college applications

040. Homeschool Extracurricular & Volunteering

High school extracurricular and volunteering

Extracurricular
& Volunteering

Adding extracurricular and volunteer hours isn’t only fun, it helps create diverse and interesting students and makes them stand out on college applications and job interviews.

* Should extracurricular activities go on the transcript
* How many volunteer hours should a high schooler do?
* Do hobbies count as extracurricular subjects?

Today, we will be answering these questions and more!!

Episode 040:

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Show Notes

If your student is college bound, you have probably spent a lot of time agonizing over putting together a transcript of robust classes and grades so that you can showcase the rigor and variety of education experience your child has been busy with.  But colleges and universities are not only interested in academics, but they also want to see well-rounded applicants who participate in a variety of activities and are active members in their community.  Admissions staff are often looking for students who understand how to build into a community because this can help build good college culture. Colleges like to know that homeschool high schoolers are not just sitting at home but know how to contribute to the world around them. There are all kinds of ways to build that “Total College Package” that will make your student a super desirable candidate. Volunteering and participating in a variety of extracurricular activities not only helps build good character, but they build great transcripts too! 

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But remember there’s only one absolute must in all of this.  And that is to follow your state homeschool law. There are plenty of kids that get into college that were homeschooled without this extra, but it definitely helps you stand out. It’s also important to check the college requirements and put those into your plan. But beyond that, everything you do is your choice.

State Homeschool Law Guide>>

And even if your child is not college bound, participating in extracurriculars and community service is still an excellent way to figure out their future path and to contribute to society.  So don’t discount this important step of their educational journey. It will help create memories that these homeschool graduates can talk about in job interviews, too. Interviews often start with “Tell me about yourself”. Your new graduate that may not be college-bound will have plenty to talk about!

But there are so many more reasons to participate in these activities.

Skill Development:

These opportunities will help your teenager develop a wide range of skills beyond what is taught in the classroom. These activities can help enhance their leadership, teamwork, communication and time management skills. It also helps them home in on those critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • College Applications: Participating in extracurricular activities and volunteer work can significantly strengthen your college applications. Admissions officers often look for well-rounded applicants who have demonstrated their commitment and passion outside of academics. Your involvement in such activities can make you stand out from other applicants and showcase your dedication and interests.
  • Personal Growth: Extracurricular activities and volunteering offer opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. Your high schooler can explore their interests, passions, and talents. These things are going to allow them to develop a sense of identity and purpose. These experiences can also help build their confidence. It really doesn’t matter what kind of extracurricular activities your kids choose to do, there are so many options, and each one is going to help them to develop resilience and learn to be adaptable – these are all really important qualities for success in life.  
  • Networking: Participating in extracurricular activities and volunteering can help you expand your social network. You’ll meet people with similar interests, make new friends, and connect with mentors who can provide guidance and support. Networking is valuable not only during high school but also in college and beyond, as these connections can lead to future opportunities.
  • Community Engagement: We have always made volunteering a big part of our homeschool. Volunteering allows your kids to give back to the community and make a positive impact on others’ lives. Volunteering cultivates empathy and compassion. It also gives you a sense of social responsibility, it exposes them to different social issues. These kinds of experiences really help our kids to understand the world beyond their immediate surroundings.
  • Exploration of Interests and Passions: Extracurricular activities provide a platform to explore and pursue your passions. Whether it’s joining a sports team, participating in a debate club, or engaging in artistic endeavors, these activities allow you to discover what you truly enjoy and what you may want to pursue further in the future.
  • Stress Relief and Balance: High school can be academically demanding and stressful. When our kids are involved in extracurricular activities and volunteering, it can provide a much-needed break and serve as a healthy outlet for relieving their stress. It can help create a balance between academics and other aspects of life, and it gives them a sense of overall well-being.

Remember, it’s important to choose activities that genuinely interest you and align with your values. Quality matters more than quantity, so focus on a few activities that you’re genuinely passionate about and commit to them wholeheartedly.

How many volunteer hours should a high schooler do? (10:13)

This number of volunteer hours that highschoolers do varies depending on their personal goals and how much time they have available. While there is no specific requirement, many aim to complete between 50 and 200 volunteer hours. A general guide is to aim for 10–15 hours per month during the school year, and as much as possible over the summer. Remember, there’s no specific number but it’s a good idea to shoot for enough to gain valuable experiences and make a positive impact. 

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Personal Interest: Engage in volunteer activities that align with your interests and passions. Choose causes or organizations that resonate with you and where you believe you can contribute meaningfully. When you are genuinely interested in the work you’re doing, you are more likely to commit and enjoy the experience.
  • Time Availability: Consider your academic workload, extracurricular commitments, and other responsibilities when determining the number of volunteer hours you can realistically dedicate. Is your student working to try to save up for a car? That may be 20 hours a week really cutting into their free time for volunteering. It’s important to strike a balance with all your commitments while maintaining their academic performance and overall well-being.
  • Requirements and Recommendations: Some schools, scholarships, or programs may have specific requirements or recommendations for volunteer hours. It’s advisable to check with your school’s guidance counselor or college admissions offices to see if there are any guidelines to follow. However, keep in mind that the quality of your volunteer experiences is generally more important than the sheer number of hours.
  • Consistency and Longevity: Rather than focusing solely on the number of hours, consider the consistency and longevity of your volunteer commitment. Demonstrating long-term dedication to a cause or organization can be more impactful than sporadic involvement. It shows commitment, responsibility, and a deeper understanding of the cause you’re supporting.

