I am curious where your children are attending college?

      Lynn O.

  25. I am an independent college consultant located in Calabasas, California, a small city/suburb near Los Angeles. I have been assisting students and their families with navigating the college admissions process for about 5 years.

  26. Hi, my name is Megan and I am an independent counselor in Salem, Oregon. I also teach community college and volunteer at our local high school. I’m taking the course to learn more about the financial aid world for my own use (I have a rising senior) and to help the families I work with better understand the process.

    I’m really excited to learn more from Lynn and am already enjoying watching the videos.

  27. Hi All –
    It will be interesting learning from all these different viewpoints and experiences in the class. I am an independent counselor in San Diego, and have found Lynn’s advice/book/blog/class to be very valuable.

    One challenge I find is that the parents still leave the college list of applications decisions primarily to their children, saying that they will wait and see about the costs in April. It’s an interesting (and unrealistic) dynamic. The students tend to stick with the best known schools, which can be reaches both in admissions and costs – and then hopefully end up at a UC or CSU that they like, which is getting tougher as well.

    Looking forward to the class!

    1. Hi Donna,

      Welcome to the class, fellow San Diegan! You are so right – it’s a huge problem when parents leave the college selection process up to their children and then play “let’s wait and see what happens.”What a disaster that can be.

      Lynn O.

  28. Hi Lynn. My name is Debbie Davidson and I am in San Francisco. I work part-time as the college counselor at a small private school here in SF. I have been there for three years. I also have varying numbers of private clients, most of whom come to me in the summer before or the fall of senior year. I also work with a number of international students, mostly through my school. The majority of those students are from Asia–mostly China, but a few Vietnamese and Korean kids too. Also a smattering of kids from elsewhere (e.g. France, Russia, Ukraine, Spain). And of course, I work with American kids, all with varying degrees of financial need. Thus the real reason for enrolling in this course.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Welcome to the class! I bet this is frustrating to you and others in this field when families wait until just weeks or months before applying to schools to seek your help. It sounds like you have a fascinating mix of students that you help!

      Lynn O.

  29. Greetings. I am an independent consultant in Evergreen, Colorado. I worked in college admissions for the first 10 years of my career. I’ve spent the last 15 years in coaching and consulting in the business world. A couple of years ago I got interested in college admissions again and began coaching informally. I officially started my company and “hung my shingle” at the beginning of this year.
    I am familiar with EFC, FAFSA, CSS, etc. but I want to get comfortable with all of it! Paying for college is such a huge investment these days, and I feel it’s my responsibility to see that my clients are thoughtful about their choices.
    Thank you. I look forward to the coming weeks.

    1. Hi Jill,

      Welcome to the class! It’s interesting how many diverse fields people come from who end up in the college consulting world. As you suggested, there is a lot more to making college more affordable than the financial aid formulas. And we will get into a lot that you need to know in this class. So stay tuned!

      Lynn O.

  30. Hello, my name is Penny Deck and I am happy to be taking this course. As a college counselor in Richmond Virginia, I continually strive to learn about all of the ever-changing policies and moving parts that is the college admissions business! I have been working in a high school setting for going on thirteen years and am heading into my ninth year at my current school for gifted students. The one area where I feel I need the most information and help is the financial aid side of things. Talk about a complex topic! I hope to learn as much as I can to better advise my students and families about college affordability and making the best choices possible.

    1. I am glad to have you in the class Penny!

      Gifted students enjoy a lot of college options, but their big mistake is often targeting the same narrow band of schools, which tend to be primarily research universities.

      Here is a post I wrote about research universities that I wish students and parents would read:

      Making college affordable does seem complex, but it’s not once you “get it.”

      Lynn O.

  31. Hi! My name is Melissa Bouzianis, I live about an hour north of Boston on the seacoast of NH and I have been a college consultant for about 5 years. I recently completed the UCLA Certificate and am a former engineer, management consultant and college recruiter. I specialize in helping students with LD and/or ADHD with the college process. I enjoy the extra level of analysis required to find appropriate schools for LD students. I also work pro bono with underserved students in Lawrence, MA. I am working with a retired high school guidance counselor to form a non-profit college counseling service there as the need is great in this area of MA.

    The biggest challenge I have is helping students and their families balance college preferences, support and accommodations and financial needs. There are many LD programs that charge extra for their services…it complicates an already complex situation. I also find explaining how the cost of college works to my socioeconomically disadvantaged students and families to be a real challenge.

    I hope this course sharpens my approach to helping my students find the right school where they will graduate in four years with little to no debt.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      I am imagining that the seacoast of New Hampshire must be quite lovely! I’m picturing very green scenery as I sit in drought-stricken San Diego.

      It can be so frustrating for families who are looking for LD services for their college-bound teenagers and yet schools aren’t typically advertising them. And, of course, there can be the extra expense. You have a challenging job. That’s impressive that you want to start a non-profit counseling program!

      Do you have some schools in particular that you like for students with learning disabilities and ADHD?

      FYI, here is a slideshare presentation, with some links, about learning disabilities and college that Guided Path published. The Powerpoint presentation was conducted by two well-known IECs in this field – Rachel Sobel and Rebecca Bass. Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  32. Hello all. I am Wayne Fuller from Palm Coast Florida. I have been a benefit broker for the past 16 years but that industry has changed tremendously since the affordable care act. Working with business owners and HR departments I have had the opportunity to explore the college planning market from my past clients and now want to make it my career focus. My wife and I are medical foster parents and have had the privileged of having 20 children in our home over the last 6 years. My passion is helping children and this seems like a very rewarding career knowing that we can change the lives of families that otherwise may have not had the option for a college education.

    1. Hi Wayne,

      Welcome to the class! Wow! That’s quite a commitment that you’ve made to fragile children who need a home. Congratulations to you and your wife!

      You have picked a career where you can do a lot of good. And I hope this class gets you moving in the right direction!

      Lynn O.

  33. Hi! I’m Karen Schiavo, an independent advisor in the East Bay, CA. I’m only a couple of years into this gig, although I’ve been an arm chair advisor for about a decade now, having built two college planning websites. I shut the sites down when I enrolled in the UC Berkeley College & Career Planning program in 2011.

    If the cost of college was a hot button in the past, it’s a burning ember now. My client base is mostly comprised of juniors whose parents look at me with eyes wide with fear when we talk about the cost of college. Their knowledge ranges from 0 to a little to myth-riddled. I guess that would be less than zero, haha.

    I’m excited to build on my current fin aid skills and create a great PowerPoint presentation for my families that will bring them quickly up to speed, and feeling confident in their/my ability to find a good financial fit for their student.

    I can’t thank you enough for offering this valuable service, Lynn!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Welcome to the class. I get up to the East Bay at least a couple of times a year because my sister lives in Oakland.

      I am hearing this more and more from consultants. Parents are increasingly apprehensive about college costs and it’s no wonder since college costs continue to rise while salaries remain stagnant.

      In this class, you will learn a lot about how to find schools that aren’t as expensive. One way is to look for schools that aren’t located in major cities on the East and West Coasts. Another way to save is to expand the search to look at colleges and master’s-level universities rather than just research universities. I write about this in the guide you can find in the Bonus Material module entitled, The Ultimate College List Builder.

      I am glad you will be making good use of the Powerpoint slides!

      Lynn O.

  34. Hi Lynn,
    I’m in Ukiah, CA. I’ve been a high school counselor for 13 years. While I have always had a strong interest in helping students and families on the college path, participating in your recent webinar showed me I have more to learn. You gave some valuable information in that webinar. I look forward to this class.–David

  35. Greetings from Connecticut. I’m Kathryn Vivian and am happy to be taking the professionals’ course with Lynn. I already took the parent course, but as a new independent counselor, I’m also looking forward to learning from my classmates. I completed UCLAs College Counseling Certificate in June of 2014. I’ve started my practice slowly, and now have nine students with whom I work.

    One of my biggest challenges as a counselor is persuading families to consider schools beyond the “brand names.” There’s a bit of a college “frenzy” in my area, so another challenge is to be that voice of reason in those charged situations.

    I want to take the tools I learn in this class and share them with my families so that they can make well-informed decisions throughout the college process.

    I’m really looking forward to this class!

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      I’m glad to have someone from Connecticut in the class! You will definitely find that many IECs are in the same position as you are. Brand names universities with high rankings are very alluring, but they are typically going to be very expensive for families who don’t qualify for need-based aid. Some of these schools can be great deals, however, for students who need financial aid.

      I think you will get a good idea of this phenomenon by reading my guide in the Bonus Material module entitled The Ultimate College List Builder. Also look at the lessons in the modules entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money Parts I and II. And I’d suggest giving your affluent clients the handout of the list of schools that don’t give any merit aid. That can be a real eye-opener for them. You can find that list of about two dozen schools in the Bonus Material section too. I also have a list of schools that say they meet 100% of need. That’s in the same section.

      Lynn O.

  36. Hi. I’m Kristen Miller from Portland, Oregon. I have recently started my business as a college consultant, and I’m just finishing up my Independent Educational Consultant certificate program through UC Irvine. I got started helping first generation and low income students through the college process a few years ago at a local high school as an ASPIRE mentor.The process of helping students find opportunities they never thought possible was extremely rewarding.

    My biggest challenge working with families (and what I hope to learn how to do in this class) is helping them find great colleges (with high 4-year grad rates, research and internship opportunities) at a good price, and to sell colleges not on the “brand name” list.

    1. Hi Kristen,

      Welcome to the class! There have been quite a few IECs, who have taken the UC Irvine program, as well as mine!

      When you are dealing with affluent parents, one of the biggest challenges as you and many other consultants are aware is to get families to look beyond the most elite schools. There are wonderful schools in this country that provide a good education with good grad rates.

      I am a firm believer that it’s not where you go to school that is so important, but what you do at whatever school you end up at. I wrote a blog post last year about a Gallup-Purdue survey that illustrates this quite dramatically. In the blog post, I use my own daughter’s experience at a school hardly anyone had heard of. Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  37. Good Afternoon,

    I am Toni Marie O’Daniel, and Independent Educational Consultant from Rosemount, MN. I also work full time at the Hmong College Prep Academy in Saint Paul, MN.

    I worked at two private schools for 15 years as an assistant to the college counselors. Many of the counselors mentored me and finally I decided to get my certificate from UCLA in 2010. I them did my practicum with Sue Luse from College Experts in Eagan, MN. After that was done, I started my own business as well as working with my own students on a very limited basis. I also stayed on as an associate for Sue Luse.

    I was working at Saint Thomas Academy until May of this year as the assistant in the college office and had my job eliminated due to cost cuts. I them got the new job as College and Scholarship Manager at the Hmong College Prep Academy. I have been here for just over a week now and I am going to enjoy it but definitely need to know more about the financial aid section as well as finding scholarships for both my top students and mu underrepresented first generation students. I am looking forward to listening and reading all of the great posts from everyone in the class.

    1. Hi Toni Marie,

      Welcome to the class! I am sorry that your job was eliminated , but that’s great that you got a job working with the Hmong.

      You’re learn a lot in the course lessons that would help disadvantaged students, as well as those who have more resources.

      Here are a couple of things that I wanted to pass along now:

      When working with the Hmong, it is important that they file the FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE if applicable and do so as soon as they can.

      At some schools, the federal grant called FSEOG can run out very quickly. This grant, which can be for up to $4,000, is geared to high-need Pell Grant students. At some schools, this money can run out a day or two after Jan. 1 when the FAFSA is first available! I’d ask individual schools about how quickly families need to file the FAFSA form to qualify for this supplemental grant.

      I’d also read the class lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities. Within the lesson there is a video that includes some promising ideas!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  38. HI Lynn,
    This is Caprice Vida from Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve been in the college niche as a college coach for the past 2 years.
    My business partner and I started College Prep Hawaii as passionate parents of high school students that desperately believed in starting the process earlier so that one of the most expensive and biggest decisions in our child’s life was made with a foundational understanding of the college process. Both our kids attended the top two private schools in Hawaii where one year tuition was $20k plus, even at that, with all the services available at a private school, it still wasn’t sufficient, nor early enough. So, we both enrolled in the UCLA college counseling courses and the rest is history. We still work at our full time corporate jobs but are hoping to leave and pursue this full time in the near future. We have a very different approach than our peer IEC’s. Given the economics in Hawaii we do our consultations via workshops so that we can bring the price down so it’s affordable. Biggest challenges — Getting the word out on “who we are” and getting folks to sign up for our workshops.
    My expectations of this class are not high, just excited to learn more of what you’re willing to teach.
    I enjoy listening to your webinars, love your insight on things, it makes the light bulb go “on” in my head.

    Can you share a little about the struggles you went through as you started the business. How did you start to build your base and reputation? Believe me, there are days where I want to give it all up but when I get into the classroom and teach, the hardships all go away!

    Any advice you’d like to share is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Caprice!

      Welcome to the class. I love having someone from Hawaii in the course!

      Marketing is always a challenge. I actually started my website (The College Solution) in 2008 before the first edition of my book came out. I started blogging and gradually grew an audience. Authors, including myself, don’t make money on books, but it does give you a platform. I used to blog four times a week, but now it’s dropped to once a week because I am too busy.

      There are lots of experts out there that can help explain how to draw people to your website. I’m assuming you have a website because that’s important. It’s also important to have a newsletter and there are ways to get people to sign up for the newsletter. Giving people some kind of bonus is very helpful. You also want an attractive welcome gate on your website with the offer of something free when signing up.

      I am taking a class right now from a woman named Amy Porterfield who is expert on marketing for small business like myself and you who have information products to sell whether it’s an online course or workshops or hourly consulting. Her classes are more expensive than my courses, but she gives a way a lot for free with her weekly podcasts which come with transcripts and a free download. Here is the link to her website:

      Another guy who has a lot of advice about driving people to your blog is Jon Morrow. Here is his link:

      You might also want to think about products you could sell online. Such as a mini online course on attending college in Hawaii that discusses the institutions, the aid and merit aid available, living in Hawaii etc. That way you could expand beyond the folks who already live there. I also find that webinars can be helpful in getting people to sign up for courses. When participants see what you know, people are more inclined to want to pay for more.

      Anyway, those are some thoughts.

      Lynn O.


  39. Hi, I have been volunteering with low-income first generation kids in my town for the past 3 years here in Santa Barbara. They need to be concerned with financial aid, but they all have need

    I am currently working on building my practice with middle/upper income clients (to fund my volunteer work 🙂 ) — these clients will certainly benefit from what I learn from this class

    One big question I have is: I am in CA, so people who are concerned about costs, would rather stay in the public system here — that said, obviously a private school with a great merit aid package can be cheaper than a UC with no aid — what kind of advice do you have for that situation, and what if the student is an average student, not a super star — why not just advise on the CSU or City College system

    I hope to become far more financially saavy in regards to college, and have a deeper understanding of the FAFSA, and CS profiles and what kind of advice I might be able to offer parents of Jr. High kids, to prepare as the cost of college becomes a reality

    Looking forward to learning with everyone!

    1. Hi Betsy,

      Welcome to the class! That is awesome that you are working with low-income, first gen students in Santa Barbara. There are other people, probably some in this class, who are working with affluent clients who can help subsidize their pro bono work.

      People in California still largely believe that a state school here will be cheaper than a private school or even some state universities elsewhere. That is definitely not always the case. If a family doesn’t qualify for a Cal Grant, which covers the tuition/fees for a Cal State or UC, then the odds of paying full price at a state school in CA are extremely high. State schools here give out very little merit aid.

      Many more students should be throwing a wider net and looking beyond the CA state schools which are overcrowded and routinely educate students in large lecture halls.

      Also, the state schools won’t be cheaper when students can’t graduate in four years! The four-year grad rates at most Cal State schools is 15% or below. That’s dreadful! Some UC’s have mediocre grads, but not as bad as the Cal States.

      Keep in mind that average students will get awards at most private colleges. Nearly 89% of freshmen attending private colleges and universities get tuition discounts and the average discount is 53%. It’s not just “A” students who get money since it’s a buyers market at the vast majority of colleges and universities.

      Lynn O.

  40. Hi Lynn – Sorry to be late to the party! My name is J.T. (although my name is Janet, unless I am in trouble, people call me J.T.) and I live in Newport Beach, CA. A few lifetimes ago I was an elementary school teacher, then stayed home to raise my 3 kids.

    My first 2 kids were recruited athletes who both attended Stanford. I got into college counseling unintentionally, by researching the process for my 3rd child, whom I knew would not be a recruit, but still had hopes for Stanford. I discovered a whole new world in that UCLA program, loved it, and hung my IEC shingle 6 years ago.

    The only part of the UCLA program that I didn’t enjoy was the financial aid class! I didn’t realize just how significant an issue it was, so I skated through it. For my first few years in practice, financial aid wasn’t an issue, but recently it has become one. Initially, the prevailing attitude among clients’ parents was “Please help get my kid into the best (most prestigious) school!” but now it has morphed into “Help me find a school where my child can thrive and I won’t go broke!” I think my early batch of clients was hitching onto me, assuming that I “got” my own 2 kids into Stanford, so I had “the secret.” Ha! Now my clients are more grounded. And so am I.

    When my third child was graduating from high school (2 years ago), I became familiar with some select merit scholarships, but not familiar enough. I bought a couple of your books, Lynn, but they don’t read themselves! So I am getting disciplined now, and paying for the course, in order to help my clients. Your class has been highly recommended to me by a friend who took it last year, and I know she wouldn’t lie.

    I’m really looking forward to gaining some insights. Some of my current parents are feeling very stressed and anxious about paying for college.

    1. Hi J.T.,

      You are definitely not late to the party! This is only the first day of the class and most people in the class haven’t made it this far yet!

      The reason why you see so many responses during the first day of the class is because I kept the old comments on this site from two previous classes because I thought they might be helpful!

      That’s interesting how the attitude of your clients has changed. I wonder if this is a definite trend among families who are now focusing on the price tag rather than just looking for prestige. That would certainly be a healthy development!

      I am glad the course was recommended to you! I hope you find it well worth your time!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  41. Hi, I’m Karen and I’m an independent college counselor in Los Angeles. I volunteer as Career & College Counselor at the LifeWorks youth program, which services LGBTQ youth aged 13-24 in the LA metro area. My clients come from all backgrounds – rich and poor, supportive families and not-so-supportive. Paying for college is probably the #1 concern for the young people I work with. Many are cut off from their parents and can barely keep themselves off the streets.

    Sadly, I don’t get to meet with many parents. So I often have to be able to make complex information digestible for young people who often have no experience with loans, budgets and other financial topics.

    The upside of working with these young people is it is extremely gratifying. They are so appreciative of any help and guidance I can give them. They are often amazed that anyone is listening to their concerns and dreams, and taking them seriously.

    I have also begun volunteering with the Women in Transition program, which serves LA-area women seeking to enter the job force after years of welfare and sometimes incarceration. I lead workshops on career assessments, resumes and the job search process, and also provide guidance for those wishing to enroll in vocational training or academic programs. Financial aid is, of course, of great interest to these women as well.

  42. My name is Laura Whitesel and I’m an IEC in Chapel Hill, NC. I just completed the UCLA Certificate Program this Spring and attended the IECA conference in Baltimore. So far, I have no paying clients. I have been “practicing” on my practicum students. I am taking this class so that I can continue to develop professionally and be of as much use to those I work with.

    1. Hi Laura,

      Welcome to the class. I am biased, but I think you came to the right place. It’s a very smart move to start your practice incorporating the academic side and the financial side when advising families. Pretty soon you’ll be getting real clients!

      Lynn O.

  43. Hi, I’m Jean and I reside in California I have been in this industry for almost 5 years. I work as an Independent Consultant, a high school counselor at a small private school in Oakland, and as an advisor for a non-profit called Students Rising Above. My goal is to become more comfortable with the financial aid side of college advising and use it to make myself more marketable and valuable to clients.

    1. Welcome Jean. Wow. You wear a lot of hats. I aim to help you meet your goals of becoming knowledgeable about the financial side of college, becoming more valuable to your families and gaining a competitive edge among consultants!

      Lynn O.

  44. Hello everyone, my name is Jan Merchant, and I look forward to working with you all in this program. Last year I completed the UCSD program in College Counseling. My practice is centered in Asia, currently Singapore and Myanmar, but I will be shifting at the end of the year to Sri Lanka and India. Right now, most of my work is focused on counseling foreign students who are seeking to enroll in US universities, but I hope to use the information from this course to better serve US students living overseas that wish to return back to the US for college.

    1. Hi Jan,

      Welcome to the class! You are the second person located in India who has taken my class! You will find information that is relevant to foreign students and, of course, even more for American students.

      Here is one suggestion. Click on the For International Students link when you call up any college’s profile on the College Board. You’ll find out various things about a school’s international program, as well as how many students received awards and what the total amount was. As an example, here is the International Student link for Amherst:

      Lynn O.

  45. I live in Nevada City CA. I worked as a high school guidance counselor for twenty years. I have been an independent counselor for four.

  46. Hello everyone,

    I’m an independent financial advisor in Sacramento, CA and I’m apalled at what students today have to go through to get a college education. I’m anxious to learn about how to reduce tuition costs so that more families don’t burden themselves with excessive student loans. Gone are the days when a kid could work him or herself through college! I applaud Lynn for giving us the tools to make the best of a bad situation!


    1. Hi Viola,

      I am always happy to see financial advisors in this class!

      The financial industry shamefully only gives people advice about saving for college, but is silent on how families are supposed to pay for college. The industry provides no guidance on how families are supposed to stretch whatever they have managed to save for college as far as possible.

      A simple thing you can do for your California families is to explain if they will qualify for the Cal Grant, which is the major source of aid in this state. The Cal Grant covers tuition and fees for a Cal State or UC or around $8,000 for a private college in CA. If families don’t qualify for the Cal Grant, it’s extremely likely that they will pay full price for a state school in California. So these families need to compare what it would cost to attend a U. of California or Cal State campus full price vs. going to a state school elsewhere or a private school.

