by Adriane Donkers, ACC Counselor
If you are a high school homeschooler, you may be wondering how you should be helping your student prepare for college and college applications. One of the biggest concerns of homeschool families is whether their student will be successfully admitted into colleges. The simple answer is YES as colleges look at your student’s application just as they look at any student’s application. The key is having the details to demonstrate that your student is ready for college, Students do not only need to be prepared academically and socially, but they also need to demonstrate drive, curiosity, independence, concern for others, and willingness to take on challenges. Here are some key points when preparing for college apps:
Plan Your Student’s Homeschool Curriculum
One place to start when planning your student’s curriculum is to look at your school district’s requirements for high school graduation. These requirements are minimum requirements for public school students, and so they just serve as a basic guide. Your student will want to go above and beyond these requirements to indicate college preparedness. Most importantly, include the following five core courses for four years.
- Social Science
- Foreign Language (preferably four years, but at least three years)
Then, be sure to include a variety of electives from a range of disciplines such as arts (e.g., music, dance, theater, drawing, painting), technology (e.g., basic computer skills, computer science, film, photography), physical education, health, and religion.
Consider Outside Instruction and Evidence
It doesn’t matter if the parents are the primary instructor, or your student is instructed by someone else. If you can provide evidence that your student made progress in the subject and covered the material expected in a high school curriculum, then you will be fine. Here are some options for outside instruction and evidence of academic preparedness:
- In-person or online co-op homeschool programs where the instructor is doing the grading. This can be an accredited program or not.
- Dual Enrollment courses at a community college or university
- AP online courses and/or exams (Note: if you want to teach your own AP course, make sure it is approved by the College Board)
- SAT/ACT scores to demonstrate your student’s academic abilities (sometimes these tests are required for homeschoolers)
One of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is that your student can more easily pursue passions because they are not in a classroom most of the day five days of the week.
Maybe your student is interested in different cultures, and they may start by using the Internet to research a few different cultures. Then they may travel to different regions to do further research, interview locals, and take photographs. A detailed report bout each culture and a comparative analysis would be a great outcome to demonstrate what they have learned in this educational experience. Similarly, maybe your student is interested in ornithology, and spends a considerable amount of time reading and learning about birds in their home region. Again, a description of this passion along with documented evidence (e.g., science reports, research, videos, photos, etc.) would indicate their level of interest and dedication to the subject. There are so many options for pursuing passions whether it be in a formal setting or an informal setting. Just be sure to document the progress, work conducted, and results.
Participate Beyond Academics
Colleges look beyond a student’s academics so be sure your student is involved. The opportunities are endless:
- Volunteer at a local charity or church (e.g., serve at a food bank, knit blankets for fostered animals, assist a young church class, be a camp counselor)
- Participate in clubs (e.g., Scouts, gaming, robotics)
- Play sports (any sport counts)
- Work a job (e.g., cut grass for neighbors, host at a restaurant, lifeguard)
- Help take care of younger siblings or work on the family farm
- Start a business or create a class
Through these experiences, students develop many different skills such as communication, teamwork, responsibility, empathy, financial literacy, creativity, and leadership. All of these are important for college applications.
Complete College Applications
If your student is on the path to a four-year degree, then the student and their parents need to present the homeschooler’s journey in college applications. Homeschooled students complete college applications just like any other students, and will include elements such as a transcript, school profile, essays to demonstrate character and values, and letters of recommendation. To readily have available the information that goes into an application, it is important to document your student’s journey. You may ask, “What do I need to document?”, and the answer is nearly everything. Here’s a list of items to track:
- Courses (course name, description, curriculum/materials used, deliverables and weights for grade, instructor/provider, duration and dates, credits earned, grade)
- Independent projects (description, duration and dates, materials used, skills learned, results)
- Volunteer activities (role, description, duration, and dates)
- Sports (role, description, duration, dates, competitions/events)
- Clubs (role, description, duration, dates, activities performed)
- Travel experiences
- Photographs of nearly everything your student has participated in
It would also be a good idea to hold onto documentation required by your local or state education department. These items might include:
- Enrollment form to start homeschooling
- Yearly “Intent to Continue Homeschooling” forms
- Reports from bi-annual or annual reviewers
The bulk of the record-keeping will need to be done for the high school years, but you may need to refer to coursework or extracurriculars that your student did in middle school. This is particularly relevant for a student that will graduate in less than four years or a student that excelled in certain subjects. For example, if your child excels in math and took Algebra I and II in grades 7 and 8, colleges may want to know that these courses were completed. So, be sure to keep detailed documentation from middle school onward.
Now that you have documented everything your child did over the last five years, you may ask “What do I do with this all of this?”. The information will be used in:
- The transcript – it is an official transcript
- A counselor’s letter of recommendation from the parent
- Course descriptions
- Activities list
- A homeschool profile was written by the counselor parent
Remember, the purpose of the application is to tell the student’s homeschool journey and demonstrate college preparedness. That journey is partly the student’s responsibility by working hard to earn good grades in academically rigorous courses, challenging themselves, pursuing passions, participating in extracurriculars such as clubs and sports, volunteering, and taking on leadership roles. The parent’s responsibility is to provide the evidence and context of the homeschool journey. In essence, the parent helps tell the student’s story and journey by keeping detailed records.