College Preparations For Homeschoolers

Ways a homeschooler can prepare for college and their educational future.

Homeschoolers have been accepted into hundreds of fine schools, from junior colleges to ivy league universities. Many colleges actively recruit homeschoolers now due to the success they have had with them in the past. Homeschoolers are at a particular advantage with the many schools that are looking for a diversified student body because of their unique backgrounds.

But finding the right college and improving your chances to get into the school of your choice takes careful planning and preparation. Here are five ways you can begin to prepare yourself for college.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS

The first step you will want to take is researching colleges and universities. Like any schooled student considering college, you will want to find schools that will best suit your needs and interests.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, try to find out if the institutions in which you are interested have accepted homeschoolers in the past. Get in touch with the admissions office of each school and ask what they look for in a home educated applicant. Some colleges have special procedures for homeschooled applicants, while others have standard procedures that you will want to adhere to as closely as possible.

CONSIDER TAKING STANDARDIZED TESTS

Standardized test scores alone do not determine a student's fate. More and more colleges are downplaying the importance of standardized test scores in their admissions process. Many admissions officers say that a well-rounded student who has tackled different educational challenges and participated in a number of activities is more attractive than one with high test scores, and little else. But even for a well-rounded student, good test scores are always a plus, especially if the student was homeschooled.

If you are planning on taking standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, its best to take them, at the very latest, a year or more before you plan to apply for college. Two years before would be even better. Give yourself plenty of leeway so that you can take them again if you feel that you can boost your score and still have time to spare.

If you have been educated in a fairly unstructured manner and are not accustomed to taking written tests, make sure to pick up a book or take a course to review standardized test formats and test taking skills. Taking a few practice tests ahead of time will help you to become more comfortable with the standardized format and give you a general idea of how you will score.

Some people, no matter how intelligent they are, do not do well on standardized tests. Some think too creatively to work within the narrow confines of a standardized exam, or freeze up and tend to blank out in testing situations. If you are a person whose test scores do not adequately reflect your ability level, try to work around them. Find out if the schools in which you are interested are open to applications using other tools of evaluation, such as portfolios or life experience.

GET YOUR RECORDS IN ORDER

Especially in your high school years, you or your parents should be keeping detailed records of your educational achievements. For one thing, you will want to be able to show a college admissions officer that you have mastered the basic educational skills necessary to help you in college. You will also want to stand out among other applicants by showcasing the unique educational experiences and challenges you have undertaken.



If you have not done so already, begin to compile a list of the studies you have completed or in which you are currently engaged. List the formal studies, such as prepackaged curricula that you have used or classes you have taken, along with grades if applicable. Also to be included are educational pursuits and projects such as if you started your own home business, spent a year writing a novel or went to South America with your missionary uncle for the summer. Try to categorize the subject matter you have touched on, and summarize what you have learned.

After you have compiled your list, begin to organize the information in a coherent way. You or your parents can create transcripts to submit, which will list categorically the subjects you have studied, or put together a showcase portfolio featuring work samples and photographs to demonstrate what you have learned.

GATHER LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

It is beneficial for students in public and private schools to obtain letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors. For homeschoolers, a letter of recommendation from a parent or guardian is helpful, but generally not enough. A college admissions officer who does not know you may wonder, with good reason, if your mother's raving praises could be slightly biased. Even if your parents hold a Ph.D. in education, it is to your advantage to gather letters of recommendation from sources in addition to the one from the person who is homeschooling you.

If possible, try to obtain a recommendation from an educational professional. If you have taken any classes, been tutored or evaluated by a certified teacher, it would help if they offer a positive professional opinion about you.

Another option is to go to someone with whom you have had a professional relationship. If you have volunteered, held an apprentice or a job, try to get a manager or supervisor to write a recommendation for you.

If none of the options above are available to you, try to get a recommendation from an adult, preferably a respected professional, who has known you personally for a fairly long time. This person must be exceptionally articulate and have above average writing skills.

Always keep the original copies of your letters and send copies to the school along with your application.

BRUSH UP ON ESSAY WRITING

Excellent writing skills are important in college, and a good essay can make or break an application. Be sure to give a great deal of consideration to your topic of choice. You will want to stand out among countless other applicants, and an outstanding essay is a chance really shine as an individual.

Follow the schools essay guidelines to the letter; for example, if the school requests a 1,000 word essay, do not hand in a 240 word paragraph, or a 2,000 word paper. If the guidelines say to type and double-space your essay, don't send it written on a scroll using calligraphic lettering. You do want to stand out, but not as someone who disregards the guidelines entirely.

Before handing in your essay, proofread it thoroughly. When you are done, proofread it again. Make sure it contains no spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors. Don't rely on computer spell and grammar checking programs, as they can change words you might not have meant to be changed. Imagine if you left editing to your spell checker, only to have your paper on "Colin Powell" be changed to a paper on "colon power."

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