      Here is the link to the income ceilings to qualify for the Cal Grant:

      There is also a nonretirement asset limit too. It’s currently $67,600 for a dependent child. In other words, even if the family met the income limit for the Cal Grant, they would still be disqualified if they had more than that in the bank.

      Just this little bit of information can be very helpful to families!

      Lynn O.

  47. Hello Lynn,

    My name is Christopher Parsons and I am an Independent Educational Consultant in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I have been in education for the better part of 15 years at both the high school and college level, but I only launched my company about four years ago. As an English teacher in college and high school, I was continually disturbed by how ill-prepared students were when it came to applying to college; and, I just couldn’t sit by and watch any more students make the same mistakes anymore. I firmly believe that “knowledge is power,” and I hope to attain as much knowledge as I can over the coming weeks about the financial side of the college application process. My parents are kept up at night worrying about how they are going to afford to send their children to the colleges on their wish list. My goal is to leave this course with a better understanding of the things students and parents need to do to increase the likelihood of receiving a more favorable financial aid packet from the schools on their list; and, how to formulate a college wish list that increases the odds of this as well. I am looking forward to gleaning all that I can from you and the professionals in this course.

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Welcome to the class. I have fond memories of Myrtle Beach. The first time I ever saw the ocean was in Myrtle Beach. I had just graduated from 8th grade and it was a present. I remember climbing up a sand dune and being super excited when I saw the water!

      Thanks for sharing how you got into this field. It can be so frustrating when you see students making the same old, same old mistakes and their parents having no idea how to evaluate schools financially.

      Just this morning, I got an email from a mom, who realizes the mistakes her son made in the admission process and she was asking about transfer options. Her son is very bright and looked like a wonderful candidate for elite schools, but all those schools rejected him and he’s now at a state university that he doesn’t like. That happens all to frequently!

      I promise you’ll learn a lot in this class!

      Lynn O.

  48. Hi Lynn,
    I’m the college counselor for the Kirby School in Santa Cruz. I missed you when you gave your talk here two years ago. Valerie is a close friend, so I’m thrilled you spent some time with her. She’s amazing. I’m really looking forward to this class. She raved about your expertise. Thank you for doing this.

    1. Hi Lis,

      Welcome to the class! That was quite a turnout at the Santa Cruz event – the organizers did a great job. I think the talk was probably 4 years ago! One thing that I distinctly remember about the evening was this: When I asked the audience in this college town how many knew the difference between a college and a university, less than a dozen out of hundreds raised their hand.

      Colleges are much more likely to give discounts than universities. So not only are there real differences in the educational experience, but also often times in the price! Here is a link to a post I wrote about this phenomenon:

      Lynn O.

  49. Hello, my name is Amy Feins and I am from Naples, Florida where I am the Director of College Counseling at a small private k-12 school as well as an independent consultant for my company that I founded in 2007. I started in college admissions back in the 80’s (yikes) and then took a 15 year break while raising 4 kids and running a medical billing company with my husband in New Hampshire. We sold the company and relocated to sunny Florida in 2006. I earned my certificate in college counseling from UCLA in 2008 and added a test prep component to my company in 2012. Most of my students/families are in that tough “middle spot” where they make too much to qualify easily for aid but not enough to write a check, so I am hoping that Lynn will help me help them to be much more informed about the possibilities that are out there. I went through the financial aid process (x2!) last year with my twins and was shocked at how much the packages varied and how different the financial aid office policies were at each institution. I am on a mission to try and sort this all out!

    1. Welcome to the class Amy! I am glad to have someone in Florida taking the class.

      Is it a hard sell to have Floridians look beyond their state universities because of the price? Can you tell me anything about Florida’s aid program? It’s my impression that it’s primarily merit based rather than dispensed heavily on need like it is for many states outside the South. I’d love to learn more!

      Where did your twins end up? And can you give me some examples of widely different aid packages that they received?

      Lynn O.

  50. Hello, all! I am Anne Holmdahl, and I am an IEC in the Seattle area. I got the admissions “bug” as a volunteer for the Stanford admissions office 18 years ago, and have been in private practice for about 3 years – ever since the “empty nest” was looming! I have two sons in college and about 100 clients, so I am a busy girl.
    I have assiduously avoided dealing with the intricate details of financial aid. I get the basics and help families understand the concepts of merit vs. need-based aid, etc., but I am looking forward to gaining a more in-depth understanding.

    1. Welcome Anne!

      Wow! I can’t believe you have 100 clients! I can’t imagine how you manage to handle such a case load! And I bet a lot of IECs would love to know how you attracted so many families!

      I think you are smart to be taking this class. You will learn a lot about the financial side of college without getting deep into the weeds. In your practice, you can do some simple things such as having your families use an EFC calculator and net price calculators that can make a huge difference!

      Lynn O.

  51. Hi there,

    My name is Stephanie Hancock and I live in Los Angeles, CA. I am a financial planner who runs a fee-based financial planning practice and a college financial aid consulting practice. I’ve been a planner since 1997. I focus on what I call late-stage college funding and retirement planning. I think that I have a very wonkish personality is what drew me to the details of the financial aid and social security systems. I help parents figure out how much they can afford to pay for college and how to pay for it. That usually means a combination of college selection strategies, financial aid, tax strategies and optimum use of existing and future resources. Separately, I help families with the financial aid process. I have found that many families want this help– they either don’t have time or they don’t understand their numbers and what they have. I don’t do ANY college counseling with the student, although I sometimes talk them about what the parents can afford, if I am asked.

    My biggest challenge in dealing with families is their unwillingness to look at what is actually affordable, their strong bias toward “name brand” colleges and the procrastination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a parent say that they have enough for the first year and they’ll work it out the rest of it later.

    I’m participating in this class because I know that Lynn always as lot of useful information. If I learn one new thing that can help me help families, it’s worth it. I also would like to know more than I know about athletic scholarships. And finally, any ammunition for getting parents looking at colleges other than the top 50 ranked would be really helpful.

    1. Welcome to the class Stephanie!

      I think the problem you encounter with families only wanting those top 50 schools (and primarily research universities) is a huge problem. Many of these schools give little merit aid (assuming the clients are high-income) because there are plenty of wealthy parents who are willing to pay full price.

      I think you would find it helpful to read my new guide that I’ve got posted in the Bonus Material module entitled, The Ultimate College List Builder. I discuss this phenomenon and you’ll see the large number of students who pay full price at the most highly sought after schools. To make it easier for you, here is the link to the guide:

      Lynn O.

  52. My name is Poppy Peristeras and my students call me Miss Poppy, so please do so as well. I have been in school counseling for many years and recently got laid off from my position as a school counselor in a private Catholic high school/Academy. I live in Rhode Island!
    I think one of the most important areas for me to grow in , is in doing a more efficient job in helping students and families to choose appropriately , the choice of college based on their individual needs and financial situation…I think this course will sharpen my skills and bring into light , ideas and tips that I never considered. It will be a nice refresher and learning new things in the whole process!

    1. Hi Miss Poppy! What a fun name. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some celebrity – always searching for unique names – names their daughter Poppy!

      I am sure you will learn a tremendous amount in this class on how your families can better afford college. At least that’s my No. 1 goal!

      Lynn O.

  53. Hi. My name is Jennifer Dryfoos. I am the college counselor at Desert Academy in Santa Fe, NM (my 19th year as a college counselor in both New Mexico and New York), as well as an independent consultant for the past five or six years. I do presentations on financial aid regularly – based mainly on The College Solution. I became inspired after a HECA presentation in New Jersey a few years ago.

    1. Welcome to the class Jennifer!

      It’s great to have someone from Santa Fe, NM, in the course. I’ll never forget the first and only time I visited Santa Fe. I was living in Kansas City and my boyfriend (now husband of 30 years) decided to drive to Santa Fe to visit his college friend. I was stunned how different Santa Fe looked compared to the Midwest. The food, the culture, the look and feel of the place. It was quite a pleasant jolt!

      I am so glad you got inspired to delve into the financial side of college years ago. Was that my HECA presentation in New Jersey? I gave a talk back in 2011 or 2012.

      Lynn O.

    2. Jennifer,
      I lived in Santa Fe for 5 years, in the mid-90s, where I was an arts journalist. I don’t remember Desert Academy. Is that the arts charter school? Miss Santa Fe. It’s lovely there.

  54. Miguel A. Palma, CPA, PFS, CGMA Dublin, CA, Financial Advisor and CPA since 1998, mainly focusing on funding. Goal: To increase the breadth of my knowledge about the entire college process, not just funding. Creating Awareness of the link between retirement planning and college planning.

    As a young immigrant, Miguel arrived in the U.S. from Nicaragua at the tender age of 11. An astute child, he quickly noted that the pursuit of higher education would be the ticket to his accomplishment. Despite the many obstacles Miguel faced as an adolescent, he did what was required to attain his degree and professional credentials, often working multiple jobs and attending college in the evenings and on weekends.

    Following graduation and passing of the CPA examination Miguel went to work with such well-known national accounting firms as Price Waterhouse and Deloitte & Touche. He also worked with local giant Levi Strauss as one of their top financial team members. The experience Miguel gained during those years became part of his strategy for success in advising his clients today. He employs similar strategies normally used by corporate American and scales them to service the independent, small and medium size company.

  55. Hello Everyone! I am the College and Guidance Counselor at a small, Christian high school in the Central Valley of California. I earned my certificate through UCLA’s College Counseling program. I loved each of the classes and the education I received has enhanced my opportunity to counsel my students regarding their college goals.

    I am the only counselor at our high school and we have about 270 students in 9-12th grades. My load is manageable compared to many, but I kinda do everything…registrar, test coordination, career counseling, and academic & college counseling. What I appreciate about this is that I understand all aspects of high school and college prep, so it does allow me to help students “connect the dots” better during their college planning.

    The one thing lacking in my experience has been a thorough, working understanding of financial aid and where to help my students find it. Which is why I am so thankful to be in this class. I have appreciated the webinars and reading information posted on the Facebook page as well. I have already learned so much and look forward to the rest of our class with Lynn!

  56. Hi everyone,
    I’m Britney from a suburb of Portland, OR. I earned my certificate in College Counseling from UCLA at the end of 2012 and started my business – More Than State and Ivy in 2013. Much to my husband’s dismay, I am growing my “business” through word of mouth and have yet to hit the big time but I do get bigger every year. Before college counseling, I was an elementary school teacher and then an admission associate at a small boarding and day school in Maryland. That was where I got my college counseling feet wet – reading hundreds of personal statements and listening to pros and cons lists of hundreds of colleges while kids decided where to go. I read Lynn’s book and took her class for parents and now I am taking this one. I obviously can’t get enough of her expertise and am thrilled to be learning with all of you.

    1. Hi Britney,

      Welcome to the class!

      In this course, you will find a lot of consultants who have taken one of the University of California college credentialing courses. I am glad that you are continuing your education in this fascinating field. That’s great experience – reading personal statements and listening to students discuss their college choices. That is one of the biggest challenges of this profession – learning about different schools with an eye to what might be best for your families.

      Lynn O.

  57. Hello all,

    I am Susan Reilly and I am the college counselor at a small private school outside of Atlanta, GA. I discovered Lynn’s blog when I was trying to find information on the benefits of liberal arts colleges vs. research universities, and I came across several wonderfully written articles about the merits of such schools. I am the product of a liberal arts education myself (Connecticut College) and so are all three of my adult children. It is a difficult task to sell the LA education when you live in the south, so the more I know, the more confident I can be when speaking of the opportunities available to students who are considering the small school experience. I have read The College Solution – fabulous book – and decided I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take this course.

    I would also be interested in hearing from those of you who have a certificate in college planning if you think it is a worthwhile investment! I am considering the online class at UC Riverside.


    1. Hi Susan,

      The South is certainly a hot bed of state schools, but it certainly isn’t the only part of the country where liberal arts colleges are ignored. I was having lunch today with a friend, who is a college consultant in San Diego, and she says when she asks audiences (usually affluent families) if they have heard of Williams Colleges (her alma mater) it’s rare than anyone has. Liberal arts colleges are off the radar of nearly everyone. It is SO worth it, however, to educate students and theirs parents about the benefits of these schools. But it’s definitely a hard sell!

      If you scroll through all these comments — and it includes comments from professionals in my fall class — I believe you will find at least one or two people who have taken the UC Riverside course. If you need help reaching out to them — if they were in the previous class – just let me know.

      Lynn O.

  58. Hi Lynn and fellow classmates,
    Sorry for the late posting. My name is Stacy Colwell. I live in Marin County, just outside of San Francisco. I am in the final stages of finishing up the UC Berkeley certificate in career and college planning. Currently, I am doing an internship at the local community college in the career and transfer center as well as teaching elementary school. I have been interested in the college planning field for a long time. I completed most of the UCLA certificate program about 9 years ago, but then, due to some extenuating circumstances, I needed to focus my time back on teaching full time. While my interest in the field has spanned a long time, I am just at the beginning of applying what I have learned. I am really looking forward to this class. I read your book and found it full of useful information. I am really hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how to evaluate colleges in terms of generosity and how to effectively utilize that information when helping students develop college lists.

    1. HI Stacy,

      Welcome to the class. You are definitely not the last person to introduce yourself in this course!

      Congratulations on nearing the completion of your UC Berkeley certificate! I am positive that you will learn a lot in this course about the financial side of college. Even though you live in a wealthy community, I am positive that many of your clients are going to be keenly interested in finding ways to cut their college cost. In my course for parents, I’d say the majority of them are affluent families who are stunned by the price tags of the most prestigious schools. They are unprepared for the prices and this is especially so for parents who will be sending more than one child to college.

      You’ll find a link below to one of my blog posts and the 90 or so comments that accompany that pretty much sums up the kind of mindsets that affluent families have as they try to afford college.

      Lynn O.

  59. Hello fellow classmates and Lynn,

    I am fashionably late to post my introduction post… I am from Texas and I am enjoying the cool winter weather. I am still an Educational Consultant in training
    🙂 I am currently working towards my Independent Educational Consulting certificate with the UCI program. The reason for taking this class is twofold; I am active in my home school community and realized there is a void for home school families in relation to high school and college planning. I currently work with home school families to create college prep course projections and conduct workshops on college planning. I also have a son who will graduate from high school early and will be applying to college soon.

    Since several home school students in my community will graduate with numerous college credits through CLEP and dual credit, I hope to be able to help the students effectively plan for college and learn how entering college with several credits may effect transfer students, freshman admission and financial aid. It has also been brought to my attention that several home school families fear that they cannot afford college because they have large families. I anticipate to bring hope to those who may not know that college can be affordable with planning and knowledge.

    I have spent the last three years attending conferences, watching webinars and reading anything that can get my hands on relating to college planning. I look forward to learning as much as possible from Lynn and my fellow classmates. I am sure the knowledge gained will bless many!

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Welcome to the course! I’ve had quite a few people in this course also take the U. of California, Irvine program for the independent educational consulting certificate.

      I can assure you that students who aren’t home schooled are equally mystified about the college process and are rarely receiving truly meaningful advice from high school counselors about how to make college more affordable.

      It is a challenge when you have large families. As you’ll learn in one of the lessons regarding Expected Family Contributions, the more siblings who are enrolled in college at one time, the lower their EFC is. With two in school, the EFC for each student drops by 50% with the FAFSA formula and 40% with the PROFILE formula. With three in college at one time, the federal EFC drops by 60% and the PROFILE EFC drops by 55%.

      Being an excellent student can help get a teenager into a school with excellent financial aid. At some schools, previous college credits can get you through faster which can obviously save money.

      Lynn O.

  60. Hello, Lynn (and fellow classmates)!

    I’m a little late in introducing myself, but I am really excited to be a part of the class. I live in Napa, California and have just started my 3rd year of business as an independent college and career planning consultant. I went through the UCBerkeley Program in College Admissions and Career Planning from Jan 2013-June 2014 and absolutely loved it. Prior to that, I was a teacher/counselor at a local high school for eight years (until my position was eliminated due to budget constraints). Somewhere along the line, a friend of mine recommended your book, The College Solution, and I was excited by all that I learned from it. Then, last June, at the WACAC annual conference, I attended your financial aid workshop and again, got incredibly jazzed and motivated to learn more. I took a shorter version of your online class last summer. And, I’m back again because I really want to become well-versed in all that is considered “financial aid”.
    I love working with teenagers and helping them find their way through the somewhat confusing and overwhelming process of figuring out next steps after high school. And, I am getting accustomed to working with the parents of teenagers, too, and finding fulfillment in helping both students and parents navigate the college planning process. I’m recognizing how much financial information parents and families need and how much anxiety there is around this whole issue. I want to help students and parents become more knowledgeable and feel more empowered and confident as they determine what is and what isn’t financially possible college-wise. Overall, my goal is similar to other college counselors: I want to help find the best college fit for each student academically, socially, and financially.
    Thank you for this great opportunity, Lynn.

    1. Hi Heidi,

      I am glad you joined the class! There are quite a few people taking this course who are coming back for the second and even third time! I applaud you for devoting so much energy to being the most valuable resource you can be for your families!

      I had a lot of positive feedback from the WACAC presentation last year. Unfortunately, the conference committee decided to reject my presentation proposal for the upcoming super ACAC conference in Reno. The folks who run WACAC apparently don’t like my candidness and are appalled that I name specific schools in my presentations that can embarrass these institutions. What I find appalling is being more concerned about protecting colleges (and particularly the stingy ones) rather than the families who need good solid advice. The information on how to make college more affordable needs to be widespread for families and the professionals who help them! Silencing people is not the way to go!

      Lynn O.

  61. Hello Lynn and classmates,
    I’m late introducing myself, but fortunately I have been on top of keeping up with this class!. I am a 3rd year practicing IEC in Knoxville, TN and my company is Collegiate Blueprint Consulting. I have been fortunate in that I had over 25 clients this last year and I truly love working with teens and their families. Once the August-December “busy season” wound down, I started to turn my attention to both creating greater efficiencies across the board in my practice, and to learning everything I can about all things college finance. While I feel fairly knowledeable in what I consider to be my somewhat more than superficial grasp of financial aid, I want to really understand the nuts and bolts so that I am able to really feel confident guiding my families through the process. I love the challenge of the learning curve!

    1. Hi Laurie,

      Welcome to the class. It’s nice to have someone from Tennessee in the class. I lived in Memphis for the first three years out of journalism school working for the afternoon newspaper. Being from St. Louis, I was disoriented because I was living on the other side of the Mississippi River. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it was.

      Congratulations for attracting such a large number of clients. You are doing something that I need to do – creating greater efficiencies in what I do.

      I think you will learn a great deal more about the financial side of college in this class. At least I hope you do!

      Lynn O.

  62. Hello everyone. My name is Terry Maciulewicz and I’m an educational consultant now based in Las Vegas. I have taken Lynn’s courses before and love them because I always learn something new. Originally from Connecticut, my ‘other’ life was is in Higher Education where I worked at several universities in the northeast and mid-Atlantic area. I have been an independent for 3+ years and work with clients both locally and remotely. A number of my clients hale from the Chicago area, where I lived for the past 10 years. With two teenage sons getting ready to embark on the college search and selection process, this class serves a double purpose, both personally and professionally.

    1. Welcome to the class again Terry!

      I bet there are other people in the class who do some counseling remotely. I am curious if there are any particular challenges to counseling teenagers from a distance?

      I’m also curious what schools you worked at when you worked on the college side. Were you in admissions?

      I hope this course will help now that you have your own children to shuttle through the college-admission process!

      Lynn O.

  63. Hello everyone. My name is Terry Maciulewicz and I’m an educational consultant now based in Las Vegas. I have taken Lynn’s courses before and love them because I always learn something new. Originally from Connecticut, my ‘other’ life was is in Higher Education where I worked at several universities in the northeast and mid-Atlantic area. I have been an independent for 3+ years and work with clients both locally and remotely. A number of my clients hale from the Chicago area, where I lived for the past 10 years. With two teenage sons getting ready to embark on the college search and selection process, this class serves a double purpose for me.

  64. Hello to everyone from Hood River, Oregon. In December I completed my College Admissions Counseling certificate through UCLA. I have just started a private practice in admissions consulting and have 15 client families all through word of mouth. I have been an avid reader of Lynn’s books and follower of her blog so it made perfect sense to me to expand upon what I learned in the financial aid class within the CAC program.
    I graduated from Boston College back in the dark ages with a degree in psychology—which some would say– I never used. I have been a full time mom and step-mom for the past 24 years. (Six kids – Brady Bunch Style- three of his and three of mine –19-28 years old. Youngest is a freshman at U of Oregon. All six kids are graduates/almost graduates of public universities including three U of Oregon, one Oregon State, one Montana State, and one U of Utah. We also have one in graduate school at Portland State pursuing a masters in social work).
    I like to think of myself as a professional volunteer. As my oldest stepson started high school I began to research the college admissions process, and 11 years ago I began mentoring students as they pursue their college plans. Our one regional high school, in rural Hood River, Oregon, runs a program called ASPIRE (Access to Student Programs In Reach of Everyone). The program is administered through the Oregon Student Access Commission (OSAC). It matches adult volunteer mentors with students in order to assist them in their goals to attend college. We help students with all aspects of the admission process including researching schools and programs of study, financial aid, essay writing, etc.
    I have found my passion. I have continued as a volunteer mentor for the past 11 years and have felt especially gratified by the ability to assist students who come from an underrepresented demographic group. Our small town has a population that is approximately thirty percent Hispanic. Hood River is a farming community and a large number of these folks are migrant workers. Almost all of them are from families who have not been able to attain a college education. Having said that, it is a joy to witness their pride when these families are able to see their own children having the opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education.
    I had been at this for a few years when I noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the students who came to me for assistance were not qualified to start off at a four-year college. These kids were not getting the guidance they needed at an earlier age. I conceptualized and implemented a program at our middle school called “College Knowledge.” We pair adult mentors and high school student-volunteers with middle school students to emphasize the need to stay in school and to continue their education beyond high school. We coach them on how to value their grades, develop self-awareness, plan their high school curriculum wisely and understand the importance of extra curricular activities.
    A few years ago the guidance counselors at our high school began encouraging me to start a private practice in college counseling. In our community there is a growing number of people requesting this type of service and currently they have to go to Portland for this service. I’m sure my early success in private practice is due to the nature of our small town; everyone knows each other, so it’s been really easy to get the word out. I have since handed the middle school program over to the guidance counselors at our two middle schools, and I am continuing to volunteer my time at the high school to assist low income students with the process.
    The number one question I get from parents is “How are we going to afford this education?” So here I am hoping to help answer that question for my clients. My mission, like so many of us, is helping students find the best fit academically, socially and financially.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I continue to be amazed at the impressive backgrounds of the people enrolled in this class! It is such important work to help first-gen students navigate the college process, and just as importantly, making sure students have the academic prowess to succeed in college. Both are huge tasks.

