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Scaling Your College Planning Practice: Identify Your Ideal Clients

Let’s face it: not everyone is going to be a good fit for your business. So why waste your valuable time chasing prospects who aren’t right, when you could be talking to the people who really need and want your help?

To build a profitable, scalable business you not only need to define your niche but intentionally target the clients who would benefit most from your services. College planning is a unique space because there is an optimal window for making the most impact in your clients’ lives.

What criteria make a college planning client an ideal fit? Let’s find out.

Look at the student’s age, not the parent’s

Remember, age is only a number and not a telling one in the college planning space. Instead of focusing on how many candles a parent blew out on their last birthday, look at where the kids are in their high school careers.

Once a student is a senior, little college planning can be done. At that point, financial aid packages have already been awarded and families are making their decisions. While you can still help them evaluate and select the best offer, there isn’t room for other proactive opportunities.

Junior year is the time that financial aid applications begin. Families in this stage would benefit from a college planning specialist to help navigate the application process and make determinations on which schools are a good financial fit. This stage is about understanding what families can afford, not what they think they should spend.

Freshman and sophomore students think they have plenty of time to navigate through the college planning process. These years go fast and are great windows to provide immense value to students and families. With significant lead time before touring campus grounds and submitting applications, you can help them zero in on several crucial items like,

  • College affordability
  • Financial aid (scholarship, grants, FAFSA)
  • Intentional student loan planning
  • Cash-flow analysis
  • Balancing college and retirement goals

When you and your clients have more time to plan, the more comprehensive and well-rounded that plan can be for both short and long term considerations.

What about families with multiple college-bound children?

Families with multiple children headed for college presents an important planning opportunity. With a college planning specialist, they could plan for costs, loans, aid, and more while still retaining their long-term goals like retirement.

Currently, people spend about $30,000 per year out of pocket on college expenses. For families with two or more kids that can add up to well over $250,000. That is assuming a four-year graduation rate for each, which is unfortunately not the norm. The bottom line is that college is expensive, but when done right it doesn’t have to derail your clients’ goals and aspirations.

It isn’t just about college planning

While college planning is the #1 concern for Generation X parents, it isn’t their only concern. Remember, college planning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The financial choices your clients make concerning college planning have a residual effect on nearly every other aspect of theirs and their children’s finances.

College planning is part of a well-rounded, comprehensive financial plan. For advisors who focus on holistic financial planning, you can help your client focus on a few important factors.

College planning

  • How will assuming debt impact their lives or their kids?
  • What can they reasonably pay for college?
  • Which schools make the most sense based on academics, extracurriculars, scholarships, career training, and cost?

Retirement planning

  • What is their retirement timeline?
  • Will that be impacted by co-signing on loans or taking out loans themselves? If so, by how many years?
  • Will they have enough to support their desired retirement lifestyle, or will that vision need to shift?

Day-to-day life

  • How does the impact of college planning affect their cash flow?
  • What meaning will it have on short-term financial goals like vacations, home upgrades, etc.?

When you help your clients think about how college planning fits into their overall financial picture, you can assist them in making choices that are best for them both now and in the future.

Check their engagement

  • The best way to determine if a client is a good fit for you is their level of engagement.
  • Are they excited to talk with you about college planning?
  • Do they complete the tasks you ask and come to meetings alert and prepared?
  • What ideas do they bring to the table?
  • Are they concerned about their financial future and excited to work with a professional who can help?
  • Do they recognize and appreciate the value you provide?

While it may be true that all families with college-bound children would benefit from college planning, clients who are engaged in the process and value the work you do will be an exceptional fit. It’s clients like these that will keep you excited and inspired to come to work every day.

Become a CAP member today and see the difference it will make in your practice.

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