HS Podcast with Jessica Nelson
[00:00:00] Cait: Hi Jessica.
[00:00:00] Cait: Hi there. How are you? I'm great. The sun is shining. It's nice and warm out. Yeah. I am, I know New England finally, spring has sprung for a little bit there. I was like, come on. I'm really happy to have you on because we, I cannot even tell you, I'm sure, we get so many questions about parents who are concerned about homeschooling high school and what about transcripts and what about college?
[00:00:26] Cait: And so I, when we connected, I was like, this is absolutely perfect because you are an expert in this area. But let me back up a little bit. And for anyone who doesn't know you, could you just share a little bit about yourself? Yeah, absolutely. So I've been doing either college admissions or college counseling for the last 15 years and it's really been a pretty broad span of working at the teeniest tiniest of liberal arts colleges to reading for big state flagship institutions.
[00:00:56] Cait: And then all the counseling in between of working with like international students and first year students and transfer students. And my real niche is working with neuro divergent students. I worked at Landmark College, which is like the premier college for students with learning differences.
[00:01:10] Cait: And that's really the sweet spot for me because the work was always exciting and different and new cuz I never knew who was coming through my drawer, but I knew that their learning profile was always fun and different and I wanted to tap into their strengths and superpowers as like a brain that functioned a little bit differently.
[00:01:28] Cait: So that's a little bit about my work. I'm located in southern Vermont. I've got two kiddos, a six and an eight year old. And chickens and an elderly cat and a Guinea pig. And on the weekends, I like to what my kids would tolerate. I like to go thrifting, antiquing, flea markets. That's my happy place watching musicals.
[00:01:48] Cait: My partner's less enthusiastic about that, but they won't like phone scroll really, obviously. At least when I'm watching it, I'm like, I don't wanna see the screen. That sounds like us here. I love musicals and I don't like, like action type movies. So we're not properly, we're not compatible movie wise, let's just say, but we tolerate it.
[00:02:07] Cait: I love that you work with Neurodiverse students. I don't know if but I was a school psychologist before I fell into homeschooling, and that was my favorite thing too.
[00:02:15] Cait: I loved education and I loved children and teenagers, but I didn't wanna teach the same curriculum year after year. Yeah. And so I was like, what I really like is their brains and like figuring out what, how they learn best and how you can, identify their weaknesses, but also use those strengths to compensate for other areas that aren't as strong.
[00:02:37] Cait: And I just think they're such, we have a lot of parents have unique learners listening and so I think they're gonna be especially excited to hear what you have to say today. Yeah, absolutely. So what attracted you to what you're doing right now? Colleges missions has really changed since the time that even we applied to college.
[00:02:57] Cait: At least when I was applying to school, like the internet was just becoming a thing. And you were still doing paper applications and maybe you applied to a handful of colleges and they all had separate applications. And I didn't receive great guidance as a high school student. I just took in a list and my counselor was like, oh, that's a hard one to get into.
[00:03:16] Cait: You should maybe do early decision. And I was like, really? Cuz I, I fit all their stats. Yep. And I didn't like really think about fit and what I needed. I just was like, I just wanna go big cuz I went to a small rural high school. I wanna be a number. Let's do this. This is the most prestigious state school.
[00:03:32] Cait: Sounds good. I'm gonna go there. Did I have the most amazing college experience? It was fine, but I realized like halfway through my career I was like oh I could have gone somewhere that was maybe a better fit that I could have gotten more out of this and really it would've been a better social and academic fit for me.
[00:03:48] Cait: And so I think over the years, that's what's led me into college admission counseling is this feels like a really there's just so many things, right? The analogy I like to use is you're trying to make Thanksgiving dinner, but imagine like your 16 year old trying to make Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people.
[00:04:05] Cait: And there's all these things that you have to consider and all have it out at the same time, right? So you're quick cooking, like 12 dishes that have to be out and ready and prepared at the same time. That takes an incredible amount of executive functioning to be able to manage. So I was really attracted to the, helping students go through this process and take the stress out of it.
[00:04:27] Cait: Like being like they have to climb the mountain but I'll be the Sherpa. I love that. Help us find the fastest point from point A to point B. And with the company I work with college-wise we're one of the largest private college counseling comp like private companies in the nation.
[00:04:44] Cait: And I'm just surrounded by such incredible, like smart people. Most of them are former admission counselors from all over the nation, who also just love this work that we do of taking the stress out of this so it doesn't feel so mysterious and like pulling the curtain back and maybe like even finding some fun and joy because really this application process too can be about self discovery for a student.
[00:05:09] Cait: I've oftentimes, in my work with students see them like, I think they really want this thing and eight months later they've really thought more deeply about who they are and what their priorities are and what that means for their college experience. So they may end up in a very different place.
[00:05:25] Cait: But yeah, that's all like why I, I love doing this work that I do and I'm one of those crazy people who likes working with like 16 and 17 yard olds. There's so much fun. Yeah. Yeah. And so I really enjoy that piece of it. Also. I love that I, my oldest is 15 and then I have 13 and almost 12.
[00:05:43] Cait: And I've been trying to have people on this season who enjoy teenagers because they get such a bad rap. And I was a little nervous cuz I always loved working with middle school and high school. It was my favorite and I was like, I hope I like my own as much. You know what I mean?
[00:05:57] Cait: Like as much Yeah. Because everyone's just wait till they're a teenager and Sure there's some. They can be bananas sometimes, but they're so much fun and I think just the thought of, as a parent gathering all the information and helping your kiddos to apply to colleges, that feels like a lot.
[00:06:13] Cait: But then when you think about a kid who, teenagers, their executive functioning gets a little wacky with hormones for a bit if it wasn't already a strength. So I love the idea of a Sherpa so I went to a really good high school where there was a lot of type A parents that were pushing their kids and I did not have that.
[00:06:33] Cait: So I, I felt the same as what you said my guidance counselor was nice, but I don't know that I got a lot of guidance and I think I, I don't regret going where I went because I, cuz of the friendships. But when I think about that, I was like, I really got I did not think a lot about it and I just picked a few and was like, this sounds good.
