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  1. #1
    Senior Member Arrived skrink's Avatar
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    Default Choosing a college

    I know I'm jumping the gun on this one as dd is finishing 8th grade but... What are good, trustworthy (so, not US News & World Reports) resources for choosing colleges? I have done online searches but have no idea how to best evaluate the results. It's been a million years since I was applying myself and so much has changed.

    I've been putting together curriculum ideas for high school, and as suggested in another thread am attempting to work backwards from admission requirements at different schools to make sure all bases are covered. I'd like to cast a wider net so dd has decent options when the time comes but am feeling a bit lost.
    Skrink - mama to my 14 yo wild woman

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  3. #2

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    Good is somewhat relative. What does she want? Sometimes great colleges can be a surprise. I went to what was not considered a competitive college, but I received the most amazing education. The faculty, campus and community was incredibly supportive and helped support my goals to further my education. It was a sleeper school on the ratings. The I went to a university that was good for my field, but overall had problems.

    So here are some questions that might help narrow it down:

    Are you decided on a state or private colleges?

    It's ok if you are open, but if you know for sure that you will want her to go to a state school since it is cheaper or if you think that she my be eligible for some awesome scholarships at private schools, then that might influence your decision. Do you want her to say in Ohio? If she goes out of state, then some can cost as much as a private school, with out of state tuition.

    Does she have any special interests that might direct her choices? (Does she really want to study engineering or nursing or ?) Does she want a competitive school?

    Will she thrive in a large university or a small college?

    Do you think she will want to finish the requirements for the particular school? For example different colleges have different math requirements for admission. And some have different foreign language requirements, if any at all.

    Now some of this requires being a soothsayer, as in 4 years she could change her mind.

    What I would consider is look at the major universities in your area, there are many common admission guidelines. If you look at those and decide to go with the one with more requirements, then you will be covered for all of them. (You also know that you can back off if she changes her mind.

    Now I realize that this didn't answer your question, because I don't think that there is any guidebook that is really that good at rating the colleges. I would look in the news to see if there is controversy about the college. Discontent happening between administration, students and faculty seem to be publicized a lot more now (or maybe I read the news for higher ed more frequently), but I would look for school's dirty laundry or lack thereof. I think that looking at the attitude of the college, talking to people at the college may give you a better idea.

    Universities that have graduate programs tend to have graduate students teaching the first and second year classes, usually the regular professors are not teaching those classes, something that is never mentioned in the literature. And even if there is a professor, there are grad students grading the student papers and doing the teaching, just not the lecturing.
    A mama, who teaches college writing, as well as help her 11-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.
    I also share free and low-cost educational resources at
    http://chooseourownadventures.blogspot.com

  4. #3

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    You are not jumping the gun. Working backwards makes sense.

    I have an 8th grader too as well as a 12th grader who has just applied to 12 schools. I am very lucky that I have the older one because it is changing completely how I homeschool my 8th grader.

    The first thing I learned from my older one, was that I couldn't have predicted what kind of college he wanted. When we were in his Jr year we decided to take tours. I assumed that he would have wanted either the state schools like UCLA or tech schools like Cal Tech or MIT. After touring, both he and I discovered that he wanted something totally different. I never would have expected, way back when, that he would be so interested in the very small liberal arts colleges. He was shocked as well. The more we looked, the more he developed an interest in a type of school. But this was totally unpredictable. But because he had prepared so well in high school, he has the qualifications to apply to the schools he was interested in.

    So now that I have my 8th grader my main concern is that he have choices, when the time comes, and that is how I am preparing home for homeschooling.

    I don't know what the colleges require in OH but I bet they are similar. I want to make sure that my kid can attend the UC or CSU system as one option. In CA we have specific requirements. The problem is that they don't work with homeschooling. But after digging around I found out that the UC system has published an alternative way to qualify. They use a combo of SAT 2 tests and AP tests in place of classes. You might want to see what the public schools in OH have published. They may have something similar.

    This is what the CA system allows for homeschoolers. (In case someone from CA is reading as well.)
    http://admission.universityofcalifor...sfying-a-g.pdf
    You can replace most classes with testing. For this reason I am planning on making sure that my son takes all SAT 2 tests that correspond to classes. SAT 2s are offered at various times during the year and you can take them more than once if needed. They all have study guides that can be used throughout to make sure you are on the right track in your lesson planning. In fact next year I am already planning his classes to match a biology SAT 2 and an AP for human geography. I will use the study guides to plan the classes.

