Helping You Send Your Child to the Right College, for the Right Reasons and at the Right Price

high school graduate The Client Care Center, available exclusively through CollegeSmart - in collaboration with Collegiate Funding Solutions - provides hands-on coaching, advice, support and guidance throughout the whole college: search, application, financial aid, forms, selection and acceptance process.
  5. CONTACT Ryan Keel at CollegeSmart to learn more and get started

STEP 1. Watch Video

Overview of the current college admissions and financial aid landscape and how the Client Care Center services can assist you throughout the whole process to achieve a much-better outcome than you might by "doing it yourself."



College Admissions Related Services Premier Plus* Premier Standard
Do What You Are personality assessment --- identifies career paths and majors  
Do What You Are results review (learning style; majors; learning, upcoming assessments)  
ACT/SAT evaluation - Assessment to determine whether the SAT or the ACT is the best test to prep for testGear online self-study SMART Curriculum (if applicable) After taking the testGear BrainScan a personalized test prep course is created for those who prefer self-study  
Career Video assignments --- The completed Do What You Are assessment provides short videos and detailed career information  
Writing sample evaluated ---- Essays provide the college an insight into the way a student thinks. The coach needs to know this in advance    
Resume Instruction --- This is referred to as a Brag Sheet. Student and parent help create a shining example of what the student has accomplished outside the classroom    
Brag Sheet (maximum three drafts) --- Fine tuning is essential to produce a concise yet powerful resume of the students’ accomplishments    
College Web Site Research Instruction --- Students learn how to get the most out of their web research self study  
Letters of Recommendations meeting -- Strategies to help the recommender with a letter that shows off the student in the best light    
Winning Essay Reading Assignments --- Students read and comment on essays that demonstrate what kinds of essays work and why Essay examples provided – no follow up  
Essay Components Tutorial (live) --- There are three necessary parts to an essay. Students must learn these to write a winning essay    
Compile List of Colleges with Institutional Scholarships --- Student will be provided a targeted list of colleges based on academics, social environment and merit and need-based financial aid  
Common Application Essay Prompts Review: Discussion of which essay prompt(s) are best for the student to write about    
Common App Review: There are multiple sections to the Common Application. Over 500 colleges use this form and many colleges have their own supplemental admissions applications    
Brainstorm Session of Essay Prompts: Brainstorming essay ideas --- The choice of prompt is just the first step. Ideas on content and approach are discussed    
Essay Editing: Essay drafts edited (maximum three drafts each) --- includes personal statements    
College Interview Prep: (if necessary) “How to Present Your Best Self”    
Below are Financial Aid Forms Services as part of the three service levels Premier Plus* Premier Standard
Personal College Family Web Account: Parents can see in real time what’s been completed and what remains to be completed
Review of family information for accuracy
Obtain Federal Student Aid usernames and passwords: Used to sign the FAFSA and access all the Dept. of Education web sites
College Aid Requirements: Colleges use different forms and have varying financial aid deadlines.
Parents can view all the requirements in one place
Filing of the FAFSA: The instructions for filing the FAFSA are often very confusing. This form will be completed with 100% accuracy (based on the family’s approval of their information)
Filing of the CSS/Profile® (if required): This form requires much more information than the FAFSA does. Instructions can be especially challenging and confusing to answer correctly and in the family’s favor. Based on family’s approval of their information, this form will be completed with 100% accuracy. Extra charges do apply: $16 registration fee and $9 per college payable to the College Board
Tax Update: The first filing of the FAFSA is based on estimates. Completed tax return information will be used to update the FAFSA
Merit Based Financial Aid Appeal: Parents will be provided sample letters of appeal to send to the college
Financial Aid Award Evaluation: We will determine if the student was awarded fairly by the college
IRS Data Retrieval Tool or IRS DRT: Many colleges require that the family verify their tax information by using the IRS DRT. However it doesn’t always function correctly which can be very frustrating. This will be done automatically for the family
Financial Aid Award and Student/Parent Loan Teleconferences: Parents learn about how the awards are constructed and the benefits and burdens of student and parent loans
Need Based Financial Aid Appeal Service: Only included as part of the Premier and Premier Plus levels  

*Premier Plus service is contingent on approval by the Director of the Client Care Center based on a phone interview with the parents and the student. Call 814-528-5243 to schedule the interview.