[00:06:51] Cait: And went there. Yeah. And for guidance counselors too, at public schools they're asked to be generalists. They have to wear so many hats that like being an expert in anything is super challenging, let alone this whole college piece. So being able to just focus on like this one piece with a student I think can be really key and exciting.
[00:07:12] Cait: I love that. What, so one of the things I've been thinking about and I didn't tell you I was gonna ask this cuz it's just as we're talking, but Yeah. The pandemic. So I was reading an article this morning about the effects of the pandemic on public school and how this huge population has gone either private or people have moved districts or they're homeschooling and just how education is probably never gonna be the same.
[00:07:36] Cait: There's a before and an after and I'm just wondering, Applying to college. Like how does that had to be extra bananas right now because I'm sure there are people who did not go. Cuz I, I had so many, my, so many of my cousin's kids were freshmen in 2020 and I was like, this is such a bummer. I kept thinking like, to be alone in your dorm and not be able, like during that whole phase.
[00:07:58] Cait: So I imagine there's a lot of people who didn't go, held off that were planning on going or maybe went for part. And so I imagine if like public schools feeling that higher education definitely has to be feeling that. And there must be an impact on the stats because are more people applying now than, I dunno how I'm phrasing my question, but Take like Harvard University or something that's already hard to get into are they having more people apply because there's, there were people who waited and now are applying.
[00:08:29] Cait: Does that make sense? Yes. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And I think that there's two things going on there. There are some folks who decided you know what? I want a traditional college experience and I don't wanna do this online. And I don't blame them. And I know many like college students who actually pause their experience and they're like, cool, maybe I can get an online internship because I don't really wanna be attending this college online for the next year.
[00:08:51] Cait: And it's so expensive. And so I think some hippos in that way and came up with some different options. And yes, some students coming outta high school were like maybe I can find something else to do for this next year so I can have a more traditional experience. That's a piece of it. But another piece of it that really changed the game with the pandemic, and I think for in some very good ways was a lot of schools, in fact, most schools had to go test optional, right?
[00:09:16] Cait: Because in 2020, students could not take the s a t, they couldn't take the a c t. And so this piece that had always been used in admissions was suddenly gone. And what a lot of colleges discovered was like, Hey, wait, like we actually don't need this piece to make the same decisions we were making before.
[00:09:34] Cait: And so in a really, I think, wonderful way, a ton of colleges not only have gone test optional but have stayed test optional, some have reverted back and some of them didn't have a choice because the state decided, like the state of Georgia, the state of Florida that said, Nope, you're gonna. Yeah, mandate these if you're a state college.
[00:09:51] Cait: But for the colleges that decided they didn't need this test score. That really opened up the doors to a ton more students applying who previously would've said, Nope, my, my test scores won't allow me to apply to this institution. They'll see this one piece of the admission part and they won't consider me.
[00:10:06] Cait: Even if they're an amazing, outstanding student, that might have been the one piece they felt was pulling them down. And so that's been a major factor in a lot of the, highly selective colleges receiving a ton more applications. Cuz people see this and they're like, oh my gosh, how did Harvard actually get more selective?
[00:10:23] Cait: And I'm like I'm not great at math. But this is a math game here where they're not selecting fewer students, but they are getting more applications because they remove this barrier to admission and they're getting much more diverse applications, which I bet is actually really exciting because.
[00:10:37] Cait: We know with standardized testing, it disenfranchises certain populations and benefits, others. So that's been a major piece, but I think, for the last three years, things for lack of a less technical term ha, have been bonkers. Yeah. And what we consider the highly selectives which I'd like to point, or even like the, even the state schools I would think are similar.
[00:10:58] Cait: Like I'm thinking when I went to school and they were like this would be your reach and this would be a safety and all of that. Is the safety still a safety? Is it a guaranteed sta safety like it felt like before? Or is the overrun by, I'm thinking when I went, so when I applied to school, I was in a ba, like a basketball school, and they were in the final, what is it the eight, I'm not a, I'm not a ball sports person, but they made it to the top eight and we were not, it was Providence College and we weren't.
[00:11:26] Cait: It's expected to be in there. So the year that I applied, they had this huge influx of basketball people that were just like, oh, they're in. And we're all pumped up about it. So there was a lot of people who didn't get in that thought it would be an easy in, I think about things, changes the game for so many colleges.
[00:11:43] Cait: I was like, here's this school that you've never heard of that will have record applications this year. It's so wild to think about. But and that's just, a basketball championship, you had the whole world is in a pandemic for No, and you're totally right on that.
[00:11:58] Cait: That's a really good point. I think of schools like university of Vermont that we always felt like we could predict what their decisions would be and it would be like a good likely school for a lot of the students we were working with, or University of Maryland, we have found in the last three years that we cannot make those predictions anymore.
[00:12:14] Cait: Yep. And I think that's what's made my job. Tougher is I oftentimes could balance out like, this is your reach, this is your target, this is your likely, and we can still do that. But I always have to preface it with the last three years. Yes, I've made some of these guesses. Hard, hard to figure out.
[00:12:32] Cait: By the, but that's why you work on a balance list, right? You work on a list where you know, like you're certain to have admissions at or feel really confident about it, even though surprises sometimes. Yep. And it's not just a list full of reaches and I, I think that can be challenging for homeschool students to figure out that balance of like, where do I fall in?
[00:12:51] Cait: Cuz I think it's easy to either overreach or actually under reach on some of that because you're not comparing yourself to necessarily like, A high school full of students where they have something called Naviance and you can look at what admit rates were. So that, that can be more complicated to do, but not impossible to do.
[00:13:10] Cait: I so when I was in grad school at Tufts, I was one of, one of my like 18 million jobs, part-time jobs was in admissions. And I was just like the very first person that used like this rubric that kind of screened out the people that probably shouldn't have applied at all. And I just remember feeling like the people who met what they wanted all were doing so much and seemed very similar.
