Homeschoolers’ Most Challenging Spaces to Fill on College Applications

Title picOur family has done this college application thing four times, now. And it has been a challenging four times. As homeschool parents, we carry the roles of instructor, principal, and guidance counselor. Now don’t let that sentence scare you. I have found that students in public schools (and even in many private schools) have to navigate the whole college application process on their own, too. There is little help with the details available to them.

But as parents taking an active role in our teen’s education, if we have a teen that is college-directed, we need to be informed about what to expect in the application process and how to be prepared for it.

Having done this for four of my children, as well as helping some of them transfer schools and others apply for graduate programs, I have seen a pattern in many of the college applications that I feel we all need a “heads-up” on.

You know. Before I throw the football at you, I say, “Head’s up!” so you are prepared to catch it.

Well, “Head’s up!” A college application is coming! But you don’t have to worry. It isn’t impossible to help your teen navigate it, and if you are prepared to fill in the required blanks, you will make the job much easier, aiding your teen in creating an application that helps him or her to shine.

Interestingly, I have found that there are two spaces on most college applications that take homeschooled students by surprise. It’s not because they cannot fill in those spaces; it’s just that they weren’t preparing to, and they either have to scramble at the last minute (not recommended, especially since they are likely very busy), wrack their brains to remember things they can add (and probably forget some), or leave them blank (not ever a good idea on an application – except for the space asking if you have ever committed a felony!).

If you know these spaces are coming, you can plan ahead of time. Now, because I want to cover some other college application helps, too, I will address one issue in this post and talk about the other one in the next post.

First, if you have any idea which college your teen is considering, go ahead and go to their website and print out an application (yes, even if your student is in 9th grade – it is a good idea to see what colleges are expecting). Now, as far as I know, all colleges want you to fill in your application on line, but the college sites I have seen also offer an opportunity to print out an application for you to do a “rough draft.” If not, it may be possible for you to scroll through the application questions so you can get an idea of what you will need to provide in the future.

Even if your teen is not sure which college to attend, it is still a good exercise to take a look at any college application to get a general idea of what to expect.

You will, of course, find the requisite personal information, academic information, and a list of clubs and extracurricular activities. But often they will have an additional space requesting “Honors and Awards.”

What? You have homeschooled this child. There are no award ceremonies in your home. The dynamics of a homeschool program don’t usually lend themselves to awards like “First Place in School-wide Essay Contest” or “Top Ten GPA in Graduating Class.”

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Don’t worry. If you know of this possibility ahead of time, you can plan for it, exposing your teen to opportunities where he or she can gain notable awards. And if your teen is going to be a senior NEXT YEAR, you can still think back over his or her high school experience and try to remember what was earned.

Homeschoolers definitely are notable. They stand out in a crowd. They are innovators, thinking outside the box. They are problem solvers. There is no difficulty in showing a possession of character and notability. You see, that is what this application blank is looking for… something the student has done that is exemplary. So you need to be looking for those opportunities while your student is in high school.

Now, the colleges are not looking for awards earned in elementary or middle school; they just want high school honors. So if your teen is in a sport, pay special attention to any awards they earn: ribbons, best improved, etc. If they enter a science fair or art show and earn an award, make sure you take note of that.

How about if they work at a part time job and earn some recognition? Write that down.

Keep a running list of Honors and Awards in your student’s high school portfolio. Make sure they are aware of this list and have them try to compile it through their high school years. Write down anything that might be a possibility; you can pare it down later if you need to. But it is much easier to remove information than wrack your brain trying to remember it.

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And this activity will be beneficial to your teen in another way: it will be helpful in composing a resume, something all students likely will have to do some time in high school or later.

So as your teen enters high school, just open a spread sheet, save a word file, or keep a small notepad with the title “Honors and Awards.” Then, at the end of each year as you are wrapping up their curricula and packing things away, you can add their accomplishments to this list, slowly compiling information that will benefit them as they complete high school and continue on to college or a career or whatever else God has in their future!

Now don’t fret. I know as you walk along with your children through these high school years, it can seem daunting. God has got this. Rely on Him to provide the opportunities for each of your children. Allow them to pursue their interests, and you will be amazed how those awards and honors will pile up!

Just go about your days, faithfully doing what is before you with a small peek at what is ahead. The ordinary daily stuff is what makes the extraordinary!

Sherri Here is post number two!