STEP 3. Review of Benefits for Standard, Premier and Premier Plus Services

Click on each step in the process below for an expanded description of how the services can help you achieve a best outcome during each stage of the college admissions and financial aid process.

2.1 College Admissions Process Click to learn more >
Finding the colleges your student wants and wants them, too   Matching students with colleges for the right academic, social and financial fit Matching students with colleges for the right academic, social and financial fit; includes building the “brag sheet”, resume, essays and the student receives one on one coaching Greatly increases the chances of graduating in four years. Extra years can cost anywhere from $18,000-$68,000 per year
Many students apply up to 10+ and may be denied admission because the college has no idea who the student is before they receive the application.     Students are expected to demonstrate interest in the colleges they want to apply.   Students are instructed how to demonstrate interest in the colleges they want to apply. Colleges with holistic admission practices are   looking for memorable essays and resumes. Students learn to create college application packages for the “Purple Cow” effect. Colleges that compete for the same students may offer larger discounts for the students they really want. Specific savings are hard to predict but often lead to an additional $5,000 in aid.
Students often don’t know what to do for a career Personality Profile and Majors/Career Search Studying and preparing for a career or careers the student is well suited by intelligence and personality. You cannot put a price on happiness. Switching majors can dramatically increase college costs by extending time in school.
Applying to college with little knowledge of cost or financial aid and merit scholarship opportunities Online Test Preparation Service or referral Know in advance which colleges are going to fit your budget and avoid unnecessary debt

Even a 10 point improvement in scores can translate into $3,000-$4,000 more merit and grant aid
Many college application fees exceed $50

Average campus visit is more than $100

A family spends $3,500 on average, including college visits, standardized test fees, application fees, test prep, etc.
2.2: Apply for financial aid Click to learn more >
Challenges Standard Premier & Premier PLUS Benefits
Financial aid system and process often counterintuitive, time consuming, difficult and unfair   Access to our expertise. Save hours of study learning all the rules and regulations and trying to apply the to yourself
Avoiding expensive mistakes   Student Data Reviewed for Accuracy Student Data Reviewed for Accuracy Mistakes take weeks or months to correct, if they can be corrected at all
Forms are complex and confusing Complete and file the FAFSA and if applicable the CSS/Profile® (subject to additional fees) Complete and file the FAFSA and if applicable the CSS/Profile® (subject to additional fees) Save time and avoid frustration trying to figure out what everything means
Tracking requirements and deadlines Information on requirements college deadlines are available through your account on the College Information page. Information on requirements college deadlines are available through your account on the College Information page. Not providing documents or missing a deadline can mean losing limited grant money 
Special requirements for non custodial parents Video tutorial available Video tutorial available Some non custodial parents are uncooperative and will not complete the required forms and will cost their child an aid package*
Verification Process Parents will be notified if they have been selected for a process known as Verification. Several additional forms may be necessary to satisfy federal and/or college requirements. Parents will be notified if they have been selected for a process known as Verification. Several additional forms may be necessary to satisfy federal and/or college requirements. Difficulties with the verification process can delay or even cost the student much of the aid they were first offered.
Parents often spend ten or more hours figuring ot how to complete complicated forms Parents are relieved of the administrative nightmare Parents are relieved of the administrative nightmare Aid forms must be consistent with each other or they will draw questions which takes even more time and creates delays and loss of aid
Unlike the purchase of a product or service, parents won't know how much the bill is a few weeks before the first class Personal Financial Aid Coach Personal Financial Aid Coach Being prepared for the portion you are responsible for allows you to avoid overspending and over borrowing
Very Stressful Parents are kept in the loop by logging into their students College Family Care Center web account Parents are kept in the loop by logging into their students College Family Care Center web account Parents without the skill sets and familiarity with all the forms will unintentionally make mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars in lost aid.  
2.3: Analyze financial aid offers Click to learn more >
Challenges Standard Premier & Premier Plus Benefits
Are the financial aid awards fair? Evaluate Financial aid offers Evaluate Financial aid offers The first year is the template for the aid your student receives in subsequent years.
Appealing a financial aid award   Determine if an appeal is worthwhile. Coaching is available. A successful appeal or leveraging one aid package against another can increase your students aid by several thousands of dollars
What recourse is there if my appeal fails?   Determine if an appeal is worthwhile. Coaching is available. Persistence may pay big dividends
Financial aid leveraging can only be done if competing colleges are applied to as suggested by the Client Care Center. This is not included in the Standard Service. The appeals component of merit based awards for Premier and Premier PLUS service will not apply if student does not apply to colleges recommended as leverage schools by the College Family Care Center.