[00:13:34] Cait: And so I, I always think of that when I think about homeschoolers because I think homeschoolers are quirky sometimes because you have this extra space during the day where you can pursue your own interest. Like I have a friend who is. Her daughter is, we met in a mom's group and she's now down in Tennessee and they're building a car together, like they're taking a Volkswagen Beetle and she and her dad are working on it until and hoping to have it on the road by the time that she gets her license.
[00:14:07] Cait: That's awesome. And the amount of learning that goes into that it's just, I feel like it might be easier in some ways for the homeschool kids to find that unique piece that sets you apart, but also maybe it's hard to see it because you're not in a public school and you don't know what everybody else is doing.
[00:14:27] Cait: No, I think what's helpful for a lot of homeschool applicants and good for like families to know is in a lot of admissions offices, they will have a dedicated homeschool reader. So that it's not necessarily thrown amongst 10 different counselors that might be reading it. That may be the case, a lot will have this dedicated reader who, that's what they're reading and they know how to read those applications.
[00:14:47] Cait: And I actually think what's an advantage to homeschool applications is they get a longer read because they oftentimes have more material that they have to provide anyway. So there's actually eyes on the application longer, which I actually see as an advantage because, there are the stats out there that applications get about eight minutes which isn't untrue depending on what university that you're at.
[00:15:11] Cait: But when you have a more nuanced application, that means that person has to spend more time getting to know the student, understanding their context. Because it's not so cookie cutter. Eight minutes. I'm not surprised, but that's like yikes gonna really, I'm like, I know you just spent the last three months doing this application and someone will look at it for a total of eight minutes, but it'll be multiple people who look at it for eight minutes.
[00:15:34] Cait: But actually when you add the time up, it is getting like a fair read. It's just the first reader spends that much. The second reader spends that much, and then there's the committee. So you are getting a fair shape, but the initial first read. Yeah. Okay. So I feel like I'm probably stressing parents out, out there cause I'm asking about the pandemic and not knowing where you can get in and the eight minutes.
[00:15:53] Cait: What should homeschool parents be focusing on and preparing for? Because I know the entire, I, so I have a bunch of homeschool friends that are a little bit. More ahead in the, with older kids than, and they have all said that the transcript is not that hard. So I feel like the transcript is intimidating to parents, but everyone I know who has gone through it is it really wasn't that big of a deal.
[00:16:17] Cait: That wasn't one of our issues. So could you speak a little bit what should they be doing? What will make it easier so that you're not preparing? You're gonna have to prepare that whole Thanksgiving dinner and get it ready at the same time, but how can we make that. That event easier.
[00:16:32] Cait: Absolutely. So a big piece of that is documentation, right? Because you have to take your parent as teacher hat off and put parent as counselor hat on because part of the application process does involve these pieces of documentation that have to be put together and the parent is now acting as the counselor who would normally do that.
[00:16:53] Cait: And the four main pieces that parents are really going to be responsible for are the transcript. And I would agree, like the transcript isn't as scary a piece as it sounds because you have control over it. There's different models out there and you just have to decide on the model that works best for you.
[00:17:09] Cait: Are you going to have grades, are you going to have mastery on there? Are you going to align up by subject in year or just put all the subjects together so you know, I Google searching will give you a couple different models and you can find what fits right for you. And then there's the school profile.
[00:17:26] Cait: And I, and the school profile is something that schools send along with an application that provides context to the community and learning environment. So they'll tell a college, here's our grading system. Here's how many of our students go into college. Here's the neighborhood that we're embedded in.
[00:17:44] Cait: Here's what our, here's how many aps we offer. Here's our curriculum. Homeschool students should still have that because it benefits them to again, provide context. And that context can look like here's our homeschooling philosophy, here's why we chose to do it. Having some of that communicate community information, like this is the community that we're in, here's what it's available to us, here's what our local public school looks like.
[00:18:07] Cait: Maybe the why behind homeschooling, like why we made this choice as a family can be part of that. And your grading system. This is how we when you look at the transcript and you look at what we have, this is how we decided to show pro proficiency in things. So transcript, school profile.
[00:18:23] Cait: The curriculum guide is the one you can start early and I recommend starting early is kinda, cause you don't wanna get to the senior year and be like, oh I have to go back and document three years. Of learning that we've done. Cuz the curriculum guide is exactly how it sounds. It's course descriptions.
[00:18:38] Cait: It's, here's how we did these subjects, here's the course description as to what we learned. The text, sample text of what we use may be a textbook. Did they do this dual enrollment? And that's a nice easy one cause you go to the maybe community college, take their description. Yep. Yeah. Plug it in to what they're doing.
[00:18:57] Cait: But it give, colleges need to know like, how did they do this? What information were they using to offer validity to it? And so that's what you're doing with a curriculum guide. And those can be anywhere from five pages to 25 pages. Depending on how you studied things.
[00:19:11] Cait: I think a table of contents on those is great. Oh, that's a great idea. Yep. So they know what page to go to if they wanna go look at here's how we did language arts as a, in our homeschool situation. And then the letter of recommendation or counselor letter. Cause you might think, oh no.
[00:19:26] Cait: Like I've set my student up to Interact with the outside world. They have other people who can write it, but as a counselor, you're actually expected to write a counselor letter. And I think that can feel like weird and intimidating for some parents, but at the same time your student best you know them as a learner. And I think thus you can provide the best perspective on like, why homeschooling worked best for them, where their strengths, where their challenge areas are. And again, it's all about context, right? Were there anomalies that affected their education over the last couple of years?
[00:19:58] Cait: Why did you make the decisions you made around some of the educational choices. So those are really the four pieces that are different. And in thinking of for those who are early on, just making sure too that families are getting in what colleges expect to see from a Subject standpoint, which is typically, four years of English lit, three years of science, two, at least two of those should be a lab.
[00:20:23] Cait: Three years of history in social sciences, two years of foreign language, three years of math. And if a student is maybe thinking they'd like to look at like more selective colleges, it's actually four years of all of those. But again, we know it doesn't need to look traditional, right? Th this can still be done in a way that fits your family and in a non-traditional way.
