Most homeschool moms worry about whether their kids will be able to get into college because of homeschooling, therefore, most of them quit at end of 8th grade. Colleges do accept homeschool kids. In fact, colleges love homeschool kids. I will be sharing what I did that helped me stay sane during the process of college admissions and prepared my kids for the college classroom. I will be talking about college admissions prep plan during high school years.
Pre-High school prep:
During the spring semester of 8th grade, its time to start thinking about college. Getting your student’s high school plan done before freshman will help keep you sane. The first thing you need to do is find your state requirement for high school diploma. Once you find it print it out and start mapping your student’s 4-year high school plan. I highly recommend you follow the state’s requirement because most state colleges require what the state requires.
Search for local colleges and see their requirements. It is best to have a list of colleges in your state and list their requirement. Your student should look at their websites and their degree programs to see if there is anything they might be interested in. Keep this list in your binder or student’s binder to keep an eye on as well as add to it any new information about a college. College admissions process will be easier if you gather information ahead of time.
Your student needs to start creating a running list of their interest. List their hobbies. What do they think they might want a career in and why? List their favorite subjects. What classes do they love? List their activities. I recommend the student keep this list in their binder and add to it through their high school years. This list will help you fill out their transcript throughout their high school years.
Pick a high school Transcript Template
Find a transcript template you like. Search for it online. Some are free and some are charged by the author. After searching for a template, I decided to make my own template in Excel which turned out nice. While you are searching for a template, check your local state college requirements of what needs to be on a transcript. By doing this now, will help you make sure you have everything you need on your transcript. Your planning of your student’s high school years will be easy if you have a transcript template picked or created.
Freshman year prep:
The summer before Freshman year, you should have all the subjects picked out and put on your student’s transcript. By having these already on your student’s transcript will help you keep up on your student’s progress during this year. During this time, you should focus on prepping for their PSAT they will have to take in their junior year. I highly recommend you start prepping for that now. Your student should be taking strong Math courses and English course including writing as well as vocabulary.
The most important thing to do this year is to make sure your student sign up for an account on the college board website. The college board will send important information and reminders about test date and anything tailored to your student’s grade level. This was a huge help for both of my boy’s preparation for college during their high school years at home. You can also have an account as a parent on the college board website.
Start being your child’s guidance counselor
During the next four years of high school, you are more than a teacher and a mom. You are officially your student’s counselor because you will be navigating the process of what your student wants to do after high school. It is very important to start having conversations about what their interest is and life beyond high school as well as home. Your child needs to be involved in prepping for college. This process will be helpful to see what are possible college choices based on their gifts and interest. Start conversations about his gifts, interest and possible career interest.
As a guidance counselor, you need to make sure you are following your state’s graduation requirements as well as the local state college’s requirement. I highly recommend you do this now because it will make your life easier if you are following the requirements.
Start Job Shadow
I highly recommend your student have their top 5 things they want to job shadow during this year. Schedule two of them this year (one in the fall semester and one for spring semester). It will take some time to call around and find companies willing to let your student to job shadow for a day. Then the next two on their top 5 list can be done during their sophomore year or even in the summer before sophomore year.
Start practicing essay writing
Essay writing practice should be done every year. This will help your student prepare for essay writing for college admissions as well as scholarships. Have them write essays every month including long research papers. Find a very good writing program to help him with this. Consider outsourcing writing to help your student to be prepared to write any type of paper for scholarships and college admissions. Most colleges require essays along with their admissions packet.
Build a strong vocabulary
Vocabulary is very important for essays, papers and the tests your child will have to take for college which are PSAT, SAT and/or ACT. I recommend a very good program that teaches how to break words down such as Latin and Greek root word study. Use this time to build their vocabulary. I tie vocabulary with English. I used Vocabulary from Classical Roots A to E series. My kid’s vocabulary skills were phenomenal.
Schedule for PSAT test
In May of this year, you need to call your local high school and reserve your student’s seat for PSAT. I know PSAT is not taken until Junior year however it is a good practice run for them to take it in sophomore year. It is highly recommended to reserve a seat and test four months prior to test day. Most schools close in June and July so it is best to make the call in May. This test is done every October. You can check the college board website to see what schools are hosting PSAT in the following October. The college board site is where you will register for a test.
