15 Essential Steps to Ensure Your Homeschooler Can Go to College
You’re in the right place if you want to create a checklist for what you need to ensure that your homeschooler can go to college!
It seems that some stereotypes negatively characterize homeschoolers: they aren’t very social, their classes don’t have as much value as public school ones, and they don’t have much chance to get into college. But you know very well that these assumptions are out of touch with the reality that homeschoolers often outperform their public school peers. Because homeschooled students do not have to spend so many hours in a classroom, they have time to cultivate other interests and hobbies, making them well-rounded and cultured individuals. These activities also give the students plenty of opportunities to interact with others. Most importantly, being homeschooled actually gives students an advantage to getting into college, as they score 15-30% higher on standardized tests, and generally score higher on the SAT and ACT. If you are worried about your homeschooled child having the opportunity to go to college if they so desire, don’t fret! We have a list of 15 essential steps to ensure that your homeschool student can go to college. Let’s get started.
1. Keep Detailed Records
The challenge of being a homeschool parent requires top-notch management skills. Not only do you have the normal parental duties of cooking, chauffeuring, and cleaning, but you are also in charge of managing your child’s education. It’s a lot to handle! Due to all those important demands, you may be tempted to slack a little on keeping records of every homework and activity your child does. Nevertheless, those records are arguably the most important thing you can do to help your homeschool child go to college.
Classes in public and private schools are meticulously planned and scheduled, and the report cards and transcripts are routinely given. When you, as a parent, are managing every aspect of education, you can attest to the validity of the education and might not feel the need to create report cards and syllabi. However, when the time comes to apply to college, you won’t be able to remember every essay your child wrote and every book they read. To make your life easy when you start to look at colleges, keep records of everything—absolutely everything! Every field trip to local museums, every summer reading list, and every extracurricular activity—make sure you record the activity, a detailed description, the date, and any grade your child received. Because homeschool parents have unique teaching methods and curriculums, you need to explain in detail what classes and educational experiences your child had.
2. Include Extracurricular Activities
One of the perks of homeschooling is the extra time your child has to focus on their interests and hobbies. All those karate classes, volunteer opportunities, and competitions are incredibly valuable for helping your homeschool student go to college. If you don’t yet have your child in any extracurricular activities, try to include some in your child’s schedule. Check out your local library, public school, or community college where they likely offer activities that may interest your child. Many public schools allow homeschooled students to participate in their clubs and activities, so don’t hesitate to ask them if your student can join! Colleges look for well-rounded students, especially from homeschooled students who have the flexibility in their schedule to explore many different activities. Of course, don’t forget to include any extra-curricular activity (however insignificant it may seem) in your child’s records.
3. Just Keep Reading and Writing
One way to assure any prospective college that your child has had an excellent homeschooled education is to provide proof that they are well-read and skilled in writing. Public and private schools require students to read a large number of literary options each year, providing plenty of practice writing stories and essays. While not every child is a fan of reading and writing, it is essential to produce reading and writing opportunities throughout their high school years.
Not only do colleges want well-rounded and knowledgeable students, but they also need to be sure that students can handle the heavy workload of reading stacks of books and writing thoughtful essays. If your student is not a huge fan of reading or writing, try giving them assignments related to their passions or interests.
Another option to spice up the regular reading and writing assignments is to include some foreign language options. If you need some suggestions for beginner Spanish books for high schoolers, check out our blog post! Also, get them writing essays and stories in another language with our high school Spanish classes.
4. Expand Your Child’s Social Circle
Not every part of college is academic. College life is vastly different from high school, whether those years are spent in public, private, or home school. Your son or daughter will meet people from all over the world, take very large (and small) classes, and join different clubs. These social changes may be difficult for your homeschooler if they haven’t had many social opportunities in high school.
Many factors can contribute to a limited social life, such as moving, a schedule busy with extracurricular activities, or a love of studying. However, to make sure your homeschooler can go to college and make a smooth transition socially, try and expand their social circle. You can do this in many ways, such as joining a co-op, taking classes at a local community college, or participating in local activities.
Another great way to get them involved with new people and cultures is to consider inter-cultural activities. Summer or spring break trips, study abroad programs, and online cross-cultural classes are all great options to consider.
5. Make Sure to Meet All the Requirements
If you want your homeschool student to go to college, start researching early what different colleges require for admission. Most colleges have unique prerequisites, especially if your child wants to apply to a specific program. It’s hard to know what your child will want to study in college at the beginning of high school, but you don’t want to be playing catch-up during senior year. Make sure their options are open by giving them four years of math, science, language, and social studies. Two years of a foreign language is the average, but it never hurts to start early!
Another important factor to consider is what each state requires for high school graduation. You don’t want to face last-minute hurdles with sending your child’s high school diploma to the colleges of their choice. For information on state requirements, click here.
6. Consider AP Classes
Now, AP classes are not a requirement so your homeschooler can go to college. It is important, however, to keep the option of AP classes and testing in mind. The dates for AP testing happen only once a year and are scheduled months in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare. You can sign up for the exams through the College Board website. The one big hurdle for homeschoolers is designing an AP class to prepare for those exams. Luckily, the College Board offers practice exams, review questions, and other resources to help your child prepare. If AP classes are something your child is interested in or required by their college of choice, make sure to start planning early as the exams require much preparation.
