BJ's Guide to the Common Application

Summary:  Must know tips for how to do the Common Application as a homeschooler. Get your homeschooled high schooler into college.  How to do the counselor recommendation letter as a homeschool parent and more. #commonapplication #homeschooltocollege #getintocollege #homeschoolhighschool

Do you have a high schooler who wants to go from homeschool to college?  Or do you have a senior who is already working on the Common Application this fall?

Applying to college can seem so daunting.  Even knowing which college application form to use can be an issue.

Some colleges use their own application forms, which can just be downloaded from their websites.

Then there is the Common Application.  It has it's own site and many 1,000's of colleges are now using this application form.  So if your teen's colleges are on their list, then you only have ONE application form to fill out.  And only one place to have to upload their transcripts, etc!

At the same time, there are special things to know about when using the Common Application as a homeschooler.

Have you heard the terms:
  •  School Profile? 
  •  Recommender Account?  
What's the School Report about for a homeschooler?

And did you know that now we have to write the counselor letter for our student???  If your student is homeschooled,  you as the parent are required to write their counselor letter for the Common Application.  


What's that all about?

Today I put together a step by step approach for dealing with these things in the Common Application.

 And the opportunity to serve as your student's counselor reference can be seen as a positive. The colleges want to hear from you, the homeschool parent.  So let's get started...

Here is BJ's Guide to the Common Application:

It includes:
  • Getting Started
  •  Setting up the Recommender Account
  • Dealing with the School Report
  • The Counselor Letter
  • Other College Reference Letters
  • Resources for Support
  • For More Information

Before we get into the details of the Common Application, let's recall that the colleges are becoming more and more homeschool friendly.  There are some that are actively seeking out homeschooled applicants, who are often very self motivated, are an asset to college campuses.

So let's start at the beginning.....


My daughter, on campus.

1.  Ask your student to make their account on the Common Application Website.

When they do that, they can list the colleges on their list of prospective colleges.  Fill out Profile and Family sections.  You'll see them as you go along.  Easy.

2.  Next, look for the section called EDUCATION and click on "Find School".  A window will pop up that lists schools in the area.

Scroll down to the bottom of that list and click "Homeschooled."  Click "Graduated" or will graduate.  Be sure to do that.

3.  Next the site will ask for the Counselor's name.  Since your student was homeschooled, the counselor will be you.

Your teen will then enter so your teen YOUR contact information in the spaces asking for the "Counselor".  You, the homeschool mama, will be listed as the counselor, as that is how the Common Application wants to do it.

4.  That will trigger an email to be sent to you, the homeschooling parent.  This email will instruct you how to set up your Recommender Account.  

That is where you will be doing two important things, the SCHOOL REPORT and the COUNSELOR LETTER.  Both are discussed below.  For now, just save that email. 

Your teen will continue to fill out his sections of the Common Application.  An important part of that for him/her will be the Activities List.  This is a list of your teen's activities, such as volunteering, part time work, church youth group, 4H, etc.

Meanwhile, you will want to continue filling out the application as follows:

5.  Then you as the parent will be answering the questions on your Common Application that pertain to your "school", ie, homeschool.  These are just basic questions about your homeschool, and many of them will not pertain to us, so feel free to use N/A on those.

 This is not complicated to do.

It is just a matter of answering a few questions.  Follow along with each question.  This is the place to report facts about your homeschool, like what GPA scale you used, and how many honors or AP course were offered, if any, etc.  You can mention any public school or colleges that your student attended part time, if they did.

(The colleges know that some of the questions in this section make no sense for homeschooled applicants.)  But be sure to put N/A, and not skip any questions.

Your student will need to continue filling out the rest of the application, including listing their activities and extra-curriculars, when asked to do so.

Now, please go find that email that was sent to you, the "counselor".

Remember, it's that email that we mentioned above, in step #4?  That will give you instructions for setting up your Recommender Account.

That is the next important step.


Dealing with this "busy work" on the Common Application is so worth it!

Since 2015, the colleges now want to hear from you, the homeschool parent, via what they call the Recommender Account.

They want to hear more about your homeschool and more about your student from you.  And here is how to get started with that:

Follow the instructions in the email that was triggered by your student as explained above.  It will guide you to set up what is called a "Recommender Account".

This account will lead you to start your Recommender work and has three sections:

- Profile - Identifying information
- Students - Connecting with your student
- Workspace  - That's where you do the Counselor Letter, etc.

For the Profile - Just answer as best you can.  Create a name for your homeschool, such as "Smith Academy", and follow along with the questions listed.   Many will be N/A, like class ranking, as we don't have that as a homeschoolers of course.

The Students Section - Search for your student by name, and answer the questions.  The Common App Ready explains much more on how to do these first sections and more.

 Work Space Section -

Here you will be doing the two most important things...

------The School Report 
------The Counselor Recommendation

This sounds daunting, but both of these will help the colleges get to know our student, from you, who knows them best.  Here's some helps for both of these documents.

Let's look first at...


When writing your school profile, you can mention that you did field trips and other activities.... We did not mention this zoo field trip, though but we had such a blast!

For this section - Answer the questions one at a time, and you can upload your own description of your homeschool if you don't have enough room.  

HOMESCHOOL - "Please provide any information about the applicant's homeschool experience and environment that you believe would be helpful to the reader, eg educational philosophy, motivation for homeschooling, instruction setting, etc."

