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Helping Colleges Choose You

I realize that many of you reading this letter may not have high school age children or maybe even college bound students. My hope is that the information that is included in these college information articles will be helpful to all our students. The ideas included could apply to most jobs as well. After all, a college is a student’s job for a few years!

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On this note, I thought I would talk a little bit about things we can do to help our students be successful in their application process.

One of the items that I have not mentioned up until this point was the letter of reference that often accompanies your application. Sometimes colleges do not require a letter from a “counselor” or “teacher” until you enter a scholarship/financial aid process, but sometimes they want the letters with your first application. Read your application carefully and follow the appropriate directions. In many situations, a scout or a youth group leader, a pastor, a tutor or an employer are perfectly acceptable candidates for writing these letters. If you can get a letter written on letterhead, some colleges are more pleased with those, but they are not mandatory. As with any communication, please make sure that the author of your letter sends a professional appearing letter describing how they know your student and some positive traits that he/she has observed in your student. The college is interested in your student being very successful. One “statistic” that is often published in books and magazines that describe colleges is their “retention rate”. Schools WANT your student to stay in their institution once they are there. This is part of why there IS a selection process. They want students to be successful long-term.

One of the other things that I encourage parents to do is visit the prospective campus with their student. I suggest the visit to be an “over-nighter” if possible with your student staying with other students on campus. Some colleges even have housing they can allow the parents to use if they make arrangements ahead of time. If not, it might be a great excuse for Mom and Dad to spend a night alone in a hotel! (You know me, any excuse for a get-away sounds grand to me!) If you call ahead of time, the recruiters will usually be glad to help make the arrangements.

One more possibly scary event for many students is the college interview. It is important for your student to remember that whenever he is on campus, he is showing these representatives a piece of himself. Hopefully, he is focussed on showing his BEST piece! Encourage your student to look each adult in the eye when they are being spoken to. This helps to project confidence (even if they don’t always feel it). Questions should always be answered honestly. Sometimes they may ask your student something that he doesn’t know. That’s okay and he should be honest about what he does and doesn’t know. If they allow you to sit in on the interview process, try and bite your tongue instead of answering questions for your student. Many homeschoolers are excellent in this part of the process because of their experiences dealing with adults in a mature manner.

It is nice if your student could be relatively up to date on current affairs. Sometimes they ask questions about what is going on in the news. Your student should also have his questions ready, but he should do his homework before he goes to the campus. To go to the college and ask questions that the answers are posted on the college’s website tells the admissions officer that your student *may* not be serious about attending school there. If your student has great SAT/ACT scores, that may be a signal for them to be a little more persistent about encouraging your student to attend there (perhaps through lucrative scholarship/financial aid packages). However, if your student has average scores, this may be a sign that they may need to look elsewhere for a “serious” student.

I probably don’t need to remind you or your student to dress appropriately. Any time there is a chance of interacting with college personnel, it would be nice if your student is not dressed in what he wore to the ball game last night. Often these visits include a good deal of walking, so comfortable shoes are strongly recommended. My daughter said that your student should wear clothes that make your him feel good about himself. There is a chance that he may be nervous or insecure and his appearance is not something that he should have to think about.

Make a special effort to meet with an enrollment recruiter or an admissions counselor. Generally recruiters are assigned bycruiter. Then your recruiter will “go to bat for you” in regards to money issues (scholarships, work study, etc.) and even promote your enrollment even if you might be a little “on paper” less promising a student than someone else. Sometimes our test scores do not truly reflect our abilities. If the admissions people do not get to meet you and you have not met anyone else in administration on campus, your odds are not as good as if you have met them and made a good impression on them.

The college process is an involved one that you shouldn’t put off to the last possible moment. Helping your student plan and think through his decisions will help all of you make the transition easier. My first is a sophomore at a college and my son is a junior in high school. The transition is a challenge but one that helps them mature into the men and women God designed them to be. We’re just there to help them along!

Next week I have a short article written by a recruiter for Union University in Jackson, TN. I think you will find her information helpful in thinking through the process of what to look for on a college visit! I remember when I thought this time was going to be forever away, but it is here now and I feel less than ready some days. If I can help you be more ready than I was, especially for the first one to leave, I am glad to do so! You CAN do this!

This article was originally published in Homeschooler’s Notebook, a free newsletter created by veteran homeschooler Lynn Hogan. Sign up to receive Homeschooler’s Notebook for more great homeschooling resources.

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