Monday, February 25, 2013

College Common Sense {Schoolhouse Review}

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My oldest child is an 8th grader. I think that truth began to sink in over Christmas break, and somebody pushed the panic button!

Homeschooling younger children has always come natural to me - at least the "knowing what to do" part. With highschool on the horizon and then college (oh my), I feel as if I am losing my grip on "knowing what to do." Truth is, that uncomfortable feeling of cluelessness is washing over me. And I don't like it one bit!

Thank goodness for the opportunity to review College Common Sense by Denise Ames. Denise has been involved in the financial aid industry for the past 10 years, so she's had plenty of experience walking students and their parents through the financial aid process. With her product, College Common Sense: Going to College and Paying for it, she can equip even more students with the knowledge and tools they need to receive all of the financial aid they possibly can.
Our family reviewed the Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook.

Who can use this program?
  • Parents of elementary students
  • Parents and middle school students
  • Parents and highschool students
  • Parents and college students
This program consists of 6 videos and accompanying pdf files, also known as the "workbook." Each video runs for about 30 minutes or so and should be watched in the order presented. Before watching a video, the corresponding pdf file should be printed out, so you or your child can follow along and make any notes. There aren't any blanks to fill in, but taking some notes that apply to you and your child may be helpful for later. There are a few worksheets with blanks, but these can be completed after the videos, not during. Titles in this series are as follows:

* Video I - The Big Picture

Denise talks about the three major steps to going to college, what financial aid is, and all of the different types of costs involved. She also shares information about college campus visits and how NOT to choose a college. Included in the workbook portion is a list of 20 questions to ask before applying to a college.

* Video II - How Financial Aid Works

Here, Denise shares an important key to applying for financial aid at the beginning of each year your child is attending college. It all hinges on the FAFSA. (I am glad I know about this form now.) A Cost of Attending worksheet is included in the workbook section.

* Video III - All About the Free Money

This video really stood out to me because we will need all the free money we can get! In this video, Denise discusses the different types of scholarships and how to find them.

* Video IV - The System That Works

Denise explains in detail the Scholarship Binder your child will use to keep track of scholarships he's interested in, scholarships that have been submitted, and scholarships that have been won. She also gives advice on writing scholarship essays.

* Video V - You in the Process

This one is all about your child being proactive in the process and being responsible for his own future. Denise encourages your child to develop character, set goals, have a plan, and get involved! She also shares lots of ideas for students to include in their "All About Me" spiral notebooks.

* Video VI - Put It All Together

This last video is like a pep talk to get kids pumped about their futures, to take charge, and to live with purpose.

Cost: $25.00 for 12 month log-in access

*For those who prefer to have the DVD set and workbook in physical form, the cost is $50 plus $5 shipping and handling.

Additional Supplies needed:
  • Scholarship binder (3-ringed binder)
  • Spiral notebook
  • 14 dividers

This is the binder mentioned in Video IV - the place where your child will keep track of all the scholarships he wants to apply for and ones that have been completed. The "All About Me" spiral can be kept here, too.

How We Used College Common Sense

First of all, I decided to test the waters with just my 13-year-old who is in eighth grade. I wanted to be familiar with the information myself before using it with my other two children who are in second and fifth grade. Plus, I really wanted to focus on this with my son who is closest to entering highschool. I am glad I chose to do it this way because, in my opinion, the information contained in the online videos and workbook are really too much for my younger children at this point.

Before jumping in, I read the 2-page introduction by Denise Ames in which she welcomes you and gives you the instructions you need to complete the program.

After that, my son and I started watching the videos together. We watched all of the videos, one per day, before starting the lesson plans which are offered free of charge on the College Common Sense website.

The lesson plans are delivered to my inbox weekly, and I forward them to my son. Assignments are broken down by grades: Senior, Freshman - Junior, Middle School, and Elementary. I let him pick and choose some of the ideas to work on or check out. He also researches some of the links provided on the website. So far, he's written about some of the occupations he might want to have when he grows up, he's watched a few recommended You Tube videos, visited the website of one of the colleges he is interested in attending, taken a short practice SAT test, looked for possible scholarship opportunities, and more.


I have to admit, I was a little overwhelmed with all of the information at first. My son was, too. He just felt like so much of the information in the videos was aimed more toward older highschool students. When he first began researching scholarships, he found that he needed an SAT or ACT score in order to fill out most of the ones he looked at. As an eighth grader he doesn't have either of these scores yet. This was somewhat discouraging for him.

As for me, College Common Sense has given me a little more confidence about the whole getting-ready-for-college process. Thanks to Denise Ames I don't feel completely clueless anymore. I am glad I have the knowledge contained in these videos and workbook prior to my son becoming a freshman in highschool.

So far I have chosen not to involve my younger children in the nitty gritty of this program. My fifth grader isn't all that interested in thinking about college right now, so I don't want to push too hard at this stage. While my 7-year-old daughter loves to talk about her future and shows some interest in becoming a veterinarian, I am just not ready to jump into this program full swing with her either. But when I am, I know I have the tools I need!

Overall, I am pleased with College Common Sense and have learned a great deal. The website is a wonderful tool I will continue to use with my son, and I feel much more prepared now than I did a few months ago.

I would recommend this program to parents of middle school and/or highschool students who want to be fully prepared for the college experience. Personally, I would only recommend this to younger students and parents who are extremely ambitious and are ready to start thinking about college.

Click to read more College Common Sense reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


Clara - A Slice of Homeschool Pie said...

Excellent review! Stopping by from the Crew.

wodaking said...

Great review! I was using this with my 5th grader and I would agree with your recommendation. It really IS great information for when you're ready!


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