PSEO info - part II (the ins and outs)

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by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist

This article includes some tips and strategies to make the most of your PSEO experience. PSEO is Post Secondary Education Opportunities- a program in Mn that allows 11th and 12th graders to attend college classes for credit and grades. Free tuition and books! Other states may have similar opportunities and some of these tips and ideas will certainly be relevant whether your child attends college early, or after high school graduation. Be sure to get the specifics on your state’s program before signing up as each program will vary.

In my first PSEO installment, I suggested that you start getting the lay of the PSEO landscape when your student is in 9th grade. Lay out a timeline of application deadlines, test scores needed, orientations to attend, etc. This will keep you on track through the 10th grade year when you are applying and getting your proverbial ducks in a row.

Your student can take one class, or anything up to a full time schedule (12 credits). No matter what your credit plan per semester is, when it comes time to register for classes, sign up for at least one additional class. With this strategy, your student can drop a class or 2  in the first week sand be at the planned credit load. Without the buffer credits, if you find a class isn’t a good fit, or the work load seems a bit daunting and you want to take the class later in their college career, you will drop a class and find it nearly impossible to find a replacement class.

Keep in mind that a class is often offered on a MWF schedule or a T/Th schedule, and might even have an evening session or weekend session, and many classes are offered online. You can structure the schedule however it works best for you and your student. Maybe arrange for on campus classes just on T/TH and the rest online (done from home).  Each of these different sessions of the same class might have a different instructor. You can switch a session and keep the same class if an instructor isn’t a good fit. I say this because my youngest son came home from his first day of “interpersonal communication” and said ‘I don’t think this is the class for me’. It turned out that the teacher was leading this class more like a couples therapy session and encouraging ‘personal sharing’. We switched sessions and he was much happier with a traditional approach to communication skills. You can read bios of most of the teachers on the college website, so it doesn’t hurt to take a look at those in advance of registering for a class. I wasn’t the only parent calling our advisor with questions about the first teacher’s approach to the topic.

A few comments about online classes- We found online classes to really be convenient and have some advantages over on-campus classes. The schedule is flexible with deadlines set for assignments and exams, no running around to campus for classes or missing classes when there was a conflict or illness. And best of all, the instructors upload their lectures (audio files or sometimes a power point presentation with voice over) so the student can save those files to listen again before the exams, and the lecture can be paused and restarted making note taking less hurried.

College courses require a lot of writing. We found the IEW’s advanced class set to be really helpful. It included Advanced Note Taking, Writing a Persuasive Paper and Writing a College Paper. We used this DVD in 9th grade and repeated it in 10th grade. Both of my sons felt prepared to handle the college expectations when it came to writing, and they did really well on their papers. I recommend this program HIGHLY.  Let me know if you have trouble locating the course in the IEW website. Last time I checked it was priced at $69.00. If you use it for all of your children and then sell it to another homeschooling family, you will find that you REALLY got your money’s worth!

Another note about college paper writing: When your student has their rough draft finished, we found it helpful for the boys to read their papers aloud (in the privacy of their bedroom) to find the areas that needed editing or smoothing. When you read something aloud, you hear the stumbles or the words that are used too frequently. This strategy proved very helpful.

Keep in mind that actual PSEO classes have a few advantages over CLEPing for college credit. For one thing, CLEP tests are no guarantee of credit at the school your student plans to attend. Colleges have discretion as to whether or not they will grant credit and how much. More important though, is the fact that PSEO college classes help acclimate your student to college expectations and how the whole process works. This is invaluable when your student goes off to a 4 yr school and has to navigate the whole process independently. A successful PSEO experience also bolsters your student’s confidence that he/she is ready for college level work and helps them develop their time management skills, something many young college students really struggle with. Be sure to read my article on transitioning from Homeschooling to college for more tips on making this a smooth process for your student.

A note about Calendar coordinating—when classes start, help your new college student get organized. Pick out a planner- the kind that shows a week at a time. Have your student take each class syllabus and put all of that info into the planner. A different color ink for each class, or whatever works. This system allows your student to take a look, a week at a time, and be sure things are getting done on schedule. I like to put a reminder on the week before a big test or project is due. Good organization can save a lot of last minute panic attacks and all night cramming. 

You may not feel ready for all of this college level stuff when your student is just in 9th grade, but wade into the waters and soon you’ll be swimming like pro.  Great Courses, from the Teaching Company, offer high school and college level classes on DVD that can also be a nice transition for your 9thand 10th graders. With the DVD lecture format, your student can begin to practice their note taking and adapt to the lecture style presentation that college classes will use. And when planning your student’s first semester of classes, don’t stack it too deep with classes that will have a heavy work load. A couple heavy classes and then maybe a ceramics or photography class. Leave a little breathing room.

And be sure to browse the college websites and see if there is a 2 yr degree that interests your student. Many fields now offer a 2 yr degree or a certification that can be completed in 2 yrs or less. These can be stepping stones to further training or a career path of their own. Paramedics, EMT, dental technicians, Nursing, architectural technicians, engineering technicians, graphic design, Culinary assistants, dietary aide. Explore the list online and see what feels like a good fit for your student. With that first degree under the belt, your son/daughter might be able to get a nice position with an employer that offers tuition reimbursement for those to continue to study and advance their degree. College is just too expensive these days not to be creative about it. Keep thinking outside the box!