2/26/13

{Crew Review} College Common Sense

College Common Sense

My husband and I are teetering on the edge of a new season in our lives: College Age Children.  Our oldest daughter is a senior in our home school. She’s planning on attending college in the fall.  We figured out the “taking the SAT” part and stumbled through the “looking at our college options”aspect but we know our daughter will need financial aid because we cannot afford to pay for college. We’re clueless though.  When do you fill out the FAFSA?  What do those initials mean?  How do I get that information to the college?  Where do I get information on scholarships, grants, and loans? How do we find scholarships?

Denise Ames with her College Common Sense website seeks to assist parents and students with their goal of attending college.  We’ve been using the Going to College and Paying For It Online Video and Workbook program.

Description of Going to College and Paying for It Online Video and Workbook

College Common Sense grants access to the Online Version of the program through a log in process.  You’ll use a user name and password.  The LOG IN is very easy to find as it is right on the home page as a link on the left hand side.

The online program includes 6 Videos that you watch right from the website.  These videos are titled:

  • The Big Picture
  • How Financial Aid Works
  • All About the Free Money
  • The System that Works
  • You in the Process
  • Pull It All Together

Each of those six videos has a corresponding PDF file that users are encouraged to download and read prior to watching the video.  These PDF files summarize the content from the video and include suggested “assignments.”

The introduction states

“To utilize this program completely you will need the Going to College and Paying for It DVD, this workbook, a scholarship binder, and a spiral notebook.”

Please note that though there is a physical workbook available with the DVD the online “workbook” are the PDF files. We did not use a spiral notebook instead my daughter used sheets of notebook paper and created her own method of organizing the scholarship information.

This product has GREAT potential. The idea is FABULOUS. Parents, especially home school parents and parents whose first child is getting ready for college, need a road map to help them navigate the process. As a home school parent, we don't have a guidance counselor at the high school that we can use to get resources and ideas. I wanted to like this product because I need a product that will help me to help my daughter wade through the process.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with Going to College and Paying For It.

  • Too much repetition.  She often says the same thing multiple times in each video. This becomes distracting.
  • The Material is not arranged in an order that makes sense to me.  It makes more sense to me to talk about the scholarship binder before talking about finding a scholarship or where to look or hunt for a scholarship because that is information that I would put in the front of my binder and NOT in a spiral notebook but that’s just how my brain works.
  • I found the videos that are part of Going to College and How to Pay for It program  distracting.  She does not look at the camera.  I think it would be so much better if she looked at the camera so that it would feel like she is talking directly to me.
  • I found the “Put It All Together” section irrelevant to financial aid.  The encouragement to beware of the choices you make is important but seems out of place in a product that purports to provide an approach to financial aid.  This video would work better as a “Why You Should Go to College Seminar” but doesn’t fit with the “How to Pay for College” theme.
  • I found it confusing to have the videos and PDF files refer to a “workbook” when the format isn’t really a workbook.  There are no page numbers and it was frustrating to hear or read a reference to a “workbook page 15” and not be able to easily locate the page in question.

I wasn’t looking for a self-help motivation seminar, nor was I looking for a program to convince my children to attend college. These other topics distracted from what I really wanted: to gain an understanding of how to apply to colleges and pay for a college education.

I found that I did not need both the videos and the PDF.  There was too much overlap of information.  The PDF alone was enough for me.

But We Did Find A Few Things Helpful:

I found the PDF files to be helpful; especially the How Financial Aid Works and All About the Free Money because they were concise, short, easy to understand and explained what I needed to know right now to get started. I’d love to see these PDF’s offered individually apart from the videos.

This program did help us gain a better understanding of the FAFSA.  (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) I do now understand the various types of financial aid as well as the difference between scholarships, grants, and loans.  I did appreciate knowing before filling out the FAFSA that both parent and student would need to apply for a special pin.

I think having this information will smooth out the process for the next child in line.  She’s beginning the “research colleges and majors” and “what am I interested in” phase.  She’s learning from the mistakes and stumbling of her older sister and will have a less stressful senior year.

If you have younger children, children in middle or junior high or perhaps early high school, you may want to check out the Free Lesson Plans and Free Monthly Newsletter that Denise offers.  You can sign up for them right on the College Common Sense website.  The same information in the video is available in the free lessons, however, it is in smaller pieces.  There are more activities for younger children and the Free Lessons include word studies, reminders to practice timed tests and group projects.  

The Going to College and Paying for It program is available in two formats.  A physical DVD and workbook for $50 plus shipping or the version I received with is $25 for one year of log in access to videos and PDF files.

Click HERE to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about College Common Sense.Schoolhouse Review Crew

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no monetary compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews by clicking here.

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