      It speaks volumes about you that you have so many families who signed up for your services after just getting started as a college consultant. Congratulations, by the way, for getting your college counseling credential from UCLA. I know it’s a lot of work because I took it in 2008-2009. That’s fascinating that the high school counselors urged you to start your practice. Often there is tension between educational consultants and high school counselors.

      I would love to know more about the experience your children had at the University of Utah and Montana State, which are WUE (Western Undergraduate Exchange) schools. I have recommended Utah to a friend who is a gifted dancer and she will be flying there in the next few days for an audition. Utah’s dance program is supposed to be on par with Julliard’s. I love finding great departments within schools that most students wouldn’t normally rarely consider.

      Lynn O.

    2. Hi Lynn,

      It wasn’t until I did my practicum last fall that I learned from other UCLA classmates that there could be tension between guidance counselors and those in private practice. Luckily I haven’t experienced this. Then again, I live in a small town with only one high school. I’ve know these guidance counselors for over 11 years and they know me. My kids are friends with their kids, we run into each other on the soccer field and ski slopes. Maybe that has aided in their confidence in me. Who knows. But so far, so good! It will be interesting if I get any out of district clients….we’ll see!

      As far as U of Utah and Montana State U: Yes, UU’s dance program is supposed to be outstanding. I too have heard it’s on par with Julliard’s. I hear it’s very rigorous and competitive. They have amazing studio and theatre spaces as well. My two sons who chose to go out of state did so because they are both competitive freestyle skiers (and I’ve gone gray!) Neither of them got the WUE. At both MSU and UU, the WUE is considered a merit scholarship. The schools both look at GPA and SAT/ACT results and pick the top 30-45 students.

      Unlike UU, MSU will give students extra chances to get more WUE money based upon retaking the SAT and increasing scores. (At least that’s what they did six years ago.) One of my son’s friends took the SAT 5 times and they finally gave him the WUE.

      Utah now makes the WUE consideration part of the application for admission. It used to be fairly hidden and you had to send an email to get info, so if you didn’t know about it, they weren’t supplying any information. So now it’s more up front but in talking to an admissions person just this past fall, they said they still only offer WUE to the top 30-40 students. It all depends upon the applicant pool for that particular year. For example, a friend of ours oldest son got the WUE (started school in 2011), her younger son with better GPA and SAT didn’t get it in 2013.

      One good thing about Utah is they make getting in-state residency very easy. Most kids that want to go that route can get classified as “in State” within the first year as long as they jump though all the necessary hoops. I didn’t have my son get residency (maybe a mistake but it would have messed up our taxes).


      1. Hi Elaine,

        Thanks for sharing about the Utah and Montana State’s WUE programs. How easy or difficult schools make it to get the discounted WUE rate, I expect will depend on how much they want and need outside students. That’s excellent to know about how easy it is to get instate tuition . I know Missouri is fairly easy to get in-state residency too.

        If my friend’s daughter ends up going to Utah, I’ll let her know. She will be flying to Utah soon for her dance audition.

        Lynn O.

        1. I’d love to hear her impressions! And I agree, if a state wants to attract outsiders, they make getting in-state residency easy. Colorado and California, as you know, are next to impossible to get residency. I often have kids tell me they’re going to move to Santa Barbara and get residency while at City College. I always tell them, “Not so fast, kiddo!” 😉

      2. Elaine,
        I’m a school counselor (at a private school in Santa Cruz) and I love independents. I welcome working with them. I know I’m an anomaly, which I find surprising. But I’m glad you’re not meeting with closed doors. It’s so silly.

  65. Hello Everyone! I’m currently the founding Head of School at a brand-new charter high school in Van Nuys, CA, called Valley International Prep-South (VIP). We opened our doors for the first time last August, and our mission/vision centers around proper four-year college fit and prep. I’m working around the clock, so it seems, to build our foundation as a competitive high school, and one of the truly scary things I’m doing is also wearing the Director of College Counseling hat. Thankfully, we don’t currently have a senior class, but will have one next year, perhaps as large as 100 kids…and it’s my goal to help each and every one of them find their ways to four-year colleges that make sense.

    I left a great job at Charter High School of the Arts (CHAMPS) in order to open my school. At CHAMPS, I was the (founding) Director of College Counseling there for six years, and have the time of my life in helping kids from all walks of life find their places in higher education. I won some national-level college counseling awards, and the one of which I’m the proudest was the Counselor That Changes Lives Award, being that philosophically, I’m a great believer in the CTCL schools.

    My husband and I have been married forever, and we have two grown children…our son Adam is an NYU-Tisch grad, and is now a songwriter/playwright/actor living in NYC. He is currently working with David Byrne on a musical project. Our daughter Claire is a graduate of MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), and is a painter as well as an art teacher at Harvard-Westlake School in L.A.

    I’ve been a blog follower/fan of Lynn’s for quite some time, and devoured “The College Solution.” I believe one can’t learn enough about the many aspects of financial aid, and I want to get better and better at helping families through the process. I’ve done a pretty good job thus far, but oftentimes I think I’ve just made a combination of lucky and educated guesses. It’s certainly been more of a gut-level decision-making endeavor, rather than one that’s always been based on solid facts. It’s time to move up to a higher level of professionalism.

    I’m happy to meet all of you!

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for joining the class when you have so much on your plate already! That’s incredibly ambitious to start a high school from scratch. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

      I am glad to hear that you like the CTCL – Colleges That Change Lives schools. Both of my children ended up attending schools that were profiled in Loren Pope’s book. I should mention that a lovely liberal arts colleges – Sweet Briar College – sadly announced today that it was closing at the end of the school year.

      I would love to know what kind of experience your daughter had at the Maryland Institute College of the Arts. Why did she pick that school and was she glad she did? I wish arts schools weren’t so outrageously expensive!

      In my class, you will definitely learn a great deal about how to evaluate the generosity of schools. Luckily, these strategies can be followed regardless of the income of a family.

      Lynn O.

      1. Hey Lynn,

        That’s very sad news about Sweet Briar College.

        My daughter had a tremendous time at MICA. She was a student at Harvard-Westlake School, so she sort of forged a trail, being that no one from the school had ever before chosen an art college other than RISD, and practically all other visual arts types seemed to end up at Wash U in St. Louis. Art colleges just weren’t a recognizable part of the school’s college-going culture, I’m sorry to say, but since she made that choice, others have followed. She was also admitted to NYU, The Museum School, CalArts, UC Santa Barbara (College of Creative Studies), Kenyon, Occidental, UC Davis and UC Irvine. We were positive she’d attend Kenyon or NYU. But as she moved through her senior year, it was evident that MICA offered the most serious undergrad painting program and had the atmosphere she craved, so that’s where she decided to go. And I have to say, the financial aid was quite competitive with her other schools…obviously, far better than NYU, and commensurate with Oxy and Kenyon. In fact, it turned out to be slightly cheaper to send her across the country to MICA in Baltimore than up the freeway to UCSB. MICA’s financial aid process was somewhat odd as well as arduous, but it payed off in the end. She had to put together a notebook that represented quite a dog-and-pony show, replete with extra essays, slides, etc. She received several merit scholarships that added up, awarded for academic achievement, test scores, talent, essays. I do suspect some of it had to do with the notion I had that MICA really wanted to catch a Harvard-Westlake fish…and it did indeed pay off for them. I will say that the MICA rep worked very hard to keep her on the line, displayed good old-fashioned admissions work.

        My daughter would tell you that her MICA experience was superb…and I’m sure she’d do it again. She’s been well trained in the fine arts, and is now a pretty special art teacher, with a good number of her current kids receiving Scholastic Awards in painting during the most recent round. I think she was well positioned through her work at MICA to someday attend one of the top grad programs in painting, which nowadays appear to be at Yale, Columba, UCLA and Indiana…at least, best as I can tell as it tends to be a moving target.

        I think art colleges are generally working very hard to dispel the common notion (because of negative history) that they deliver dead-end job opportunities. I’m interested in art colleges, believe they serve all kinds of students who learn outside of the box, and have sent quite a few kids to them over the last several years, so I’ve paid pretty close attention to their current features and benefits. Many of them have impressive career development offices.

        Thanks for your interest!

        1. Thanks Anne for sharing about your daughter’s great experience at MICA. I think she illustrates what an excellent experience it can be to travel down a different path for college. There just aren’t enough students who do what your daughter and my children did – go to schools that no one they know attend.

          In California, it’s not unusual for affluent families to pay about the same as they would pay at a UC for private schools elsewhere.

          Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  66. Hello everyone Im from Robbinsville, NJ, and my name is Vijay. I was originally in Lynn’s parent class but then decided to upgrade to the counselor class bc Ive truly started to love the concepts Lynn has shown us, and would like to eventually bring the same ‘hope’ to others as she has brought me regarding college options. Unlike most, if not all the folks in this forum, I don’t have a college advising or financial background of any sort, but Im a very concerned parent who has worried immensely about giving my kids an incredible education at an affordable price. Despite saving for my kids thru 529 programs, and being frugal, I found out top colleges are not very generous when it comes to financial support for folks who make over a certain threshold (and despite any debt you carry!!) via the Net Price Calculator. This dilemma led me to a path of discovery and inquiry in trying to find excellent schools for decent prices, and in the process has not only taught me how to find generous schools with excellent academic reputations but has also inspired me to help others who are in a similar situation. Im hoping to learn a ton in this class not only from Lynn but also from others in this class!!

    1. Hi Vijay,

      Thanks for jumping into the professional course. That is awfully generous of you to share your knowledge about this industry (and higher-ed is definitely an industry) with others. You are right that the most elite schools do not give merit money to high-income students. They don’t have to because there are plenty of wealthy parents who will pay any price if their child gets into an Ivy League school or other elite institution. Knowing that colleges always act in their own best interest should take a lot of the mystery out of the process.

      Luckily, there are many wonderful schools in this country that do provide merit awards to students. In fact, nearly 89% of the students who attend private colleges and universities get a tuition discount. And the average discount is 53%. Both these figures are at historic highs!

      Lynn O.

  67. I’m in Brooklyn, NY, with a second location up the Hudson in Rhinebeck. I’ve been an IEC for 7 years, after twenty years at The New York Times in systems and technology management. Also worked freelance as an editor before that. Got into it when my own kids were in almost in high school, as I’m from the UK and had zero idea how to approach the mysterious and opaque college search over here. ( In Britain, it’s very simple by comparison.) Started out getting experience with an afterschool non-profit working with first gen kids. That was a whole eye-opener too, and I’d like to do more of it when I can afford to. Took the UCLA certificate courses and am now taking one with UCIrvine on marketing for IECs. Highly recommend it!

    My challenges: mostly in the marketing area. Once I find the families or they find me, I have a range of families, mainly more affluent (some went to independent HS’s, some to highly selective publics), but quite a variety, which I like a lot. For ex, currently working with young woman whose family has EFC of 0. She has Lyme Disease and is at home trying to transfer nearer to home after one semester out west. I like the ethnic diversity of my clients. Also several with LD or emotional challenges. I do think that my clients are going to be more and more concerned about paying for college. Several come to me not thinking so much about that, but end up being REALLY happy that I’ve helped them find schools with good merit aid. Case Western Reserve is my fave at the moment in this area.

    I have 2 daughters. One is finishing up at Bard College. The other graduated from Columbia in NYC a year ago and then went for an accelerated BSN and now has a job as a nurse. She’s living at home but is off the family payroll — hurray! Both received partial need-based financial aid. Having a Schedule C business that made a loss on paper really helped in balancing out my husband’s salary and positioning us to receive grants as well as subsidized loans.

    My favorite course in the UCLA program was on Financial Aid. I must be weird as it was everyone else’s least favorite. That was 6 years ago, though, and I’m hugely interested in the paying for college aspect of consulting so eager to update my knowledge.

    Hello to all!


    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for sharing. I am always fascinated by the backgrounds of independent educational consultants before they ended up in this field.

      I’ve had quite a few consultants, who have taken the UC Irvine course, take mine as well. I think marketing is a big challenge for many consultants. One suggestion that I’d make is to create a blog. I think potential clients want to see what you are about and your thoughts on the college process beyond your marketing material. It was smart of you to start a Facebook page. You might also see if you could develop partnerships with test-prep firms and athletic recruiting outfits. You could offer to provide handouts or offer to give a presentation to their families that would spread the word about what you do. Have you thought about offering to write an occasional college piece for a community paper in your area that would include your bio and contact info?

      You mentioned that Case Western is a favorite of yours now. Is there something beyond the merit aid that you like? I am always eager to learn more about different schools. Also, I’d’ love to know how do you identify schools that are good picks for students with learning disabilities. Could you provide suggestions?

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi again, Lynn!
        I’ve thought about doing a blog, but have decided against it for now. I feel that my website covers what I’m about in depth — my holistic + excellence, empathy + international approach. It was quite a time commitment just getting that up and running, so for now I’m focussing on quick updates via FB and Twitter.

        I’m actively working on partnering with a test-prep firm — I think it’s going to work out well. Good idea about athletic recruiting partnering! Will look around.

        I’m getting a presentation together on Affordable College (sound familiar?!) that I hope to test run at my weekend location, at the library there, and perhaps also get coverage in the brand new local paper that appears to take self-generated write-ups at the moment. Then I’m thinking of bringing the presentation back to my main stomping ground, Brooklyn and Manhattan, and maybe even make it one that parents pay to attend.

        It’s great to be able to get instant feedback like this! Thanks!

        Case Western – nice size, that midsize that lots of students want. Mid-western but not in a cornfield (sorry, Grinnell!), easy plane ride from NYC. Both students were interested in engineering and both were minority kids. The first (Chinese-American, adopted) settled into the multicultural dorm. The second (African-American) visited a year later, loved the feeling of the place, has been accepted EA and probably will matriculate. I’ve visited there and liked what I saw, including the music conservatory side of things. Fingers crossed for them both. Early days yet.

        LD – will follow this up on FB later.


        1. Hi Rachel,

          Good luck on your presentation! I wanted to remind you that you and everyone else in this class have access to my 45-slide PowerPoint on financial aid. You can use the entire presentation or whatever slides that you’d like. You can slap your name on the slides and edit them in anyway you want.

          Here is the link to the slides:

          There are also handouts from this course that you can use on different topics. I just had all the handouts professionally designed so they look wonderful. Please check them out in the Bonus Material module in the classroom.

          Lynn O’Shaughnessy

          Lynn O.

    2. Rachel,
      Small world. I worked at the NYT years ago as an editorial assistant and roaming journalist. My first big job–life took me on a different path (but I am also still writing, albeit fiction now, when there’s a moment). Do you miss the place? I was there during the Abe Rosenthal regime–not the best of times. (many unhappy people), though I’d love being there now.

  68. I have been an IEC for 20 years specializing in college counseling. My route to this work was circuitous but here I am and happy to report a successful third career. I am originally from New York but have lived in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland.

    I am asked more and more for college bargains for my families and I need to better understand the nuances of financial and merit aid to help them. I hope to learn how to do this through this course particularly since I have followed Lynn for a long time and find her approach both rational and thorough.

    1. Hi Charlotte,

      Welcome to the class! I’ve found that the route to becoming an independent college consultant is almost always circuitous!

      I know you will learn a lot about the financial side of college. And thanks for your kind words!

      Lynn O.

  69. Hi Lynn…my name is Michael Baker. I’m a CFP® in Charlotte, NC. I have very little experience in helping parents plan for college; however, I was approached by several parents this year for help with college funding decisions. Because of that tremendous need, I want to begin offering more to my clients and future clients in this area.

    The biggest challenges I see people facing is funding college for their kids. Many people simply don’t have the funds b/c they never had a plan. This forces them to look at loans, etc. for their kids. I have seen several couples this year who co-signed student loans into the tens of thousands of dollars….which will ultimately be their responsibility to pay if their kids cannot. This isn’t a good recipe. So, I’m looking for help so that I can help parents today and parents in the future make wise financial decisions about college.

    I really don’t know what to expect from this course—I’m hoping for some solid takeaways that I can incorporate into my practice. The education, I’m hoping, will also be worthwhile.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I am always happy to have a CFP in the class. As I’ve mentioned previously in this introduction lesson, I think it’s critically important for financial advisors to learn the fundamentals about late-stage college planning.

      It is scary to see some of the loans that parents are cosigning for their children. Some of this is being done because parents don’t want to disappoint their children who want to attend their dream schools. They will pay the price later though if they borrow too much. And borrowing tens of thousands of dollars for one year is way too much!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

    2. Hi Michael,
      I really appreciate having you with our group! I’m getting ready to publish a practical guidebook to help families like yours with this process. My first speaking engagement for this book is coming through a CFP who is dealing with the same experience with his clients. There is a lot for us to talk about in this group on how those of us who are coaches or counselors can best partner with a good CFP.
      Laura Gilbert (Minnesota)

  70. Hello! My name is Stephanie Meade, and I am an IEC in the Los Angeles area. I have been advising teens and their families about the college process for about 26 years. I started in test prep, and gradually built a practice that included test prep, academic and study skills tutoring, and college counseling. I soon learned that I did not enjoy running a large business, and preferred to work closely with families, and have gradually been scaling back to a smaller operation. I still have a few tutors working with me, primarily on study skills and executive function skills coaching, and I am focused on the college process. I am fascinated by the neuroscience of learning, and love to incorporate that into my work. (degree in biology from Stanford.) In terms of financing college, I am pretty comfortable finding merit money for my students, but I would like to be more fluent in all the other elements of paying for college, so I can continue to encourage families to look beyond the sticker price and focus on fit.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      I’m glad you joined the class. You are truly a veteran in this business! That sounds fascinating – incorporating the neuroscience of learning into your work. I am curious what you see most lacking in students who have sought out your help for tutoring. In other words, what do they need the most help with?

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  71. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Andrew Quinn, and I’m a school-based College Counselor in Northern California. I’ve been working with students and their families for 14 years, first as an admissions counselor, and then later on the the high school side.

    One of the most frustrating situations I encounter in my work is watching a student gain admission to a college only to be crushed by the fact their family just can’t afford it, or even worse, see the family and student take on unimaginable debt to indulge their fixation. While I do believe students should have some personal investment in paying for college,I often feel this part of the process is “broken”.

    I’m looking forward to sharpening my financial aid advising skills and learning ways to help families truly understand college affordability early in the process, not as an afterthought as is often the case.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Welcome to the class!

      What you describe unfortunately happens all the time at this time of year. Students are applying to schools in a vaccum. They have no idea if schools are going to give them money or not, which is a terrible position to be in. It’s impossible to intelligently evaluate your options without have a good sense of whether a school is going to kick in money and roughly how much. This needs to be done before a child applies anywhere!

      Lynn O.

  72. Hi everyone! My name is Laura and I’m in Minnesota. During the day I’m a researcher and policy analyst for the State of Minnesota. Evenings I’m a professor, writer, and parent.

    Almost 20 years ago families and adult learners started to request conversations about how I’d gone back to school as a single mom and eventually put all four kids through college. I was also working in HR at the time, designing internship and development programs for fast-paced, creative companies. So, I also had some insight to successfully making the transition from school to career. Over the years my volunteer activities expanded to speaking to groups of parents, adult learners, or faculty. In 2009 my son encouraged me to put my thoughts on paper. My fourth book is in the final steps toward publication. My passion is helping families make decisions that work for them – today and tomorrow.

    The biggest challenge I find is helping families step back from the stress and refocus on their goals. That’s also my favorite part.

    I’m hoping to learn from everyone else in the class and connect with others who are passionate about helping families through the college process.

    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for joining this class. What an interesting path you took to end up in a dual career! I am amazed at your energy.

      What is the book that you are finishing up about? And where will you be able to find it?

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. Thanks for asking! All my books are (and will be) on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle. The current one is:

        Our Plan – A Family-Centered Approach to Paying for College (April 2015)

        The others are:

        Back to School for Grownups
        How to Save $50,000 on College, and
        Graduate School on a Budget

        I write as I speak – straightforward, practical, out-of-the-box, coach-at-your-side, with the voice of a parent and cheerleader. My favorite chapters are those that offer stories from those who made the journey.

        Thanks again for asking!

  73. Hi everyone!
    My name is Nicole and I am an IEC based out of Berkeley CA. I have been doing independent college consulting for about a year now and am almost done with the UCI certificate program. Prior to that, I was a college advisor in public charter schools for 2 years, and a classroom teacher before that for about 6 years.
    My biggest challenge so far has been simply helping families sort through the overwhelming college options, because I am still learning about all the schools myself! And of course one of the biggest factors in distinguishing between the colleges is cost. I feel that I have a fairly strong grasp of how college financial aid works, but I’m still unable to really integrate cost into my college list building. Once the award letters arrive, I’m able to help my families make sense of them and make a final decision based on cost, but I have a harder time helping them predict which schools are likely to be more affordable to them.
    So that’s what I’m hoping the get out of this course – to learn how to factor potential cost into college list building, and help families make a reasonably accurate prediction of how much a school will cost, before the award letter arrive. And of course I also want to learn as much as I can about helping families get as much aid as possible.
    Thanks, looking forward to working with all of you!

