Posted in High School, Math, Transcripts

Math Success 4 Math Averse

So, if you already feel yourself mounting a reaction to the title, this post isn’t for you.  Like anything you’re good at, you can’t imagine that other people can’t “become” good at it too… if they only had a better attitude, different curriculum, a better teacher, etc.  STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are all the rage – most universities have watched their STEM-majors double in the past few years, so there is a ton of emphasis on not only high school math, but college-level math in high school.  Sure, with 10,000 hours it’s possible to become an expert in anything.  This is not that.

You’ve heard me tell you that YOU are the best guidance counselor for your teen.  That extends beyond math, obviously, but I’m not going to tell you whether I think it’s right or wrong to push your non-mathy teens into Calculus, that’s for you to decide.  In this post, we’re going to embrace the possibility that some of our teens don’t enjoy math – have no interest in STEM – want to study as little math as possible, and certainly, don’t want a career that requires a lot of math.  It is possible to lead a happy, healthy, educated life without loving math.  That is this.

High School Math

How much is required?  First, you have to answer that question for your state.  If you live in a state with specific high school graduation requirements, then you’ll want to be sure you comply with them.  Compliance assures your teen’s diploma will be valid and legal as they exit high school and move forward in life.  State Requirements Look-Up  Everything that follows in this post assumes you’re making decisions within the framework of homeschooling lawfully.  The truth of the matter is that most of you don’t have graduation requirements, rather your state offers up their public school math program as a suggested course for you to follow. Compliance with public school suggestions are always up to you.

What subjects count?  Let’s assume your state lets you choose your curriculum, in that case, you have a lot of freedom here.  We’re going to go off-book in a minute, but before we do, let’s review a typical k-12  math sequence and roughly when it’s taught:

  1. Arithmetic  (grades k-8)
  2. Pre Algebra (grades 6-9)
  3. Algebra 1 (grades 8-10)
  4. Geometry (grades 9-10)
  5. Algebra 2 (grades 10-12)
  6. Trigonometry / Pre-Calculus (grades 10-12)
  7. Calculus (grades 10-12)

The problem for some students happens around Pre- Algebra.

Algebra, in general, can be when the bottom falls out of your otherwise competent student’s success.  If you ask any adult that “isn’t good at math” where they fell apart, they’ll likely tell you it was in algebra.  If you’ve hit a rough patch in Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1, you have a few options.

  • Do more arithmetic – speed and accuracy are key.  You may be surprised how weak most teens are at arithmetic, and in my opinion, this is likely the culprit. Forget how the transcript “looks” for a minute and think big-picture:  no matter what your teen does for college or a career or in life, they need solid arithmetic skills- this is as important as knowing how to read.  If their arithmetic is weak, make it PRIORITY #1.  No exceptions.  (see my suggestions for this at the bottom)
  • Slow down the pace – assuming the rate of learning new material is the problem, rather than lacking a foundation in arithmetic, slowing down might make it more manageable.
  • Change curriculum- while I hate this suggestion, it is an option.  The problem with curriculum hopping in math, is that the scope and sequence almost never match, and you’ll be left with holes, but the issue here, is that you won’t know you have holes.
  • Change tracks- if you’re sure that arithmetic isn’t a weakness, and your teen is an otherwise fine student capable of learning new things, you do have the option of switching to applied math!  It is possible that your teen just doesn’t like math.  I can feel you gasp through my computer, but if you can wrap your head around the possibility that they might not need as much math as you’re planning, you may find one of the applied math options really hits a home run.  (more about that in a few minutes)

Math in College

Before we can talk about the alternative paths in high school math, most parents protest immediately because they fear their student won’t be able to either (a) get into college (b) do college math.  Let’s look at math in college for a moment and some of the myths.  First, the high school sequence above is actually harder (higher) than the math required for most college degrees.  This is true!  Most parents believe that math through Calculus is required for all college admission, when in fact, math through Calculus is only required for the smallest of career choices.  Let’s learn some vocab:

GENERAL EDUCATION:  the core requirements everyone at that college must take in order to graduate from that college. General Education requirements are as few as 5 classes in some Associate of Applied Science programs, to the more typical 20 courses at a 4-year college.  You’ll find that General Education requirements can be VERY different from one school to the next.

MAJOR:  the requirements beyond the General Education courses necessary to earn your degree. You get to choose your major which should align with your career goals.

Here are some truths:

  • Most non-STEM majors don’t have math requirements.  Their General Education requirement will have some type of math, but you can shop around for low math colleges.
  • General Education requirements across the board usually don’t require math above the College Algebra level (roughly equivalent to Algebra 2 with a chapter or two of Pre-Calculus for good measure).
  • Most 4-year colleges and all community colleges offer math classes for every level.   Even if you enter college unprepared for college math, the college is usually arranged to help you succeed.
  • General Education requirements in math sometimes allow science and technology to count in the same category, meaning it’s sometimes possible to avoid all math entirely by taking an extra science or computer course.
  • There are 2 places you have to check to see the type and amount of math required:
    • The college’s General Education requirement (this will be the same for everyone, so if the college requires Statistics or Trig in their General Education requirements, there is no way around this).  Look for General Education requirements that ask for no more than 3 credits of math (1 class) and with numbers as close as possible to 100.  For instance, MATH105 should be easier than MATH121.
    • Your target major at each target school.  Some majors just require a lot of math, so if you’re looking at a math-heavy major, there isn’t much I can offer.  However, math-light majors can vary from one college to another!  If your teen wants to become a History Teacher, you’ll find most colleges don’t require College Algebra- so if your target school does, keep looking.
MATH-LIGHT MATH-HEAVY
American Sign Language Interpreter

Anthropology

Art History

Automotive

Broadcasting / TV/ Radio

Communications

Construction Technology

Culinary Arts

Diversity

Dramatic Arts

Elevator Installer

Emergency Medicine / Paramedic

Fire Science

Foreign Language

Graphic Design

Hair and Beauty

Health Occupations

History

Horticulture

Hospitality

Human Services/ Social Work

Interior Design

Journalism

K-12 Teacher (non-STEM)

Lawyer / Legal

Library Science

Management

Mortuary Science

Music

Nursing

Performing Arts

Philosophy

Pilot

Police and Law Enforcement

Political Science

Psychology

Real Estate

Religion

Sales and Marketing

Sociology

Studio Art

Sustainability

Writing

Accounting

Actuary

Astronomy

Business

Chemical Engineering

Chemistry

Computer Aided Drafting

Computer Programming

Data Analysis

Economics

Electrical Engineering

Engineering (as a category)

Engineering Technology

Finance

K-12 Teacher (STEM)

Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science

Petroleum Engineering

Physics

Science Teacher

Software Development

Statistics

Supply-Chain

Video Game Design

Jennifer’s tips for students who really, really, really hate math

  1. Spend a lot of time investigating careers and college majors.  You need to know if your career goal works for those who hate math.  If you’re looking at a Math-Heavy career, you’ll have to embrace math or change career trajectories!
  2. If you’ve found a career and major that are Math-Light, start making a list of colleges with low general education math requirements.  The lowest you’ll find is usually called “Mathematics for Liberal Arts” and the lowest amount you’ll usually find is 3 credits – 1 course.  If you’re seeing general education requirements higher than this, keep looking.
  3. Be sure to look for hidden maths that sneak into a major.  Math can lurk in classes with names that contain these words in their title:
    1. Quantitative
    2. Statistics
    3. Probability
    4.  Research
    5. Financial
    6. Analysis
    7. Inference
  4. See if you can test out of the math requirement in high school using CLEP or DSST exams at your target schools.  (not all colleges will accept exam credit!)  This approach has several benefits.
    1. Study in your own homeschool without stress or pressure.
    2. Earn college credit as pass/fail, removing the worry about your GPA.
    3. Start your first semester without a math prerequisite (often you can’t register for science until you’ve finished math).
    4. Start (and finish) college without having to do a single math class.
  5. If you plan to earn your degree as a distance learning student/online, many of these programs also partner with college-credit-businesses that allow you to complete some courses at home (in high school) in a self-paced and open book setting.  These partnerships are a wonderful way to earn credit, but outside of the partnership, you may find that the credit won’t transfer.  The company with them MOST college partnerships is called Straighterline.  The lowest transferable math they offer is College Algebra, but their partnership extends to over 100 colleges, so it’s worth considering.  You can also find math options here.

CLEP Testing:  College Mathematics CLEP Exam Website

DSST Testing: Mathematics for Liberal Arts DSST Testing Website

Applied Math Courses in High School

If you’ve caught your breath, and have decided that you may not have to spend all 4 years of high school in pursuit of Calculus credit, I want to offer you some alternative math courses that you can use in place of the traditional sequence we discussed earlier.  Using applied math takes the “theory” of math, and puts it into “application” or real-world use of numbers.  For many students that struggle with math, you’ll see a huge improvement when they begin studying applied math- this happened to my 12th grader.  After struggling through 3 years of Saxon Algebra 1/2 (aka pre-algebra) with barely passing marks every year,  (yes, he did the same book 3 years in a row and it never “clicked” for him) my 12th-grade son is now a solid “A” math student in Consumer Math.  He has turned the corner, we found a way for him to be successful! I only wish I’d started him in applied math years earlier.

In most cases, you can find these books through your favorite online bookstore.

Consumer Math:  I spent months reviewing the top 4 publishers in this space, and my hands-down favorite is A Beka.  I know some of you aren’t Christian, but besides an occasional bible verse, you won’t find a strong Christian theme in this book.  The content is exceptional.  Full color, practical, easy to read, excellent explanations, manageable lesson sizes, can be done over 1 year or 2.  Note: You don’t need the half-dozen books they sell for the “complete kit” you just need the Teacher Book (answers) and Student Book.  Highly recommend. 

Culinary Math:  This is my wheelhouse.  I taught Culinary Math for 10 years at a community college early in my career.  If your student wants to be a chef, they’ll be miles ahead of their culinary school peers if they start culinary math now.  While Culinary Math is a variation on arithmetic, the terminology is a little different.  Beyond converting recipes and measurements, the student will learn to calculate food and labor costs, convert between weight and volume, and understand purchasing.  The textbook I taught from would be great for a homeschool course:  Culinary Math by Linda Blocker/Julia Hill. 

