Re-thinking college is something all of us with college-aged kids should be doing! With sky-rocketing debt associated with a degree and a mushy job market, the exponentially rising costs of college, it might not be the best way to launch our young adults. But, where does that leave us? As I’ve said before, we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution, and with any revolution, there are high costs and great opportunities if you know where to look. This article will explore ways to hack college and look at viable options to do alongside or instead of college!
What are the Colleges Teaching?
I was talking to a relative this weekend. Both of his kids went to the top-rated public business school in America. They both said they learned little past what they taught in high school, now believe that socialism is better than capitalism, and have embraced a pro-choice stance. For the time and money involved, their conservative, Christian, pro-life parents are disappointed with the values, education, and return on their college investment.
The College Experience
From where I sit, I believe that the college “experience” – both educational and social- is mostly a thing of the past. Colleges and Universities are merely bastions of social reform, and the “Academy” is no longer interested in education, which includes skill-building, synergy, stewarding Christian Culture, and the Great Conversation. College might still be necessary for specific careers or fields, but it’s no longer mandatory for vocational success or a rite of passage required for upward mobility. For many of us, college still seems like a reasonable goal. As homeschoolers, college acceptance validates the time and effort we’ve invested in our kids. As our kids launch, it’s a logical “next step” and an excellent, negotiable middle ground between childhood and adulthood.
Is the ROI of College worth it?
This experience leads us to some hard questioning if we are committed to launching our kids well. Is the traditional “4-year” college route, with debt, a smart way to go? As parents, how do we proceed in:
- guiding and directing our young adults in a way that will position them well
- launch them with as little debt as possible
- give them ever increasing responsibility and autonomy
- utilize their talents
I believe that going through college – if your student needs that documentation for entering into a Big 10 Company, graduate school, etc., should be done as efficiently as possible. In other words, get college credits quickly and as inexpensively as you know how to do it. Work towards a degree program with clarity and focus. (For a fascinating look at most colleges’ pre-pandemic state of messy affairs, check out the book College Unbound).
College GEN ED’s
For kids who are still preparing to graduate from a college or university, I would get General Education courses out of the way before hitting the college trail- either through Dual Enrollment or CLEP, or a combination of both.
30 Credits would be equivalent to 1 yr of College and remember that most college courses count for 3 credits:
6 Credits of English
- Composition I*
- Composition II/*
3-6 Credits of Math
- College Algebra
- Accounting I or II
3- 9 Credits of Science
- Environmental Science
- Biology *
3-6 Credits of Social Sciences
- Psychology *
3-6 Credits of “Diversity”
At True North Homeschool Academy, we are so committed to helping families re-think college that we offer many test prep courses. We also have a new Dual Enrollment program. Combining DE with CLEPs can save your student even more time and money- getting them on the road to independence sooner.
CLEP for College Credit
Not sure if the college or university of your choice (or should I say, within your financial reach) takes CLEPs? Some schools have it posted on their website. If you talk to admissions, but you can’t find it in print anywhere, it’s not binding, so check the website and catalog or ask the Admissions Counselor to write it on school letterhead, with a signature. Furthermore, you can always earn an Associate’s Degree from one of the “Big Three”- Thomas Edison, Excelsior, or Charter Oaks and transfer your Associate’s Degree from one of these accredited colleges. Because it’s an Accredited Degree, your credits and classes will transfer, and you can jump into upperclassman status, finish faster and not spend quite as much money.
The Importance of Learning Entrepreneurship
II encourage every young person I know to learn how to navigate the online world with at least some understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Developing an online business is even better, offering an online educational program, better still. Alternative Ed is booming and will continue to do so. Online education was a $1 billion business in 2010, was expected to be a 2.1 billion dollar business in 2020 (pre-pandemic estimates), and is now projected to be a $357-$435B business by 2023-2025. Learning to sell online can position any young person well, and you certainly don’t need a degree to learn online sales and marketing.
For those still eager to attend college, I would suggest creating an ANI or other Compare/Contrast chart to evaluate your ROI for the projected schools, degrees, and job prospects. If students have been working and saving for college but aren’t’ getting scholarship dollars that will allow them to graduate without extreme debt, other types of investments might be more prudent in both the short and long term.
