Question: My homeschooler is a senior this year and we are just starting to look into colleges and financial aid. I was wondering if you might know of a good college adviser who might help me?
Answer: Homeschoolers may not come in contact with many college advisers, but it is not difficult to pick up great foundational information about higher education along the way. There are numerous helpful websites that detail the key components of college search, application process and tips for getting accepted and funded:
- Princeton Review
Gen and Kelly Tanabe have authored some great books on scholarships, college applications, finding the best college and writing a winning essay. Another great resource in Phoenix is the College Depot at the Burton Barr Library downtown. They have a number of great workshops, a computer lab set up for searching out scholarships and colleges, and extremely helpful staff who can guide you through the college prep process.
Here are some things to put on your “to do” list and find a few more here:
- Sign up to take the SAT or ACT test as soon as possible
Take a free practice test online or in person to get an idea of how you will score.
- Plan to complete the FAFSA as early as possible in January to February. You will need both the parents’ and students’ tax return information, so prepare to at least have a “rough draft” of your returns done quickly.
- Start having your student write out what she wants in a college. There is a book by the Tanabes called “The Ultimate Guide to America’s Best Colleges” which rates schools based on majors, size, faculty-student ratio, financial aid and more.
- Practice writing essays on a number of topics. Some of the websites listed above will have common themes used in college essays, along with tips for writing noticeable and noteworthy papers.
- Register at Fastweb.com. Do a one-time application that will return numerous scholarships for which you likely qualify. Read the requirements carefully (many involve writing an essay) and make note of the deadlines. Work backwards from there to set up a timeline for getting the application submitted. Include time for several people to review your essay, rewrite and get feedback from someone skilled in evaluating compositions.
- It is too late for this year, but good to know for the future. There are some huge college fairs in September and October in the Phoenix area with a couple hundred colleges in one place. This is a terrific way to talk to lots of admissions officers and guidance counselors in one place to get a good idea of the options.
- Begin compiling a transcript and a list of extra-curricular activities, significant books read, community service, leadership opportunities and interests.
- Take a career assessment (many are online or available at the community colleges) and look for colleges that specialize in the areas of interest.
Take it one step at a time. First, sketch out a timeline for getting the pieces accomplished with mini goals for each week. When starting the college process as a senior, there is a lot to do in a short period of time, but with diligence, it can be done and you can find a great college that will meet your goals.
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