*In the case of an uncooperative non custodial parent or the non custodial parent is unavailable, the student may have recourse through a non custodial parent waiver (if offered). Some of these waivers require extensive documentation.
2.4: Covering shortfalls Click to learn more >
Challenges Standard Service Premier & Premier Plus Cost savings – specific examples*
Knowing from whom to borrow, how much and at what terms Webinars provided where the benefits and burdens of various student and parent loan programs are covered Webinars provided where the benefits and burdens of various student and parent loan programs are covered Save between $9,000 & $98,000 on a combined 4 year college loan of $100,000 (assuming gov't loans vs private loan)

STEP 4. Review Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question below to view the answer

1. Why should we enroll with the College Family Care Center?
Short of buying a home, the investment many parents make towards their children's college educations will be the largest they make in their lives. As long as you have a strategy to pay for college and control what you can control, you have a high probability of success.
2. Why should I pay for the services when my student goes to a school with a guidance counselor that helps them do the same things?
Many people are expecting the guidance office to do all of the things that the College Family Care Center does. However, before assuming they will, ask your child's guidance counselor if:
  • They are going to help the student decide which careers they are best suited for
  • They are going to recommend which standardized test is best for your child; the SAT or the ACT?
  • They are going to coach them through the test prep courses
  • They are going to work on a college list that takes into consideration the way the student learns and his or her personality
  • They are going to find research colleges that offer majors of interest that will lead to employment
  • They are going to educate you on acceptable graduation and retention rates
  • They are going to tell you, on balance, which colleges or universities will give your child the best educational value
  • They are going to find the best academic, social and financial fit
  • They know which colleges have an adequate number of corporations recruiting graduates
  • They know which colleges have large numbers of graduates that are accepted to medical/law school
  • They are going to help your student get great letters of recommendations from the right people
  • They are going to coach your child on selecting their essay topics
  • They are going to direct them to get essay critiques of their final essay drafts
  • They are going to help them gather, organize and complete the financial aid applications
  • They are going to advise you on how to present your family and financial information so you don't lose out on possible financial aid
  • They are going to follow up on the FAFSA
  • They are going to make sure your tax returns are submitted to the college
  • They are going to evaluate each offer of admission's merit and need based financial aid awards for fairness
  • They are going to be your advocate when something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong)
  • They are going to help you appeal a bad financial aid decision
  • They are going to help you leverage one financial aid award to get a better one at the college your child really wants to attend
If the guidance counselor does all that, then no, you don't need the services of the Client Care Center.
2.1. Won't our "free" school guidance counselor help our family achive the same outcome and peace of mind as this "fee" service?
Let’s start with the core issue: Guidance counselors are completely overloaded.  And all schools have guidance counselors but they can't do the same things as a private counselor. During the academic year, guidance counselors spend, on average only 35 minutes with a college bound student.   The recommended ratio is 250 to 1, but only four states (Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming) actually meet this guideline.

According to a report recently released by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, the national average ratio of counselors to students is 467 to 1 and the American School Counselor Association says it's much higher in states like California (1,000 to 1).

When most people think of guidance counselors, they probably think of helping students get ready for college.  In reality, however, only 22.8% of public school counselors’ time is spent on post-secondary admission counseling.

It’s hard to believe that less than a quarter of a full-time guidance counselor’s time is enough to help 500 or so students and families climb the mountain of post-secondary planning, including choosing programs, applying to schools, filling out college applications, and obtaining financial aid.  Ironically, the need for some kind of post-secondary training continues to grow.