What is the Return on Investment for College?
College ROI should be evaluated from both a monetary, lifestyle, and values point of view. Sending kids to college who aren’t clear about what they’ll be studying, or their vocational plans ultimately lead to more debt as they change majors or leave school. Further, with no clear job prospects or way to pay back the debt. The majority of college graduates (those who do graduate, and the 50% or so who don’t), leave college with an average of $37,000 in debt. They often graduate in six years instead of four.
Strategize Higher Education Investment
Once you’ve determined if higher education is worth the investment, determine a strategy. There are some exciting scholarship opportunities available. Scholarships like the Military (leadership and vocational training, along with a regular paycheck), Critical Languages, or Community Services Scholarships. Sports and NCAA opportunities provide excellent opportunities but often take years of lead-up time, parental time and money, and political astuteness. Particularly as we now navigate transgender athletes.
Being intentional about helping your kids develop their sense of “otherliness” in unique and stand-out ways
It’s a whole new world to navigate for young adults, and it’s worth spending time thinking through alternatives to a traditional college experience. Like True North’s Orienteering course, a Vocational Exploration course can save thousands of dollars literally and get kids started on a vocational path while still in High School. Practical courses that will prepare our students for the Future of Work, including the increasing “Gig” Economy, are also prudent.
Career Exploration can save you TIME and MONEY
Not sure where to start? The Orienteering Course will help students explore their strengths and skillsets, look at various educational and vocational options and develop a plan. Courses that teach marketable, real-world skills, many of which we offer at True North Homeschool Academy, like:
These courses give students real-world, marketable skills. It’s not too early to begin researching college costs, talking with your students about the lifestyle they hope to live, and strategizing the best ways to make that happen.
Don’t overlook the importance of a solid Jr and Sr High school Academic Program, complete with rubrics, gamification (courses will use it more widely over time), and grading. Your young adults will live and work in a world where being able to think and adapt quickly and collaboratively. A solid academic program lays an excellent foundation for that time of critical thinking. Not sure where to start in developing a program? Our Academic Advising programs are designed to work with and for your family.
Lastly, for students bent on a particular job that might entail college, check out our Young Professionals Series for practical, hands-on advice and actionable steps to develop your student’s professionalism while still in high school.
Our Academic Advising program, designed to help you create an actionable plan, will save you time, money, and frustration now and as you launch your young adult! SPED Advising is also available!
CLEP Exams – Everything you Need to Know
CLEP Exams – Everything you Need to Know! If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you’ve heard the question, “But, what about high school?” or “How will they ever get into college?” They don’t understand that you don’t really teach high school, but rather you become their guidance counselor. You choose or help your students, select curriculum, books to read, or even help them find co-op classes or a few online live courses where they learn subjects like Algebra, Latin, or history from a more learned teacher.
When starting my research on homeschooling high school, everyone’s advice seemed to have to do with getting the students into college. Teens take courses to prepare themselves for the college entrance exams, the ACT and the SAT, they volunteer in the community, participate in sports, and they might even earn a few college credits all to appease those college admission counselors. I started to wonder how hard it could be to “get in?” And although I’m in no hurry to rush them off into a college classroom and or onto a college campus, couldn’t they just start by taking some classes while in high school? What about college-level exams?
The first time I learned about CLEP exams, College Level Examination Program, my understanding was that they were a great way to prove your student had taken courses with academic rigor and that they had mastery of the material they had studied. Honestly, I didn’t know if my bright, but mostly average kids could pass a college-level exam. I had also heard horror stories of kids earning multiple college credits from one source or another, later to learn their student’s college of choice would never accept the credits. I was skeptical.
CLEP Exams can save time and money!
My research quickly led me to some astonishing information. While watching a wonderful webinar by Becky Muldrow of Dual Credit at Home, I learned that not only are homeschool high school students passing these exams and earning college credit, they are also earning associate degrees, and some are earning four year Bachelor degrees.
