See what our clients are saying about our college financial planning services.

“Mike was a wealth of knowledge and useful information in helping us plan for college. He is also very attentive, answered our questions and made us feel at ease. Highly recommend!” – Lisa C.

“Mike is so knowledgeable and helpful. He made the process so easy. Worth every penny.” – Anne F.

“Mike is the best! I am a father with three daughters and my wife, and I did not know how we were going to manage paying for college. Well, Mike made things so easy for us. From suggesting colleges to coaching for college tours and filling out the applications to appeal letters we saved tens of thousands! Mike is now helping out with our third daughter, and we are so grateful he is making our college affordable dreams come true!!!” – Stephen P.

“If I could give a higher rating than 5 I would. It was the best decision of my life and worth money spent to have Mike help navigate the college and financial planning.

I was so worried and not know what to expect. Mike made it so easy and helped us to get to the most difficult part of college planning and especially the financial aspect of it, which was my biggest worry as a single parent. I was not ready to compromise on my son’s college dream and his college planning.

It has been a true blessing to have Mike and his expertise. Without his guidance, it would have been impossible to get the most financial support and to be able to attend the dream college. Mike and his team was also able to review the college essays for respective college applications and give the inputs and necessary corrections.

Mike has been very affectionate and understanding to our specific situation and needs and was very professional to navigate this most stressful and complex college and financial needs and helped step by step to make it so easy.

Mike was always there to listen to what I had to say and I literally was throwing all my worries into his basket. Mike made sure to answer all my questions and was available and patient to listen and explained everything in depth. Mike helped us get through this very challenging time to make sure we get the most financial support and made college very affordable.

I am so thankful to Mike, and without his guidance it would not have been possible.I highly recommend Mike and a Red Oak College Planning to all my friends and family.” – Aditi P.

“Mr. Velasco helped my daughter get into her dream school, obtaining the best financial aid package, and making her dreams come true! From beginning to end, he was professional, courteous, and always respected our time. Thank you to Red Oak College Planning. I highly recommend their services for professionalism and affordability.” – Debra L.

“I had some last-minute problems & questions with the financial aid package my son received from his top college. I wasn't sure what to do, so a friend of mine gave me Mike's contact information.

I emailed Mike and he called me back within a few hours. He listened to my questions and gave me a number of viable solutions that I hadn't considered. My mind was put at ease, and the college process got back on track!

Mike was professional & understanding, and I will definitely be reaching out to him when my daughter is ready to apply. Because he helped me out so much in the 11th hour with my son, I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for us from the beginning of the process!” – Jason J.

“My family and I have been working with Mike for a few years now. He is professional and knowledgeable. He made the process of applying for college and financial aid easy and painless. I have the utmost confidence that he helped my daughter get the best possible financial aid package, allowing her to attend her first choice school.” – Amy S.

“We hired Mike and Red Oak College Planning to help us navigate the College Financial Aid universe. Mike presented our family with many diverse strategies that helped our kids find their dream school at a family affordable price. We highly recommend Red Oak College Financial Planning and Mike Velasco to our friends and family!” – William P.

“When our first daughter was starting her college search, my wife and I were overwhelmed with the process and needed help. I read about Mike Velasco and Red Oak and we decided to sit down with him. He then had a one-on-one with our daughter to see what she was thinking. All I can say is the best money we ever spent. She'll be graduating next year and Mike has been there every step of the way. Not only that, but he has been a tremendous help to our younger daughter also. His professionalism, quick responses, and spot on advice are the things you need when you're a parent that wants the best for their children. I would and have recommended to my friends.” – Steven S.

“Red Oak helps through the entire college journey, from refining the list of schools and offering new ideas, to tips on optimizing the applications, and most importantly, finding the money to finance it. Mike has been great to work with at every step along the way, from the first meeting to the final FAFSA form entering senior year.” – Melissa M.

“Michael Velasco's advice and guidance were so instrumental in my children's academic career. In addition, and also very important, was the in-depth discussion of how certain assets could affect financial aid, and how to plan to obtain the most financial aid possible for our college bound children. I give Michael Velasco and Red Oak College Planning my highest recommendation. He has helped my kids attend the best college and at the same time receive the most financial aid attending said college. Thank you for all your help and hard work for all of us.” – Jon K.

“We originally signed up with with Mike Velasco about 3 years ago and this was a best money spent and move that our family made when it came to planning and coordinating the college finances and application process. I have 2 kids that are the same age and the financial burdened, along with the overall process, is overwhelming and can easily lead to mistakes which cost you a lot of time, anxiety and money.

