Monday, March 4

College Common Sense

Many years ago, while reading Wind in the Willows to the kids, I had a major shift in my parenting philosophy. In the original, it reads:

 “Beyond the Wild Wood comes the wild world,"said the Rat."And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or to me. I've never been there, and I'm never going' nor you either, if you've got any sense at all.”

And that's how I felt about my kids growing up and entering the wild world as adults. I didn't want to think about it for a moment. But it struck me that my children, while happily growing and learning in the wild wood of childhood, were destined to one day leave the protection of home and enter the wide, exciting world. It is my job as a parent to prepare them for it. As a reminder to myself, I named our homeschool Wildwood Academy, though those preparations extend far beyond school hours. 

When given the opportunity to review a program about preparing for college, my first instinct was to curl into the fetal position and cry about my babies leaving home. Thankfully, this only lasted a few minutes before I pulled myself together and remembered that this is the goal. As it turns out, 
College Common Sense is an excellent company to help me reach that goal and to help my children afford to go to college. After working through their program, Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook, I feel much more prepared.

Not all of my children are certain they want to go to college. With college prices skyrocketing, technical training and apprenticeships are looking more and more lucrative. Expense is a big factor to consider when examining career choices. However, there many scholarship opportunities and other options that can make the college track affordable, or even free. This opens up so many more career options to consider, making it possible for them to pursue what they really want to do. 

When I was a senior, approaching college, I was grossly uninformed. Like most of the students in my graduating class, I depended on my counselor to find scholarships for me. My counselor had many responsibilities and finding scholarships was only a tiny part of the job description. There wasn't much time or energy for giving personalized attention to students. Though I am very happy with the way my life has turned out, my options would have been very different had I realized the many options available to me. I want my children to pursue their dreams. I want to know what all of our options are. College Common Sense helps open up that unknown area for me, navigating my children through the process.

I was surprised to realize that scholarships are available long before a student even enters high school. Certainly, students who are juniors or seniors in high school desperately need this information, but students as young as 6 years old have received scholarships, so it is never too early to start looking into options. There are actually so many options available that the process can be overwhelming without some guidance. This course is directed by Denise Aimes, who has spent many years guiding families through this process as a college financial aide consultant. As such, Denise has seen the difference between giving enough information to families and giving too much, leaving families overwhelmed. With over 40 million scholarships available to pursue, families need as much help as possible to wade through the options. Denise breaks it down into digestible portions, helping you start the journey with all of your students, from elementary through high school. 

While incredibly practical, it is so much more than a list of to-do's. There are valuable life lessons, thoughtful tips, and heartfelt advice all included within this helpful gathering of information. Denise understands the concerns that families and students are facing and offers helpful advice such as reminding students that"college is a journey, not a destination." She also offers good advice for choosing a college that fits the student. In addition to the videos and the workbook, members receive email newsletters and lesson plans, plenty of links and helps, and excellent advice. She even recommends a cut-off point for the value of going to college, based on the average income of your future career choice. I especially appreciate tips on how to spot a scholarship scam, which are sadly real. In addition to advice and checklists, the program is full of activities to get you started on narrowing down, not just college options, but career choices. This is something that I never imagined doing with my younger children, but it is a beautiful way to prepare them for their journey beyond the Wild Woods.

One of the simple, yet key activities mentioned with the program is an "All About Me" notebook to keep track of interests, discover passions, realize and eliminate things students do NOT like and to help wade through plans on their way to adulthood. This, for my girls, meant CRAFT TIME.

The boys, as you can imagine, were eager to personalize their notebooks as well.

Activities include the basic things that I have a hard time making myself do without the nudge, such as actually visiting colleges, attending college fairs, visiting websites. They also include things I never would have thought of doing, such as visiting different occupations and exploring career options. Like many moms-to-girls, I have little dress designers in my home. Why not explore the career of designers? Sure, it is unlikely they'll really take that path, but it is something they are passionate about now and they can enjoy the process of exploring careers. 

In addition to dress design, my girls want to be artists. Exploring this career path helped them narrow down their interest to book illustrators. They are now huge fans of Tasha Tudor's illustrations. Again, it is likely their interests will change, but in the meantime, they are enjoying the process. And then again, it is entirely possible they will both become authors and illustrators. 

The entire program begins with videos and accompanying ebook/workbook. The video topics cover:
1. The Big Picture
2. How Financial Aid Works
3. All About the Free Money
4. The System That Works - This includes excellent strategies for the scholarship process.
5. You In The Process - the "you" is the student. This really empowers them to take charge of the task.
6. Put It All Together

In addition to the videos, the website also contains excellent resources for narrowing down career options, college choices, and available scholarships. After these have been explore, my favorite part of the program is the weekly email. Each week, different activities, tips, and videos arrive in my inbox. We don't do most of the activities, but they are there if we want them. I save them in a folder so that we can go back and glean from them again later. There are simple things that we do incorporate into our days and they are excellent reminders to stay focused on the goal ahead. Truly, even if college is not the end-goal for my students, this program and these emails have been helpful for them as they figure out the path they DO want to follow. 

All of it. There is SO MUCH information shared, but it is broken down into practical chunks so that families can process the information methodically and naturally. This gave me excellent strategies for wading through the many options out there and gave me the confidence to step up and do this. 

I loved her southern accent, but my son thought his ears were bleeding every time she said the word "picture". It sounds like "pitcher" when she says it, and apparently, this is a strong irritant for my 13 year old. We all have our issues, and apparently I've found his. I mention it just in case it happens to be yours as well. 

The cost for the online videos and workbook is $25. If you prefer a DVD and workbook, the cost is $50. Both options also give you an annual access pass to the website and its resources, as well as the optional weekly emails. This purchase saves thousands of dollars in college expenses, not to mention hours of stress and worry. Well worth it! 

Disclaimer: I received this material in exchange for my honest opinion as a member of the TOS Crew, and received no other form of compensation. For whatever they're worth, the opinions are mine and mine alone, as stated in my disclosure policy. I'm pretty sure you knew all of that, but FTC Regulations really like me to make sure you got it.

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