Math for Health Care Professionals:  Review of the metric system, reading drug labels, medicine cups, syringes, intravenous administration bags, dosages, basic intravenous administration, and basic dosage by weight units.

Personal Finance:  There are dozens of curriculum options since I get to plug my favorites, I love Dave Ramsey’s Foundations in Personal Finance High School course. It can be taken in person, via DVD, or online.

Introduction to Accounting / Bookkeeping:  Many homeschool curriculum companies offer complete products if you don’t see it under “math” try looking under “electives.”

Statistics:  For visual learners, Statistics might be a great fit.  Statistics use a lot of charts, graphs, and spreadsheets.  While traditional Advanced Placement students usually have to wait until after Pre-Calculus to take Statistics, that’s because they want the students to finish their core first.  Most people can study statistics with a mathematical level of around Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1.  There is a college-credit exam for students who want to take their learning to the next level.  See the DSST link above.  

Game Theory & Probability:  This will totally appeal to anyone who likes to play card games, roll dice, flip coins, or talk about sports statistics and winning the lottery.  The Great Courses has several really great full curriculum options, but I personally loved the free streaming lecture series called Against All Odds  

College Math / and or / Mathematics for Liberal Arts:  We spoke earlier about testing out of college math while still in high school.  If you’re eager to try this option, you can find out about the content of these 2 exams at the links above.  While you might be able to find a college text, you can likely build a curriculum DIY style for either of these courses.  This is a great math credit option for 11th or 12th grade. Compare the DSST Math for the Liberal Arts vs. CLEP College Mathematics

High School Math / Practical Math:  This isn’t applied math, however, it’s a perfectly acceptable math course title if you’ve decided to dedicate more time to arithmetic.  Keep in mind that your teen’s real education is more important than what appears on their transcript, so if you see gaps in their skills, ignore the criticisms and do what needs to be done.  A community college accepts all high school graduates at every level of mathematics ability.


 

Arithmetic for High School Students

Earlier, I wrote “Do more arithmetic – speed and accuracy are key.  You may be surprised how weak most teens are at arithmetic, and in my opinion, this is likely the culprit. Forget how the transcript “looks” for a minute and think big-picture:  no matter what your teen does for college or a career or in life, they need solid arithmetic skills- this is as important as knowing how to read.  If their arithmetic is weak, make it PRIORITY #1.  No exceptions.”

If this is where you need to focus, start here:  Arithmetic on Khan Academy


 

Posted in Career Planning, College Majors, High School

Unlimited Time, Talent, and Resources

The motivational/inspirational quote always goes something like this:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time, talent, or resources?  Do that!” 

If you love that quote, you’re not alone.  But, you might not appreciate this post very much, and I want to talk to you about how time, talent, and resources fit into the homeschooling for college credit journey.

None of us has unlimited time.

None of us has unlimited talent.

None of us has unlimited resources.

I understand the concept of the quote- it’s not meant to suggest any of us literally has no parameters, it’s an exercise meant to open up the world of possibilities.  What’s not to love?

As parents of homeschooled teens, we have the privilege of also being their guidance counselor.  If I were advising your teen, it would be easy enough for me to encourage – inspire- motivate – the sky is the limit…. but that’s only because I don’t know him/her.  I don’t know how he what kinds of problems he loves to solve, his fears about his future, or what makes him tick.  I don’t know his heart.  Inspirational quotes are meant to encourage everyone, and as such, they aren’t very specifically useful to anyone.


I think homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity that we are almost going to miss if we subject ourselves to the shallow one-liners that guide mainstream teens.  Frankly, the “college at all costs” trend of the day is costing our economy and teens a lot of lost time and resources.dream

  • Currently, about 1/2 of the teens that start college won’t finish.
  • Of students who finish, the average time to complete a 4-year degree is 6 years.
  • Studies tell us that about 1/2 of the teens that start college haven’t selected a major or will change it at some point.
  • Finally, we know 2/3 of students are going to borrow money to fund their education.

This is a very informative snapshot of whether or not current wisdom is working.  I don’t think it is.  Education data is one of the most heavily researched topics in modern history – and we have data!  There are big differences between college students in 1940 and 2018.  It’s true that in 1940 only about 5% of the population held a bachelor’s degree whereas today it’s much higher, about 1/4th to 1/3rd depending on your source. But, something to note, however, is that graduation rates among those who started college in the 1940’s and finished, was better than 90%.  In other words, fewer started, but most finished.  Today we get more teens into college, but don’t get many out on the other side with a degree, instead they come out with debt and shame for “failing.” Why?

The biggest shift  I’ve observed over the past 10 years, is that the focus of the entire K12 education system is spent focused on 1 goal: getting teens into college.  All effort, all energy, all finances, all must give way to the idol of college admission.  In my opinion, that’s the wrong goal.  Your teen can get into college.  Every community college in the country allows your teen to walk in and enroll.  Getting in isn’t the problem.  Now, if the question is instead “can my teen get into ABC college?” That I can’t answer.  Maybe.  Maybe not… but of the 12,000+ college options, that question seems narrow to me.

The better question to ask in 2018 is if your teen can get out of college. When the goal is getting out (with a degree, with minimal debt, and in a reasonable amount of time), then we’re going about the process making better decisions and giving our teens solid guidance.  We’ve removed the romance and hype that surrounds the “college experience” and we’re using good judgment and wisdom.

Let’s do a small experiment.  Imagine that YOU (the parent) decided to pursue a college degree this August.  Given the option, would you study to become a doctor or a nail technician? Even if you’ve never studied either formally, you can guess what each would involve.  Would you set a budget, or are you comfortable just borrowing whatever it costs?  How much time would you like to spend on your degree?  1/2 year?  6 years?

Though I don’t know you, I’m going to predict the following:

  • You have a really good idea about what kinds of sacrifices and brains would be required to attend med-school.

  • You would never borrow $50,000 to become a nail technician.

  • If you’re borrowing $150,000 you’d be very sure that there is a stable career on the other side of it.

  • You have a really good idea about your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and type of job you’d like to have/avoid.

  • If I suggest you become a pharmacist, a chef, or a landscaper- you can understand what that is, and know whether or not you’re a good fit for that occupation.

Why?  Why do you know these things?  Because adults have a very good understanding of time, a very good awareness of talent,  personality, and adults have a very real understanding of debt.  Frankly, adults are better at making decisions because we’ve had more time on the planet.  Our teens need us to help them rule in and rule out an occupation that is a poor fit.


choice

The Science of Choice

As it turns out, science and psychology study behavior and choice, and how it intersects with happiness, satisfaction, and action.  Rather than give you yet another expert who will interfere with your good intuition (because no one scientist is ever regarded as an expert by everyone), I want to highlight one of the key principles of choice that I think is very relevant to parents who are also their teen’s guidance counselor:  Fewer choices. 

There are several famous studies that follow decisions made by people choosing between a couple options, and many options.  As it turns out, when people have a very large pool of options, they are almost always unsatisfied with their decision whereas when they’ve only had to choose between a couple options, they are quite satisfied.  The experts believe that this is because we can’t realistically evaluate too many things at once- that if we were trying to choose between 20 of something, it’s harder to trust that we’ve really compared all of the pros and cons, thus an anxiety of missing a piece of the puzzle that may have been important to make the best decision.  It’s much easier for our mind to consider 3 choices and select one with confidence.

  • Good question: “after graduation, do you think you’d like to go straight to college or go on a mission trip for 6 months in Haiti first?”  Of course, you’ll tailor the question that to fit your family, but when we start with too many options, the teenage brain just can’t discern between them.  This helps the teen evaluate a timeline, gives them a voice in the choice, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Hard question:  “where would you like to go to college?  You can go anywhere you want!”  Clearly, no person can rationally evaluate “anywhere” and “anything” well.  How many of us could do that?  How many of us know about “all” colleges everywhere?  None of us.  Bring down the choices into bite-size pieces.
  • Good question:  “since you love music and are so gifted, have you thought about becoming a music teacher?”  This uses adult wisdom to zero in on a potential career option that uses the student’s talent in a specific way.  Even if the teen isn’t interested in becoming a music teacher, the yes/no decision is not overly complex for a teen.
  • Hard question:  “I know you love playing music, but it isn’t really a good way to make a living. Can’t you think of something else you could do to support a family?”  This is another example of “anywhere” question.  Of the zillions of career options, you’ve only removed one.  This question is too big.
  • Good question:  You’ve earned 27 credits in high school, if you go to ABC College they’ll let you use all of them, but if you go to XYZ College, they’ll only take 23 of them.  The difference here is only 1 class, how would you feel about having to retake once class? Is it worth choosing one over the other?”   This question is great because it helps the student on so many levels.  Besides narrowing it down for them (assuming you’re ok with both college choices) it brings forward a simple decision about time, work, or cost.

If this exercise is bringing you back to raising a toddler, it’s the very same principle!  We think that because we prefer to have many choices that it’s better for us, but we develop deeper confidence and security when we can consider a question carefully in smaller bites.  Further reading:  Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze

average

What Happened to Average?

If you’ve spent a few minutes in any homeschool group, you’ll hear many parents label their teens as “gifted” or “challenged”  but when is the last time you’ve heard a parent declare proudly that their teen is “average?”  Huh?  Average has gotten a bad reputation being synonymous with “not trying hard enough” but the truth is that most of us are average intelligence with average talent.

Statistically speaking, about 75% of us fall into the same category of cognitive ability or intelligence: average.  That is to say that while there are degrees of average, most of us are about the same.  There are students with profound limitations, just as there are those with profound intelligence, and they are represented on the far ends of a traditional bell-shaped curve.  So, within the category of average, what makes someone different?  You already know the answer, and it has many terms, but they all mean the same thing:  hard work.  Hard workers almost always out-perform lazy workers, this isn’t news.  But as a teen’s guidance counselor, we need to be realistic with our teen’s determination to become a successful student.  In short, are they hard-working students?  What about talent?