Ultimately, the goal of volunteering is to make a positive impact and gain valuable experiences, so it’s more important to focus on the quality of your volunteer work rather than getting caught up in meeting a specific hour quota.

 Should extracurricular activities go on the transcript? (13:26)

So while you definitely want to include extracurricular activities with your application materials, the transcript is typically not the place for it.  You want to keep academic achievements and coursework as essential components of a transcript, while extracurricular activities highlight their involvement, skills achieved, and interests beyond the classroom.  These activities go on a resume or a second page or often, there is a space on the school application, or Common App where you can list all of this information.  Including this information can give colleges, universities, or future employers a well-rounded view of your abilities, dedication, and character.

High School Documentation Episode>>

Common App>>

When listing extracurricular activities on your resume or in your application documentation, consider providing the following details for each activity:

  • Name of the activity: Clearly state the name of the extracurricular activity.
  • Duration: Specify the period during which they participated in the activity (e.g., years or semesters).
  • Role or position: Indicate any leadership positions or significant responsibilities they held within the activity.
  • Description: Briefly describe the nature of the activity and their involvement. Highlight any notable achievements, awards, or recognition they received.

Remember, the goal is to provide a well-rounded picture of your high school experience, so focus on including activities that demonstrate your skills and passions! Examples of extracurricular activities you may want to include are sports, clubs, community service, volunteering, music or arts-related activities, leadership positions, part-time jobs, internships, or any other relevant activities. All of these can help you stand out and showcase your holistic development and commitment beyond academics.

 Do hobbies count as extracurricular subjects? (15:46)

So while hobbies may not typically fall under the traditional definition of extracurricular activities, they can still provide valuable insights into your interests, skills, and personal development. Especially if your hobbies are particularly relevant to your field of study or demonstrate important qualities, it may be worth considering including them.

Download the ENTIRE list of 105 activities >>

Maybe they align with their academic interests or showcase skills that are transferable or applicable to their desired path? Have their hobbies had a significant impact on their personal growth, character development, or community involvement? If their hobbies have led to noteworthy achievements or contributions, they can and should be mentioned. It’s essential to maintain a balance and focus on including activities that provide the most comprehensive and compelling representation of your abilities, interests, and accomplishments.

Many people worry about extracurriculars because maybe they have a kid who isn’t sporty or particularly artsy or crafty.  That’s ok!  There are so many different avenues for extracurriculars and there are few rules about what counts.  It’s your homeschool- you decide what is important and worthy.

Cameron building a guitar.
Perfect hobby for a musician!

Sports

The first thing that typically comes to people’s minds are sports. And just because your student is homeschooled doesn’t mean they don’t have opportunities for team and individual sports.  While in some places homeschooled kids can participate with local school teams, in other areas support groups have formed homeschool teams in basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, track and field, swimming, tennis, martial arts, dance, cheer, and more. There are also independent teams- rec and club level in many communities that offer these same services.

Golf was a lot of fun for my daughter
My son really enjoys ballroom dancing

Group Activities 

Personal interest clubs – Dungeons & Dragons, board game club, programming club, engineering club. My son was a member of the Texas Robot combat club for a few years and built combat robots from the design and a CAD program to 3-D printing, the chassis to mounting the servo and programming the remote and weapon. He actually won a couple of really cool competitions.

Government groups/Speech & Debate:

Model United Nations (MUN) is an educational simulation activity in which students role-play as delegates to the United Nations (UN) and simulate UN committees or other international bodies. MUN aims to provide participants with an understanding of international relations, diplomacy, and the workings of the UN. During a Model UN conference, students represent different countries or entities and engage in debates and discussions on global issues. They research their assigned country’s policies, they prepare position papers, and engage in negotiations with other delegates to find solutions to complex problems. Participants must articulate their country’s positions, negotiate with other delegates, and draft resolutions that address the issues being discussed. 

Model United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/mun

Model UN Representing Italy
Resolution: Water Desalinization…PASSED!

In a Youth and Government program, participants take on roles such as legislators, judges, lobbyists, journalists, or executive branch officials. They simulate the functions of government bodies, such as the state legislature, judiciary, or executive branch, and work together to propose, debate, and enact legislation, make judicial decisions, or carry out executive functions. The program aims to provide young people with firsthand experience in how the government operates, and it helps foster a deeper understanding of democracy, civic engagement, and public policy. Participants gain insights into the legislative process, develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, learn about policy issues, and engage in debate and negotiation.

Youth and Government: https://www.ymca.org/what-we-do/youth-development/education-leadership/government

youth and government
Our Youth and Government Conference at the Texas State Capitol

These gave our kids “student council” experience, too, which they went on to use in college on their university student council groups or sorority/panhellenic leadership.