This year is the calm before the storm of the last two years of high school. Keep your eye on the state requirement as well as local state college requirements. Check your emails from College Board of any reminders and important to do list. Make sure your sophomore student is regularly checking for college board emails. Complete freshman column on your student’s transcript. This is an important step to do before you forget to complete the freshman year by completing Freshman year on the transcript.
Check your October calendar to make sure PSAT date is on the calendar. If you haven’t reserved the PSAT test and paid for the test, now is the time to do it. Plan a day of practice PSAT test. One week before the test date, check the college board site to see what is allowed and what is not allowed on test day. What are the items your student can as well as must take on test day? Your student will need a state ID or some form of ID on test day. Plan to get this item done in August so you have plenty of time to gather information and proof to obtain a state ID card for testing.
Now is the time to have your student start doing SAT question of the day. As long as he has an account on the college board, he can do the question of the day each morning. My boys did this and they said it was the best thing to do to prep for SAT. It’s never too early to prep for SAT.
Put a reminder on your calendar for May to remind yourself to rsvp and pay for the PSAT test for your student to take in Junior year. This is when the PSAT will count the most. Junior year PSAT will count for the National Merit Scholarship. Make sure you do this in May as seats will fill up fast.
Now is the time to start attending college fairs in your state. This will be good for gathering information about the schools in your state. In some fairs, there will be colleges from out of state. Your student can ask the spokesperson for each college a set of questions about their schools and programs. I firmly suggest that you have a list of questions on hand to refer to. Make sure your student takes a pen and a small notebook to take notes as well as a folder to put pamphlets in.
Extracurricular Activities, job, and volunteering
Colleges do look at this very closely. So make sure there are extracurricular activities and volunteering is happening each year. It is highly recommended they have a job as well. Colleges love community service based volunteer. Check your State Homeschool group or organization or Facebook group for listings of extracurricular activities such as Homeschool sports, speech/debate club, drama club and so on. In my state, we have sports, speech/debate club, drama club, swim club, robotics club that are all homeschool based. Your own State Homeschool organization will have all of this information for you. In some cases, they will have a job board for your teens.
Consider Dual Enrollment to the local college
I highly recommend you consider dual enrollment to local college during Junior and Senior year. If you will consider that, early spring is when you want to start contacting your local college. This is where your transcript will come in handy as well as your student’s PSAT scores. It gives your admissions to colleges hard proof that your student will do well in college when they have conquered a college course during high school. My boys did this during their junior and senior year. They were very thankful that we made them do this. Your student can take high school math courses as well as English courses during this period in college. They will not have to take it again if they did well. They will earn a college credit and a high school credit.
Remember to keep having those Guidance Counseling talks about their future, their interest, and their goals. Keep looking at colleges and their requirements. By end of Sophomore year, your student should have a good idea of what type of career they are looking at. Keep up with your student’s transcript. Complete the sophomore column before summer begins. Don’t forget to schedule two more Job Shadowing opportunities. Look at their top 5 if it hasn’t changed since Freshman list.
Make sure you are still having your student write essays and papers. I highly recommend you outsource writing or at least have a grading service grade his papers for you. The more he writes the better his papers will be for those college admission essays as well as the SAT tests that he will have to take in Junior and Senior year.
This stage is where your student will need to get more serious about his choices and be more active in college prep. This is where you will need to guide him to start taking over his college prep for admissions. You are still his guidance counselor at this point. You just need to start teaching him to take more control of the rest of his high school years and college admissions. Make sure you already bought and reserved the PSAT test for October of this year.
In August, start scheduling college visits. Check college websites for tours and visitation days. You can schedule a one on one advisor visit with the college as well. Make sure your student picks up the admission packet before leaving the college visit. Always bring a list of questions to ask the advisor or faculty of the program he is interested in. Try to get all the college visits schedule during Fall Semester. One important question to ask during these visits is what is their admission criteria for the school and the program he is interested in.
