When our oldest child was six, I read the book No Regrets about the Swann children's homeschool academic advancement. Their studies were all through correspondence schools, and they graduated high school at eleven years of age while earning their Master's Degree at 16. Thrilled with their success, I planned our children's future – after homeschool high school, correspondence college was the goal. Ten years later, however, the story changed...

I would like to share our first semester's experience, perhaps helping you avoid some pitfalls.

Basic Information
When you look at colleges, there are some questions to ask to help make informed decisions. First of all, is the college accredited, and by whom? Which degrees do they offer? Will they accept work from other colleges? Who accepts credits from their college? Are there any age requirements? It is best to know your rights and the law, as it is against federal law to discriminate against age. What steps are necessary to be admitted to their program? Do they accept credit by examination (CLEP, DANTES, AP, ACTPEP)? And do they award credit for prior learning, as in portfolio review, research report, or video report?

SAT's The SAT's are not always needed, nor do they get you into a course. Sometimes you need entrance or proficiency exams given by the college of your choice. This is not a standardized test, but original for use by that specific college, such as the ISAT, which is an internal SAT test.

Courses
Make sure the course you want is applicable to your degree. Our daughter signed up for basic biology offered by correspondence. The administrative office was not informed this course would not count towards her science major. Consequently, we chose another course for her to take. Many basic English, math and science courses do not count for majors, so they become electives. The wisest action is to talk with the professor and a guidance counselor, telling them your college major and the courses you are considering. They can usually steer you in the right direction.

Time
Make sure you have enough time to get the process started and all the paper work complete. Sometimes 3-6 months is necessary from initial contact. You'll need time for checks to be mailed, paperwork to be filled out by them and by you, entrance tests taken and scored, essays written and read, phone calls, letters of reference and textbook purchases. If you have a preference about when the course begins (i. e. Monday, September 17), state this at the beginning. Allow yourself plenty of time (a month or two) for delays.

Learning Style
Make sure that the student learns well by reading, since he will be teaching himself everything with an outline from the school. Otherwise you might find yourself enlisted to help. If you have an auditory learner who needs to hear the information, either read it to him, or have him read the lessons out loud to himself.

Do help the child set a schedule for school. Last minute cram sessions to complete assignments are no fun! Also, many correspondence programs come with assignment due dates. Clarify if these are postmark dates, or the day the lessons need to actually arrive at the institution.

Books
Close your eyes and sign the check. We paid $350 for the books needed in two classes. Their resale value after the course was laughable. Only two books could be used again, the others had been replaced with newer editions and our total buy-back check would have been $7.50 – minus postage, of course.

An alternative to buying the books from the correspondence institution is to contact local college bookstores to see if the books you need are available through them, in stock and at what price. Used books are an even better bargain. Make sure the correspondence college will allow this option or if you must buy from them. Some policies are negotiable. Online bookstores might also carry the books you need.