The Nervous Mom's Guide to College

Summary:  A step by step guide to homeschooling your college bound teen.  "homeschoolhighschool" "getintocollege" 

Does your teen want to go to a 4 year college like mine did?  

When we were in the middle school years, my husband and I began thinking about the possibility of college for our daughter. 
And I was more than a little nervous.  

We loved homeschooling.  It worked so well for our family and for our daughter.  We knew we wanted to continue through the teen years.  But I wondered how that might affect her getting into college.

We didn't know in middle school what our daughter would want to do.  But we wanted her to have the option of going directly to a 4 year college, if that was part of her calling.
How would I, as a homeschooling mom, help her get there?  

I spoke with my homeschooling mom friends and found out that many of them did not knew how to go about applying to college as homeschoolers.  

Just like me.

And the colleges seemed so big, and I, in contrast, felt so small.  

Do you ever feel that way?

I wanted more information, so I began to research about homeschoolers and college. 

I found out that our own homeschool transcripts were being widely accepted all across the U.S. 

And I found that there were many homeschool friendly colleges out there, that wanted the type of kids that homeschooling produces - motivated, independent learners. 

I found   key steps to applying to college as a homeschooler.

We found the process of applying to college to NOT be that hard. 

By taking it step by step, we kept our nurturing homeschool style, prepared our daughter for college, and going through the college application process at the same time.  

And we did lots of fun nature mini road trips, too.

Here's the steps that we followed to homeschool to college.

College Entrance Requirements

Our first step was to research the college websites.  We needed to find out what our daughter's college entrance requirements would be, at her most likely college choices.

This information was easy for us to find, just by looking at college websites, and clicking on the freshman admission requirements. 

We found these requirements to be similar from college to college, with some variance. They were not all the same.  

For example, some asked for specific courses for social studies, and others gave us a wide range of choices.

How did we find this information?  We just clicked around until we found a heading like this:

College Academic Distribution Requirements (CADR)

All applicants must complete a minimum level of preparation in six subject areas. This requirement ensures that students entering the University have an appreciation for the liberal arts and are adequately prepared to succeed in college.....etc

I looked up the most likely colleges that my daughter might attend. The requirements were similar, but not consistent from college to college.  

And some colleges had extra requirements for their homeschooling applicants, and some didn't. 

Starting this research early is a help, but it is still possible to do this any time in high school, by just recalling info from their previous studies, and going from there.  

And you can always add in an extra quarter or two, to make up for any requirements that you might have missed.

Once we had this important information, we made note of it, and kept it handy while planning our high school years.  In fact, we used it to make an overall high school plan.  That was our second step in the process of aiming towards college.

Making an Overall High School Plan

As homeschoolers, are already experts in planning. We have searched for and chosen curriculum each year for our kids. 

Planning for high school, with college in mind is really no different, except that you want to be sure to get those entrance requirements done, too. 
This was overwhelming to us at first. 

What we did to combat that, was to plan ahead and lay out a tentative overall plan for the high school years.  

With our list of admission requirements in hand, we sketched out what our high school years might look like.....with our best guesses of what we wanted to do when.  

Our overall plan was flexible, and revised and reworked every year, as life happened.  With this plan we were less likely to forget a requirement or two.  And we kept it handy each year, when it was curriculum purchasing time.

Choosing our curriculum wisely was our third step.

Choosing Curriculum with College in Mind

Choosing curriculum is really just the same as the earlier years, with one important difference....Now there are the college admission requirements to think about as well. 

With our list of college entrance requirements at hand, my daughter and I took things one year at a time and found the whole process of choosing curricula to be very similar to our previous years. 

We explored around, as usual, choosing the textbooks, living books, and/or online courses that would be a good fit for our teen.  We worked to meet our teen’s entrance requirements, but did not forget to focus on her special interests as well.

My daughter interests in high school focused on film making, and political science. We made sure to center her electives around those interests.   At the same time, she needed to complete her college entrance requirements in the basic subjects (LA, social studies, math, foreign language and science), for either path.

It is important to know the specifics that your colleges are requiring.  For example, does your college ask for labs to be done with each science course?  Do they require two science courses, or three?  What do they ask for in math?  

Once you have this information, it is easy to plan and choose your high school curriculum. And we kept our eclectic homeschooling style all along the way.

Once we had our curriculum selected, we just needed to keep track of what we had done, and assign high school credit to her work.  Having these records made it much easier when it came time to make our teen's homeschool transcript.  Keeping records for making our teen's transcript was our fourth step in this process.

