Ok. Now that I have one child in college this year, I am looking back at what I did and what I could have done better. We did some things right and others that we could have done differently. My oldest is now at the college of her choice and dealing with the same things other freshmen are also attempting to manage: the typical homesickness, doubt, fears, insecurities.
What I have learned is it is never too early to start working on preparing for your high school years as a homeschooler. At least a year or two before your high school years, it is a good idea to figure out a plan of action. Determine a general plan of coursework for those years. I looked at the graduation requirements for our school district and came up with an overall plan of courses. My daughter knew she wanted to attend college so that helped. We went with a pre-college preparatory set of courses. One thing we never did was to find out her options at doing college classes in her high school years for college credit also known as dual enrollment. We started to get acceptance for that but since it relied on ACT scores and other factors we didn’t quite do all that in time so we gave up that opportunity. I believe it would have helped for her to do that in order to get the security of knowing she accomplished that work prior to her first day of college. Also, it helps with getting some credits out of the way. Also looking into AP courses and placement is something we missed out on.
It is never too early to start working looking at how you plan on doing transcripts. It really isn’t that tough since there are plenty of examples and free templates on the internet and if you use an electronic planner program such Homeschool tracker they have built-in functions that help create one for you. Also, there are individuals and homeschool businesses that provide assistance preparing transcripts. You really don’t need much help but if you find that this task is a bit daunting for you then those options are out there. I will be putting some examples on my blog later this year for those of you willing to put in a little work to do this for your own child.
I can’t mention how important it is to ensure your child is involved in activities outside of his/her academics. Colleges look for well-rounded individuals that will be able to handle many tasks rather than just focusing on school. This shows them that your child has the ability to succeed in a college environment and be independent. It is also a way to get a niche into various scholarships. Sports, volunteer work, clubs, hobbies, and many opportunities that show maturity and leadership are all extremely important leading up to and through those high school years.
Even though we did not do too many standardized tests, I attempted to ensure my daughter had experience prior to taking her first ACT and SAT tests. This was one area I feel you can’t do too much advance work toward preparing for these tests since colleges rely on these scores for scholarships and placement. This was an area I felt I should have started earlier but my daughter did do well enough to get a decent scholarship through her college. The PSAT is definitely a test I would have your child takes as soon as they are able. The PSAT score that counts toward possible scholarship money is taken during their Junior year of high school. It also helps to prepare for SAT and ACT tests and shows what areas your child needs to focus on for their preparation for these tests.
Finally, make sure in advance of high school, you are aware of in-state and out of state requirements of the various colleges you might be considering. Even ones that are not on your radar I would find out about. You never know what the future holds and being aware of facts, will, in the long run, give you an advantage and ensure you are prepared for any possibilities. For example, my daughter primarily was looking at private Christian colleges so we never looked at local state universities until her Senior year. We didn’t realize the public colleges required you to have already applied prior to December your Senior year for any scholarship considerations. The private ones had rolling admissions and considered scholarships up to the first day of school. I highly recommend visiting colleges early. Don’t limit yourself. Visit small versus larger colleges. Visit private and public. Visit in versus out of state. Visit every possible one you can. Why might you ask? Even if it is not one you really care about this helps in narrowing down what aspects of each college is important and what you like versus don’t like in a college. We went to colleges that we knew weren’t even an option whether it just didn’t have the degrees available or it just wasn’t desirable overall. The main thing is my daughter came up with a definite checklist for measuring the colleges she was more serious about to narrow down her choices. Rather than just setting up a dart board and taking a risk, she now knew for sure what she was looking for in a college. After all, college is expensive, you want your decision to be based on facts in order to make a good decision. Also once you enroll this is where your scholarships will be. Leaping from school to school affects your financial aid if this is something that is important to you. My daughter and I though we were ahead of that game but realized even we didn’t start soon enough. Also, don’t stop looking even if you feel you found “the” school. We thought that and found out the next one was “more” perfect than the last. Eventually, that next school we visited ended up being her top choice.
There are other considerations that I have not reflected and discussed on in this post but I promise to write more later. The one thing I want any homeschoolers to take away is that knowledge and preparation are the keys to success in your high school years and in preparing for college. Having one child already through her high school years has taught me a lot so that I feel better prepared for my next child’s high school journey.
Feel free to post any questions and I will try to address them in one of my next posts!