Monday, August 22, 2011

Homeschool to College

I have to admit that the last few weeks have been very stressful at our house. Our oldest child is beginning her "senior" year of high school. Suddenly, college application deadlines which seemed years away are now.

Regardless of how you educate your children (public, private, homeschool), the system of college application is very screwed up.

The application dates for many colleges begin in November. I feel like I need a crystal ball. Very few 17 year-olds know what they want to be when they grow up. Many of the academic majors are so scripted and sequential that a student must literally plan out their entire university career the year prior to graduating from high school.

When I went to college, I changed my major three times and still graduated in less than 4 years with the help of CLEP credits. I'm a little reluctant to have my daughter do the same (change majors) when a year of college cost $20,000 if she is lucky.

Then there is the community college system. In our area, they have "concurrent enrollment" options for juniors and seniors in high school. We have taken advantage of this program, but it has been a trial and error system. [I will know better what I am doing for the next kid].

For example, last Monday was the first day that concurrent enrollment students could register at our local community college, Mission College. Concurrent enrollment students must register in person and are not allowed to use any of the online options. We arrived early, but found that the classes we had chosen were full with long waiting lists. While standing at the counter, we shifted the classes schedule to classes with shorter waiting lists.

After I went home that evening, I discovered that even though our daughter couldn't register online, she could check the availability of classes on line. I just happened to come across the link while I was looking for something else.

We found an open class and returned to re-register. We kept on the waiting list for a few other classes, just in case they opened up later.

A few days after this, I realized that I could also look online for classes not only by subject, but by day and time. I looked for classes that fit into the schedule of the class we already registered for. Happily, I found a class that fit the schedule and that didn't have a waiting list.

Sadly, we had to wait until the following Monday (today) because the admissions office is closed on Fridays and during the weekend. When we went to register today, the class was full and she is now on another waiting list (though only second in line.)

During all this looking for classes, I accidentally clicked on the wrong (or right button) and discovered that another community college in our area had openings in the classes we wanted. However, with further investigation, I discovered that this community college, West Valley, limits the concurrent enrollment students to one class per semester. So, we couldn't register for all the classes that she wanted even though they were open. If these same classes were open at the first community college, we could have registered because Mission College allows concurrent enrollment students to take up to 6 credits and more with approval from the student's high school. (Since I sign both the parent permission and the school permission line on the form, that would be pretty easy to do).

This afternoon we raced over to West Valley College to register for the one allowed class. We checked online and there was only one opening. The second community college doesn't allow concurrent enrollment students to be put on a waiting list, so we were particularly anxious to get there and register.

We were disappointed to find that the second community college wouldn't allow our daughter to register for 24 hours because it takes that long for them to process her application. The first community college did it instantly which could explain why their classes are all full.

So, tomorrow at the appointed time, we will return to West Valley College to see if our daughter was able to get into the class we wanted.

If every thing works out, she will end up with two classes at Mission college on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and one class on Friday mornings at West Valley. This becomes important because concurrent enrollment students don't have to pay tuition. Now that I know how much these classes will cost us a year from now, we are very motivated that she take as many as reasonably possible.

Also, the West Valley class is the introduction class to the major (Interior Design) she is considering. If she takes this class and likes it, then we at least have a potential major.

This however opens up another dilemma. Not all the courses our daughter takes will necessarily transfer to another college system. Theoretically, the credits with transfer in the University of California and the California State University system. I say theoretically because (back to the original problem) the class schedules are so sequential and scripted that a class from another university or college may not be accepted by their Interior Design department.

If we had a crystal ball and knew for certain which major and which university would be the most affordable and would accept the credits from the community college classes she had already taken and will take, then we would know which choice to make. However, she must apply to the university to find out what financial aid and which course work they will accept.

West Valley has a wonderful Interior Design program and we are tempted to have her complete their three year AS/certificate program and then transfer to San Jose State University to finish with a BS in Interior Design. The up/downside is that she could be at home for entire college experience.

Henry lived with his parents in San Jose and graduated from San Jose State. I, on the other hand, couldn't get out of my parents' house and home town fast enough. I had never considered that our daughter wouldn't leave for college. I would love for her to stay closer to home, but I'm also worried that she will regret it later.

I will admit that I also thought that community college was for losers who couldn't hack the 4 year schools. Now that I'm the one looking at the cost, I'm thinking "Community college, what a deal!"

We are also considering a small out of state private religious university for ecumenical reasons. I don't know if they will accept any of the West Valley's interior design AS classes into their tightly sequential program. I'm pretty sure that most of the general education credits will transfer, so I guess that is something. If they won't accept the Interior Design credits, then it wouldn't be a good idea for her to try and transfer there after she gets an AS at West Valley. I'm not entirely sure all the credits will transfer to San Jose State.

So, even though it is more expensive, maybe she would be better off starting at San Jose State or any of the other 4 year programs we've looked at so that she doesn't end up repeating course work. All of this assumes we can get into the university of our choice in the first place.

One university wanted homeschool students to have a GED or take the Compass test. California won't allow homeschool students to take the GED before the age of 18, which would miss the application deadlines for the 2012 -2013 school year. The Compass test is usually administered on campus (which is a few states away).

The university will also accept 15 credit from another college (like the community college classes she is taking), but she won't have 15 credits worth until after the application deadline. What makes it worse is that our daughter thinks she likes the West Valley program better, so we could go through all this work to get her accepted into any number of programs, just to have her turn them down. I'm afraid that if we don't pursue a few options, she will change her mind and be disappointed.

All of this makes my head spin. I really want a crystal ball.


SmallWorld at Home said...

Wow! That does sound complicated. Our dual enrollment process was much easier (it could all be done online). Really, really glad we went that route. Luckily we had a friend who went through the process the year before and knew what credits would transfer to the university my son would attend (the same her daughter was attending), so he didn't lose any credits. The whole experience was excellent, although the community college courses were barely high-school level.

Jean said...

"I will admit that I also thought that community college was for losers who couldn't hack the 4 year schools. Now that I'm the one looking at the cost, I'm thinking "Community college, what a deal!" "

Tell me about it! :D Now I work at a CC, and I can pretty much see that you get what you put into it. There are all sorts at a CC!

My 11yo daughter was asking me the other day about what colleges I'd like her to go to. I was a 3rd-generation Cal student and I will admit that I'd be thrilled if she was the 4th. But the tuition is CRAZY now, not to mention that it's harder than ever to get in. I'm thinking BYU...

Shout-out--I got my MLIS at SJSU in '99 and so spent a lot of time at the library building that is now gone. It was a *great* experience.

abba12 said...

WOW, college is complicated in america...

Blondee said...


I already dread relinquishing my kids to the world as it is. The thought of the hassle of college enrollment makes me dread it even more. Good luck navigating the process.

Jana Miller said...

My son is a senior too and it's a crazy time of the year. The school he is looking at is $50000 a year and I just can't sign him up for that kind of debt. My older son thankfully got a scholarship through ARmy ROTC. he's at Wheaton...not spending $40000 a year.

Kimberly said...

I have a son who is just about to finish his Associates in EDUCATION. He has just decided to change to a computer science it looks like CC for a while longer, which is FINE BY ME! He has...hang on to your hats...a whopping 8K in debt! CC rules! It is definitely the place to go, to nail down that major!
Finances were absolutely the reason he chose CC.

Rose said...

We just enrolled my daughter at a CC and the amount of back-and-forth paperwork was enough to make me want to scream. I think some of those registration folks had a certain gleam in their eye when they handed over yet another paper to take home and fill out. Why didn't you tell me this the first time???????? I have a Master's Degree and it seemed like getting my daughter into a few CC classes was way harder than anything I had to do to get through school (back in the dark ages). So many layers to cut through and I couldn't help but wonder if all of them were necessary. That is about the time somebody handed me yet another form to fill out just to make sure I got the point that they, at least, were important.