Public school counselors only spend 20.2% of their time on “personal-needs counseling.”  That is the ‘counseling’ part of guidance, or probably the kind of work that inspired many counselors to choose their profession in the first place. It includes building trusting relationships, discussing life, likes/dislikes, problems at home or with peers, how to stay motivated, problem solving skills, etc.

According to the report, public school counselors spend 24.8% of their time scheduling students for classes.  Presumably this includes resolving scheduling conflicts, making sure students are taking the classes they need, and ensuring juniors and seniors are on track for graduation.  These are obviously important tasks, elements of which require thoughtful consideration of students’ interests, college plans, and career aspirations – exactly the kinds of things that guidance counselors are trained to do.

What most people probably don’t realize is how much time (14.8%) public school guidance counselors spend administering academic tests like Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, advanced placement, and other tests used by local school districts to assess interim academic progress.  When the standardized testing requirements of No Child Left Behind came along, they didn’t come with the funding necessary to actually administer all those tests.  The job fell to guidance counselors (and administrators) because there was no one else to do it.

The remaining 10% of guidance counselors’ time is spent on teaching (4.5%) and other non-guidance activities (5.0%).

John Boshoven, a director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, says the study only confirmed what counselors already know: Budget cuts are forcing them to spend more time on administrative tasks and less time with students. "Our caseloads are large and in many cases they're getting larger," says Boshoven, a counselor at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Mich. In most large public high schools, he says, counselors spend only 10 percent of their time counseling students about college.

Four years of college at private colleges can cost over $200,000. Next to a house, college is the most expensive purchase most people will make during their lifetime.

Despite those costs, many students choose a college without adequate investigation into what would be the best college for that student.

As a result one out of three college students leave the college where they started and five out of ten require five or more years to earn their degree. With thousands of choices, it can be difficult to find the right college for any student.

Hiring a college consultant to provide college admissions counseling and help with navigating the college process can help students avoid these costly mistakes by finding the right college the first time.

For many students the search to find the right college often creates stress for both the student and their parents. The student is trying to balance the college search with homework, extracurricular activities, friendships and just being a teenager. Finding the right balance can be difficult.

At the same time, parents worry about ensuring the best future for their child and put additional pressure on the student when they least need it.

Working with a college consultant can relieve some of that pressure. A good college consultant can take a step back and help the student address those issues related to the college search process without being a nagging parent. Parents are left to provide the nurturing they do best.

Finally, when it comes to financial aid, author Lynn O'Shaughnessy, contributor to such publications as BusinessWeek, USA Today, Money Magazine, The New York Times,and Kiplinger says,  "the financial advice that many high school counselors dispense focuses a great deal on meeting deadlines. They tell families when to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and complete the PROFILE application if their teenagers will be applying to private schools. Beyond advising parents on how and when to fill out those two documents, high school counselors tend to tell kids to look for private scholarships to shrink college costs. Strangely enough, many counselors don’t seem to realize that private scholarships are almost always a puny source of cash. The average award is less than $2,000.

The mother lode of cash comes from the colleges and universities themselves. The trick is positioning your child to capture some of this institutional money. And this is where counselors tend to scratch their heads. Again, this is where the private counselor can help.

