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  1. #1

    Default Looking Ahead: Is your homeschooler ready for college?

    Hello all,
    My name is Barbara Hettle and I am a college consultant and founder of Homeschool Success. Thanks for inviting me as a featured poster. I’m looking forward to our conversation.

    My number one goal for this discussion is to unpack some of the stress felt around college admissions for homeschoolers. I hope we can help each other by sharing practical ideas for small steps we can take to make this process easier for us and for our teens.

    Harvard or bust – proving the doubters wrong!

    Far too often in our culture college admissions is seen as some kind of contest or prize to be won. We read news stories about teens who beat tough odds to get admitted to a dozen prestigious colleges. While homeschooling has become more mainstream, many homeschoolers still face some skepticism from friends and family who criticized the child who spent more time building forts than learning multiplication tables. In that climate, it can be easy to get invested in the idea that the validity of the homeschool choice will finally be proven when your child gets a great scholarship or gets into a fantastic college. This kind of thinking is really everywhere in our culture, so it can be a challenge to recognize it and free yourself from it. College admissions is less stressful when we can keep focused on the fact that this is about finding a college that is a genuinely good fit – academically, socially, and financially.

    Comparisons can be tough, especially in the homeschool world. While we all share the similar desire to educate our kids at home, we have different children, different goals, and different resources. Some choices that may look unconventional (applying to 15 colleges, opting for trade school, forgoing college to pursue the arts, radically accelerating college and entering early, opting for community college) really make sense when they are understood in the context of an individual teen. There isn’t one right or wrong choice for all homeschoolers.
    Steps to try:
    1. Support and celebrate the choices of other homeschoolers.
    2. Learn more about college admissions for homeschoolers.
    3. Be mindful that teens pick up on cultural pressure around college admissions. Sometimes we need to “pass the bean dip” on these conversations.

    College costs a bajillion dollars, right?
    The single most anxiety-inducing part of college planning for many families is concern about the cost of college. While it is certainly understandable to want to avoid thinking about something stressful, this is an area where honest and realistic planning can make an enormous difference.

    It is a mistake to try to base an estimate of costs on what you observe with friends or neighbors. The system of college financing is complex and the schools that were most expensive for your sister’s kids may not be the most expensive for your kids. For some families their state universities may be a more expensive option than an elite private college. Many factors come into play in determining that cost, including your family finances and your child’s academic profile.

    What many people don’t realize is that the same student may find their costs vary wildly from one institution to the next. For this reason it is smart to look beyond the “sticker price” of colleges. Some schools that have a very high list price provide generous need based aid. At Stanford, students with family income under $125,000 annual income do not pay tuition. At Harvard, families with an income under $65,000 pay nothing at all, and families from $80,000 to $125,000 are expected to pay between 0 and 10% of their income. Other schools offer large merit based scholarships. Many families find that small liberal arts colleges are eager to enroll their homeschoolers. Students don’t have to be academic superstars with perfect test scores to be eligible for merit scholarships.

    The same applicant could find they have offers ranging from $0 a year to $65,000 a year depending on how their profile and need lines up with the financial options at different schools.
    Steps to try:
    1. Learn more about how college financing works. There are many good resources online. Most libraries have books on this topic. I suggest Princeton Review’s “Paying for College without Going Broke.”
    2. Have an open and honest conversation with your high school student about finances. Don’t wait until senior year.
    3. Consider cost saving options such as dual enrollment, AP and CLEP tests, applying for scholarships, and starting at community college.

    What if my teen hasn’t cured cancer or doesn’t have perfect SAT scores?
    Most colleges aren’t looking for perfection or anything even close. They are looking for teens who want to learn and be a part of their community. There are over 3,000 colleges in the United States and most admit the majority of their applicants. We have an incredibly diverse range of options available. There are small, medium, and large sized schools. There are two year and four year colleges. There are research universities, liberal arts colleges, art schools, and tech schools.

    Some colleges, such as Ivy League schools, are highly selective and accept a low percent of applicants. These colleges are a great fit for some homeschoolers. Students aiming for these top ranked schools are well advised to start planning early in high school. Homeschoolers considering these schools will need to pay special attention to documenting and validating their work. Admitted students typically have exceptionally strong academic work, high test scores, and a well-developed extracurricular record.