Special Note: I needed to make 1 simple update on the FAFSA form for my daughter and I decided that it is simply one update no need to bother Mike with it. BIG MISTAKE on my part! Of course I made a mistake and it took us 4 months to clear up. Mike was there for me and got me through that correction. That mistake would have costed us $5,500 dollars for the year!

Fast forward to today, both my kids are college freshman and with Mike's coaching and guidance we reduced our costs. In addition, Mike's negotiating skills were perfect for the college arbitration process which further reduced our annual cost. Many of my friends who were in the same situation did not understand or look into an arbitration process that many colleges afford an admitted student. Everyone thought I was crazy but at the end of the day I saved even more money on our tuition bill and that savings rolls forward for all 4 years!

Mike is a professional with expertise and has a warm and inviting approach. He provided steady realistic guidance and planning throughout the years and still does to this day. The money we spent hiring Red Oak College Planning was such a great investment. I saved time, anxiety and especially money. The savings outweighed the cost / investment many times over.

I highly recommend Red Oak College Planning for peace of mind and effectively managing the your cost of college.” – Louis R.

“Mike Velasco Was a very valuable resource during the college planning process. He helped every step of the way providing us with good background information about colleges and their financial aid habits, helping with forms, and finally assisting us in a financial aid appeal. My daughter ended up at a fabulous school at a reasonable price. Couldn’t have done it without Mike!” – Sharon J.

“Mike worked with me to help with college planning in my daughter’s senior year. His advice was on point and really helped to shape our overall approach for selecting the best school for my daughter’s unique situation and exploring ways to maximize financial aid.” – Sharon P.

“We engaged Mike prior to our older child beginning college. He has helped us tremendously in establishing a plan to fund college for our kids, particularly during a time when I was facing challenges resulting from my job relocating. The strategy we implemented with Mike's guidance has been the instrumental component of our ability to successfully pay for our kids education.” – Jeff H.

“Mike and his staff made our son's financial aid paperwork hassle free! Applying to college is hard enough without having to deal with the financial aid stress. We will continue to use his services for all our children!” – Georgia M.

“We engaged Mike to help us with the college financial aid process early in our twin girl's junior year. We couldn't be more satisfied with the advice he provided us - which helped both to shape our overall approach for school selection and to maximize financial aid for our twins. Further, it significantly cut down the amount of time we spent on the overall process, a big help to two working parents. We're working with Mike again so he can assist us with our youngest child, now entering senior year.” – Patrick O.

“Mike Velasco is a personable and caring financial professional who understands the needs of his clients. Upon realization of the high college education costs, I was very uneasy with how to approach the process. He has helped me to establish a plan to finance all three of my children’s college education costs without being dependent on high interest loans. Additionally, Mike's insight has enabled me to receive financial aid that I otherwise would not have received, far exceeding any investment for his services. I highly recommend Mike Velasco and the Red Oak College Planning team!

Stopping for a moment to write up something for Mike and Red Oak is an absolute pleasure. This portal limits "acceptable characters" to a tough number. Wish I could include more as a help to both you and Mike and how good his work is A-Z.

Single dad, miles from "independently wealthy."

My ex and I get along just fine.

Like the majority of people seeking Mike's help with this entire college process stuff; we're proud and caring parents.

My ex actually served as the catalyst as to how we originally hooked up with Mike and Red Oak via one of his workshops.

We did this pre-pandemic, son on verge of transitioning from 8th grade into high school.

The workshop was excellent and provided some nice, smart initial insight and guidance.

In our situation, we actually had 3 solid years of awareness and prep time because we stepped up and began process early.

Then the pandemic obviously forced a major slow down and plenty of changes.

We reconnected with Mike in March of our son's Junior year.

In hindsight, we really should have reconnected much earlier as our son's Sophomore year was winding down.

Mike has limited slots each year and we almost missed the cut due to our delay with regards to reaching out (totally our issue.)

Red Oak costs = reasonable, especially compared to many other similar, local entities here in North NJ. The value and/or "return on investment" could not have been better.

Initially, Mike went over a big picture plan with just my ex and myself. Then as we progressed; Mike included a couple important meet ups with our son deliberately included at appropriate times along the way.

Mike was incredibly helpful with our son's interview prep work and various (required) essay work.

Mike has a "secret weapon" at his disposal with regards to professional writing and I'll leave that for him to explain, but I can attest that it works and helps significantly.

