Homeschool College Prep Suggestions
Here’s what I recommend based on what I’ve researched over 20 years of homeschooling, and what we actually ended up doing with our own teen starting in his “8th/9th grade” year:
Record Keeping — Keep a record of everything your high school homeschooler studies, every class they take, every book they read, every extra-curricular activity, anything that could be translated into “educator-ese” on a transcript. I used a three ring binder with lists on separate pages. For books, be sure to include title, author, and publisher. Any letters and grades from teachers were kept in pockets within the binder. (We included a list of books that our teen read on the transcript — books read as part of the subjects he was studying, as well as books read for fun.)
Letters — Start gathering letters from the teachers your homeschooler takes classes with outside the home. We always asked the instructor at the end of the semester or at the end of the year if he/she would be willing to write a brief note detailing how our teen did in the class, his participation level, understanding of the subject, final grade, etc. With each of the letters, I typed up a separate page with the name of the class, instructor name and bio, and a description of the class, and clipped it to the letter, so I could reference it later when I finished up my teen’s high school transcript.
We did the same thing with his extracurricular activities – kept an ongoing list of the things he was involved in and asked for letters/evaluations upon completion. We included a variety of things, from “organized and ran a weekly D&D game for 1.5 years,” to “volunteered to prepare meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House,” and “paged for Senator Jason Carter.” The goal was to give admission departments a clear idea of who he is and what his interests are.
Transcripts – A quick search will turn up a ton of free, easy to use transcript templates online. I looked at quite a few until I found the format that I liked best. I started creating/filling in my teen’s transcript at the end of “9th grade.” I found it easier to update it as we went along instead of waiting until the end of high school to create it. We had grades for each subject, a computed GPA for each year, and credits (& half credits) depending on the number of hours each subject was studied. (For study he spent a semester with, we gave .5 credit; for a full year course of study, we gave 1 credit.)
Classes/Subjects — There seems to be a standard list of subjects that most colleges expect your student to have taken, though it can vary depending on the college. It helps to think about the type of school your teen might want to attend. Once we started researching schools, we just went online to their websites and looked at their requirements. Typically it seems to be 4 years English, 4 years Math, 3-4 years Science, 2 years Foreign Language, 3-4 years Social Studies/History, and Electives.
Within that framework, you and your teen are free to fill those requirements in any way you choose. My own teen did a combination of accredited classes, non-accredited classes (through LEAD, a local secular homeschool group), and independent study at home (using text books, real books, and online research). He also got creative with the classes he took for required credits: he chose to study Forensics as one of his HS science credits, and he took a Philosophy and Analysis of Literature and Film as his 9th Grade English credit.
NOTE: Here is what Oak Meadow recommends (they are a private school/distance learning/curriculum provider – very popular with homeschoolers; we used their curriculum for years including some subjects in high school):
|English: 4 Credits||Mathematics: 3 Credits (4 recommended)
|Science: 3 Credits (4 recommended)||Social Studies: 4 Credits|
|Fine Arts: 1 Credit||Health: 1 Credit
P.E. 0.5 Credit
|World Language: 2 Credits||Advanced Study: 0.5 Credit
Electives: 2.5 Credits
And here’s an example of course requirements for Oglethorpe University:
|Suggested Coursework for Freshman Applicants|
|English||completion of 4 years|
|Mathematics||completion of 3 years, must include Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry [Trigonometry, Advanced Math, or Calculus is Recommended]|
|Science||completion of 3 years (4th year recommended)|
|Social Studies||completion of 3 years (4th year recommended)|
|Foreign Language||not required, but recommended for certain majors|
Requirements for other colleges, like UGA, Tech, etc. would be different, of course, so it helps to have a general idea of what type of school you’re considering.
Speaking of Colleges — There are a lot of great books that list interesting schools from around the country. We wanted a school that is homeschool-friendly, and preferably non-traditional. We searched online for homeschool-friendly colleges, and used the book Cool Colleges, to create our list. We contacted the schools that our teen was most interested in, to get more information and make contacts (the admission’s office is a great resource to make sure you’re covering what you need to cover to get in to their schools, and they can answer specific questions that homeschoolers might have).
Portfolios – It’s easy to do a search and find examples online. I found a book on Amazon a few years ago (now out of print), written by a homeschooling mom who successfully sent several kids off to college. The book is just one big template/example of what she provided to the colleges. I found it very helpful. It’s called From Homeschool to College and Work: Turning Your Homeschooled Experiences into College and Job Portfolios by Alison McKee. At this point, there are probably other equally useful books out on this topic as well!
Testing — Many colleges and universities are testing-optional these days, meaning that students don’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores. Again, if this is something that interests you, you can search online to get a great list. Some of the schools that my teens looked at were testing-optional, but he took the PSAT the fall of his “11th grade” year, and the ACT the following year anyway, since he knew he would be adding schools to his list that required test scores. We have found that even if scores aren’t required, they can be useful for colleges when making decisions about homeschoolers, if the scores back up the student’s grades.
If you choose to do testing, PSAT is typically done in the Fall of Junior year. You can contact the high school in your district the spring/summer prior to the fall that you’ll need the test, and ask that your teen be able to take the test with their students. There may be a small fee involved. If the school does not allow your teen to test with them, there are often homeschool testing dates at certain locations each year. I don’t have the current information on that, but I’m sure it can be found online.
The SAT or ACT is taken Senior year (some students take it once in the Fall and then again in the Spring, to see if their scores improve.) Deciding to take the SAT vs. the ACT is a personal preference kind of thing. We talked to various teachers that our teen worked with over the last few years, read about both tests, and made our decision.
Be sure to visit the College Board website, for more information about PSAT/SAT, college prep, etc. (they also offer info on AP classes, CLEP tests, etc.) and the ACT site, for more information about that test.
Diploma — Accreditation has become really popular over the last few years. But it is NOT necessary for a homeschooler to have an accredited diploma to get into a good college or university, or to qualify for scholarship money. Some people may prefer an accredited program because it can make it easier to navigate the college application process. If you decide you want an accredited diploma, there are programs that can take all of the work your teen has done, look at samples, grades, etc. and give you an actual, accredited diploma. Or you can take classes through an accredited independent school and get a diploma at the end.
When applying to colleges, an accredited diploma usually means your teen won’t have to do anything “extra” to apply. From what I’ve found, most colleges treat homeschoolers with an accredited diploma as a regular student (not a homeschooled student).
If you decide to not go the accredited route (which was our choice), you can find a template online of a high school diploma, fill it out, and print it out on nice paper, to do your own. Or you can order a beautiful high school diploma for your home school graduate through www.homeschooldiploma.com.
Finally, with the changes to local homeschool law over the last few years, you no longer need a letter from the Dept. of Education in order to get a driver’s license or work permit for your homeschooler. You simply have to have a copy of your submitted Declaration of Intent (with the confirmation code), to prove enrollment and attendance.
And, finally, any employment information, skills acquired on a job, and letters from employers can (and should) be included in the homeschool portfolio submitted in the college application.
Hope this is helpful!