Advantages of College Visits for Homeschoolers
One of the disadvantages of homeschooling is not having access to a brick-and-mortar office with a guidance counselor that one can make an appointment with in order to discuss how best to prepare students for college. Many homeschooling parents, myself included, have learned by making mistakes we wish we had avoided, and our oldest children, unfortunately, are the guinea pigs. Now that I have completed my homeschooling journey, having homeschooled 9 kiddos for more than 32 years, I love helping others as they navigate the journey from high school to college! It helps that I now work as the Homeschool Specialist at a college because I am kept up-to-date and apprised of what is taking place on the college level.
Past articles and podcasts that I have published cover the general steps to take during high school to prepare your student for college. This article will be more specific to college visits. Visiting colleges in person will help your students narrow down your top college choices. The sooner this takes place, the sooner you are able to guide your students through the preparations needed to attend one of their top choices.
There are not many advantages to the changes that have taken place because of COVID, but one advantage is that many colleges now offer virtual visits that include campus tours. Although a virtual visit is not nearly as beneficial as an on-campus visit, it is a great place to start. Sit down with your students and visit their top ten campuses online and then narrow down your choices for an in-person visit! Oftentimes, there are opportunities to ask questions and interact with someone from the college during the virtual visit. Be prepared ahead of time with a list of questions to ask. Here are just a few of the questions we frequently hear asked during a virtual visit:
- How many students attend the college?
- What is the weather like throughout the year?
- What is the housing situation and do freshmen have to live on campus?
- What is the cost of tuition, room and board?
- What scholarships are offered and do they stack?
- What is the faculty to student ratio?
- What majors do you offer and what is your most attended major?
- What college exam scores do you accept and are you test optional at this time?
- What is unique to this college?
- Are there scholarship opportunities specific to high school seniors?
- Are you homeschool friendly?
- What are the cut-off dates for application and deposits?
- What is the application fee?
- Are you offering any incentives for applying right now?
At the college where I work, we host a scholarship event each semester that is free for qualified, accepted seniors to attend and each participant receives another $1,000 to $3,000 based on an academic interview. One event takes place in November and the other in February/March. If your students are considering attending this college but do not apply until after these events have ended, then they have missed out on free money! This is another reason to start the college search early.
If possible, visit the campus in person while classes are in session but, preferably, not during mid-term exams or finals. Have your students attend classes. Set up appointments with an admissions counselor and a financial aid counselor. Request to speak with faculty members and coaches. If your students are interested in an activity such as music, theater, or athletics, schedule the visit during a time when they can attend a performance or a game. Request a tour of the campus and eat in the cafeteria if possible. When the opportunity arises, sit and listen to discussions taking place in public areas. Engage the current students in conversations in order to find out what brought them to that college and ask what they like and what they dislike about the school.
In addition to college visits, find out if there are additional opportunities that your student can take advantage of in order to discover more about the college. These opportunities may include but not be limited to dual enrollment, workshops, camps, and open houses. If the college offers a summer camp, then send your students. Not only will they become more familiar with the campus and the faculty (giving them an advantage over freshmen who have not attended the camp), but these camps are often a great place to meet a future roommate. Many incoming freshmen have anxiety related to all of the unknowns associated with becoming a college student, and that includes rooming with someone they have never met. The better prepared your students are beforehand, the more familiar they are with the campus, and knowing their future roommate ahead of time will all help to lower the anxiety levels they will have as incoming freshmen.
You can begin making a list of top college choices as early as you would like, but I would encourage you to do this no later than the beginning of the eleventh grade. Start with virtual visits in order to narrow down your top choices and then make plans to visit the choices remaining on the list in person before the students’ senior year. Make sure you are aware of all of the opportunities offered at each college as well as required hoops through which your students must jump in order to apply, be accepted, and be able to afford financially. Happy hunting! If you would like to schedule a time to talk to me about preparing your students for college, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat Wesolowski is an author, speaker, and homeschooling mother of 9 who is now the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College in Dayton, TN. After homeschooling her 9 children for the past 32 years, she is finally finished! Pat has a heart for helping parents find joy in their homeschooling experience and, for that reason, loves teaching workshops in order to encourage and equip parents for a fun and successful homeschool experience. Pat is the host of a podcast entitled “Homeschooling Co-op Style,” writes a blog, and has authored numerous unit studies for homeschooled students. Pat has also written a free eResource to help parents plan for a successful high school experience. It is available to download at this link: www.bryan.edu/ebook.