    Most colleges also have general requirements in terms of English, social studies, math, language, and science that are pretty similar. I like the College Board's website for tracking requirements. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/
    This site lists the course requirements for all colleges so you can see what is required. Most requirements are similar.

    I also like to look at two places for college info.
    The College Navigator is a government website that uses data directly from the colleges. You can see info on size, type, cost, acceptance rate, etc. https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
    There are no ratings here. It is general info only. When I worked at a college I was responsible for reporting that data to the department of ed. It is solid info.

    I also like the College Confidential college finder because you can put more info in like party atmosphere and political leanings. No ratings again, just info. http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_search/
    CC also has a homeschooling board and a board for SpEd issues like testing accommodations.

    Don't know if that is what you are looking for but hope it helps.
    Mom to two boys
    14 year old/9th grade homeschooler
    Non homeschooled son heading to Reed College this fall, and proudly wearing his Reed/Atheist t-shirt.

    I spend a lot of time sitting in an ice skating rink - still

  5. #4

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    LKnomad,
    Where did you find the study guides for SAT2? I never even heard of SAT2...
    THank you!

  6. #5

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    Frank Bruni, who writes frequently for the NYT on the subject of higher education, often refers to the Colleges that Change Lives book/list. http://ctcl.org

    His book "Where you go is not who you'll be" has a number of different ranking and reference lists that aren't the highly skewed U.S. News and World Report list. Sorry, I can't remember them.

    Personally, I'd like a list of universities ranked by athletic department budget as a percentage of total university spending just so I can see where their priorities lie.

    On the subject of preparedness - I really enjoyed Cal Newport's "How to be a high school superstar" He talks a lot about counterintuitive aspects of university preparedness - how to be excellent in ways that are not destroying your life in the pursuit. It's a really worth reading. His take on passion and "interestingness" is very insightful.
    DD age 9, Grade 4ish

    Eclectic. We do music, math English, history/geography/culture, Russian and science. Lots and lots of reading. I blog at suzukiexperience.com

    WARNING: Unwittingly, I may occasionally say things to which you take offence.

  7. #6

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    When my kids were in 7/8th grade, we looked at the stronger state schools for what might be required for admissions. We knew those would be the safety schools, so they would at least have that option. In general, MOST colleges require the following:


    • English: 4 years
    • Foreign Language: 2 to 3 years
    • Math: 3 years
    • Science: 2 - 3 years (usually at least two considered lab sciences, with a lab component)
    • Social Studies (including history): 2 to 3 years



    My kids didn't really formulate a specific college list until junior year. That's when they started choosing specific schools. At that time, ds realized one of the schools required 2 SAT2 tests, so he took them that year. Otherwise, what we had determined for a four-year course plan seemed to do the trick for the rest of the schools.

    DD looked at schools that had strong writing programs and combined that with cost considerations. DS searched several "Top 20" type of lists for computer science/programming and selected schools that appeared on several. He then crossed off the lists any that had any humanities-type core curriculum (soooo not his thing). He also considered a school in the CA state system, but as an out of state homeschooler he felt the hoops to jump through were too much hassle.

    Anyway, since kids can change their minds through high school (dd in eighth grade thought she'd be a chef and is now an English major!!), I think you would be safe to consider the admission requirements of good state schools (in your state or elsewhere). Then, in a couple of years, see if they have narrowed down their interests and explore colleges further.

    One further note of advice--If your child earns some dual credit during high school, some colleges may treat it more favorably than a high school level class. For example, many of the schools ds applied to wanted 2 years of foreign language. He had completed 2 semesters at the local university. The admitting colleges considered it equivalent to 2 years of high school. When your child is applying, you'll need to contact specific colleges as to their policy regarding dual credit.
    Last edited by inmom; 02-12-2016 at 07:36 AM. Reason: Apparently my grammar sucks early in the AM
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter (22), a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son (21), a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  8. #7
    Senior Member Arrived skrink's Avatar
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    Default

    I've been putting a lot of thought into what I'd consider a "good" school and what exactly it is that will fit dd's requirements. So many of the lists prioritize big, brand name schools but that isn't something that is important to us. Primarily, two things jump out as necessary. First - does the school have a strong reputation in her desired field of study (and how do I determine this, beyond the marketing that gets shoved at you as soon as you start asking questions)? I know she's 14 and a lot can change in 4 years, but she has always been a science & math kid. Biology/chemistry and environmental science are what she talks about and I'd be shocked if she didn't end up focusing on one or all of those. Second - is the school truly ASD friendly? Are they willing to work with dd on necessary accommodations? I have talked to a few parents whose kids chose "autism friendly" schools but discovered that they had a pretty narrow focus of what that means and were unwilling to see beyond the stereotypical picture of autism and work with real world needs.

