Campus Visits for he Homeschooled
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The transition from a homeschool to college environment might be much easier if you take the right steps before, during and after your campus visit. A well-planned campus visit allows a student and their families to discover which colleges provide the best educational and social fit and financial aid for awards to satisfy your individual needs.
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Additional Concerns for the Home-Schooled
With the growing number of home-schooled educational programs many colleges have formalized admission standards and required testing that should be addressed before your campus visits. They have also been able to understand the needs of the home-schooled students and should provide each student with the resources to overcome this adjustment. Beyond the transition from high school to college, your biggest challenge will be relinquishing the dedicated and personalized learning experience for group learning. Though this change is no surprise, you may consider smaller colleges and student to teacher ratios, rather than larger and less personalized environments. Regardless of your immediate needs, remain positive and focused and realize that you will adapt over time.
Planning Is a Must
It was once said that if you do not have a destination, you will never get there. The same goes for effectively planning campus visits. Start by listing your areas of interest, type of college (public or private), the size (large or small) and distance from home to target the colleges to visit. Many Web sites––such as collegeboard.com, a2zcolleges.com and fastweb.com––and numerous college publications provide a wealth of valuable information. Statistics such as acceptance rates, test scores, student-teacher ratios, class sizes, majors, demographics, costs of attendance, financial aid awarded, and many other statistics posted to a spreadsheet will provide an easy way to compare each college and your chances for acceptance before planning your visits.
It is also beneficial to be an effective networker with those who have gone through this process. Parents and students should contact their area high school’s guidance department to better understand how other graduates fared with a particular college, the names of college contacts and the dates of high school college fairs and financial aid nights. This will save time and provide the same resources available to those attending public high schools. There are also excellent college-coaching professionals to help with college and scholarship searches and test preparation. Along the way, you may also want to consider financial aid consulting support to identify the best college values and resolve your financial needs before and after acceptance.
Your next step is to narrow your list of planned visits. At this point, develop a scoreboard to post how you and your parents rated each visit. A simple scoreboard could list the colleges on the left column and the rating criteria on the top. Develop your own rating system, such as one to 10. Establish what you want to evaluate and the order of importance. Consider such things as size, reputation, facilities, support services, gender ratios, specialized programs, location, academic programs, friendliness, types of students, graduation, placement, and careers after college, and scholarships.
Both parents and student should also write their questions to ask and space for the answers. The questions can be both general, for all colleges as well as specific for colleges with unique programs and opportunities. Then during and immediately after each visit, rate the colleges while they are fresh in your minds. If not, everything will be a blur and impede your decision making.
When Should You Visit
I recommend that students visit college anytime during their high school years. This can be when an older sibling makes their campus visits, while on vacation or at a sporting event. This allows you to get a better feel for what is involved and whether you wish to pursue that college in the future. If possible, it is best to schedule initial visits and follow-up visits in your junior year during the summer or when the colleges are in session. This will offer opportunities to see and feel the dynamics of the college, types of students and give you a gut feel as to whether you fit in.
I can relate to these feelings. I was accepted into a prestigious college, but after the campus visit, I did not feel that I had anything in common with the wealthy students that attended. Although my parents were willing to help me financially, I decided to attend Northeastern University, where I could better afford to pay my own way while taking advantage of their hands-on co-operative education program. The result was a great education and real-world experience, and I applied my unique education as a working adult.