Start looking for Scholarship opportunities
Start searching for scholarship opportunities online. Keep a list of possible scholarships to apply for. There are many resources on how to look for scholarships. Don’t apply for them yet. Use this year to search for scholarships to consider to apply during Senior year. Look at the colleges you are interested in and see what scholarships they offer and put those on your list. Talk to your friends in the field you are interested in and see what scholarships they got. Scholarships help cut your college costs down so this is a very important step in college prep for admissions.
Take an SAT/ACT prep class
I highly recommend you find an SAT/ACT prep class for your student. My boys took one through College Prep Genius online. My boy’s scores doubled after taking their course. Check your local homeschool group and see if they are having a course like this. Our homeschool group had College Prep Genius folks come and do a one-day seminar for SAT/ACT prep. We went to that as well as bought access to the online program. There are many SAT/ACT prep courses online and at learning centers all over the country. Do this in the fall so your student is prepared in the spring to take the tests.
Schedule the SAT test during the fall for spring. You will have to go to College Board online to schedule for this and pay for the test. Different schools host the SAT tests. Check your emails from College Board to make sure you do not miss those important deadlines. SAT tests are offered several times a year. Always check the schools hosting for each date. Its different on each test day. Make sure you make note of which test day the subject tests are offered if you are going to have your student take the subject tests.
ACT tests should be taken as well. You can reserve and pay for the test on their website which is ACT.org. They offer several test dates each year. Each date different schools host so it’s not the same for all the dates. Make sure you have everything ready to register. My boys also took this test.
Finish Junior year column on transcript before summer starts. Make sure you rsvp SAT and ACT tests during fall of senior year. Record your student’s SAT and ACT score on the transcript. Keep your student’s transcript updated often. Start gathering papers and information you will need for your student to start applying to colleges. Look at admissions deadlines for each of the college your student will be applying to in the fall of senior year.
This is the final year of high school and college prep for admissions. Keep a calendar of all the dates you and your student need to know such as deadlines for admissions for each college he is applying to. Also deadlines for scholarship submissions. Your student needs to start gathering recommendations from people that know him. Most colleges require letters of recommendations.
Apply for admissions to your college choices
Most colleges have admission deadlines in the fall. It is recommended to apply in early fall. Keep in mind of all the deadlines of admissions to all the colleges you will apply to. Some colleges offer scholarships for early admissions so keep that in mind. Double check what each college requires for admissions. Each college requirements are different. Transcripts are necessary for this admissions process. In this case, you will put the subjects taken in senior year on the transcript. IP (In Progress) will be put in the grade column for the senior year. In the spring, you will have to send the colleges an updated transcript that reflects fall grades for the senior year.
Start applying for scholarships
Start in mid-fall to apply for scholarships. Complete all scholarships submissions before Christmas. Keep note of deadlines for scholarships as some may be early fall. Make sure your student applies for scholarships offered by the colleges he is applying to.
Apply for FAFSA
Most colleges require this. I highly recommend you do this in the late fall of senior year. You will need your taxes from your last tax return. You will have to do this every year your student is in college. During this process, FAFSA will send the results to the colleges you listed your student applied to. The earlier you do this the better for both of you. The deadline for FAFSA filing is in March however some colleges have their own deadline which will be earlier than March. So take note of each of the college’s deadlines.
Once the spring semester is over, complete the transcript fully. By this time, your student would have gotten his acceptance or rejection letters from colleges. Once your student accepts a college, you will have to send the completed transcript to that college to complete the process of acceptance. In the acceptance letters from colleges there usually, a financial aid and scholarship offer in the packet so make sure you go through the packet. Your student will have to formally tell a college he accepts their offer.
I hope this is helpful to navigate the process of college prep during high school years. This process can be a smooth process but scary at the same time. Take it one day at a time and both of you will be ok.
Holly Truitt is a very busy mom who is a full-time homeschool mom and also works outside the home full time. She is married to her high school sweetheart. Her 3 kids have been homeschooled from K to 12. Two of her kids are already graduated from homeschool. The oldest son graduated from IUPUI in Kelly School of Business. He is married and has a wonderful job. Her middle son is at IUPUI in Kelly School of Business. Lastly, she still has one more student to finish. Her daughter will graduate next May. She has navigated the college admissions process with two kids. She blogs at https://www.fulltimehomeschoolmom.com