Archive for September, 2016

Last month we talked about avoiding college debt. Financial aid is a big part of that conversation, but what exactly is financial aid? Many families who have not yet sent a child to college – or who didn’t attend college themselves – are prone to think financial aid is solely made up of scholarships. When colleges advertise, “6.1 million in financial aid!”, they aren’t sharing the whole picture.

Financial aid is made up of three parts: scholarships, loans, and grants. Scholarships and grants don’t need to be paid back. Loans are just what they sound like – loans!


There are two categories for scholarships: institutional (awarded by the college) and “outside”, or scholarships from independent business and organizations. Within these two categories are thousands of scholarship types: academic, ethnic, athletic, and many more. Each scholarship has its own set of rules and qualifications.

Scholarship searching through online search engines is the best way to find independent scholarships and competitions. For institutional scholarships, check college websites and contact the admission office.


Grants can be need-based or based on something as diverse as a student’s major of study or ethnic background. Sometimes grants are listed on scholarship sites. For students attending in-state colleges, there may be state grants available (such as the VTAG grant in Virginia). For students from low income families, the federal Pell grant is available to help pay for tuition.

Grants do not need to be paid back, but you need to read the fine print to make sure all qualifications are met.


Loans may be private or federal. Federal loans (Stafford loans) are the best kind to take out, if you take any out at all. The interest rate is much lower than most private lenders, and you have the option of taking subsidized and/or unsubsidized. The subsidized loans will NOT accrue interest while a student is in college; the unsubsidized will. Many students accept both Stafford loans each year.

Be sure to ask each college about ALL of these options before committing. All of these will contribute to the “bottom dollar” – the annual cost of tuition at that school.

Questions? Email

How to Choose a Major

If you’ve started applying for scholarships already, you may have noticed that some scholarship applications are already asking your student to indicate a major of study. But not many sixteen-year-olds have a firm grasp on what they want to do with the rest of their lives! It’s completely normal for your high school student to delay choosing a major as she explores her interests and passions. However, it’s also helpful to have a general direction for her academic path. Choosing a major starts in high school, and narrowing down potential careers is easier than you’d think.

The Intersection of Skill and Strength

“Find what you love to do and get paid to do it.” That’s how one of my own college professors defined calling. I like to define calling as “the intersection of strength and skill”. Strengths – or passions – are given to us by God, our natural bent and gifting. Skills are acquired through education and experience. When fused together, these two result in a life work that is fulfilling and motivating for years to come.

But how do you determine what is strength and what is skill? There are a few ways to do this. First, consider having your student take a career test, such as CareerDirect, which will ask her a series of questions, then match her with potential careers on a percentage-match basis. Review the results together and see if any of the careers pique her interest, then find job shadowing opportunities in these fields. Job shadowing is as easy as calling up another homeschool family or your relative who works in the field of interest, asking if your child can follow them at work for the day. This allows her to get an accurate picture of what that job looks like in action.

Narrow down your options to three or four favorites and do some research to find out what college programs prepare students for these jobs.

Think About the ROI

Once you have a few prospective majors in mind, it’s time to think about the return on investment (ROI) for these majors. Any educational pursuit requires an investment of time, money, and personal effort, but higher education specifically often comes at a high financial cost. Even with scholarships and financial aid, the amount of money invested into a student should produce a return worth that investment.

For example, a student who loves books may want to pursue a degree in Librarian Studies. Before she attends the best college program for Librarian Studies, price out the cost of annual tuition. Then take a look at the average starting salary for librarians on the national scale. If a Librarian Studies degree costs $100,000 for four years, but her starting salary will only be $30,000 a year, she will be at a significant disadvantage at the beginning of what could have been a thriving career. This is not a positive ROI.

You have two options in a situation like this: pick a program and career with a greater ROI, or find a way to attain the Librarian Studies degree with little to no debt. Another possibility would be to major in something broad – Business, Communications, or English, for example – and work a job that allows the student to do what they love on the side (nowadays called a “side hustle”).

