by Audrey B. Johnson
The Major and the Money
Where have we been?
When I see babies being pushed in strollers or toddlers pushing their own strollers, I am amazed that my son, who is now 16 years old, is searching for colleges and financial aid! Where does the time go? My son has been to a college Open House, spent three summers participating in educational programs at potential colleges, developed a list of colleges under consideration, and attended multiple college fairs, and financial aid seminars. We have read books about selecting a college and financing the experience. One series that he has started is Ten Things You Gotta Know, by Brandon Rogers. I have read two books in this set: 10 Things You Gotta Know About Paying for Collegeand 10 Things You Gotta Know About Choosing a College. My son has read the book on choosing a college.
Where are we now?
Collegeboard.com is the website my son uses to develop his list of colleges. Two of his criteria are the weather (how much snow is received) and the availability of his two interests: meteorology and government. He transfers information to a Word file and creates charts to compare the schools, using other factors such as tuition and location.
As a homeschool parent, I serve not only as the teacher, but the as the guidance counselor as well. Developing course descriptions and syllabi are a part of my summer schedule. So, after I organize and/or write the course plans for English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Music, and other courses, I include a plan for College and Career Preparation. It will include books, web sites, and articles on the college search and financial aid. My son has attended several college fairs, including one sponsored by National Association for College Admissions and Counseling (NACAC). This year, my 9th grade daughter will attend the Performing and Visual Arts College Fair, which is also sponsored by NACAC. Check their website to see if they will be visiting your city this fall or spring!
Frequently, I forward emails to my son that I hope will help him in his search. Forbes.com recently published “America’s Best Colleges” -“from the student’s point of view”, and I included another link to an article by Kat Cohen who wanted to challenge Forbes’ list! (The Truth About College Rankings: Who is Really #1). I hope that the college selection process is more than just selecting a college based on someone else’s list of the criteria.
Over the past few years, I have accumulated a list of sources of financial aid. Marked as favorites on my desktop, I have asked my son to start reviewing them to determine his eligibility and the criteria for applying. I want him to have a list of potential scholarships to apply for, so that in one year, he can begin to complete the forms.
Where do we want to be at the end of the junior year?
The most important goal is to finalize the list of colleges to apply to. Regardless of how many books we read, and websites we review, visiting each college will provide him with the best view of where he might spend four years. We hope to have two college visits this year.
A secondary goal will be to research each colleges’ available scholarships. As we research each college on his list, he can determine what scholarships he can apply for. When we visited a college in January 2009, we spoke with a financial aid officer to obtain as much information as possible about their financial aid process.
Finally, we must locate scholarship money that can follow him to any college. The American Meteorological Society’s website lists undergraduate scholarships that are available. When we attend College Fairs and Financial Aid seminars, the brochures on specific scholarships are a part of the material we bring home.
I trust that at the end of the college and financial aid search, my son will have selected an institution of higher learning that provides him with his major interests and the money !
“America’s Best Colleges.” Forbes.com.
(accessed August 16, 2009).