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Welcome to the class! One thing you will find is that when you start analyzing the generosity of schools on a potential list, this will narrow the number of possibilities and make it a more manageable number. The key is being able to evaluate whether a school will be affordable (price tags are obviously meaningless) well before a child applies to any schools. You will definitely learn how to do this in this course!

      Lynn O.

  74. Hello everyone! My name is Anita Gajula. I grew up in New York (Westchester County) but have lived in the Midwest for the last 15 years — mostly in the Chicago area. I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Williams College and MA in Higher Education from the University of Michigan. I have 10 years of work in Student Affairs in the college setting. I have worked at the Williams College Multicultural Center, the Macalester College Campus Programs Office and the University of Chicago Deans Office (as an Academic Adviser.) I loved working with college students but decided to make a shift in the summer of 2013 to work as an Independent Consultant with HS students and their parents. I have enjoyed the work a great deal. I took Lynn’s class last year and learned so much. My brain sort of hurt a bit as I felt overwhelmed by how much I did not know about the financial process. I am so glad to re-take it now that I can absorb even more information that will help me and the families I work with now. In particular I struggle with helping people understand that they have more choices than they think and that they need to the research on the front end so they have a good set of options. I look forward to e-meeting you all!

    1. Hi Anita,

      Thanks for taking the course again! I am sorry that I made your brain hurt!:) There is a lot to absorb and I think revisiting all this information is a smart move.

      I think you are definitely correct that people assume that their choices are limited and I blame some of that on the media that focuses on the schools that reject nearly everyone,including some you have worked for!

      As a practical matter, UCLA’s ambitious annual study of college freshmen shows that every year around 75% of students get into their first choice four-year college/university.

      Lynn O.

  75. Hi, My name is Debbie Lousky and I live in Calabasas, California. I have four children, my oldest daughter graduated from Stern in NY (part of Yeshiva University), and recently received her masters from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The next graduated from NYU and is currently an RN at Columbia’s hospital in NY. My next son is completing his second year of college and is in the process of transferring. My last is currently a high school freshman so he is at the very early stages of college planning.

    I am relatively new in the college planning arena. I have a bachelors in Social Work, but never practiced. Professionally, I spent 25 years in the property and casualty insurance industry. Most recently, I have become a financial advisor and am a fully licensed representative. It is clear to me that families need a lot of help in the college planning arena and I am passionate about helping families to plan for college while protecting retirement assets.

    I’m very excited to take your class so that I can learn as much as possible about college planning including the admissions process, how to select the right fit school, and the financial side of the college planning business. Aside from helping my own children through the process, I have spent a lot of time reading and researching. I look forward to learning from Lynn’s vast experience in this field. I am hoping that after taking this course, I will be more prepared and confident to help families as they plan for this very important decision.

    1. Hi Debra,

      I am so glad you are in the class! I think it’s critically important for financial advisors to learn the basics of late-stage college planning. It is so discouraging to me that the financial industry has blown off this topic. The conventional wisdom is that there isn’t any money in this niche because the average 529 account balances are modest. But this ignores the fact the knowing the fundamentals about making college more affordable can help advisors cement their relationships with clients and attract new ones. It’s a no brainer to me!

      Lynn O.

  76. Hey guys! I’m a younger consultant who completed the UC Irvine certification back in 2011 concurrent with my MBA (I’m either crazy or an insane overachiever). I’ve been an IEC for four years in Bakersfield, CA and am trying to help students NOT make the mistakes that I made in college. Most of my students are relying on private scholarships, which is exactly what I tried to rely on when I went to Santa Clara (the most stingy university ever). I’m hoping to help students build their list according to more generous schools and understand more about the financial aid process in general. I saw Lynn present at the IECA conference a few years back and have been following her ever since. Thank you, Lynn, for providing such a valuable resource! I’m excited to get started 🙂

  77. Hi everyone. My name is Leslie and I have been a College Counselor at a public high school in San Francisco, and now at another public high school in Marin County, CA. I completed the college admissions certificate program at UC Berkeley in 2011. Previous to that, I was a Language Arts teacher, focusing primarily on writing. I have a lot of specialized training in personal narrative and memoir, so essay and personal statement writing are among my favorite aspects of my job. In past years, I have had countless students in my office just about this time of year in tears – not because they did not get accepted, but because they were accepted to the college of their dreams. However, their parents somehow expected very different outcomes with respect to the tuition bill. I agree with Lynn that we should not even begin recommending schools to look at and apply to until we can help guide families through the realities of how financial aid truly works. I have followed Lynn’s work for years, and I think she is amazing!

    1. Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for joining the class! I had the pleasure of meeting Leslie when she invited me last fall to give a talk at her former high school – San Francisco School of the Arts.

      I am glad you agree with me that counselors and consultants shouldn’t be recommending schools in a vacuum. Families need to be taught how to evaluate the generosity of schools before applying to any of them.

      Lynn O.

  78. I’ve been the College Advisor at a Jesuit college prep high school in Maine for 10 years, and was a teacher for years before that. We have a great college-going rate, but I would like more of our students to actually graduate college. I think some run out of money half-way through! I wonder if they only think about the first year of college and don’t factor in paying for 4 years? I’d like to be better equipped to counsel them in terms of paying for college, and I think too much focus is paid to getting in (my school culture, the media and our country in general). Happy to be here and excited to learn more!

    1. Hi Kate,

      I am so glad to have someone from Maine in the course. We are located in diametrically opposite parts of the country. I’m in San Diego.

      Both of my brothers and my dad went to a Jesuit High School. I wrote about my dad and his experience at this Jesuit school a few years ago:

      I agree that too much focus is on getting into college and more should be focused on paying for it!

      Lynn O.

      1. I have 4 very happy freshmen at SLU! We never send that many students anywhere other than UMaine, but the merit scholarships were very generous and these 4 students truly wanted to continue their Jesuit education.

  79. My name is Tish O’Connor, and I am an IEC based in Santa Barbara, CA. I try to explain my philosophy as a college counselor on my website,
    I completed my certificate through UCLA in 2008 (Charlotte Klarr, who is also taking this course, was one of my professors), but prepared for this new career also by completing the coursework (but not the PPS fieldwork) at Cal Lutheran. I had spent 25 years prior to that as a non-fiction editor (Perpetua Press), which indicates one focus and strength of my practice: I love working with students on their college essays.
    I took an earlier iteration of this course, and there was too much information to process and retain, but the knowledge I gained helped improve the financial aid my son receives at UC San Diego by a factor of five. Understanding how financial aid works and being persistent are both essential to getting results. My goal is to incorporate accurate information on financial aid basics in lectures I offer in the local public libraries and to broaden my own knowledge and resources for working with client families.

    1. Hi Tish,

      Welcome to the class!

      Wow. I am thrilled to hear that the course helped you get more aid from UCSD. I’d love to learn more about what you did to get that result!

      Lynn O.

  80. Hi Everyone-

    I just read through all of the introductory comments made by members of this class and the previous one. There’s not much to add! I’m an IEC based in Milwaukee, WI. I graduated from the UC-Irvine certification program in 2011. My business has been word-of-mouth, part-time and selective. My plan is to scale up this year, and I believe that advising families as to their financial options and imperatives will be integral to my plan. Thank you, Lynn!

    1. Hi Ruth,

      Welcome to the class. Since my son graduated from Beloit last May, I have missed visiting Wisconsin.

      You are smart to learn more about the financial side off college before you scale up your consulting!

      Lynn O.

  81. My name is Christine Perney and this is the second class I’m taking with Lynn. I have been advising parents on college admissions for several years and recently opened my own consulting firm, Metro College Consulting, located in New York City. I have completed coursework at UC Irvine and received a certificate in independent educational consulting. I am also a member of IECA. For many of my clients, the cost of college is a primary factor in selecting colleges. This is partly because family incomes are higher in our area because of the high cost of living. Families making well of $150,000 are struggling just to cover rent and other expenses and yet will not qualify for financial aid at most colleges. Through this course, I hope to assit families in identifying colleges that will take the cost of living into consideration for financial aid and/or give merit aid to students.

  82. My name is Bill Corley. I am a Certified Financial Planner in Folsom, CA. I have two daughters. One is a freshman at Sonoma State University. My other daughter is junior in high school. I am taking the course to learn more for myself and my clients. Most of my clients make to much money so their EFC more than covers the cost of college. I hope to learn ways to help my clients get more financial and merit based aid for their children.

    1. Hi Bill,

      I am glad to see you in the course. I think it’s beyond sad that the financial industry has ignored late-stage college planning when college can be the second biggest expense of many family’s lives! Understanding the basics can provide you and other financial advisors with a competitive edge.

      Parents need so much more than to be told to save for college. When the college years are looming, they need to know how they can stretch whatever they have managed to save as far as possible.

      Lynn O.

  83. Hi, my name is Cathy McMeekan and like some of the other class members this is my second time taking the course. There is so much to know and understand about finding affordable college options for students and I want to learn all I can to help educate families to find affordable college choices.

    I started out in college admissions, worked at three different colleges in the West, was a high school counselor at two independent schools before becoming an IEC in 2012. I’m in Spokane, WA and work primarily with families in Eastern Washington and Northeastern Idaho. This is my 22nd year in education.

  84. My name is Charles Feiner and this is the second time I am taking this class. Every web-based seminar was packed with useful information and I am looking forward to continuing my education.

    I was a College Administrator at three colleges for over twenty years. For ten years I served as a school counselor at high schools in New Jersey. In 2013 I started an independent college consulting business, www.

  85. Hello, my name is Liz Weber. I am based in North Andover, MA and have been an IEC since 2006. Because I prefer working face-to-face with my students, my practice focuses predominantly on families in Eastern and Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Although I do emphasize the importance of financial fit to parents, I am not sure that they always fully take this into account. Right now, I feel comfortable talking about the basics of financial aid, but believe that in order to develop a level of expertise that will influence sound choices, I need a deeper understanding of how colleges approach financial aid, which financial aid tools are most helpful, and how to use these resources effectively.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Welcome to the class! You are the first one to introduce yourself in the new course.

      I am sure you will develop a deeper understanding of financial aid in this class and the reasons why colleges and universities behave the way they do when deciding who gets aid and merit awards and who doesn’t. Schools are businesses and they act in their own best interest.

      Lynn O.

  86. Hello everyone, I am a late bloomer here and on a crash course with the buckets of information Lynn has provided for us. I have taught at various schools, For-profit such as Kaplan and University of Phoenix, the California Community College (two of them) and for a small independent high school in San Diego. I myself attended UC Berkeley back in the day when you could make your tuition dollars over the summer.

    This January I stepped into the shoes of our school’s college counselor and I am thrilled to have encountered this information sooner than later!

    After reading a few of the articles on the lending trend I felt angry that our higher education system is really a business. What was I thinking? Are there any schools left with their ethics intact?

    1. Hi Maria,

      I am so sorry that I overlooked your introduction! Thanks for joining the class. You certainly have a wide ranging background. I am glad you decided to take this course after hearing me give a talk to the students participating in the college program through the San Diego city library. I know it’s daunting starting as a school counselor when there is little education available for counselors of any level! I think my course will help!

      I look forward to talking to parents at your school in January!

      Lynn O.

  87. Hi Lynn,
    Circumstances have not allowed me to be as engaged as I would like to be, but I did sign up for this class as soon as I found out about it! I have taught at the high school and middle level for 35 years. The last 18 years I have taught at a middle school in Suffern, NY where I reside. I have 3 grown daughters in their 20s. Their college process was my first “learn as you go” experience!

    I teach a 10 week career exploration and financial literacy course to 8th graders, as well as the AVID program. My interest in learning more about college planning was a result of wanting to be more knowledgable for my students. I have attended many conferences and workshops at college campuses over the years and earned a college counseling certificate. I have also volunteered with College Summit.

    I started a college consulting business on a small scale due to my full time teaching job. I only work with a couple of clients each year. I would like to have more clients, but will have to put more time into marketing myself if I want that to happen.

    I am taking this class because I think that the financial aspect of college planning is something parents need to know way more about so they can make responsible and informed decisions. I want to increase my understanding in this area to be able to advise families more confidently,

    Looking forward to catching up and sharing ideas with everyone! Gayle

    1. Hi Gayle,

      You have plenty of time to benefit from this class. I know this is a busy time so I intentionally made all the materials available for four entire months. You’ll have until Jan. 31 to access the material and download the written lessons and recorded videos.

      Congratulations for spending so much time educating yourself about college issues for your parents. I’m curious what teaching certificate you obtained. There are plenty of people in the class who have taken one of the U. of California extension programs. My feedback is my class provides far more information about all aspects of paying for college

      You are certainly right that parents need to know far more about how to afford college before they can become empowered college consumers. Good luck with your college consulting business. You might decide to expand after taking this class because you will learn so much about the financial side of college. Far more, I would suggest, than the vast majority of your peers.

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn,

        I received my certificate for UCLA extension program. Although the college financial course I had to take was very informative I soon realized that, as with life in general, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know! Looking forward to learning way more with you and my cohort! G

        1. Thanks for sharing Gayle!

          The feedback I’ve heard from other folks as well is that the UC courses are much more general when covering paying for college. That was certainly my experience when I took the UCLA program. I have the luxury of truly delving into this area.

          Lynn O.

  88. Hi Lynn (and friends),

    My name is Lisa Hillhouse and I’m an independent adviser in the SF Bay Area. I started my practice this year but have spent twenty years (full and part-time) at four colleges admissions and teaching at two schools. I have a wide variety of clients but my specialty is working with young people interested in pursuing military careers through ROTC and the service academies. I taught AFROTC and recruited for the USAF Academy for several years. I use my leadership background to help all of my students develop their resumes and find leadership and career opportunities. I’m also finding that more military families are contacting me asking for help. Lynn-as you mentioned earlier, there are different options and rules about the GI Bill benefits and in-state and out of state admissions costs. I’m always on the look-out for news on that front. Lastly, I am currently working with twin and triplet families who are very attune to college costs. I’m looking closely for need-based solutions (after we maximize merit opportunities).
    One challenge I have has already been mentioned–high performing students who only want ivies or public ivies (and don’t care to have safety schools). Here in CA UC admission is so competitive. Naturally these students only want to go to the most prestigious campuses! I constantly build lists of 3.5-3.7 schools where merit is strong for these kids. Some are more amendable than others though.
    Lynn-great resources so far. Thank you for the wonderful program!

    1. Hi LIsa,

      Yikes! I am sorry that I overlooked your introduction!

      You certainly have an fascinating background, Lisa. I would LOVE to learn more about attending the service academies and cutting the cost of college via ROTC. Could you tell me some good resources for myself and others on this topic? Have you written anything on this topic?

      You are so right about the highly competitive nature of the U. of California admissions. At the highly competitive UCs, I think a tie breaker can be the personal statements – prompt 1 and 2. Students need to ace these. The best advice I’ve seen about writing winning prompts comes from Janine Robinson at In the following post, which includes a YouTube interview with Janine, you’ll see links to several posts from Janine with advice about these two prompts.

      Lynn O.

  89. Hi, my name is Mary Fran Miller from Los Altos, CA. This is my 3rd year as a college mentor with the Mountain View/Los Altos Community Scholars program, The program provides scholarships for low income, primarily first generation students; my volunteer role is guiding AVID Seniors at Mountain View High through the college and financial aid application process. I also mentored AVID Juniors in identifying potential colleges & majors, as well as financial literacy to understand the college costs and financial aid offers last year.

    I have 2 daughters, a Senior and 8th grader. I am working with my Senior now on her college applications.

    I took Lynne’s first class earlier this year but find that there is so much to review and keep up with and so am back again (although find it challenging to find the time to do the course given this busy application time of year).

    Lynne, as a journalist, you may be interested to learn that Jose Antonio Vargas, a former report for The Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize winner, was one of MVLA Community Scholars early scholars.

    I look forward to hearing you speak again at 7 p.m. on 11/13 at Los Altos High School.

    1. Hi Mary Fran,

      Thanks for joining the class! If I remember correctly, you heard me give a talk in the Silicon Valley earlier this year. I also remember (I hope correctly) that you used the information that you picked up from my blog/course to help your niece get into Centre College with a great package.

      That is great that you are serving as a mentor to the AVID program, which is such a worthwhile program. I just wish AVID would include information about financial aid in the program for parents.

      I am glad you will be hearing me speak again. And anyone else who is in Silicon Valley who can attend, is welcome. I didn’t know that Vargas was a product of your program. He’s made quite a name for himself.

      And, I’m curious, where is your daughter applying to college?

      Lynn O.

  90. My wife, Dotti, who is an independent college counselor, and I are working together to assist college bound students and their parents through the planning, researching, applying and decision making process.

    We live in the Chicago land area where our business is located.

    We are really baffled by the financial aid process and have decided to invest our time in taking this course to get a better understanding.

    1. Hi Lawrence,

      Welcome to the class! I think your days of being baffled by the financial aid process are numbered! You and your wife are going to learn a tremendous amount in this classroom, as well as through the webinars.

      Here is the lineup of all the remaining webinars:

      Nov. 6 Thursday
      Nov. 18 Tuesday
      Dec. 8 Monday
      Jan. 13 Tuesday

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  91. Hello Lynn and fellow classmates:

    My name is Charles Feiner and I live in Livingston NJ. I worked at 3 Colleges and Universities for 23 years as the Director of Student Activities and Assistant Director of Orientation. The following 8 years, I was a school guidance counselor. I had the unfortunate experience of being RIFfed (reduction in force) Then for two years, I served as a long term sub in guidance.

    One of the benefits of working in different school systems is, I got to observe many approaches to the college admission process. The one thing in common is that no one from the Director to the School Counselor’s are aware of the financial aid aspect of college admissions.

    I have read many books on financial aid. Your book is my go to guide. Easy to understand, excellent information etc, etc…I have launched my independent college counseling company…, and constantly refer to your book, articles, and blog.

    It is my goal to understand more, to dig deep and to keep informed. Though your advice, we are paying just 11k per year for our daughter to attend Susquehanna Univ in Pa. I am looking forward to the class. Thank you,

    1. Hi Charles,

      I’m glad you joined the course and I’m especially glad that you have found my book and blog so helpful. Thanks for sharing your success with your daughter attending Susquehanna U.

      You are right that financial aid is ignored at schools, which I think is a national scandal. That is a principal reason why I launched this course! You should enjoy a competitive edge in your new practice when you understand how to evaluate colleges financially.

      Lynn O.

  92. Hi Lynn, I am Ella Dunajsky, and live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am the director of college counseling at a small private high school. It is a quest of mine to be as knowledgeable as possible about college financial aid and therefore help my families make smart college choices, both for academic fit as well as financial fit.
    It amazes me how little families know about paying for college and it scares me to think that so many are deep in debt when they finish. Had they planned better and understood the cost factor, they might have chosen a different path.
    I look forward to your class, sorry I was not there for the first webinar.

    1. Hi Ella,

      I’m happy to have you in the class! It’s scary that families know so little about paying for college, but then again how are people supposed to know how to navigate the financial side of college?

      It’s very difficult for families to get meaningful information since most counselors and consultants know little about this area. That’s why I am so happy that professionals like you are participating in this course!


      Lynn O.

  93. Hi! I am a little late…but I am Nicole Lincoln and I live in eastern North Carolina. I have an Independent Educational Consultant certificate from UC Irvine and a College Admissions Counseling certificate from UC Riverside. My husband is active duty Coast Guard, and we have our final (thank goodness) assignment next summer (do not know where we are going). Once we know the state we will be moving to, I plan to start my independent consulting business. I am Filipino-American, grew up in the Philippines and am fluent in Tagalog and Spanish. We have five awesome kids – ages 17 to 6. I hope to help international students as well as Americans abroad. My biggest challenges so far (have been helping some students in the Philippines) are finding aid for international students and breaking the stereotype of brand-name schools being the “best”. I also have been trying to explain to parents that colleges themselves are the source of merit money, rather than spending too much time on outside scholarships. I am embarking on my first “real” financial aid journey with my oldest child, a senior. I was unpleasantly surprised that the PROFILE seems to be adding in the military BAH (which is the untaxed housing allowance we receive) as income. I did not realize this and it made our net price JUMP. Thank you, Lynn, for offering this class!

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Welcome to the class!

      I learned something new when reading your post. I didn’t know that another University of California campus had gotten into offering programs for people in the college niche. I knew about the UCLA, UC Berkeley, UCSD and UC Irvine programs, but I didn’t know another one existed at UC Riverside. I would love to learn more about this program if you have time to share.

      You are right to tell students that private scholarships are usually quite small and cannot represent a strategy to pay for college. For many students, institutional aid will be the biggest source of money and that will certainly be true for affluent families who don’t qualify for need-based from the federal and state governments.

      One notable exception would be families living in the South where the aid from state governments is largely based on test scores and GPAs and often is given to wealthier students. This isn’t surprising since test scores are highly correlated with income. In contrast, blue states, including those on the West and East coasts and upper Midwest, as well as Texas give their aid based on need.

      As for international students, click on the For International Student link that you will find with any college profile on the College Board website. You can often find some statistics about need-based and merit-based aid for foreign students.

      Lynn O.

    2. Hi Nicole,
      Can you talk about the difference between the Irvine and Riverside program? I am two courses into the Irvine program. Would you recommend doing both or one more than the other?

  94. Better late than never! Hello to all of you! My nickname is Prilla and I am from Denver. (Lyn, your son never emailed me so I could give him the scoop on bike trail system in Denver—he probably figured it out on his own.)
    Anyway, I retired from the public schools after 30+ years. I wore a lot of hats during that time. Some of my roles included: sped teacher, school social worker, curriculum writer, English teacher, ACT/SAT prep elective teacher, and bootlegger for college counseling in my final couple of years at my school because the counselors were so overloaded. This last role was what gave me the idea that when I retire I try to start my own practice. I’m starting my 3rd year and just like everyone has said, each year more students come my way. And, somehow my practice has morphed into helping some of those late bloomers as well as helping performing arts students. Also, I have helped many students prep for the ACT plus Writing and have had success.
    But, the financial side of college blows my mind! I need to know more as more of my client families say to me, “We need merit money to afford college.” I would love to understand more in-depth how to find schools that could potentially fit the families’ budgets as well as fit the student’s academic and social needs. So, here I am again after “failing” to keep up in your class this summer.
    Thank you for 4-month time period!!! Hopefully, I will get through the material and even maybe have what I learn benefit some of my current families.