Mike had plenty of other nice little helpful aids and notes and links and "peace of mind" things along the way as well.

Mike worked in conjunction with me (directly) to help me navigate all FAFSA and CSS Profile required work. And that is a lot to manage, everyone finds that out along the way.

I cannot imagine having to do any of that complex, critical and time-consuming work completely on my own.

Start early and stay ahead. To have BOTH the summer of 10th grade to 11th grade and then the really critical summer of 11th grade to 12th grade would be so helpful.

You do not want to lose any valuable time during those 3 big months of summer BOTH years, especially with school being off for the bulk of that time.

In person real world campus "walk and talks" are so much better than any pictures available on websites or any YouTube college advice and location snippets.

Covering numerous official in-person visits over 2 separate summers, we never had any type of panic mode hit us regarding what has he been able to get to and see... and our son got to work on his own list of pros and cons because he was there, he spoke with students and staff, he got to ask questions privately, he walked the campus and saw the facilities and surrounding natural environment.

This method with the "in-person" visits was really beneficial to having him independently step up and play the role he should be playing (preparing for such a major life decision.)

By start of Senior year... things will move quickly and you will blink and the November 15 deadline will be there.

We know plenty of parents who had to do a lot of last minute scrambling and all the extra stress stuff they endured.

It's not a fun process in many ways, but when you keep the extra stress factors to a minimum; it's okay and you get through just fine.

The big reward is your kid's next 4 years AFTER the long, tough process.

And who wants their kid to be in Junior or Senior year facing any extra stress stuff?

When you are locked in and set with Red Oak...

Merit Awards. Scholarships. Grants. Federal Aid. CSS Profile. Miscellaneous school financial awards, appeal letter moves, etc...

Mike helps you set things up unique to YOUR specific situation and his work and expertise gets doors open and important, tough work done.

You are ready. You are ahead at all times. You are not getting caught behind or playing catch up.

In our specific situation, when it comes to value, we had numerous 75-85% "scholarships" in the end.

We have a few unique aspects to our personal situation which certainly helped us gain a lot of traction, but Mike's assistance along the way, running start to finish, was invaluable in the overall process.

Our results?

Our son got into every school he applied to except one very tough to get into southern school.

Our son was able to narrow things down slowly and carefully eliminate schools in mini batches between January-April.

This process then left him with 3 stellar final choices and all 3 presented incredible final offers.

The hardest part in the end (latter part of April) was actually choosing which one of the three great final school choices was the actual one.

What would have happened without Mike's support?

I'm really not sure.

But I'm glad he was there and I'm really glad that specific question is something we never had to worry about or wrestle with over the past 12-18 months.

Mike and Red Oak were there with us and they went above and beyond every step of the way.

Mike's communication with us was excellent and that is one of the most impressive things I personally made note of over the past year.

I'm pretty old-fashioned and I was raised to have a lot of respect for people with a strong work ethic who show up with know-how and decency and display a healthy understanding that Good Communication is a basic, it is a MUST HAVE in every situation where you are striving to be successful. And that is especially true as it pertains to this stressful, crazy college application and financial aid process stuff with all of its complexities and deadlines.

By the way, Mike is a dad and solid family man. I immediately liked him when we met and I definitely respected that side of him and still do.

He knows how much the money matters to ALL families and he has personally been through all this tough stuff several times himself.

Mike has everything you could want in his tool bag.

I would simply recommend you set up an initial meeting with him, just as we did way back when, and just meet him and see what you think.

I'll bet you leave with the same type of feeling of relief that I did.

And now that we are actually here wrapping up our very successful "joint venture" with Mike and Red Oak...

I'm happy and it's genuine and it feels great.

Beyond FAFSA monies which many NJ dual-income families do not do well with; there are still so many special grants and various Merit Awards out there waiting to be unearthed

Yes, there are random financial aid extras available throughout all regions of the U.S. which can serve to reduce the overall annual school tuition number in MANY cases and situations.

The Red Oak process does the big picture home-work and they get to KNOW you and your student, and that is what makes them so good at tracking down these "financial extras" and your own unique financial "best case scenario."

Bottom line: you may be pleasantly surprised in the end when you see some money savings "extra" possibilities emerge that you never thought possible.  

I'm glad to write up a recommendation like this for Mike. He deserves it. He earned it.

And best of all... I am relieved!

We made it.

We had goals.

We surpassed those goals, by far.

With Mike... we carefully crafted and created one helluva success story.

Mission accomplished.

Thanks Mike and crew!” – Patrick K.