  • Academic Work Ethic: By the time your teen is in 10th grade, you already have a good idea of their academic work ethic. We need to be honest – some occupations and college majors require significantly above average work ethic.  Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering.  These careers are elite because they require exceptional academic work ethic.  Students who are successful in these college paths are those who enjoy the challenge of difficult academic work and rigorous schedules.  They enjoy school and strive to be exceptional students, who happen to be using their gifts and talents to pursue difficult subjects.
  • Talent: Most of us have a talent or something we are “naturally” good at.  As an example, we all know someone who can play anything on the piano, paints or draws well, who picks up new languages effortlessly or can cook anything without a recipe. Within our social circle, these people stand out to us, but, when grouped with other talented people, they appear more average.  This makes assessing our own teen’s talent very challenging.  As an example, perhaps I’m the best baker you know – but if you were to put me in a room with thousands of talented bakers, I’d be near the bottom.  I’m a good baker among amateurs, and that’s only because I went to culinary school.  I’ll never be a world-famous pastry chef, but I could work as a decent baker if I had to.  It’s not my talent.

How do we, as parents, reconcile having average teens?  How do we reconcile being average?  I don’t pretend to have that answer for everyone, but I do believe that if we teach our teens to work hard on what they’re doing, and praise their work ethic instead of only their results, we teach them that they do have control over one narrow aspect of their success:  their effort.  If you can help them match their talent with something that they feel motivated to apply effort toward, you’ll probably be on the right track for guiding them towards success.

Education at Any Cost

The notion of having unlimited resources was unheard of 50 years ago.  Once upon a time, students worked hard to earn a scholarship, parents had a college fund, or some students worked their way through night classes.   Once upon a time, the cost of college was a significant barrier to a student earning their degree.  While that sounds like bad news, the up-side to that barrier, was students weren’t allowed to rack up thousands of dollars of debt willy-nilly.

If you graduated high school in the 80’s or 90’s like I did, teens who borrowed for college (like I did) were faced with an “annoying” student loan payment of $50-$100 that lasted for 5-10 years.  Today, student loans aren’t annoying, they’re crushing.  Teens today who borrow face repayments of $300-$1200 per month for 10+ years.  Further, those debts, unlike our mortgages or credit cards, aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Borrowing rules changed in 2008.   Your teen, unlike you, will be allowed to borrow through the government guaranteed student loan program the first  $57,000 for their degree without any restrictions or your consent, and then they can continue on to graduate school and receive funding until they reach the cap of $138,500.  Once at that cap, they’ll have to seek alternative sources like parents, banks, or credit cards.  Parents, who usually have some collateral, are tapping into their 401K funds, IRA retirements, and home equity to pay college tuition.  As such, colleges haven’t much incentive to keep costs in line with inflation, and we’ve seen a huge rise in tuition and student loan debt.  To make matters worse, many people are entering into marriage, each bringing their own student loan debt into the family.

debt

If you think this is an exception, you might be surprised to hear that 2/3 of students are borrowing money to follow their talents, passions, and dreams without the wisdom and counsel of their parents.  The young lady caller phoning Dave in this clip was probably encouraged by her coach, but as she soon found out, that passion has a price.  Be sure to hang around through the end.

I’ve written here before about my own son’s scholarship opportunities that we deliberately didn’t pursue with him after high school (diving) because the scholarships would have created significant long-term debt for him. In 4 years, we never met another parent in the league that that thought the way we did.  Everyone we met was quick to mortgage their home or tap their retirement to fund their teen’s education.  If we’d had a large college fund, we may have considered the situation differently, but the point is that we each have limitations.  Having the ability to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money allows us to pretend those limits don’t exist, but it’s our teens who pay the price.

College budget tips you can start today:

  • While you’re still teaching them at home, inject college credit opportunities into your curriculum.  There are “easier” and “harder” ways to do this, but there is something for everyone.
  • Encourage your teen to earn low-cost college credit in high school.  Some states allow reduced or no cost tuition to teens that qualify.  Join your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook Group to help navigate the process.
  • If your teen doesn’t qualify for reduced or no-cost tuition, DIY a plan using credit by exam resources that you can arrange on your own.  The tabs at the top of this website provide free planning help.  By using CLEP, DSST, and Advanced Placement exams in high school, your teen can complete 1-2 full years of college credit at home.
  • Just because your teen graduated high school, that doesn’t mean they can’t use credit by exam to finish maxing out their 100 and 200 level credits. Even if it takes another year or two, keep making smart financial decisions. I tested out of an AA degree using CLEP at age 36 just for fun!
  • Unless your teen has an exceptionally high PSAT, ACT, or SAT, do not expect a full ride academic scholarship.  Partial scholarships should be evaluated against the cost of all 4 years, not just freshman year.
  • Parents who work for a college or university in a full-time job usually get free tuition for dependents.  Besides being a teacher, colleges hire cooks, secretaries, janitors, IT professionals, electricians, and safety workers.  It’s worth looking!
  • Many companies will pay for your teen’s tuition.  I have a good list of 100 employer scholarships here.
  • Some schools have guaranteed scholarships for teens who meet academic or geographic conditions.  I have a good list here. 
  • Almost every traditional state university in the country offers distance learning.  If your teen doesn’t need a “hands-on experience” for their degree, consider using your state university – but as a distance learner.  By living at home, your teen can save at least $10,000 per year.
  • Help your teen research the “ROI” for costs that they will spend on their degree.  ROI is a business-school term that means “Return on Investment.”  Some degrees have exceptional ROI.  As an example, nursing, which can still be started at a community college for about $8,000 returns an average annual salary of $68,000 per year based on last year’s census by The Department of Labor. Additionally, while nurses are encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree, many hospital employers will pay the tuition for nurses to do so while working.
  • Even for teens who are on the lower-average side academically, there are opportunities for college classes that can be done at home in a self-paced setting with online proctoring.  This allows teens (like mine) to make enormous progress, but at their own pace without barriers like taking notes during a lecture, or memorizing huge chunks of content.  General degrees in liberal arts or business are easy to complete this way and can be very affordable.  (about $15,000 total)
  • Talk with your teen about the budget, their responsibility, and what you plan to contribute to the process.

In closing, I urge parents to understand that you an say “yes” to a college degree while also saying “no” to the snares that trap young students, especially those that result in student debt without the credential to repay it.

If you’ve homeschooled in high school, your teen has already witnessed that education and learning don’t have to look the same for everyone.  Your teen has an opportunity to follow your lead by being resourceful and open to thinking outside the box.  There are dozens of different ways to make a college degree affordable!


 

Posted in CLEP, High School

CLEP for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Grades

If you’re planning CLEP exams as part of your teen’s high school journey, you’re probably worried about selecting a first, or next, exam.  Should your teen take Natural Sciences or Chemistry?  Humanities or American Literature?  When is the best time to take Composition?  Since my goal is to help you become your child’s best guidance counselor, I’m going to give you the tools to make that call yourself!

Through my own testing journey, I’ve found that CLEP exams tend to represent one of two exam types:

CLEP Exam Types

  1. Individual subjects
  2. Cumulative subjects

 

CLEP Exam Types

How and when your teen prepares for any given exam depends first on the exam type.  This is actually a really big deal- and may make the difference between success and failure!

An individual subject is one that you can approach with no pre-existing knowledge about the subject, and learn it well enough to pass an exam.  A few examples of these exam types are American Literature or Sociology.  In both cases, you can start learning from scratch without any kind of disadvantage.

An example of a cumulative subject is one that does require prior knowledge.  Exams in this category include College Algebra or Spanish.  In the case of College Algebra, you can’t begin the study of the subject without previous math preparation (ideally completion of Algebra 2) and in the case of Spanish, you’ll have to learn Spanish before taking the exam.  In both cases, where you start is a significant factor in determining how fast and how easily you can learn the material.

Why should you care?  Because in order to choose the best time for your teen to take a specific course/exam, you need to know where it best fits into your homeschool program.

Some exams fall neatly into categories, others can go either way.  I’ve sorted them for you.  Exams in the “Decide for Yourself” category are multi-disciplinary or require at least familiarity with elementary content before approaching the subject at the college level.  Meaning they incorporate more than one subject.    The exam titles in the list are active links,  so you can click the title to explore the content decide for yourself.

Clearly Individual Subject Exams

Clearly Cumulative Subjects


 

Tips for Individual Subjects & Exam Prep

  • Learning creates the foundation of knowledge, test prep memorizes facts and figures.  Make a learning plan that includes both.
  • If your teen typically studies one subject at a time, estimate 1 month of learning and test prep for each subject.  (Monday-Friday about 3-4 hours per day = about 60 hours, or 1/2 high school credit)
  • If your teen typically studies multiple subjects at a time, estimate about 60 hours divided over the course of your block, trimester, semester, or unit that you use.
  • I’ve never met someone who told me they were over-prepared for their exam.  When in doubt, allow a little extra time.
  • Some subjects offer exams in 2 parts (US History, Western Civ., Economics) and lend themselves to a full year of high school study.  The mid-year point is a good time to take the first exam, end of year is a good time to take the second exam.
  • Keep in mind all CLEP subjects are 100/200 level college learning- that makes availability of resources abundant!!  Discarded textbooks, thrift store finds, and online MOOCs are excellent sources of learning material. Learning material doesn’t have to be current.
  • Exam prep material should match the current edition of the exam so your test prep matches what they’ll be tested on.
  • Group subjects together to build on knowledge (Psychology, Educational Psychology, Human Growth and Development all have some cross-over)
  • Start with a subject your teen likes.
  • If reading level isn’t at or above the 12th grade level, learning the content might not be enough to pass.  Study the subject now, continue to work on reading level, and take the test in a year or two when reading level is higher.

Tips for Cumulative Subjects & Exam Prep

  • You’ll want to investigate what pre-existing knowledge is necessary to learn the subject.  For instance, Calculus requires first knowing Precalculus which first requires College Algebra which first requires Algebra 2 (high school).  The exam prep material assumes all preexisting knowledge is in place.
  • All college level sciences require a good foundation in high school level sciences.  For instance, college level chemistry assumes knowledge of high school level biology and chemistry as well as algebra.  Starting from scratch for CLEP Chemistry will be exceptionally challenging without that base- but not impossible.
  • Both composition exams and the Analyzing Literature exam assume strong command of college level language (reading and writing).  If you use standardized tests in your homeschool, your student should be testing beyond 12th grade Language Arts before you begin exam prep.
  • Foreign Language CLEP exams cover 2 semesters of college foreign language.  Your teen should have completed at least high school level 1 and probably 2 before attempting.