    As to state vs private, etc, I have no strong feelings one way or another. I did my undergrad at a small, private, liberal arts school. In some regards it was great. I was a shy kid from the sticks and would have been overwhelmed at the big state school that was nearby. However, there was very much a town/gown culture, and the students did their best to avoid the townies who didn't seem to want them there anyway. The small atmosphere got a bit stifling after four years. I did some graduate work at a large university, but in a tiny department. I liked that there were lots of opportunities that a small school just can't offer, but there was an intimacy of sorts in our dept and you got to know everyone quickly & well (and that can be both good and bad, depending!). Typing this out I'm thinking that type of atmosphere could benefit dd. Maybe an honors program within a larger state school? As an Aspie social deficits are her biggest hurdle by far. But again, four years can bring lots of changes. I keep reminding myself that this is the time to gather information and formulate a game plan, and NOT a time for major decision making.

    You all have given me lots to think about, and resources to explore. I shall continue mulling.
    Skrink - mama to my 14 yo wild woman

  9. #8
    Senior Member Arrived skrink's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MNDad View Post
    Personally, I'd like a list of universities ranked by athletic department budget as a percentage of total university spending just so I can see where their priorities lie.
    I live in Big 10 country where people enroll at OSU just to get the student discount for football tx (and promptly drop out after the season is over). I grew up in PA and with PSU mania and thought I had seen it all, but if anything it's worse here. I'd be curious to see the budget but I think it would make me sad. And angry.
    Skrink - mama to my 14 yo wild woman

  10. #9

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    I LOVE THIS QUESTION! (Yes feeling the need to fret about something 5-6 years in the future)

    Quote Originally Posted by skrink View Post
    I've been putting a lot of thought into what I'd consider a "good" school and what exactly it is that will fit dd's requirements....First - does the school have a strong reputation in her desired field of study (and how do I determine this, beyond the marketing that gets shoved at you as soon as you start asking questions)? I know she's 14 and a lot can change in 4 years, but she has always been a science & math kid. Biology/chemistry and environmental science are what she talks about and I'd be shocked if she didn't end up focusing on one or all of those.
    Skrink I think the above is where you have your work cut out for the next 3-4 years: if not finding THE field, then at least THE college (within a university setting that is): how strong (well funded, reputation, new/interesting research) is the College of Science at X, Y and Z schools, and secondly how supportive/helpful said schools are to undergraduate majors.

    Your dd is great at focusing her attention. Would this translate well into lab work? Field work? Collaborating with others for a united outcome? So...your coloring in the picture of What College Best Suits My Daughter should also include What My Daughter's Experience Will Be At That College. Can you see her assisting research? doing lab work? And...is there an opportunity for the two of you to find something similar to that NOW? (I am thinking volunteer work. Can she see how scientists work? Can she go to a med lab (blood tests, etc.) just to see what happens there? Or if she goes into environmental sci: is there something happening in your area (moving a road, say) that environmental scientists have had to do an impact study before work could commence? You get my drift...

    I know your concerns about her ASD. But get the wind in her sails about one of the above things that she might show an interest...and I think all bets are off, she'll excel wherever she lands
    Eclectically homeschooling 8th grade dd, who likes science as much as art...

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by skrink View Post
    .... she has always been a science & math kid. Biology/chemistry and environmental science are what she talks about and I'd be shocked if she didn't end up focusing on one or all of those.
    If you and she are fairly certain she's going to go into a science field, I cannot stress enough that her science classes in high school have a laboratory component. If your local schools are willing, she could take those at the high school. If not, look into dual credit. When I spoke to an admissions rep at one state school, he (snarkily) wanted to make sure the As my son earned weren't just "mommy labs and grades." (Although this particular "mommy" is a state licensed high school science teacher with years of experience!) Both of my kids did chemistry, while just by son also took physics, as dual credit.

    Maybe an honors program within a larger state school?
    This is the route my daughter is taking. While the entire freshman class is 5200+, her actual class sizes are typically around 20 students. She had one "large" one with a lecture consisting of 70 students, but the discussion section had 20. My son may end up at Purdue, but in its honors program as well. At some schools, an additional advantage of honors programs is that professors in the field discuss their current, cutting-edge research, sometimes with the students getting involved with that research.

    Don't worry, Skrink. I spent many, many sleepless nights mulling over these same questions. It WILL work out, especially since you're very aware of what you have to do now.
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter (22), a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son (21), a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

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