Right before our oldest left for college, I thought to blog my lessons learned in how to prepare as a homeschool parent for the sake of those behind me. When I entered college (from public school), others were an integral part of my preparation. In contrast, I can safely say with my high school/ homeschool mom hats on—hats that included guidance counselor, college advisor, editor of essays, and financial wizard—I was, in a word, overwhelmed. My goal at that time was to help someone else not muddle through those deer-in-the-headlights moments that I had in adjusting to that season of life. Now, with one having completed undergraduate studies and one at the halfway mark, I thought to update my “wisdom.” Plus, 5+ years have flown by, and the technology available to help in this venture has changed, and is, in some cases, more sophisticated.
My original eight points were as follows:
- Make your list of people for writing recommendations
- Begin looking for scholarships early
- Incorporate college visits into your vacation plans
- Take advantage of open houses, senior days, and other opportunities for guided tours
- Talk candidly and honestly with your kids about money and debt
- Prepare your child for test-taking environments
- Keep records for yourself of your child’s accomplishments throughout the high school years, and document his/ her work as clearly and succinctly as possible
- Write the college entrance essays
You can see the entire post here.
Now for some additional thoughts regarding helping these young folks get off on the best foot:
Use community college, AP, and CLEP opportunities to your advantage. I am, increasingly, a huge fan of community colleges as a pre-college experience for so many reasons. You don’t have to attend with the plan of completing an Associates’ degree; even taking a few classes can help with validating a student’s claim to college-readiness, as well as financing the transition and helping the student adjust. I was reminded recently of one of the few downsides of attending community college as a high school student: if your student truly is not ready, a poor grade on a transcript can harm your overall transcript as much as a high grade can help it. AP and CLEP exams, on the other hand, do not have the same impact; you can disregard your results if they are not what you want. Unfortunately, you cannot pick and choose the best portions of a transcript; they come all or nothing.
Did I lose you on the acronyms? Here are a couple of links regarding AP ad CLEP exams, and which (if either) might be right for you:
Be your child’s best cheerleader, and put it in writing. In my original post, I did not address the Common Application (aka as the Common App) or its components, which include statements to be completed by the parents. As I mentioned before, one of several hats you will wear as a home educator is that of guidance counselor and head cheerleader. This is your opportunity to sell your child as a candidate that colleges want. Be sure that you use that opportunity to focus on the good—those intangibles that will not present themselves through a standardized test result or transcript. Craft your words so that others see all the beauty in him or her that you see. Also, consider how you might format the transcript to help your child shine. There are scenarios in which your child might benefit most from a by-year format, and other scenarios in which a by-subject format might be best. Ultimately, either format tells the college what they need to know. Read more about that here.
Learn what activities position your child for more money. I wrote previously about starting the scholarship hunt early and having family conversations about debt. There are ways to help maximize the amount that others will pay for your child to attend college. I cannot reiterate enough to register for email notifications on scholarships through sites like http://fastweb.com and http://cappex.com. Also consider the following resources to help you in your search for monies:
The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen and Kelly Tenabe
The Scholarship Shark: A Faith-Based Guide to Finding and Winning Scholarships by Pam Andrews (also, visit Mrs. Andrews’ website, https://www.thescholarshipshark.com/)
Revisiting standardized testing, the PSAT is a determinant of National Merit scholarships. There are preparation courses to boost confidence and, hopefully, test results. Though some courses are more expensive than others, utilize these courses as appropriate; if your child’s test results pay for college, whatever is the cost of the course is worth its weight in gold.
Finally, if your child is far enough along in the college selection process to have chosen his or her dream school, consider a summer pre-college program at that college or university. Pre-college program attendance says that you are serious about a given school; the question is then whether they will match your intensity with some commitment of their own.
An early start with any or all of these steps can literally save you thousands of dollars and allow both you and your child to have the smoothest homeschool-to-college transition possible. By the way, here are a couple of other “transitional” posts that might encourage you.
Get ready for the ride of your life, dear friends.