Sam Mikhail (Part 4)

| podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt interviews Sam Mikhail, President/CEO of Financial Strategies Group, and they discuss financial aid and how to save for college.


VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 


AL: That is so helpful. And most people I know are fitting into middle, upper middle income families. And a lot of people don’t maybe realize that they are that upper middle income and they will qualify for some kind of aid. And also they will benefit from this kind of support, because, as you said, some people have assets tied up in all different places, and these assets are all calculated by colleges differently. So that’s really important for folks out there to understand those calculations and what their choices are now so they can get the most money possible when they actually apply. 


SM: You’re absolutely right. Just to chime in one more thing. So our software is more self directed. So one of the biggest pitfalls out there is looking at what the school is trying to get you to consider them as a school you should apply to based on their endowments. So a lot of schools will advertise how big their endowments are or how much money. But if you read the articles or read the actual numbers for that school, sometimes schools that portray themselves to be generous are actually not generous at all. And other schools that maybe don’t spend that much effort to promote their generosity scales are some of the most generous tools on the planet. One of the features that we have, one of the modules that we have in our software is Smart Navigator, which has historical statistical data to compare school over school and compare that against your own calculations to determine how much of that money are you possibly eligible for and how generous that school is going to come in before you apply that school. So that can be a huge, huge shot in the arm as far as being able to kind of decipher that information. Other modules that we have are focused on helping the family understand their financial forms before they get in a position where they’re trying to figure it out and they miss a few of them. So making sure Smart Steps is there to kind of help. And then finally, there’s a merit search award. So there’s a component for those areas that we feel like in our industry, it’s just missing. We want to make sure that we educate our families so that they’re not missing on anything that they may be eligible for. 


AL: That’s really valuable. And I’ll say as a college consultant, it’s really valuable for those families that are really considering not only where to apply but also where to attend based on money. So some people value colleges differently. So they’ll say, “well, I’ll pay full fare for X College, but I’m not going to pay that for Y College”. Your tool is really helpful for that school list building, because families that are more brand conscious and thinking about the value of college with respect to brand name, I think could really benefit from that feature. 


SM: Absolutely. We get those parents that exactly like you said, have let’s just say like an agenda or they have some kind of approach. They want to make sure that their child goes to a particular school. Maybe it’s a school that they went to. Maybe it’s a lineage of some other maybe it’s a top program. But, yes, we want to make sure that we’re agnostic when it comes to which school you want to go to We’re just here to help on the financials. 


AL: At Ivy Insight, we help with the school list, but we recognize that finance and play a role. So we can tell you what colleges might fit your child. But you have to tell us, “hey, we see this school is having this value”. “We see the schools having that value” and what you’re providing I think it’s really helpful for families to understand that in really concrete terms, what that value is potentially for them in terms of out of pocket expense. Is there anything else that you think would be important to emphasize or add that we haven’t talked about already? 


SM: Yeah. I mean, I think maybe one thing would be that we get a lot of questions on how your advisory services work. And so we have the software that self directed, and you can choose that independently of the advisory services. And a lot of times we’ll have a free 15 minute meeting just to evaluate where you sit as a family. So that’s really important because we never want someone to hire us, and then we can’t help them in some certain ways. So a lot of times using the software, a couple of years before you even think about applying to colleges, it’s very important. So don’t wait till the last minute. So 9th grade is an ideal time. Even a little earlier is fine. 10th grade. You’re not early. You’re actually, in some cases, even the schools are trying to count those incomes against you, depending on if you’re in the first semester. Second semester of 10th grade. 11th grade is what we call 911 families, because the base years either started or ended either halfway through it or end it. So it’s really important to kind of knock those things out. So when it comes to our software, it’s self directed and affordable. When it comes to our advisory services, it’s also industry standard. About a third of the cost, maybe fourth of the cost of what a standard advisory services are, because we do so much volume. And so that might take 2, 3, sometimes even 4 or 5 meetings, depending on how complex your situation is. But you’re sitting down with 1 or 2 advisors. They’re walking you through, and their job is to make sure that you understand all your options financially, that you have all your questions answered to the best of our ability, and that you have a roadmap to paying for college in the most efficient matter for you. And so that’s all included in our advisory services under one price. So we don’t charge per meeting. We don’t charge per student. It’s just a one time price. 


AL: Yes. And that’s one of the reasons why we are so proud to affiliate with Smart Track at Ivy Insight so you could go to the website join.smarttrackcollegefunding.com/ ivy-insight. And there, you’ll get free access to the initial College Affordability Planning tool. You’ll have a chance to have that 15 minute meeting if you so choose. And then if you sign up, you get a discount with Ivy Insight’s affiliate link. So we welcome you to set up an account, check out the software for yourself, and see how it works for you. With that, Sam, I want to say thank you so much for being here. And thank you for sharing your wisdom and advice with us today. 


SM: I’m honored. Thank you so much for having me.


VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.