How to Deal with College Applications and How High School Electives Can Help

Summary: How to deal with getting into college as a homeschooled teen.  What are the colleges looking for? You can showcase your student to college with their high school electives! This article may include affiliate links to homeschool high school curriculum or resources that we have used or love.  Please see my disclosure policy.  #gettingintocollege #collegeadmissions 

Are you concerned about your teen getting into college as a homeschooler?

Or are you stressing just in regards to the competition involved in college admissions?

Did you know that high school electives can be a real help in getting into college?


Electives and high school activities can be a real help for any teen for getting into college.

My daughter, who graduated from our homeschool, got into an honors college leadership program largely because of her high school activities. 

My book, on Amazon, includes a list of 100 High School Activities and Electives for you and your teen to browse, and fine their favorites.

Whatever your child is interested in, high school electives and activities can be an important part to them getting into college.  

But how do you show them to the colleges in the best way?

Our teens want to explore the world around them, follow their interests, and delve into new subjects. 

There's nothing better than watching your teen delve into a subject of interest, seeing that wonderful spark as it is ignited....  

Colleges want to hear about their applicant's interests and special skills.  But what is the best way to share them?

Where to Share Electives:

Sharing electives helps the college admissions dept. get to know your student and her accomplishments.  

This can happen right on the application, through the homeschool transcript, or as part of the college essay. 

  • On the Application  There is a section for listing activities, volunteering, etc, right on the common application. 

  • On the Homeschool Transcript - Special interest activities can be made into electives courses, and listed on your teen's transcript.  Otherwise, include them on the college application. 

  • In the College Essay -  There are essay questions to answer here, for sure, but the colleges also want to hear about your teen's unique interests and skills, as well.  

Depending on the essay question that your student chooses, the college essay can be a place to share special interests as well.

Today I'd like to share what we did for high school activities and electives, and how that helped my teen get into college. 

Colleges want to know your student, re their character and their personal skills, such as leadership and perseverance, both of which will help them in their college experience.   

I encouraged my daughter to explore her interests and to try out different activities that she might be interested in.  

Isn't that what homeschooling is about anyway?  

Below are 4 key points to help you get your teen into college, including:

  • How to show leadership
  • Showing perseverance
  • Dealing with college references
  • Options if your teen's electives/activities have been cancelled due to Covid19

Showing Leadership 

Leadership skills is something that many colleges look for, as well as your teen's interests and electives.

There are so many places to learn leadership skills in our communities.  Parks Departments have youth teen boards, and counselor-in-training programs.  

Then there is the YMCA, YWCA, Scouts, church and co-op activities, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Awana, and homeschool speech programs.  

And working in the church nursery, etc.  Leadership skills are something that many colleges look for special interests as well.  

In middle school my daughter was particularly interested in science, so when an opportunity to assist in a science class came up, we went for it!  

My daughter developed her confidence through this experience.  

The  teacher helped her to assist with the science labs, and to lead one class by herself each semester.  

She liked doing this, but decided that she didn't want to become a teacher after all!  She wanted to explore being a leader in another way..., and maybe not in science...

I could share this elective on the college application, to show leadership!  

There are so many ways to show leadership, such as volunteering at church, at a day camp, co-leading a co-op class for preschoolers.  You name it!

This Teacher's Assistance experience that my daughter did also resulted in a  college recommendation letter from that teacher.  (More of that below.)

Showing Perseverance 

Growing a special interest through hobbies or being in a sport, a dance class like ballet, jazz, or cheer, or any high school activity for more than a few years are easy ways to show perseverance.  

The colleges want to see that quality in their prospective students in some way.

My teen started irish dance in 3rd grade and continued with it through high school.  

This was an interest of hers, and her friend was in the class.  

She took irish stepdancing until 17, then took a modern dance class.  

We included the irish dance activity in the college application, as she had done this for over nine years. 

And she showed a progressively developed skill.  

Early activities are not usually shared on the application, but it is continued through high school, then it is a help to share it.

This showed perseverance and a skill in an area of interest that was developed, which is one of the things that colleges are looking for. 
Modern dance was also a help in our homeschool, as it was a great way to get in PE.  These activities can be counted for PE credit.

Irish also helped in another way...

One of our prospective colleges asked for an essay on multicultural issues.  

This is not usual, just for this one U.  

My teen decided to share her experiences in irish dance, and how she had learned about the irish culture, and developed an appreciation for cultural differences.

College References

College applications usually ask for a letter from a teacher and the school counselor.  And for us homeschoolers, they ask for the Counselor Recommendation Letter if we use the Common Application.

For homeschoolers, we can add in letters that come other sources, such as coaches, co-op teachers, or other leaders in our student's activities. 

These can really help your teen get into college. 

One of my teen's favorite electives was in video making.

We just kept track of the hours that she spent researching and making videos. 

Videomaking, included in a chapter in my book, was the most fun activity that we did together, senior year. 

Video Making gave my daughter a source for a college reference letter, as she had an adult mentor help her.  

He wrote her a college reference letter.  

It is advisable to get multiple college reference letters for your homeschooled teen, beyond the recommendation letter that the Common Application requires.  

As homeschoolers, we also need to complete the Counselor Recommendation Letter for the Common Application, as the homeschool parent.  That guide is included in my book, below.

What if your teen's preferred activities or electives are not being offered now,  due to covid 19?

Options For Virtual High School Electives/Activities

If your area is still affected by Covid19, volunteering can still be done in some helpful and needed ways.

They can check on neighbors, call elderly residents in nursing homes, help with food delivery, etc.  

They can make masks.  And many electives can be easily done at home. Here's another one.  My friend at 7 Sisters Homeschool shares how to earn service hours for the homeschool transcript.

Your teens can make writing into an elective with creative writing using resources from 7 Sisters Homeschool.  

These easy to use no-busy work courses, are PDF based, are well done, in my opinion, and are frugally priced.  

Or they could spend time with their photography, video-making, or make use of one of the many free online offerings being seen during this time of covid-19? 

Or does your teen have an interest in art?

Have you seen the video based frugal courses from You Are An Artist?  

More information on that and how to make art into a high school elective is here.

Electives and activities whether for homeschooled or public schooled teens, can be key to their getting into college!

Vicki Tillman from 7 Sisters has more information on Homeschool Transcript Electives and Extra Curriculars here.

My friend from FUNDA FUNDA ACADEMY also offers lots of great online high school elective courses in her academy, including:

  • Ecology
  • Nature Journaling
  • Photoshop
  • Visual Literacy
  • Theater
  • Photography
  • Programming
  • and MORE!
I love the focus that she has on how learning should be FUN!  

And it is fun at Funda Funda Academy.  For more information on electives and more, click here - Funda Funda Academy Electives and Fall Courses

Have you seen my book on high school already?


Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,

Betsy is mom to her now college grad, who, she and her husband homeschooled through high school.  She blogs about the early yearshigh school, and college and is the author or Homeschooling High School with College in Mind, 2nd edition.  Betsy still loves going on nature study trips whenever her daughter can fit them in.

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