    Many colleges with selective admissions use a process called holistic admissions, which means they consider all aspects of a student’s profile. That means there are opportunities for students with different areas of strength. Your son may not be a natural tester, but if he has talent in music or a strong track record in community service there are many colleges that will be excited to receive his application.

    The quality of an education is not dictated by the percent of applicants a college rejects. The focus of a college search needs to be on the match with the college and the opportunities afforded. I encourage you to not overlook options such as small liberal arts colleges and state universities including regional state universities. There is a wide range of selectivity and there is a match for every teen.

    One way to lower stress about college is to begin to explore the wide range of options out there. Encourage your student to learn about different types of colleges including liberal arts colleges, state universities, and tech schools. Many families with 10th and 11th graders find it helpful to just start visiting a few colleges in their region. They don’t necessarily have to be the schools the child is likely to attend. A few visits help give teens a feel for factors that will be important in their decision. It can be especially helpful to visit schools of different sizes.
    Steps to try:1. Help your teen develop a realistic understanding of their admissions profile – academic, testing, and extracurriculars.
    2. Visit colleges in your area.
    3. Provide your teen with reassurance. Even many really highly academically achieving students worry they won’t get into college. All kids benefit from an understanding that there are many good colleges out there.

    My teen doesn’t know what she wants to major in and heck if I’m paying for that!
    This is a common sentiment. It is certainly understandable with high college costs to feel concerned about extending yourself financially for a student who doesn’t have a clearly defined career path in mind. The reality, though, is that most students find direction through taking general education courses that come early in their degree program. More than 50% of students enter college undecided about their majors so undecided is normal. Also, many students who feel they’ve always had a very clear and well defined career path end up changing their mind in college. When it comes to graduating college on time, the school your child selects can be as important as their major direction.

    It makes sense to look with a lot of skepticism on college for a student who is not at all academically motivated or doesn’t seem to be ready for college courses. Often for these students it makes more sense to pursue other options or begin college on a part time basis at community college.
    Steps to try:1. Teens often really only know about the well-known careers (doctor, banker, engineer, plumber, teacher, etc.). Encourage your teen to develop familiarity with the wide range of career options available. Taking online quizzes can be one place to start that exploration.
    2. Consider a homeschool project involving interviewing family or friends about their careers.
    3. Visit career offices during college visits. Find out about the services they offer.

    He doesn’t even pick up his socks
    College marks a huge time of transition as teens begin to move into adult life. College readiness obviously involves mastering high school level content in core subjects. That mastery of content is something students demonstrate in the college admissions process through their testing and homeschool documents. This kind of academic readiness is certainly crucial but as every parent knows it is just part of what it takes to be successful. Equally important are skills like time management, money management, stress management, organizational skills, social skills, and life skills.

    Few teens are mature across the board. Development is a process that happens bit by bit through experience and sometimes more slowly than we wish it would. The key is to try to identify skills you’d like your teen to develop and to continue to foster opportunities that will allow for the development of those skills.
    Steps to try:
    1. Outsourcing or dual enrollment – Many families find their teens benefit from different teachers and new situations that will encourage them to strengthen skills in areas such as notetaking and study skills.
    2. Start to expect your teen to assume new responsibilities at home. Laundry, scheduling haircuts, cooking dinner, planning, transportation – these are all jobs teens can begin to take on. Much like with toddlers and preschoolers, it is often more work to get them to do it than it is to just do it yourself, but that’s part of the process.
    3. Value extracurricular and work experiences that allow development of independence and new skills.

    Please share your thoughts
    What do you see as the most important steps homeschoolers can take to prepare for college? How do you balance academic preparation with all of the rest of important stuff teens need (free time, extracurriculars, work, etc.) Parents of teens and current college students – what have you found most helpful in encouraging maturity and college readiness?

    Last edited by Homeschool Success; 04-04-2016 at 10:49 AM. Reason: formatting
    Barbara Hettle, Homeschool and College Admissions Consultant, Founder of Homeschool Success
    Follow us on Facebook

  2. T4L In Forum Oct19
  3. #2

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    Does it show now?
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  4. #3
    firefly77
    Guest

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    Yes- I can see it!

    I don't have any perspective to offer as a parent of teens, but I'm interested to hear what the other teen parents have to say about their experiences with homeschooling and college readiness!

