About us

Our Organization

Virginia College Planning Specialists is Virginia's leading expert in the field of college planning and funding.  Our purpose is to help families navigate through the complicated maze of college admissions, financial aid, and student college and career planning.

Virginia CPS is family owned, local, and committed to working closely with Virginia families in MAKING COLLEGE AFFORDABLE.  We are dedicated to sending students to the college or university of their choice while saving families thousands of dollars in the process.  Our goal is to help the student prepare for the college of their choice, enjoy a successful college career and find employment in their chosen field afterwards, and do all of this without pillaging the family's retirement savings and lifestyle.

Designed for Families

Our free College Planning Workshops are places where families can attend to learn about the financial aid system and the entire college funding process.  At these seminars, thousands of parents have discovered new secrets and strategies for sending their students to schools they never thought they could afford.


The Team

Mike Irwin

Bachelor of Science, Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech
Co-founder and President

Mike has been guiding families and students through the labyrinth of college tuition funding and enrollment for decades. Mike holds a Bachelor of Science degree as a graduate of the Pamplin School of Business at Virginia Tech.  Mike is licensed in the insurance field, and as a member of NACFA, he specializes his education and training in cutting edge developments and new ways to advise families on strategies on how to pay for college and maximize both merit and financial aid eligibility. 

Sarah Irwin

Bachelor of Arts, English, Virginia Tech
Co-founder and Director of Student Services

A proud graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in English and secondary education, Sarah remained in the Montgomery County area after college where she taught high school and middle school English.  She continued serving in education as a substitute teacher for thirteen years in Richmond,  Virginia.  Sarah shares her expertise with the written word as she works closely with our high school seniors to polish their college essays and also serves in an advisory role to our Team to help students navigate through the entire college application process.

Cathy Mask

Bachelor of Science, Psychology - Virginia Commonwealth University
Client Services Manager

Cathy attended Bluefield College in Southwestern Virginia where she studied Religion and worked in the Financial Aid/Admissions office for two years.  She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (cum laude honors), where she majored in Psychology and minored in Administration of Justice.  Her interest in the law field led her to enroll in the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies Paralegal Studies Program, and she worked as a Family Law Paralegal for several years before joining Virginia CPS as the Client Services Manager.  Cathy's background in law has provided her a wide range of experience in assisting clients and handling both their confidential financial as well as their private family information.

Jacki Himmel

Bachelor of Science, Psychology - Virginia Commonwealth University
Student Services Coordinator

Jacki Himmel joined Virginia CPS in 2016 in the role of Student Services Coordinator.  After graduating high school in North Carolina, Jacki enrolled in East Carolina University where she completed her first two years of college.  Jacki moved to Richmond, VA in 1991, and completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Jacki’s calling of helping others motivated her to enter the field of human resources, and after graduating college she obtained her credentials of PHR (Professional of Human Resources) and later SPHR (Senior Professional of Human Resources).  Much of Jacki’s prior career has been focused on matching best fit candidates to roles, administering assessments and providing career counseling, including resume building.  This experience uniquely qualifies her to work with our students in developing their Best Fit list of colleges for application.  Jacki and her husband Bob reside in the Richmond area, and are parents to four children, three of whom are enrolled in high school.  She is well-versed in the college testing and selection process as a parent herself. 

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