They ask about your grading scale and/or how you evaluate your student's learning.

Then there is a section on any outside courses taken, such as at a community college, etc.  Fill in the information on each of the classes that your student did OUTSIDE of the home.  If they didn't do any, just indicate that.

You may add more comments on how you did your grading and expand on your homeschool philosophy, etc.

Khan Academy provides some ideas here - Sample School Report and Transcripts - BUT this is not the current form that is being used.  If you scroll down to the bottom of this, you will see how they described their homeschool.  I found that helpful.

Would you like to get some support on this from other homeschool moms?  Join our facebook group, College Discussions for Homeschoolers, where this is a popular topic.  Please see more info below.

We can help each other!

Next it's --- Uploading - Also in the School Report section you will:

- Upload your teen's transcript.
- Upload your course descriptions

Add them in only a few pages at a time, as that is what is recommended.

Now, let's turn to...


First day on campus.

As the parent, you will fill out this form as the Counselor for your teen.  You have to act as the counselor and do the Counselor Letter Recommendation now.  You can't have someone else do it, that's the new rule.

The same person who filled out the School Report does the Counselor Letter.  And that's you. But that's ok....

This is not hard to do.  Really!

The colleges want to hear from you, and that is a good thing, as you know your student best.  Here's how to get started with that:

Now you have the chance to share about your student directly to the colleges.

You will be asked -  How long you have known student, context, words to describe student.  Then to upload your Letter of Recommendation document OR Provide a short evaluation (1000 words or less)

"Please provide comments that will help us differentiate this student from others.  (max 1000 words).  We especially welcome a broad-based assessment and encourage you to consider describing or addressing- Academic, extracurricular and personal characteristics."

Lee Binz gives some advice on your Counselor Letter here:

"The counselor letter should include a header and salutation, your signature and title.  

You can give your title as Guidance Counselor, Homes Educator, or Homeschool Parent.  It should include enough information about the student to fill a page or two....not longer.  Your goal is to make the letter short and clear...

Don't write about what the student did NOT do, but focus on what they DID do.... This is a letter about what was done, written in the most positive light possible.... Write only about high school, with no mention of grade school or junior high.  Be professional, ensure it is perfectly edited..."

If you feel uncomfortable about dealing with the Counselor Letter, some of my friends have called the Admissions Office of your likely colleges, and asked them for guidance.

Did you know that the colleges use students to answer the phone in Admissions?  So, it is not daunting.  You would just be talking to a kid probably!

 Ask for a supervisor if needed.  Ask them directly what they want to see in the School Profile and the Counselor Recommendation Letter.  I encourage you to do that, as Admissions really does want to help good students get in.

----------------Would you like to connect with other moms who are working on this?--------------------

Join the Facebook Group called the College Discussions for Homeschoolers, where other homesch
ool moms are talking about high school, college and the Common Application.  I have been a moderater of this encouraging group for a year now.

The next step is to get a few more.....


Take a breath.....You have now completed the hard parts and can put your feet up and relax.

Step by step....
Additional Reference Letters are also a big help in getting your teen into college!  I have a chapter on that in my book, Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.  

Other reference letters can come from leaders of your student's activities, such as 4H, volunteering, a supervisor from your teen's part time job, a pastor, a church youth leader....anyone who knows your student well.

You can have someone else who knows your student well support what you said in your counselor letter.  That is a great idea!

I even have a form to use to invite others to be a college reference for your student.

There is one more requirement to think about.

An academic reference is required as well.  It is called the Teacher Evaluation.

What do we as homeschoolers do about that?

It is preferable to have this come from a teacher of sorts, so we can uses a co-op teacher, tutor, online instructor, or other adult who has been involved in helping to teach your teen.  Of course using a college professor from a dual credit course, or a professor from a community college would work very well, too.  But that is NOT required.

Be sure and pin this!  As I rarely share it.  And follow me on Pinterest, where I share a lot more information on a regular basis.


I like seeing the great friendships that my daughter is making in college.

Related Articles on the Common Application:

Sample School Report and Transcripts - Khan Academy - Not the up to date form, but this has some good ideas for the School Report

Tips for Homeschooled Students Princeton Universty re Reference Letters

Plus my book which will guide you in planning your homeschool high school plus give you all my best tips for getting into college as well.

Frugally On Amazon 

Don't worry about forgetting things! 

Here are the chapters:

Researching College Entrance Requirements
Planning High School with College in Mind 
Choosing High School Curriculum
Assigning High School Credit
Making Your Transcripts (Calculating the GPA, etc)
Electives and College
Writing the College Essay
Course Descriptions and Reference Letters
Preparing your Teen for College Writing
Don't Forget the FUN!

4 NEW Chapters including SAT/ACT Prep 
and more.

Plus 12 DOWNLOADABLE printables, plus an editable blank transcript form for you to just fill in.  

Be sure and pin this!  As I rarely share it.  And follow me on Pinterest, where I share a lot more information on a regular basis.

My best to you and your high schooler, where ever their path will lead!  This post was shared on Finishing Strong blog hop and featured there.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her now college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh schoolcollegegifted/2e and wrote - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting and has had her articles picked up by the Huffington Post.

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1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing post you have shared with us . I appreciate it and keep continue sharing .


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