Getting Ready for College?

I’m sure one of you is in the same situation I am…about to graduate one of my children while trying to help guide her in making decisions about college and her future. Shew. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

One of our major concerns – right behind the graduation and party – is to find a way for her to attend college without costing a fortune or piling up huge student loan debt. When our oldest graduated, she determined that she was going to work and attend college. She also wanted to make sure that she didn’t acquire a bunch of student loans. The same goals apply for our second daughter. We’ve found a few a simple practices help to enable new students to keep these goals.

  1. Do test prep. You don’t have to pay someone to help you with this. A little effort and you’ll be able to find a lot of free online resources that can give you the test prep you need.
  2. Take your ACT/SAT as many times as needed until you score the same score twice. You’ll know you’ve reached a plateau then. However, the more you take the test, the more relaxed you get. This enables you to test more accurately. Make sure that you’ve researched and found out the minimum score needed to qualify for the state scholarship. This is one of the easiest scholarships to get  – so take advantage of it.
  3. Depending on the level of scholarship you were able to reach with your ACT/SAT testing, you  might have to find a few scholarships to top it all off. Let’s Homeschool High School has a great quarterly post that reveals TONS of great scholarships perfect for the homeschooler.
  4. Work. I know it’s popular belief that college students need loads of time to study. Rubbish. I worked a full time job (para pro teacher) and went to school 16+ hours each semester. My daughter worked a full time job and went to school 15 hours a semester. Not only can it be done, but it also requires you to budget not just your money, but your time! I’ve also noticed that it causes the student to be much more appreciative about their courses, their grades, and even the free time that they do get. Try to pay for your classes as you go. For example, make sure that semester 1 is paid for before you move on to semester 2. I know just this year, my daughter’s college opened up a payment plan so that students didn’t have to apply for a loan.
  5. Bottom line – work hard. If you make a little extra effort and try – with your college classes, assignments, tests, and with a job – you’ll be on your way to getting a great education without a lifetime of debt.

SAT Prep – Get in the Groove

As a tutor for high school students, I have noticed over the past several years that students loooovvvveee to wait to the last minute. They even wait to the last minute when they are preparing for the SAT and ACT tests! They come to me in the final few weeks prior to the test and ask me to prepare them. What they are looking for isn’t a tutor – but a miracle worker!!

In fact, preparation for the SAT or ACT tests should begin several years before you actually take the test. High school students should arrange their education and courses with college preparation in mind. Students should examine their high school work to be sure that they are meeting the requirements.

Here are a few points to ponder when evaluating if your homeschooled student is prepared or not:

1) Have you been using a challenging spelling/vocabulary program for your student since 9th grade? You can use great tools like Spelling and Vocabulary City to make this easy. Students should be stretching themselves with each new spelling list. Remember, spelling and vocabulary preparation is a sizeable part of the ACT and SAT tests.
2)Have your students been writing clear concise essays? The introduction of the essay and SAT writing practice should occur at least by ninth grade – I prefer earlier. Summing up essay writing into just a few simple steps: Plan for 5 paragraphs-one introduction – 2 or 3 body points/paragraphs – and one conclusion that restates your 3 body points. An essay should be written from a given theme or question statement. The essay should also be able to be written within 25 minutes, using example from literature, history, and personal life.
3)Are you challenging yourself with math courses? Don’t skimp on math preparation. The SAT and ACT tests mainly use questions from geometry and Algebra II. If your student thought they would take the easy road and just do basic math or accounting they will not score as high as they could have if they challenged themselves in this area. Yes, math can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. There are lots of great math tutorials that will help get these difficult points across.
4)Is your student consistently reading and reading critically? By the time a student reaches high school they should be avid readers. Yet, not just readers but readers that analyze what they are reading and think about underlying themes and motives as well as plot projections. Encourage them to THINK while they read.

Homeschool Report Card – 5 things to know about SATs

Everything needs checks and balances… accountability is a good thing…

I know in my own life I tend to do a better job, and put more effort into something if I know that I must be accountable for it.  Though state testing requirements vary, many homeschooling students across the country are requried to participate in standardized testing. States require this testing to ensure that students are learning and progress is being made.

1) Standardized tests are for the measurement of a child’s achievement. These tests do not measure students ability or aptitude, that is measured on a separate test (such as the Otis Lennon). Aptitude tests measure the school ability index or what used to be called IQ.

2) Most standardized tests assess only language arts and math. But, prior to having your child tested ask the administrator of the test what subtests are included and then make preparations for SAT study courses, or by purchasing prep books.

3) These tests are called stadardized because the test was taken by a sample set of students who took the test at the same time of year. The test makers take this sample group’s average score and allow it to represent the 50th percentile.

4) Using the same test from year to year for your child’s assessment will ensure a more acurate comparison of norms.

5) The student’s typically do just fine with taking the test, it’s the parents we often worry about!  So, take it easy, mom and dad.  Remember, that this is just one test and is not the “big picture” of your child’s learning. An accurate picture of how your child is achieving will include what they are learning in school, what they are learning at home, and how they do on SATs.

Other related posts:

Homeschooling in the South

Part 3 – Testing Series

Part 1 – How do you like your percentile?

How do you like your “percentile?”

No, it’s not a fancy kind of ceramic flooring.  Really it’s a type of score used on a standardized achievement test. The percentile has a few common friends like the GE, the stanine, and the SAI.  With names like that our mini-series ought to be pretty interesting! In case you missed the last post – we at Online Education for Kids are going to start our own mini-series on testing. We hope you can join us!

Well to begin – I can’t even talk about standardized tests without voicing my opinion about them. Standardized tests can be used as a very effective tool in educating children.  Yet, to me a problem arises when over-reliance or over-emphasis is placed on this or any ONE test’s results. Keep in mind that standardized testing can be limited in their reliability. It is one test taken on ONE day or a FEW days for several hours a day.  A child’s physical or mental condition could drastically affect the score. Sick? Tired? Missed breakfast? Stressed? Test Anxiety? All of these are reasons for us to remember that it is only “one” test. In determining a child’s progress or achievement we must look at every aspect of his or her life. OK, now that I have that off my chest – just what exactly is a percentile?

A percentile is probably the most commonly used score among educators for discussing results of standardized achievement tests. The percentile is often confused with a percent grade, but it is really a different creature. The percentile means “per hundred” and is a rank measurement with the average score being 50. For example, the score 76 percentile, simply means that for the 100 students used as the “standardized” or test group – your child scored higher than 76 of them.  Or to reverse it – there are 76 students in the “norm” group that scored lower than your child.  Since the average score is 50 this means that your child is somewhat above average.  Due to the fact that standardized tests are “norm referenced” they can be compared to different tests that are also “norm referenced.” So in a sense your percentile score is portable. If your child takes another norm referenced test you can compare the scores.  Just in case you’re wondering what “norm referenced” means – test makers compare student test scores to a predetermined “norm” group of students. They used this group to “test” the test as it was being created.  It is kinda like holding up a yardstick – the same yardstick – to see how every child measures up.  The uses for this are limitless – but obviously can help the child’s parents or teacher determine where weak areas are or where the child may need a bit of review.

Hope you join us next week for the next installment of the Testing mini-series!

P.S. Here I go one more time 🙂 – Again, any test is simply a tool to give educators or parents an idea of where the child is achieving compared to that yardstick.  Under no condition should a life changing decision be made based upon one test. Protect those children – they are a wonderful work in progress.