  5. #4

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    As most here know, I homeschooled two kids from very early elementary school to high school graduation next month for my younger. DD is finishing freshman year at Univ of Iowa and DS will be at Purdue in the fall.

    In order to not panic about college admissions, my kids and I decided to "front load" a lot of admission requirement classes early on. These included foreign languages, economics, US govt and history, etc. This resulted in more time in their junior and senior years to take more interest-led courses.

    Regarding maturity level, both kids started working at a cafe part time when they were 15. The accountability to others besides themselves or family taught them more responsibility. Both have worked two part-time jobs at times too; DD during the summers, while DS has worked both for over a year now. The extra time available from completing required courses when they were 13 and 14 (when they really couldn't work part-time anyway) comes in handy for this.

    I also agree that dual credit is a great way to have homeschool students "get their feet wet" in a college environment. They get used to the expectations and pacing of a college class while still being supported at home. The credit transfer can be great as well; dd is on track to finish her BS degree in 3 years due to having a year's worth of credit in the basics (English comp., 4 semesters of Spanish, chemistry, speech class...).


    We HAVE had some angst here this spring over college admissions--acceptances to some excellent programs, but cost was too high. For us, the state school (with also an excellent program for CS) for ds is by far the best deal. It's just not "away".
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  6. #5

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    Carol -- did your role change in high school to more of an advisor for your kids than a teacher, or did you continue teaching courses to your kids using purchased or self-created curriculum? How did you ensure that course standards were met for the high school transcript? Is your nearby community college highly rated, or did they actually enroll in a 4-yr college somehow for the credits? Just trying to figure out the logistics.

    Barbara -- can a high schooler take the AP test for course credit without enrolling in the actual course? Also burning to know -- how do college admissions committees view homeschoollers? Any tips for what absolutely must appear on the transcript to be competitive? Recommendations to strengthen an application (for the average student)?

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham Gal View Post
    Carol -- did your role change in high school to more of an advisor for your kids than a teacher, or did you continue teaching courses to your kids using purchased or self-created curriculum? How did you ensure that course standards were met for the high school transcript? Is your nearby community college highly rated, or did they actually enroll in a 4-yr college somehow for the credits? Just trying to figure out the logistics.
    Yes, I became more of a guidance counselor for my kids, but I still taught some courses. I'm a former physics and math teacher, so I taught all of the sciences except chemistry (better labs in dual credit) and all of the high school math, "tutoring" ds when he took college math. I also planned and taught the literature and social studies courses. The college campus my kids attended for dual credit is a satellite campus of a Big 10 university, so it is a 4-year college. Typically, they want kids to wait until junior year to dual enroll, but they make exceptions. Based on SAT scores, dd started her sophomore year while ds started his freshman year, never taking more than one or two classes at a time.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "ensuring that course standards are met." If you mean that they have the courses colleges want for admission, we looked at possible places they wanted to attend and made sure they had those classes. However, you might mean how do colleges know the kids learned what the transcript says they learned? In addition to a transcript, I had a 12 page course description list that detailed each course, materials used, and exactly how it was graded (tests, discussion, essays, etc.) I kept their work until they were accepted, just in case anyone wanted proof.
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
    In order to not panic about college admissions, my kids and I decided to "front load" a lot of admission requirement classes early on. These included foreign languages, economics, US govt and history, etc. This resulted in more time in their junior and senior years to take more interest-led courses.
    Thanks for sharing that fantastic tip Carol. We've also found that more opportunities tend to open up as teens get older. That can include work and also participation in volunteering and community organizations that aren't accessible to them at a younger age. That's one of the really nice things about homeschooling high school is you have that kind of flexibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
    dd is on track to finish her BS degree in 3 years due to having a year's worth of credit in the basics (English comp., 4 semesters of Spanish, chemistry, speech class...).
    That's wonderful! It can be a huge savings of money and it can also buy the student flexibility to complete a second major, study abroad, etc. Also, for parents of younger kids - note in the courses Carol is sharing is included four semesters of Spanish. That's a great illustration of how dual enrollment can be time efficient because one semester of college is the equivalent of a full year of high school instruction. That buys the homeschool student a lot of time they can do something else with.

    Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
    We HAVE had some angst here this spring over college admissions--acceptances to some excellent programs, but cost was too high. For us, the state school (with also an excellent program for CS) for ds is by far the best deal. It's just not "away".
    Great benefits come from not being overextended financially. Often in CS and engineering, state school options will end up being the best fit.
    Barbara Hettle, Homeschool and College Admissions Consultant, Founder of Homeschool Success
    Follow us on Facebook

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham Gal View Post
    Barbara -- can a high schooler take the AP test for course credit without enrolling in the actual course? Also burning to know -- how do college admissions committees view homeschoollers? Any tips for what absolutely must appear on the transcript to be competitive? Recommendations to strengthen an application (for the average student)?
    Yes, absolutely homeschoolers can take APs tests. There are two different options to prepare. Some students take online courses through vendors such as Well Trained Mind Academy, PA Homeschoolers, and state virtual schools. It is also an option to self study for APs

    To list a course as an "official" AP course on the transcript it is necessary to go through the AP course audit process and get the syllabus approved. An alternative that many finds works just as well is simply to do your own course and call it something like Advanced Biology and then have the student take the APBio test and list the score on the transcript.

    I find that APs are a great fit for some homeschoolers and less so for others. The fortunate thing as homeschoolers is that we have a variety of options to bring in that level of rigor. Alternatives include dual enrollment, online classes, and SAT subject tests. How much rigor you need depends on the selectivity of the schools your student is interested in. If they are aiming for really competitive schools they need more of that outside validation.

    Colleges are eager for applicants and that includes homeschoolers. They want to see students have used their opportunities well and they've developed strength in academics, testing, and extracurriculars. The level of work a homeschooler needs depends on the type of colleges they are applying to - but here is a general guide. Some stereotypes about homeschoolers do persist and homeschoolers are well advised to make it clear in their applications that they are active in their community and that they have a lot of experience learning in situations other than with just mom at the kitchen table.
    Barbara Hettle, Homeschool and College Admissions Consultant, Founder of Homeschool Success
    Follow us on Facebook

  10. #9

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    My son has several learning differences but is extremely smart and gifted in computers and mathematics. His diagnosed weak areas are in literacy (reading/writing/spelling, etc.). We are considering homeschooling for HS due to his advanced needs in some areas (math and computer programming) and his need for special instruction in his weaker areas. We live in TX and I have been able to map out what would be a considered a "Distinguished Achievement Diploma" if he was in public school. The curriculum would be a mix of online, part-time private school, and home school.

    Since there is a chance he will not be returning to public school before he applies to college, do you happen to know anything about getting official testing accommodations for things like the TSI (necessary for dual enrollment classes at the local CC), SAT, or ACT? Normally the testing accommodations are modeled off of the IEP and testing accommodations at school when the child attends school. I'm not sure how to get the same accommodations as a home schooled student. Any advice you have would be appreciated.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by staurofilax View Post

    Since there is a chance he will not be returning to public school before he applies to college, do you happen to know anything about getting official testing accommodations for things like the TSI (necessary for dual enrollment classes at the local CC), SAT, or ACT? Normally the testing accommodations are modeled off of the IEP and testing accommodations at school when the child attends school. I'm not sure how to get the same accommodations as a home schooled student. Any advice you have would be appreciated.
    Great question. Here's some basic information and I hope that parents who have been through this process with their kids will also jump in with comments.

    It is possible to get disability accommodations for testing as a homeschooled student. The process can be time consuming so it is good that you are thinking about it as your son enters high school. The ACT and the College Board (SAT, APs, PSAT, CLEP, Accuplacer - which is related to the TSI).

    It would be smart to continue the accommodations he's getting at school once he transitions to home. Keep a formal record of the accommodations provides such as extended time. You may also find that depending on the specific diagnosis and accommodation needed that you may need to supply reports from recent assessments by a professional. These recent assessments can also be needed to get accommodations in college.

    Here is a link to the ACT test information about accommodations. And, the College Board information. For the TSI I suggest contacting the college where he will test.

    Be aware that it can take time to apply for accommodations and that it is not uncommon to be denied on the first round but to be granted accommodations on later appeals.
    Barbara Hettle, Homeschool and College Admissions Consultant, Founder of Homeschool Success
    Follow us on Facebook

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Looking Ahead: Is your homeschooler ready for college?