    1. Hi Prilla,

      Thanks for participating in the class! I’m currently sitting in the Denver airport heading back to San Diego after giving a college presentation in St. Louis yesterday. I haven’t forgotten about the kind offer to pass along your knowledge of bike paths, my son Ben has been swamped with his grad school work and his apprentice teaching at Lincoln High School in Denver to bike much.

      Obviously your experience is the same for many (if not all) of the people taking this class. Finding money for college is extremely important for most families, including wealthy parents who never dreamed the price of college would become so outrageous.

      Keep in mind that you actually have more time than 4 months to absorb the material. I will be turning all the lessons into PDF’s in a month or so. They will be stored in the Bonus Material lesson.

      Lynn O.

  95. Hi! My name is Betsy Toombs and I am in my seventh year of working in our local public high school in Maryland. I facilitate a unique program called the College Access Program. This program is for our junior and senior high school students who may be (but not limited to) first generation or low income; however, any junior or senior is encouraged to come to our Career Center during their lunch for our weekly sessions. I don’t turn anyone away!!! CAP is offered at all three of our county’s high schools. The program was originally grant based but it was making such an impact with our school district’s students that the school district picked up the program when the grant was over. The two year weekly curriculum offers session topics such as: SAT vs the ACT, college interview tips, recommendation letters, help with the Common App, college visits, scholarships, to name a very few. We live near a military base and have many students applying to academies and ROTC programs. As we are only 1.5 hours from Annapolis we can have up to 10-12 students applying to the USNA in a given year!! Appointments are fiercely sought after. I am taking this class to gain more information about how to gently guide a student into a school that will not only fulfill their educational goals but will help them avoid college debt. Most who meet with me have big ideas about big name brand schools!! I definitely need guidance with the financial aid aspect with regards to merit aid too! I’ve been reading Lynn’s blog for years and was VERY excited to be given the opportunity to take her class!

    1. Hi Betsy,

      I somehow missed your post and just saw that I hadn’t responded. I am so glad you are excited about the course!

      CAP sounds like a great program that your students are taking advantage of. You must be happy that the program became a permanent fixture at your school district. I’m curious how you measure the program’s success. How did this program make a difference to your students?

      I would suggest that it would be great if CAP could include advice about finding affordable schools. Is this a topic that is covered?

      Sadly, many students look at a very narrow range of schools and they usually do so without knowing whether a school would be generous or not. This is a recipe for disaster. You will get some ideas on counseling your students on the financial aspect of college.

      Lynn O.

  96. Hi Lynn and Fellow Classmates,

    My name is Melinda Larson and I am an independent college consultant from Bellevue, WA.
    I have been working in college consulting business for about 7 years. I spend most of my time on the east-side with fairly affluent families who either tell me that they don’t want to be bothered by filling out the Profile or FAFSA or they want me to help them find ways to get their student a full ride! My saving grace is the one day a week I spend on the west-side at a very large inner city high school. The seniors I work with there are all low income, 1st generation. Most of them are delighted to be admitted to a local Community College. Many of them will apply to University of WA where they are guaranteed (with EFC of 0) the Husky Promise Grant if they are admitted. If they want to go somewhere else besides the CC or UW (Seattle, Bothell, Tacoma campuses), then it is difficult unless they have amazing grades and test scores to get full need met. I’m here to pick up any of your tips in this area as well as how to satisfy a few of my affluent clients.
    My schedule this time of year is super busy (I feel like a CPA during tax season), so I hope I can get through everything by January, but if I can’t am I able to access modules later? My slower time is actually Feb.-May!! Maybe I should have signed up for a later course? Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi Melinda,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      I have a video in the lesson entitled, Diversity Opportunities where I discuss summer programs and scholarships opportunities for first-gen students. If you look through the comments, you will see a long response that I gave to another consultant who also is interested in helping these children.

      I can appreciate your time being precious, particularly at this time of year. Later in the class, I will be providing PDF’s of all the lessons that you can download before the class is over. You will also be receiving the link to each webinar that I am recording. You can read and view all this material when you catch your breath in the spring.

      Lynn O.

  97. Hi Lynn,
    I’m really sorry to be posting so late. I was so excited to jump into the class that I began reading the first day and only tonight realized I should introduce myself! My name is Heather Hyslop and I am an educational consultant who works with students for boarding school and college; I am also currently working in the Office of Advancement at an independent school, and am the mother of two daughters, grades 7 and 10. I took Lynn’s class in the spring (?) thinking primarily as a parent and a friend to parents of kids who would be college-bound. As a single parent and sole provider for my children, I know that financial aid will factor into our process in some way, even with money saved. My daughter is a sophomore and we have been talking about college since last year. I am glad we are starting early and know that it’s important for us to do so. I have other friends who have asked me a bit about the financial side of the process so decided to take the course. Now I am taking this one again for some review and for what else I can learn as a consultant. I know the process can be so overwhelming for families (the big challenge), even without the financial side of things. If I can help people have a better understanding and more confidence, I will feel glad about that. I know that Lynn is great, having taken her course before and read her work. I look forward to this class.

  98. Hi Lynn,

    Like others here I have followed your writing for years (blogs and books) and I heard you speak at a conference. The way you present information is really the way the parents need to hear it and it makes so much sense. Though I need something else to do at this time of year like I need a hole in the head, the importance of this topic to the families I come in contact with everyday is almost paramount to anything else in college planning. “Can you help me with scholarships?” is more and more the first question out of a family’s mouth before they even understand what they are asking. And that comes from both the families in my paying practice and from the families in my pro-bono work. It is becoming a more and more important part of the services I offer.

    I do a lot of presentations and had done some from the information in my notes from your information. So glad that you made your slides available–they look slick! Thanks!

    I have had my Educational Consulting firm in Miami since 2009 and I just earned my Certified Educational Planner designation this summer. I have been in high school education since the mid-90’s as a teacher, testing and AP coordinator and college counselor. I taught business and accounting in the high school since my first career was banking. To me talking about money is very natural and not as difficult as it is for some others. I have been an instructor in the UC-Irvine program for the Principles of Educational Consulting class for the last couple of years. I am also very involved with IECA.

    As a high school graduate of an all-girls HS, I say bravo! What an experience!

    Like Joni, I was referred here by Gail Grand. Hi Joni, and hi Perry!

    Maite Halley

    1. Hi Maite,

      I’m glad to hear from another all-girls’ school grad! Attending a girls’ high school was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

      Sorry I have made your fall admission season even more hectic! 🙂

      I think that question – how do I find scholarships – is a big sign that families have no idea where to look for college money. They often are referring to private scholarships which are the smallest source of college. I’ve had parents contact me in the spring after their child has been accepted to schools wondering how they can now find money for college. That’s obviously not the way it works!

      I wish more counselors and consultants would be comfortable talking about the financial aspect of college.

      That’s great that you are teaching at UC Irvine’s college credential program. I would love to know if you have any thought about the differences in the various UC programs. There are probably people in this class who would like to know!

      Lynn O.

  99. Hello, my name is Jeanne Allred, I am from South Carolina. I have a junior in college.

    My daughter was fortunate enough to attend a private college prep high school on scholarship and we knew that the cost of college was going to be a major factor in my daughter’s college selection. From the time she was a sophomore in high school we proactively planned what was the strongest academic curriculum as well as what volunteer, leadership and extracurricular activities best reflected her interests and strengths.

    In her junior and senior year, she visited 27 colleges; large/medium/small, public/private/military, urban/suburban, co-ed/single gender. She applied to a similar variety of schools. She also applied and was successfully awarded several private scholarships. Ultimately she chose to attend a smaller women’s college in a large urban city to study Healthcare Statistics. There is no question that long term planning throughout high school was invaluable.

    Lynn’s current publication was published just after my daughter made her college selection but I had read many of her online articles while we were going through the process and we found her information to be valuable.

    After her graduation, I continued to assist the high school my daughter attended with resources for students, parents and college advisors (teachers and other faculty that also wear the college advisor “hat”). This school is small (~30-35 graduates a year) with 100% collage attendance with the students coming primarily upper middle class to very affluent families who think the financial options for their children is limited so many of them don’t pursue any scholarships or financial aid. I recommend Lynn’s book to many of them.

    I have participated in a previous webinar series Lynn offered and I am looking forward to some more in depth exploration of topics in this program.

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      Welcome to the class. It’s nice to have someone from South Carolina in the course!

      I am impressed with how well prepared you were in terms of positioning your daughter for college and exploring these schools. I thought we had visited a lot of schools for my daughter. We visited 20. People might be wondering where your daughter went to school and I know you had told me previously that she is going to Simmons College.

      As you already know, it is unfortunate that parents assume that applying for financial aid isn’t worth the effort. People don’t know what they don’t know. Also, someone who wouldn’t qualify for financial aid just might if a sibling begins college. The federal EFC drops by 50% and the institutional EFC drops by 40% with two children in college at the same time.

      Lynn O.

  100. Hi all,
    It’s obviously college application time so I am very late to introduce myself. My name is Debbie and I live/work in Skillman, NJ which is five minutes from Princeton. I have worked with students on college essays/college selection the past ten years in Montgomery Township and the surrounding communities. This district has many affluent families looking for “high end colleges”-groan! I try to steer some of them to the lesser known colleges that perhaps better serve some students. While I help students with essays for the Ivies, my “specialty” seems to be underserved populations like first-generation students, B-students and low-income families. I work very hard to find schools where financial aid is plentiful and that led me to find information on this workshop. I found an article that Lynn wrote and the rest is history. I am currently working with the United Way to design a college workshop series for students in lower income districts in our area like Trenton and Camden. I knew I needed to have more financial information to give these parents and students so I hope this workshop will provide some of that information.
    I have three kids: one graduated from Washington University in St Louis, one is about to graduate from McDaniel College (a college that changes lives), and my third will apply to college next year, so I am intimately involved in the college process.
    I look forward to the class.
    Debbie Meola

    1. Debbie,
      I have friends who has children that went to the same high school my daughter attended and so far they have had 1 graduate from McDaniel and 2 more that are currently enrolled there.
      They love it


    2. Hi Debbie,

      Welcome to the class.

      It is definitely a worthy cause to help low-income students get into college and just as importantly pay for it. I get depressed just thinking about the hurdles that they have to navigate. Unfortunately, schools have been pouring more and more money into merit aid for affluent students (like those in Princeton) and giving less to low-income teens.

      There were two important studies that document this phenomenon that Stephen Burd of the New America Foundation wrote in 2013 and thisyear. He is a highly respected higher-ed journalist who used to write for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Here are the two studies:

      Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind

      Undermining Pell Vol. II: How Colleges’ Pursuit of Prestige and Revenue is Hurting Low-Income Students

      Here are some thoughts off the top of my head and in no particular order on low-income kids:

      1. They absolutely need to file the FAFSA and if applicable, the PROFILE.

      2. Check out my lesson – 7 Ways to Get Help with the FAFSA – with resources to help them with these aid documents, including who should file in nontraditional households such as when an aunt or grandmother is raising a child.

      3. Low-income students should be filing the FAFSA on Jan. 1 if at all possible. Parents would obviously have to estimate their taxes. Getting the FAFSA filed promptly will increase a kid’s chance of getting a FSEOG grant. Look in my lesson on Federal College Aid to learn more about this federal grant for Pell Grant eligible students.

      4. At the very least, make sure that students don’t miss the FAFSA deadline for state aid. In some states, it’s first-come, first-served with state aid.

      5. If students end up at community colleges, make sure they study for the placement tests so they can skip all or some remedial courses. Tell them to study for the test through Accuplacer, which the College Board created. Here is the link:

      6. Look for summer college programs for first-gen and minority students. Please look at the video I did this summer with Veronica Longstreth, a college consultant in San Diego, who has been a whiz at finding summer opportunities and scholarships for these kids. It’s in the lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities.

      7. Be leery of low-income students applying to state universities as nonresidents. Except in very rare cases, such as the University of Virginia which takes hardly any low-income nonresidents, these state schools will not provide need-based aid. Their only hope will typically be to get merit aid, but state schools routinely give it based on test scores and GPAs.

      8. See if student qualifies for a reduced tuition if a parent is a disabled veteran. In California, I think every veteran has been classified as disabled. Just being a tiny percentage disabled in California, entitles a student to free tuition at a state university.

      9. Look at private schools that meet a high percentage of need. I have a list of these in the lesson entitled, Schools that Meet 100% of Need. Of course, these are going to be the toughest schools to get into.

      10. Look for schools that meet as high a percentage of need possible that students can get into. Two of my favorites for low-income students that don’t reject the majority of students are College of Wooster and St. Olaf College.

      11. Ask school admission reps what their admission requirements are for minority students. A school isn’t going to advertise this, but some will hold these applicants to lower admission standards in recognition that test scores, in particular, are HIGHLY correlated with income.

      11. Find out what the policy of particular schools are in terms of how they handle private scholarships. Some schools will reduce the grant portion of an aid package if a student wins a private scholarship. See my lesson entitled, Private Scholarships.

      12. Connect students to local college-bound organizations. Also look for national opportunities such as the Gates Foundation scholarships for first-gen students and the Questbridge program.

      13. Tell parents to be extremely careful with Parent PLUS Loans. Unsophisticated borrowers are more likely to get into trouble and borrow more than they should since the federal underwriting doesn’t prevent poor parents from borrowing way too much. You can learn more about the hazards of PLUS Loans in the lesson entitled, Exploring Other Loan Options.

      I hope that gives you some idea. I’d love for others to weigh in on this too. I’m sure I missed many ideas.

      Lynn O.

  101. Hello I’m Patty Saddle. I am an Independent College Consultant in Cleveland, Ohio. This is my fifth year as an independent consultant. Previously, I worked as a college recruiter and in employee relations for twelve years. I then returned back to school for a second masters degree in school counseling and worked as a licensed school counselor for 5 years. I participated in Lynn’s class this summer and wanted to build on the information I learned. One of the challenges I face is getting students and their parents to be open to schools that are not necessarily on their radar. Another challenge that has been coming up lately is helping families understand that although their child may be a top athlete in their competitive sport in high school it rarely translates to being recruited by a Division 1 or 2 school. I also have many parents that feel completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile is a waste of time, and I would like to increase my knowledge about how to better explain why it is still important for these forms to be completed. I am looking forward to this course!

    1. Hi Patty,

      Welcome back!

      I agree with you that families don’t want to throw a wider net for college.

      I think a huge reason is because people aren’t familiar with colleges. If you knock colleges out out of contention, you are missing out on some of the better values and – I think – excellent undergraduate experiences. Sometimes when I give talks to affluent audiences, I ask them if they have heard of schools like Carleton and Reed. Usually few if any have heard of these schools even though these are among the most prestigious in the country. (And if they haven’t heard of these schools, there is no hope for people knowing of nearly all other colleges.) One exception came last week in Marin Co., CA, when I’d say at least a third of the people in attendance had heard of Reed. That was impressive. Of course, a school like Reed will be quite expensive for wealthy students, but the school – like many of the most elite colleges — give excellent need-based aid.

      If you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to check out the two lessons that I have on athletic scholarships. To back up what you are saying, tell your clients to head over to and see the figures themselves. I should also mention that while Div. I athletics scholarships are usually underwhelming (unless it’s one of the six headcount sports – football, men and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, gymnastics and tennis), Div. II scholarships are significantly smaller. In most cases, students would be better off aiming for merit/financial aid.

      In my FAFSA and PROFILE lessons, there should be plenty of ammunition to help you convince your clients that they should file for financial aid unless they are quite wealthy. There are also some schools, including Georgia Tech, that requires the filing of financial aid for merit scholarships. So before deciding not to file, a family should double check with a school to make sure merit aid eligibility isn’t jeopardized by not filing aid forms.

      Lynn O.

  102. Hi, I am Mike Branch. I am a financial planner in the Twin Cities who has been helping families pay less for college for about 10 years.

    My biggest challenges: 1) getting parents to take an active role in the college search process early on. Usually the kids come home and say I am going to “ABC Private College” and the parents come to me and want to know what they can do to get more financial aid at that particular school. 2) I also find it frustrating that we get so little credit for what we do. Much of the advice is simple: Go to a school that rewards academic merit”, “When you get your student aid report ask the school if there is anything else you/they can do to help lower the cost”… Often the parents forget who educated them about how the financial aid system works and gave them these ideas.

    I hope to get two things out of this course: First, its always helpful to get new strategies/tips or learn about new resources to help my clients. Second, I hope to be kept current on the latest in the world of paying for college. It changes fast.

    I am looking forward to the class.

    1. Thanks Mike for joining my new class.

      You have hit upon a huge problem. Parents don’t engage in the college process early enough. I suspect that they wait until the second semester of junior year in high school or even in the fall of senior year because that’s when counselors at public high schools are usually available to them.

      Since you mentioned that you are always searching for new resources, here is a link to a story that appeared this month in Inside Higher Ed, a valuable daily, online trade publication, that discusses LinkedIn’s attempt to become a college resource. LinkedIn just released a tool that tracks the success of grads in eight broad career paths and ranks the top 25 best programs in each career.

      This comes on the heels of another LInkedIn resource – field of study explorer – that the website rolled out in July. I think both are worth checking out.

      Here is the link to the story:

      Lynn O.

  103. Greetings everyone:

    Let me start by saying that Lynn was the sole inspiration that turned my light bulb on for college planning. She was the featured speaker at a national IRA (Individual Retirement Account) Conference I was attending and inspired me to read her first book and pursue an advanced education in late stage college planning. Now you may wonder why someone from the academic world would be at an IRA Conference. Well, it’s because I’m not from the academic world, I’m from the financial services world. In addition, I did not receive my training via a UCLA or UCI certificate program but from the NICCP. That’s right, I’m from the world that some comments and linked articles have warned you about. However, the twist here is that I don’t sell insurance or securities, I sell real estate. In addition, I am also a Certified Financial Planner.

    So why would a Realtor have a parallel interest in late stage college planning? It’s because buying a home and paying for college are two legs of the three legged stool of major family financial commitments. The third leg is retirement. Due to the Great Recession, all three are in a battle for funding. Short sale homes, the continuance of college inflation and the depletion of retirement accounts have placed many parents in a position of having to downgrade their kid’s college aspirations and/or caused them to postpone their retirement and continue to work into their later years. In addition, college debt has become a barrier for Millennials trying to purchase their first home. By maintaining a proficiency in all three components of the major family financial commitments, I can better understand and plan for the multiple generations of my client base. Many families don’t know what they don’t know about the proper approach to planning for college. My goal, is to assist students to work within their financial means, discover unrealized educational opportunities and receive the very best education for their time invested and available resources.

    Let me close by saying that I have had the good fortune of spending face time with Lynn and sharing our ideas for helping families with the cost of college. I can say, without hesitation, that I would recommend Lynn’s course for families to every parent I come across with college bound children. Thank you Lynn!

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for joining this class. I am glad that I played a part in you deciding to embrace the college niche. I don’t know of anyone except you who are trying to incorporate the need to buy a house with the need to buy a college education. It makes sense to address these big ticket-items together.

      You mentioned that you got a credential from the NICCP – National Institute of Certified College Planners. This organization, which is led by a CPA by the name of Rick Darvis, provides some helpful information to financial professionals, particularly regarding education tax benefits. It’s my impression, however, that this organization is focused heavily on helping insurance agents and other financial professionals who are using the college moniker to troll for parents who will buy life insurance or annuities from them. They tell parents that insurance will hide assets from colleges even though in most cases hiding assets won’t improve aid packages. These guys also use college planning as a lead generator to attract a family’s retirement assets, which are usually a bigger pot of money.

      These insurance/annuity peddlars love to get into schools to give presentations (including at financial aid nights) so high school counselors need to be vigilant! Here is an article that a friend of mine at Money Magazine wrote about the problem:

      Another organization, the National College Advocacy Group, is trying to educate financial planners, as well as college consultants, about the financial side of college, in addition to other aspects of the college process, but they have some of these snake oil salesman too. I have been told the NCAG is trying to eradicate these guys.

      You really need to look closely at an advisor’s credentials to understand who you are dealing with.

      Lynn O.

  104. Hi – my name is Kathy OBrien – and clearly, I am late posting. I took Lynn’s class this past summer, and want to build on the information I learned. I recognize a number of people in the class – either from IECA’s Summer Training Institute or HECA tours.
    I am invested in this class personally and professionally. My husband and I have 4 kids (Sophomore at Duke, Junior & Freshman in HS, and 6th grader). I am in my 3rd season of a consulting practice (my first 2 clients are freshman this year – exciting!).
    I want to provide more information to my clients regarding how to create a smart (affordable) list of colleges and how to pay for college. I am grateful that Lynn’s information is practical and understandable.
    Kathy OBrien

    1. Welcome to the class Kathy!

      I don’t know if you had the same motivation, but I got into the college niche because of my children. I only have two, but paying for two seemed daunting enough. It was nice being able to learn about making college more affordable for my own kids, as well as make a career out of it.

      Before I began writing/speaking exclusively about college, I was a personal finance journalist for many years. Even though I was writing about investing since the mid 1990s, it was a big leap to start covering the higher-ed world which is a fascinating and infuriating industry. I have loved the challenge of trying to figure it all out!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  105. Hi everyone. My name is Nancy Janik. I am from Novi, Michigan(northwest of Detroit 30 minutes). I have a bit of an unusual background for a counselor. I graduated from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) with a degree in Industrial Administration and worked for General Motors until my son was born. I was a stay at home mom and volunteered in school and church. I have four children. I went back to school at Spring Arbor University for my MA in school counseling and interned at the high school I graduated from. I have done long term subbing in the public schools as a counselor and worked for two years as the college and career specialist counselor at an all girls Catholic high school. I am considering starting a college consulting practice and found Lynn’s class for parents to be very informative. I am not quite sure how to get started. I am currently helping a friend’s cousin in Kansas via email. I did not know UCI had a program online for educational consultants, I will have to check that out. (I have already learned something!) Thanks, Lynn for having this class for professionals.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Welcome to the class! There are definitely people in this course that have taken the U. of California, Irvine course for college consultants and probably some of the other programs. UCLA also has a course, which has been around longer. You might want to talk to people who have attended one or the other course to compare them. U. of California San Diego also has a program, but it is a shorter one and UC Berkeley offers one too. It’s funny how so many UCs have jumped on this bandwagon.