They are doing it for a small fraction of the cost of attending a brick and mortar school. There are accredited colleges that accept many college credits via college equivalency exams, dual credit exams, and more! Consider Liberty University, which accepts 75% of 120 credits needed for most bachelor’s degree as transfer credits. Three colleges, known as “The Big Three,” accept almost all credits via transfer. Charter Oak State College, a regionally accredited online college, accepts 114 transfer credits. They offer Bachelor degrees that, if carefully planned, can be obtained for less than $6,000! Our college funds are currently pretty small. However, if we can combine college and high school at the same time, I believe they can finish their undergraduate degree debt-free.
When planning to do college and high school simultaneously, it’s important to plan well. You want to make sure your student meets at least your state’s homeschool high school requirements if any. You also need to know the transfer policies at the college your student plans to complete their studies with. Most of the general education or lower-level classes needed for a Bachelor degree are the same subject high school students study. Your student will study subjects at a high school level, add in some extra study and then take and pass a 90-120 minute college-level exam which helps them bank college credit and you can issue them high school credit for their time and effort while studying to learn the material.
Our CLEP Exam Journey Begins
Not one to enjoy wasting time or money and enjoying a good challenge, I plunged in with this journey last fall, my twins’ Freshman year of high school. I recommend starting with a subject your student enjoys as your first exam. For our boys, it was US History, and I had already planned to have them study this subject. They began high school history, Omnibus III from Veritas Press in the fall. They did extra studying using Quizlet’s free games, and online flashcards with Speedyprep (HSLDA offers members a discount for Speedyprep.) By February, they were ready to take the plunge and just see how the testing would go with CLEP US History I.
Our First CLEP Exam!
The staff was quiet and calm when we arrived, and all eyes were on us as they noticed the ages of our kids. They asked if we knew these were college-level exams and there was no guarantee of passing. We paid the $25 proctor fee, per test; fees vary among testing centers. The boys were sent into the testing room and out of my line of sight.
I waited in the lobby for the first hour of the 90-minute exam and returned to wait for the rest of the time in the small testing office just outside the exam room. The receptionist asked where the boys went to school and how old they were. She said quietly, “Oh, I see. Well, a passing score is 50, for most colleges, and we typically see scores just under that or slightly over. Occasionally, someone studies hard and manages a score in the 60’s.”
I told her that I honestly, just wanted them to pass. These exams are pass or fail, and at most schools, will not earn a grade. Ten minutes later, our son Luke emerged from the exam room with a large smile on his face. The receptionist took his printed score off the printer and said, “Nice job, young man!” as she mouthed the words “Seventy-one!” to her co-workers. Two other staff members came out from behind their cubicles to congratulate them. They also asked about homeschooling and when we planned to return for the next test! In the meantime, our other son completed his test with a respectable 68! We were elated.
CLEP Exams – Banking College Credits
Since then, they have banked 12 college credits by passing the Civil War and Reconstruction DSST, which is another college exam worth a 400 level college history course at most schools that accept CLEP, the CLEP American Government, and CLEP US History II. They could also take CLEP American History, which we plan to take next year, which will earn 3-6 credits depending on the transfer school.
Day to day while preparing for an exam and doing high school? We are currently working on studying a few high school classes, like Algebra II and Spanish, plus one exam at a time. On an average day during this past spring, they would spend an hour doing their high school level history curriculum, thirty minutes practicing online flashcards with SpeedyPrep or Instantcert, around 45 minutes watching videos reviewing the material with Study.com, and around 15 minutes doing the review questions from the free membership with Modern States.
After completing the courses with Modern States, they offer a free voucher to pay for the $89 CLEP exam and will even reimburse the proctor fee. They offer this to the first 10,000 students to apply each year.) After getting through the Study.com videos, about three weeks per exam, they would spend a week doing practice tests from either Peterson’s or REA and reviewing any areas they were weak in and then they took the exam. The practice exams were equal to or harder than the actual exam. It is a lot of work. Some subjects will require more time for us. But their success has motivated us to press forward.
