For teens and their parents who are starting to think about college, here is how to college search for homeschoolers.
How to College Search for Homeschoolers
The college search process can be SO stressful! We 7Sisters have been there (and 7Sister Marilyn and I have helped many of our local homeschool families through these major decisions). Therefore, we understand if you feel stressed out.
So, allow me to share some things we have learned about how to handle the college search for homeschoolers.
Of course, there’s not ONE right way to find for the right college for your teens. However, these tips can help you clarify your goals and narrow the options.
As 7Sister Kym always says:
Pray first, last and always!
Proverbs 3:6 reminds us to acknowledge God in all our ways, and he will direct your paths! God cares, even about college choices.
Second, clarify the college major
Has your high schooler chosen a college major? If not, start here!
Why do tons of work and then finding a cool university for your teen when they are not sure of the major they want? After all, college is expensive and if a student switches major several times, it will be even more expensive. If your teens needs to work on the college major choice, it might be a good idea to spend some time on 7Sisters Career Exploration.
The college your teen chooses will need to offer the major they want. (Believe it or not, I have met a number of college graduates who chose the college because they liked it. However, the college did not offer the degree they wanted. The students had fun in college but spent their careers in fields they really did not like because of the degree they earned.)
Third, choose the kind of degree your teen wants or needs
There are so many kinds of degrees out there:
- These are college courses that lead to a certification but no degree is needed. Certifications usually take one to three semesters.
Associate of Arts
- AA degrees are two-year degrees that either prepare a student for a specific job or lead to admission to a four-year college. AA degrees are usually given at community colleges as well as many universities, if the programs call for it.
Bachelor degrees, such as
- Bachelor of Arts Degree (often more foreign languages and general education in the degree than BS)
- or Bachelor of Science
- Other specialized degrees (these differ from college to college). For example:
- Bachelor of Social Work
- also Bachelor in Nursing
- Bachelor in Music
- or Bachelor in Fine Arts
Your teen will not only need to know that the college they choose has their major AND the type of degree they want.
Fourth, clarify finances
College is more expensive than ever, these days. Often teens do not have any concept of finances, especially related to college expenses. This is a good discussion for you and your high schooler!
- Discuss how much money you are willing to contribute
- Also, discuss any designated funds they have in store (529 Plans, trust funds from grandparents, etc)
- Teach them the many expenses of college:
- Activity fees
- Explain the FAFSA system and how it works for funding their education
- Decide how much debt they are willing to incur
- Look for options for funding:
- Goofy side note, many colleges deduct scholarships from the amount of financial-need grant they will give, so if your teen will be receiving financial need grants, talk to the admissions officers about how this works at their school
- Tuition discounts (especially based on SAT/ACT scores)
- Some states offer free tuition at local community colleges for AA degrees
- Also, some states offer reduced pricing dual enrollment courses
At the same time, teens should be working on a Financial Literacy course to help them with planning for college, learning to budget, etc.
Fifth, discuss the kind of college your homeschool high schooler wants
Do they want a liberal arts college or a college that includes STEM degrees?
- Liberal arts colleges focus on the breadth of experience that prepares teens for life. They focus on thinking skills and soft skills. (Valuable in today’s market.)
- STEM colleges will have fewer humanities or other soft skills. It can be important that the STEM kind of student will also need a few “breadth” courses.
Also, it might be good to discuss the risks of the “for profit” online-colleges that often give low-value degrees with student loans with extremely high interest rates.
What size college do they hope for?
- Large state college
- Small college or community college
- Large or small private college
What kind of college do they hope for?
- Christian college
How far from home?
- Local for commuting
- Local but live on campus
- Distance and live in campus housing
- Note that out-of-state colleges usually have higher out-of-state tuition
Sixth, discuss the competition at college
Explain that at some level they are in competition with their fellow students (especially in courses where the grades are curved. Therefore, it is wise to choose a college where your homeschooler will earn grades similar to their SAT or ACT scores. Thus they should look for colleges where incoming freshmen have earned scores similar to theirs (or even better, your homeschooler’s scores were significantly higher than the incoming freshmen.
You can use the Common Data Set for this (and SO much more) information. Many colleges publish their Common Data Set. THE CDS shares important information such as:
- Entrance scores on tests for incoming freshmen as well as other pertinent information (called the “Academic Profile”)
- Descriptions of the average financial aid packages (including loans versus grants)
- The percentage of the financial need was met for students
- Descriptions of merit grants awarded
- Class size
- Cost of tuition
Seventh, do an internet search for colleges that fit your homeschool high schooler’s needs and desires
You can use:
- US Department of Education’s College Score Card
- College Board’s Big Future
- US News and World Report
- Best Colleges
Eighth, check out the colleges of interest’s websites and Common Data Sets
Do virtual tours. Attend open houses.
Ninth, do college tours
When the field is narrowed to just a handful, do some college tours. Attend open houses. Be sure to interview students and faculty. We share some valuable tips for college tours in this post.
Try not to get too stressed. You can do this!