      The big name attached to the UC Irvine program is Steve Antonoff from Denver, a high respected college consultant from Denver. Here is his website:

      I graduated from the UCLA course back in 2010 which included a required practicum. I volunteered at my son’s school (High Tech High) in San Diego which I was doing already. I don’t think I am a fair evaluator of the program since I came into it knowing a lot already. I have known people who did benefit from the course. I did find the UCLA financial aid course incredibly weak. Little was covered beyond the basics regarding the FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. I have heard from other consultants who have taken different UC college credential courses and the feedback that I have gotten is that the financial aid material within these courses is very basic. I guess that’s why people are enrolling in my class e to gain much more on the financial side of college.

      What I wish all these college credential programs would do is decide what consultants and counselors absolutely need to know to be effective in their jobs and then make sure all the lessons address those needs. I think there is too much variety in what people teach simply based on who is hired to teach individual classes.

      I want to give a shout-out to your girls’ Catholic school! My sisters and I went to a girls’ school in St. Louis (there are well over a dozen girls’ high schools in St. Louis) and my daughter attended the only girls’ school in San Diego. I’m a big fan!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

    2. Hi Nancy,
      I was a former high school counselor and current community college counselor and did a lot of research before I selected the UC Irvine program. I had taken a couple of classes through UC Riverside (because of the lower cost), but was disappointed in the materials and lack of engagement. I also took a class through UCLA, but found that a lot of the information was geared towards people without a background in high school/college counseling.

      The UC Irvine program focused exclusively on independent educational consulting and provided classes on business structure and marketing, which for me are the most difficult since I don’t come from a business background. Well worth the cost – a great investment and I can say that I am still in touch with classmates and instructors from the program. I’m looking forward to seeing some of them in Orlando in a couple of weeks at the IECA conference.

      Hope this information helps.

  106. Hi Lynn,

    My name is Jayne Travers. I am a returning student. I am a business manager in Risk Management and a parent of 3 teenagers. I am hoping to share this information with friends and family. I found your book “College Solution” and the on-line program extremely helpful during my college research for my son. I am looking forward to this class.

  107. My name is Louise Larsen. I live in New Jersey. I have a small consulting practice and I teach Spanish at a highly rated STEM school in Monmouth County. I have 3 children. My oldest son is a sophomore in high school, so college costs are looming for us. I am in the middle of the IEC certificate program at UCIrvine, but I am pausing that program to take this course. I have read Lynn’s book and I love her blog. Her straight, commonsense style is appealing. I want to get a stronger handle on the financial piece for myself as well as my clients.

    In my neck of the woods, I know many families that are strong earners and they are scratching their heads wondering how to come up with $250k for a BA/BS degree. At the school where I teach, 90% of the kids end up making their final decision based on money. I think the college process has left middle and upper middle class families in a tough spot. I am taking this course to help people negotiate this passage and make smart decisions.

    I am awed and humbled by the accomplishments listed above. I am looking forward to a great couple of months of learning.

    1. Hi Louise,

      Thanks so much for taking the class. I agree with you, there are a lot of very accomplished people taking this course! I’ve been very happy to have had quite a few people from the college consultant program offered by the University of California, Irvine, take my course.

      It’s obviously a very smart idea to get a strong grip on the financial side of college. I think a lot of consultants/counselors are intimated by the money side, but it’s really not that tough once you understand how the game is played. And that’s what I aim to do – pull back the curtain!

      I know that money is a huge issue on the East Coast where schools are generally more expensive. There are less pricey schools in this country, but they aren’t the ones on everybody’s list of dream colleges. I think you will be particularly interested in Part 1 and Part 2 of modules entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  108. Hi everybody-
    I am Joni Towles and am an independent consultant in Atlanta, GA. I have been in business for 11 years and enjoy working with the “middle to lower” academic profile students as well as performing artists.

    I have been remiss at getting started with this class. I have been swamped with applications, essays the past few weeks, my son got married 3 weeks ago and I was in Virginia this week visiting colleges on a HECA tour (with Janet Loren).

    I am a Certified Educational Planner, received a college counseling certificate from UCLA, and am a member of HECA (former treasurer), IECA, NACAC, SACAC, and AICEP.

    Lynn, I heard you speak at the HECA conference in New Jersey and have read your blogs for years. I have tried to incorporate “financial fit” into my practice, especially in recent years. This is an ever-changing field and I want to take this course to be as knowledgeable as I can about the financial aspects of college planning without being an accountant or financial planner!

    In Virginia, I roomed with Gail Grand, who took this course earlier in the year and said it was wonderful!

    1. Hi Joni,

      Welcome to the class. I understand that this is a very busy time for consultants. That’s the primary reason why I decided to make this course four months long. You can ask me questions throughout the entire period.

      Congratulations on your son’s marriage! I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a marriage in our family in the next couple of years. I hope you had fun on your college tour with Janet, who is in this class! I’m glad that Gail recommended the class.

      I am happy to hear that you are keeping financial fit in mind when you counsel your families. The good news is that you don’t have to be a financial professional to be very helpful to your clients in terms of helping them shrink the cost of college.

      Lynn O.

  109. Hi Class,
    My name is Karen Herbst, and I am late to the class posting! I am thrilled to be taking your class, Lynn, as I can see it’s a wealth of information already. I am an independent college counselor from the Denver area. I got my certificate in college counseling from UCLA around 3 years ago and am enjoying working with students and families on their college admissions journeys. I believe that constructing a healthy and appropriate college list for a student must include looking at financial fit. I know that I could learn all day from what Lynn has to offer so I will do my best to learn as much as I can from this class to better support my students! Thank you Lynn!
    Karen Herbst

    1. Hi Karen,

      I’m glad you are taking the class!

      Karen helped my son out when he was visiting Denver in the spring as part of his graduate school admission process. Karen and her husband were a godsend to Ben – giving him a room to stay in their house, feeding him and driving him where he needed to go. Ben and I greatly appreciated the hospitality.

      Ben is in the Teacher Residency Program at the University of Denver and Denver Public Schools. Here is a post that I wrote a few months ago about Ben’s decision to participate in a teacher residency program, which I think is an attractive options for some college students who would like to be a teacher — and particularly a STEM teacher.

      Lynn O.

  110. Hi, I’m Teri Thompson and I am an independent educational consultant in Seattle. Since I work with many middle class, public school families, money is always a key factor. And yet, most families leave the financial piece up to “luck” when the April financial aid awards arrive.

    I try to help families to turn that process upside down. It can be a bit uncomfortable bringing money up early when everyone would rather focus on the glossy brochures, and ivy covered buildings, but doing it this way pays off in the end by giving the families some realistic choices.

    1. Hi Teri,

      Welcome to the class again!

      You so hit upon such a vexing problem in this college admission process. Exploring colleges, whether via the Internet, marketing materials, college fairs and visits, can be fun and even inspiring. But what’s critically important is starting the hunt with an eye toward costs. Doing this can save a family money, as well as a lot of heartache in the spring when the acceptances and aid packages arrive.

      If students applied for schools in a financial vacuum there is no time for do-overs by the time spring rolls around.

      One way to make the conversation less intrusive for families is to ask them to obtain their institutional and federal EFC figures. As I mention in the next module, obtaining those figures BEFORE looking at colleges is important.

      Lynn O.

  111. Hi Lynn,
    I work at an urban school in Phoenix and I currently have 370 students on my caseload. Most of time is spent working with the students in the bottom quartile of my caseload trying to convince them to stick it out until they graduate. Another big chunk of time is spent answering a bazillion emails daily. I also write 504 Plans, facilitate parent teacher conferences, help run the Ambassador Club, recruit at elementary schools, co-facilitate a support group, and perform triage in crisis situations. Less critical emotional breakdowns are all mine to handle so I do my fair share of helping with love triangles, break ups, runaways, high stakes test anxiety, and so much more. Oh, and I was just told that our six year college graduation rate is hovering around 12% so guess what else is on my plate?

    This said, I love my job and I am fortunate to work for an administrator that is a great leader and with 5 other counselors that haven’t had a lunch break in a decade. I respect the work of independent college counselors, but I don’t have students that can afford them so I rely on non-profits that work with small groups of students (Ivy League Project, Aguila Youth Leadership, Be a Leader, etc.) As wonderful as these organizations are, they don’t make a dent in my caseload so I just need to be as educated as possible to help my students on their journey.

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. I have a lot to learn. Personally, I have a 25 year old son unlearning that he hates school one class at a time so I am most grateful for his community college sociology teacher this semester who is making the content interesting and varying the way she tests so that he thinks he has a fighting chance. I have a daughter graduating from Northern Arizona University with majors in Biology and Political Science and she is off this weekend with one of her professors to present at a conference. My first born started at ASU and went on to Syracuse University for her Masters and just landed a job in DC on the Hill. The girls got great scholarships and worked their way through school and have no debt.

    My son is paying his way also, but will likely have debt when he transfers to a university and has to move out. (I am practicing the power of positive thinking with him!!)

    1. Hi Myra,

      Welcome to the class. Reading what you do makes me exhausted. I am glad that you are making time to take this class. I think your students will ultimately benefit.

      With such a large caseload — like so many public high school counselors – it makes sense to depart information about paying for college – in assemblies. Of course, it sounds like many of the students who you are helping do not plan to attend college. That obviously represents its own challenges.

      I am wondering how effective the college-bound organizations are with some of your students. I’d like to learn more about them. In your experience, if promising students at your urban school don’t get connected with one of these organizations, do they have much of a chance with highly selective schools?

      I like how you describe your son as “unlearning” how to hate school. I’d suggest that he is more representative of the nation’s college students than your daughters!

      Lynn O.

  112. Hi Lynn,
    Not sure my first intro worked so I’ll do it again…
    I’m Millie Reidy and I live in the Sun Valley, Idaho area. I interned for two years at a public high school and am now beginning my third year working here as well.
    My biggest challenge is finding money for all families whether they have money or not and whether they have high GPAs or not.
    I hope to learn about new tools to help me be more knowledgeable and more efficient.
    Thank you for offering this class! Millie

    1. Welcome to the class Millie. It’s great to have someone from Idaho in the course!

      I know you will learn a lot about financial aid and merit aid, which are obviously topics of huge interest to families with teenagers. Being from Idaho will help students because many schools crave geographic diversity. They want to brag that they have students from all 50 states or as close to that number as possible.

      Here is a post that I wrote earlier this year that talks about the reality that most students stay close to home for college:

      Here is a post that I wrote three years ago about the University of Rochester that gives larger awards to students who aren’t from the state of New York.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  113. Hi Lynn,
    I’m Millie Reidy and I live in the Sun Valley, Idaho area. I’ve been in the college counselor mode for two years as an intern at a public high school and then two years as a college counselor in that same public high school. This is the beginning of my third year at Wood River High School
    Although we have a few families that can pay full COA, many more can not. Finding good financial outcomes for all students(with all different GPAs) is my biggest challenge.
    I hope to gain knowledge and tools so I may be better and more efficient at counseling many students and families.
    Thanks for offering this class!

  114. Hi Lynn,

    My name is Veena Das and I am an independent education consultant. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I attended your session at the WACAC conference in San Jose this year and decided to take this course.

    I have an independent college admissions consulting company and I am currently working with several students. I am very passionate about my work and love working with students. I hope to get more information on financial aid that will help me guide the families that I am working with in the college application process. I am a member of WACAC. I attend many professional development programs and visit colleges during the year. I am also working towards the College Counseling certification program from UCLA.

    My son is currently a sophomore at New York University’s Stern School of Business (I know, this is an expensive school but this was a good fit for him and he is doing very well there).

    I am looking forward to the course and to learning from all of you.

    Veena Das

    1. Hi Veena,

      Welcome to the class! I am up in your neck of the woods right now. I gave a couple of talks the last two nights in Mill Valley and San Francisco. I had about 250 people show up for my presentation last night at the Schools of the Arts (a high school of about 600+ students) , which just shows how much interest families have in figuring out how to make college more affordable.

      Sometimes cutting college costs requires making choices that won’t seem comfortable. For instance, last night I showed a Powerpoint slide that contained a map of the United States entitled, Where the Best Values Are. All the states were highlighted except for those on the East and West Coast. People laughed nervously when they saw that slide. This reality does make people confront their own beliefs and prejudices about what schools are worth attending and which ones are not.

      NYU is one of the most expensive schools net price in the country. In fact it’s on the federal government’s hall of shame list of the 5% of colleges and universities with the highest net prices. You can see the list for yourself by heading to the federal Center for College Affordability and Transparency. Here is the link: For some families, East Coast universities like NYU are worth any price, which is fine. What’s important is for people to understand ahead of time what the cost will be and discuss how it will be handled.

      You will definitely learn a great deal about financial aid in this course Veena!

      Lynn O.

  115. Hi. My name is Sandy Clingman and I am an Independent Educational Consultant in northern Virginia. I completed the UCI certificate last year and launched my business – I now have a few students – and continue to dedicate lots of time to professional development to keep learning more- so I will be ready when my business really takes off! (That WILL happen, right? Hah!)

    I am a member of NACAC, PCACAC, HECA and IECA and attend as many conferences and tours as I can. I also continue to volunteer (7th year) in my local high school’s college and career center, where I not only help out with students and keep abreast of school news within the very large county of Fairfax, but also can speak with college reps when they make their annual visits. Today, for example, I learned from the Rider University rep that I can add Rider to my list of schools that offer guaranteed, automatic merit scholarships (you can Google examiner + scholarships + my name if you’d like to see it.)

    My biggest challenge is helping families see all of their options when finances factor in. I know parents are very afraid their kids will fall in love with an unaffordable school – I hope this class will help me learn how to provide better financial aid information so families will realize they have more options beyond the obvious in-state schools.

    lt’s nice to see several people I know in the class and I’m looking forward to the first webinar! -Sandy

  116. Hi, I’m Stuart Nachbar. I live in Central New Jersey in the Princeton area, about an hour from Philadelphia and 75 minutes from New York; you can actually take a train to either city from nearby!

    I am the publisher of my own college admissions Web site,, and did business with colleges for nearly two decades as an urban economic development professional as well as a software marketing executive. I have a BA in Political Science from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, a Master of Urban Planning degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as a MBA in Marketing from Rutgers. I completed my Certificate in College Counseling (with Distinction) from UCLA in March. I would like to continue writing about college admissions–I have profiled more than 60 schools on–while also offering classes and counseling.

    I take a different approach to writing on college admissions than others who cover their field. For example, having been an urban planner, I discuss issues such as housing, the campus layout, parking, transportation and other quality of life concerns that parents have when they send their students to college. In addition, having been a marketing executive who worked with career development and student services professionals at hundreds of colleges, I understand how these institutions intend to help their students to find an academic direction, test it, and build a network that will support them for their rest of their lives.

    Like Lynn, whom I have known for the past two years, I am a baseball fan. I happen to enjoy reading esoteric baseball books (mainly Bill James) that dig into why a team or player succeeds or fails. I use some of what I’ve learned from reading these books to look into college admissions and discuss, for example, why college rankings should mean little to anyone searching for their “good” college or why some schools are better values than others. Too often students end up choosing the wrong school for the wrong reasons. I use as a vehicle to help them make better decisions.

    I am taking this class to better understand financial aid, especially the policies that are less familiar to me, and to help develop better “inside baseball” posts and materials to better assist parents in the college search. Lynn is to college costs and financial aid what Elizabeth Warren had been to housing finance before she was elected to the U.S. Senate.

    1. Hi Stuart,

      Thanks for joining the class! I welcome your perspective on all things college.

      I strongly recommend that everyone in the class visit Stuart’s website at He has written some incredibly valuable posts about different aspects of the college search process. He’s tackled all sorts of topics including honors colleges/honors programs, options for students looking for art degrees and lots on career services.

      Stuart also has created in-depth profiles of 60 schools – many of which are public universities on the Eastern side of the country – after he has visited campuses and interviewed people at the schools.

      It just occurred to me that I didn’t mention Stuart’s site in the lesson on resources for finding colleges and I will rectify that when I get a chance.

      Thanks Stuart for giving me an opportunity for bragging about what you do!

      Lynn O.

  117. Hi. I’m Katie Andersen and I live in Dana Point, CA. I played soccer for Duke University and graduated in 1992 with a degree in Sociology and Markets & Management Studies. After college I worked in the software industry in CA and Europe for 15 years. I completed the UCLA College Counseling Certificate program in November 2012 and spent the 2012-2013 school year as an intern in the Guidance Dept at Mission Viejo High School working specifically with student-athletes.

    I started my independent college counseling service in March 2013 ( I focus on serving the recruiting and college counseling needs of student-athletes who want to play a sport in college.

    Most of my students are hopeful that they will receive athletic scholarships. However one of my first discussions with them focuses on the reality of how athletic scholarships work and the limitations enforced by the NCAA.Many of my students are not “blue chip” recruits, so they are looking for lower D1, D2 and D3 schools (sometimes NAIA). They are not always excited to hear about D3 schools, but I do my best to help them understand that there are many benefits, especially financial, to considering D3 because they can only offer academic aid to athletes.

    I want to get a deeper understanding of how financial aid works and how to identify schools where my families can find the best fit academically, athletically and financially.

    1. I’m glad you are in the class Katie. And I am excited that your specialty is with student athletes. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about athletic scholarships by parents and teenagers, who think these scholarships represent their golden ticket. They usually do not.

      I’d love to know what type of advice you give students who are interested in pursuing athletic scholarships. I think one of many challenges would be knowing if you are good enough to play at a Div. I level.

      I also tell parents that they should look at Div. III schools, which don’t provide athletic scholarships, but do provide need-based and and usually nonathletic merit scholarships. Some Div III schools offer the same athletic caliber on their teams as lower Div. ! schools, but at Div. III schools you can keep you award even if you don’t continue to play the sport. And that is huge, in my opinion, because so many students stop playing their sport as they get older. Check out the rosters of college sports teams and you’ll often find more freshman and sophomores playing than upper classmen.

      My daughter played Div. II soccer and she wouldn’t have had the educational experiences that she had if she was tied up in a Div. I team with its commitments. For instance, she couldn’t have studied abroad for a year at the University of Barcelona. Caitlin continues to play soccer out of the college and she was recently recruited for a semi-pro team in San Diego, but she has no time for that.

      I’d love to get feedback on the athletic scholarship lessons that I have in the course! I’d like to make it as valuable as possible.

      Lynn O.

  118. Hello everyone. My name is Terry Maciulewicz (pronounced Mak-a-witz- although it doesn’t look that way I know! What can I say, I married a Polish boy:). I am an Independent Educational Consultant. Originally from Connecticut, I have lived all over the country. This past June I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada from the western suburbs of Chicago. My background is in higher education, having worked on the college side for years. I worked in colleges and universities primarily in the northeast and mid-Atlantic area. I have been and IEC for three years and will receive my UCI Independent Educational Consultant certificate next month. I am currently a member of NACAC, IECA, HECA, WACAC, and IACAC.

    Like many of you, I have been following Lynn for a couple of years now, and find her information invaluable for my clients. As a first generation college student, I know how challenging the financial process can be for many families. My goal is to provide my clients with as much information as possible and to simplify the process along the way.

    Additionally, my son is now a freshman in high school and I know that this class will assist me as a parent. I look forward to learning more from you Lynn!

    1. Hi Terry,

      I am glad you are taking my class again! I’m happy that the course will not only help you become a more valuable resource to your families, but can also benefit your own son!

      It must have been quite an adjustment moving to Nevada from Chicago and back East. The college scene is obviously quite different. There aren’t many four-year universiities/colleges in Nevada and the focus on getting into the U.S. News’ rankings darlings just isn’t there for the vast majority of families. That latter reality, I’d argue is a big plus!

      I gave a talk at a Catholic high school in Reno, NV a couple of years in a row and I was blown away when I was told that it was only two Catholic high schools in the entire state of Nevada!

      Lynn O.

      1. Lynn, I think my son goes to the other Catholic school in the state! He is currently at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. It’s a big-time football school (to which I had no idea) but also a great college preparatory high school. And yes, this state is very limited in schools. Quite a change to say the least!

  119. I’m Marilynn Aiches and I have a private practice (College Admit Pro) that’s based in Berkeley, CA, although I have students all over the US as well as a few international students. I’ve been working with students professionally for about 10 years, although I started w/ my own daughter, Student Zero, as I refer to her. She did remarkably well in her college admissions, attended P’ton. Friends said I should do this professionally, since I was successfully helping their children. I said, nah, it was my daughter not me, it was their kids, not me… Then when I went to an open house at UC Berkeley Extension College and Career Counseling program and thought, hey, why not? I realized there was lots to learn and it would be interesting. Even at this time of year, and after all these years, I have to say, this is such an excellent profession, so many moving parts, interesting kids and families, such a variety of schools to choose from. The word dynamic comes to mind. I’m pleased to help at a critical time in a student and family’s life. My practice is full, and I’ve filled others’ practices with my overflow. Additionally, I’ve been working as a freshman reader in undergraduate admissions at UC Berkeley for 8 or 9 years.

    All this is well and good, but I’d like to have a fuller understanding of financial aid. I know the basics, and I’m aware of the information, yet I’m here because who else would I go to to get a more solid footing than Lynn? I read her blog and find it most useful, crisp, informative, reassuring.

