TOS Review Crew: High School Prep Genius

When my daughter was due to start kindergarten, I had no idea that I was supposed to register her with our local school district. No one ever told me! By the grace of God, it was brought to my attention a month before registration was supposed to happen. I waddled around, eight months pregnant, checking out the schools in our area. My husband registered Janna into the school of our choice while I was in labor with Matthew. All went well. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson and thought about preparing Janna for high school a couple of years in advance. Nope. The summer before her freshman year, I still had no clue what I was supposed to prepare for. Poor Janna. If only I had known about College Prep Genius then, both of us would have been better prepared. Fortunately, I have learned my lesson this time around for Matthew!

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Company Information: Jean Burk, homeschooling parent and author of College Prep Genius SAT Prep classes, learned that by helping her son and daughter succeed in this standardized test, she was able to open the door for her kids to receive scholarship money for their college tuition. Besides the College Prep Genius program, the company also offers VocabCafe series of videos that are designed to help your students learn and master vocabulary words for the SAT in a useful context and other e-books regarding college-related topics.

Untitled-1_zpsac2e8af4Product Reviewed:

Though the focus of the website is their SAT prep program, College Prep Genius also offers High School Prep Genius, a handbook for high school students. This 400+ page paperback book, written by Mrs. Burk and her daughter, Judah, cover a wide range of topics pertinent to high schoolers so they can succeed personally and academically as they prepare for the future. Also included are ideas on how to build a college and career notebook, student timelines for your children as young as middle school, and how to build your homeschool transcript.

Price: $29.95

Age range: 9th-12th grade, but I would recommend starting this if your children are in 6th-8th grade.

Parental Preparation:

The beginning of the book introduces the college prep binder, which you may wish to assemble for your child. I read through the introduction and thought it would be a worthwhile effort for Matthew. I just wish I had learned to do this for my older daughter! If you would like to also create your own binder, you will need a 3-ring binder plus at least seven divider tabs (with pockets). If you do this during the back to school fall season, supplies should cost less. Update: Pages for the binder can be found on this page!

As I was putting the binder together, I also skimmed through the book. In addition to chapters for the students, there are parental notes at the end of each chapter. You will need to decide whether you want to discuss the book with your child or if you plan to simply hand it over to them to read on their own.

How We Used It:

As I was reading through the first section of the book, I thought that it would be appropriate to use for my upcoming 7th grader. I found that another section was better suited for my older daughter. I looked over the material and read the parents' sections and decided that I would use it in our daily times together, a little at a time. Because my daughter had a full course load already and has been busy studying for SAT examinations, I didn't want to give her another assignment, so we would spend about an hour a week going through any new information with her.

The book is very easy to read for a typical high school student, but for my middle schooler, I thought it best to read it and discuss it with him. Matthew and I first went through the four-year degree plan on page 18, something that I wish I had done with Janna. It is always so much easier for us to make decisions like this when we are not in the midst of them and the pressure is on!

We discussed the typical requirements for high school graduation, and I explained to him what AP courses were, and how taking classes like these can be of benefit for him. We also talked about what that would require for him as a student. Being Matthew, he was up for the challenge and decided that he definitely didn't want to do just the minimum program, but he honestly admitted that he wasn't sure if he wanted to go for the distinguished program either. We ended up setting our sights on the recommended accelerated program---something that we know we can always adjust in the future if necessary.

Another section Matthew and I discussed was the 7th-8th grade student timeline, starting on page 45. I was reminded once again that these years may be a good time for Matthew to start looking into scholarships. It also gave us an opportunity to talk about how we could positively use these upcoming high school years.

Lastly, Matthew and I then jumped into Part II: Foundation for Personal Success, discussing both personal development and cultivating interests. This was a little difficult for him, as he was not used to thinking about these issues. And yet, even though it was hard, I think it provided me the opportunity to introduce him to the concepts of learning to take personal responsibility for his own choices, decisions, failures, and interests. Even if he doesn't fully understand what this means now, I found that the material presented in the book a good springboard for sharing and training that I may otherwise have skipped or forgotten.

For my older daughter, though she was fully capable of reading this on her own, I selected those sections and chapters from the book that were most pertinent to her as an 11th grader on the verge of her senior year. We went through the 11th and 12th grade student timelines, making sure that we were on track (we were, for the most part). It also helped us to make sure that she knew what was expected of her and when, especially if she was planning on applying to colleges this fall.

As Janna was already well into her high school years and doing very well with the basic skills for academic success, I jumped ahead to Part IV: Foundation for Future Success. Chapter 13 on Future Development was a very helpful chapter, as it helped us to not only see the options available, but helped us to discuss how we can make goals and plans to help her reach her dreams. The idea that there is more than one way to reach a goal proved to be a very helpful discussion for us. I also appreciated the reminder that the amount of schooling and the value of your paycheck does not make a person respectable. This was a lesson I wish I had learned when I was in high school! Reading that reminded me that what was most important for me as a parent is to keep higher education in perspective---God's perspective.

What We Liked:

  • The book is very comprehensive and covers a wide range of topics that are important to discuss or bring up with your high school student. Material covered goes from middle school to the first year of college.
  • The content is very readable and the chapters meaty without being overwhelming.
  • The "Think About It" activities at the end of the chapters provide good discussion material with your student.
  • The parents' guide at the end of each chapter, along with "homework," provided very practical and insightful tips.
  • The timelines for each year, 7th grade through 12th grade, provide very concrete guidelines so that we can help our students stay on track.
  • Acknowledges homeschooling and not just traditional schooling.

What We Didn't Like:

If there was anything that bothered me, it may be the switching between son/daughter, which seemed a bit awkward at times. As most writers admit, it is hard to be fair to both male and female readers. Aside from this very small point, I personally enjoyed this resource and found it to be very helpful for our family.  However, if you (or your students) don't like to read, the size of the tome may seem a bit overwhelming, and may be an obstacle for you to get the most out of the book.

I'd like to put in a thought if this describes you. This is definitely one of those books that cover very important material, yet may be easy to pass over because of other more "crucial" subjects. If reading is not a high priority or you or your student simply don't have enough time in the day, I would encourage you to at least read the book yourself (ah...the sacrifices a parent must make!) and make a mental  note of the topics you should at least bring up with your children. Even if your child is in a traditional school and have college guidance counselors, we cannot pass this responsibility off to them. As parents, preparing our children for higher education is just as much our responsibility. This book can help you to steer you in the right questions, even if it is simply knowing what questions to ask.

Overall Summary:

My plan after the review is to continue going through parts 2 and 3 of the book with Matthew throughout his middle school years, and then going through part 4 and the corresponding yearly timelines with him once he starts high school.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to be introduced to College Prep Genius! The material isn't explicitly Christian, but I found it to be full of wisdom and help. I wouldn't say I agreed with everything 100%, but they were not necessarily things that were offensive or strange to me. As always, as a parent, put your thinking cap on and ask the Lord how He might use any resource you have to guide your children.  This is definitely a great one to consider!

Special for blog readers: To receive $5 off the book, use the code TOSCrew at checkout!

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