Applying to college...it may seem daunting to a homeschool parent because chances are you weren't home schooled; your guidance counselor or a high school teacher or coach suggested you go to college. They may have suggested where to go to college, too. Honestly, helping your high schooler apply to college is not any harder than a public/private high schooler applying to college. Edy and I, co-founders with Ann of Eagle Mom Squad, recently completed the college search process with our children and we would like to share some tips about the whole process.
Edy: To get an idea of what different colleges offer, you could consult a college search engine that gives you lots of data about each. Here’s an article from PrepScholar that will help: The Best College Search Websites, Reviewed (Top 10) (prepscholar.com)
Next discuss with your teen what their most important college characteristics are. Do they want a large or small school? Would a liberal arts, science/technical, or a large university with lots of majors be best for their interests? Would they like a religiously-affiliated college? If they already have a strong idea of their career plans be sure to look for the programs that they will need. For example, my daughter really loved foreign languages and linguistics and thought that she might want to teach this. I made an excel spreadsheet that listed which colleges offered the most foreign languages, a linguistics major, and education certification programs. We could then narrow down the handful of schools that had the most to offer her in her interest area. Many of the college search engines allow you to add filters for all of these characteristics as well as your child’s SAT/ACT test score range and grade point average (GPA). If needed, here is a guide to calculating your child’s GPA: Homeschool GPA Calculator | Fearless Homeschoolers
In the last stages of my children’s college choice decision, it really came down to where they felt most comfortable, so visiting those colleges from a narrowed-down list was essential.
Julie: In your child's junior year, at the latest, go and visit some that he/she may be interested in or are around where you live. In addition to the college characteristics Edy mentioned above we also considered whether the school hosted an ROTC program or if it was a satellite school. All three of my children attend/attended college on an ROTC scholarship so important to us was whether the school offered free room and board to an ROTC scholarship winner. Once our school options were narrowed down the application process began.
This part is probably simpler than when you applied to college because now it just involves going to the school’s website and clicking on their “apply now” button. At this point I let my high schooler take over the process. My philosophy was “if he wants to go, he will apply and he needs to know how to fill in an application all by himself anyway.” I did check in with my high schooler occasionally to see how the process was going. Usually, they wanted ideas about who to ask for a letter of recommendation. We would give him/her some ideas and reasons for suggesting those people. After the recommenders were chosen, I made it my high schooler’s responsibility to contact them – on their own. People we suggested were coaches, our home school evaluator, club leaders, church leaders, and co-op teachers. There is the “Common Application” also. Many schools use the “Common App.” It makes the process even easier.
Edy: Researching colleges from a more-limited list formed through research and visits, your student can use college search engines or individual college websites to find out each college’s preferred application process. The Common App, as Julie mentioned, is often accepted by college admissions departments. Here is a blog that will talk you through that process: How to Create a Homeschool Transcript for the Common Application | Fearless Homeschoolers
It will be beneficial to keep the college application goal in mind as early as your child’s 7th grade. This is a great time to help them explore their interests in deeper ways through summer camps, volunteering, asking folks involved in their interest areas to provide mentoring to your child. This deepening of various passions will provide a richer high school experience and stronger student profile during the college application process.
So, take a deep breath. Don’t stress. The way to college for homeschoolers has been paved. Edy’s tip above about keeping the end goal in mind as you guide your student is key. And, obviously, don’t worry if your child decides not to go to college; we need tradesmen and tradeswomen who have good work ethic and a great brain, too! Feel free to connect with us if you have further questions!