Now that you have a good understanding of if an exam will make up a subject in your homeschool, or if it will follow a year or more of study, you’re ready to make a schedule!  You can read my entire original post about creating a sample here:

Sample High School CLEP Schedule

In short, only YOU can decide where CLEP exams make sense in your homeschool schedule.  It’s based on what they’ve done, and what they plan to do in the coming years.  In part, it also helps to know if you’re planning to use dual enrollment options, and whether or not they have zeroed in on a college major.  The more information you have, the more specific you can be – but being uncertain isn’t a reason to do nothing.  If you have a teen with the knowledge, a CLEP exam can be a wonderful “final exam” in the bank.  The exam scores can be held for 20 years before being used, so the risk/reward ratio really supports testing while its fresh in their mind.

This is only ONE sample of how a family might inject CLEP credit into their homeschool.

SAMPLE 9th GRADE SCHEDULE

9th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 9th Grade English 9th Grade English (N/A)
MATH Algebra 1 Algebra 1 (N/A)
SCIENCE Survey Science Survey Science (N/A)
HISTORY United States History United States History U.S. History 1U.S. History 2
FOREIGN LANGUAGE Spanish 1 Spanish 1 (N/A)
ELECTIVE Typing Photography (N/A)

In this sample, we are laying a foundation for future exams in English, Math, Spanish, and Science….but we’re not there yet.  We are going to allow some foundational learning to happen first, and then we’ll inject college credit when our teen is better prepared.  Instead, in this year, we are using a full year curriculum for United States History, and taking the U.S. History 1 exam at the half-way point, and then U.S. History 2 at the conclusion of the school year.  These two exams work perfectly together!


SAMPLE 10th GRADE SCHEDULE

10th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 10th Grade English 10th Grade English (N/A)
MATH Algebra 2 Algebra 2 (N/A)
SCIENCE Biology Biology Biology CLEP
HISTORY World History World History (N/A)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE Spanish 2 Spanish 2 Spanish -maybe?
ELECTIVE Physical Education Health (N/A)

In this year, we continue to develop English and Math skills but are attempting two very big CLEP exams.  Both Biology and Spanish cover a full year of content, so we’ll play this by ear.  If our teen isn’t a solid “A” student, we may wish to eliminate the exams from our girl4plan or wait until later to attempt the.  Spanish is a tough call because if you’re only allowing 2 years of study, it’s now or never.  On the other hand, a 3rd or 4th year of Spanish would be ideal since we’re aiming for a high score (Level 2).  On the other hand, if we stop now, we have time to learn a second language.  As we go into 11th grade, we may have the added option of taking college courses through dual enrollment, which throws a monkey wrench into things a bit.  For the purpose of this sample, we’ll assume you’re only using CLEP.


SAMPLE 11th GRADE SCHEDULE

11th Grade
Subject Area Semester 1 Semester 2 CLEP Exam
ENGLISH 11th Grade English 11th Grade English (N/A)
MATH College Algebra with PreCalculus College Algebra with PreCalculus College MathCollege Algebra
SCIENCE Chemistry Chemistry Natural SciencesChemistry
HISTORY Western Civ. I Western Civ. II Western Civ. IWestern Civ. II
ELECTIVE American Literature American Literature American Lit.Analyzing & Interpreting Lit.
ELECTIVE Music Appreciation Art Appreciation Humanities

We are experiencing major traction now.  In fact, while the CLEP exams all align perfectly to the subjects on the schedule, it may be too aggressive for all but the most motivated students.  I included them anyway so you could see how it fits together.  If you’ll take a moment to look at the SCIENCE row, the Natural Science CLEP exam would be perfect at the close of the 1st semester because that exam is 50% biology (taken last year) and 25% chemistry – a student with solid knowledge of biology and a cursory knowledge of chemistry can pass this exam without addressing the physics segment.  Chemistry, as its own exam, is difficult and should only be considered after a full year of robust chemistry study.  If I could also draw your attention to Humanities, that exam requires knowledge of music and art, but also a lot of the Western Civilization knowledge intersects with this exam, making it a perfect fit for this schedule.


NO SAMPLE 12th GRADE SCHEDULE

At this point, my advice is that you’ll select remaining courses and exams that align with a target college.  College policy, awarding of credit, and accepted exams should all make their way into the conversation when selecting a college.  It’s reasonable that a college might not take all your teen’s hard work, but if a college doesn’t accept most of it, you may want to reconsider!  An encouragement to choose wisely comes from my friend Carol.  She allowed me to share her story with you.   We just saved $96,780

And by the way, were you keeping count?  How many potential college credits does the 11th grader in the sample have?

60

Our teen also took a total of 13 exams (I included Spanish) over the course of 3 years. Since CLEP exams cost about $100 each, the total financial investment was about $1300. Since a family can pay as they go, it allows most people to budget and plan for a good portion of their teen’s college education well ahead of time!  Not to mention the savings associated with books, meals, dorms, etc. that happen later.

Assuming the sample student attends a college that accepts all 60 credits, our sample student will have 2 years completed toward their bachelor’s degree, may have already earned an associate’s degree.  (We still have 12th grade left, and can fill in courses for a degree if we want)

For those wondering about the cost savings, you may want to revisit my post listing the current Cost of Tuition in the United States and calculate your potential savings based on the kind of college your teen may attend.  In general, if a college credit costs $325, your teen earned 60 of them for $1,300 over 3 years instead of paying (or borrowing) $19,500.  Now THAT’S something to get excited about!

Posted in Blue Collar, High School, working

Blue Collar Homeschool

 


Today’s post features a homeschooling site (and Facebook group) run by a friend of mine and a long time friend to Homeschooling for College Credit- Cindy LaJoy.  Her page is called Blue Collar Homeschool, and I’m so excited to share it with all of you.

But wait, doesn’t the notion of “blue collar” conflict with earning college credit?  Heck no! In fact, injecting college credit into a homeschool program doesn’t mean you only focus on a certain type of education.  One thing I’ve learned by meeting thousands of parents my Facebook page is that trying to “define” what successful homeschooling looks like is a fool’s errand.

First, let me introduce you to Cindy and her homeschool family:

“We are “Team LaJoy”!  We believe that the family that works together AND plays together, stays together!  All of our kids have experienced public education, either in the United States or in orphanage schools overseas.  All love learning at home, and the cindyability to work at their own pace.  In our homeschool we have done a wide variety of experiential and traditional learning, with our kids doing such things as studying interior design, purchasing and refurbishing a home that was bank owned, learning about Profit and Loss statements as they help with our businesses, traveling the Lewis and Clark trail, building sheds, pottery, flying planes, and volunteering at the animal shelter, the library, the food bank, the homeless shelter and our local nursing home.  We have been out in the world, as well as dedicated to class around our kitchen table! “

Cindy is one of those fantastically enthusiastic people with a lot of passion.  When we first spoke, she told me her children had challenges.  The topic of our conversation wasn’t homeschooling,  but I underestimated HER challenges.  Her children include a mix of Dysgraphia, English as a Second Language, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Gifted and Talented, suspected Dyscalculia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Developmental Delay, Executive Function Disorders, and Speech Impairments.

Moving into high school with our kids and thinking about their futures, it was easy to see that there was an underserved group, and that was families like us…families who had kids not destined for college, who had access to few resources that truly “fit” their child’s needs.  Few homeschool online groups speak to those parents of kids whose career aspirations do not include a degree, leaving us feeling inadequately equipped, and as if we are somehow underachievers.   I began to develop a passion for helping our kids see the wide variety of career possibilities, not at the sake of eliminating college, but for seeing there were even more choices.”

If I can take a moment to distract you from Cindy’s specific story, I want to caution you against making the mistake that professional guidance counselors make all the time. They “track” students into paths based on early test scores and grades.  In my own past, I was “guided” into food service from the moment I set foot in high school. My test scores were average, clearly not “college material.”  After learning about Advanced Placement (AP) I had to get special permission to take an AP course in 10th grade (which required my parent’s signature to go against professional advice).   My point is that it’s easy to default into the old idea that underachievers go to vocational school and “smart” kids go to college.  We have an entire population of kids with part of a college degree who are unemployable because they can read Latin but can’t put together an Ikea bookshelf.

We need “smart” kids in trades too!

If you’ve never heard of Mike Rowe, he’s the champion of blue collar.  His own liberal arts education (BA in Communications from Towson University) and career as an opera singer make him an unlikely advocate for the trades, but you might know him better as the host of Dirty Jobs.

My ALL TIME FAVORITE youtube interview is Dirty Job’s Mike Rowe on the High Cost of College (full interview below).  Mike Rowe explains how he thinks we’ve gotten off course by encouraging every child to attend a 4-year college.

 “if we’re lending money that we don’t have, to kids who really have no hope of paying it back, in order to train them for jobs that clearly don’t exist, I might suggest that we’ve gone around the bend a little bit.”  -Mike Rowe


If you want to incorporate some blue-collar classes into your curriculum, or maybe even help your teen select a career in one of the trades, I’m going to list a combination of resources that Cindy pulled together as well as a few of my own.  (and some of them are even for college credit!)

Apprenticeship in the USA

Considering a Gap Year? List of resources

High School Curriculum – electives

Research any career using REAL DATA

Vocational Schools and Training Resources

 

 

Posted in financial aid, High School, Resources, Scholarships, working

100 Employer / Employee Scholarships

 

Parents:  check with Human Resources immediately!  Scholarship application deadlines are sometimes a year in advance.

Who qualifies?

It depends.  In some cases, a parent’s dependents are eligible to apply, but in other cases, the teen must be an employee.  If you or your teen already work for one of these companies, simply contact your Human Resources department and ask for more information.