[00:20:40] Cait: But showing, h how did you do these subject areas? Something that drives me a little bit. And I'm sure other parents feel this frustration. The homeschool experience is, admissions is kinda this one size fits all thing. Saying we need these pieces, show us these pieces. And it's but I, we're not a one size fits all.
[00:20:58] Cait: They were trying to squeeze ourselves into so provide the documentation but don't feel like it has to be to the letter. Like when they ask for class rank, Don't put, they, they did one outta one or one out of two. If you are doing two kids, cuz that just feels awkward. Like you can actually opt.
[00:21:13] Cait: And a lot of schools do put we don't rank like not, that's an option just to say, but it's a question they ask and parents feel like, oh, if they ask it I guess I have to fill this out and it doesn't feel like it fits me. So give yourself permission to like, do it in a way that fits your experience.
[00:21:29] Cait: I love that. I, as you're speaking, I am. I'm thinking about how you said that the way that you set up your transcript could be grades or it could be mastery. Could you speak a little bit about that? Because the question I get a lot is from parents. So my oldest just is a freshman in our public high school.
[00:21:47] Cait: So this is the first year he went. So I had to provide a transcript for the guidance counselor, and she definitely didn't meet the eight minute mark wasn't even close, but, so I, as I was doing this, I was thinking to myself we don't grade. Like I just, if he doesn't understand something, I go back and we review it and we don't go on if he's not understanding it.
[00:22:08] Cait: So it's always mastery. So you can actually say on your transcript you can do a mastery based transcript. Yeah. And they have a P for pass. And if you wanna even put like HP for high Pass, which means they like really mastered this subject. Or did they meet like the the minimum bar we set for making sure we had mastery of this?
[00:22:29] Cait: Because there's even a lot of high schools doing that now. Like high school transcripts do not look the same. There's two dozen different ways to do it. And while some do traditional letter grades, a lot do traditional letter grades, not all of them, they've moved to this idea of mastery of a topic and there can be shades of gray within mastering that topic, right?
[00:22:48] Cait: So I'm sure with like your own child, you could say yeah, that was a high pass. Like they, that was their passion. They nailed that and went beyond what that finish line was. And then there were somewhere like they got to the finish line. And so I'm gonna say we can move on from that. We hobbled over it, right?
[00:23:04] Cait: Strengths and weaknesses. Now I remember when reading for Tufts, I remember the, as you're speaking the weightedness of your district or your high school. It does, if you were to do a mastery based model, is that weighted different compared to grades? Do, would they prefer grades? I guess is my question.
[00:23:24] Cait: And I know this is really general cuz they, as I'm talking about every university, I don't think there's necessarily a preference in the sense that the reason GPAs are helpful is colleges compare high school students among like students in their same school. So they're not, cuz oftentimes they'll say that's a better school.
[00:23:44] Cait: They offer more. Oh no. They look at the context of your institution and how did you do, how to have students previously from your school done, right? And what's usually the GPA that we can admit that does well here yada, for homeschool students, because they're not comparing all homeschool students against all homeschool students because they're in totally different systems.
[00:24:04] Cait: I don't, I can't really say that there's one preference over the other. I think where it's really important to be thoughtful is around outside evaluation because there needs to be like, some bit of validity, right? And I think sometimes that's hard to come to terms with being like I know they know it.
[00:24:19] Cait: But colleges do need to try to quantify it. In some way, and I think there's a lot of different ways as that you can do that, and that can be like, maybe they do some dual enrollment and you can have an amalgamation on your transcript, right? It can be here are the stuff we mastered and here are letter grades offered by the dual enrollment or the co-op that we're part of, or the online class that they took.
[00:24:40] Cait: It can also be like the s a T or the a C T and taking s a t subject test. There's even CL testing that's used by a lot of community college or the military, so the college level kind of placement exams. And I worked for a very small liberal arts college that had a really progressive model that tended to attract a lot of homeschool students because it was very self-directed learning.
[00:25:03] Cait: You designed your own major oh's. Cool. Yeah. You could design your own classes. You could see why the appeal was there. They're like, great, I've been doing that for years. Let's do this. And we would see free school and unschool and homeschool students. And occasionally if there was like, no, like nothing for me to like figure out where their proficiency was at, we would maybe ask for a clap test.
[00:25:22] Cait: Or a G e D so we could get a sense of where things were at. And sometimes this didn't happen often, but it would point out maybe a major deficiency in math where we'd have to say you know what we're not saying no right now. We're saying no right now, but not never.
[00:25:35] Cait: Like we, we kind of ne need to deal with this deficiency in, in, in math at this point. For you to be able to do college level work here. So in the outside evaluation piece isn't only just important for, grades, but also having re a repository for letters of recommendation.
[00:25:53] Cait: And people who can speak to how your student will be not only in the classroom, but as a community member. An important thing I learned from a dean I worked with is we were on the fence about a student. He would say do they pass the roommate test? And so what that was we sat back and said, would this person be a good roommate?
[00:26:11] Cait: Would you want a room with this person based on everything you learned in the application? Are they going to be a good community member? Is essentially what that got at. So whether that, if they're doing community service, they have a job, they're part of the chess club, but some other adult that can say yeah, this kid's got a great character, they're gonna do great.
[00:26:29] Cait: You want them to be part of your community. So seeking those outside pieces. I don't know how I got from there to there based on your question, but it felt like love. Yeah. I love it. Worth mentioning as you're speaking. I have another question. Yeah. I, so I started homeschooling because my oldest is twice exceptional, so he was like off the charts cognitively, academically, but couldn't sit still and was in OT and everything.
[00:26:55] Cait: So it was like really pronounced in elementary school and he just did not fit. We have two elementary schools, like a lower and upper and he was like just didn't have a cohort. And I've connected because of that and falling into blocking and everything. I've connected with a lot of other parents of highly gifted and profoundly gifted children who also have these significant weaknesses.
