Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Trying to sort through educational options February 16, 2011

I’M UNCERTAIN WHETHER I should admit this given I could be labeled as a “bad parent.” But I’ll risk criticism.

I am weary/tired/exhausted from trying to figure out every detail that goes into educating today’s child.

Can you blame me? I’ve had children in school for 20 years.

So…, given that, I felt a sense of relief last Thursday evening when my husband and I walked into Faribault High School to help our 17-year-old register for his last year of high school. I’m not sure why we had to be there, except to sign the registration paper. Our son knew, for the most part, what classes he wanted. He input the information into a media center computer without our assistance and questioned aloud why he couldn’t register online from home. I wondered too.

His Dad and I waited and pulled a few books from the library shelves. I scanned the magazine shelves—O, the Oprah Magazine; People; and periodicals about cats and dogs. I yawned, more than once. I was tired and really hadn’t wanted to venture outside on such a brutally cold winter night.

But I am the parent and this was required of me, to be here. I also had questions about AP classes, PSEO, SAT, PSAT and CLEP. Acronyms. So many. So much to consider and decide regarding my son’s education.

I’ve been pushing him to earn as many college credits as he can in high school. I know he’s capable and I also know he won’t get as much financial aid as his sisters given we have only one dependent now.

If all goes as planned, meaning he scores well on Advanced Placement tests, successfully completes several college classes and passes College Level Examination Program tests, my son should have a good semester of college behind him when he graduates from high school.

But we’re still trying to sort through the process, and it’s like panning for gold.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “Trying to sort through educational options”

  1. brentsears Says:

    Hi Audrey,
    I understand how you feel. My parents never went to college, and they were able to help me fill out forms, but not with how to deal with the process or the system. I was completely on my own and it was tough at first…I ended up taking a couple of semesters off because I couldn’t afford life and tuition.
    It is a process to educate yourself on everything, but one thing I will say is in the end no one cares what your SAT scores are. I won almost $5,000 in scholarships in 2006, and that helped to cover an entire semester in Ecuador…it was cheaper to live and study abroad in Ecuador for a semester than it was to live in upstate NY.
    The trick is to find the scholarships first, and then work back from there. At my school I found a $1,500 award that had one special criteria: Rugby Participation Given Special Consideration…so I joined the rugby club, played for one year, and won the award. Most students, even the brilliant ones, don’t know how to do this, or don’t think to.
    All the best!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Brent, thanks for stopping in and offering your insights into the whole college-funding process. I am a college graduate, but much has changed since I graduated in 1978. Back in the 1970s in my small rural high school, we didn’t have opportunities to earn college credits and had few electives.

      Students today have sooooo many choices.

      Your comment about the SAT score was the insight I found most interesting. My son scored well on the PSAT, so I thought maybe that would help him land some scholarship monies. He’s getting lots of mail now from prestigious colleges.

      I think you’re right in that we need to educate ourselves. I just wish the process was easier and that college was less costly.

      Thanks for stopping by Minnesota Prairie Roots. I appreciate your perspective on this issue.

      He’s a smart kid, really smart, and is taking difficult AP classes in science and math.

      • brentsears Says:

        From what I hear about college in the 70’s people didn’t accumulate the mountain of debt either. Now there are more students, more colleges, and more costs than ever before.
        Test scores will help him initially, but it also may depend on the school he chooses and what financial package they can offer. (I did it wrong at first no knowing how to scholarships work.) Working backward is the best way I know of. Find a school that will offer a lot of aid/scholarships for what he is specifically studying – if he knows.
        There is a lot of money out there right now for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics (STEM). When I worked as a study abroad advisor my students were awarded $50K in 10 months out of one STEM award.
        Meritaid.com is a great scholarship resource as well as fastweb.com….I won $3K from a scholarship listed on fastweb. I started with finding the money, and made plans accordingly…and it worked out.
        I like the quote, “When it is all said and done, is the juice worth the squeeze? Best of luck!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        You’re right. I had little debt when I graduated from college, due to a combination of working while in school, getting scholarships and grants and borrowing minimal monies. Of course, we were paid a lot less back then too so I think it all balances out.