My teen wants a job that isn’t on this list

Working is great, no matter how you slice it, but rather than browsing and hoping to find your teen’s employer, be proactive and talk to them about seeking employment at a company that offers educational benefits through scholarships or tuition reimbursement.  That’s being smart and planning ahead.  A summer job isn’t supposed to be a permanent career that’s deep and rewarding. It’s a nice way to earn some spending money, learn responsibility, develop a work ethic……. and possibly earn a scholarship!

What’s the difference between tuition reimbursement and a scholarship?

Tuition reimbursement generally requires continued employment with the company while you go to school.  When you’ve finished a course, the company writes you a check to reimburse you for the tuition you paid.  Tuition reimbursement can sometimes pay for a full degree, but often has a service requirement or other obligation in exchange for the educational benefit.

Scholarships are awards given to a student for achievement.  Often, these are one-time awards.  Scholarship amounts vary by employer, but it’s not unusual to see scholarship awards for $500 – $2,500.  Typically, a scholarship is a one-time award without further obligation.

I’m seeing a few names that are also on a tuition reimbursement list.

That’s right!  Many companies consider investing in an employee’s education as a very important part of their mission.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (the largest HR organization in the world), as many as 91% of large companies maintained or increased their educational benefits since 2014.  In contrast, as few as 4% offer any kind of student loan forgiveness program.  In short:  plan to find these benefits before you start college and resort to borrowing.  Among millennials, as many as 1/3 reports falling behind on their student loan payments.  Ouch!

Tuition Reimbursement Companies

  1. A&W
  2. Abbott Laboratories
  3. Adobe Systems
  4. ADP
  5. Aetna
  6. Alcoa
  7. Amazon.com
  8. American Airlines
  9. American Cancer Society
  10. AT&T
  11. Baxter International
  12. Biogen Idec
  13. BMW Group
  14. Bosch
  15. Build A Bear
  16. Burger King
  17. California Grape Grower
  18. California State University Bakersfield
  19. Capital One Financial
  20. Carmax
  21. CenterPoint Energy
  22. Chevron
  23. Chobani
  24. Citigroup
  25. Community Bankers Assoc. of Illinois
  26. ConocoPhillips
  27. Costco
  28. CPS Energy
  29. Cracker Barrel
  30. CVS Pharmacy
  31. Darden Restaurants
  32. DirecTV
  33. Dish Network
  34. Dominion Resources
  35. Duke Energy Corporation
  36. DuPont
  37. Edison International
  38. Express Scripts
  39. Exxon
  40. GameStop
  41. General Electric
  42. General Mills
  43. Genzyme
  44. H&R Block, Inc.
  45. Harley Davidson
  46. Hewlett- Packard (HP)
  47. Home Depot
  48. Humana
  49. Hyundai Motors
  50. IBM
  51. Intel
  52. J Crew
  53. JetBlue Airways
  54. Kentucky Fried Chicken
  55. L.L. Bean
  56. Land O’ Lakes
  57. Long John Silver’s
  58. Lowe’s
  59. Marathon Petroleum
  60. Mayo Clinic
  61. McDonald’s Corporation
  62. Meijer
  63. Morgan Stanley
  64. Mutual of Omaha
  65. National Roofing Contractors Assoc.
  66. Nordstrom, Inc.
  67. Nucor
  68. Oshkosh
  69. Pacific Gas & Electric
  70. PepsiCo
  71. Pfizer Inc.
  72. Phillips 66
  73. Pizza Hut
  74. Rockwell Collins
  75. Roller Skating Association
  76. SAS
  77. Servco – HI
  78. Southwest Airlines
  79. Starbucks
  80. State Farm
  81. Subway Restaurant
  82. Sunoco
  83. Taco Bell
  84. Texas Instruments
  85. Tj Maxx
  86. Uline
  87. Union Pacific
  88. United Technologies
  89. US Bank
  90. USDA
  91. Valero Energy
  92. Verizon
  93. Vermont Grocers Assoc. Member
  94. Wakefield Healthcare Center
  95. Wal-Mart
  96. Walgreens
  97. Walt Disney
  98. Wells Fargo
  99. Whole Foods
  100. Yum!
Posted in High School, Resources, Transcripts

Transcript Resource Page

It’s only the most important homeschool document you’ll ever create!  I have a few favorite resources that I know you’ll love.  

If you want to read my thoughts, my book, Homeschooling for College Credit, Chapter 7 is dedicated to the creation of transcripts specifically for families earning college credit in high school. It’s available in paperback or Kindle.

GPA Calculation

My favorite GPA calculator is Back2College   SUPER easy to use, I’ve used it for at least 5 years.  Totally free, but it is really just a calculator.  They use a standard 4.0 grading scale, so if you’re planning to use a different weighted grade scale, this isn’t the best site.  

Alternative GPA calculator if you use weighted grades  GPA Calculator

Transcript Template

My favorite ready-made transcript template is by How To Homeschool  You can create a pdf document that can be printed or saved, all totally free!  Uses a standard 4.0 grading scale. 

DIY Your Own Transcript

I’ve made my son’s transcripts using Microsoft Word and Open Office.  I’m happy to teach you how to do it too in this free online course I created just for you!

Build it! Homeschooling for College Credit Transcript using MS Word

 

Transcript Services

If you want to use an online template that looks really official, HSLDA offers a transcript service.  Note that they won’t write your transcript for you, rather you enter your data in their system and they store it for 12 months.  While I have not personally used it, I know many who have and were very satisfied with the product.  HSLDA Transcript Service

Transcript Writing Help

HSLDA has a nice section of samples, videos, and tutorials that can walk you through a lot of the basics.  HSLDA Transcript Help page

Not my Favorite

Transcript Pro Software& DVD $189.00

I balanced sharing my negative opinion vs. not saying anything at all, but I opted to share my opinion for this product because of the cost.  The bottom line, if you shell out this kind of money, you’re going to be disappointed.  The full package is $189  ($49 base +$29 for the digital download and an additional $79 for the DVD +$29 for the printable syllabus).  I purchased this program in 2017, but the new version they are selling (version 4) was written in 2009.  Unfortunately, the DVD only teaches you how to use their software, so unless you’ve purchased that too, there is very little for the parent to learn.  The software is locked, and you’ll need a password to open it.  Once open, you can make a total of only 8 transcripts.  You can buy another 8 attempts for $49 more.  Their software operates offline, so no updates to their product are available, and you’ll have to save your files to your computer.  Again, computer technology since 2009 has changed significantly, so it’s a shame that they haven’t moved their product to a web-based platform.  As a result, you’ll not be able to use the program if you have Mac or a mobile device.  It only works (properly) on Windows 98 or Vista, and there isn’t a mobile app, so you’ll need a desktop computer. My advice, this is an extraordinarily expensive product for something that you can do for free on a dozen websites.

Suspicious Colleges

 This article appeared in Inside Higher Education on September 11, 2017.  While the student was NOT a homeschooled student, the article stresses that “anyone” can create a homeschool transcript and pose as a homeschooler.  (Imagine that? For years homeschoolers couldn’t get into college and now students want to pose as homeschoolers!  We’ve come a long way baby!) Still, I suspect that stories like this may become more frequent, and my advice to you is to maintain a file of curriculum content – books, titles, writing samples, workbooks, catalog course descriptions, print out of certificates, etc.  Anything that might help you provide verification if it’s necessary.  It probably won’t be, but better safe than sorry.  That folder is for you – and won’t be part of their application package or written on their transcript, but don’t trust your memory, start a file today.

Revoked Admission, Inside Higher Education (Sept 11, 2017)

Homeschooled Student’s Transcript Might Be for a Cat

Revoked admissions offer by University of Rochester raises questions about lack of oversight of transcripts from homeschooled students. Experts see the real risk is lack of information about curriculum, not fraud.

September 11, 2017

When word spread that the University of Rochester revoked an admissions offer from a student who lied about her high school background, many were stunned by the story. The student had attended a private high school, but she submitted a transcript that said she had been homeschooled. Only when she boasted on social media that she was about to enroll at Rochester, and someone at her high school realized it hadn’t sent the university any information about her, was she caught.

The applicant who lied in this case was not a homeschooler, but someone who attended a private school. Many admissions officers — including those at Rochester — said the incident made them fear that they have limited ways to tell if a transcript from a homeschooled student reflects reality. With transcripts from public or private high schools, the documents are sent by the school. (And in cases where colleges allow students to self-report grades, the institution gets an official copy of the transcript when someone is admitted.)

Fake transcript for Home Acres Academy features Social Security number 123-45-6789 and weighted GPA of 4.0. Courses taken include English, civics, environmental science, Spanish, algebra, European history, biology, geometry, American history and chemistry. Activities include tree-climbing club and fishing club.Comments on the Rochester article suggested that anyone could create a homeschooler transcript, for a student real or imaginary and with grades real or imaginary.

So I tested that, creating a transcript for my childhood pet, a cat named Thomas. I paid $19 to an online service, which got me not only the transcript but a water mark for my faux home school (the name reflects my childhood neighborhood). I followed standard courses for the first three years of high school and added activities that reflected Thomas’s interests. The Social Security number listed (at right) might have been a clue that the student wasn’t real. No verification of any kind was required.

I wrote to Transcript Maker, the service I used, to ask about authentication, and the company wrote back to say that some parents take the transcript to be notarized, but the company provided no information on actual authentication, and asked no questions (except for my credit card number) as I created the transcript. In fairness to the company, its competitors appear to do the same thing — let anyone create a transcript, no questions asked.

What Is the Risk?

So if Rochester received a fake transcript, and one can easily create one, is that a major risk with regard to homeschooled applicants? The issue matters as the number of children being homeschooled has been going up. An Education Department report in 2012 found that the number of homeschooled students was about 1.8 million and increasing.

Tom Green, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said there is good reason for admissions officers to give scrutiny to homeschoolers’ transcripts, but the real issue isn’t complete fraud, as in the Rochester case.

“I always go back to the question of how often does someone really lie in admissions,” Green said. It may happen, but it’s “pretty rare,” he said.

The more common issue is doubt about whether the grades assigned in homeschooling “reflect what a student would have received in another environment,” Green said.

“The fact is that there’s no independent vetting, and that allows for” grading that may not be accurate, he said. This need not be malice, he said, but just the reality of grading without context or comparisons.

