College Prep Tips For Homeschool Students
I’m not going to lie. Homeschooling high school takes some planning and preparation that the earlier years didn’t require. In the elementary and middle school years, the goal is to give students a good base of knowledge and skills to get them ready for high school. The goal of high school is to get students ready for life.
Some students will enter the workforce and others will go to college. If your student plans on going to college, here are some college prep tips for homeschool students that will help you prepare them to get there.
College Prep Tips
Teach Independent Learning
When a student gets to college, it will be shockingly apparent that the days of being spoon-fed information and having someone reminding them to do their work is over. College students need to be independent learners. This is a skill that should be developed before a student even gets there.
Your high school student needs to develop independent learning skills early, so they can be ready to jump right into college work. Start teaching independence in middle school. Teach the how to find information on their own. Show them how to follow a syllabus. Assign project that they have to finish on their own. By the time your student finishes high school, they should be independent learners ready for college and the world.
Plan All 4 Years At Once
In our early years of homeschooling, our curriculum plans were pretty loose. We covered the necessary basics (math, reading, and writing), but we also let our studies be led more by interests and not so much by curriculum. The kids might be interested in turtles for a while, so we would dive into a turtle unit study. Then, they might be all about the Civil War, so that’s the direction we would take.
High school is different. You need to think of it in one 4 year chunk. There are certain state and college requirements that need to be met. If you don’t have a plan for meeting them within 4 years, your student might take longer than 4 years to graduate. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still follow students’ interests. It just means that you need to plan it well so that all the graduation criteria are met.
Here are some great resources for creating a 4 year high school plan:
How To Make A Four Year High School Plan – BlogSheWrote.com
Free High School Planning Sheet – Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool
Free Excel Four Year High School Planning Sheet – StartsAtEight.com
Aim for college admissions requirements, not state graduation requirements.
When creating a high school curriculum plan, you will want to look at the overall credits needed in each area. You could look to your state’s graduation requirements, but chances are those are not going to be enough to be accepted into many colleges.
Think about the colleges that your student may want to attend. Look at their admissions requirements and aim for those. If you do not have any idea what college they might want to attend, aim high. If they are meeting the highest requirements, more doors will be open to them.
I looked at the University of Illinois (we live in Illinois) and a couple top private universities here in the midwest. It turns out that their curriculum requirements were different and a lot higher than the Illinois state high school graduation requirements – especially for STEM majors.
Related post: Tips For Homeschooling High School
When we started planning for high school, my daughter was unsure of what she wanted to do when she graduated. She didn’t know if she wanted to spend 4 years in college, get experience through internships and apprenticeships, or join the military. I knew I wanted to put her in the best position to win, so we researched what each path would require and what life would be like in each scenario.
A helpful tool that we used was the Career Exploration Bundle from 7 Sisters Homeschool. This resource has a career exploration questionnaire and workbook to find out what makes your teen tick and what interests them. It really helped my daughter narrow her interests. There is, also, an interview guide that is so helpful when applying for jobs and internships.
In our daughter’s case, she wants to work with exotic animals in a zoo or rescue setting. Knowing that allowed us to plan what courses she needed to take and experience she needed to acquire. We could also start looking at colleges that had programs to get her to her goal.
Volunteering and taking part in internships can be a part of career exploration. It is a good way for students to learn about organizations and career paths. Volunteer hours also look great on college applications.
My daughter’s volunteer experience has solidified her drive to become a zookeeper. Working side by side with zoo professionals and getting to ask them questions about their jobs and educational background has been the single best college/career prep that she has taken part in.
Choosing a college might be as simple as the location or price. If your student knows the field they want to go into, you need to research the schools that have programs that will support that. Not all colleges and universities are the same. Make a list of colleges that fit your needs and schedule visits.
A college campus can be intimidating to a high school student. Schedule a couple visits with local colleges even if your student has no interest in them to get your feet wet. The more comfortable a student feels the more they will be able to take in what they need to know about the college.
When you visit a college that your student is interested in, ask lots of questions. You will want to know about things like their programs. housing, student aid, placement rate, and career readiness programs.
A major factor that colleges look at for acceptance and scholarships is ACT/SAT scores. Find out which test is common in your area and with the colleges your student is interested in. Then, start preparing. There are prep books and both online and live courses available.
We are using Better Prep Success to prep for the ACT. There are live classes available in our area, but the times don’t work with our schedule. We opted for the online version. My daughter can take the course when it works with her schedule.