Robert’s Rules of Order

Robert’s Rules of Order is a book that outlines the rules of parliamentary procedure. It is used by many organizations to help them conduct their meetings in an orderly fashion. The book is  useful for youth organizations as it can help them learn how to run meetings for their clubs or organizations.

Academic competitions

Participating in academic competitions, such as mathletes, science fairs, and opportunities include Jr. Achievement, Scholastic Bowl or National Quiz Bowl, Math and Spelling Bees, and Odyssey of the Mind competitions, or speech and debate tournaments can challenge and showcase a student’s knowledge and skills in specific subjects.

Odyssey of the Mind: https://www.odysseyofthemind.com

Destination Imagination: https://www.destinationimagination.org

Shakespeare Competition: https://www.esuus.org/esu/programs/shakespeare_competition/about/

Poetry Out Loud: https://www.poetryoutloud.org

National Quiz Bowl: https://www.naqt.com/about/quiz-bowl.html

Mathletes: https://mathleteschallenge.com

Spelling Bee: https://spellingbee.com/faq/how-do-i-enroll-if-there-no-home-school-associationgroupco-op-my-area

Speech and Debate: https://www.speechanddebate.org/nationals/

Junior Achievement: https://jausa.ja.org

4-H Groups

High-school students can form 4 H clubs in your homeschool group. Your children can raise livestock, collect insects, decorate cakes, or learn woodworking. There are literally hundreds of projects for children to try. They can compete at the county fair with their annual project. Parents are closely involved with the whole process. Leadership is carefully taught as each club is run by the children using “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Only children vote in these meetings.

4-H: https://4-h.org

At our recent homeschool expo I met the guy who runs the lone Texas 4 H Center- just 1!  In Georgia we had several and they are worth the trip.  4 H is an awesome organization and they often will do group events for a very small group- like 10 people.  That can be 3 homeschool families!

Texas 4-H: https://texas4hcenter.tamu.edu

Georgia 4-H: https://georgia4h.org/4-h-centers/

Scouting

Scouting can be a great source of leadership training.  Merit badges include excellent units of study and mastery to add to your curriculum. An Eagle Scout for boy scouts is an amazing accomplishment and girl scouts have the Gold Award which is a prestigious honor that recognizes exceptional leadership, project management, and commitment to making a sustainable and positive impact in their community. Similar to the Eagle Scout rank, earning the Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to complete a series of requirements, including identifying a community issue, developing a project plan, gaining necessary approvals, implementing the project, and measuring its impact. It also involves demonstrating leadership skills, engaging with community members, and dedicating a significant amount of time and effort to the project.

BSA also offers Venture Scouting. This is a great option for teenagers that have never been involved in scouts or are continuing on. It is a co-ed program for young men and women aged 14-20. It focuses on adventure, leadership, and personal development through activities such as outdoor adventures, community service, and skill-building. And they offer Sea Scouts as a program that emphasizes nautical skills and water-based activities. It offers opportunities for young men and women aged 14-20 to learn about sailing, boating, and water safety while fostering leadership and teamwork.

Girl Scouts https://www.girlscouts.org

Boy Scouts: https://www.scouting.org

Navigators: https://www.navigatorsusa.org

Sea Scouts: https://seascout.org

Venturing Scouts: https://www.scouting.org/programs/venturing/

My daughter’s Venturing Scout Troop backpacking for 10 days in the Arizona Mountains:

My daughter was the lead navigator!

Civil Air Patrol

If your teenager enjoys the thought of helping others, wearing a uniform, and flying airplanes, then the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program might be a good fit for them. This is an auxiliary organization of the U.S. Air Force. Cadets learn aeronautics, aviation, military drills, marching, survival skills, and first aid skills. Uniforms, gear, and equipment are included at no additional charge. Cadets are promoted on their own merits through testing and achievement.

Civil Air Patrol: https://www.gocivilairpatrol.com

I did this when I was in high school.  I was also part of an emergency services department as a ham radio operator.  I went out on calls and would do things like communicate with 911 and direct traffic.  It was an arm of our county sheriff’s department.  Check and see if your city has a similar program.

Community Programs and Classes, fine arts

Your student may enjoy being a part of a theater production or orchestra.  One of our kids is a musician, and took lessons and performed with School or Rock for years. He has since moved onto classical guitar, but it was a good stepping stone for him to get in front of an audience and learn stage performance. He wants to pursue music, and he loves jazz and classical music so he performs weekly at an open mic night here in North Texas. And he started to teach guitar to younger students. Some of our kids are fiddle players.

School of Irish Music: http://schoolofirishmusic.org

School of Rock: https://www.schoolofrock.com

Here is Cameron performing with one of his School of Rock Bands

Check your local recreation center catalog for a variety of classes. Fitness groups like Crossfit or a weightlifting class can be great, too.

Book Discussion Groups

Many homeschool students form book discussion groups. Book selection can be made by the students, with parental input. This gives the students a chance to learn more about “give and take” or Socratic discussion, public speaking, and how to defend their position in a non-threatening atmosphere.