    In the past few years my middle class parents have looked pained when the subject of $ comes up. Sometimes, when a student seems not to be digging in and discovering/researching their college list, I turn to them and say ‘Hey, this is going to cost someone a quarter of a million dollars…..and that’s in after taxes.” They look stunned. I know a bit about how to unearth some merit aid and how they should look at Common Data info, but I’d like more solid footing. I’ve already learned a lot looking through the offerings in this class—that calculators can be different and other items…These are the tidbits that are so important and will make me a better professional. Although I probably will still refer out to a finaid professional, I want to be fluent in Fin Aid.

    Generally, in my practice there are a lot of challenges—-keeping expectations real, getting parents to sober up and admit their student has to consider the finances in the college choices (most think, well if she/he gets in to X Reach College, everything will be wonderful and said college will rain down $), helping keep stress of students and parents to a reasonable level. And there’s a lot more challenges, but I’ve taken up too much time here. Looking forward to the the class.

    1. Hi Marilynn,

      Thanks for joining the class. It is great to hear from a successful veteran college consultant. I agree with you that this college niche is a fascinating and dynamic one. And it provides endless challenges for consultants who run across clients with so many needs and interests.

      I also agree that families often do not have realistic expectations about the colleges that they can get into and what the cost will be.

      I just wish that the professional organizations such as HECA, IECA, NACAC and the regional ACACs would get serious about helping consultants and counselors learn about the financial side of college. I think is a shame that NACAC, in particular, has done next to nothing in this area.

      Since you are in Berkeley, I wanted to tell you about two presentations this week. I will be speaking at the Mill Valley Community Center (Cascade Room) tonight (Oct. 7) at 7 p.m. Anyone is welcome to attend this free event. I will be speaking at the Ruth Asawa School of Arts in San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night. I tried to post this earlier, but I’ve been traveling.

      I’ll probably have a low turn out for the talk tonight since the Giants are playing at 6 p.m. Sigh. As Stuart Nachbar noted in his introduction I am a baseball fan. I’ve rooted all my life for the St. Louis Cardinals, but don’t hold that against me!

      Lynn O.

  120. My name is Missy Yavasile and I live in Visalia, CA. It is a rural town in the hot, dry, Central Valley of California. Like many others, I have been following Lynn for several years. I began with her book and then a workshop in San Diego.I also took her class last spring and loved it! I am amazed at the depth of knowledge she has, and her willingness to share with all of us.I too, am a big fan!
    I retired from education 4 years ago after 36 years as an educator. I have a Masters in Education, an Administrative credential and a PPS credential. I taught grades 4 through community college, with most of my time teaching High School Biology. I was also a high school Guidance Counselor and a charter school (400 students) independent study founder/principal. I learned to love the one-on-one counseling I experienced in independent study. After I retired, I wanted to continue meeting with high school students. My past experience had been working with struggling students (The “F” list) or “misfits. Although I loved that, I also felt that the college bound students did not get the attention they needed. Although I know that many financial planners get a “bad rap” for selling products that are not needed, I met a man who had been in the financial side of college planning for many years and told me about this profession. When I first started (2010), he helped several of my clients with his knowledge about financial aid. I wanted to know as much as he knows! I don’t believe the CFPs are all bad. I actually feel that most of them believe that what they are doing helps the client, but they do not know very much about college planning! Anyway…I am rambling!
    Like most everyone else, my biggest challenge is getting families to look at schools out of California. I understand how scary that is. My son attended Miami, Ohio (football scholarship) and that is almost 2500 miles from home. It was HARD to watch him fly away! But I also know that it was the best thing for HIM! In addition, although I talk to my families about the lousy financial aid in California, I feel that most of them are still in denial about it! I would love to have some samples of great financial aid offered at schools out of California lined up next to California schools in a chart!!
    Besides the College Search using EFC and college cost calculators, I would like to know what we can suggest for families that ARE good practices to lower their actual EFC. Also what can we do to help B students (no merit aid) with a high EFC (no need-based aid).
    I am so full of things I want to learn! I can’t wait for this class!! Thanks, Lynn, for sharing. (Sorry this is so long)

    1. Hi Missy,

      Thanks so much for joining the class!

      I am so glad that you’re back in the class!

      You bring up a lot of great points.

      I wanted to address what you said about financial advisors. The vast majority of financial advisors know little to nothing about late-stage college planning. And I’m talking about even the best of them. The CFP designation, by the way, signifies extra training and is a good mark to look for when searching for financial professionals. (I used to be a financial journalist before I switched over to writing about college exclusively.)

      This lack of advisor knowledge about college planning for parents with teenagers is really a terrible omission since it is often the second biggest expense in parents’ lives and sometimes the biggest expense!

      Why is this critical area ignored? Financial advisors generally believe that there is no money in the college space. The amount of money that families save in 529 and other accounts is usually modest – so it’s not a field that financial planners want to spend time learning. The discount financial giants, such as Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab, as well as industry giants like Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Ameriprise etc, have blown this area off. The only advice they dispense is directed at young families and goes something like this: start saving for college when your children are young and your money will grow through compounding. It’s good advice, but pretty much worthless for parents whose teenagers are starting to loook at colleges.

      Financial professionals are focused just about exclusively on the bigger pots of money in retirement planning and wealth management. This is misguided because if advisors know just the basics about college planning for parents of older children they can help cement relationships. If they just know about such issues as EFC calculators, net price calculators, checking grad rates, how factors like investments, divorce/separation, grandparent savings and home equity do or don’t impact financial – they would be so much more helpful.

      With this void of financial advise in this country, it makes even more sense for counselors and consultants to understand the basics. If you do, you’ll be even more invaluable to your families.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  121. Hello Lynn,

    My name is Cynthia Hammond-Davis. This is the 2nd course I have taken with you. I truly enjoyed the first one and know that I will enjoy this one too! I have worked for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland for over 23 years. The last 10 years have been as a College & Financial Aid Advisor in a high school in MCPS. I absolutely love my job and love finding ways to help our families pay less for college. I also have a small private college advising business that I will soon increase, adding more parents and students. I am an author of a published book on college and financial aid from a parent’s perspective. Thank you for having this course and for sharing your knowledge with us! Looking forward to it!

  122. Hello, I am Sherry Humphrey and this will be the second class I have taken from Lynn. I, also am a big fan having purchased her book years ago and have been following her ever since. I have a Masters in Social Work, and have completed the certificate program in Independent Educational Consulting from UCI a few months ago. I have launched an independent practice in College Planning here in Kansas City and have a handful of clients. I am a member of IECA and HECA.

    I just can’t seem to get enough of learning about the college financial aid process. (I think I am dense). As mentioned, Lynn’s approach is so logical, practical and honest that I keep coming back for more. I could be the VP of that fan club! My challenge here in Kansas City is getting families to even consider looking at out of state smaller schools. We have a very loyal following to a number of our strong state schools in the area. It is hard to convince families when they see the price tags of many private schools that the tuition may be discounted and possibly even cheaper than a large state school. Seems like many students in my area go either of two routes, a state school or an Ivy.

    Since, I am new to the college consulting field I still don’t feel confident in being able to really understand “what type of student” will most likely get that average 46% tuition discount at a private school. Trying to get behind the “lens” of admission counselors in what they are looking for in a given year seems a bit daunting for me. I utilize the tools Lynn has mentioned such as,, Big Future etc. but still I lack the confidence of being able to predict or project what type of money a family may receive.

    My hopes with this class is to build on my knowledge base of understanding with ease the complex financial aid process. Additionally, I would like to know how to break down this complex process into manageable pieces for my families. This would be such a value.

    Looking forward to learning from Lynn and others throughout the country. I am married, 32 years, and have launched our four children off to college to four different schools. Two are graduated and working and my twins are seniors in college. I love the field of higher education.

    1. Hi Sherry,

      Thanks for rejoining the class! I have a special fondness for Kansas City because that’s where my husband and I met. And specifically in the newsroom of the Kansas City Star. If you’re a KC baseball fan, congratulations on the Royals performance. As I write this, it looks like they are advancing to the next stage of the playoffs. As a St. Louis native, I’m a Cardinal fan and i’d love the teams to meet in the World Series

      I don’t think there is anything unusual about what’s happening in Missouri. People tend to gravitate to their own state schools (most kids do not go to the flagships). Parents and teenagers aren’t educated as to what their choices might be. Sometimes state schools are the very best option, but that won’t always be the case. Getting families to extend their search is definitely challenging and one reason why I couldn’t ever be in the shoes of a college consultant or high school counselor!

      You will never know with complete certainty whether a particular school will accept a student and provide a good package. That’s one reason why students need to apply to enough schools.

      The average tuition discount, by the way, is actually greater than 46%. It’s now roughly 53%. The media often reports the wrong figure. The 46% refers to what percentage of an institutions revenue is given back as discounts. The 53% represents the average discount off tuition. This is at an historic high. So is the percentage of students at private schools that receive a tuition discount. It’s now at nearly 89% of students.

      I would suggest that you take a look at the 18-page cheat sheet that I created over the summer that provides steps to take with your clients/families. I would love to get feedback from people in the class about whether it is helpful. You can download the cheat sheet in the Welcome to the Class lesson and in the Bonus Material lesson.

      Thanks for your kind words Sherry!

      Lynn O.

  123. Hi! My name is Kathy Moore and I am a College Counselor at a Public H.S. in Columbus, Ohio. I have been in the field of School Counseling for 15 years, but in my current position for 3 years. My focus each year is on Juniors and Seniors, however there are always freshman and sophomore families that want to meet. I also provide college planning meetings for all grade levels several times a year.

    Our district is middle to upper class so I think my biggest challenge is helping families to understand that there are great schools out there other than the selective, big name schools. Also helping them to build good financially fit lists in addition to strong academic fits.

    I took Lynn’s class last Spring and loved it!! I learned so much- it has changed the way I work with families and resources I share. I want to continue learning more!

    1. Hi Kathy,

      I am so glad you are taking the class!

      Affluent families pose their own challenges since they tend to want the brand name schools that their friends and family have heard about. Relying on such a narrow search can be a huge disservice to teenagers. If you only aim for the schools with instant brand-name recognition, you will eliminate nearly all colleges. I give a lot of talks to affluent audiences and it no longer surprises me when people in the audiences have never heard of schools like Carleton and Reed.

      A couple of years ago I gave a presentation to about 400 people in Santa Cruz, CA, a college town, and asked the audience who knew the difference between a college and a university. About a half dozen raised their hand and this was an audience that certainly had university professors in it.

      I think part of the problem is that most high school counselors don’t know the difference between a college and a university so the message never gets out about what these institutions have to offer. Colleges also do a miserable job of explaining what they do.

      Before they start looking at schools, I think they need to understand the mission of the various types of institutions: research university, master’s level university, specialty schools (biz,art,music), baccalaureate colleges and liberal arts colleges.

      It’s not easy having conversations about institution mission when families consider the US News’ horribly flawed rankings as the ultimate authority, but it’s certainly worth trying!

      Lynn O.

  124. Hi All –
    I am from San Diego, and have attended one of Lynn’s lectures at our local high school. When I first began advising my clients, I read Lynn’s book first, as I was frustrated by not learning enough practical information from the UCLA financial aid class. So it was a treat to listen to Lynn in person.

    I have had a word of mouth private counseling business for the last four years, after completing the UCLA certification. Each year I have been filled to capacity, working with students from 5 local high schools, as well as a couple of students remotely. Now that my youngest daughter is a junior in college, my contacts at my main high school will probably start to fade. I know that I will need to get out into the community more in order to sustain this practice. I like the idea of giving presentations about college costs, because I am finding that so many of the parents who come to me are in the dark about costs and aid.

    One of the challenges I see is that the media and college tours/marketing keep up the drumbeat that “financial aid for college is out there.” Unfortunately, for the unprepared, waiting until junior or senior year can be a wake up call to find out that their particular circumstances do not qualify for aid, or the realities of preferential packaging and gapping, or the nature of how much financial aid actually is in the form of loans. The misinformation that really gets me is “you can take your financial aid with you when you study abroad.” I explained to a starry eyed low income student that her financial aid would not cover the airfare or incidental costs of studying abroad. She was so disappointed after hearing that particular phrase on every tour that her college access group attended, as her family lives at the margins as it is.

    Another challenge I find is that even when I have extensively explained the system (using Lynn’s wisdom!) that the parents still leave the college list of applications decision to their children, saying that they will wait and see about the costs in April. The students tend to stick with the best known schools, which can be reaches both in admissions and costs – and then hopefully end up at a UC or CSU that they like, which is getting tougher as well.

    Another big challenge lately is the lists of the kids’ applications are getting longer and longer. Even though their parents have hired me to hopefully reintroduce some sanity into the process, I would say that my students usually apply to 10-12 schools; I have 5 seniors this year applying to 15-20 schools, against my recommendations.

    I am a member of HECA and WACAC, and have attended two IECA conferences. I recognize a couple of the names in this class from the HECA board! I look forward to learning from all of you.

    1. Hi Donna,

      I am so glad you are in the class.

      I think it’s smart to get out in the community, particularly with your ties to your daughter’s high school weakening. One thing that everyone taking my course will get that can help with outreach is a copy of my financial aid slides (45 in all) that you can put your name on and modify anyway that you’d like. I hunted for a firm that makes awesome Powerpoint slides — it wasn’t easy – and found a firm in Poland of all places! The people who signed up earliest have already got the slides and everyone else will be receiving them within a week.

      I decided that the slides will be more valuable if you see how I use them in a presentation I use some of these slides in the class, but I am going to record myself using all 45 slides so you can see what I do with them. I will let everyone know what I’ve recorded the slides and where I have posted it.

      I am so glad you brought up the practice of parents letting students apply wherever they want and then sitting back and hoping for the best when acceptances arrive in the spring. This is a financially irresponsible practice – unless money is no object – and I would urge everyone taking this class to strongly advise your clients/families against this.

      Parents need to have a sense about what their EFC figures are and also what the net prices of schools on their children’s lists are. You can tell your families how to obtain their EFCs and their net prices with the EFC calculator and net price calculators. In the bonus section, you will see a PDF of this course’s net price calculator lesson that you can hand out to families that will explain what NPC’s are and why they should be using this tool.

      In the bonus section, you can also print out the EFC cheat sheet, which is written for parents and explains what an EFC is and why it’s important.

      One of the biggest mistakes I see families making is letting their children generate their own college lists stuffed with brand name schools that they have very little chance of getting into or affording.

      Cpnsultants who can help families generate realistic lists of wonderful schools with the financial piece included will enjoy a competitive edge over their peers!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  125. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Wendy and I have a M.Ed. in counseling with certification in School Counseling from Boston University and a CAGS in School Psychology. I currently live in AZ. My past experience includes working as a college counselor/director at 2 private high schools in the Boston area and as a high school counselor in 3 different public school districts in AZ. In between, I owned an academic services business with 25 independent contractors who provided tutoring and SAT preparation. I advised some of our clients with college planning. Through that business, I really realized that many public high schools are not teaching students and parents the skills and tools they need to be successful in the college search and in the financial aid process. I went to a college fair this past weekend and even many admissions reps could not answer my questions about financial topics at their college. Most recently, I accepted a position 2-3 days per week as a counselor in a public school. I have no alphabet caseload, so one of my my primary roles is to improve the college planning process. In addition, I have started to assist families privately, only through friends though and not as a formal incorporated business. I am considering that option for next school year instead if the school setting though. I will see how “things” go with this school.

    I am a repeat student in Lynn’s class. I am hoping to learn even more about how to assist and advise families in this area. I learned so much from Lynn and the other participants in the last class. For those of you who have not taken a class from Lynn before, you will not be disappointed. Lynn’s examples to illustrate concepts and her knowledge of various colleges and universities has helped me tremendously to keep current on these topics. I hope to learn from the various experiences from everyone in the class as well. For me, advising families in that middle EFC range is the most challenging. Thank you Lynn for creating this valuable professional development experience. I am looking forward to the next few months.

  126. Hi All! I am Faith Stewart, an independent college consultant in Washington state. I started my practice just last year, with a case load of 6 students, one being my son (who is currently attending (and loving) U of Puget Sound). I recently completed the UCLA Ex. Certificate Program, and have a BA in Psychology and an MA in Organizational Development. Besides my college freshman son I have a 16 year old daughter.. and a lovely husband. 🙂

    I think my biggest challenge in working with students/families also brings me the most satisfaction, and that is that everyone is different and has quite different needs/goals. Of course this includes issues like interests/majors, preferred location, type of school, etc. But I also find great diversity in terms of their specific financial situation. Examples of families I have already worked with include: same-sex parents, separated but not divorced parents, recently deceased parent, sky-high EFC, super low EFC, grandparents with 529 accounts, recent inheritance, and unusual assets (multiple rental properties). I have found that I really like figuring out the implications of these various situations as they relate to college costs and strategizing in terms of college list development and affordability.

    I feel very strongly that families need to understand college financial process and what it means for THEIR family before they start drawing up a list of colleges. I spoke about college financial aid a PTSA meeting last fall to a group of about 40 parents; my first question was “Who knows what an EFC or Estimated Family Contribution is?”. Not one hand raised. So, people need to have a better sense of this or they 1) miss opportunities or 2) pay more than they can afford and/or need to pay. And that is the reason I am in this course. I have worked to learn as much as I can about college financial planning and I hope to become very familiar, comfortable, and conversant on the issue so that I can better serve families.

    I took your first course, Lynne, which was great. Looking forward to being a part of his one! Faith

    1. Hi Faith,

      Welcome to the class! I’m glad your son is loving Puget Sound. It was a school on the list of both of my children.

      I am not surprised that no one at your presentation knew what an EFC was, much less know what their figures were. If money is an issue, parents should obtain their institutional and federal EFC before they begin looking at any schools. I hope some of them went home after hearing you talk and used the College Board’s EFC calculator!

      You clearly have seen a wide range of clients that all pose their own issues. I hope this class can help you navigate many of these situations successfully!

      Lynn O.

  127. Hi, my name is Belinda Wilkerson and I have lived in Fayetteville, NC for almost 4 years. My background includes work as a middle and high school Social Studies teacher, a professional school counselor, the president of the RI School Counseling Association, the director of the Rhode Island School Counseling Project, and an instructor in the Counselor Education program at Providence College. I’m a member of IECA (Associate), HECA, NACAC, SACAC, and NCDA. I’m still adjusting to living in the South and return home to Rhode Island as often as possible to visit 🙂

    Since moving to NC, I started a college admission counseling business working with students from all income levels. Additionally, I present college admission workshops in our library branches, I volunteer with a teen program, Chillax, at one of the local library branches, and i chair a committee at the Child Advocacy Center, which is dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

    I find the more I continue my education about financial aid, the more my families benefit. I took your class with Michelle earlier in the year, but I’m intrigued about learning more from you. i attended your workshop at the IECA conference in San Diego and now, I’m a lifelong fan of your work.

    My families ran the gamut of EFCs of 0 to families that do not have to worry about paying but want a bargain anyway. My challenges are similar to many already stated, so I just plan to soak up new knowledge.

    Thank you for structuring this class over 4 months and I look forward to increasing my knowledge about financial aid.

    1. Hi Belinda,

      Welcome to the class!

      You sound like a very busy person with all your obligations and volunteering for such great causes! That’s an interesting combination of states – NC and RI – that you hop between.

      I am glad you like having the class spread over four months. I figured with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up (sooner than we’d like) that it made sense to stretch the class out beyond the traditional application season. That way people could absorb the information and get their questions answered without feeling rushed.

      Lynn O.

  128. Hi Lynn! I’m Jenny Buyens, and I currently reside in the magnificent Twin Cities of Minnesota. Born and raised Midwesterner, but recently relocated from the South.

    My college niche:
    I founded and directed a college and career center in my daughter’s large public high school in Atlanta for 5 years.
    I worked as a college counselor at a school for students with learning differences.
    I am an independent college consultant with a caseload of 14 seniors and 3 juniors.
    I volunteer as a Graduation Coach with a local college readiness group.
    I am the parent of a BFA college graduate, and a soon-to-be AS community college grad.

    Parents who have sufficient funding ‘expecting’ to get merit awards from colleges.
    Everyone’s EFC is too high. (they say)
    No one wants to take out any loans.
    Reluctance to stay local or start local (to save $$), with the fear that their student will miss out on ‘the college experience.’
    Wanting to leave high priced schools on their list, knowing they won’t be able (or willing) to pay for them, ‘just to see if we can get in.’

    Hope to gain from this course:
    Reading others’ responses, I can piggyback on nearly everything which has already been said. I need to improve and refine my comfort level with everything financial in order to better serve my clients. Right now, I have a basic understanding but I need to be able to dig deeper.

    Lynn, we met at IECA last fall in SanDiego, where I presented you with my business card, which my job title had been altered to read “President, Lynn O’Shaughnessy Fan Club”!

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I’m so glad you are in the class! And I laughed out loud when I saw your title as president of my fan club! Too funny!!

      Wow. You’ve had a lot of irons in the fire in this college niche. I’d love to learn more about what you did with the students with learning disabilities and also with the college readiness group.

      That’s a nice summary of challenges. I don’t blame people for thinking their EFC is too high because they really aren’t designed to determine what families can pay. For most families, it’s going to be difficult paying for college just out of monthly cash flow. That’s why saving for college is so important although most people haven’t been able to save nearly enough. Taking out federal student loans is actually a safe way to borrow for college due to the income-based repayment plans – the latest being Pay As You Earn. Here is the link to the federal repayment programs:

      It’s interesting what you said about people not wanting to start local. Most students stay pretty close to home for college even though sometimes better opportunities exist farther away.

      I am glad you brought up the mentality of let’s apply and see what happens. I think this lottery approach is a bad way to pick colleges and can leave students with few if any choices when they roll the dice and lose!

      Lynn O.

  129. Welcome to the class Beth. Wow, that will be quite a feat to have five children in college at once.

    Your EFC will be considerably lower when that happens and it will also be much lower when just your triplets are in college. Your EFC will be far lower than for someone, for instance, with three children who spaced them four years apart.

