Parents have a lot to consider in helping their kids select the right college.
Is the location right? Are the academics good? Does the school offer the right curriculum?
Affordability may weigh heaviest on the minds of parents, however.
Crockett Financial Services and College Planning Associates work together to help prospective college students with their education plans. From left: Mike Barclay, financial adviser; Laura Crockett Barclay, of College Planning Associates, and Robert Crockett, Crockett Financial Services.
College Planning Associates and Crockett Financial Services offers solutions.
While separate businesses, the two work together at the same site at 1421 E. Third St. to consider the needs of prospective college students.
Laurie Crockett Barclay, of College Planning Associates, recalled how all it got started here nearly 20 years ago.
"My father was getting a lot of questions about college and financial planning," she said.
Laurie at the time was living in Connecticut and working for Aetna. She was thinking about owning her own business.
Bob suggested her daughter and husband, Mike Barclay, move back to Williamsport.
Her father already was established in the city as a financial consultant.
"I started out with a broad range of financial services," Bob said. "Early on, I developed college financial planning. There's still nobody around who does that."
Although college financial planning represents only a small portion of his individual business, he's happy to help families plan for their children's education.
"There was a definite need for these types of services," said Laurie, who holds an undergraduate degree in organizational behavior and management from Brown University and graduate degrees from Columbia University.
After all, choosing the right school can be an overwhelming process.
"You can almost feel their (families') stress," she said.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make, Laurie said, is deciding on a school based on its cost.
For many families of modest means, there is an assumption that they can only afford sending their child to a state-funded school.
"Affordability is a big part of deciding on college," said Mike Barclay, a financial adviser with Crockett Financial Services.
But that doesn't have to be the biggest factor.
For as Bob put it, "Very few (families) pay the entire price."
College Planning Associates works with families in organizing the school selection process, assessing a prospective student's needs, researching colleges.
"We have done this for so many years," said Laurie.
Tapping her experience and knowledge, she has a good handle on what schools offer, including in the way of financial aide.
Bob can work up the actual financial plan.
Working together, College Planning Associates and Crockett Financial can show families that a four-year college education at a particular institution, even at an expensive, selective school, is not only possible, but affordable.
For example, Bob noted that many people are in the dark about which schools offer merit aid.
Laurie added that many students can tap into financial aid sources they didn't know existed.
And it's not only the best students who qualify.
"Average students can get merit aid," she said.
Bob said a key part of his process is helping families restructure their finances to qualify for funding.
"You have to decide if it makes sense," he said.
Overall, the college selection process has become increasingly competitive, and students should keep their options open rather than targeting just one or two schools.
Laurie, who works with students as young as age 14 eyeing college, noted her business offers free consultation services.
Bob and Laurie said it's rewarding to see people they placed in colleges return years later as successful professionals seeking financial consultation or with help in deciding on their own children's educational options.
"It does seem many times to work out that way," Bob said.