Community Service

There are many ways teens can become involved in serving their community, such as hospital volunteer work, helping at an animal shelter, visiting a nursing home, doing yard work for an elderly neighbor, reading to neighborhood children, etc.

 They can get great experience working on a political campaign. We canvassed for a very popular senate election a few years ago.   Kids as young as 15 can be poll officials in our county election office.  During the 2020 presidential election the most experienced clerk was actually a young man in his 20s who had started working there in high school as a teen.

Journalism and publications: Students can create or join in a school newspaper, join a yearbook committee, or literary magazine, where they can develop their writing, editing, and design skills.

Leadership programs: Leadership programs such as Junior ROTC, National Honor Society, or leadership clubs provide opportunities to develop leadership abilities and contribute to the school community.

ROTC: https://www.usarmyjrotc.com

National Honor Society: https://www.nationalhonorsociety.org

Entrepreneurship or business clubs: Students interested in business and entrepreneurship can participate in clubs that focus on developing entrepreneurial skills, organizing business competitions, or engaging in fundraising activities.

Apprenticeships or Internships or part time jobs

Activities abound, but don’t overlook the unique opportunity you have to involve your teens in your adult life! Do you own a business? Train them to be your assistant. Are you a craftsman? Take on an apprentice! Our lovely podcast jingle was written and recorded by my lovely 16-year-old apprentice. Students can seek internships or part-time jobs in fields related to their interests or career goals, gaining practical experience and skills. Like I talked about my son teaching guitar lessons. 

So hopefully, if you aren’t already encouraging your child to explore extracurriculars and community service, we gave you some ideas of where to start!  These are the kinds of activities and experiences which really stay with you your entire life and have so many benefits all around.

This Week’s Freebie:

Workbook Lists 205 Activities with Links>>

Navigating College Acceptance Letters

a book, read, college student-4126481.jpg
a book, read, college student-4126481.jpg

Navigating College Acceptance Letters

It’s that exciting time of year when college acceptance letters are starting to arrive! These letters hold the power to bring immense joy or disappointment to your homeschooler’s life. Remember, no matter what the outcome may be, your unwavering support is what truly matters.

To help you navigate the emotional roller coaster that comes with this process, we have some tips to make this journey more manageable for both you and your child.

Embrace Your Emotions, Stay Positive

As a parent, it’s natural to want the best for your child. Receiving a rejection letter can be tough on both you and your homeschooler. But remember, this is not a reflection of the job you did or their worth. Focus on your child’s needs and emotions, providing them with the support they need, regardless of the college acceptance letter’s contents.

Allow Your Child to Express Their Feelings

This is a significant moment in your child’s life, and they will experience a range of emotions, whether the news is positive or negative. Encourage them to express their feelings openly and honestly. By being there for them, you provide a safe space for them to work through their emotions and grow stronger.

Even exceptional students with impressive achievements may face rejection from highly selective schools. If your child is accustomed to academic success, a rejection might come as a surprise. Help them see beyond this setback, reminding them that there are other great options awaiting their response.

Similarly, if your child receives an acceptance letter from their dream university, they might feel both elated and apprehensive. Support them in embracing their happiness while addressing any anxiety or doubt that arises. Transitioning to college is a big step for anyone, and it’s natural to feel some nervousness and jitters.

Sensitive handling of the news is crucial, regardless of the outcome. Many students share their college application plans with friends, driven by the initial excitement. However, once the results arrive, it’s important to handle the information delicately.

If your child doesn’t get accepted into their dream school, remember that facing the rejection publicly can be challenging for them. Offer your support, as they might find it difficult to confront the reality that their envisioned future didn’t align with the current situation. This support extends to family members and friends.

If your child is admitted to their first-choice college, encourage them to handle the news with grace. While celebrating their achievement is wonderful, it’s important to avoid excessive flaunting on social media or insensitive conversations. Other students who haven’t received their desired acceptance may feel resentment, and it’s essential to be mindful of their emotions. Remind your child about the importance of tactful communication and discourage them from bragging openly. Remember, there are still many high school students waiting for their own college news, and this can increase their anxiety or frustration.

Create a Plan Together

Both acceptance and rejection call for a plan of action. If your child receives rejections from certain schools but is still awaiting responses from others, review the timelines associated with those institutions. This will help you determine whether it’s time to explore alternative options or wait for further news.

If there are no pending applications, it’s time to explore alternative colleges or universities that offer programs your child is interested in. Even though it may be challenging for them, encourage them to stay positive and keep moving forward.

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For cases where your child is accepted by a school but has yet to hear from their top choice, carefully review the acceptance packet for important deadlines and required documentation. Make note of these dates and be prepared to complete the necessary paperwork promptly if the other school does not accept them.

If your child is admitted to their dream college, it’s time to get that paperwork started! Dive into the acceptance packet together and begin completing all the required forms and tasks. Some aspects, like dorm preferences, may be on a first-come, first-served basis, so prompt action is important. By getting this work done efficiently, you can free up time for other exciting preparations.

