Before your child starts high school:
1. Look at the websites of colleges your child may want to attend. See what they require for high school. Make sure your child completes all the work necessary. Typically most competitive colleges want four years of Math, Science, History, English and a Foreign Language. Even if a student can graduate high school with less in your area, if you are thinking about college make sure your child takes the courses they require.
2. Have your child begin practice tests and study guides designed to help them do well on the SAT or ACT. Most colleges will accept either test, but check to see what they prefer. Children who memorize well tend to do slightly better on the ACT. Children who like logic/ problem solving tend to do slightly better on the SAT. SAT or ACT scores typically determine whether or not your child is accepted, even if they went to public school.
3. Early in the school year the PSAT will be given at your local high school. Call the high school and make sure your student takes it. It helps with scholarships. Your student may take it in the fall of their sophomore year as well, but it will be only for practice and will not count for scholarships. The PSAT must be taken in the fall of the Junior year for it to count.
4. Make sure your child takes the SAT &/or the ACT in his or her junior year. Do practice tests before hand and/or courses to improve your score. These scores, if high enough, ensure admission to many colleges. Your student can take these tests as many times as they want. Colleges only look at the highest score so don’t be afraid to take the test over to see if a higher score is possible. Make sure you have an official report from the SAT or ACT sent directly to the college. If you do not send each score to the college, they will not see it. Colleges do not ask for scores; they expect you to have them sent. Scores sent from you to the college do not count, even if you send them the original. The SAT or ACT website will explain how to have the scores sent.
5. Visit the colleges. Talk to the admissions office and ask lots of questions so you are comfortable and know how to apply. Each college also has its own ‘feel.’ Make sure your student feels comfortable on campus. I loved the hustle and bustle of a very large university. Some of my friends transferred because they could not stand it and wanted the more intimate feel of a smaller college.
6. Do not try to get your child into a college they do not qualify for. If your child scores significantly lower on the SAT than the average student at the college, they will struggle there and are more likely to drop out.
7. Before November 15th of your student’s senior year, apply to more than one college. Most colleges choose students on November 15th. After that you are admitted only if they have spots left. Some colleges accept applications even earlier, and if your student’s ACT/SAT scores are high they may guarantee a place for your student even earlier than this. Your student should know where they are going to college in early spring of their senior year. Most competitive high school students have applied to more than one college before the end of their junior year.
8. Do NOT send more information than the college asks. Look on their website, or call the admissions office. Colleges are used to dealing with home schoolers now and know exactly what they want. If you send more, the admissions office will put it into a file to look at later, and will have to sort through everything to get what they actually want. They will put this off, and you have just decreased your student’s chances of getting in. Keep the scrapbooks etc at home unless specifically asked for them. Unless your child is going to an arts/performance school, you will likely not be asked for examples of their work. Most schools just want a list of courses taken and the grades they earned. Some want to know what each course consisted of so keep track of this as well, but do not send it unless they want it.
9. Make sure you send everything the college does want on time.
10. If the college wants a GED have your student take it. There is no stigma for a home schooler in taking the GED. They just want to know that your student can pass a basic skills test, or some of their funding requires this. Two of my children have taken it, and one of them has a FULL scholarship to a very prestigious college. It’s okay. Do not try to convince the admissions office that your ‘accredited’ home school diploma is a ‘real’ diploma. They do not have to accept courses taken at other fully accredited colleges, so they most certainly do not have to accept any home school or private school diploma. Arguing with them only decreases your chances of acceptance. If you want in, play by their rules. The only exception to this is if your student may go into the military if they do not finish their college degree. They can still get in with a GED, but it is a factor. Talk to a recruiter. The military too understands home schoolers. One of my sons went into the Marines right out of high school and just completed his four years. If you do finish a college degree no one really cares how you got through high school. Did you ever ask your doctor about his high school degree?
If your child does not get into the college of their choice, or struggles once they are there:
11. If your child does not get into a four-year school, don’t panic. Going to a community college is not the end of the world. After they prove themselves at community college, they may then go to a four-year school. Many of our friends who are pharmacists, doctors etc did two years at a community college to save money, then finished their degree at a four year school. No one asks if you did your first two years somewhere other than where you graduated. Just make sure the four year college they wish to attend accepts the courses they are taking at the community college before they take them.
12. Some colleges do have an alternate achievement test for students who did not take, or did not do well on their SATs or ACTs. Others may have an alternate way to be considered for college if your child does not meet the typical criteria. This is where your scrapbooks may come in handy! Most colleges do not have this option, so do not count on it. Additionally, a student that does not fit the standard requirements typically does not do well at that institution. There are exceptions though, but it is best to put your student into a college that is a good fit academically and that they feel comfortable, and excited about going to.
13. If your student struggles with college they may want to take fewer classes each semester. It will take longer to graduate, but they will have a better chance of succeeding.
14. If your student does not do well at one college, consider transferring to another. Each college is unique. One environment may be better than another for them.
15. If your child struggles in college it may be because they have a difficult time where they are living. Most people suggest living on campus, but if your child finds ‘partying’ too distracting they may do better living at home. If they are home, they may not be studying as much since this is where they are used to playing video games and relaxing. A dorm room may then provide the environment they need to do better. I loved living in the dorms; my husband spent time in the dorms but lived at home for the last years of his undergraduate degree. We both did well.
This is not hard. Most colleges want a transcript (course names and grades) and the student’s SAT and/or ACT scores only (in addition to application fees and their forms filled out). As long as your student takes the required courses in high school, and does fairly well on their achievement tests they should be fine.
Most of the ‘horror’ stories I have heard are the result of:
1. Not sending things in on time. If you miss the deadlines, you may not get in.
2. Not sending some of the required items in at all.
3. Sending so many things that were not asked for that the admissions office could not tell what had been sent in.
4. Not taking the necessary courses in high school and then expecting to be admitted.
5. Not providing the college with what they wanted (a GED or a more complete transcript) because they went to an ‘accredited’ home school program and the parents feel that their child’s diploma should be viewed as a public high school diploma.
6. Not having high enough SAT or ACT scores for the colleges applied to and not wanting to consider other options.
Remember, the people telling the ‘horror’ stories typically leave out why it is actually their fault. Keep them talking and you will eventually figure it out. Most colleges love home schoolers because they typically do well. The biggest problem most home schoolers have in college is remembering to put their name on their paper!
By the way: If your child is going to a competitive college for something like Engineering, they will want to take Earth Science and Algebra in 8th grade so they may take Calculus & AP Biology, Chemistry or Physics their senior year. Some of these classes may be taken at a community college or on-line. Make sure your child does their science labs or the courses are not ‘high school’ level courses. Also make sure they take a Health & Nutrition Course, a course in Public Speaking and do their State Study.
I hope this helps.