At the same time, Green stressed that over the years in admissions on campuses, he saw many homeschoolers who were well prepared to succeed in college.

Green said that colleges should treat a homeschooler’s transcript much the way they would a transcript from a public or private high school that hadn’t previously been represented in the admissions pool. In the case of a high school, an admissions officer would go online and do some research about the high school, the rigor of its programs and the range of grades awarded.

For a homeschooler, an admissions officer might ask for much more detail about the curriculum — what textbooks were used, what material was covered and so forth. (Some colleges suggest just that, encouraging homeschooled applicants to provide such details or others that can help evaluate a curriculum. Here are suggestions provided by American University and Princeton University.)

Green also said that he paid more attention to SAT or ACT scores with homeschoolers than with others, and that he would recommend that admissions officers do so, even in cases where colleges are test optional or intentionally limit the impact of test scores. Some colleges urge homeschooled students to submit SAT II (subject matter) test scores, even if these are optional for other applicants.

He said that when he compared test scores to homeschoolers’ transcripts, sometimes the test scores were consistent with what one would expect to see with a certain grade point average. But other times, he said, the test scores were well below what one would associate with the GPA reported on a homeschooler’s transcript. And that called for more scrutiny and, in some cases, rejection, he said.

Lori Dunlap is a homeschooling parent and advocate for homeschoolers. Her new book, Home Education to Higher Education: A Guide for Recruiting, Assessing and Supporting Homeschooled Applicants, was published in June.

Dunlap said she was concerned the Rochester incident would give homeschool transcripts a bad reputation, and she said it was important to note that the woman in that case was not in fact homeschooled.

She acknowledged that there is no verification for a standard homeschooling transcript, which relies on the instructor, typically a parent.

But Dunlap noted that many homeschool parents supplement their instruction with programs offered by museums or other institutions. So a homeschool transcript may include grades or certifications awarded by someone who is not the primary instructor or parent of the student.

Dunlap said that she advises homeschool parents to keep detailed records about the curriculum used and to provide information to colleges. In many cases, she said, the curriculum is more rigorous than what one would find at many public or private high schools.

At the same time, Dunlap said that colleges should not rely too much on standardized tests in evaluating homeschoolers’ applications. Some homeschool parents have their children take many standardized tests as a means of showing what their children can do.

But Dunlap noted that one motivation of parents for homeschooling is a belief that public schools spend too much time on testing. These parents, she said, very intentionally (and for educational reasons) try to minimize testing. This creates “an interesting friction” in evaluating homeschooled applicants, she said.

“If you have that same student with a much lower SAT score” than a transcript would suggest is appropriate, “the question is if the transcript is wrong or does this student not test well?” Dunlap said. Many homeschoolers are the latter, and should not be denied admission, she said.

Posted in Curriculum, Dual Enrollment, High School, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline and my 10th Grader’s Spring Semester

Almost as an afterthought, when my 12th grader started using Straighterline this past semester, I decided to enroll my 10th grader- for just one month.  My goal was for them to share the textbook I’d just purchased for my older son.  Efficiency is always an important part of our budget.  They’d share the text, learn lessons together (mostly) and we’d assess after the first class.  (NOTE:  In our second month, Straighterline’s policy for books changed, and a free edition of an eBook was included with each course’s tuition, so we ended up not spending anything on books after the first month!)

You can read about the basics of using Straighterline in your homeschool, or how to choose your courses in my previous posts.  For this post, I just want to provide a brief overview of what my son did, what we spent, and his outcome.  As you’ll see, the first month was so successful (earning 9 college credits) that I decided to continue for the duration of the semester (Dec-May).  You should know that he dedicated about 1-2 hours per day to his Straighterline course Monday-Friday as part of his regular school schedule.  He was able to complete his other homeschool courses (Chemistry with Lab, Consumer Math, and Building Thinking Skills) during another 1-2 hours each day.

As you read the schedule, I list each course and credit earned in the month that I purchased it, not the month he completed it.  Some courses were completed in a week, others in a month, and others took longer still.  As an example, Nutrition and American Government, courses he’d already taken in homeschool, took him only 1 week each, but writing-intensive courses like English Composition I & II took him about 7 weeks each.

As I write this, he enters his final month of the school year with Straighterline and me. We take a summer vacation, so I’m ready to wrap things up with our kids by Memorial Day.  He has completed everything except Chemistry and English II.  He has 3 more papers to write for English II and hasn’t started their chemistry course.  Since he’s been doing Chemistry with Lab all school year with me, I expect Straighterline’s General Chemistry I to go smoothly and take about 2 weeks.  Writing, for him, is a long and arduous process.  I expect he’ll struggle through until the very end.

Grades:  His grades have been fine.  Straighterline requires a minimum passing score of 70% for their courses, and he’s finished most of his courses in the mid-80’s.  His best course grade was English Composition I (100%) and his lowest course grade was Introduction to Psychology (79%).  Final course grades issued by Straighterline are based only on quizzes and exams (except composition and lab courses) so testing acumen is important if you want to score well.  Since these credits will only appear as “credit” on his college transcript, the final grades aren’t important to his GPA.  While I used his Straighterline courses to inform the grade I awarded him on his high school transcript, in most cases, the grades I gave him differed slightly.  (NOTE:  Since Straighterline is not a college, you never have to disclose any grades or credits earned/not earned through them.  Dual enrollment, on the other hand, requires full disclosure on college applications)


Breakdown of Costs & Credit

Month Class Cost Discounts Applied Credits Earned
December Membership

Introduction to Religion

Microbiology

Business Ethics

$99

$49

$25

$69

-$20 coupon

-$20 coupon

9
January Membership

Cultural Anthropology

Medical Terminology

Introduction to Nutrition

$99

$49

$49

$49

9
February Membership

English Composition I

English Composition II

$99

$69

$69

6
March Membership

Environmental Science

American Government

Introduction to Psychology

$99

$59

$59

$59

-$49 coupon 9
April Membership

Chemistry I

Introduction to Business

$99

$59

$59

-$50 coupon 6
May Membership $99
IMG_3442 $1376

-$139 coupons

$1237

39

The total we spent over 6 months was: $1237

Total credits earned:  39 

Breakdown average per month:  $206/month

The average price per credit:  $32/credit

What I liked best about his semester:

  • I obviously liked that he earned college credit since he’s isn’t eligible to use dual enrollment in our state until next school year.  This gave him a great head-start.
  • I liked that the course rubric (point break down) is spelled out clearly, so, at any given time, he (I) knew exactly how many points he needed to pass the class.  This eliminated a LOT of testing anxiety because in most cases, he’d already earned enough points to pass
    the course before ever taking the proctored final exam.  While the exam is required, passing is not, so his testing anxiety wasn’t nearly as high as when he attempted (and failed) his first CLEP exam last year.
  • I like that they added free eBooks in the tuition of each course.  This helped me make sure I had the book on day 1 of each class without waiting for books to arrive.
  • I liked that I can pay for my son’s classes with Paypal.  This allowed me to use sales from books I’d sold through the College Credit Marketplace Swap Facebook group.
  • I liked Straighterline’s video lesson format.  Since a couple of their courses didn’t have the video lesson format (Microbiology and Statistics) this can also be classified as what I didn’t like!
  • I liked that my son could do all of his courses without my help (after the first one!)

What I liked least about this semester:

  • I didn’t like finding a totally different format (reading only!) in the Microbiology course.  This was a huge disappointment.  There’s a reason that course is only $25.
  • Some courses had WAY TOO MANY quizzes, or the quizzes were WAY TOO LONG.  I can think of several instances where the quizzes were over 50 questions and covered 4 or more chapters in the text.  Both my sons hated these.  Obviously, since the quizzes are open book (I make them look up every answer on every question on every open book quiz- that’s low hanging fruit people!) these took a long time.
  • This seems to contradict what I just said, but other quizzes were too short.  Nutrition, for instance, was full of 10-question quizzes.  As you can imagine, missing a few questions really makes a difference between an A and a C!  The “sweet spot” according to my teens is the 20 question quiz.  I tend to agree.
  • Written assignments are not graded by teachers, they are graded by “graders.” Graders are anonymous people who you’ll never meet, and can never have
    a conversation with.  While they attempt to give good feedback, the loop is broken because the student can’t communicate with the grader!  In one instance during English I, my son turned in a paper that was kicked back for being off-topic.  It was clearly on-topic, so we had to submit a support ticket, which escalated to a course administrator, and finally resulted in his paper being accepted and graded.  The process is clunky and frustrating when compared with the other courses that don’t have graders (tests are automatically graded instantly).
  •  My son worked fast- and you have to because you’re being
    billed $99 per month.  So, there is a constant sense of playing “beat the clock” in a course. Since we were aware of the structure ahead of time, I adjusted his homeschool schedule and was prepared to pull back on his other work if necessary, but for me, the feeling was a little inconsistent with my normal approach to courses- allowing plenty of time for marinating.  When I asked my son, he said he liked finishing courses quickly instead of spending all semester studying something……so mark this up to personal preference.
  • ProctorU.  I really, really, really don’t love ProctorU.  ProctorU is the third party webcam proctoring service that is part of each final exam.  Your teen logs in, the webcam clicks on, ProctorU opens your final and then testing begins.  Initially, I didn’t like the feeling of the webcam experience, but my kids thought this wasn’t an issue at all.  But, the issue that we had at least 3 times (between about 24 courses with 2 teens) was technical issues getting logged in.  If there is any log in trouble, they route you to tech support, but if you don’t start your exam within the 15-minute window, you have to reschedule it and pay $5.  So, as you can imagine, this is really really frustrating because you have to reschedule your test!  Finals must be scheduled 72 hours in advance (or pay a rush fee).  2 of the 3 times Straighterline covered the $5 reschedule fee for us (I didn’t ask the first time because I didn’t think to) but it’s really inconvenient when you’ve planned your homeschool schedule around taking a proctored exam.  The room has to be private, quiet, and free of things that could be used for cheating.  In our home, the room that meets these criteria is our dining room, so keep that in mind too.  One final ProctorU comment, you’ll need identification for each test.  If you don’t have a driver’s license, they’ll ask for 2 forms of ID.  My son used his passport and driver’s permit.