Prepare Financially

Now that you know where your child will be attending college, it’s time to start thinking about tuition. While the financial aid package might not be finalized yet, there are steps you can take to supplement their college funds. Explore various scholarships and grants that are still accepting applications. 

The Ultimate Scholarship Book.is updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately. Get all the CASH to pay for College! $$

This is a perfect opportunity to support your child in pursuing additional financial assistance.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to fellow homeschooling parents and join online communities. Together, you can create a supportive network that encourages and uplifts each other during this momentous time.

Celebrate the Achievements

Throughout this process, take moments to celebrate your child’s accomplishments. Whether they receive acceptances or face rejections, remind them of their unique strengths, talents, and potential. College admissions can be unpredictable, but what truly matters is the person your child has become through their homeschooling journey.

graduate, girl, happy-6671173.jpg

Encourage them to embrace every opportunity, to continue pursuing their passions, and to remain resilient in the face of challenges. Their path to success is not defined by a single college acceptance letter, but by the knowledge, skills, and character they have developed over the years.

You have played an integral role in their education, and your dedication and support have prepared them well for the next chapter of their lives. Embrace this moment with encouragement, knowing that their future is bright and full of endless possibilities.

Congratulations to you and your homeschooler on this incredible milestone!

036. Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College Applications and Scholarships

Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College isn’t cheap and transitioning from homeschool to a four-year university may seem overwhelming and you probably have a lot of questions but don’t worry! We’re going to walk you through the application process and the best way to get some extra cash to pay for it all!

-How do I choose colleges to apply to?
-How do I begin the application process?
-Where do I find scholarships?

Episode 036:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

We’ve talked a lot already about designing your 4-year plan and mapping out future goals. Your teenager may be opting for a future in the military, trade school, entrepreneurship, or the workforce and maybe college is not part of their plan.  Or maybe they are considering going to community college and then transferring to a university which can often be a huge savings for families choosing this route.

They may even be considering a gap year. Several students we know chose this pathway.  For some, it was because of the pandemic, for others, their students possibly needed time to save up money for future schooling. Others chose service programs like Americorps. Another student friend is doing a foreign language program abroad.  There are so many options. But for those who are college bound, thinking ahead to college can be an overwhelming prospect.  

How many applications?

While there is no exact formula or a perfect number of schools to submit your applications to, most students apply to 4-8 universities.

Safety School (2-3)

Sometimes called “back-up schools,” are schools you’re practically guaranteed admission. In general, safety schools have high acceptance rates. 

If you are new to homeschooling, be sure to check out our Getting Started Page where we step you through the entire process.

Target School (2-3)

Sometimes called ”match school” your grades and test scores should fall into the accepted range of the school’s most recently admitted class. While acceptance isn’t guaranteed, you should have a 40-60% chance of getting accepted.

Reach School (1-3)

If your grades and academic credentials fall in the lower range or below a school’s average from the previous year’s accepted students, then that school would be considered a “reach school” (also called a Dream School).

How do I choose colleges to apply to? (6:46)

Choosing a college to apply to can be really exciting for your teen but it can also be a challenging decision. It’s important to remember that this is their path, and they are the ones that are ultimately making the decision. Your job is to guide them and help them through this process. So, talk to them and have open discussions and dialogue. To help you through this process, we’ve put together some steps to help narrow this down for them. 

  1. Identify priorities: you’re going to be making a list of your priorities to guide your decision-making. Think about what factors are important to them in choosing a college. Consider things like academic programs, location (maybe they want to live in a sunny, warm state?), campus culture, extracurricular activities, size, cost (obviously, this is a big one for a lot of families!), and any other criteria that matter to you in a college. 
  2. Research colleges: Look for colleges that are going to align with the priorities you laid out. You’ll want to consider factors like academic reputation, majors and programs offered, faculty expertise, campus facilities, student organizations. Books like Fiske Guide to Colleges and the Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges are a great way to see ratings and criteria. Scroll down to view our list of college websites and resources.
Fiske Guide to Colleges
The Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges
  1. Tour some campuses: If it’s feasible, try to tour the campuses of the colleges you’re interested in. Visiting a campus will provide insights into the atmosphere, campus life, facilities, and overall vibe of the institution. Many offer information sessions so take advantage of those. You can take the official campus tour, and talk to current students and faculty, and just explore the surrounding area. Often the tour guides and people working in the visitor center are students themselves and love to share about their experiences.If you don’t know where to start with this, visit a few of the college campuses that are closest to you, even if your kiddo is pretty sure they don’t want to go there.  You definitely want them to have an idea of what to expect and be able to have a baseline for that. Even though you can do some of these tours online, it pales in comparison to being on campus and taking it all in.
  2. Seek guidance and advice: Talk to friends, family members and homeschool parents who can offer insights into the college selection process. They may have recommendations based on your academic strengths, interests, and career goals. You can get advice from people you know who may have attended or have knowledge about different colleges or a college on your list.  Reach out to current students or alumni of the colleges you’re interested in. Ask questions about their experiences, campus life, academic rigor, and career outcomes. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights that might not be available through official sources. Many out of state schools have local or regional representatives or alumni groups.  We met with a traveling advisor about one school, and we attended an alumni event for another school and it’s a great way to get a great vibe. You can also join the school’s social media pages for information.  Look at what kinds of clubs and activities they offer.
  3. Consider financial factors: College can be a significant investment, so it’s essential to consider the financial implications. Evaluate the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. Research scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities offered by each college. Consider your financial situation and weigh the affordability of each institution. Have an honest heart to heart with your children about yours/their financial situation so they understand from the get-go what their options truly are.
  4. Review admission requirements: it’s essential to meet the admission requirements for each college you’re considering. We talked about this in a couple of our other high school series episodes. Specifically checking with the college admissions to ensure that your 4-year high school plan will meet those. Check the necessary standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, and others.), GPA requirements, prerequisite courses, and any other criteria. It’s also important to have a realistic understanding of your chances of admission to each institution. Definitely look to see if they have special requirements for homeschoolers.  Also consider whether you have a solid chance at this school.  Many schools charge to apply and that adds up quickly.  An average student might not want to waste time applying to a college with a 7% acceptance rate.
  5. Consider your long-term goals: Think about your future career aspirations and how each college can contribute to your academic and professional growth. Look for colleges with strong programs and resources in your area of interest. Consider internship opportunities, research facilities, and alumni networks that can help you advance your career. If your child knows what they want to major in already, you can research what schools are ranked highly for that.  
  6. Trust your instincts: After conducting thorough research and gathering information, trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling. Reflect on which college resonates with you the most and aligns with your goals, values, and aspirations.

