Advice on Homeschooling to College
By Blair Lee, MS
This year is an exciting one for us. Our son, who was homeschooled from 1st grade until he graduated, is going to college. He applied to nine colleges and was accepted at six of them and was put on the waitlist of one of them. He received scholarship oﬀers at three of the colleges. In the end, and after some soul searching on his part, he accepted the oﬀer from the college that was closest to home, San Diego State University. We have a close-knit family, and he decided that he wants to be close enough to see all of us regularly.
Homeschooling through high school to college is not as hard as many think. We discovered that public colleges and universities, for the most part, are neither homeschool friendly nor unfriendly. As a homeschooling parent, I was nervous when it came to the college application process. I am not a high school counselor with experience helping kids go to college. It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be, but there were still some surprises. Here is a list of some of the things I learned this year. It is important to note, that all but one of the colleges and universities Sean applied to were public not private institutions.
- Throughout high school, make sure your student takes lab-rich science courses and uses history resources that teach accurate mainstream history. FYI, non-secular history is problematic for admission into many public colleges and universities. For science and history, make sure the resources you choose are secular academic. Sean used all my RSO textbooks for high school, along with supplements, as well as a physics course taught by someone else. Almost every college he was accepted to, upon learning he was homeschooled, required a course syllabus from his science courses (and in the case of two colleges, history), course descriptions, and in one case a lab report from each course. I assume none of the colleges are familiar with the science courses I write, which indicates that the course syllabi played an important role in establishing that he had learned mainstream science and history while doing extensive lab work for science. When I asked one college admissions oﬃcer if the purpose of asking homeschoolers for this documentation was to make sure the science and history the student learned was real, she said, “Yeah, that’s the reason.”
- Sean did not take standardized tests until he took the ACT. I had him treat studying for it as a class. And he took a course through Test Prep Expert. Before that, he chose which test he preferred. He took a practice ACT and SAT and chose the one he liked best. For him, the ACT was a clear winner.
- He wrote a killer essay all on his own. My husband and I reviewed it and gave feedback after he had written it, but that was all. He chose a very personal topic, and it showed in the essay.
- As a junior, he took a class with Michael Clay Thompson, MCT, who then wrote Sean’s letter of recommendation. I highly recommend a class or two taught by someone else who you and your child respect as an academician. It doesn’t have to be writing, Sean has always loved to write, and the MCT courses were favorites of his, which made MCT a natural fit. Your child will want to have a letter of recommendation from someone other than their parent when they apply to college. The reason for taking these courses shouldn’t be just the letter, but it is an added benefit, and an important component of many college applications.
- Lots of service that is meaningful for your student and the world. It is one of the things we have heavily incorporated into our homeschool journey. Many colleges look for the service work students did in high school. Because of this, students might choose a service project for that reason alone. If you can, try not to let that be the only reason for the volunteer work your child is doing. There is a reason colleges like to see service projects on transcripts (and it isn’t just to get into college). It is because colleges like students who are engaged in the larger world, students who are working to be the change they want in the world.
- Eclectic and diﬀerent is not a bad thing – Sean’s transcript is crazy looking! He got credit for things like a semester roadschooling geology; I called it Geology Fieldwork on Sean’s transcript. You are already choosing a path that is diﬀerent, you might as well embrace it, take chances, and craft something unique and academically-rich.
- I got help putting together and assigning credit values for Sean’s transcript from someone who does that sort of thing for a living. I wanted to make sure the work Sean did in high school was adequately documented.
- Keep good solid records, with course descriptions, every year so it is easy to remember what you did.
- Sean has 1 year of college level computer science classes. I think that is something homeschoolers should make sure their children have. Not necessarily college level, high school would be okay. But have some of this. This is an important skill for today’s job market. It is also an important skill to have during college.
- If your child needs a gap year take it! Sean took a much-needed gap year. It did not hurt him at all when applying to colleges.
- Visit the colleges. The top two colleges that were Sean’s favorites and the bottom two when he sent out application switched places after he visited the schools.
- The admissions oﬃcers are your friends. Call and talk to them if you have any questions or concerns. We have had great luck getting all our questions answered.
I wish your child much luck as they pursue their dreams to college and beyond!
Check out our post on whether your child could have Dyslexia? Dysgraphia? Dyscalculia? here.