[00:27:15] Cait: So I actually have two questions. My first is that a lot of these kids start taking, start dual enrollment early and even sometimes earlier than. You would think bef pre-high school and I had someone ask me recently and I didn't know the answer because like I'm thinking of myself w it, we always left it open like you can go to public high school, you can go, we'll figure something out.
[00:27:39] Cait: And he wanted to try public and that's awesome. But I had in my mind like where he would take the dual enrollment cuz I knew that we would get to that point and most likely, for most people it's a community college cuz you, that's what's easiest now. Those aren't weighted as well. Does that impact the college that you get into?
[00:28:00] Cait: If you went to a community college and were taking classes there, does this, that school reflect, are they looking at it as wow, this kid was taking college classes? Or are they looking at does the. I'm not phrasing this one at all. No, I think what you're getting at is basically like when you're thinking about the weighted schools, like the weighted public schools.
[00:28:19] Cait: Sure. If you're, and I'm not even gifted, but I'm just thinking like you have a kid that's like really super good academically, SATs, all of that, and is taking community college classes because they've maxed out of high school. Does that look bad? No, it doesn't. And again, it's providing that like outside validation.
[00:28:41] Cait: And I think that there is an understanding that community colleges are an easy entrance point. And from a transfer of credit standpoint, most of those colleges are going to accept those credits as transfer credits, which means they're saying like, yes, we're accepting this to our institution as part of your diploma.
[00:29:01] Cait: Yeah. As part of you graduating from our place, we're saying that this credit is valid, meets the standards as long as it's a regionally accredited institution. I often think don't share local community college rather than like maybe finding, something online. There are great online colleges.
[00:29:16] Cait: You just wanna make sure it's from a reputable school. They may not accept it directly into the major, and that's oftentimes the case. But it's a great way for a student to dive deeper into their interest to do a lot of pre-reqs if they have it like saying yeah, I wanna try out Intro to Psychology to see if I have an interest in it, or intro to sci or sociology.
[00:29:36] Cait: Or like maybe they do end up maxing out on their math. Cause maybe, maybe you don't feel comfortable teaching calculus too. I would not. Nope. So yeah, What colleges look at is did they challenge themselves in the context in which they were provided? And that goes for both homeschool students and students at a public or private school.
[00:29:56] Cait: What what did they take advantage of given their community? And oftentimes like yeah, going, trying to audit classes at a four year school and maybe like only a private school is near you that, that cannot be, that's not always cost efficient. Yes. To be able to do that. So yeah, I think community college is a great route for getting some of those for challenge, for keeping them engaged, for having them in a classroom environment where maybe they have to get themselves to school and get out of bed in the morning, right?
[00:30:24] Cait: Yes. And have like expectations and deadlines that they have to meet. It gives them that first flavor and taste of that kind of more regimented environment. I love that. And I think you just set a lot of minds at ease because this person that I was talking to is in a group with like a gifted group.
[00:30:43] Cait: I don't wanna, I don't wanna give, I'm trying to not say who it is, but there is a belief that the community college looks bad, but so I think I putting it out there that it doesn't, and that you're meeting your kid where they are. And I think especially for, I'm thinking of my own son, had he continued homeschooling and done this, it, it was really important for me as a parent of someone with a D h D like poster child that he, you can culminate for so much in homeschool and I'm so grateful for that.
[00:31:14] Cait: But also, you are gonna go out in the real world and you need to show up at this thing at this time. You cannot be late. You have to have all your materials, that whole thing. So I think the dual enrollment to me always seemed like a really smart idea if you could financially swing it, because they're getting a taste.
[00:31:30] Cait: You don't want the kid to go off to college and then just, lose everything. Lose everything. Yeah. So it's like dipping in your toes. The other question I had was about students who are on 5 0 4 plans or IEPs, and I know we have a lot of parents of unique learners and a lot of kids with really significant learning challenges that they're, that want to go on to college.
[00:31:52] Cait: What does that look like for those parents and what should they be aware of? I think this is a really good time to talk about fit. And really finding that right fit for your student. And a place that I usually always start with students, and it's a place where, this is a great conversation to have is what has allowed you to be successful in this environment and how can we replicate some of those pieces moving forward?
[00:32:17] Cait: Because maybe it is that self-directed learning piece. And there are colleges with fewer re, requirements like Brown and Hamilton and Grinnell that, won't have so many distribution requirements that might feel really painful for some students to finish if they don't have an interest in it.
[00:32:36] Cait: So thinking about what has made me successful? How can I replicate it? And high schools and what gun burns kind of high school students and colleges as far as like ADA laws concerned and accommodations is totally different. And so I've seen parents who wanna jump into the college size and say here's their I E P, here's their 5 0 4.
[00:32:54] Cait: And I'm like that's not the game you're playing anymore. Yeah. There's a different set of rules and colleges the phrasing that's used is they have to offer reasonable accommodations and it is the word reasonable, and that is a subjective term about what can be deemed as reasonable accommodations.
[00:33:10] Cait: And so you see colleges doing the absolute base level. Which is you can have extended test taking time maybe taking a test in a quiet free zone, or a quiet note taker and maybe a note taker. And that's hard for some colleges to figure out. Oftentimes that notetaking piece is hard. Two colleges with comprehensive support systems.
[00:33:29] Cait: So you have to like right size that piece of what's gonna work for my student, my family and comprehensive supports can look like maybe they are me meeting with an academic coach two or three times a week to help them figure out this executive functioning piece. Yeah.
[00:33:45] Cait: That they have trouble putting together. Or, maybe they're on the autism spectrum and being at, there are many colleges with specific autism support programs that help with social pragmatics, that help with that transition piece into college that help with the executive functioning piece.
[00:34:00] Cait: And so determining if having those pieces together would be really beneficial to your students. So right sizing in that sense. The other piece too is just, the paperwork piece and making sure you have your documentation together. Colleges, cuz it's colleges more often wanna see like the psych social testing that's been done in the last three years.
