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A few months back Grandma took all of the younger kids and I had a four day crash course in the Hidden Arts of Applying to College. I filled out applications, FAFSA forms, found scholarship sites, and read a ton about what I should have done over the last few years.
Getting college for FREE is my goal for all of my kids. What I have learned is getting us closer and closer. UPDATE: Our oldest has earned a full ride to the school he chose!!
I haven’t been able draw from my life experience. I was an untraditional student. Since I had taken classes at the local college in high school, I transferred directly into full time classes without and tests or applications. I have never taken SAT/ACT exams. I have never lived on campus or even had an official college visit until this year with my own students.
Even with all of those factors working against me, I have learned a ton in an extremely short time frame. You can too. Let me share the things I have learned so far.
Do them in your teens Junior year even before you know if they want to go to college. My son was convinced he was going to work for a year, so I had not done any of these steps during his senior school year. When he was presented with the opportunity to play college baseball and we had to scramble to get his test scores and paperwork together.
His ACT score was enough high enough for acceptance but he missed the benchmark to earn additional scholarship money in Computer Technology. Since he did not have the time for a retest before the semester we had to find funds from other places.
Had I done these steps ahead of time I could have added a couple of thousands of dollars to my son and daughters scholarship funding. None of these steps have to cost you anything and two are totally free.
If your student is a Senior, it is not too late.
We did several of these steps in late in our son’s Senior year and eventually we were able to get the Scholarships and funding to send my son to school for free this Spring. We are hoping to do the same for our other two grads this fall.
Many high level scholarships ask for a SAT/ACT scores. A recent STEM Math Scholarship application worth $5,000 had a qualification requirement of a 26 or higher on the Mathematics portion of the ACT.
We aren’t big on tests in our homeschool, but we aren’t sorting thousands of students every year like these colleges either. Test scores matter when it comes to college scholarships. Schools have no other way to make quick assessments and test scores help sift students. I feel terrible that I did not prep my kids for these. I literally had no idea about them.
In hindsight, I would have had my kids taking the tests as early as possible, at least once a year. Also, the PSAT test is offered once a year and is used by many schools for merit scholarship and awards. We missed testing date because of a communication error with the local school will not be able to take it again because both of our students are in their senior year. It is the test that they use for National Honor Society enterance and college merit scholarships.
If you haven’t done so already find out what is required for college. After you have a good idea of the outline you need for Core Credits, write out all of the courses your student has taken over their high school years. Remember to list any classes they might have taken unconventionally, online, in a co-op or outside of your normal curriculum. I pulled all of my past CPI forms out of my files to do a quick comparison, making sure I didn’t miss anything from years past.
Then we added any outside of core activities for elective credits. I did not over do this. I don’t want to create an expository list of every activity we have ever engaged in. Instead, I wanted to give schools a rounded view of what our students have been exposed to. These credits should highlight their interests and specific skill sets.
List out any activities, sports, clubs, hobbies or lessons they may have taken as well. To keep track of our yearly credits we use a program called Applecore. You can use their free version to track your students courses through high school. I use their paid version for $55 a year because of the added features.
We have the gold level. With it you have access to Course Tracking, Grade Reporting, Report Cards, Portfolio Keeper, Attendance, Scheduler, and editable Transcripts.
If you are teaching multiple students you can use the copy courses feature. Since we use Sonlight with three students in a group, this makes transcript creation a whole lot easier. I created one master transcript and then copied it for my two other students. Then I add each students specific areas of study and additional subjects.
We used AppleCore’s report card feature when the boys got their licenses. Our insurance company offered a discount for good grades. We don’t normally use report cards, but we were able to create one easily, adding their current grades and sent it in for a discount on their car insurance.
We discovered RaiseMe in October of our kid’s Senior year. I wish we had discovered it sooner. Many of the colleges offers cash incentives for milestones like good grades, extra curricular involvement, sports, leadership and test scores.
My daughter was able to apply to the college that offered her $80,000 in scholarship money over four years. There were more schools that had already closed their earning window for the year, in October. We had a little over a week to gather all of her information, recommendation letters and write her essay. If your student is a freshman or higher go sign up now.
Not only can you start seeing what schools are offering, but they have a great interactive page with each college. You can see their stats all in one place for any school you choose to follow. This helped us to see any additional enterance requirements as well as the college Majors offered.
It helped me to narrow the search when looking at a world full of colleges. We found some great schools through RaiseMe and were able to look at information for schools side by side. We applied to those who offered the most scholarship dollars, who had features our students were specifically looking for. We found some great schools we might have missed along the way.
These steps are critical. Don’t miss them or wait until any longer if your student is in their Senior year. I was shocked to hear that some schools needed application by October of Senior year. October! They didn’t even know what classes they were taking in their last semester, but were supposed to applying to college already.
Junior year is the best time to get all of this done. Start even earlier if you can. If you make college planning a part of your regular homeschool planning you can just add these to your yearly check list.
What college prep moment caught you by suprise? Have any good tips for me? I would love to hear them as well. Leave me a comment and let me know which step you are going to tackle first.
Have a great school year and thanks for walking alongside me for a bit.