I’m continuing with my ‘Applying to College’ theme with a post dedicated to the purpose of sharing resources 📚 I’ve found helpful during my journey as well as things to keep in mind 📌 as you proceed through your high school years. These posts are going to run in order of how I approached this process, but if you have any questions 💭 pertaining to things that will occur in later posts, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments 💬 section!
The theme of today’s post is ‘Nota Bene’ 📝 (‘Note Well’ in Latin) because I’ll be sharing pieces of information that would helpful to keep in mind during the entirety of this application process. So, if you are freshman or sophomore in high school, these are things you’ll want to start thinking about. If you’re a junior, this post will serve as either a great reminder 📢 ,or a heads-up 🙇 on aspects you might have overlooked (unfortunately, that was the case in my application process many a time). If you’re a senior furiously scribbling ✏️ 📒 the last sentences of your essays 📄,I’d say this post would be interesting to read – it’s fun to see how other people have approached this process! – but won’t give you much advice on your last few laps. If you do want some tips or are curious about something, post a comment below and I’d be more than happy to share what I’ve done! 👩
Things to Keep in Mind
1. Stay Organized 📂📋
As with anything, organization is key 🔑 if you’re interested in avoided unnecessary 😰struggles. For homeschooled highschoolers especially, application requirements are different for every college and university, and what you need and don’t need can be hard to keep track of 🙎.
Towards the end of my application process, I created a running GoogleDoc 💻 that both my mom and I had access to. On this document, I put together a long list 📃 of ‘to-do’s’ as well as this table:
Of course I did this as a junior, but even if you’re a freshman you should begin doing your research so that you have an idea of what you’ll be required to submit. Requirements vary so much between different institutions, you’ll want to have one place where you can write everything down. The only reason I really advise people to do this online is because it’s easily accessible for both student and parent, and….it doesn’t get lost 🙍 in that pile of bills ✉️ that was sitting on the edge of the counter yesterday but has since then disappeared.
2. Be Responsible 🙋
One the reasons I chose to write about my experience with applying to college was because I felt a lack of student presence in the entire process. What I mean is this: Whenever I watched a seminar or read a book or blog post, I felt as though the speaker or writer was always addressing a parent 😑. I don’t know about you, but I think a 16 year old is capable of taking this process into her own hands (with guidance, of course). After all, it isn’t your mom who’s applying to college, it’s you.
So, be prepared to do a little work 💪 for the next few years of your high school experience. I think anyone planning on applying to college should at the very least do the research themselves. Call ☎️ up the universities you want to apply to, and ask to speak 💬 to an admissions officer 👮. They’re usually extremely friendly 😄 and helpful, and I think they appreciate that a student is taking initiative.
As you’ll read in my future posts, I did a lot of this college-application-stuff myself. Of course my parents were always there to review and critique my decisions so that we were all comfortable with what I was doing.
3. Course Descriptions 📒
Even if you don’t think you’ll need course descriptions for every class you take as a homeschooled student, write them anyway. I think it would be good to begin doing this during your freshman year so that you’re scrambling 🌪️ right before the deadline.
I didn’t write my course descriptions until the end of my junior year, so, I scrambled. 🌪️
Remember that a course description doesn’t consist simply of a description, but should also include test grades and texts used. For this reason, I would keep tabs on my test 💯 and quiz grades by uploading them online 💻 for easy access later on. If you’re not going to write your course descriptions as you take each course, the least you should be doing is keeping track of your grades.
4. Befriend Standardized Tests 💯
Preparation for standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT should begin in eighth or ninth grade. Competition in these types of standardized exams in pretty tight and if you have the opportunity to take prep-classes, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute. Yes, prep book are good, but they’re never enough.
I don’t think homeschoolers put enough emphasis on the ACT or SAT. Not only do these exams provide massive opportunities for merit based scholarships (most merit based scholarships are based off of ACT/SAT scores), but they give colleges the opportunity to evaluate students on a fixed platform. If you want to stand out as a student, you will want to get a good score on the ACT/SAT regardless of whether you were homeschooled or not.
I’d make the argument that from what I’ve heard and experienced, these standardized test scores should be at the forefront of every homeschooler’s high school plan regardless of what type of college you wish to attend. And since so many people nowadays are turning to pricey prep-classes, you, as a homeschooled student, should try to find tutors or others willing to guide you along in your study. You might not think a standardized test requires you to sit down and study, but these exams definitely do. I took my first SAT in 8th grade, and began studying for both the SAT and ACT in either my freshman or sophomore year. I’ve heard people warn others not to take more than one or two SAT’s or ACT’s, but I’d like to qualify this statement. Yes, I don’t think anyone should go around taking every single ACT/SAT available on every single testing date (they’re expensive and lengthy), but if you have taken two or three of these exams and still don’t like your score, go ahead and try again, remembering to study and take plenty of practice exams beforehand. At the end of the day, you only report the test scores you want to, so keep that in mind.
