Countdown to College: A Homeschooler's Guide (Part I)
Hard to believe, isn't it? The years have flown by quickly, and soon your homeschooler will be facing the next big question in his life: "What should I do after high school?" According to recent research reports by Dr. Brian D. Ray on homeschooled adults, "over 74% of home-educated adults ages 18-24 have taken college-level courses." If this statistic holds true in your family, chances are high that your child will continue fueling his education by attending college.
So, how can you help your teen make a smooth transition to this next step? Preparing for college isn't rocket science, but it does require early, careful planning and conscientious effort by both you and your child. Waiting until May of his senior year is definitely not the best time to begin your child's college admission process. Instead, you can eliminate unnecessary expenses, delays, and last-minute application stress by launching your homeschooler into a college education with these surefire strategies.
10. Pray - Even before your child begins to entertain thoughts about college, have him sincerely seek God's direction and wisdom for his life. God knows the future plans He has for your child (Jeremiah 29:11), and without His guidance, your child will be building his future in vain (Psalm 127:1). With godly advice for picking a future career and practical, step-by-step "how tos" on choosing a college, applying for financial aid, and completing entrance exams, the computer-based Switched-On Schoolhouse® College Planner elective from Alpha Omega Publications® is an effective and inexpensive organizational tool that can help your child chart his future educational plans.
9. Choose the right high school classes - When deciding what high school subjects your child should study, first verify if your state's homeschooling laws include any required courses like health, state history, etc. If none is listed, you'll want to teach courses that match four-year requirements for students graduating from a traditional school. Generally speaking, most colleges are looking for applicants who have completed the following core high school subjects and credits (years of instruction) in addition to other homeschooling studies:
|Subject||Credits||Examples of High School Course Options|
|English||4||American Lit., British Lit., World Lit., Speech, Journalism|
|Math||4||Algebra I and II, Geometry, Advanced Math & Trig.|
|History||3-4||U.S. History, World History, American Government, Civics, World Geography, State History|
|Science||3-4||Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics|
|Foreign Language||2-4||Spanish I and II, Secondary French or Spanish|
|P.E.||1-2||Team and Individual Sports|
|Fine Arts||1-2||Music, Drama, Photography, Art|
|Electives||4||Computer Literacy, Bible, Health, Home Economics, Accounting|
8. Keep accurate transcripts - If you haven't already been doing so, start maintaining a list of grades or grade points (A = 4 pts., B = 3 pts., C = 2 pts., D = 1 pt.) for completed courses from grades 9-12. Although many colleges don't require a high school transcript from homeschoolers for admission, it's much easier to compile the information while your child is still homeschooling for those colleges that do. Alpha Omega Publications' LIFEPAC® curriculum users will appreciate recording scores with the handy, inexpensive Student Record Book and Parents' Cumulative File. Switched-On Schoolhouse curriculum users will enjoy the automatic grading feature that prints report cards with detailed course names for transcripts.
In addition to listing completed courses and scores earned for grades 9-12, your child's transcript should include a breakdown of your grading scale (i.e. A = 92-100, B = 84-91, etc.) and your child's graduation date. Remember, if you're not homeschooling through an accredited distance learning school like Alpha Omega Academy®, your child's high school transcript may not be considered official. Since each college has different entrance requirements, look for ones more favorable to homeschoolers or those that base their admission policy on SAT or ACT college entrance exams in addition to a high school transcript.
7. Find the best college - Starting your search early (around sophomore year) is the key to finding the right college. Depending on his abilities and talents, your child's options for a post-secondary education include community colleges, specialized colleges in a particular field (Bible, nursing, mechanics, art, etc.), junior colleges (two-year Associate's Degree), or four-year colleges and universities. Search Christian college directories on the Internet, such as CollegeView®, or purchase a college directory list with state colleges, universities, and private institutions from a local retail bookstore.
After choosing your top five college possibilities and verifying if they offer your child's desired major, the ideal time to visit the campus is when school is in session. In fact, many college campuses have scheduled visitation days that enable you to sit in a class or two. Here's a brief list of things you should accomplish on a college visit:
• Talk to the professors and students currently in the program of your choice.
• Look for information on job placement percentages after graduation and graduation-to-dropout ratios.
• Ask to see dorm rooms and tour other facilities on campus.
• Check out class size and teacher-to-student ratios.
Obviously, most private and Christian colleges are more expensive, but many also provide excellent scholarships that make their tuition costs more affordable. Be realistic about any debt load you or your child may have to assume to complete four years of college.
6. Take college prep entrance tests - Most colleges accept homeschool students based on either SAT, SAT II, or ACT scores. To know which test or tests are required for admission to your child's college(s) of choice, contact the college's admissions department or visit their website.
Note: Your child can practice for the SAT test by registering to take the PSAT, available each October. This preliminary test taken during sophomore or junior years will familiarize your child with the SAT format and qualify him for eligibility in receiving the National Merit Scholarship.
Since colleges base both admission acceptance and course placement on SAT or ACT results, you should include practicing for these tests in your homeschooling schedule. Study manuals with CD-ROM practice tests can be purchased from bookstores or checked out for free from most public libraries. Free practice tests for both the ACT and SAT are also available online.
Once your child feels confident to test, register for the ACT or SAT by obtaining a registration packet from your local public high school guidance counselor's office or going online. Scheduled test days and testing locations throughout the United States are listed along with specific costs and fees for registration. Help your child read through the information carefully to know and understand rules for taking the tests. Due to the time involved in processing these tests, you should plan on your child taking them before his senior year to be eligible and considered for many college scholarships. Although there is an additional expense involved in retesting, your child can take either the SAT or ACT more than once to improve his scores.
Note: Colleges only accept original ACT and SAT scores sent directly from the testing agency. Since an additional fee is charged for sending test scores to colleges not listed on the entrance test registration form, be sure to list as many of your child's college preferences as allowed.
Preparing your child for college doesn't have to be difficult. By following these first five of ten practical steps, you'll give your homeschooler a great start. To learn even more helpful information about financial aid, scholarships, and the college application process, please check out Part II of Countdown to College: A Homeschooler's Guide!