Making Your Teen's Transcript

Homeschool transcripts are being accepted widely by colleges all around the US.  Knowing what the college’s want to see on your teen’s homeschool transcripts is key to getting into college. 

I recommend that your transcript to be just one page.  That is what the colleges are used to seeing.  The homeschool transcript should include all the courses taken, at home, and any outside courses, too.  That way, your homeschool transcript serves as the clearinghouse for all of your teen's high school coursework.  

Be sure to include your grading scale and your student's GPA on your transcript.  If you have any special courses, such as AP or courses from a community college, just note them with an *, and mention that at the bottom of your transcript.  It is also helpful to put your teen's best scores on their SAT or ACT somewhere on your transcript.

Course descriptions, if your college is requesting them, are a separate document from the transcript.  Homeschool transcripts are being widely accepted by colleges all over the US, and they are requiring less validation from homeschoolers these days.  That is the trend.

Besides your homeschool transcript, another important part of applying to college is the college entrance essay.  Here are my best tips for that which was our fifth step in the process.

Writing a Winning College Essay

Do the words College Admissions Essay make you cringe?  They did for me.  I was feeling more than a little nervous about this task, and my teen was, too....

As it turned out, the essay was not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and my daughter was able to write an essay that she could use for multiple colleges applications. 

The college essay is a personal essay, based on the essay prompt that your student chooses.  By googling the Common Application, you will find the current essay prompts.  Help your teen choose one that will help them shine.

If your teen is using the Common Application, they will just have to write one essay.  But if your prospective college has their own application, then they will have their own essay prompts, different from the Common Application.

Nancy Burgoyne, from Fat Envelope Essays says:
"Choose a topic that allows your student to shine. Think of the essay as kind of an interview with college admissions.  Pick whichever prompt will help the college to get to know your teen better. "

Editing, essay structure, spelling and grammar are all important as well.  The colleges will be looking for those factors as well as the substance of the essay.  Once your teen is finished with their essay, it is advisable to get someone to edit it, and give feedback to your teen, and that is allowed.

“Don’t just recount, reflect.  When recalling events, you need more than a play by play.  Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.” from the Princeton Review – The College Essay.

Did you know that your teen's activities and electives can also really help in getting them into college, too?  Sharing my teen's activities and electives was our sixth step in the process of aiming towards college.

Sharing High School Activities and Electives

Colleges are looking for self motivated students with special interests and a desire to develop their talents.  They want to see what activities and electives your student has completed.  

Whether it is in music, art, drama, web design, medieval history or Latin, colleges want kids who show initiative and perseverance.  And activities are a great way to show that your student is able to work well with others.

Having the time to delve deeply into my teen’s interests is one of the reasons that we homeschooled all the way.  I encouraged my daughter to explore her interests and to try out different activities and opportunities. 

One of the things that colleges like to see is some leadership skills.  Has your teen helped lead a class in co-op?  Did they volunteer as an assistant in girl scouts?  These are important things to share with the colleges.

TeenPack is another way to help your teen to develop leadership skills.  I have a number of links to leadership activities for homeschooled teens in my e-book, below.

My husband and I helped our daughter to apply to multiple colleges, including an ivy.  She chose her favorite one and just graduated college this spring!  

Taking each of these steps, one at a time, made our efforts at applying to college doable, and kept our homeschool style front and center.  And we still had time for the fun, and lots of time to explore my teen's developing special interests.  And isn't that what homeschooling is about anyway?

Have you seen my book on high school and college yet?  What do homeschoolers do about college reference letters?  

Do you need to complete your state's graduation requirements?  
Where can I find leadership activities for my teen? What does "validation" mean?  Do I need to use accredited courses in my homeschool?

These questions and more are answered in my frugal and book called: 

The following downloadable printables are included in the kindle version, and are printed in the book version:

College Entrance Requirements Form
Overall High School Plan
Curriculum Planning Sheet
High School Credit Record Form
Transcript Form
Activities and Awards Form
Homemade Course Form
Writing the College Essay Form
Course Descriptions Record Keeping Form
Reference Letter Request Form
PE Record Form

"Have you wondered about how to calculate your teen's GPA, how to assign credits, or how to create a transcript?  It's all in there! The included downloads are wonderful resources as well.  Thank you, Betsy, for writing this amazing book, Homeschooling High School with College in Mind."

................Kelly Maddeck, President of Washington State's Homeschool Support Association

Betsy homeschooled her now college grad from preschool through high school.  Her teen loved that she had multiple offers for college acceptance with scholarship offers.  Betsy blogs at BJ's Homeschoolabout high schoolcollege and the early years, too.  She offers homeschool help at BJ's Consulting, and loves meeting with homeschool families.  

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