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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Exploring Various Paths through High School

by Katherine O'Brien, ThD Candidate, Certified College Planning Specialist, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

  In addition to the fundamental choice of high school setting, between homeschooling, traditional public school, Catholic or other private school, or a classical high school, the academic program chosen will have an impact on college admissions. Success in a particular setting and program will depend on a number of factors as well. Here's a rundown of the options:

1.     Traditional, basic high school: a student can take high school courses, graduate, then move on to further studies as desired


2.     College Prep high school:  a student can include some AP classes and/or AP or CLEP exams into high school, thus demonstrating academic proficiency via the classes and tests, as well as, depending on the college's policies, possibly earning some college credits


3.     College Prep high school + college classes: a student can include AP classes and/or AP or CLEP exams as well as take college courses during high school, accumulating college credits which, like AP and CLEP scores, will be accepted by the degree granting college per their policies. This student completes high school and applies to college as a first year student. After acceptance, the registrar's office decides what credits (and test scores) to accept toward the fulfillment of their degree requirements. Some colleges have policies that force students with more than a certain number of (often 24) credits to apply as transfer students; most do not. These policies are described on the admissions pages of the colleges' websites.


4.     IB College Prep high school: a student in a public HS that offers it can opt to complete an IB (International Baccalaureate) program. This rigorous program provides excellent preparation for college with its intensive writing requirements and in depth interdisciplinary approach to learning.


5.     AA rather than HS diploma: a student can opt to not complete a HS diploma, rather shifting to community college during high school and completing an associates degree. At this point, colleges will consider the student as a transfer student. With 60 credits, consideration of the HS transcript is not typically part of the transfer application process (but can be).


Regarding SAT and ACT and CLT scores, most colleges do not require them for admission. For homeschooled students, especially, it is very helpful in the admissions process to have some sort of official test scores to validate the caliber of the high school coursework. These can be AP, CLEP, National Latin exam, National math exam, CLT, ACT, or SAT scores. There is a small, but growing, number of colleges reinstating ACT or SAT test score requirements for admissions; these are primarily very selective schools.


Making the choice to include college courses in a student's high school coursework depends on academic, maturity, temporal, and financial considerations, as well as the ramifications for college admissions. The family will need to make some adjustments as well, since the student will be affected both by peers encountered through their college coursework as well as by the personal growth required to handle college coursework. Of course, developing career and college goals as well as leadership traits are also important components of the college preparation process.


To discuss these options, as well as other college prep topics, with Katherine, please email her to schedule a private consultation with yourself and your teen. email or text 858-705-0043.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Out of State Enrollments are Up!


                                                (Photo by Domino,

by Katherine O'Brien, ThD cand., CCPS, Founder of Celtic College Consultants

Over the past twenty years, 45 of the 50 public flagship universities have seen an increase in the number of out of state students. In some cases, that increase is 20% higher in 2022 than it was in 2002. U of Alabama leads this trend with almost 42% more out of state students. U of Arkansas is close, with 41% more. Also above 20% are U of Hawai'i, Louisiana State, U of Massachusetts, U of Oklahoma, U of Oregon, U of South Carolina, U of Tennessee, U of Washington, and U of Wisconsin.

This trend is significant. Out of state students pay more than in state students. Consequently, as state budgets tighten, universities have turned to this additional revenue source. At the same time, in some places, state funding has been lowered in response to the increase in out of state student attendance. As with all things relating to college, this, too, is complicated.

A few states have, over that twenty year period, lowered the percentage of out of state students. These flagship universities include U of Nevada and U of Maryland, 7% each, and U of Minnesota and U of North Carolina. The University of Michigan maintained the same percentage of in and out of state students.

There are numerous "undergraduate exchanges" around the US. These agreements offer significant discounts to out of state students from other states in the region. Of course, these agreements are only between public universities; private colleges charge the same tuition no matter where their students' homes are. Exchanges exist in many parts of the country. Often, specific majors such as nursing, engineering, and business are excluded from the exchanges' tuition reduction programs. Each student must research his or her possibilities. Typically, out of state students who participate in the exchange pay 150% of instate tuition, typically saving as much as $15,000 per year, or $60,000 over the course of four years. There is usually no additional paperwork required; qualified students are identified by the colleges and the discount is applied automatically.

While four year graduation rates tend to be above 50% at the flagship universities, it is not always the case. Proper preparation for college is a significant factor in a student's ability to complete an undergraduate degree in four years. Students in "impacted" majors may find it difficult to take the courses required to graduate since "impacted" is a euphemism for overcrowded. Additionally, some campuses don't offer enough sections of fundamental courses required by a number of majors. For example, English composition, first year Calculus, and first year Physics are all required for many different majors.

For students desiring a strong Catholic community on campus, I am happy to report that there are nearly 300 public colleges and universities that have them. For all the information about them, please see the college guide I wrote: Every Catholic's Guide to College

Preparing students well and researching colleges are my specialty. To schedule a consultation for you and your 8th - 11th grade college bound student, please email Katherine at