Okay, so realistically probably a majority of students are not yet ready to start thinking about choosing a college. But for some students, you might be considering dual enrollment, so we’ll discuss how to choose which colleges to contact, and how to contact them. Even if you are not ready for this step, it still helps to keep this task of college evaluation in mind as you go through high school.
With approximately 3,000 four-year institutions in the United States alone, your student has a plethora of colleges to consider. How do you choose which colleges to add to your list, much less to contact for more information?
Understand Your Student’s Priorities
The first step to establishing a list of colleges is to assess your student’s personal priorities. Not all students want to attend a four-year institution (not all students should attend) – and that’s okay! Some students choose to attend community college without transferring into a four-year program; others decide to attend a trade school, either to put themselves through a four-year degree or as a life-long career decision.
Knowing your student’s skills, interests, and life goals will help determine which colleges should make your roster. A few things to consider:
- How transfer-friendly is the college?
- Are there opportunities for study abroad?
- What extracurricular activities are available?
- If an athlete, what NCAA division are the sports programs?
- What is the local area like?
- What is the makeup of the student body?
All of these factors will contribute to your student’s experience at the school, and each should reflect what you know your student would need in order to thrive socially and academically.
Establish Your College Priorities
The priorities you have for a college should match both your student’s personal priorities, but they should also blend with your family values. The heart of Teach Them Diligently is to offer support for the educational discipleship that is the heart of homeschooling. Homeschool isn’t just about academics; it’s about educating the heart, mind, and soul of a child in the truth of God’s Word! The same priorities that guide your homeschool should be taken into consideration as you look at higher education options. A few things to consider as you narrow down your college choices:
Programs of Study
Not all programs of study are created equal. While your nearby state college may offer an English major just like the smaller school you’re also considering, take into account the rigor of the coursework, attentiveness of professors (you want classes taught by professors, not teacher’s aides), and opportunities for independent study and internships. The larger the school, the larger the class sizes, which means less personal attention to your student (though there may be honors programs to offset this). Smaller schools offer more one-on-one attention and tutoring, but may be limited in what programs they can offer. Call the admissions office and set up visits for junior year to determine the details of these programs.
While your student doesn’t need to declare a major her freshman year (at least at most colleges), knowing the program he wants to study prevents him from taking classes he doesn’t need, which in turn saves time and money.
Just as every college has different majors of study, every college has a different atmosphere and student life environment. This is why it’s so important to visit before making your choice! Student life takes into account everything from the attitude of the student body (is there a lot of tension? Does the school have a reputation for parties or riots? What is the spiritual atmosphere?) to extracurricular activities (availability of clubs and intramural sports). Your student’s priorities should be met on the campus. Remember: you and your child are paying this institution not just to educate your student, but to house and groom him for however many years he is there. Choose wisely!
Not every homeschool student will attend a Christian college for her education. There are many secular institutions that offer excellent programs of study and an alumni network ready to hire new graduates from the alma mater. But when considering both Christian and secular colleges, it is necessary to evaluate the spiritual environment on campus.
Today, very few Christian colleges actually stand by their doctrinal statement – or what used to be their statement of faith. Don’t believe a college is “Christian” until you’ve visited the campus and discovered what resources are available for your student’s walk with God. On secular campuses, look for clubs or groups that can act as an encouragement to your child’s faith when he doesn’t get it in the classroom.
College can be a continuation of the discipleship you’ve poured into your homeschool – if the student is intentional! This intentionality will need to occur at both Christian and secular colleges. Find out what is available to encourage your student in her walk while he pursues her degree.
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