Getting Ready for College: When to Start, What to Do!

by Brandi Schunk


I recently had the honor of sitting in on HOME’s webinar series on preparing for college. Honestly, my oldest child is only 12 and I did not expect the information to be relevant to our homeschool journey in the moment, but I took the opportunity to participate so that I could share with others about these resources.


What I found really surprised me!


It turns out, it’s pretty much never too early to start preparing for college. If you think there is any chance your child may want to go to college, my biggest recommendation is to start early. Even if you don’t think they will pursue higher education, it may be good to keep doors open by paving a solid foundation just in case they change their minds later.


Here are some things I learned...


Session 1:

Financing College

Nikki Vachon, Finance Authority of Maine


The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) provides free guidance and resources to help you navigate the financial waters of higher education. Every student should apply and set up an account at Most scholarship programs will want to know that you have exhausted all government options for funding before awarding their own private scholarships. Whether you qualify or not, you’ll want to get this set up early (and file your login info somewhere easy for you and your student to find when needed!).  And here was a big surprise- even middle school students can apply for scholarships! Maine has several initiatives to help students attend basic college courses for free, including dual enrollment and free community college tuition for students graduating from 2020 to 2023 (see session 5 for more info.)

Session 2:

Writing the College Essay

Angela Hurd, HOME Leader and Maine Certified Teacher


What is a college essay anyway? As someone who attended trade school and took a few random courses from my local community college, I am honestly not that familiar with the college admissions process. Since our son may very well end up working at NASA someday, this may be a good thing for me start learning now. Again, he’s only 12 so we’re not really thinking college yet, but there is so much we can do now to prepare him for success in this area. Writing a college essay is a lot of work, but it can be easy if you have the right tools and know what colleges are looking for. The tips and tricks offered here provide a great outline on what to include in this important essay. We can start early by building a strong foundation of writing skills!


Session 3:

Applying to College

Trish Hutchins, HOME Coach and Regional Representative


Okay, I’ve got to admit, I am one of those parents who really thought we would only homeschool through 8th grade. I’m slightly terrified by the idea of creating transcripts and course descriptions (I struggle with perfectionism and a need to “get it right”). It feels completely foreign and out of my league and I don’t even know where to start. In walks Trish Hutchins with this amazing workshop. I can’t even tell you how relieved and equipped I feel after listening to her talk! Trish laid out the basics and outlined exactly what is necessary to create the “paper trail” for your high schooler. I CAN do this! Whew! She also showed me how starting now and helping our son with time management and taking initiative will help him succeed in high school and beyond. Her timelines mapped out a clear path and steps to take for the college applications process. She also discussed pros and cons of early college credit options. There was so much great information to get me thinking!


Session 4:

How to Ace the SAT and Get Free College

Jean Burk, College Prep Genius


Where was Jean Burk when I was in high school? I still remember studying for hours on end, and agonizing over the PSAT and SAT (remember I’m a perfectionist?). I had no idea that these tests are “beatable” and based on patterns. Jean became an accidental teacher of the tests when her own children did exceptionally well and other parents began asking what her secrets to success were. Children and adults will be tested throughout life, and teaching the skill of test taking is valuable in and of itself. When low stakes scenarios are experienced on a regular basis, there is a higher emotional intelligence to deal well with high stakes scenarios. So what does she recommend? Start testing early. One thing homeschoolers may want to take note of, there is a new test, the CLT, that is offered online and gives same day results. Since 2020, this test has become more widely accepted. Jean offers a discount code during this webinar. Starting early and taking tests multiple times also allows colleges to “cherry pick” and use only the best scores. Talent searches based on SAT scores begin as early as 7th grade! Jean recommends to invest now in test prep, or invest exponentially later in college tuition. Higher test scores equal lower out of pocket costs for college.


Session 5:

UMaine Early College- Courses, Pathways, and Homeschool Access

Christy Alley, UMaine Early College


We are blessed to live in a state that offers free Early College classes for high school students. Qualifying students are eligible to enroll in up to 12 credit hours per year through the DOE and Aspirations funding.  More courses can be taken at a discounted rate (this discount is also available to out-of-state high school students.) There are both online and in person options, including exploring over 30 careers as part of the Pathways program. There are a lot of reasons a student may want to enroll in early college courses, including increasing challenge and confidence, reducing student debt and anxiety about the college experience, gaining skills in navigating the higher education experience, exploring potential career paths before applying to career-focused programs, and earning higher standing with colleges and employers. UMaine staff is available to talk through options with students and parents and help them choose the best path for success.


I definitely recommend this series for parents with students of any age. There is so much more offered in the videos/webinars beyond my brief reflections here. More resources for homeschooling high school as well as supporting your college bound student can be found on HOME’s website at:


As with most things, knowledge is power! Build your knowledge early so you feel prepared and confident as you guide your child down their path in life.




Brandi Schunk is a homeschooling mama of two, homesteader, wife, HOME Regional Rep, part of the HOME communications team, Independent Health Coach with Optavia, and retired Licensed Massage Therapist. She enjoys hiking in the woods and absolutely loves the look of the sun dappling through trees. = )