Monday, February 25, 2013

College Common Sense (Schoolhouse Review)

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College Common Sense
“Going to College and Paying For It” online video and pdf workbook
Ages: elementary through high school
Cost: DVD/print workbook $50,  12 month online video access and PDF workbook $25

From having already sent three children to college, I’ve discovered that navigating the maze of admissions, financial aid, and scholarship applications can be daunting. Typically, students and their parents begin to seriously start the process around the 11th grade.
College Common Sense, however, encourages families to begin the process much earlier, even as early as elementary school! The College Common Sense website provides a variety of resources to help in this journey, pointing out that some scholarships are available for 12 year olds!
Several resources are absolutely free:
  1. Monthly newsletter
  2. Weekly lesson plans
  3. Online information (campus visit checklist, help in choosing a college, student loan information, making a scholarship binder, scholarship search help)
The “heart” of the College Common Sense program is the “Going to College and Paying For It” video and workbook.  Each of the 6 20-30 minute videos and accompanying pdf pages covers a different topic, such as assessing the actual cost of attending college and choosing a college, learning how financial aid works, finding “free” money, and assembling a notebook system to organize the process of applying for scholarships.
For someone new to the college application process, I think this would be a good way to quickly learn about the sometimes tricky topic of financial aid. I thought the notebook system seemed to be a good way to simplify the process of looking for and applying for scholarships without overwhelming the student. (Basically, it has the student “working” one scholarship a month throughout the year.) We even set up a notebook to get started, although I don’t expect to use it much just yet, since Emily is only 12.
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The PDF’s included the basic information (and a few forms and worksheets) and the videos were just a slight expansion of that information. Personally, I would find it simpler to just have everything in the workbook or PDF and to skip the videos. For me, they didn’t add a lot. It might be that some people might prefer to see and hear someone explain the process, instead of just reading about it, though.
Emily and I watched the videos together and she did seem to find them interesting, even though she’s a few years away from being able to use much of it—maybe because she’s seen her siblings go through the college search process.
The  free weekly lesson plans are also helpful. Each weekly lesson plan has separate activities for:
  • Parents/teachers
  • Seniors (students going to college in 2013-2014)
  • High school students or freshmen - juniors ( age 14-17)
  • Middle school students (age 11 - 13)
  • Elementary school students (age 6 - 10).
The assignments given are fairly easy to accomplish and include not only tasks related to learning about and finding financial aid, but activities designed to help students of all ages think about their interests and goals as they may relate to future career paths and to prepare for standardized testing. They sometimes include links to short videos.
In summary:  Since I’ve been through the process before and have children who have received grants and scholarships, I didn’t find a lot of new information. The program could be helpful and could be a time saver for someone who was new to the process, though. I think it could also be helpful in locating private (not from the specific college) scholarships—something that my other children didn’t pursue very much. Although the weekly lesson plans have some helpful activities for elementary and middle school ages, I think the video program itself is best suited for those of high school age, who are seriously beginning the college search process.
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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