I highlighted ‘plenty of practice exams’ for a reason. When I was studying for the ACT/SAT, it was very difficult for me to make myself take practice exams because I could not stand studying them once they were completed. However, in the summer before my senior year, when I took my last two ACT’s, I realized how essential these practice exams were. After taking about 10 practice exams and studying my answers on each, my ACT score jumped up a few points, and if you’ve taken a standardized test before, you know this is not easy. Practice ACT exams are not too difficult to find online, (I practiced on these exams) and neither are SAT exams, though for these guys you have to do a little more research.
In addition to SAT’s and ACT’s, I would keep in mind SAT II’s (SAT subject tests), AP exams, and CLEP exams. I think these subject-specific exams are really great for homeschooled students to take so that they can prove to colleges and universities that their classes were indeed rigorous and included all the necessary components one would receive in a typical public-school 🚌class. I took as many SAT II’s and AP exams as I could, and if I could go back and do high school all over again, I would take even more. I didn’t take any CLEP exams, but if you’re interested and have the time, you should definitely try them out.
5. Ask Questions – Lots of Them 🙋
If there’s anything I learned during this process, it’s that you will not be a happy camper unless you ask tons of questions. And I don’t mean asking another homeschool student or parent who is also on this path, or even calling up ☎️ a consultant such as Lee Binz. I mean Googling the admissions office phone number for a college and speaking 🗨️ with an admissions counselor. Nobody will be able to tell you exactly what you need except for the college themselves. And as I’ve said before, admissions counselors are willing to have a conversation with you, even if it is a little lengthy, and explain what they expect from you. There is usually a specific admissions officer or counselor who works with homeschool students, so you never have to worry about speaking to somebody who may not understand where you’re coming from.
So even if you’re calling an admissions office once a week, make sure you’re running anything by them that you’re not 100% sure about. After all, it’s the admissions officer who will be reading the completed application, and you want to be certain that they will have the ability to completely understand and evaluate you.
If you are a homeschooler, or anyone, for that matter, who plans on applying to college, you have (hopefully!) already done some research. No matter your background, this is a complicated process and there are many certified individuals who’ve written articles and books and even given seminars on how one ought to go about applying to college. As I said before, I really appreciated the information others have provided to make this experience easier for homeschooled students. But of course no single resource is enough to propel you through, so when I share what resources I used, I’ll give you an idea of how it was helpful and where it fell a little short.
In general, I would take any information I read with a pinch of salt if it isn’t information provided by a college or the Common App or the Coalition App. Everyone has a different way of approaching this process and isn’t always accurate.
I’ve linked my sources if you’re interested in checking them out!
This blog, run by Lee Binz, is an excellent source of information not only for college applications, but also for all your other homeschool questions. Lee Binz offers online seminars and has written a couple books as well. In addition, you can pay for one-on-one conversations with Lee herself and have your materials reviewed before you send them off to colleges. This source was quite helpful in that it provided me answers for many of my questions, but often times the advice was either a little vague or not applicable to, for example, applying to more selective schools. As of right now, I’m still reading this blog to give me tips on filling out my FAFSA.
If you’ve taken a look at this blog before, you’ll know that’s packed with different packages you can purchase. My mom bought the Total Transcript Solution, which is nice because it offers templates for transcripts. Other than that, we didn’t see the need for any of the other offers. If you really want someone guiding your every move in this process, you might want to check out some of their bundles, but we felt comfortable in scoping it out on our own.
We purchased this book during my sophomore year, and it was very helpful in getting us acquainted with the college application process. The one major problem with this book was that it is quite outdated – it was written in 2010 and I don’t think there’s an updated edition available for purchase. Despite its need for an upgrade, my mom and I continuously turned to this book when we were a little confused. It didn’t always give us the answer, but it was still helpful. I do recommend that everyone grab a copy of this book to peruse, but be careful in following it too devotedly. A lot has changed since 2010!
3. Khan Academy
If you are planning on applying via the CommonApp, you might find some of Khan Academy’s videos helpful. Khan Academy has partnered with the Common Application to provide students with an idea of what their application process will look like. There are videos on how to fill out the CommonApp and even some advice and a sample application specifically for homeschooled students!
Towards the end of my application process, my mom found this book at our local library and it was wonderful in providing me with an overview of everything I should have completed or have yet to complete. If you’re still a freshman or sophomore, this book would be extremely helpful and I recommend you read it in its entirety. It does have a section for homeschoolers, so you should obviously take some extra time for that part.
I found it helpful to check out this blog every now and then, especially when I had questions pertaining to things such as my high school diploma. This blog is kind of like an FAQ page for applying to college as a homeschooled student and is quite reliable since its sponsored by HSLDA. There’s a tab for students who are currently in high school as well as a tab for students who have completed high school which I am interested in looking through!
I hope this post was helpful in giving you an idea of the major aspects of the college application process in addition to the resources I used!