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College Enrollment Scandal, Advisors’ Teachable Moment

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No pun intended, but the recent college enrollment scandal is a “teachable moment” for financial advisors, and for their clients and potential clients.  For advisors, this scandal highlights how important a child’s academic success is to many of their clients. And because this scandal is so publicized, it is a great opportunity for advisors to help their clients while generating new prospects.  No, I’m not talking about the “bulldozer parents” – a term coined by Peggy Noonan – who will go to corrupt extremes to get their children into competitive schools. Instead, I’m talking about the ubiquitous “helicopter parents” who mostly are Baby Boomers like me.

Soul searching, concerned and/or angry clients – No doubt most clients who have children and grandchildren approaching or in the college enrollment process are having one of three types of feelings about the enrollment scandal.  Some might be doing a little soul searching, wondering if perhaps they’re too obsessed with getting their children into either their or their children’s dream school. Others might be concerned that it now will be even more difficult to get their children into those dream schools.  And other parents might be angry, feeling that the system is rigged against parents unable or unwilling to help their children fully play today’s enrollment racket. For example, someone I know has a son who was turned down by one such dream school, even though his child had great grades, attended an elite private high school, and the parents were graduate students at this dream school.  This friend turned down an offer by the school to “reconsider” their son’s application, for a $100,000 “donation”! And this is legal?!

Advisor-hosted college enrollment counseling events – Once or twice a year, advisors can have a college admissions discussion event for their clients, and families and friends of their clients (aka, advisor prospects). These events can use the enrollment scandal to draw in many concerned parents and grandparents. Even clients without children approaching college age are sure to have relatives and friends who are, and who now are more concerned about the enrollment process/game.  Advisors can tap local enrollment counselors (legit ones, of course) to run these events for free, because they’re a way for the counselors to sign up more parents for their services. And such an event doesn’t need a fancy dinner in order to drive clients and prospects to attend.

Show how much you care about your clients’ happiness – Having these events will show your clients and their referrals how you care more than your clients’ investments – you care about them leading happy and fulfilled lives (the primary need of people).  All you will need to do at the event is explain that you’re hosting them to help your clients and their friends and family members have less stress and greater success with the enrollment process. Then you can make those who don’t know you aware of your services, without listing them.  Something like, “for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Janet Jones and I help my wealth management clients gain financial clarity and comfort. While today/tonight is not the time for it, I’ll gladly have a one-on-one talk with any of you who could use more financial clarity and comfort.”

A discussion, not a lecture – The best way for the concerned parents and grandparents who are attending this college coaching events to walk away with hope and a good feeling is for the events to be a discussion, and not a lecture.  The local college enrollment counselor you use would outline the structure and objectives of the event and be the facilitator. This facilitator would ask questions to see how the attendees are feeling, and what are their concerns related to the enrollment scandal.  Then they would lead a conversation that addresses those concerns and provide guidance on the proper orientation for parents and the steps they can follow to ethically improve the children’s odds of getting into their school of choice. An added point I personally feel should be added to the event are the studies that show how it often is better to enroll in a less competitive college or university.  There are significant career advantages to being near the top of one’s class, even if it is at a non-dream school.

Let me know if you’d like to know more about this approach to increasing client loyalty, and your revenue.

Michael Sakraida is a financial sales consultant, and the founder of the Financial Advisor Network (FAN) group, with over 17,000 advisor members. He has helped advisors, BD’s, and RIA firms have happier clients and more successful businesses by appealing to, and working with, their clients’ emotions.  The first online installment – free – of Mike’s book, Happy Client, Happy Advisor is available at

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Comments (1)
  • The college entrance scandal is pointing out our Country is becoming a lawless society as there is one set of laws standards for the elite and well connected and another set of laws and standards for everyone else.
    “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34
    Another example is the travesty of justice in Chicago this past week.

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