Preparing for college is a stressful time for both students and their parents. What will it cost? Where should we begin? What financial aid is available? The entire process can be overwhelming and emotional. Wouldn’t it be great to have a professional walk you through each step, ensuring that you’re taking full advantage of the programs available to you so both you and your child can have the best experience? College Planners of NEPA will do just that. We had a chance to talk with Nicole Prussman, CEO of College Planners of NEPA, to get the scoop on their services and where to begin.
Q. Tell us about College Planners of NEPA and how you got started.
A. Honestly, this is a bit of a complex question. The truth is, I don’t believe any of us ever imagined this would happen. I often think this company is the perfect example of the saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Our staff has a broad range of skills, and we all come from different careers paths; however, the one thing we all have is college debt. After discussing our own situations, we realized there had to be a better way to handle it.
We began by reaching out to colleagues and asking questions. The next thing we knew, College Planners of NEPA was launched. And guess what? It is totally possible to control your college expenses. This has allowed us the most awesome opportunity, because we have been able to bring our findings and knowledge back to our neighbors. Being able to assist students in reducing their costs for college has been amazing, and we all love going to work knowing we will be helping students avoid the debt of higher education
Q. What does the process generally look like from start to finish?
A. First, our process is structured individually to every student. To give you a general idea, we first meet students when they come into our office or attend one of our Free Local Seminars. After every introduction or seminar, we meet every family for a complete Financial Aid Consult. At this meeting we review the individual family’s situation, discuss fields of study or career choices, and identify any college or universities being considered. At this point, we create a pathway for success by explaining the possibilities of improving their financial aid options.
Q. Planning for college can be overwhelming. When should parents begin the process?
A. This is such an important question. The fact is, we can help students as late as November of their senior year, but this tends to be a more complicated process and options may be limited. The best way to access our services is to attend one of our seminars during your child’s Sophomore or Junior year. Starting at this point allows us to work through the process while ensuring you and your child are not overwhelmed. It also allows for the benefit of choices. Let’s be serious, your child’s education has the potential to cost more than the home you are currently living in. Because of this, we encourage families to put serious planning time into their college decisions. The earlier you start, the more you can be prepared for and the more you can control.
Q. Do you meet with families before they start to apply to colleges to best understand what they can afford?
A. Absolutely, we cannot do this without family participation. As a matter of fact, the reason we say the best time for students to meet with us is their Sophomore or Junior year is because we want to help participate in choosing a school. Selecting a school is as much a business decision as it is an academic one. Identifying a college or university which will best serve your child is far from a simple task. A college tour and reviewing a website is not enough, and, unfortunately, identifying the necessary information is a daunting task for many families. We at College Planners of NEPA have access to a great deal of information regarding every college, university, or trade school in the US. Plus, our staff is comprised of highly trained educators and financial professionals who all work together to ensure your child’s college career is planned, structured, and attacked in a way which will benefit the financial aid package he or she is awarded.
Q. Do you help identify any available grants or scholarships?
A. We use an array of local, private, and public programs to compile and help students search for available scholarships and grants. This is an excellent way to acquire additional funds for school, however, it also includes student involvement. We can produce a never-ending list of scholarships, but if they aren’t applied for, the money goes unclaimed for another year. While this process is student intensive, it is a process which we will guide your child through in order to ensure success.
Q. If a student has a particular school in mind but the parents fear they can’t afford it, do you find ways to help them make it work?
A. We always take what the student wants into consideration, and making their dream come true is a large part of our process. We are assisting in planning their futures and student wants and needs are very important to this process. Because of our staff’s extensive experience, we excel at working with teenagers. While we always listen to their feelings, we also help them work through some processes to ensure they are focusing on what is important and necessary. If this turns out leading us to a school which is not affordable, we help families plan using their current situation and any additional scholarship aid which may be awarded.
Q. What is something parents might not know about the process and the services available to them?
A. The first thing we want parents to understand is that preparing for college is NOT a cookie cutter process. Choosing the best school and acquiring the best financial aid package is not a come one, come all system. It requires a personal review and plan to ensure every individual student benefits from the process. We’ve all heard the story of the student who got the free-ride versus the student who is paying back student loans. Understanding why and how this happens is what we do.
The second thing we want families to understand is that income is not the only factor when applying for financial aid. Understanding how your family fits into the financial aid equation is essential to the beginning of your college planning adventure, and it is an area where our company excels. Your financial aid amount is not a mystery. There is a set, although complicated, equation which determines a student’s financial aid. Accessing and leveraging this equation is how we determine the best way to assist families.
Q. College Planners of NEPA also has a blog. What type of information can be found there?
A. I am so glad you asked. Our blog is a newer addition to our website, and we are using it to assist students and their families in navigating some of the bigger points of the college planning process. On our blog, you can find links to articles, calendars, and information which is beneficial as you make this journey to higher education. I strongly encourage our newer students to spend time reviewing and reading through the information we post.
In addition to our blog, we are also on Facebook and Instagram to help us keep our students updated on expectations, deadlines, and information about how to choose and apply to a college or university.
Q. You also hold seminars and informational sessions. Are these open to the public? Where can people find a schedule?
A. We hold numerous seminars twice a year, during the fall and spring. All of our seminars are FREE and open to anyone with a high school student interested in college. We offer these seminars all over the Poconos. During the session we offer a complete breakdown of the college financial aid and application process. The goal of these seminars is to enlighten families to what they truly need to understand about applying for and attending college.
For a current list of seminar locations, times, and updates, visit us at facebook.com/nepacollegeplan. When you find a seminar which fits your schedule, simply click the link and fill out a registration form. This ensures we always have enough space for everyone who attends. We often fill up, so please register to make sure we can fit you in.
Q. What is the best way to contact you for more information?
A. Since we work with teenagers, our staff is available via an array of resources. To contact one of our staff members, you can:
- Call our office at 570.253.9945
- Send us a message on
Facebook at facebook.com/nepacollegeplan
- Connect with us via Instagram – @cpnepa
Any route will ensure you are able to chat with one of our Educators or register for a seminar.
College Planners of NEPA
616 Main Street, Suite 205, Honesdale, PA 18431