Saturday, 12 September 2009

First Day and Already Worried About Further Education

Wow, 2009 was such a long time ago... I wrote this then...

My baby had her first day of school last week... it was so exciting: buying all the supplies ($$ faint! $$) planning the lunch menus, packing what she needed the first day, getting up on time, catching the bus all by herself. 

It makes a mommy proud.

The really cool part is that she's 17, and her first day of school is collage.

Can't Get In Without...

On the homeschool email lists, the semi-annual arguments about what is necessary to be successful in life has just passed. This year, the focus was on the economy (universally terrible, in spite of the thousands of new jobs and low unemployment numbers) and the unwavering but unreasonable requirements of employers.
It is 'necessary' in one mom's view, to make sure her kids not only have diplomas from high school, but also at least a bachelor's degree --because that is the only way to be employed, today. 

She knows because she's been out there looking for a job by handing out 25 resumes a week, and she doesn't have a degree, which is why she's unemployed. 

She's applied for university and since she doesn't have a high school diploma, she can't get in. She also can't get any funding, because she's been turned down 'by everyone.'

I'm only amazed that she has a roof over her head, the impediments to success are so thick on the ground around her...

The Gatekeepers...

It is a prevalent view that it is not possible to get into university or college without a high school diploma. Often, university admissions offices will tell applicants this 'fact' directly. Call one up and ask, I assure you the usual answer is 'high school diploma necessary.' 

After that 'fact' is shared, ask what the entrance requirements are for 'mature student'... and if you're bored and want to talk longer, ask what the pre-requisites are for 'taking a single course.'

The admissions office has a particular job to do, regarding the casual questions of the general public (read: unwashed masses): maintain the sanctity of the gates. 

It is the gatekeeper's job to keep the incompetent, incapable and unlikely from getting anywhere near the lecture halls, because they are already well over-quota. Their job is not to tell anyone the 'other' ways into the system.

Other Ways In...

Then, of course, there are the myriad other ways into the college/university system that vary from person to person, and facility to facility.

It helps to remember that a university's primary task is to stay full. They have seating requirements to meet their budgets, and without enough tuition being paid they haven't the budget necessary to keep the quality of professors which attracts the quality students (does this start sounding like a circle to anyone else but me?)

Once it is understood that universities do not have boatloads of money holding up the pillars of their ivory towers, but they do have escalating costs, it becomes easier to see that if a candidate smells even slightly like they might end up looking good on behalf of the school (to attract donations, other students and good professors), it's a lot easier to get in than having good grades on a freshly printed high school transcript.

A few hints:

1. Winter session has fewer applicants, overall, than fall session, but has budget requirements every bit as high.
2. Heads of Departments are allowed to invite students in without anyone's permission.
3. Reading and responding to current research published in journals is an attention-getting method for future applicants looking to catch the eye of Department Heads.
4. Exhausting community resources in the field is an excellent way to find mentors, referees for entrance and bursary applications and to coincidentally run across Heads of Departments who are active in the field.
5. Attending public lectures, auditing courses and attending open-houses all enable applicants to suss out the movers and shakers local in the field.
6. Accredited private colleges offer more-focused coursework for specialized fields, often resulting in higher degrees of employability plus all the pre-requisites necessary to enroll next term in university in the same field.
7. Community colleges and accredited online universities have much lower intake standards (one that I know of requires applicants to be 16, except in special circumstances) but offer fully-transferrable credits --often not only easier to get into, but smaller first- and second-year class sizes plus a lot cheaper per credit.

Both my daughters selected private colleges, so they could concentrate on the subjects they wanted to learn without the mandatory (and expensive) requirements for out-of-field studies. Both of them decided in mid-summer which program they wanted, and getting in required a phone call to see if there was still room, a printed application form filled out and an application fee. One asked for confirmation from the registering school that they were homeschooled, the other wanted a short essay regarding what she hoped to gain from the program.

Both said on their websites that applicants had to be 19 or high school grads, but on the application form of both there was a space for 'parent or guardian signature if applicant is under 19' and nowhere to fill in prior education information.

There is still room in my daughter's program, if you know anyone who wants to get into college this year...