Getting Your Child Ready for College

Monday Mailbag Q&A

I use Mondays to clean out my mailbox by responding to readers’ questions. This week’s inquiry is all about getting your child ready for college.

Question: Any tips on preparing my child for college?

Dear Jennifer,

Do you have any tips about getting your child ready for college? I know you are knowledgable about the subject. It is overwhelming! Anything would be appreciated!

Leigh Ann

Getting Ready for College

Answer: Here’s how we’ve gotten our kids ready for college

Hi, Leigh Ann.

Don’t let this task overwhelm you. Just take it one step at a time. Here’s the strategy we use in our family to help prepare our kids for college:

  1. Map Out a Basic Plan

    I begin by printing a blank copy of my high school transcript shortly before my student starts ninth grade and use it to pencil in the subjects I plan to teach and when (what year/semester) I plan to teach them. Invariably, things get shuffled a bit before graduation, but this gives me a starting point.

    Free Editable High School Transcript

  2. Choose Challenging Curriculum

    So far, our graduates have all ended up majoring in science or engineering, and we’ve found that Saxon Math and Apologia Science have more than adequately prepared them for college level course work.

    For specific curriculum recommendations in other subjects, refer to this page.

  3. Encourage Lots of Reading

    Some of our children are fonder of reading than others, but the years we’ve spent using Sonlight (a literature based curriculum) really paid off, even though I’ve ended up reading aloud a lot of the books they were assigned.

    Really, the more reading you can get your kids to do — not necessarily even assigned reading, but pleasure reading (including fiction) on topics of personal interest — the better prepared they’ll be when it comes time to start college classes (and the higher they’ll score on standardized tests).

    Make Time for Reading

  4. Enlist Help Where Needed

    Don’t let the upper level courses scare you. There are so many options available these days for teaching topics that are beyond Mom’s area of expertise: co-op classes, video courses, online classes, dual credit classes, private tutors, etc.

    One program we’ve recently started using with our high schoolers is Landry Academy Lab Intensives. They pack an entire year’s worth of science experiments into a 2-day class, and my children have absolutely loved it! Early bird discounts allow you to register for a fraction of the cost, making these intensives even more affordable.


  5. Prepare Well for College Board Tests

    College admission boards typically place more stock in SAT scores than in transcripts and grade reports, but this is especially true when they are evaluating home schoolers. It is imperative, therefore, that your student do her best on these exams.

    At a minimum, you will want to have your child take a few practice exams before sitting for the real thing. We did this with our older students and saw marked improvements in their scores (to the tune of 250-300 points) after just two or three practice runs.

    You might also consider a prep course to help prepare your child for college entrance exams. This is especially true if your child hasn’t had much experience taking timed tests. The one we’ve used with our last couple of graduates (and plan to keep using with the remaining children) is College Prep Genius. It is available in a textbook/workbook or in a DVD format. The course teaches lots of simple “tricks” to taking standardized tests that will improve the score of any student familiar with them.

    SAT testing

  6. Teach with College in Mind

    If your student is planning to attend college and has some idea about where he’d like to go or what field he wants to study, you can tailor high school coursework to dovetail or even overlap with college classes and count the work on both transcripts. Do this either by signing up for dual credit classes at your local junior college or by taking CLEP exams over material learned at home.

    Even if your high schooler has not yet decided where to go or what to study, he can still get a jumpstart on earning college credit by tackling some of the core classes that are common to almost every college degree.

    Teach with College in Mind

  7. Investigate CLEP Testing

    To maximize your use of CLEP tests, check to see which tests are accepted by the school(s) your student is considering, as well as a list of minimum scores required on each test. (Most schools have such a list you can download and print, which is exactly what I’d recommend you do. Once you are on the university’s website, just search for CLEP or Credit by Examination. If more than one school is in the running, cross-reference these lists and start with the exams that are accepted by both schools.

    Depending on your child’s major, he may be able to cut his time on campus in half (two of our sons did this) or even CLEP out of his entire degree (a friend of ours “tested out” of his entire Bachelor’s degree, then went on to attend law school on a full scholarship).

    Earning College Credit by CLEP

  8. Apply for Scholarships

    Speaking of scholarships, it’s never too early to start applying. You can earn scholarship for writing essays, doing community service, performing well on your SAT, being tall, being short, being left-handed, having red hair. You’d be amazed at all the money available for kids who want to go to college!

    For help finding and successfully applying for scholarships and grants, check out June McBride’s excellent resource, Path To Scholarships .

    Apply for Scholarship Money

  9. Track Community Service Hours

    You’ll want to provide your student opportunities to invest in her community, and track the hours she serves. There are all kinds of ways to volunteer: Our children have earned community service hours by teaching Red Cross swimming lessons, working in food pantries, serving as Azalea Belles, candy striping at the hospital, volunteering at the library, going on mission trips, teaching Bible study classes, etc. etc. Don’t forget to make note of these activities on your child’s transcript, as well.

    50 Ways to Volunteer

  10. Teach Him to Defend His Faith

    Before he leaves for college, your child should be aware of some of the differing philosophies he is likely to encounter on campus and/or in the classroom. An excellent book we have found for this purpose is James Sire’s Worldview Catalog, The Universe Next Door.

    We also really like Summit Student Conferences. This two-week-long summer worldview camp addresses many of the competing philosophies students will encounter in college and equips them with the tools they’ll need to defend their faith against attack. Almost all of our kids have attended at least one such worldview intensive before beginning college classes. A few of our younger ones have attended a similar but shorter program sponsored by TeenPact called Worldview Weekend.

    Defending Your Faith

  11. .

  12. Don’t Neglect Life Skills

    And last, but certainly not least, before sending your child away to college, make sure he knows how to prepare a few simple meals, do a load of laundry, fill up a gas tank, change a flat tire, clean (and plunge) a toilet, make a bed, balance a checkbook, fill out a tax return, stick to a budget, pay his bills, etc.

    If you start early enough training him in some of these areas, you may work yourself out of a job even sooner than expected. Shouldn’t that be our end-goal, anyway?

    Life Skills

Those are the tips for getting kids ready for college that immediately spring to mind . Have I forgotten any? What would you add to this list?

Getting Ready for College

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  1. I know this is an old post, but what you covered here that is incredibly helpful!
    I have two in college, and one halfway through that stopped to start a family, but for the rest of my kids. I want to try using CLEP exams in high school to do our own “dual enrollment”. What did you use for studying for exams during the high school years? I was planning to add in the REA study guides, have them make flash cards and do the practice tests, possibly adding additional books if they did not already study the subject thoroughly. What are your recommendations?

    1. Darcy, my older kids used a combination of REA CLEP prep books and Spark Notes study guides to learn subjects that we hadn’t covered in school. However, last year we discovered https://modernstates.org/, which provides free review courses for the majority of CLEP subjects, as well as free practice tests kids can take to prepare for the CLEPs, and my younger kids have been using that method to get ready for their exams. Best of all, every time a student competes a course and passes the practice test, they earn a voucher that can be used to take the actual CLEP test for free, as well. So I recommend you check that program out — and let me know what you think about it once you do.

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