(please note this is purely an opinion piece - a passionate, but a genuine one. No financial incentive or compensation was offered to the author or to our organization in promoting Colleges That Changes Lives. We just feel very passionate about sharing this resource with our community!)
Please enjoy this video from our Homeschool 1-on-1 with Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) on June 4, 2021, to learn more about CTCL from Board Member, Lauren Sefton.
Colleges that Changes Lives - learning about this amazing organization and its network of schools has changed my family's approach to the college search.
By Paige McKinney (updated May 2021)
When I first learned about Colleges that Change Lives I was a single homeschool mom with one middle schooler, and two high schoolers enrolled with a California Independent Study Public Charter school: homeschooling them through this unique type of educational system while juggling work and family life. And unfortunately, I had deep-seated fears and anxieties towards the college search process. What college path would my children want to take? Which college path would be the soundest financial decision for each of my children, and for my family as a whole? My most pervasive fear was about which colleges my children could even get into when so many majors and so many schools in California's college system are impacted and therefore the admission process has become highly selective? Would community college be their only choice if my kids didn't have the GPA and testing numbers for the competitiveness of many of California's state colleges and universities? Should we not even bother looking at four-year schools? Had homeschooling, and more specifically, had unschooling spoiled our chances for an affordable, quality college education?
Beyond my fears about college admissions for my children, as I dug deeper, was an even more important concern. What kind of college experience was best suited for my children's pursuits and their individual learning styles? What were their pursuits, truly? That would take some deep diving and soul-searching (and is the subject of another blog post!), but if attending college was to be a step along their paths, if that's what they needed to do, I wanted it to be a good fit for their personalities, too. I did not want them to just attend college for the sake of attending college and end up anywhere that would take them, just because they got accepted, without regard to their individual needs and personhood.
These concerns and questions are prominent, recurring, and can shift and change depending on how kids shift and change in their thoughts about a potential college path. A decision to pursue a Bachelor of Arts is an altogether different focus than a Bachelor of Science. There are different classes, a different set of rigor, and a different set of pressures to contend with. Alternately, making a decision to pursue a professional certificate program at a California community or vocational college can be an equally intense and challenging process, which begins when your student enrolls, navigating the pressure of impacted vocational and professional programs. I've witnessed how impacted programs resulted in a delay of a student's progress towards obtaining an education and starting their career -it happened to friends of ours. Which direction then, is the best path with so much to consider? It can feel incredibly overwhelming when you and your student first start thinking about all of this.
In my family's timid, reluctant first steps toward the college search experience, we stumbled across Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL) by word of mouth from another homeschooling parent who mentioned it to me in casual conversation. I bought the book off Amazon a couple of months later, hearing about it a second time when this same friend was talking about it with another friend. I realized if she feels this strongly about it maybe I should look into it, too. But then the book sat on my bedside table for another month before I even opened it (life gets busy, especially as a single mom!). Once I finally picked it up to try reading it, I didn't want to stop. I even switched purses to one that could hold the book in it when I went out! I often skipped through it to the different chapters (you don't have to read it sequentially, since it highlights different schools), just to find delight in every section that I read. It was a feel-good book, and that was what I needed since I had been dreading the college search. I started going to the website and reading bits and pieces there, too, and I soon discovered that CTCL had college fairs happening locally. We attended one of them, all three of my kids and me, at Universal City. We made the trek on a weekend morning just for this. And all of us were so glad we did. You see, it not only opened my eyes, but it also opened my kids' eyes as well. Talking to the CTCL college reps gave my children encouragement that their learning styles, personalities, interests, and philosophies about life could all fit into a college environment, and more than that - there are colleges that might want them and would be so happy to have them. Maybe it seems silly that this is what we needed to feel, to be encouraged by college reps whose job it is to recruit students, but it was a genuinely warm, engaging exchange that I'm so grateful we experienced. Coming from a state with impacted colleges everywhere we look, while the costs continue to rise, while our process of applying continues to get more difficult, and our chances of admission slimmer, talking with the CTCL rep was truly like experiencing a breath of fresh air.
CTCL has created an entire paradigm shift for our family. The college search is now about my kids feeling like they want to choose the right college path, not about them feeling like they have to