[00:34:21] Cait: Cuz that allows them to best determine accommodations based on where the stern learning profile is now. And while some colleges will accept an i e p it's never a guarantee. Yeah. And so really having that testing have been recent. And when you say test, I'm sorry to interrupt. Yeah.
[00:34:39] Cait: When you say testing, are you talking about like a psycho educational evaluation to get an updated one, which would, if you were on an i p you would be doing anyway, but perhaps if you're coming from homeschool and you haven't you've just been accommodating, that might be something you, you should get before you head off.
[00:34:55] Cait: Absolutely. And along with that, I have, some students who have learned to work with their, their learning differences that they think, when they get to college. Oh, I, I don't need accommodations. I'm good. I have my systems in place. They're walking into a brand new environment with a ton of different transitional pieces that they need to function with.
[00:35:15] Cait: Yes. Like independence, being away from home, totally new system that I always encourage, they go ahead and sign 'em for the accommodations because accommodations don't work retroactively. So if they took a test and realized like, oh, time and a half would've been really better, or like time where I could have gotten up and pasted yes.
[00:35:35] Cait: Would've helped me through this. You've already, maybe not had a great testing experience. And then once you're giving the school, the pa the paperwork, it could be another month before they can get your accommodations in place. Yes. So I say get it all in there, get on their radar and then determine the right level for you of maybe I'll use these, maybe I won't, but they're there if I need them.
[00:35:56] Cait: And then I think the other piece that's really big is just the self-advocacy piece. Like I'm a big proponent of students. They, if they, do the psych ed testing, that they read their psych ed testing, they actually understand it. They know it. They can speak to how their brain works.
[00:36:13] Cait: And I think we can have a whole conversations about label versus non labels. Cause I think that's all hard. I think for some students though, even if there is a label attach patch, that helps them give context to their own brain and be able to speak to that. And that helps with the self-advocacy piece because every semester they will typically have to go up to a faculty member and say, Hey, here are my accommodations.
[00:36:36] Cait: And I've taught at the college level and anytime that happened to me and not a lot of faculty do this, I say, great, how do you best learn? And how can I help you? Wouldn't it be great if everybody did that? And I had some students who were actually a little surprised cuz I might have been the only one asking them that.
[00:36:53] Cait: And so what I would really help students with on that sense, especially when I was at Landmark, was like, okay, what are the points you wanna make to your faculty members when you have to do this every semester at the next college? Is it like, I really need to sit in the front? That would be helpful if you can provide me with your PowerPoint beforehand.
[00:37:09] Cait: I would love that. So them being able to speak to that piece and own it because that's not just something that stops at college. They may find as somebody out in the workplace with a career, they may be having to have those talks with a manager or an HR person saying this is how I will best work for you.
[00:37:27] Cait: Is if we can change some of these pieces around. I love that. I love the idea of the teens reading their evaluation and knowing what they're good at and what they're not good at. Because I. I think it can, you can feel like an outsider if you have these really unique needs. And and it's good to see your strengths too, to know as I'm speaking more of like from a public school.
[00:37:51] Cait: I always I felt like we always focus so much on the weakness because it's a system and you have to, cuz you're targeting the weakness and remediating and all this. But I like the kids are aware, so I feel like it's nice to share with them their, we, this might be hard for you, but these are the things that you're really good at and here's how you can.
[00:38:13] Cait: Take that and work on the other thing, or accommodate for it, absolutely. That's why I think I always come out from a strengths-based approach. Because yes they're oftentimes very aware where the deficiencies and challenges are at. Yeah. And so I wanna lean hard into yeah, these are challenges, but look at these things you're really amazing at.
[00:38:32] Cait: And how do we lean hard into these things? Because you're good at them and they're, we can even find ways to avoid some of these things that, that aren't, and we do that n normally as hu as humans. I just think that's so much more acute for a student who may learn differently.
[00:38:47] Cait: . I'm just thinking how you were talking about how high school guidance counselors have to be generalists because they are dealing with, could be a class size of over 300 and their counseling. They've got their caseload and everyone is all over. Just very diverse.
[00:39:02] Cait: If a parent is feeling overwhelmed by the idea, are there any resources online?
[00:39:09] Cait: And then I wanna talk about college-wise, but what should you be researching? Are there sites that are, go-to sites like this is the type of profile that works for this college, or this is what a transcript could look like. Just resources to have in your back pocket as you're preparing the Thanksgiving dinner and trying to get it all on the table at the same time.
[00:39:30] Cait: One of the things you mentioned like starting the end of sophomore year or what would be like second year and depending on where your path is a really great time to start and it doesn't have to be intense at that point so you don't scare your student. And I think a really great place to start is actually why college?
[00:39:45] Cait: And it's one of the first things I ask parents like when I am, start with a college-wise family. And I like, what do you think the purpose of college is? Because your answer will determine. How this process unfolds, right? And there's not a wrong answer to it. If you think it's like for career TR prep and getting a high achieving job, that's fine.
[00:40:06] Cait: That aligns with your values. If you think it's about growth and maturation and being exposed to different people and different ideas, great. Those are all gonna govern like how this process unfolds for us. And that's a really great place where students to students and parents to start is saying like, why are we doing this?
[00:40:24] Cait: And does this achieve our end goal? Because maybe it's college and maybe it's not. So I think being introspective about it just from the start is really key. Is as far as, I mean there's a ton of resources out there. I think from the college search standpoint. There's all sorts of guides that you can start with.
[00:40:41] Cait: I worked for two colleges that are in the cohort of colleges that change lives. This started as a book it's now a nonprofit company. They all traveled together into college fairs and it's all small liberal arts colleges that you likely haven't heard of. Which I think is really great because I think what we can overlook is there's 2000 colleges in the us 2004 year colleges that's not adding all like certificate two year, all that.
[00:41:09] Cait: And there's only a hundred that reject more than it. But those are ones, the ones that get all the focus. Yeah. And I think that's what gets parents very anxious and scared being like, they're not gonna get into a college, they're not going to, the average acceptance rate nationwide is actually 75%. And it's not that these aren't good colleges, they're great colleges that just open their doors a little wider to a greater spectrum of students.