7. Schedule SAT or ACT Exams
Just like with the AP exams, the SAT and ACT require a lot of preparation and scheduling. The main difference is that at least one of these exams is necessary to apply to most colleges. Deciding which test to take can be a bit confusing, but you can check out the key differences here to determine which one is more suitable to your student.
Once you choose a test (or both!), it’s time for the preparation part, which takes at least a year. If you do not give regular tests to your child, it will take some adjustment to get used to standardized testing, especially with some questions designed to stump the students. Thankfully, you’ll find plenty of practice exams and preparation online, and your child can take the exams as many times as needed (maximum of 12 times for the ACT). The tests are available several times a year, but it is good to get them started early so they can take them as many times as possible.
8. Community College
Another excellent way to help your homeschool student go to college is by enrolling them in community college courses in high school. The flexibility of homeschooling makes it easy for your children to attend college courses while still completing the high school graduation requirements. Taking a few college courses will help your young adult adjust to what life will be like after high school while gaining some college credits.
9. Research Colleges
One of the best parts of helping your homeschooler go to college is researching different schools with them. You have so many things to consider, such as the desired major, location, and reputation. For homeschooled students, there is an extra point to think about: how colleges look at homeschooled applicants. In general, admissions departments look favorably on homeschooled students as they are usually well-rounded. However, if you would like a list of schools that prefer homeschoolers, check out this link.
10. Make the Perfect Transcript
Once you and your student decide on which colleges to apply to, it’s time to work on those transcripts! Take out all those meticulous records you kept and put them to good use. Make sure you include the following information:
- Student’s name, address, high school start date, and expected graduation date
- School’s name and address
- Classes broken down by category and school year
- Example: 2019-2020: Science – Biology
- Grades for each semester and for the whole school year
- Credits earned for each class (make sure to check with your state requirements)
- Total number of credits
- Total GPA
- Notarized signature that you certify that all of the grades are true
Some other things you might want to include are your grading methods, teaching philosophy, and any awards your child has won. You can download a free template here or check out a sample transcript here.
11. Collect Everything You Need
A great transcript isn’t the only thing you need to get your homeschool student to college. As previously stated, each homeschooling parent offers a unique learning experience for their child. Because there is no cut and dry homeschool curriculum, it is your job as the parent to explain and present documentation of your child’s schooling for the past four years. College Transitions offers a great checklist to help you collect all the needed documents. Here are their recommendations:
- A detailed syllabus for each discipline
- The amount of time devoted to the course
- An explanation of your grading scale and/or evaluative methods
- Educational philosophy
- Description of the homeschooling setting
- Reasons for homeschooling
- A reading list of every novel, textbook, etc. read during the high school years.
- Transcripts from any college courses taken
- An extra letter of recommendation for a work/internship supervisor or non-academic teacher (art, music, etc.)
12. Turn in the Transcript Properly
Once you have all the documents, proofread and print out everything on nice paper. You will need to mail these papers to the admissions departments of the colleges your student is applying to. Put all the evidence in an envelope and sign over the seal; then, take it to your local post office and see it off personally.
13. Apply for Financial Aid
Just like with all our previous steps, the earlier the better. If your son or daughter is looking for financial aid, start with FAFSA. From there, you can look for any available scholarships from the colleges themselves or outside organizations. Being homeschooled will probably give you a leg up, but the financial aid search can still be long and arduous. Check out this website to help get you on the right track.
14. Prepare for the Transition
Once your homeschool student gets into a college of their choice, it’s time to prepare for the transition. While homeschoolers may, in some ways, be more equipped to face college life (due to their flexible schedule and independence), there are still some hurdles to consider. For example, homeschool classes and co-ops are usually very small in size and may not have scheduled homework and exams. Some college classes will be similar, but there are also general education classes that can be very large in size. This impersonal classroom setting may be difficult for your student to adjust to. Additionally, the class expectations, grading methods, and teaching styles may be a shock or frustration to students used to different ways of learning.
To help prepare your child for this transition, talk with them about these changes and brainstorm what they can do to combat any frustration they might experience. Another option is to expose them to the kind of classes they will have by sitting in on college classes (or attending!), setting deadlines for the last couple of months, and having formal tests.
15. Give Your Transcript an Extra Flair
If your student is looking to add a little extra flair to their transcript, something to set them apart from the other applicants, try learning a foreign language online. At the Homeschool Spanish Academy, we offer live, personalized Spanish classes to learners of all ages. We have a special curriculum designed just for high schoolers; with just 60 classes, your student can earn one full Spanish credit. Instead of just reading from a book and copying sentences, our classes are with a native Spanish speaker and will actually get your student speaking the language. See for yourself by scheduling a free trial Spanish class for them today. ¡Buena suerte en la búsqueda de una universidad!
Want to learn more about how HSA can help your homeschool student go to college? Read more about us!
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