Remember that the college application process often involves applying to multiple institutions to increase your options. Be sure to meet application deadlines, submit required documents, and give yourself enough time to complete the process for each college you choose. Good luck!

How do I begin the application process? (16:56)

The college application process can be stressful with numerous tasks and decisions involved. However, with some planning, you can navigate the process more smoothly. We’ve laid out some strategies and tips to help you manage everything, including your stress level during this time:

  1. Start Early: Begin your preparations well in advance. Give yourself ample time to research colleges, understand all those admission requirements, and gather all the necessary documents. Our high school documents episode in this series lays all that out for you. Starting early will allow you to spread out the workload and avoid that last-minute stress. Many people recommend things like using essay prompts for writing assignments during the summer or late junior year so that you already have things prepared for application season.  You can also get on Common App a couple years before you actually need to. 
  1. Break It Down: Divide the application process into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a timeline or checklist with specific deadlines for each task, such as researching schools, writing essays, gathering recommendation letters, and completing all the forms. Breaking down the process will make it feel less overwhelming. Make a spreadsheet with all the schools and all of their dates so we could figure out which things need to go where.  There’s a lot of information in a lot of places so it can get really overwhelming. Keep all your application materials, deadlines, and important documents well-organized. And definitely utilize those digital tools, like Trello. Staying organized is going to give you a sense of control and reduce anxiety.

TRELLO is a free app that keeps me organized: https://trello.com

  1. Practice Self-Care: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental well-being during this period. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in regular exercise or activities that help you relax and unwind. Taking breaks and pursuing hobbies or interests can help alleviate stress and maintain a healthy balance. 
  1.  Manage Expectations: Remember that the college application process is competitive, and rejection is a possibility. While it’s essential to aim high and work hard, it’s also important to be realistic and have backup options. This is one of the reasons that we recommend applying to safety, target, and reach schools. Keep in mind that there are SO MANY colleges where you can receive an excellent education and have a fulfilling college experience. 
  1. Seek Support: Reach out to parents or homeschooling forums for guidance and support. They can provide valuable advice, or review your application materials, and help you stay organized. Sometimes, simply sharing your thoughts and worries can provide relief.  This is where we all really feel the stress because it all reflects on us as the homeschool parent.  If they were in school and somehow everything went downhill, we can blame that, but the pressure and focus is 100% on us!  (It isn’t really, but it sure feels like it!) Remember, you are not alone in this process, and many others, including both of us, have successfully navigated college applications. Reach out for support when needed, and stay organized. 

How do I pay for college? (25:43)

There are several ways people pay for college, and the methods can vary depending on personal circumstances and the country’s education system. Here are some common ways people finance their college education:

It’s worth noting that the availability and specific details of these options can vary by country, educational institution, and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to research and consult with financial aid offices or student advisors at each specific college or university for more detailed information about financing options.

The first place people typically look to help with college is through scholarships and the biggest are often offered through the schools themselves. It’s important to know that VERY few graduates get full ride scholarships. The National Center for Education Statistics study entitled National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that even though 70% of undergraduates received some financial aid, only .2% received $25,000 or more. 

  1. Personal savings: Some individuals or families save money specifically for college expenses. This could involve setting aside a portion of their income or making long-term investments like a 529 to fund their education.
  2. Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on various criteria such as academic achievements, athletic abilities, or specific talents.
  3. Grants: Grants are similar but are usually need-based. These do not need to be repaid, making them highly desirable sources of funding. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is completed by current and prospective college students in the US to determine their eligibility for aid. The FAFSA is different from the CSS Profile, which is also required by some colleges. 

