EducationTeen Life

College Tuition For Much Less Than You Think!

A Parents Guide to Sensible College Planning

College Tuition For Much Less Than You Think!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

Although this may be a sponsored post, we as a family did indeed contract with SoCal College planning early in 2017. We paid and still pay for their services as we believe in their products and services. SoCal College Planning is in Carlsbad, California.

What’s up guys…

If you read my last blog entitled ‘How Keeping to a Schedule Helps Maintain a High GPA,’ I mentioned the fact that my parents had contracted with an agency to help my brother and I with college preparation.

We have been involved in that program now for about six months and all seems to be going to plan. The financial side of college is a little difficult for us teenagers to understand, but we sure are getting to see improvements in our academic approach and also on our application process.

This blog is a real eye opener for the student teenager, but more so for the parent of that teenager, especially if they are not totally educated on the application process.

These are exerts taken from a three-way conversation between Lennon, my brother, Steve, my father and myself – I decided to write this article in the form of Q & A…

My family touring Harvard when we were in Boston


So dad, why did you decide that we as a family needed help with our college application process?

Well as you know Reagan, both your mom and I were raised in England, where the educational programs are much different. In this country, the cost of a college education is the second most expensive venture behind a home mortgage, and in some cases student debt can be even more. So we were more concerned with how we were going to afford to send you and your brother to college, than whether you were qualified or not. We knew that we needed some type of help to understand the whole process, so we went out to seminars and workshops and asked as many questions as we could possibly think of.

Why did you decide on SoCal College Planning when there are so many college planning advisory companies out there?

Your mother and I attended a very interesting workshop in the city library run by Sylvia Caruthers, and the whole front row was filled with educational professionals; teachers, advisors, college professors and even a school principal if I’m not mistaken. The workshop was free and lasted about an hour. Sylvia talked about how today’s students are not well prepared and how financial aid is available for everyone if they know where to look.

We had attended many seminars and workshops previously, but they all seemed to want to sell us information rather than helping us through the entire process. To us Sylvia spoke our language and there was never a mention of paying for any of her services, and she did not try to sell us any products. The workshop went overtime and I was blown away at how much information we gained by attending. I stayed behind and talked to Sylvia after everyone had left and I told her that I worked with thousands of teenagers every year in my profession. She was very helpful, offered us a personal consultation and even offered to put on a separate free seminar for my soccer club that I direct. So it was a no brainer to pursue the help of Sylvia and SoCal College Planning.

Since Lennon and I weren’t at that consultation, what was explained to you and how did you feel about the experience?

Since a week or so had gone by prior to our consultation, some doubts started to creep in and in all honesty I thought we were going to be sold a bag of goods, just like the other college planning agencies out there. But again, I was pleasantly surprised. Sylvia spent over an hour with us, looking over our personal tax records and looking at our incomes and things like that in order to establish whether financial aid would be available for us. It wasn’t until we were about to leave that I asked her the cost of her services to be able to hold our hands throughout the entire process. She told us and that was that. We went home to think about it and discuss it with you guys as you know.

Yes I remember that, sitting down at the dining table and you telling us what we needed to do to play an active part in the process. And I know we as a family decided to go with SoCal and Sylvia after that discussion. What were the next steps for you and mom?

Well it was quite easy really. We had to honestly fill out questionnaires, which were a little personal, but you have to remember that we had to tell the complete truth as at some point, the College Financial Aid Board cross references with the IRS on the financial aid part of college applications – not many people know that. Also one of Sylvia’s assistants used to work for the IRS, so that was great knowledge to be had right there.

We are an honest family and Sylvia works well within the parameters of the law, so we all felt good on those points.

The other things that were very important were you and your brother’s educational level. Your level of knowledge and along with your GPA’s, your SAT and ACT scores. Sylvia immediately wanted to put you both on their on-line learning program to be able to have you improve in all of these areas.

And on the financial front, and I know this may sound strange to many, but we were actually very happy that we hadn’t started a college fund for you guys when we were younger, as we simply couldn’t afford it at that time.

The other things that we had to establish with Sylvia is what was really meant by the Cost of Attendance at college and what our Estimated Family Contribution would be. By subtracting one from the other it gave us our Financial Need, which painted a clear picture of where we needed to be and where we needed help.

