Transform your dream of free college into reality (and we’re talking the possibility of any or all of free tuition, free room and board, and other perks and stipends).
You homeschool your kids for many great reasons. One of those is to distance yourself from traditional education methods. Another is to remove the negative effects of peer pressure. Whatever it is for you, now that you and your teen are working out your post-secondary education options, the chances are very good that you are not as familiar with the ins and outs of getting to college.
As removed as you want (or need) to be from mainstream high school education, if you or your kids dream of going to college you simply have to slot yourself right back into the system. Unless you’ve been very diligent about staying up to date with all the latest, you could be feeling a bit despondent about your chances—and especially when it comes to the ultimate prize: Free College.
So read on if you want to:
- Open the doors to your child’s career of choice, or
- Transform your dream of free college into reality (and we’re talking the possibility of any or all of free tuition, free room and board, and other perks and stipends).
Just the thought of taking on expensive student loans is daunting. This very big financial burden usually takes around 20 years to pay off. The way I see it, it’s either crippling to your family to commit the money (which could even have disastrous effects on the future), or your college-bound child is saddled with enormous debt from the get-go.
Where do I start?
The questions I hear the most are these: Where do we start? And how do we manage without using our retirement, savings or equity?
How indeed. College tuition has increased 600% in the last 25 years and all indications are that prices will continue to escalate. Right now, the nation has college debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion dollars. And with a huge college dropout rate only about one-third of enrolled students will graduate. This lends itself to a lot of wasted money without a degree.
These days I make it my mission to be the bearer of great news for families on the verge of putting their kids through college. There are 24 billion dollars of scholarships available each year and this is money you do not have to pay back. So how do you get your hands on this money and take the stress out of the college equation? To arrive at the answer, you really have to know how the system works.
Here’s a pretty startling fact for you: The work your child does in high school—and the grades they get—doesn’t have a lot to do with the way colleges award placement. You may not even realize that 85% of colleges admit and give scholarship money based solely on SAT scores. Colleges are ranked nationally based on this standardized scoring system, so the higher the score—the more money you get!
It all sounds very simple to work the system in your favor and get an amazing scholarship especially if you have an intelligent kid, right? But that’s where a lot of people’s college dreams fall flat. You see, tens of thousands of smart students bomb the SAT every year and although it isn’t logical I am going to tell you why that happens.
Being intelligent is not good enough
That’s right, being intelligent is not good enough. It doesn’t guarantee that your kid will bring home the scholarships or the place offers at their college of choice.
The truth is that the college placement tests like the SAT (and other similar tests) are tests of logic and critical thinking. On top of that many of the questions are designed to purposely misguide and confuse students and often steer them towards appealing—yet wrong—answers.
To master these tests many teachable strategies are needed. For example, it is currently not possible to answer the whole paper if you can’t read, formulate a response to any single question and record your answer—all in 30 seconds or less. Strategies to ace the test are not taught in most schools so students are at a loss when they find that their test scores do not reflect their GPA.
It is unreasonable to expect school counselors—who are already overwhelmed with a lot on their plate—to spend quality college prep time with each student. And as you are a homeschool parent this might not be your area of expertise either. As I said before, it starts with the broadly held misunderstanding that you’ll get the big scholarship money with good grades. However, a switch in priorities is needed: Students need dedicated SAT preparation—and they can start early. This preparation has to avoid the content-based learning that they are used to at school and focus on specific specialized strategies.
Test prep programs
There is help out there but unfortunately not a lot of it gets you the outcome you are after. Families just like yours often seek help and may spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on test-prep programs that teach content memorization and information irrelevant to the actual test, resulting in little or no improvement.
Any test-prep course that works, takes an entirely different approach. When you attend the right program, you are far more likely to increase your SAT score and find yourself with access to significant funding to the university of your choice. Once your student learns the right techniques, with practice they recognize the hidden recurring patterns in these tests; they stop falling for the trick answers; they answer questions quickly, efficiently and correctly; and their scores rise.
It does not seem fair that students who have GPAs of 4.0 and above might not benefit from their hard work at school. However, with such an enormous national network of tertiary institutions, the only fair way to compare all students equally is by applying a standardized test like the SAT; it is the yardstick that levels the playing field for everyone regardless of where you attend school.
That’s all great news for homeschoolers too. You should really be encouraged by what might have first appeared to be quite shocking information.
The importance of the PSAT
Another forgotten fact is that the makers of the SAT (the College Board) also write the highly misunderstood PSAT. This test is touted as a practice-SAT but the truth is that this is a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship contest. It counts only in the junior year but students should start taking it in 8th grade. If they start early, students determine their weaknesses so they can focus and improve on them before the junior year, by putting quality practice-time on their side. There is no need to study separately for the PSAT because as you study for the SAT, you are “killing two birds with one stone” and covering the techniques and strategies that you need for the similar PSAT test.
As a homeschooling parent of a near-to-college-age child, discovering how to use the SAT score to open doors to life-changing benefits such as a full-ride, free room and board, graduate school money, honors door and more, is no doubt why you’re still reading this article! I am about to share something with you that could very well change the SAT landscape for you and your child. The SAT is not a one-shot deal. Your child can take the test multiple times up to seven times per year and over a number of years.
Most people don’t think about putting time on their side but the truth is that there is no age limit on taking the SAT: So, start early. Even if you’ve graduated, you can still take the SAT and receive scholarships.