    EDIT TO ADD ONE MORE THING!!  I can’t believe I forgot to share this earlier when I posted, but 4 Straighterline courses are also accredited as AP Courses. These are the SAME COURSE that is in their catalog, but if you take it, you can list the AP designation on your homeschool transcript.  Courses that qualify as AP are:

  • English 1
  • Psychology
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

And no, you don’t have to take the AP exam to list AP on your transcript.  You CAN of course, but if you’re sure that the ACE credit offered via Straighterline will do, you don’t have to.  Some of you may want AP scores for other reasons- so that’s fine, but we skipped them.


 

Want to know which Straighterline classes to take and why?  Read this post.

Posted in CLEP, College Admission, High School

We just saved $96,780

I have to share my correspondence with one of our Minnesota members. She has graciously agreed to let me post it here:

“With CLEP and PSEO (dual enrollment), I just calculated we are saving $96,780 at the University of Northwestern St. Paul.

1/3 of that is in CLEP alone: 32 credit hours, which is about $30,260. Then, two years free through dual enrollment which is another $30,260 X 2 =$60,520.  

We are saving far more money by CLEPping and dual enrollment than we could get in scholarships.  -Carol Lang Frisk


She’s not exaggerating, I pulled the numbers to share with you.  

It’s -seriously- phenomenal.  Read on…


2017–18 Tuition & Fees 

The University of Northwestern St. Paul

  1. Tuition……………………………………………..$30,260
  2. Room………………………………………………….$5,570
  3. Meal Plan……………………………………………$3,700
  4. Technology Fee……………………………………..$260
  5. Health Services Fee……………………………….$124
  6. Activity Fee……………………………………………..$150
  7. Personal Expenses** …………………………..$2,120
  8. Books & Supplies** ………………………………..$600
  9. Transportation**…………………………………….$620

TOTAL …………………………………..$43,404

 

It’s worth noting that the green items with ** indicate variable expenses you can control to some degree.  (Does anyone else think the college has under-estimated the cost of books?)  So, to be fair, let’s round down to $40,000 per year- just the cost Carol’s family will be BILLED.  

Without smart planning, Carol and her daughter may have wandered onto campus and signed up for a $160,000 degree!  Thankfully, she’ll found a way to bring that cost down closer to $40,000.


Secondary savings and benefits gained by Carol’s plan:

  • In addition to reducing tuition cost, this family will cut items #2- #9 on the list by at least two years!  She won’t have to pay the meal plans, health services fees, technology fees, etc. if she’s not there!

  • A scholarship, while saving cost, doesn’t save TIME.   Injecting college credit in high school is extra work, but it is saving this student a full 2 years off the TIME it takes to finish her degree.  

  • Graduating 2 years earlier than her peers puts her into her career 2 years earlier, thus accelerating her ability to earn a supporting salary.

  • If entering the workforce isn’t in the immediate future, she has time to travel, volunteer, serve, or attend graduate school while her peers finish their undergraduate degree.

  • If she does take out a student loan, she’ll begin repayment 2 years earlier than if she attended a full 4 years- which saves 2 years worth of interest.

  • The average in-state public college costs about $40,000 for 4 years- they’ve found a way to attend a private college for the same price.

  • Using CLEP exams allowed Carol to choose appropriate homeschool curriculum that aligned with their family values while earning college credit. 

  • Using CLEP exams allowed Carol’s daughter to move quickly through subjects she easily understood, and spend more time on those that gave her trouble. 

  • Using CLEP exams and dual enrollment allowed Carol’s family to make credit accumulation a “pay-as-you-go” situation, which is ultimately the most affordable option for many parents.


How much did they spend?  What exams did she take?


 

Carol shared that her daughter earned 45 CLEP credits, but this college only awards credit for 32.  Here’s her list, cost, and reward:

16 credits Spanish CLEP ($100)   This college awards up to 16 credits for the Spanish CLEP exam but requires the student to pass a second college based test for verification.  This will give her credit in Spanish I, II, III, and IV.  (note: most colleges award up to 9 credits)

4 credits World Religions DSST ($100)  DSST is nearly identical to CLEP.

4 credits College Composition CLEP ($100)

4 credits Western Civilization CLEP ($100) 

1 credit Here’s to Your Health DSST ($100) 

3 credit (CLEP) to be determined ($100)

TOTAL INVESTMENT:  $600


Parents who inject CLEP exams into their homeschool by using it as a “final exam” don’t really have that much extra added cost- they’re buying curriculum anyway, so the risk is in paying for an exam.  Currently, CLEP exams cost $80 but a testing center typically charges about $20 for proctoring services, so it’s safest to budget $100 per exam.

Since exams usually award 3-6 credits, the $100 investment is well worth the risk!  You’d have to fail the CLEP exam 5 or 6 times before it’s more expensive than the college class.


Have you thought about using CLEP or DSST to help offset college costs for your teen?  If so, what’s your strategy?  Do you have tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck? Share them below!


Reader D.M. sent me this lovely note:

“Hi. I just wanted to share a story with you. I have struggled to get my almost 15yo daughter interested in taking CLEP exams. This has recently changed! She is now obsessed with preparing. What has changed? She started the Dave Ramsey financial curriculum and I forwarded the blog post you wrote about Carol Lang Frisk. She is now hoping to take and pass three exams this summer. I hope this inspiration continues!” 

Posted in Curriculum, Distance Learning, High School, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline Dissected: What to Take

I first published this story in February 2017, but in March 2018, some of the Straighterline courses changed a bit.  You can see every Straighterline syllabus by entering their website and clicking on the course you’re interested in.  If the exact number of quizzes/points is important in your decision-making process, be sure to check before enrolling.  -Jennifer

update.png



Not all Straighterline courses follow the same format.  In this document, we’ll explore the structure of each Straighterline course, and I’ll help you break down the differences between them.  This will help you choose courses that meet your specific need.


Courses are generally considered “easy” and/or “fast” to complete when they:

  1. Consist only of only exams, a midterm, and a final.  Those three exam types are multiple choice format, open book, and instantly graded by computer.  
  2. The course point distribution allows you to accumulate enough points to pass the course before taking the final.
  3. The course textbook is available digitally, which allows you to search out answers quickly during exams.  Tip: hold the Ctrl button and press the F key.  A “find” box will open, and you can search the text for any word or phrase.

Courses are generally considered “hard” and/or “slow” to complete when they:

  1. Have assignments that must be uploaded to Straighterline.  The assignment will be graded by a human, and can take 3-5 days.
  2. Are subject to a human’s interpretation of the course instructions, which can result in a low grade.  The nature of the grading system means your grader is anonymous and you can not ask follow up questions or make revisions.  You will likely have a different person grading each of your assignments.
  3. Require labs.  Science labs can stretch several days each, especially if you’re waiting for a reaction or culture to grow.  Labs also require uploading photos in every lab report.

Courses are generally “more expensive” when:

  1. You take a science lab.  Science labs all require lab kits purchased through the link in the course syllabus.  Lab kits can cost as much as $200. 
  2. You don’t use a discount code.  There are usually at least 2 codes at any time.  I keep a log of current codes on this website. Discount Codes

 

A passing score for every Straighterline course is 70% unless your college says differently.

Straighterline credit comes into every college as PASS/FAIL credit unless your college says differently.  

Charter Oak State College (CT) is the only college I know of that awards letter grades for Straighterline courses.  They use a standard 90=A, 80=B, 70=C grade scale.

When the “pre-proctor” column is 700 or more, you can pass the course before taking the final exam. Note, they still require you to take it, but there’s no pressure.


I pulled all of the following MASTER TABLE information from the Straighterline website on 2/25/2017.  Information is subject to change at any time, but I will make every effort to keep this current.  If you find an error, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

 

MASTER TABLE

STRAIGHTERLINE COURSE CONTENT SUMMARY PRE-PROCTOR PROCTORED EVENT
Accounting 1 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Accounting 2 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
American Government 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Anatomy & Physiology 1 16 exams @ 40 / midterm 160 800 Final exam 200
Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Anatomy & Physiology 2 13 exams @ 50 / midterm 150 800 Final exam 200
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Biology 13 exams totaling 700 700 Final exam 300
Biology Lab 8 exams @35 / 1 homework @ 40

8 written lab reports @ 85

1000 -0-
Business Communication 14 exams @ 25 / midterm 150

3 written papers @ 100

800 Final exam 200
Business Ethics 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Business Law 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Business Statistics 6 exams @ 125 750 Final exam 250
Calculus 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 150 650 Final exam 350
Calculus 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 150 650 Final exam 350
Chemistry 6 exams @115 690 Final exam 310
Chemistry Lab 8 exams @35 / 1 homework @ 40

8 written lab reports @ 85

1000 -0-
College Algebra 4 exams @ 125 500 Final exam 500
Criminal Justice 12 exams @ 50 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Cultural Anthropology 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
English Composition 1* 15 exams totaling 610

9 written assignments totaling 400

1010 -0-
English Composition 2 17 exams totaling 510

8 written assignments totaling 500

1010 -0-
Environmental Science 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Financial Accounting 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
First Aid 4 exams @100 / midterm 200

1 demonstration 100 / CPR verification 100

800 Final exam 200
Introductory Algebra 7 exams @ 100 700 Final exam 300
Introduction to Business 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Introduction to Communication 4 exams @ 100 / midterm 100

3 speeches totaling 300

800 Final exam 200
Introduction to Nutrition 15 exams @ 40 / midterm 150 750 Final exam 250
Introduction to Philosophy 4 exams @ 75 / midterm 200 500 Final exam 500
Introduction to Programming C++ 4 exams @ 50 / midterm 200

8 Program assignments @ 25

600 Final exam 400
Introduction to Religion 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Introduction to Statistics 5 exams totaling 500 points 500 Final exam 500
IT Fundamentals 19 exams totaling 700 points 700 Final exam 300
Macroeconomics* 19 exams @ 40 / midterm 120 880 Final exam 120
Managerial Accounting 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Medical Terminology 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Microbiology 6 exams @ 100 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Microbiology Lab 8 exams @ 48 *lowest score dropped

