College Admissions, Part II
It's September and the smell of fall is in the air. The chrysanthemums are beginning to bloom and the leaves will soon be turning beautiful colors. As new books are being examined and pencils are being sharpened, take a few minutes to review your reasons for homeschooling, and renew your vision by prayerfully seeking the Lord's help right from the start. We'll ask the Lord, along with you, to make this your best year of homeschooling yet!
This newsletter is the second installment of a three-part series on The Road to College Admissions. Last month, we discussed the spiritual preparation for making a college decision and also how to research colleges in order to make good college choices with your child. This month we'll cover the specifics of applying to colleges,
and also take a look at the important elements of a college visit.
THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PACKET
The college application packet may include along with the application form a separate financial aid application as well as information for supplying the college with a high school transcript, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation, guidance counselor form, and essay.
Because the vast majority of colleges have already processed at least one homeschooled student, you probably won't be the first to apply so there is no need to fear even though at first glance this application process may appear lengthy and involved. You can help make this process less burdensome or time-consuming just by organizing your approach to it and by being diligent to record and document information as your child progresses through the high school years.
After completing the college research, you may want to narrow down the number of schools your child applies to--possibly two or three. This allows for contingencies and comparisons of financial aid and scholarship offers from several schools. Along with the application fees there are also fees to be paid to have your child's college
entrance scores sent, so keep this in mind when you consider the number of schools to which your child will apply.
Although each college will set its own admission policies (and some colleges even have special policies for homeschooled students), here is what you can usually expect:
Colleges have strict deadlines for applying so note these deadlines and give your child plenty of time to complete the application. Since many colleges require an essay and letters of recommendation, completing a college application is not a 10-minute job; it may take several hours over a number of weeks to complete! Colleges prefer online applications since it saves them time, and the advantage to you is that when you submit your application you will immediately be prompted if you have omitted a piece of information. Also, in most cases, you can begin filling out the application, save the information, and then come back at another time to complete it. Do not leave any area of the application blank--if you have questions, simply email or call the college admissions office and ask any questions you may have.
- Financial Aid Application: Along with application deadlines, schools also have financial aid application deadlines. You do not need to wait until your child is an admitted student before making application for financial aid. Fill out the FAFSA form as soon after January 1 as you can. The HSLDA website provides helpful links to college financial aid information and a recent high school email newsletter covered this topic and is now available in the email archives. See http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3257.
- High School Transcript: Colleges will request a high school transcript. As the homeschool parent you can generate your own transcript, or if you are enrolled in an umbrella or oversight program, it may supply you with a transcript. Briefly, a high school transcript is a concise record of the academic courses your child completed in high school. For a more detailed explanation of transcripts see HSLDA's website, and also the October 2005 issue of the Homeschooling Thru High School email newsletter.
- Test Scores: College entrance test scores (SAT/ACT) are often required for college admission. Most colleges request these test scores be sent directly to them from the testing organization. For more information on registering for the PSAT, SAT and ACT see the October 2005 newsletter, or the testing section of HSLDA's website. Many good test prep resources are available for the SAT and ACT, so be sure your student is well prepared to take these tests. See http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3261.
- Letters Of Recommendation: Colleges usually require two or more letters of recommendation. Have your child contact and request letters from others who know him and his academic abilities well. Be sure to request these letters far in advance, supplying the writers with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope to the admissions office since colleges may want to receive the recommendation letter directly from the writer. However, other colleges may want to receive the letters of recommendation all in one package with the application, so be sure to read the application instructions carefully.
- Guidance Counselor Section: Most college applications will have a section that is to be completed by the guidance counselor. As the homeschool parent you can complete this section. If an item is not pertinent (such as class rank) simply indicate NA for "not applicable." Many schools have stopped ranking their students so your child should not be adversely affected by not having a class rank. However, some scholarships may use class rank as a factor, so check with a particular college/scholarship to inquire about this. If you are unsure about any questions in this section, simply call the admissions office for clarification.
- Essay: Colleges generally ask applicants to write an essay on a choice of topics. These essays are to be written entirely by your child. He or she should spend a good amount of time on these, reviewing, editing, and polishing the essays before submitting them.
Check and double-check all sections of the application prior to submitting it--and don't forget to include your application fee! The majority of colleges now provide you with the opportunity to check your application/admission status online so that you are aware if the college is missing a piece of information or waiting on a recommendation letter, test score, etc.
Along with filling out all the forms for admission, it's important for your child to gain a close-up view of college life. This will help to quiet the fears of those who are uncertain about this next step and provide confidence and anticipation for those who are raring to go!
Although many college websites now give web tours of their campuses, actually visiting a college is still a worthwhile endeavor. Check with the college to see if they have certain open days for visits or if they prefer you make an individual appointment to visit. Many colleges will have "rising senior" open days and will line up a full day of seminars and activities so that many different representatives from various departments (admissions, housing, student clubs, etc.) can present helpful information and answer questions. In most cases, current college students lead campus tours, and they are usually very knowledgeable and enjoy answering your questions. (You will be amazed at the tidbits of information you discover. Most of these tour guides have also perfected the art of walking backwards while addressing a tour group--it is a skill homeschooling moms may want to perfect!)
You should take time during your visit to tour the dorms or off-campus housing (some colleges will even make overnight dorm arrangements for your child). Also take the opportunity to eat in the cafeteria and sample the food, arrange for a classroom visit, perhaps set up a personal interview with an admissions officer, and even make arrangements to meet leaders of student groups in which your child may have an interest. This is also a good time to visit local churches and find out whether any offer transportation on Sundays for students.
Campus visits may be done prior to making application to the college (in this case perhaps to narrow down the list of schools your child will apply to); they may be done while waiting to hear about an admission decision (use this visit to rank a college in terms of your child's priorities); or the visit may be done once an admissions offer has been made (to help determine a final selection). Whenever you decide to visit a college, it's a great idea to take notes regarding both the advantages and disadvantages of each school while the college is still fresh in your mind. If you do choose to visit a school after you've received an acceptance, you may want to take the opportunity to check out the available part-time jobs on campus for the school year. These jobs are usually filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so your child can be ahead of the crowd and maybe line up a part-time job during his college visit. (In some instances your child may need to wait until he has registered for classes and his tuition bill paid before applying for a job on campus).
College visits are wonderful opportunities to spend one-on-one time with your student. Use the trip in the car or plane to discuss your child's academic goals and the plans he or she may have to be involved in clubs, activities, and ministries during college. It's time well spent!
Stay tuned for part III.
Next month we'll discuss various alternatives to the traditional college route. Many homeschoolers are taking advantage of increasing opportunities to receive college credit via online college courses and distance learning programs. We'll talk in depth about this option in October.
Until then, we hope your school year is full of blessings and joy!
Grateful for the work you do and the impact you are having on your
Becky and Diane
This resource is an article from the Homeschooling Thru Highschool newsletter (9/7/2006), and is provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association as a service to the homeschooling community.