The Super Score
Here’s something else that not everybody knows: Most colleges take the highest scores from different tests to give an overall composite scored. This merged figure—which can actually combine the best elements of your scores from the different test results—is known as a Super Score. Because of Score Choice, you don’t have to send any scores to any college until you want to.
By knowing that each test must follow the same patterns, profiles and standards, students can ace the test once they learn to forgo studying content but learn to study the test itself. It is a standardized test that is objective and can be beaten.
Know the patterns
The SAT Reading passages are the most hated section of the test. Not surprising really, when you realize that students have 65 minutes to read 6 passages and answer 52 questions. That boils down to only one and a quarter minutes per question—and that’s without factoring in reading time. Speed-reading is not the answer. With the right know-how, time needed to successfully answer all the questions can be cut in half! By understanding that most of the information is superfluous (and even misleading), students can learn to discern exactly what they should read. Students unknowingly tend to approach it like English class by analyzing or interpreting the passages, when in fact up to 75% of the passage is unnecessary to read. Not knowing what to expect on the test is a hindrance to getting a great score. There are 3 types of passages and 5 types of questions that recur on each test and techniques on tackling one type, builds to the next one.
Students tend to worry about not knowing all the math, especially if it is not their strong suit. There are many who love mathematics and are good at it but find that the SAT math section is their lowest score. One reason is they work out problems the long way and even show all their work. Approaching the SAT math as you do in school will end in frustration especially when you come across what appears to be an unknown concept.
The good news is that every SAT math problem can be answered quickly and often without calculations, by learning built-in shortcuts. The questions do contain basic math: It is written in a logical format so what is being tested are your skills of critical thinking, using math as the medium.
The first resort for a student is to use a calculator but the more calculations that you perform, the greater the chance of making mistakes, and the more time you could be wasting: You only have about one minute per question so testing all four answers eats up a lot of time.
With the right knowledge, you won’t need to test more than two answers, which automatically cuts your answer-time in half. And you won’t need to be like most other students who tend to read the question and then look for the answer in the four choices. Once you know where to look, more often than not the student will find that the question itself points directly to the answer, instead of reverting back to crunching numbers.
The Writing and Language section is now combined with the Reading score with 4 passages, 44 questions and 35 minutes in which to finish. That’s a blisteringly fast 40 seconds per question. One of the patterns that appears up to 75% of the time allows students to answer these questions in only 10 seconds! Imagine how that little-known shortcut could change your college aspirations.
The beauty of a standardized test is that the system is designed to be reliable and sustainable. The college system is here to stay and you can take advantage of that. For example, you may have forgotten a lot of the grammar rules learned in elementary school. No worries, the writing section uses no less than 13 recurring patterns that you need to know; and can of course learn to recognize.
Don’t opt out of writing
These days, with a tremendous amount of pressure on students, you can predict that, given the current option to write the essay or leave it out, most students are following the wrong advice and opting-out of the essay. This can be very detrimental. There are several reasons to ALWAYS write the essay that can yield great benefits: Not only can it create a complete profile for scholarships, it might mean an exemption from writing classes and be a determining factor for college (and scholarship) eligibility.
The essay is a 50-minute format which is given at the end of the SAT. Students can follow a proven template and write an analytical paper demonstrating how the given document’s author built his or her argument. There are 3600 judges across the nation faced with the overwhelming responsibility to read and grade tens of thousands of subjective essays. Fortunately, they use an objective and standardized grading system. They apply it to every essay regardless of who writes it, where they live or how they are schooled.
Students will always be faced with standardized testing—whether at college, on the job, or at post-grad school. But rather than see it as something to be feared you can be smart, take advantage of the inbuilt nature of the testing environment, and benefit to an amazing degree.
You can help your child become trained in test-taking skills. The specific techniques and strategies will help them with most standardized tests as by their very nature, all standardized tests must reliably follow the same patterns. What is learned for college entrance will stand you and your child in great stead for life beyond—perhaps for the even more expensive grad school, law school or med school. Hopefully with your deepening knowledge of the whole system you’ll feel more hope and faith that your student will have a far easier time of getting where they want to go. When the time comes, you’ll feel happy that further down the line, entrance exams are also standardized and to receive full-rides to post-grad school can also be reality.
There are various financial avenues to pay for college and it’s reassuring to know that many can even follow you long after graduation.
Ultimately however, the ideal goal is to be debt-free when you start your new life and career. I hope you have gained a great deal from this article. I have put some excellent take-home points that will improve your chances to get a free ride to college. It is possible—that being a homeschooling parent—exposure to the intricacies of the SAT (and similar standardized tests) has been a lot less than for those who have had direct links to mainstream schooling. But if I have helped you with anything it is this:
Take advantage of the reliable standardized nature of SAT testing; know and take advantage of the testing and scoring rules; find the right program to teach your child how to recognize the repeated patterns in the tests and get plenty of practice; and sit back and watch the positive impact.
I want to leave you and your child with this final point: Your ultimate decision to go to college should always be based on where your passions lie, not the finances. Maybe that’s a particular course that you have your heart set on. Stack the cards in your favor by getting the very best SAT score you can. When you do that, you open up many, many doors to your own bright future—and with the right knowledge and practice that future could very well start with a brilliant SAT score, amazing scholarships and even free college.