[00:41:34] Cait: So college that change colleges that change lives like. Part of it's the reason it was written was be students and c students can still have a great college experience. I love it's about that, what they do once they're there. So that's a great place to start just because I so love the philosophy and the thinking around it.
[00:41:51] Cait: And it'll cue in, cue you into a bunch of like great small colleges. The Fisk Guide is a giant book with 370 schools in it. Little overwhelming. It's, but what's nice about it, there is like a little test you can take in the beginning that kind of helps you figure out if a big school or a small school is maybe what you should be geared towards.
[00:42:10] Cait: The pages are only like three three pages long. So I can always get my students to read it. I'm like, it is three pages, right? You can it. And it's giving you a whole synopsis. Like just dive in there and figure out what you want. And like the college board offers like a college search thing, like plug in what you think, what you want.
[00:42:27] Cait: But that's a good question about priorities, right? That's a great place to start too, is actually sitting down and writing down your priorities. So you have the why college, but you also have the what's important to me. How far am I willing to go from home when I have college students be like, oh, I wanna, go to the big basketball game and I want, Greek life.
[00:42:47] Cait: And I'm like, that's great. How do you think you would function at a hall of 300 students? If you like, you know what, I got this. I'm good. I, do most of my learning on my own anyway. Perfect. If you're like no, I need to talk to the professor. Yeah. Probably on a regular basis. I'm like, okay, let's back up.
[00:43:04] Cait: What some of these priorities are cuz things, some things are priorities and some things are perks, right? They'd be nice, but I don't have to have it. So let's like, figure out where your deal breakers are. Yeah, so Fisk College Board our College Wise's website actually has a ton of guides to get people started.
[00:43:21] Cait: The common application. So it's the one application you can fill out that you can send over 800 schools. Wow. We've created like a 60 page guide that you can sit down and go through every section about this is what they're asking for here. This is what they want. Here. We just created a parent guide to help you better understand the process and make it not feel so scary.
[00:43:41] Cait: Because we've been doing this for 23 years and we've figured out where these pain points and stressors are, and so we wanna make sure we're providing the right information at the right time. So parents and families do feel like they have some ownership and it doesn't feel so scary.
[00:43:55] Cait: Yeah. So I dunno if that totally answers your question. It does. I like that you pointed out that there's so many colleges that you're not aware of. Cuz I was thinking when I w first started homeschooling, I was part of this gifted organization for parents of gifted students and there was a lot of kids.
[00:44:11] Cait: So you had every, all the ages and there were a lot of kids that were college ready academically, but were young. And there are actually schools, like colleges that, that is common at that you have never heard of. And I can't think of the names now, but I remember being like, wow. Oh, there's like Simon's Rock.
[00:44:27] Cait: Yeah. Yeah. There's it's early college. It's you start college after your first year of high school. Yep. They're out there. So there's something out there for everyone, I think is what you're saying. And it's just a matter of Absolutely. It's not just Harvard or your state school.
[00:44:39] Cait: Yes. Yeah. I feel strongly and I feel like a lot of my colleagues do. That it's not necessarily about what, where you go, it's about what you do during your time there. Because there's so many cool things you can take advantage of. You could go to Harvard, but if you're not taking advantage of events, programs, different things going on, like you may not have much on your resume to show at the end where you could go to this college no one's ever heard of.
[00:45:02] Cait: And be a Fulbright scholar and be president of the Student Government Association and you can really have a robust experience. From the school nobody's ever heard of. And I know the listeners can't see, I'm quoting that, like quotation marks. But I'm always like, if you knew all 2000 schools that were out there, I would be super impressed.
[00:45:23] Cait: But trust me, if they've stayed open this long they're doing something right. Exactly. So we've, you've mentioned college-wise a bunch. Could you just let anyone who's listening know what college-wise offers for parents of kids that are thinking about. Heading on? Yeah, absolutely.
[00:45:42] Cait: So we offer a couple different services. We do the college counseling piece, and that can start as early as ninth grade. But I can tell you what we're doing in ninth grade is not talking like college. We're talking about what are your academic goals? How can you dive into your interest and be and find some passions?
[00:45:57] Cait: How can you explore what can you do this summer that would sound really fun and cool and allow you to again, explore the world in front of you? Cuz that's really what we wanna see you do. And that counseling piece, as I said, we have found these pain points and stressors and are gonna help you the whole way through.
[00:46:12] Cait: So that can be the project management part of it is that Thanksgiving dinner, right? How do we get all these pieces done at the same time? And college essay writing, which can be a big part of this process. And we feel like we really tapped into a process that works well for students and really produces Authentic pieces to really help tell their story and then being there all the way through the end to like, when they're making their decisions.
[00:46:35] Cait: So they've gotten these great acceptances how do I figure it out, out, what's the next best step for me? But the project management piece can't be huge. And sometimes that's hard as a parent to also be on top of oh my gosh, we've got 10 applications going, we have 20 supplemental essay.
[00:46:52] Cait: And we have deadlines at all different times, especially as a homeschool student. There's all these different pieces and I think that the real power of what we do, I could have become an independent educational consultant on my own, have I wanted to, a lot of folks do. For me. It was really exciting to have.
[00:47:11] Cait: Other people to bounce ideas off of and this amazing wealth of knowledge. We call it the hive mind. So if I don't know something, one of the other 89 people I work with has probably experienced it, seen it has a details, maybe they worked there. So I can go back and say, Hey. And so everyone is really just freely gives them their time and resources which I love.
[00:47:31] Cait: We also offer tutoring not just like a c t and s a T tutoring, but like subject tu tutoring in certain areas. Success skills, tutoring for some of those students, especially around EF issues. But that can be really empowering. We have a financial aid expert if you wanna talk about, okay great, we got all this, how are we paying for this?
[00:47:51] Cait: That's a whole other, that could be a whole other podcast. Absolutely. And then as I said, we have a ton of free resources because it's really our goal over the next year to like, Touch a million different families in some way. And while some families can afford to work with us and that's great and hire a private counselor cause I feel like there's so many benefits to doing that.