Federal Pell Grants: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants/pell

  1. Student loans: Many students rely on loans to cover their college expenses. These loans can be obtained from government organizations or private lenders. Students are required to repay these loans after completing their education, typically with interest.
  2. Work-study programs: Some colleges and universities offer work-study programs that provide part-time employment opportunities to students. Through these programs, students can earn money to help cover their educational costs. So many of these opportunities keep the college running and at the same time help students pay for their education.
  3. Parental support: Some parents (or other family members) financially support their children’s college education by covering some, or all, of the expenses. This can be through savings, income, or borrowing on behalf of their child.
  4. Financial aid: Colleges and universities may offer financial aid packages that include a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Financial aid is typically determined based on factors like family income, assets, and the cost of attendance.
  5. Employer assistance: Some companies or organizations provide tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs to their employees. This benefit allows individuals to pursue higher education while working and reduces the financial burden.
  6. Military Grants & Scholarships: There are several paths to financing college that come from previous service in the military or from a parent or siblings service.

Military Grants and Scholarships

If you’re an active servicemember, Veteran or if you’re a child of a military family, there are several financial scholarships and grants available to support you in covering your college expenses. These opportunities are designed to assist you in pursuing higher education and achieving your academic goals.

These are federal government programs, like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, that can provide assistance. Additionally, nonprofit veterans’ service organizations, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation, offer scholarships and grants tailored to support individuals like yourself. Some educational institutions also offer direct financial aid options.

Scholarship Scams

Unfortunately, there are numerous scams making the rounds seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting students. Fraudsters prey on needy scholarship applicants and attempt to steal money, banking details, personal information, and more. Thankfully, there are ways to spot these schemes so you can avoid wasting your time and use it to focus on real scholarship applications. 

Here are 8 tips on spotting and avoiding scholarship scams:
  1. Question if it’s too good to be true
  2. Be wary of a sense of urgency
  3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag
  4. Question money-back guarantees
  5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds
  6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization
  7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites
  8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

Where do I find college scholarships?

It’s important not to miss the joys of homeschooling during the high school years because you’re so stressed about scholarships. Finding scholarships for college can be a time-consuming but worthwhile endeavor.

Scholarships in Summary

We have listed some websites below for reference, but we highly recommend you don’t waste too much time but instead get this book: the Ultimate Scholarship Book. It’s updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately.

Ultimate Scholarship Book
The Ultimate Scholarship Book

For local scholarships, I recommend that you look up your community foundation. Most are titled (your city/region) community foundation. Most have a scholarship portal where you can do a general app.

Professional organizations are also a good way to go. Many will probably be in the book, but you can google for them

Law firms also provide scholarships. No, you don’t have to be a law student to apply. Most just want you to write an essay on a topic that is relevant to their practice (i.e. importance of not drinking and driving)

See if your college of choice financial aid department has a scholarship portal.

Note: As a best practice, keep a copy of all the essays you write and reuse them for later. You would be amazed at how many prompts are the same/similar.

  1. Check with the College: Start by exploring scholarship opportunities offered directly by the colleges or universities you’re considering. Many institutions have their own scholarships, grants, or financial aid programs available to incoming students. Visit their financial aid office or check their website for information on scholarships specific to their institution.
  2. Use Scholarship Search Engines: Online scholarship search engines can be valuable resources for finding scholarships that match your profile. Websites like Fastweb, Scholarships.com, and College Board’s Scholarship Search offer comprehensive databases where you can search for scholarships based on your interests, background, field of study, or other criteria.
  1. Research Local Scholarships: Investigate scholarships offered by local organizations, community foundations, businesses, or nonprofit groups in your area. These scholarships may be less competitive than national ones, as they are often limited to students from specific regions or schools. Community organizations are great resources. For example, 4H and even our local orthodontist have a great scholarship! Local libraries are usually a great resource for information on these opportunities.
  2. Explore Professional Organizations: Many professional associations, industry-specific organizations, and trade groups offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in their respective fields. Research organizations related to your intended major or career path and check their websites for scholarship opportunities.
  3. Utilize Social Networks: Inform your network of family, friends, and mentors that you’re seeking scholarships for college. They may be aware of specific opportunities or connections that could assist you in your search. Additionally, consider joining online forums, groups, or communities focused on college scholarships to connect with others who can share resources or advice.
  4. Employer Programs: If your teenager has a job, check with their employer or parent’s employer and inquire whether your employer or parent’s employer provides scholarships for employees or their children. Many companies offer scholarships as part of their benefits packages or corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  5. Research National Scholarships: Look for national scholarships that are open to students across the country. Organizations like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, or the National Merit Scholarship Program offer prestigious scholarships to deserving students. Research their eligibility criteria and application processes.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, now known as the Gates Scholarship, is a prestigious scholarship program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program provides scholarships to outstanding minority students pursuing undergraduate degrees. The website serves as the platform for the application process and provides information about the scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is widely recognized for its prestigious scholarship program and the significant financial support it provides to selected scholars. The scholarship covers a substantial portion of educational expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a prestigious scholarship program that recognizes and awards scholarships to high-performing students based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores. The website has information about the program, scholarship opportunities, and the selection process. It provides comprehensive details on eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and steps for becoming a National Merit Scholar.

