Six Important Steps to Take in Order to Prepare High School Students for College
Congratulations! You have a student in high school and you are approaching the end of a journey! You want your students high school years to end well and, in order to do that, you need to be aware of available options. Even if your student does not plan to go to college, that could change, so it is better to be prepared for college, and not go — rather than to not plan for college and then find your student has changed his mind! Do not wait until the spring semester of the senior year to make post-high school plans (especially if your student will attend college). Waiting too long can cause stress, failed plans, and a loss of scholarship offers.
Step one in planning for the high school years is to choose which subjects are needed to prepare your student best for life after high school. An article that discusses many options along with advice on how to choose what subjects to include can be found here. The subjects you include will be influenced by what you discover in step two, so keep that in mind as you plan.
Step two is to help your students determine their talents, giftedness, and passion. Begin having your students participate in opportunities that will help them figure out if they, in fact, love a particular interest or, as is often the case, are not as enamored once they gain experience. For instance, if your child is interested in journalism, find a journalist that they shadow or intern with in order to see firsthand what all is involved with this career. If your student knows ahead of time (before college) what he wants to do career-wise, it will help you plan the high school years in such a way that they gain experience before heading to college. If your student has no clue, then taking career assessment tests may be helpful. The Career Services director at Bryan recently conducted a workshop on how to help students discover their interests. A summary of his workshop is found here.
Step three is to make plans for additional opportunities during the high school years including, but not limited to, conferences, programs, camps, ministry opportunities, internships, and community service. I put together a free e resource for planning the high school years and it includes a time line of events that you may want to consider including in your students’ plans. Feel free to download that resource here. We had our children attend numerous conferences (many were free) as well as debates (so that they would be challenged to think deeply about issues that matter), pregnancy center banquets (to hear the speaker), campaigns, and more. They also began working at summer camps when they were 12. We made sure our children joined us when we volunteered for community service or ministry related projects. As a result, our children are very quick to respond to needs without being asked. One year, when a hurricane hit Florida, several of our children spent days with the Salvation Army providing meals for the evacuees. Some programs and camps may seem quite costly, but we found that it was worth sacrificing (or working harder to earn the money required) for certain programs. In several instances I was able to barter services for the required fees (cooked at a camp, taught classes, babysat, etc.). There are numerous opportunities that will advance your child’s interest whether it be music, theater, politics, business, or almost anything else! Some opportunities will be easier to find than others. Ask for referrals from your friends. When my daughter wanted to gain experience as a videographer I asked our homeschool support group for suggestions and my daughter ended up with two internships, both of which provided invaluable experience in her field. To read more about the varied paths my nine children have taken since high school, go here.
Step four involves narrowing down your college choices to 2 or 3 schools. Look for colleges that have majors that interest your students. Yes, I know, this may change. It often does, but start out with current interests. Personally, it is important to my husband and me that our children attend a college that teaches classes from a biblical worldview when possible. For this reason several of our students attended Bryan College (which happens to be where I am the Homeschool Specialist). Of course it would make sense that I highly recommend Bryan College if we have the major your student needs. Begin your search by looking on-line and by asking for referrals from friends. Visit the colleges of choice in person when possible. Most colleges have specific visit days, but many encourage you to visit at any time that is convenient to you. Visiting while classes are in session is the best time to visit because if your students are allowed to sit in on classes, they will gain a first-hand experience. If you are going to be in the area of a college of interest at a time when classes are not in session, it is still worth scheduling a visit so that you can tour the campus and talk to admissions and financial aid counselors. If your student is a senior then check with the colleges of interest to see if they offer special scholarship events for seniors in high school. Bryan College hosts two scholarship events each year, one per semester. These are for seniors who have been accepted to Bryan College. The events are free and are by invitation according to college exam test scores. Each student attending receives an additional scholarship between $200 and $2,000 based on an academic interview. Students can also participate in an essay contest and one winner receives four years tuition! Additional scholarships are offered for music, theater, martial arts and more. You are not limited to how many colleges your student can apply to and, in fact, it makes sense to apply to your top 2 or 3 choices so that you can better compare apples with apples once the financial packages are awarded. There are times throughout the year when application fees are waived (applying to multiple colleges can get costly) so check with the colleges of interest about this. Colleges often offer incentives for applying (or depositing) that reward the student with free products such as t-shirts, mugs, etc. Plan to attend college fairs that are within driving distance to your home. Do some research to find out about virtual college fairs as they are gaining in popularity. Ken Ham, with Answers in Genesis, has a free college fair every November and each high school student receives a free ticket to the Creation Museum and a chance to win a $500 scholarship. The FPEA, in Florida, hosts a homeschool college fair in November. Many homeschool curriculum fairs include vendors in the exhibit hall who represent colleges. HEAV has a separate college vending area at their annual conference in Richmond, VA, as does the NCHE conference that takes place in Winston-Salem, NC. One more word of advice, find out if a college you are looking at offers something unique to that college. Students who attend Bryan College after high school and graduate with a 3.5 GPA can then earn their Master’s degree tuition free!
Step five is planning financially for the college years. College can be quite expensive, but there are multiple scholarships and grants that can be awarded or earned. Dual enrolling while in high school is one of the best ways to save money and cut costs. In some states dual enrollment is totally free, but be careful because dual enrollment is not without dangers. I wrote about that here. In Tennessee there is a state grant for DE classes. At Bryan College we offer an out-of-state scholarship of $200 for DE classes which makes a 3 hour credit class cost around $300. That is an amazing price. We offer on-line classes 4 times a year. Bryan College is regionally accredited so our credits often transfer to most colleges. Taking AP classes and CLEP exams is another way to reduce college expenses because it is a much more affordable way to earn credit. Be aware, once again, that not every college accepts every CLEP or AP credit. Once you have narrowed your students’ college choices, then find out their policy regarding transferring credits whether from another college or from CLEP or AP. Academic scholarships are often the highest scholarships awarded and most of the time the amount is determined by the scores earned on a college entrance exam. At some colleges the academic and athletic scholarships stack. If you have a student who is an athlete, planning to attend a college where the athletic and academic scholarships do not stack, if he can receive an equal amount for an academic scholarship, always go with the academic scholarship over the athletic scholarship because athletes can lose a scholarship due to injury or non-renewal based on performance. In addition to making college affordable by taking dual enrollment classes, CLEP and AP tests, and earning scholarships, most colleges offer opportunities on campus such as work study programs and becoming a residential assistant.
Step Six: Going hand-in-hand with Step 5 is this — prepare for the tests. Although I am not a fan of using college exam scores as an indicator of how well a student will do in college, the truth is that most colleges award the highest scholarships according to scores earned. In years past the ACT and the SAT were the primary tests taken by the majority of students. Now there is a third option, the CLT! Read here to find out more about college testing. Students should seriously prepare for these exams because the higher the scholarship the less out-of-pocket money required! A word of caution if your student plans to apply for independent scholarships — set up a dedicated email account for scholarship entries or your personal email will be bombarded with solicitations.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or if you are interested in receiving a list of resources I have created.
Being prepared for life after high school is not that difficult if you have a plan in place to take advantage of opportunities available to your students.