College Applications for Homeschool Parents
The Common App for homeschoolers.
This is not a "real" blog post. I'm throwing this on here as a reference for myself later, and so homeschoolers have a place to look it up.
There are a few things you need to know about applying for colleges if you're a homeschool parent.
The deadlines and basics are the same whether you're a homeschooler or a regular school parent.
The main difference is that if you're a homeschool parent, YOU are in charge. Your child doesn't have a counselor to guide them through the process, and you get to fill out all of the paperwork that a counselor and the school would normally fill out.
There is a LOT of paperwork, and it's not all easy.
The two big ones are the counselor's school report, the letter of recommendation for the student, and the essay.
The basics: You apply to colleges using either the application on their website or the Common App. That’s a website that lets you apply toalmost every college in the country using one application. That means that you only fill out your information once, and enter your grades and background and activities in one place, and all colleges can see them.
You also invite professors and teachers to send recommendations through this site, decide which test scores to send to which colleges, pay fees, and then here are the three bigs ones for homeschoolers:
The essay, the counselor's letter, and the school report.
The essay is a big one. You (I'm addressing the student who's applying,) have to write an essay for every school you apply to. But you ALSO have to write an essay for the Common App that all schools you're applying to will see.
Here are the prompts for this year. They include "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?" and "Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution."
Blah, blah, blah.
They just want to see what kind of writer you are. There are 1,000 different web pages on how to write the essay. Go find a few that work for you. Then you have to write an essay on why "Portland University/Washington State/Harvard/Cornell" is the perfect fit for you, why you like them, and why they should accept you, or whatever each individual school wants. This serves two purposes: You're not going to write an essay if you're not interested in the school. This keeps people from applying to 23 different schools -- who wants to write 23 essays? And it also makes you think about which schools ARE a good fit. If you can't find enough about about school to write about, then you probably shouldn't be applying. Each school has a list of what they want in the essay on the Common App.
Here come's the mom/counselor/homeschool teacher part (now I'm addressing the parent):
The college wants a school report.
Technically, they want a brochure from your school that says how many students you have, how you figure out GPA, and what "class rank" means at your school. If a school has 50 students, then top ten percent is very different than a school with 800. If a school is rigorous prep school offering ten AP classes, it's very different than an urban school with a 50 percent graduation rate. They want to know where your student fits in.
So: You can do a brochure. You can do a sheet with statistics. I copied a letter from a friend and used it as a template as a description of our homeschooling background and what we do here and why.
Here is a version of a homeschooled school report that I hate and that seems stuffy and pretentious, so I couldn't use it as an example.
The one from my friend was MUCH better, so I just took her outline and substituted in my philosophy and my students' experiences.
Here's a copy of our "school report":
Director: Meagan McGovern
Our academy has provided for the educational needs of our four children since 2000, graduating our first student in 2007. Sawyer will be our second graduate.
We provide a rich learning environment with a great deal of flexibility to tailor the curriculum to the desires and strengths of each individual student. Without the constraints of standards and schedules, we have offered experiential learning opportunities and created a strong foundation based on the arts, classic literature, science, math and social studies. Our students don’t encounter desks, classrooms, bells and schedules until high school, but instead travel, read in hammocks, swim, raise animals, camp, discuss good books over dinner, learn history through costumes, role-play, documentaries and travel, and learn math by raising animals and selling them. Running a small family farm selling beef, pork and firewood has provided opportunities to experiment, to observe, to learn business sense, and to express creativity.
Travel is a key component in our school, incorporating trips to historical sites, harbors, field trips to water treatment plants, mines, caves, national parks, campgrounds, and museums in great cities from London to New York and Paris. We place high value on community service, including working together at our gleaners pantry, neighborhood activism and issues of food and environmental justice. We also use the merit badges in the Boy Scouts program as a way of experiencing sports, skills and outdoor adventures that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise, from classes about nuclear science to 50-mile hikes in the mountains, snow caving and ropes courses. Our students have created and led peer groups in a 4-H group and a teen book club, a theater club and an ongoing Dungeons and Dragons game. Our students have opportunities to explore different interests, gain new skills and play in an environment conducive to intense growth, not to mention having opportunities to network with other students from a wide variety of professions and colorful backgrounds.
As each student reaches high school, we offer a few honors courses, including World History, US History, Literature, and U.S. Government. We use resources from our public libraries, online courses, mentors in a wide variety of fields, as well as plenty of time to ponder, experiment, create, and attempt to solve problems. As students desire additional challenge, we arrange for them to attend community college courses in subjects they would like to pursue at a higher level. Our students have had great variety in their passions, from Dungeons and Dragons and professional cooking to animal husbandry, wildlife rehabilitation and installing a 6,000-gallon water system on the family farm. They use 4-H to show goats and give speeches for an audience in 4-H at the county fair, they use the book club they created to explore literature and to meet like-minded peers, and they spend weekends hiking or skiing with Boy Scouts. They learn how to manage finances by raising and selling a beef cow or a pig for pork, selling pecans at Christmas, or by finding or creating jobs to pay for transportation and other extras.
Our students volunteer on weekends to go pick up food from supermarkets that would be thrown away, and sort through box after box of squishy tomatoes and moldy strawberries to save the good stuff so it can be distributed to families. They understand food insecurity in this country, and work to help fix it. Our students are passionate about social justice and are learning to advocate for change in ways that make a difference. Our travel enhances the understanding of the challenges our country faces and where our students fit in with those challenges.
We provide transcripts and use a standard grading scale:
A Excellent 4.0
B Above Average 3.0
C Average 2.0
D Below Average 1.0
F Failure 0.0
Weighted grading, where needed, adds 0.5 to honors courses and 1.0 to college courses.
Our prior graduate completed high school with honors and college credits. He joined the Navy, went to a four year university, and now works in a restaurant as a chef in Houston.
The essay and the counselor's recommendation I'm still working on.
Those will be a separate post once I have them figured out.
I hope this is helpful to someone!