Many of these college application forms are a little like the fine print when you buy a car or sign a mortgage for your home, you really need an attorney or someone similar to explain the finer points to you. That is where Sylvia came in.

DAD – Reagan, how about I start asking you some questions? Bring Lennon out here and I’ll ask you both! 

Okay you guys, so tell me what the first thing you did when we signed you up with SoCal College Planning?

REAGAN – Well we had a one on one interview with Sylvia so she could get to know us. She asked what profession I would be interested in and what skills I had, and also where our academic standing was.

LENNON – Yes, the same for me then she had us register for their on-line learning system where we would have to spend a half-hour every day to improve our general knowledge. The SoCal System of learning was geared to the SAT and ACT tests so it would eventually improve our scores – like anything, the more we put in the more we got out! Right dad?

And over time did your scores improve? What else did you have to do with SoCal and Sylvia?

REAGAN – My scores improved each time I took the SAT and ACT’s. The other important item to work on for college applications were our essays. I think I have been writing essays all year, well at least one every month. Obviously this is just practice for when we send in the real thing, but it has been a great learning process. I thought my writing was pretty good until Sylvia’s editor got hold of it –PHEW!

LENNON – Yes my scores improved immensely and I am already getting the passing grade percentage that I need for the college of my choice. My essays though are another thing. Again, like Reagan I thought they were pretty good when I sent them in, but her editor picked out so many things that needed improving. Her motto is that you have to set yourself apart from other applicants. I think this is where I needed the most help.

Have your essays improved though?

BOTH – Yes the last ones we sent in, both got high marks and only a few little pointers where we could improve them.

How many interviews or consultations have you both had with Sylvia and what have you all been working on?

REAGAN – Since we started I think I have seen her nearly every month. And since my area of interest has been film, Sylvia has put me in touch with people in that trade, in fact I got a call from a five time Emmy Award winning producer from Hollywood. That was so cool and he gave me some really good advice.

LENNON – Since I want to be in the medical field, I have been working on strategies to get into the colleges of my choice. The amazing thing was that one of them is a private university and the cost is doable and my qualifications are nearly there. I have seen Sylvia on a personal basis about as many times as Reagan also.

Do you think you both could have gotten this far without the help of Sylvia and SoCal College Planning?

REAGAN – No, even with Sylvia’s help the amount of preparation and the understanding that we need to have is just so immense. If I was on my own I would have missed many things that she put me right on.

LENNON – Well I was well organized, but I would never have imagined that I would be looking at the schools I am now looking at. Sylvia guided me to those because she has students she has helped previously who are attending now, and she knows how the system works for acceptance. So no, her help has been pretty fantastic, she is a cool lady!


Okay dad – One more question for you…


If you and mom had attempted to go through this process on your own, with only us by your side, where do you think you would have gone wrong, knowing what you now know from Sylvia and SoCal? Any regrets?

 That is a great question Reagan!

We would have made massive mistakes that would have cost us so much more money. Like our friends we would have filed our financial forms for aid quickly without thinking. We never file our taxes unless a professional has looked them over so we were glad we did the same thing with the financial aid applications before we sent them off.

Secondly, the whole process is just too much information for us to clearly absorb. Financial aid, college loans, payback periods, the true cost of education etc. etc. The list goes on. Sylvia has advised us every step of the way and she still is.

We have found that with working with SoCal College Planning and Sylvia, she has become more of a friend. Yes, no doubt about it, we have paid for her services, but she is delivering on her promises. She has a spiral binder four inches thick that lists the families she has helped and demonstrates the money they have saved by using her service.

Regrets? Yes, we should have started earlier with our planning and we should have started the process with Sylvia and SoCal College Planning sooner.

We feel it was a good decision that is why we will be with SoCal until your final year at college.

Hopefully you kids will be grateful and do the same for your kids one day – we can only hope eh, Reag?

You and mom are the best dad!

Where’s Lennon gone?

For more information on SoCal College Planning please contact them directly, or check them out on FACEBOOK by clicking here



Sylvia Caruthers

College Planning Advisor

SoCal College Planning (formerly Ducerus)

800 Grand #AG5, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Office: (760) 224-0653 M-TH (call or text)






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