Here’s a great article on the fastest growing job markets of 2016:

Questions? Email

When I was being homeschooled the first month of the fall semester was my favorite time of the year. My books were new, the leaves were changing, and I couldn’t wait to tackle the list of books assigned for that semester! It might not feel like fall quite yet, but chances are your family is back to school after your summer break – ready to tackle another year of learning!

The tenth grade year is when college preparation really picks up the pace. Since junior year is taken up with scholarship applications, college visits, and test-taking, tenth grade has the advantage of being productive without the pressure. Now is the time to make a plan for tutoring, testing, and college preparation so the last two years of high school can be as stress-free as possible!


Not everyone has a child who needs additional guidance in a subject, but it’s something I always recommend. In my own homeschool experience, I struggled to understand math. My mom – our primary educator – had a hard time instructing math in a way I could understand it. I ended up asking a fellow homeschool student to tutor me so I could pass the College Math CLEP exam. Their assistance was pivotal to my success on that test!

Tutoring doesn’t always have to be formal, but it is almost always helpful. Sometimes the change of pace, environment, or teacher is enough to help a child grasp formerly elusive concepts. You could even “barter” tutoring between homeschool families, where one student is strong in English and another in math! There are many ways to get help for your student without shelling out a lot of money in the process.


Next month is the PSAT! If you’ve been receiving our emails for a while, you’ll remember how important the PSAT is for college preparation. While taking the PSAT this year won’t “count” for your tenth grader (he won’t be eligible for National Merit qualification), it is excellent practice for next year, when it does!

This is also the time to register for your students first SAT and ACT. Most testing counselors – including those in the homeschool community – highly recommend taking both the SAT and the ACT multiple times. I typically recommend taking the ACT in the fall of the tenth grade year and the SAT in the spring, then repeating this again in junior and senior years. Colleges are looking at the highest possible scores your student achieves, so multiple testing dates will not look bad on his transcript.

For advice on tutoring and testing, or for help creating a strategic plan for college, email!

Big Picture Planning

If there’s one thing homeschool parents view with trepidation, it’s the transition from middle to high school. This season contains a whole new level of accountability and pressure as your child enters his ninth grade year. The grades he achieves, the tests he takes, and the transcript he compiles has the power to determine future decisions about college and career. It’s no wonder parents are nervous about homeschooling the high school years!

First John 1:8 says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” If you’re nervous about homeschooling through high school, it shows how much you care about your child! This love guarantees that you’ll give your best to the high school years. You place a high value on your student’s success and education, and here at [Homeschool to College/TTD] we share those same priorities. That’s why our [college counselor] is walking with you through this email curriculum: to share advice and insight as you equip your child for post-graduation success.

Why think about college and career in ninth grade? Many colleges start looking at applications in a student’s junior year. The students who have a solid understanding of the college process, standardized testing, and the program they want to study often come into the college and/or career scene with an advantage. This advantage manifests itself personally, academically, and financially. By creating a strategic plan earlier rather than later, you’ll reduce your own stress while also equipping your child to succeed.

Where to Start

Know Your State Graduation Requirements

These will be listed on your state Department of Education website. If you’re wondering how many units of English, math, and science your child needs by senior year, this is the place to look. Most colleges expect applicants to fulfill whatever their home state requires for graduation as a bare minimum, so if you already have a few schools of interest, look at their Admissions page to find out specifics.

Explore Potential Careers

Most 9th graders don’t know what they want to do with their lives, and that’s okay! They have plenty of time to develop interests and passions. However, the students who come into college secure in their major are far less likely to change their major multiple times. This saves both time and money. Freshman and sophomore years in high school are a great time to take career tests, job shadow, volunteer, and interview people in interesting careers.

Anticipate Upcoming Milestones

This email curriculum will help you stay one step ahead as you walk with your child through these exciting years of college preparation. Our monthly emails will give you tangible to-do’s for each stage in the process so you’re never behind – and always ahead!