8 written lab reports @ 95 *lowest score dropped

1001 -0-
Microeconomics* 24 Exams @ 30 / midterm 140 860 Final exam 140
Organizational Behavior 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Personal Finance 14 exams @ 50 / midterm 100 800 Final exam 200
Personal Fitness 10 Exams @ 70

Fitness test/Caloric Inventory/5K race @ 0

700 Final exam 300
Pharmacology 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Pharmacology 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Physics 4 exams @ 150/ midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Physics Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Pre-Calculus 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Principles of Management 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Psychology* 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Sociology 10 exams @ 50 / midterm 150

5 discussion assignments @ 20

750 Final exam 250
Spanish 1 4 exams @ 75 / 2 written assignments @ 75

2 oral assignments @ 75 / midterm 150

750 Final exam 250
Spanish 2 4 exams @ 75 / 2 written assignments @ 75

2 oral assignments @ 75 / midterm 150

750 Final exam 250
Survey of World History 18 exams totaling 700 points 700 Final exam 300
United States History 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
United States History 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250

SL courses WITHOUT webcam proctored final exams

English Composition 1
English Composition 2
Microbiology Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab
Biology Lab
Chemistry Lab
Physics Lab

SL courses approved as “Advanced Placement” by College Board

English Composition 1
Macroeconomics
Microeconomics
Psychology

SL courses you can’t pass unless you also pass the final exam

Chemistry
Calculus 1
Calculus 2
Introduction to Programming C++
College Algebra
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Statistics

SL courses that require written essays

Business Communication
Sociology
English Composition 2
English Composition 1

SL courses that require giving speeches/video recording

Spanish 1
Spanish 2
Introduction to Communication

SL courses that require a 3rd party to verify your activity

First Aid
Personal Fitness

SL courses that require purchase of a lab kit

Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab
Biology Lab
Chemistry Lab
Microbiology Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab
Physics Lab

TIP:  If you have multiple children that are earning lab credit, you only have to buy 1 lab kit.  Email Straighterline at Advisor@straighterline.com and request a “group lab form.” 

SL courses that can be “passed” before taking the final exam 

NOTE: the quizzes, labs, homework, exams, and even mid-term exams are all open book.  The only closed book activity is the FINAL EXAM, and not all final exams are closed book!  In other words, your teen should be able to earn nearly perfect scores on everything leading up to the final exam.

Macroeconomics
Microeconomics
Introduction to Communication
First Aid
Business Communication
Accounting 1
Accounting 2
Anatomy & Physiology 1
Anatomy & Physiology 2
Criminal Justice
Microbiology
Personal Finance
Physics
Principles of Management
Spanish 1
Spanish 2
Sociology
American Government
Business Law
Business Statistics
Cultural Anthropology
Environmental Science
Financial Accounting
Introduction to Business
Introduction to Nutrition
Introduction to Religion
Organizational Behavior
Pharmacology 1
Pharmacology 2
United States History 1
United States History 2
Western Civilization 1
Western Civilization 2
Personal Fitness
Psychology
Biology
Business Ethics
Introductory Algebra
IT Fundamentals
Managerial Accounting
Medical Terminology
Pre-Calculus
Survey of World History

Jennifer’s TOP 10 Suggested SL Courses

based on: fewest computer graded activities that can result in a pass before the final exam

  1. Psychology – not only is this course approved as an AP course (record it as such on your teen’s high school transcript) but it only has 4 exams @ 175 points each + final. If you want, your teen can also take the AP exam and/or CLEP exam.  The content of this course aligns with both very nicely.  Note: their target college will still only award 3 credits even if they have multiple passing scores.
  2. Business Ethics – some partner colleges consider this a philosophy or ethics course, which meets a general education requirement!  Only 4 exams and a 300 point open book final.
  3.  Accounting 1 & 2 – These don’t make sense for all of my readers, but if you’re looking for math alternatives or business courses for your teen, these two courses follow the same structure and can yield a full year of math.  There are 4 exams and midterm (all open book) totaling 800 points.  Since only 700 is needed to pass the course, you can pass long before attempting the 200 point open book exams.
  4. Principles of Management– Also a less traditional option, the structure makes this class a winner.  4 exams and a midterm (all open book) totaling 800 points.  Again, easy enough to pass before attempting the 200 point open book exam. CLEP also offers an exam for this course.
  5. American Government- Almost every high school student takes a government course, so this acts as a great DIY dual enrollment option.  A straight-forward structure consisting of 4 exams and midterm (all open book) totaling 750 points.  The final is closed book, however, it’s possible to pass this course before taking the final. CLEP offers an exam for this course, however, the pass rate is very low.  SL would be a significantly easier option if deciding between the two.  *while there is an AP exam in this content area, the SL course is not an approved AP course.
  6. Environmental Science– Considered a nice and easy science by most, the structure here makes this course a great option.  4 exams and a midterm (all open book) totaling 750 points followed by an open book final.  *while there is an AP exam in this content area, the SL course is not an approved AP course
  7. Introduction to Religion– This course is usually considered a general education course, not a theology course, making it a good option for any degree.  The structure is simple with 4 exams and a midterm (all open book) followed by a 250 point open book final exam.  In my opinion, I thought this course covered the major religions well and without strong bias toward one over another.
  8. United States History 1 & 2 – Like Accounting, these two courses can be taken individually, but when taken together make a full sequence.  Both have the same structure: 4 exams, a midterm, and final.  US History 1’s final is closed book, while US History 2’s final is open book.  Either way, it’s possible to pass both before taking the final.  There are CLEP exams for US 1 and US 2, but if you want to plan for an AP exam, be sure to take both classes!
  9. Western Civilization 1 & 2 – Identical in structure to US History 1 & 2, but both have open-book final exams.  Like all the courses on this list, you can pass the class before taking the final exam.  There are CLEP exams for Western Civilization 1 and 2.
  10. Cultural Anthropology– This course is an alternative to Sociology or Psychology as a social science option.  In some colleges, this course also meets requirements related to world cultures or diversity.  The structure is very similar to the others on this list- 4 exams and midterm with a 250 point open book final.
Posted in College Admission, Dual Enrollment, High School

Predicting Credit Placement

College subjects are not treated equally. In this post, we’ll predict where your teen’s English 101 or Management CLEP should fall once they go to college.  This is important because choosing college courses for your teen to take while in high school can be a little overwhelming, and this piece of the puzzle will help you tremendously.

This list is a general guide to help you understand where your teen’s college credit accumulated in high school might fall once they go to college.  Note:  if your teen is already enrolled in college or is certain of the college they’ll attend, disregard this list and ask the college directly.  This is a guide for those 1 or more years away from enrollment.

If you want to read one of my earlier posts  about how courses become accepted for credit,  see my post on Linked in called “Will it Transfer?” Jennifer on LinkedIn

Let’s proceed as if the credit has been accepted into the college.  A typical FILTER process  looks something like this:

  1. Accepted Credit

    • All credit that has been accepted starts here.  This may include CLEP, AP, dual enrollment, or transfer credit.  Courses must be 100 level or equivalent.
  2. Degree Distribution Directive

    • In every degree, there are some directives that are vague- it may ask for “6 credits in social science” or it may be specific “3 credits Psychology and 3 credits US History.”  In every case, credit is first evaluated to see if it meets one of the directives for the degree.  Once a slot is full, credit overflows to the next filter below.
  3. General Education Elective

    • The number of general education electives vary by the college but can be as many as 30 or more.  General Education Electives are made up of courses also known as LIBERAL ARTS.  It is unusual for a non-liberal arts course to count as a General Education Elective, but this can vary by school.  Once GE Electives are full, credit overflows to the next filter below.
  4. Free / Open Electives

    • Not all colleges or degrees have openings called Free or Open Electives.  If yours does, this is a “catch-all” category that includes all overflowed credit as well as credit that was accepted by the college, but for but didn’t fill any of the requirements of the degree.  Non-liberal arts courses that don’t meet the earlier filters all overflow here.  Some degrees deliberately allow for a lot of free electives to encourage adult students to return to college.

TIPS for 4-YEAR BACHELOR OF ARTS/ SCIENCE degree seekers:  As you see in the filter process, accumulating a lot of non-liberal arts credit before you’ve selected a school or degree can be risky later – as a rule of thumb for high school students who plan to earn a 4 year degree, take no more than 1 non-liberal arts course for every 2 liberal arts courses.  This ratio will make for optimum transfer.

Tips for ASSOCIATE OF APPLIED SCIENCE degree seekers:  It’s likely that your degree will require no more than 15 general education courses.  If possible, your best bet is to no accumulate more than 6 credits in any one liberal arts category.  For instance, no more than 6 credits of history.  The majority of your degree will consist of degree-specific courses, so you don’t need a lot of liberal arts/gen eds.

Tips for ASSOCIATE OF ARTS  seekers:  Most of the AA degrees consist entirely of liberal arts courses.  As such, choose only courses from the liberal arts list.


The following subjects are usually classified as LIBERAL ARTS

Social Science
Art / Fine Art
Advanced Writing
Communication
Dance
Film
Foreign Languages
Journalism
Literature
Music
Philosophy
Photography
Religion
Speech
Theater
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Environmental Sciences
Geology
Mathematics / Statistics
Meteorology
Physics
Anthropology
Archaeology
Economics
Geography
History
Political Science
Psychology
Sociology

The following subjects are usually NOT classified as LIBERAL ARTS

Automotive / Engine / Body / Machine
Allied Health / Dental
Aviation
Business / Accounting
Computer Technology
Data Processing
Education
Electronics
Engineering/Engineering Technology
Finance
Fire Science
Health Education / PE / Fitness
Health Services /  Medical Assistant
Home Economics / Culinary Arts
Insurance
Library Science
Management / Business /Human Resources
Marketing / Sales / Advertising / Graphic Design
Nursing / Nursing Assistant
Operations Management
Radiologic Technology
Radio-Television
Real Estate
Recreation / Coaching / Sport / Leisure
Rehabilitation Services / Counseling
Secretarial Science / Administrative Assistant
Social Work / Counseling
Technical Services / Repair

Student Success / Study Skills / Intro to College / Orientation