What do you do if the counselor at your child’s high school is inadequate? You find a private college counselor.
3. I make too much money and won't qualify for financial aid. Can the College Family Care Center help?
Many families with six figure incomes are surprised to learn they too can qualify for financial aid. The financial aid office at Dartmouth College, and anyone associated with financial aid will tell you that every family, regardless of income, should apply. In addition merit based scholarships and grants that are given out independent of financial status are often contingent on filing financial aid forms. Likewise with the Stafford and PLUS loan programs which are often excellent loan strategies for the more affluent clients.
4. What is considered a successful outcome for the family?
A successful outcome consists of a financial aid award comprised mostly of free money versus loans.
5. Can you guarantee that my student will receive financial aid?
It is unethical to promote these kinds of guarantees, as it is impossible to know what a college will offer a student. The best we can offer is to use our many years of experience and expertise to ensure that the financial aid process is accurately and timely completed in order to maximize the student's aid eligibility.
6. Couldn't we just do all of this ourselves?
Absolutely. Just so long as you're willing to become an expert on the admissions process and it's impact on financial aid, as well as the thousands of pages of rules and regulations required to take full advantage of the process. Each family is unique and it takes an experienced financial aid specialist to know how to advise the family.
7. Why do high schools and colleges discourage parents from paying someone to fill out a free form, such as the FAFSA?
There are several reasons. First, there is no charge for completing the FAFSA. The idea that you shouldn't pay someone to complete the FAFSA for you came from companies that preyed on unsuspecting parents with guarantees of free money. These are the 'scholarship scams' that you've been warned about. No one can promise you that your client's student will be guaranteed of anything. We agree that these scholarship scams and companies that offer free money for a fee is a complete waste of money and a rip-off.
8. I've seen posters at my high school that reads '8 easy steps to get financial aid'. Why do they say that if it isn't true?
Ask any parent who has gone through the process of applying for financial aid and paying the rest with loans or income and assets will likely tell you that applying for free money is anything but easy.
Something that isn't addressed by guidance counselors and financial aid directors is that there is no charge to file your own taxes. You can fill out the 1040 for free. However, many taxpayers choose to purchase tax return software, hire a tax service or accountant/CPA. Why is that? Because the tax laws are confusing and it's to your benefit to get professional help so you don't pay a penny more in taxes than you have to. Same idea with admissions and financial aid.
9. Can't the colleges help my family?
The smaller colleges are more likely to help with the forms than the big universities. If you go that route, in essence, you are showing the school all of your cards, which could cost you a lot of money.

Look at it from this perspective: colleges can't serve two masters. They're looking to protect their interests first and foremost and help your family second. To maximize the financial aid potential at any college, you need to know what they know while telling them as little as possible.
10. How does the Family Care Center help?
Parents today are really busy. We act as their personal financial aid advocate or if you wish counselor, as well as administrator of all of the paperwork involved. The current FAFSA has 202 entries, while the federal 1040 has a mere 76 by comparison. However, the CFS Client Care Center is not about filling in forms. It's about the entire financial aid process which includes some key elements: making sure the family’s financial data is presented in the best possible light, that all of their information is consistent so as not to draw questions that they may not be prepared to answer in a way that is not in their best interest, updating their tax information, evaluating their student's financial aid awards for fairness and advising them what to do if the award is less than expected.
11. What are some of the problems that parents experience?
Like anything else, there can be difficulties. The CFS Client Care Center is intended for the active parent who doesn't have time to squeeze one more thing into their already hectic schedule. Problems that parents encounter are data mismatches, errors on forms, including financial information that should have been left out, etc. Our Client Care Center professionals have years of experience and are experts at dealing with the many issues and problems so that you don't have to spend hours figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it!.
12. I've heard colleges will negotiate or give discounts on tuition. Is this true?
Colleges will deny that they "negotiate" with parents, but the fact is that if the school wants your student, they may sweeten their initial aid offer during the appeals process. Odds of receiving a preferential financial aid award are improved if the school really wants the student because of a special skill, talent or scholastic achievement.
13. How does the College Family Care Center interface with us?
You are provided your own secure, web-based interface. All of the information that will be used to complete your student's forms is available to you 24/7.

For each of the student's colleges, we will advise you of any additional requirements and forms, assist with the Early Decision/Early Action process, as well as their deadlines, etc.

We follow up with you if there are steps that are required before we can proceed with the financial aid process, first by email, then by telephone.
The Client Care Center is available to assist you with questions and concerns, and we make it a point to return phone calls and emails promptly.
14. How long does the service last?
The service begins when the student is enrolled with the College Family Care Center until the time they enter college.
15. Is there a discount for additional children in the family?
The short answer is no. The work for each student in the family is unique to them and so the work can't be duplicated. We have priced our services so as to be affordable to as many families as possible while maintaining the highest standard of client care.
16. Do we have to have use the service through the college years?
Since the student has to reapply for financial aid each year that they are in school, we highly recommended that the family continue with the Client Care Center to ensure that their aid is properly renewed. Rules, regulations, policies, and even the forms change each year.