    Based on the institutional method, your EFC will drop by 55% when the triplets are in college without their older siblings and your EFC will drop by 66% for the federal method.

    The chart I have doesn’t even show how much your EFC would drop with five children in school! I do know with four children, your EFC will drop by 75% (federal) and 65% (institutional).

    Depending on what your EFC is, I’d recommend looking for schools that give very good financial aid. I’d be curious about what your child at Loyola Marymount is getting. Many Catholic universities give very poor need-based aid and Loyola Marymount is in that category.

    Lynn O.

    1. Hi Lynn,

      My son got a merit scholarship from LMU and a small renewable scholarship from my husband’s employer, as did his sister. But no needs based aid. I just had my 0 EFC student run the NPC for LMU and they did not do much for her, so I know what you are talking about!

      1. Hi Beth,

        I find it very sad that major Catholic universities routinely give poor financial aid. I think the aid policies of too many of these institutions are shameful. Among the worse offenders are Catholics universities in major cities and many of them are located on the coasts including Loyola Marymount, Fordham, Catholic, St. Joseph’ U. Sacred Heart U., St. Louis U., St. Mary’s College of Ca, Fairfield, Dominincan, U. of Portland, Providence College, Marymount Manhattan and the University of San Diego.

        These schools are on what I call the federal hall of shame list. They are among the top five percent of nonprofit, private four-year schools that charge the highest net prices. The federal govt publishes this list each year in the hope of shaming these schools into moderating their prices. You can generate the list yourself by going to the federal Center for College Affordability and Transparency. Here is the iink: You’ll also find many art and music conservatories on this list.

        Few Catholic universities that I am aware of offer generous financial aid – Georgetown and Notre Dame are exception. Shamefully, Notre Dame accepts a very low percentage of Pell Grant students. Boston College suggests that it is generous, but it’s draconian aid formula works against families.

        Lynn O.

  130. Hi, my name is Beth Coyle. I am in the Concord/Walnut Creek of California, I went through the Berkeley College Advising Program and am an independent advisor with several seniors and several transfer students in the fall cycle. My background is in teaching and I came to college advising, like many others, through my own children’s experience. I have twins who are in college now, my son is at Loyola Marymount University, and my daughter is at Cal Poly, SLO. They are both 3rd year students. I also have triplets who are seniors and are applying this fall. Yes, I will have 5 kids in college at the same time. So, I have a personal as well as a professional interest in paying for college. I have a range of students, 1 pro-bono student has a 0 EFC, to one who can afford full price at Pitzer. Of course, most of my students are somewhere in between. I work with many upper middle class families who don’t qualify for needs based aid, but need help paying for college. Everytime I attend a financial aid workshop I pick up something new. I think that it is such a large subject we need to expose ourselves to it over and over again to gain competence. I am excited to learn more!

  131. Hi everyone!
    My name is Rachel and I’m currently a community college counselor in San Jose, CA. I was previously a high school counselor at a school in Santa Rosa for six years and also worked at Santa Rosa Junior College. While at the high school, I worked with mostly lower-income students who generally qualified for Pell and Cal Grants, but very few of them chose private schools. As a high school counselor, we weren’t given the opportunity to even go to the local CSU and UC conferences, let alone tour other schools out of the area.

    The high school I worked at had an Early College program that I was the counselor and co-coordinator for, so the majority of my high school students were 4-year college bound. The program allowed the students to take up to 30 units of community college classes for free (including textbooks, transportation and registration) which was a great way for the students and families to save money.

    While working as a high school counselor, I started working for UC Berkeley as a Freshman Admission evaluator/reader and am about to begin my fifth application cycle this year. This experience and having so much time off at the community college made me consider starting my own business as an Independent Educational Consultant. I completed the UC Irvine program last Fall and have been working for a year with a small number of students (9th – 12th grade). I love working with high school students and miss that part of being a counselor even though I LOVE my job at the community college. Because I have a full-time position at the college, I keep the number of students I take on rather small (6-10). But, I’m enjoying traveling and visiting schools and learning more about the college admissions process.

    I have joined IECA, HECA and WACAC and first encountered Lynn in San Diego at the IECA conference last year. I was amazed at the amount of information and the depth of knowledge that you have and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from who I consider the most knowledgeable in the field.

    I always worked closely with the community college financial aid office and consider myself very knowledgeable about FAFSA, Pell, and Cal grants as well as how students need to perform in order to keep their financial aid. What I find most challenging is figuring out which schools to recommend to families based on affordability. I work mostly with middle-class families who get the short end of the stick when it comes to financial aid living in CA, so I think this information will be especially beneficial for my clients since the majority of them live in California.

    The other challenge is what others have already mentioned. As Donna mentioned, most want to stay in California and attend one of the UCs or CSUs and usually the most competitive schools. However, I do have parents (and their kids) who only want a top 20 school and think my focus on fit is not valuable since in their minds being at a brand name school is all that matters.

    I was enrolled in several other classes this semester, but decided to drop them all when this course appeared. I’m excited about how much I’m sure I’ll learn and how much more help and information I’ll be able to provide to my families.

    (Sorry for the lengthy intro – I talk and write a lot!)

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Welcome to the class! I am so glad you are here. I am honored that you decided to take my course rather than others! I promise that you will learn a lot.

      I am particularly intrigued by your experience at the community-college level. As I mentioned in another comment, this is where most students in California start their college careers. I’d love to hear from you about what are the best ways to ensure that a child gets out of community college in a timely fashion and makes it to a four-year institution. Put another way, what mistakes do you routinely see that keeps students from ultimately getting a bachelor’s degree?

      I had recommended using the College Board’s Accuplacer to study for the community college placement tests. Do you think that’s a valuable resource? Do you recommend others?

      I also appreciate that your clients want to stay in California. Unfortunately, most of the California schools, beyond the elite ones, typically offer stingy financial aid. They can get away with this because so many students want to attend college in California. You see the same phenomenon with many universities in cities on the East Coast. I discuss this issue in the modules on targeting schools for the most money.

      Lynn O.

  132. Hi, Lynn,
    My name is Perry Youngblood. I’ve been working with students for 13 years, first in SAT/ACT test prep and then for the last 5 years as a college admissions consultant. I’m a professional member of IECA and a member of HECA. I heard you speak, I think at the HECA conference in NJ, and have read your valuable book on financial aid.
    My goal for the course is to increase my expertise and become more fully equipped to help families who need financial aid. My college consulting clients thus far have been heavily skewed towards high income families. But I believe there are many in my community who could benefit from financial planning advice relative to college.
    Among my challenges I would list
    -getting students to consider colleges other than big universities (I know you agree, based on your comments about your son). This has a financial aspect, since the sticker price of the private colleges frightens families away.
    -getting families to even share their financial situation, since so many are convinced they will not get aid.

    i’m very much looking forward to the class.

    1. Hi Perry,

      Welcome to the class. The challenges that you face are definitely experienced by many consultants. Parents and teenagers feel a lot safer when they are following the crowd. And frankly, in a vacuum of information, you can’t blame families for all focusing on the same set of schools.

      I also understand the hesitancy of families to share financial information, but you can get some sense of whether a family will receive aid simply by having them use an EFC calculator. In this course, I recommend using the College Board’s EFC calculator. Asking parents how much they make or how big are their investments can be intrusive, but telling the family to calculate their EFCs (federal and institutional) should be far easier to do. Parents wouldn’t want to say, I make $150,000 a year, but sharing that their EFC is $32,000,for instance, shouldn’t seem threatening.

      It’s obviously important for families to know that price tags are often meaningless. One way to get families to understand this is to have them use net price calculators. I have a lesson on net price calculators in Your Families’ First Step module.

      Lynn O.

  133. Thanks for the links, Lynn! Juniata kicked off our college admission rep visit season today with a presentation to our students!

  134. Hi, My name is Wendy Williams. I am an Educational Consultant in Alpharetta, GA. I have been in the field of education since 2001. I began my company in 2005. I have a lot of families who say they do not need financial aid, but I think it is important to understand why they think that they won’t qualify and why they feel filling out the FAFSA and CSS Profile is a waste of time. I really need to understand the larger scope of this side of the field so that I can be more aware of opportunities for my clients.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I’m glad that we have someone from Georgia in the class!

      Many people assume they won’t get need-based aid, but they won’t know for sure unless they use an EFC calculator using the institutional and federal methodologies.

      If their EFC is quite high – $40,000, $50,000 or higher, there is almost no chance of getting need-based aid except for a few very elite schools like Harvard, Yale and Pomona. Affluent families need to get some idea of their EFC so they can target schools that give merit-aid – if money is a concern. And frankly, money is an issue for most families – even those who are quite well off. The module entitled, Your Families’ First Step, will contain quite about about EFC’s and how to calculate them.

  135. Lynn,

    I remember classmates in the UCLA program who were guidance counselors stating that they had maybe 1 very broad overview course in College & Career issues while in graduate school.

    I agree with you-thus far at the various WACAC events and the one HECA conference, no sessions on making college affordable. To be honest, I often felt in my UCLA course that I was championing the middle class cause!

    My son had an arduous journey through high school-a bright young man, diagnosed with ADHD, then bullied to the point that it caused severe mental anguish. He was homeschooled for 3 years which ended up being the best thing for him. He is enrolled at our local community college-one of the better ones in the state, thankfully-and doing very well. I had heard at a WACAC event earlier this year that more classes were being added at the CA community colleges-and by golly, they were right. My son was able to register for all the classes he wanted and has a nice schedule to boot. One thing though I advocate for students choosing the community college route is for parents to stay engaged in that process and to have a transfer plan-to be well acquainted with articulation agreements. My son has 2 private, faith based schools in mind that he is considering for transfer. We are well aware of the merit aid available if he keeps his grades up. I have to say that the community college price is easy on th pocketbook!

    1. Hi Donna,

      I’m glad you brought up community colleges, which is where the majority of students in California start out! They have excellent teachers at community colleges and the class sizes can be considerably lower at these schools. And, of course, you can’t beat the price!

      The big downside to community colleges is that most students never get out. They don’t get their associates nor bachelor’s degree. It’s important to have a transfer plan which you have done. Congratulations. It looks like your son should have no problem making the transition.

      I would recommend to students heading to community colleges that they study for the placement tests in English and math. Students can forget, particularly what they need to know in subjects like Algebra and Geometry, and brushing up before the tests can help them avoid remedial classes that they must take for no credit.

      An excellent source for studying for community college placement tests is Accuplacer at the College Board. Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  136. My name is Donna Sakabu, and I live in the Sacramento area. I came into this field by way of volunteering at my sons’ charter school about 5 years ago (they are no longer enrolled in that school). It was a brand new school, with very committed parents trying to make things happen. One of the committees I was a founding member of was “College and Career Planning”. At the same time, I was doing a lot of research to ferret out college information on my own and would share it with friends whose children were about the same ages as my two. One morning while out to coffee with 2 of these friends, as I was talking about re-entering the paid work world, they each turned to me and said “You need to do this kind of work”. I listened well, and the following week registered for my first course in the UCLA online College Counseling certificate program. At the same time, I joined WACAC (Western Association for College Admissions Counseling). I completed the UCLA program in November, 2013. In addition to being a WACAC member, I am also a member of HECA and NACAC. I attended my first HECA conference in June, in Portland, OR-a fantastic experience.

    I am currently launching an independent educational consulting practice, Admissions Journey College Consulting, and recently was asked to do some contract work with a local public charter high school, which will be my first paid “gig”. Up to this point, I have been immersed in my own sons’ college search/application processes-the older son is a college freshman and the younger one is a high school senior. As well, I have volunteered my services with local friends and family members.

    The biggest challenges I face in helping families is getting them to consider schools other than our UC and CSU campuses. Having a child in the local public comprehensive high school, I know how college counseling is handled there-and the emphasis on CSU and UC schools. Early on as I immersed myself into this field, I made it my mission to inform families about the many wonderful options, often beyond California borders, where students can graduate in 4 years and receive excellent financial aid, usually with the cost on par or less than UCs for sure, or even less than CSU schools. Most of the families I’ve worked with to date are middle income and very busy. So they want to find ways to pay less for college, but are overwhelmed by the process and find it daunting, in a nutshell. They often think that they will qualify for more financial aid than they do. They are very concerned about how to pay for college. Last spring, I had some friends invite me to join them at a college admissions presentation by a financial services firm-I was skeptical, but went to hear what kind of information was presented, and what services were being offered. I left disgusted as I felt the presenter preyed on families’ fears, and didn’t provide true information-a lot of “smoke and mirrors”.

    I have been a big fan of your pragmatic and straightforward advice, Lynn, for a good while now. I often refer families to your Facebook page and to your book. Many times on my professional Facebook page, I provide links to your posts. I sensed from the course description, Lynn, that you will offer much more information than what I learned in Financial Aid Fundamentals in the UCLA program. My goal in taking this class is to gain an in-depth understanding on how families can cut the cost of college-to be able to provide practical, useful help to my clients.

    1. Hi Donna,

      Thanks for joining the class. I applaud you for turning to so many resources to become as knowledgeable as you can about college counseling/consulting. It’s impressive.

      One reason why I am so passionate about helping counselors and consultants is because there isn’t any one comprehensive source of information for these professionals on the financial side of college. HECA and IECA don’t devote a lot of attention to it beyond the occasional presentation at one of their conferences.

      What I find unbelievable and terribly frustrating is that NACAC avoids giving professionals information about how to make college more affordable. I recently attended NACAC’s annual conference in Indianapolis and there were no sessions focused exclusively on this issue. And that’s not unusual! When NACAC does authorize a session that touches on the financial side of college it’s inevitably a presentation about a survey that shows that parents are worried about college costs.

      What is equally mind-boggling is that the schools of education in this country don’t include college planning in the curriculum for the counseling master’s degree programs that public high school counselors typically must obtain. I find this a national scandal.

      Some of the University of California extension services are offering college counseling programs, such as the one you graduated from, as a way to educate professionals, but even these programs focus very little on how to pay for college.

      I graduated from UCLA’s college consulting program back in 2010 and I was not impressed with the financial aid course, which focused heavily on the FAFSA and PROFILE basics. Sometimes these UC courses are taught by admission administrators at colleges and you can’t expect them to be candid about college practices, including financial aid policies.

      You also touched on another big problem – snake oil salesmen. These folks, who are usually insurance agents, do prey on people’s fears and lack of information, to sell them life insurance and annuities that they don’t need, but have been told will help them obtain more financial aid. Here is a post that my friend Kim Clark over at Money Magazine wrote last year about these folks:

      Because high school counselors don’t get training, they are more likely to focus on the state schools that they receive the most information about. While these schools will be the choices for many students they won’t be for many others.

      Finally, I’m curious where your oldest son is attending college.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  137. Hi Everyone,

    My name is Janet Loren, and I live in New Jersey. I am an Independent Educational Consultant and have been working with students for over 15 years. I am a professional member of IECA, and a member of HECA, NCAG and NACAC. I have my MBA, my CEP and I have taught Marketing and eBusiness for Pace University’s MBA program.
    Besides my private clients, I am the Director of College Guidance for a high school, and a partner in a company that specializes in college funding. I conduct seminars locally on the college admission process, college essay writing and most recently financial aid. I am a legacy in the Educational Consulting business. My mother, Pearl Glassman has been working with families for over 30 years. She is my mentor, the founder of our practice
    and one of the amazing people I have every known.

    My challenges vary within my different positions. However, most often it is about addressing a family’s unrealistic expectations about admission and financial aid.
    I am looking forward to learning and being able to discuss college funding with my families in more depth.

    I am very excited to be taking this class.

    1. Hi Janet,

      I’m glad you’re in the class! Janet and I met in 2012 when I was the guest speaker at the HECA annual conference in New Jersey. We talked on a very long bus tour of colleges through New York City!

      I am already detecting a theme for the people who have introduced themselves on this first day of the class. Families have unrealistic expectations about admission and financial aid and I think this is particularly true on the East Coast where there are more parents are focused on their children attending elite universities.

      When you’ve absorbed the material in this class, you will definitely be able to suggest options for your families who are looking to cut the cost of college.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  138. Hello Lynn O and Colleagues,

    My name is Catie Chase and I am from Santa Barbara, CA having attended Mount Holyoke College, UC Santa Barbara for graduate school and completed the UCI Independent Educational Consultant certificate program in 2011. I have been an IEC for more than five years, as I knew from working with transfer students at my local community college that student-centered support was essential for many college-bound students and their families.

    Today, I live in Newbury Park (Ventura County, California) with my husband and two children, ages 5 and 2. In addition to my college consulting, I have started my second year at The Archer School for Girls in Brentwood/LA as the Director of Learning Services. I truly enjoy private college consulting and only take 4-6 clients based on referrals from family, friends, and colleagues, as I am sensitive to my caseload because I want them to have quality service and support. I support first-year and transfer students with my area of expertise in transfer & LDs applicants.

    My biggest challenge and growing frustration is that every SoCal teenager wants to go/apply to UCLA and/or USC (i.e., many unreasonable expectations about college admittance) and parents are concerned about funding college, yet don’t talk to their teenagers about finances. Unfortunately, they have bought into looking at the name of the college rather than taking into account their child’s application profile and proper financial fit. The last five years has taught me that navigating to college with families is highly emotional as parents and students alike have different goals and dreams of what the perfect road to college is and ultimately their final destination. I am clear that my role is a third-party advisor, researcher and mentor providing facts so that my clients can make responsible choices during one of the most expensive and biggest transitions in life. Clearly, with student debt surpassing 1 trillion this year, financial aid, merit aid, scholarships, cost, financial responsibility and anything related to a dollar in terms of college are a ‘hot topic’.

    My goal is to continue to build upon my knowledge and fill in the gaps of what I already know and don’t know about cutting the cost for college. I have been following Lynn since 2010 and had the pleasure of meeting her at a WACAC conference in 2011. I am a huge fan of her work and provide her book as a ‘gift’ to my families seeking financial wisdom while trying to understand this process. Families hire me often to manage the lives of their teenagers applying to college, however some truly care to know the truth about college planning and funding their child’s higher education.

    I look forward to learning from all of you! Catie

    1. Hi Catie,

      I am so glad that you joined the class! I can’t believe that it’s been three years since we met!

      You describe such a common problem not only in California, but elsewhere in the country. Families fixate on the top brand names and don’t want to throw a wider net. This leads to the students applying to a poorly chosen list of schools and many rejections. When a student applies to a list of schools with little chances of getting into, the results can be heart breaking. Students often attend a school that didn’t interest them because the ones they dreamed about rejected them. It is so much better to develop a realistic college list that includes schools that would love the applicant to attend.

      Unrealistic expectations from parents and teenagers are one reason why I would never have the patience to provide individual counseling! I admire those who can do it!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  139. Hello! I’m Rachel Kiehl. I grew up in Missouri, but came to Pennsylvania for college and have been here ever since. I started interning as a school counselor in a charter high school in Philadelphia while fresh out of college and in my masters’ program at UPenn. That school became my first place of employment, and I was immediately thrown into trying to figure out the whole college thing mostly just based upon my own experience of applying to college. In the future, I would love to advocate for increased school counselor training in the area of college admissions/financial aid, so I love the work Lynn is doing in assisting us as counselors. I currently work part-time as the college counselor at a classical Christian school called Veritas Academy, sort of have my own business working with any students (several home schooled students included) who want personal help with the college process, and spend a lot of time trying to keep my 15-month and 3-year-old girls from getting into too much trouble while I have my laptop screen popped up! I’m very close to mastering one-handed typing. 🙂

    The challenges of working with students at my school vary widely, depending on the parents’ backgrounds. For some families, the challenge is showing them that an investment in a college degree is worth it, and with other families, the challenge is teaching them that they can get a high-quality education at schools other than those ranked in the U.S. News Top 20.

    The parents I work with are looking for all the help they can get when it comes to financial aid for college, so I’m hoping to build upon the knowledge I’ve already gained from reading Lynn’s books. I also look forward to dialoging with all of you and learning from your varied professional experiences.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Welcome to the class!

      You bring up two common problems when dealing with parents. Among first-gen families, it can be difficult to convince parents of the benefits of college. It can be even more difficult convincing them that a bright child should be allowed to attend a school that is not nearby, much less in a different state.

      On the other extreme, you have very affluent families who think that the only schools worth attending are those huddled at the top of the national rankings. This attitude puts tremendous pressure on students who kill themselves through their high school years to get into these nearly impregnable schools. And when they don’t gain admittance into these institutions, it’s only natural that the teenagers blame themselves and even consider themselves losers. It’s a terrible situation. What these families don’t understand is that there are many opportunities among the roughly 2,300 four-year colleges and universities in this country.

      To show you what is possible when attending a school that no one has heard of, I am sharing a link to a blog post that I wrote about my daughter Caitlin. Here it is:

      There is nothing magical about the most elite schools. Bright children can succeed no matter where they attend college. I like to cite a couple of studies that focus on dispelling this phenomenon that you can learn about here:

      I think you will learn a lot about how to evaluate the generosity of different schools in these modules: Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Targeting Schools for the Most Money Part II and Tools to Find Generous Colleges.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. Thanks for the links, Lynn! Juniata kicked off our college admission rep visit season today with a presentation to our students!

  140. Hello, I’m Margaret Duggan Miller. I live in Nashville, and I’m getting ready to launch an independent practice here. My recent experience tells me that many of the middle class families who will be my clients are obsessed with figuring out how to pay for college. My plan is to use the knowledge I gain from this class as a sort of calling card to help me establish myself. I’m very much looking forward to learning from Lynn and all of you in this class!

    1. Hi Margaret,

      Welcome to the class! It’s great to have someone from Nashville in the course. I got my start as a journalist many years ago in Memphis. You are absolutely right that middle-class families are going to be focused on cost. It’s my experience that wealthy families are usually equally concerned because they are more likely to be looking at schools that cost the most. Some of the most prestigious schools have now reached or about to reach a $60,000 price tag.

      I think you will gain a competitive advantage with your peers by taking this course.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy