When considering college applications for homeschoolers, I think it's best if students apply for at least 4-8 colleges or universities, including a mix of reach, fit, and safety schools. Be sure to include public universities, which often have a lower sticker price but rarely have huge scholarships. Include private universities, which have a jaw-dropping sticker price, but often give big scholarships. Don't exclude a college because it's a private university. You can confidently include those in your combination of reach, fit, and safety schools. The goal is to avoid heartbreak. If the teen wants to go to college at the end of senior year, you want to have an affordable option available at that time. Having just 1-2 applications may not be casting a wide enough net to get the necessary scholarships for an affordable option.
You may hear of students who apply to a LOT of schools - 12 or more! I've learned that 4 to 8 schools is the sweet spot, because it gives a student options without being overwhelming. Applying to college takes time, energy, and money, and you want to be able to give each school a fair shot. Let me explain.
Demonstrated Interest Takes Time
You have to demonstrate interest in a college in order for an application to have value. That may mean different things to different people, but in general you need to do several of these things: talk to them at a college fair, visit the college in person, attend an online visit, have phone interviews, exchange lengthy emails, or write personalized application essays tailored to your research, based on each particular college. It's almost as if you get points for every time you "touch" the college.
What does NOT demonstrate interest? Showing up on campus without an appointment when nobody knows you are there. Online searches or other research that the college doesn't know about won't demonstrate interest either. Keeping your list to 4 to 8 schools also keeps your ability to demonstrate interest manageable. If your student is applying to too many schools, you simply won't have the time and energy to demonstrate interest for all of them.
College Rankings - Colleges Care About Their Numbers
Because colleges know that demonstrating interest takes time, they'll know you are truly interested in them if you have officially visited their campus. If they admit you, they know that you are more likely to attend and stay all four years. What they do NOT want is to admit a student who will reject the admission. Those rejections cost them, and their ranking goes down if many students reject them.
The US News and World Report, for example, will rank colleges based on how many people choose to go there when they are admitted. Demonstrating interest increases the chance you will attend. Colleges are ranked based on whether students stay for all four years, and demonstrating interest by visiting can prove you are likely to stay.
Each application may cost $50-$150, so the cost of applying for more than 12 colleges can really add up quickly. Scholarships are not given based on randomly filling out applications; it comes from demonstrating unique interests in a college. So applying for more than 12 colleges that you haven't touched will not increase your chances of admission or scholarships.Those applications become wasted money.
While applying to 4-8 colleges will earn rewards with scholarships, if you apply to more than 12 colleges you are no longer likely to see an increased financial reward. There is a balancing act, then, in choosing how many colleges to apply to. Too few, and you may not get admitted or get the scholarships you need. Too many, and you are wasting money in the application process.
Find a balance with children who want to apply to a million colleges. When you are talking about a senior in high school applying for college, it can be a complicated thing. They are adults, making adult decisions based on their goals. At the same time, they may be counting on you to foot the bill. If that's the case, you have to find a balance.
You may decide to have your child apply for 4-8 colleges. If your child applies for more than that, suggest letting your child pay for the remaining applications. The cost of $50-$150 per application may convince them of the value of a dollar. Or, perhaps you will only pay for applications where the child has been able to somehow demonstrate interest with specifically-tailored essays for each unique college, or meaningful college visits.
I hope that gives you a good understanding of why I recommend applying to 4-8 colleges. Remember: demonstrated interest, college rankings, application costs, and balance should all influence which 4-8 your child applies to.
You understand the ins and outs of what colleges want to see in terms of your interest in them. What about the admissions and scholarships you'd like to receive FROM them? How do you get better scholarships at a private college? These comprehensive strategies and articles will greatly increase the chances that college applications for homeschoolers will yield the best possible financial aid packages.
Be sure you are applying to 4-8 colleges - a mix of public and private universities - to solidify your student's chances of earning scholarships. You want a mix of reach, fit, and safety schools, which you can find out more about here: Reach, Fit, and Safety Simplified
If scholarships are a big concern to you, take my free class, Super Scholarships for Humble Homeschoolers, to learn more ideas to maximize your financial aid.
Jeanette committed to her own continuing education in her homeschool. As administrator, she worked hard, engaged in the process, and achieved success! Here are her own words:
I just wanted you to know that my son sent out seven applications, and we now know he has been accepted to all seven. We are still waiting on some financial information from three of them, but out of the four that we do have financials on: two would be half priced; one school offered him the in-state tuition rate with a scholarship on top of that making it about a quarter of the cost; and another offered a scholarship that would cover his entire tuition, books and fees - he'd only pay room and board (this school's price tag is $54,000 a year). I knew we gave him an excellent education, I just didn't know how to document it. So, I wanted to say a HUGE thank you and buy you a cup of coffee. I will continue to let others know about your helpful resources, and pray that God continue to bless you, your family, and your business. ~ Jeanette
Being engaged in the process can make it possible to achieve a debt-free college education!
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