  1. Scholarship Books: Check with scholarship directories and books. My favorite “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” provides extensive lists and details on various scholarship opportunities. This book is so thorough! 

Favorite College Website and Apps

College Board Big Future

Big Future is an online platform provided by College Board, offering resources and tools to help students explore and plan for their college education. It provides information on colleges, majors, scholarships, and financial aid, allowing students to search for schools based on their preferences and compare them. Additionally, it offers career exploration tools and guidance for test preparation, making it a comprehensive resource for college-bound students.

Cappex

Cappex is a reputable platform that offers college and scholarship search services for students, including new graduates. It provides a comprehensive database of colleges and universities, as well as scholarship opportunities.

College Navigator

College Navigator, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is a widely regarded and reliable platform for exploring colleges and universities in the United States. It offers comprehensive data on institutions, including information on programs, admissions, financial aid, and more. The best part is that College Navigator is completely free to use, making it an excellent resource for students, parents, and educators seeking detailed information about colleges without any associated costs.

Unigo

Unigo is a popular platform that provides college reviews, scholarship information, and resources for students exploring higher education options. While Unigo offers free access to a range of college-related content, they also have a premium subscription service.

RaiseMe

RaiseMe is an online platform that allows high school students to earn micro-scholarships from participating colleges based on their achievements and activities. It can be a helpful tool for students looking to earn scholarships and explore college options.

Scholly Search

Scholly Search is a popular scholarship search platform that helps students find relevant scholarship opportunities. It offers a user-friendly interface and personalized scholarship matches based on the student’s profile. While Scholly Search does have a subscription-based service called Scholly Premium, which provides additional features and benefits, the platform also offers a free version that allows users to access and apply for scholarships without any cost.

HBCU HUB

HBCU Hub is a comprehensive online platform that provides information and resources specifically tailored to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It offers a range of features, including college profiles, scholarship opportunities, virtual campus tours, and a community forum. HBCU Hub is free to use.

College Scholarship Calculator from College Raptor

The basic features of College Raptor are available for free, allowing students to access important information about colleges and estimated costs without any cost. However, College Raptor also offers a premium version called College Raptor Premium, which provides additional features and services at a cost. The free version can still be beneficial for many students.

Scholarships.com

Scholarships.com is a widely recognized and free search platform that provides access to a large database of scholarship opportunities for students. It offers a user-friendly interface and allows students to search for scholarships based on various criteria such as academic achievements, interests, demographics, and more.

Fastweb College Scholarships

Fastweb offers a comprehensive database of scholarships from different sources, including corporations, foundations, and educational institutions. Fastweb is free to use.

Niche

Niche provides a wide range of information and resources for students and families navigating the college search and selection process. It offers college rankings, reviews, and data on various aspects of colleges and universities, including academics, campus life, and student experiences. Niche is free to use but also offers some premium features for a cost.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop is a highly regarded website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It offers a wealth of resources for career exploration, job search, training programs, and employment information. Completely free to use, it provides users with access to tools like career assessments, occupation profiles, salary data, job search resources, and training program information at no cost.

Things to know when evaluating financial aid offers

1) Make a spreadsheet so you can compare various aspects of the award. Scroll down to download the one we created for FREE!

2) How much grant money vs. loan money is each school offering?

3) Are the grants renewable in subsequent years?  If so, are there GPA requirements, major requirements, academic progress requirements?

4) Will the grants received be the same amount in subsequent years?  Be aware that some schools give the most grant money the first year with reduced amounts in years to follow.

5) What kind of loans are offered?  Subsidized are best.  Beware of parent plus loans, which require families to have good credit, and which can cost double the loan amount in interest.  

6) If a student or parent is considering taking out loans, what will repayment look like?  You can estimate this by using the Loan Simulator at studentaid.gov.

7) If work study is listed, be aware that work study is dependent on the student finding an acceptable on-campus job that fits their schedule.  A work study job is not guaranteed.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a crucial resource for students seeking financial assistance for higher education. It is a form that students must complete to determine their eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. FAFSA helps assess a student’s financial need and enables colleges and universities to determine their financial aid package. It is important because it provides access to various forms of financial aid, making college more affordable and accessible for millions of students each year. FAFSA deadlines vary, so be sure to submit the application as early as possible to maximize aid opportunities.

Remember to carefully review the eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application processes for each scholarship you consider. Pay attention to any essays, recommendations, or additional materials required, and make sure to submit your applications on time. Keep track of the scholarships you apply for and maintain a calendar to stay organized throughout the process. Lastly, be persistent and try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive every scholarship you apply for. Scholarships are really competitive, but the more you apply to, you increase your chances of securing financial assistance.

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