CLEP Exams – Planning for Success
Our son, Luke, has zeroed in on a Bachelor degree in Government with a concentration in Policy and Politics from Liberty University Online. They accept up to 90 credits of the 120 needed for a degree to be transfer credits. Because several CLEP exams are worth 6 credits and some language exams are worth up to 12 credits, I believe they can finish all of their general education credits within the next year. We won’t have Luke actually apply to Liberty until he has earned around 80 credits including all of his general education credits which he will earn through these examinations.
During high school, he also plans to volunteer or intern for a non-profit lobbying group which defends school choice, life, and the freedom of religion. Our son Grant is working on his general education requirements and considering all his options including aviation, biology, or cartography. They are working hard toward their goals to complete high school along with a degree at the same time or shortly after and are already eager to work in an area of their interests to make a difference. We’re enjoying the ride.
(Are you interested in CLEP courses for your high school student? Check out our CLEP Prep Course offerings at True North Homeschool Academy, including Psychology and Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Sara Porras is married to her active-duty military sweetheart, has been homeschooling their three boys since 2011, she enjoys portrait photography, prepping schoolwork plans and tutors online part-time.
To begin your homework on this journey, I recommend checking out Academic Advising and Orienteering at True North Homeschool Academy, Becky Muldrow’s Dual Credit At Home, Homeschooling for College Credit, and Free-Clep-Prep.
Would you love to create a unique and much-needed addition to your homeschool group or co-op? Plan and host a homeschool college and career fair for your group! This will be my fourth year creating this one of a kind experience for our local teens. So I am going to share with you all the details on planning a homeschool college and career fair for YOUR group!
Why Your Group Needs a Homeschool College and Career Fair
When you decide to homeschool, you take on a weighty load. Being responsible for your child’s education can be fraught with moments of mom guilt and worry that you are going to ruin your child.
Then you do something even crazier! You decide to homeschool during the high school years. Keeping records, choosing the best curriculum for the right year, and making sure you cover all the correct course takes over your thoughts. In the midst of all this stress, it can be easy to see “completing high school” as the ultimate goal. In reality, though, finishing high school is only part of the puzzle. We are also preparing our teens for the next step – post graduate education and/or career development.
Part of the reason I went forward with planning a homeschool college and career fair for my homeschool group was an awareness about our tendencies as homeschoolers to move career development to the back burner. And I get it! It can be challenging enough accomplishing everything that needs to be covered by our student for a high school diploma.
The other reason I created a homeschool college and career fair is that I am just a little passionate (read obsessed) with seeing people connect with their interests. That amazing moment when a person connects with the “right” job, receiving energy from a day’s work is amazing!
6 Benefits to Planning a College and Career Fair
There are some amazing benefits to a local homeschool college and career fair!
- The fair can be tailored to the specific needs of homeschoolers.
- Parents and teens can begin identifying schools of interest as they talk to colleges, asking questions.
- Parents can also gain a lot of knowledge on important dates, ACT/SAT, financial aid, the application process, and dual enrollment.
- It is a fun evening hanging out with friends and listening to speakers making career development less intimidating for teens.
- Students are exposed to a wide variety of careers, increasing the likelihood of sparking interest in a certain career field.
- Colleges are given the opportunity to witness first-hand the caliber of homeschool students.
Planning a Homeschool College and Career Fair
A homeschool college and career night, while a lot of leg work, is completely doable and fun for any homeschool group. Our homeschool group has around 100 families in a small Midwestern town, just to give you an idea of our size and budget, or should I say, lack of budget 🙂
The College and Career Fair has two elements that have made it an event that lots of families attend and teens request!
Local Colleges Are Invited to the Fair
First, the college aspect of the fair. One element to the fair is asking local colleges to come. Any college within an hour is typically happy to come. I started with a larger Christian college and our local community colleges the first year as they were the most receptive. The military is often thrilled to have the opportunity to attend too. Began making your phone calls several months prior so that you can get on the college and university’s calendars
Our event is the last week of February, and I start making phone calls in the fall.
By planning out several months ahead and speaking of our past attendance, I was able to draw more colleges in the second and third year.