        I appreciate your tips on the science/technology/math monies available. My son wants to pursue a career in computers, in an area I can’t even begin to understand. Without sounding boastful, I can honestly say he’s incredibly smart in math, the sciences and computers. He has the test scores and grades to back up that statement.

        As for the FAFSA, yes, in the past with my two daughters, I’ve gotten it completed early.

        If anyone else has tips on finding money for college, pass those ideas along here. All of us can benefit from helping each other.

        Thank you, Brent.

      • brentsears Says:

        You’re welcome. I love the planning and strategy of college because I was clueless when I started out. If you have any questions just contact me through my blog.

  2. Dawn Tietz Says:

    I totally know where you are coming from. We are fortunate enough to have a super capable school counselor who really cares about our kids and really wants what’s best for them. She helps them with so much that as a parent employed at the school I haven’t even known through the years exactly which classes my kids are taking.

    Our son will graduate in June with enough college classes to be considered a second semester freshman when he starts college in the fall. Considering we will have two children in college in the fall, that is great!!!

    Times have changed so much from when I went to college that we as parents would need a college class just to keep up with what is available for our children.

    Hang in there Audrey. This is your last child to get through high school and college. Imagine us–we still have a four year old at home. We get to deal with AP, PSAT, FAFSA, etc. for the 14 years!! Now that is a scary thought!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I think this is definitely one of the advantages of a smaller school like yours. Counselors really get to know the students and work closely with them, guiding them in decisions. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen in larger schools, but I’ve found in Faribault that it’s more up to the students and the parents to seek out information.

      When I wrote my post, I did think of you and all the years you have ahead of you dealing with the educations of your five children. I dread filing the FAFSA next year after a two-year break. I detest forms and numbers, so this is never a pleasant experience for me.

      Good for Luke to have a semester of college behind him when he graduates from high school. I don’t see a lot of emphasis here in Faribault for students to earn college credits before graduation. Others may disagree with me, but that’s been my experience.

    • brentsears Says:

      Just a tip about FAFSA. Fill it out every February if you can. I got $400 extra one semester for filling it out early. It is first come, first serve in that way.
      Good luck!

  3. Dawn Tietz Says:

    Thank you for the websites that are good scholarship resources. We are having a little trouble finding much this year that our son qualifies for. It seems you or your parents have to belong to some group, or you have to be pursuing a career in a certain area. We will have him look into the two that you listed.

    As for the FAFSA, it is done, got it finished last night. Hopefully we won’t be audited again like we were two years ago.

    If I have additional questions maybe I will contact this helpful gentleman through this blog!! Every bit of advice helps!!

    • Brent Sears Says:

      @Dawn Tietz

      My parents didn’t belong to a group or organization that helped me, and my career path was Spanish Education, which was a small major at my school. The difference for me was that I decided to do something that looked “stupid” for someone with no money, a 3.0 GPA, no travel planning experience, and no connection that had gone before me. I built my education around my travel. I didn’t care what it took, I was going to see the world.

      Having no money meant I had to focus and win scholarships, so I made a list of all the ones that might apply to me and took a year to make myself into the best candidate. And it worked. Fall of 06 I left for Ecuador…which was cheaper than staying home.

      When I was a study abroad advisor even my 3.75+ GPA students believed their was no money out there for them. Truth is you have to read, research, and write to make it happen. There may be nothing out there that your son fits now, but are there awards he could fit into by joining a club? I joined rugby because there was a $1,500 scholarship that NO ONE knew about. I made myself fit the award instead of trying to find an award that fit me. (Other than traveling, rugby was the best part of college for me, both playing in the USA and South America.)

  4. brentsears Says:

    Just to let you know I have been writing about winning scholarships for more than a week on my blog. I will do more posts on college prep for anyone with questions.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Brent. I’ve already checked out some of your posts. Great insights which will be required reading for my college-bound son.

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