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  1. #1

    Default Our experience applying to colleges - is this helpful for anyone?


    I have enjoyed reading this forum for many years and appreciated all of the help that is so generously offered - and would like to give back if it would be helpful to another family. My son is a HS senior and applied to 11 colleges from the 'Colleges That Change Lives', so far he has been accepted into 8 of the colleges and offered merit scholarships of $30-35K (~44-55% of the total cost). He is by no means a perfect student and some of his ACT scores were good but again far from perfect. In addition, he fulfilled some but not all of the required course work for the colleges.

    If it would help you to hear more specifics please let me know and I will post the details. I remember how worried I was when we first started the college search since I had no idea how the colleges would regard the homeschooling world and my son's spotty record - and I would love to spare another parent some of that angst!


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  3. #2


    Oh, yes! Please, that would be very helpful, although we are still 4 years from that stage, it would be informative.
    Thank you.

  4. #3


    Please do share. The more experiences we can share, the more likely someone will find advice that works for them.

    My homeschooled-all-the-way-through-high-school kids are now in the tail end of their college years. They applied to schools the standard way, mostly through the Common App or a school's website. Both are now attending Big 10 universities but applied to public and private, elite and not elite. Both earned scholarships.

    If any wants even more info, there are all kinds of relevant threads on the College Prep sub-forum here.

    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 graduate: BS in Computer Science, minor in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  5. #4


    Hope this is helpful. I worried a lot through this process and it really did not need to be so stressful (my fault for not trusting things would work out). Good luck to you and your loved one, I hope the process goes smoothly and easily!

    A little background, ds is your typical liberal arts person (with IT skills) - has never been in love with math or science but has done major investigation on his own into history, politics, and computer programming. While in high school he did very few extracurricular activities: a little volunteering, he belonged to First Lego League for one year + 2 years in Science Olympiad, worked part time during the last two years. No awards, no sports teams, nothing traditionally considered outstanding except that he taught a class last Spring.

    For high school he took community college or online classes in addition to a very relaxed high school co-op that he attended for one year, one day a week. We found the CC to be pretty good – only issue was that the counselors did not really review his courses with him to see if the classes were appropriate (learning experience for both of us). Online classes were solid and the instructors provided good feedback. For the co-op classes we did not grade his work since it really did not fit the experience; we did grade home-study classes but did not include all of his independent research on the transcripts (this was just our personal decision since he did not want to document everything he had done - it would have been great to have this work tracked).

    Last summer we started look at schools and with his interests decided that schools with small classes where the professors and students were working together would fit him best. He applied to those schools in the ‘Colleges that Change Lives’, a group of small liberal arts colleges focused on providing an excellent undergraduate experience, that showed a willingness to work with ds to customize his major (combining his passions of history and computer science).

    We visited nine of the campuses and he was interviewed by admissions staff at all eleven schools – and I think it was the interviews that really made him a more viable candidate since it allowed the school to put a face/voice to the application - and it gave him the opportunity to discuss his interests. It was probably also reassuring to the admissions officers, who may not have extensive experience with homeschoolers and not realize how comfortable they are interacting with adults, to see that ds was well socialized (always makes me think of a dog that has been house-trained).

    Ds applied for Early Action whenever it was available. This made for a tough Autumn, lots of work and essays to complete by November 1st but it also meant he was first in line for scholarships (we were told by an admissions counselor that most merit scholarship money is first-come-first-serve).

    Before he received acceptances my biggest concern was that ds would not be accepted at any college because he was not a perfect student (grades have been up and down all four years) and his course choices did not match the requirements the colleges posted. Now I think I was brainwashed by all of the nonsense online and in the college guides. My biggest take-home message from this process was that there are lots of good schools willing to see beyond the transcript, and many of them have the funding to provide good scholarships!

    Below are his grades and scores:

    Computer Science: 100 and 200 level classes (grades A-B). 6 classes in total; 3 straight programming and 3 concerning game design and development.

    History/Poli-Sci/Ethics: CC classes (grades A-B and one C); home-study class. He also developed a class on WWII and taught it at the high school co-op.

    Literature and grammar: Lukeion (great courses and enthusiastic teachers), one CC class + independent home study of 19th-20th C American and British Lit (grades A-B).

    Language: 3 years of German at CC (grades: 1 B + 2 Cs)

    Math was AoPS: grades were A-B. Highest level class was Algebra II.

    Science was CC: two Ds - one of the courses he re-took and got a B. The other course was only for health science majors and we had to explain in the 'counselor letter' on the CommonApp that this was a poor choice on our part!

    Plus a few electives such as cinema, a business class, French.

    Overall GPA: unweighted 3.28; weighted: 3.82. Total high school credits: 30 units as of Fall 2018.

    At the time of his graduation he will have something like: six and one-half years of high school mathematics; six and one-half years of history/ethics and civics; four years of English; three years of lab-based science; three and one-half years of foreign languages; six and one-half years of computer science.

    ACT scores
    Composite Score: 30
    English: 29
    Reading: 36
    Math: 25
    Science: 28
    Writing: 8

  6. #5
    Junior Member Newbie
    Join Date
    Jul 2019


    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. As the mom of a incoming 10th grader, this was incredibly reassuring to hear. I keep telling my daughter that she doesn't need to have perfect grades and test scores... What she does have that sets her apart is her story And we will seek out schools who will appreciate her uniqueness and life experience.
    Again, thank you!

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Our experience applying to colleges - is this helpful for anyone?