[00:48:10] Cait: We still wanna have a greater impact. So we do like free webinars, free seminars all the time. So if people just go to like college wise.com/seminars we talk about things like highly selective admissions, financial aid how can you have a cool summer, like doing some interesting things.
[00:48:29] Cait: But yeah lots of great little resources out there. That's great. It has been so fun talking to you about this and I know me too, that you're gonna help a ton of people out there listening cuz I know that it's a real stressor. I hear about it almost. Not daily, but like many times a week I'm getting emails from people saying, what do I do?
[00:48:49] Cait: Can you actually homeschool high school? What about labs? All this stuff. So you're gonna make a lot of people feel better. Great. And definitely, if folks wanna know more or wanna figure out if this is the right path for them working with a college counselor, they should definitely go to our website, college wise.com, and they can set up a time to chat with one of our program advisors and figure out if this feels like a good fit for their family.
[00:49:09] Cait: That's great. And I'll include all of that, everything we've mentioned today in the show notes. If you're driving, you don't have to worry. It'll be, it'll, the links will be there for you. Okay, I'm gonna switch to rapid fire. Okay. I've kept you way over. I'm sorry, I just looked at the text. I never answer anything simply.
[00:49:25] Cait: So that's really on me. No. Oh, I asked things that I, as we're talking, I was like, Ooh, I wanna ask that question. I wanna ask that question. What was your favorite childhood gamer toy? My, my older sister and I played Monopoly for an entire summer, the same game. So we would like carefully put the board up and then bring it back down.
[00:49:43] Cait: And it was one we were, would watch Gilligan's Island at three o'clock and so we kept the same. I don't even know who won it, but, with Monopoly it's totally possible to play it for an entire summer and never have the game end. Really how it probably ended if someone flipped to the board at some point when they just decided they were done.
[00:49:59] Cait: I love that. What a great memory too. What was your favorite book as a kid? I have two for from like my little years. The monster at the end of this book. Oh, that's, Yes. I, my mom just used to read it with like sus such intonation where I would get so worked up even though I knew it was Grover at the end.
[00:50:17] Cait: I love that one. And then Inner Green Gables and I'm fulfilling a childhood dream this summer cause we're gonna go to Prince Edward Island. You are. And I'm like I found podcast, my bucket list. Yeah. It was on mine. So I finally get to mark it off. I'm thrilled. Childhood. Like memory, like goal fulfilled.
[00:50:35] Cait: That's amazing. What is the Beth book? Or if you wanna give a couple, that's fine cuz I know it's a hard question that you've read in the last five or so years. I never read things when they actually come out. So this could have come out like 10 or 20 years ago and I have no idea. I, I did like station 11 that I recently read because I had watched the show and someone told me like the book was totally different.
[00:50:55] Cait: And I do doing that comparison of wow, you took this idea of a story and you went this direction, but the book went this direction. And we watch way too much post apocalyptic stuff at my household. I don't know why it's never uplifting, but yeah, I thought that was a good read.
[00:51:11] Cait: I loved that book and the show actually, and I usually don't like doing them close, but I feel like they were different enough that, because usually the show you're like this is wrong and this is wrong. And you get irked about it. But I thought they did a really good job there, a hun.
[00:51:24] Cait: 100%. That's how I felt that they were two separate stories with the kind of the same like nugget of an idea, which I thought is great. And what is bringing you joy right now? So it's, we're recording this one. It's spring and this is the time of year where the students I've been working with for the whole last year have decided where they're going to college.
[00:51:43] Cait: And that just feels really it's a great moment cause we've been doing all this work and they finally are seeing, making this what feels like one of the big first adult decisions for them. And I think what has been probably my favorite part is a lot of them started here with this idea, but ended somewhere Yes.
[00:52:02] Cait: Totally different. And to watch them really own these choices has been, yeah it's the best part of what I do is like seeing that last piece, but also the ownership that they. Taken it. Cuz sometimes they're not completely aligned with their parents about what that next step is.
[00:52:17] Cait: And it means for them having these like semi adult conversations about like, why I think this is the next step and here's my argumentation and reasoning around. Yeah. And, yeah. I love that it's bananas that we are expecting these kids whose brains aren't fully developed to decide what they wanna do for four years.
[00:52:35] Cait: It's super expensive. Uhhuh. I think about this all the time. Like I, I was having a conversation with someone and we were both like, we're so lucky that like we ended up liking what we were doing. I, when I do present, yeah. Really There was not a lot of planning or thought that went into it?
[00:52:49] Cait: No. When I do presentations, sometimes I start with like, how many adults in this room are doing exactly what they thought they were going to be doing when they were like 17? And I get one hand who was like, oh, I wanna be a nurse. I'm a nurse. I was like, cool. It's just you like look around kids. Like you may have an idea of what you wanna do, but this is a time for exploration and figuring out that wide, wor wide world of things you can do out there that you don't even know exist.
[00:53:13] Cait: Or that don't exist yet. I was having a conversation. Have you read Simplicity Parenting? Yes. So I was Kim Jon Payne came into the never board learning community to talk about. He's awesome. But yeah, one of the things he said was that it's something like, and I'm gonna misquote, but it over 50% of the people heading out who are 10 years old now.
[00:53:32] Cait: When they get to adults in college graduation, they will be working for themselves, like self-employed, working from home sort of situation. Like a very niche. And I think about that now cuz I thought I was gonna be working in public schools forever and Boston, Lowell and here I am homeschooling with a blog and a podcast and a membership, which weren't even things when I applied to college.
[00:53:55] Cait: I'm my typewriter, 18 year old me didn't know this was a career. Yes. I had no idea this existed. And you hadn't even gone to school yet, so no. Yeah. Oh, it's been so fun to talk to you. Oh, it's been great. Thank you so much for coming on. Yeah, thanks for having me. This has been fun. Of course. And I will talk to you soon.
[00:54:14] Cait: Great. Thanks. Bye bye.