Allow Colleges to Set up Tables and Speak at Break Out Sessions
Colleges are eager to have opportunities to speak so that makes your job easier. The evening is broken into various sessions and two tracks: Parent Track and Teen Track. Different colleges are invited to speak to the parents (teens are welcome to join, of course) on topics like how to apply to college, financial aid, scholarships or taking college classes while still in high school programs.
Having colleges speak on various topics works well for two reasons. Parents are more eager to attend if they believe that they can receive lots of information in one evening. And colleges are happy to put your fair on their list to gain the opportunity for a roomful of an engaged group of parents and teens.
Sweeten the deal by allowing colleges to set up booths where teens and parents can stop and ask questions before and after sessions.
Invite Local Career Professionals to College Fair to Speak with Teens
The other part of the program, Teen Track, is geared to the teens. For the “career” part of the evening, local professionals are invited to come and speak about their chosen career field. We include 7th grade and up, though you will find the younger siblings that come along are almost more excited!
Professionals share with the teens what a typical day looks like and what some of their duties are. Teen Track speakers also share characteristics or personality types that seem to thrive in that career field and education routes. Career speakers may also choose to share salary, perks of the job and some NOT so great things about the job.
How Do I Get Speakers to Come to a Homeschool College Night?
Most homeschool groups are run on a tiny budget. So how do you get speakers to come?
Some speakers will be compensated by their job because some public relation work is required of them. So several speakers will jump at the chance to talk to an interested audience while fulfilling the required hours.
Other speakers will just want to help out since they LOVE to talk about their job and want others to know about it.
Utilize parents in your homeschool group and homeschool graduates. Brainstorm with another homeschool parent about the parents and careers that are represented in your group. Invite some of your homeschool graduates to come back and speak too! You will be surprised when you start thinking about how many people you know that have interesting jobs!:)
Also, think about people you go to church with as they are a great resource too.
Another incentive is the opportunity to connect with families and advertise their business. If a speaker has a business allow them to hand out their literature to those in their group. Once we invited a local lawyer who was running for judge. He spoke on being a lawyer but also did a little campaigning! Worked for everybody! Another speaker was writing a Bible study manual. She taught about writing and self-publishing while sharing how to purchase her book. Win, Win!
If you are a personality test junkie like myself you realize that some personalities are drawn to certain jobs. So don’t worry about having every job represented. But do try to think do I have a job that a “creative” might like or a teen that is gifted in “leadership” will find interesting.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts by Don and Katie Fortune covers the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible and has served as a rich resource when thinking of job “types” to include at the fair.
Discovering Your God-Given Gifts has also been such a blessing when it comes to volunteering in the community and in the local church. You began to see others and their gifts in a whole new light that makes it easier to work with others and appreciate their gifts.
What The Homeschool College and Career Fair Schedule May Look Like
For our homeschool college fair evening, we split it into 4 sessions. When the teens arrive they receive a schedule of the speakers with a brief biography of the speakers on the back. Each speaker talks for two 25 minute sessions, unless they can only do one session. Typically, the teens will have 4 different speakers to choose from for each session.
The evening moves quickly! Prep your speakers beforehand that you will have to stop them after 25 minutes to give the kids time to move to the next class. Speakers may share their business information, if they so choose, to allow an interested teen to contact them with questions or set up a job shadow!
Planning a homeschool college and career fair is so rewarding! Parents, teens and even the speakers all reap the benefits from this amazing evening. If you are feeling led to create a homeschool college fair, step out in faith. And I hope by sharing, you realize how doable it is for your homeschool group! Comment below with any questions!
(Need more great advice about preparing your homeschool student for their career? Check out our career-related posts.
I’m Miranda, The Reluctant Cowgirl. Educator and Vibrant Life Mentor. A city girl married to a country boy! The Reluctant Cowgirl encourages busy moms of tweens and teens to care for their emotional health so they are better equipped to care for the well-being of their family. Single parent, blended family, homeschool mom, heart attack survivor…I’ve been there. After 15 years of facilitating groups, I have witnessed the challenges that so many moms of tweens and teens face in life. And I know that you are doing your best to take care of your family. But are you taking care of your personal growth and self-care? Find practical advice for an emotionally vibrant life at The Reluctant Cowgirl. Join Me!